Saturday, December 15, 2012

Art Holiday with Susan Brubaker Knapp

In a rare treat, I got to participant in one of our workshops at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops with Susan Brubaker Knapp. I was in heaven! It's been quite a while since I was able to take a workshop and this was just the right one to boost my creative spirit!

One of the things that was on my list of winter projects was to explore painting. I've been so inspired/tempted by the work I've seen the students do at the painting workshops that we host, that I just had to give it a try. This was the perfect way to ease into it.

We started from a photo that we traced on to white pfd fabric using a light box. Next the painting began. We used soft-body acrylics. I used Liquidtex brand.

As this was my first time working with painting on fabric, so I choose a simple composition of emerging ferns.



However, everyone else in the workshop selected much more complex designs, so I had time to work on a second piece - this one featuring a sheep that I photographed at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival a couple of years ago.


The next project was creating a fused piece, also starting from a photo. This time I selected a photo of my Ridgeback, Bree.

A vinyl overlay is used to help precisely position the pieces on the background fabric.


Once I got the main parts down, I could work without the overlay, for the most part.


Starting to add the moss around the bricks.


After completing the Bree composition, I returned to the smaller painted pieces to start thread sketching. I wanted to start small with the thread work before tackling the larger piece.

Here is the sheep ready for sketching.


The finished ferns! Just needs trimming and facing on the edges.


The finished sheep! You can't see it in this photo, but I added a double layer of batting under the body of the sheep to make him poof up.


Susan Brubaker Knapp was an excellent instructor. She was knowledgable, organized, patient, and fun! I would highly recommend her.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Let's Face It

Finally finished cutting out all the pieces, turning all the edges, and placing the pieces in the puzzle that is the portrait of my Ridgeback, Bree.

Here you see the progression of the sections as they come together.




The next step in the process is to zig zag stitch the pieces together on top of the stabilizer with invisible thread.

After that, I may either turn my attention to coming up with a background or might play around with some ideas for "blending" some of the fabrics with some thread painting, inks, or ??.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Getting Nosey

A bit more progress on the Bree portrait.


I'm thinking that I may have to adjust a few pieces to make them blend better with each other, but I'll do that after I have everything in place. Who knows, when it is all together I may decide a couple "funky" pieces are just the right amount of character needed. After all, it is the unexpected pattern and colors that I like about working with commercial fabrics.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Up to The Neck in Fabric

Finally completed the neck section of the portrait of Bree. That collar and surrounding area had a "million" tiny pieces!


It's exciting when a piece starts looking like something.

This week was also a good week for sales. One of our inn guests bought the king size quilt right of the bed in his room! It was a scrappy pinwheel quilt that I just finished in February of last year. It's always thrilling to make a sale, but drats, now I have to quickly make another king size quilt for that room! My goal is to make a quilt for every one of the beds (21 in total) in our inn, Greenville Arms 1889 Inn, and now I'm back to only 5 done. LOL.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Bit of Bree

Got in a good couple of hours in the studio last Saturday and made some more progress on the portrait of our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Bree.


This completes the portion that is below her collar. The collar area is next Saturday's project -- hopefully!

The process is very time consuming, but it is enjoyable watching all the puzzle pieces come together.

Finished two sock projects last week. I have sock projects strategically placed around the inn so that I have something to work on when I'm waiting for guests to arrive or in the evening when I'm relaxing with the dogs.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Bit By Bit Progress

When we are deep in our workshop season at the Hudson River Valley Art Workshop, my personal studio time becomes extremely limited. My work day begins at around 5:30am and ends at around 8:30pm. By then I'm exhausted and just want to hang out with my two pups and knit.

But as one of those pups is the inspiration for my current studio project, I do still try to escape to my studio every now and then, even if it is for just a couple of hours.

So here is an update on the bit by bit progress on the portrait of Bree, our Rhodesian Ridgeback.

I start by pulling all potential fabrics for the project from the shelves and lining them up by value on my worktable.


I keep checking the reference photo to verify color and tone with the fabrics I've selected.


The next step is to take a deep breath and just start in on it! I trace a section of the pattern from the poster board onto freezer paper. This will be my pattern for cutting out the fabric pieces.

Then I select the fabrics I'll use for this small section. I usually then number the freezer paper pieces (before cutting them out) and arrange the fabrics on my table in order that I'll use them. This makes it easier to pick up from wherever I left off and also to remember which fabric I planned to use where when it may be a week to a month before I get a chance to work on the project again.

Now comes the cutting, edge turning, and putting the puzzle together part! The freezer paper template is ironed on the fabric and then cut out leaving a 1/8 to 1/4 inch allowance to be turned under. Then the corresponding poster board piece is cut out and used for turning under the edges.

I use Mary Ellen's Best Press - the clear starch alternative. I love it. I use to use regular spray starch but Mary Ellen's is so much better and cleaner to use, plus you don't have to worry about attracting bugs to your quilt later on, especially if you don't plan to wash it, which I don't for my art quilts.

The pointed tool is a stiletto used to hold the edges as you iron. A very handy tool that I bought from Katie Pasquini Masopust when I took a class from her in the 1990's and learned the basis for this construction method. I think she still sells them!


The poster board template is removed from the piece and then turned-under-edge pieces are arranged on the piece of Sulky Tear-Away stabilizer that also has the full pattern traced on it. The pieces are held in place just with the touch of the iron at a few places, not fully ironed down. This way you still have the chance to change pieces if they are just not working out in the over all design. I'll wait to I have the full figure complete before re-evaluating the fabrics.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dog Portrait Begun

I'm finally getting started on the portrait quilt of my Ridgeback, Bree -- or rather re-started. I had previously selected the photograph, made the template pattern and enlarged copies. Now it was time to move on to the next step.

For Bree's face I've decided to use the technique I learned from Katie Pasquini-Masopust many moons ago. It is a turned-under machine appliqué technique. I think the last time I used it was on my "Angry Rabbit" quilt in the 1990's. It's always enlightening and revealing to break out a technique you've used in the past to see how it feels and looks this time around.

I've glued the paper template pattern on poster board and labeled the light, medium, and dark shapes.


I also traced the pattern onto some stabilizer that will function as foundation for the pieces. I'm using Sulky Iron-on Tear-Away stabilizer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Distracted by Knitted Handbags

I haven't started any new art quilts lately, as I've been distracted by the fun of creating knitted handbags.

This is a repeat of the knitting tote bag that I made in an olive green for my sister.


In this version I added some pockets to the lining - one large one for a kindle, some chocolate or whatever, and then 2 narrow pockets for knitting needles.


Love making these tassels!


This is the other one just finished. The purple yarn is by Crystal Place (I think) and the brown yarn is by Berroco.


I used a magnet sewn into two short flaps as "lite" closure for this bag. The magnet was not as strong as I would have liked, but it still works.


Today I clear away the handbag stuff and set up to do a new art quilt.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doodads and Organization

Since I finished my last big project I've been side tracked making a mini messenger bag for my sister, which was such fun, that, of course, I have to make another so that I can include all the things I thought of doing better the next time.

So a little shopping for bag hardware and parts was in order. I tried the selection at my local Michael's. I was not impressed, even though I did manage to find some handles for a knitted bag I had finished and some interesting buttons and some zippers to experiment with.


I'm getting to feel more and more that it is better to let my fingers do the shopping on my computer because I can locate exactly what I'm looking for in the right sizes without spending a lot of time and gas (all types of shopping is 30 to 45 minutes away from where I live) looking all over, only to not find what I'm looking for.

Maybe it would be different if I lived in a metropolitan area, but as I don't, I thank the internet and UPS!

With my collection of doodads and embellishments growing, it was finally time to do a little organization. I had purchased a wooden tower of drawers and so I started to add the drawer dividers to organize my embellishment threads.


The dividers are heavy watercolor board cut to size and then taped in the drawer. Simple but effective.

It actually took me so long to start this organizing because I had it in mind to find some organizing trays to buy, but was having trouble finding some that were the right size. I'm now glad that I didn't find what I was looking for because the using the watercolor board, which I had already, was a whole lot cheaper and more flexible as to how wide a spot I make for whatever I what to put in the drawer. You probably don't need to use watercolor board. Any stiff cardboard or poster board would work.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

New Movable Design Wall

I finally put together a moveable design wall using a method that I first heard about from Pamela Allen, a fabulously imaginative artist from Canada.

The basic materials are:

  • clothing rack on wheels
  • Two 4' x 6' 1-inch thick insulation board
  • duct tape
  • a white sheet
  • pins

  • The two insulation boards are put on either side of the rack and then duct taped together. Then I pinned the twin size flat sheet on one side using regular straight pins. If I find that the pins are not holding when I start loading up the design wall with designs, I'll substitute the straight pins with upholstery pins (pins with a curly-cue at the end).


    Nothing fancy, but it does the job and now I can easily move it to get at the contents of the shelving unit that is behind it.

    This is the back/other side that I haven't covered yet. I'm going to cover it with black fabric. This way I'll have either a white background or a black background upon which to photograph finished art quilts.


    The one thing I may change later is to use a heavier white fabric, maybe flannel, because the sheet is a little thin and you can see the shadow of the duct tape behind it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

iPad Messenger Bag - Quilted

My sister, who is having knee issues, asked me if I could make something that would make it easier for her to carry the essentials - iPad, iPhone, money for cappuccinos - while she was required to be on crutches. I've always want to give making a woman's accessory (I've already made plenty of neckties) a try using my own brand of embellishment and styling, so I said I'd get started on it right away.

First thing to do -- get the dimensions of a iPad. She wanted a messenger-type bag, but only as big as necessary to hold her iPad. The only other requirement was that it have pockets for iPhone and wallet, and that it have a method of securing it closed.

Next, Googled messenger bag tutorials. There were lots of them. I read through several and put together a set of specifications that would create the size bag I was looking for.

I planned to piece and quilt all exterior parts of the bag, so the next stage was piecing fabric that I'd use to cut out the pieces. I used wool suit swatches that I got from a friend that use to work for Neiman Marcus in Palo Alto, CA.

Once the parts were cut out, I layered the exterior fabric with a woven interfacing, and a muslin backing to quilt the pieces. I played with various types and weights of thread to see what worked best, and even though they were all different colors, I figured it would work with the patchwork look of the bag.

I really liked the look of the Aurifil 12wt variegated thread, unfortunately my supply was limited and I didn't quite have the colors that I wanted. (Obviously I need to increase my thread supply!) So only the sides of the bag use the Aurifil.

I also tried some Valdani 40wt and Superior's 50wt. All nice, too.

The quilting took the most time. The assembly of the lining with pockets and the bag, was fairly straight forward and not as difficult as I had feared.

For the closure, I had wanted to use some sort of toggle closure, but not having one on hand and probably not able to find one any time soon, I opted for a single large button.

This is what the finished bag looks like:





Tomorrow I'll mail it off to my sister for some real life testing to see how it stands up to use!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rabbit Squared

Ah, the joy of creating art! Now that I finally finished my latest traditional quilt it is time to get back to the art I love. Not that I don't really enjoy making traditional quilts, but it is just not the same thing.

First on my long list of art projects was creating a piece for the annual Studio Art Quilt Associates auction. I'm a professional artist member of SAQA and every year I like to show my support by donating an art quilt for this auction. The auction proceeds are used fund exhibits and programs throughout the year. All pieces in the auction are 12" x 12"

This year the auction will begin on Monday, September 10th at 2:00pm EST and conclude on Sunday, September 30th at 2:00pm EST. The auction pieces are usually up on the SAQA website by July.

This year I decided to use my favorite rabbit design in this small format (12" x 12").


Here I have the rabbit design traced on freezer paper, a muslin foundation ready for the fused pieces and my stash of fabrics lined up and ready to use. (The TV remote is being used to hold down the freezer paper that wants to roll up.)

Lately I've been collecting brown and red/brown fabrics in anticipation of working on a large quilt of my Ridgeback, Bree (she is a red-wheaten). I was very glad to have a good range of colors and patterns to choose from. It really makes a difference on being able to get the effect that I want to have.

Here it is finished!


I'm calling it "Rabbit Squared #1" (#1 because I really like how it turned out, so will have to make more. You know how rabbits can multiple!)

The fused rabbit was quilted directly onto the background. The background is pieced from leftovers from the traditional quilt I just finished. Serendipitous availability of just the right leftovers is always fun.

The rabbit is free-hand zig-zag stitched around each piece of fabric using a variety of threads: Mettler poly, Sulky poly, and Madeira metallic. The background was pieced with Aurifil 50 wt and quilted with Mettler poly. All of the quilting threads were variegated.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Blueberry Peel Top is Done!

Finally, I have finished work on the Blueberry Peel quilt top.


The top is for a Queen size bed - 96" x 108". The paper-pieced block pattern is from Karen Stone's Indian Orange Peel pattern that I purchased way back in 1993 when I took a class from Karen. (Marvelous class, marvelous teacher!)


This is an illustration of how much fun it is to play with colors! You can take a pattern like Karen's and create something that looks so different just by changing colors and layout.

Every once in a while I keep track of the time it takes to make a particular project and I did it with this quilt top.

This is how long it took to finish the various parts:

  • Cut out the paper templates for 296 arcs = 4.35 hours

  • Paper-piece the races = 51.8 hours

  • Trim the edges of the arcs = 3.5 hours

  • Remove paper from the arcs = 9.87 hours

  • Remaining cutting and assembly = 20.18 hours

For a total of 89.7 hours! Multiply that by your basic minimum wage and you'll begin to understand why a hand made quilt should never be sold for anything under $1000. This total doesn't even include material costs, quilting services, or binding. I also wasn't absolutely meticulous in starting my timer the minute I started work.

Granted a less complicated quilt top would probably be completed faster or one that didn't use so many different fabrics. I'll have to time the next quilt I made, just for comparison. (I've got an app for this on my iPhone, so it is more fun than watching a clock!)

For a number of the border layers I used the leftover trimmings from the arc backgrounds. This "scrap" was large enough to cut pieces that were around 1.5" x 2", which I sewed into mini 4-patches or into strips.

It is always fun, and sometimes quite a surprise, to see what my finished quilt looks like when I finally spread out the finished quilt top to take a picture because while I'm working and designing in my tiny studio, my quilt project is generally in a big lumping fabric bunch. The borders and such are designed roughly on paper because my design "wall" is only 4' x 6'.

Next on my project agenda is a 12" x 12" art quilt to donate to the Studio Art Quilt Associates auction that is held every year, usually in the Fall, but I don't have the exact dates yet. I just know the deadline for submission is this month!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Waiting for Organization

My studio was getting over run with stuff again, so I decided that I needed more storage for all the bits, pieces, and miscellaneous stuff that I seem to accumulate at an astonishing rate.

I found this 14 drawer tower at Home Decorators and even better - it was on sale!


The drawers, sides, top and bottom of the tower are of a nice solid construction. The only negative is that the back panel is flimsy stuff and I had read this in the reviews, so I was prepared for it. However, since that part was going to be facing the wall, it was something I could live with.

I also got some metal drawer label holders - the kind that you can slip a piece of paper in and readily change whenever you need to.

I got this a couple of weeks ago, but haven't yet found the time to start filling it. I'm still in the middle of a project (which is why the stacks of fabric are all over the place) and until that is done, I can't really get into the reorg feeling.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

More Blueberry Peel Pieces

I'm still working on the Blueberry Peel quilt. The main portion of the top is finished.

This is a shot of a portion of it.


I'm now piecing some more peels for a border treatment. The peels are in white and pale blue patterns and the background will be the darker blues and gray/black.


Finished another knitting project - a bulky yarn shrug. Perfect for keeping warm at the sewing machine when you want your wrists and arms free but still have your shoulders and back warm.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Studio Update - Jan. 10

Obviously all my creativity has been soaked up in my studio and I have none left for creative blog titles.

I'm still working on the paper-piece Indian Orange Peel. I've made it to the stage of piecing and preparing the centers for the blocks.

I'm using a tone-on-tone white fabric paired with a light blue. The four-patch is first pieced in 5" strips and then cut into 5" sections, that are then pieced to create the final 4-patch.

Next the freezer paper templates for the centers are ironed on the four-patch and excess trimmed away. I'm saving the trimmings for potential use in the borders.


This is a example of what the finished block will look like, although these are not yet sewn together.


On the knitting front, the sock block has been broken! All of last year I had this particular yarn on my needles that I just did not like. But the practical side of me just would not let me pitch it out, even though I had no motivation to work on the blinkin' socks. So that one pair of socks took me about a year to complete! Now that they are done, I'm a happy sock knitting fiend once again.

These are the latest off the needles and I already have another patterned pair almost finished.


So let this tale be a lesson to you - sometimes you should just pitch the uninspiring project/materials!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy 2012

January and February are always two of favorite months because that is when I have the most time to spend in my studio.

I also use the time to do a bit of reorganizing, as usual. Things seem to pile up in the studio through the year and there comes a time when you just have "clear the decks" to be ready to tackle the projects for the new year. To this end, I ordered a 14-drawer tower that I plan to use for embellishment supplies - beads, ribbons, fancy fibers. I'm waiting for it to arrive.

In the meantime, I'm still working on the paper-pieced quilt. I finished piecing all of the arcs and the next step is the center portion, around which the arcs are attached.


This is the mountain of scraps (at least 12" in height!) produced by this process that I'll be mailing off to a quilter who does scrap pictures. She said the color combination sounded perfect for night skies.