Saturday, August 24, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

A reader left a comment the other day about a very old blog post in which I was complaining about  my fancy new washing machine that uses very little water and never gives me the feeling that the clothes are squeaky clean.  At the time, that post got more than a dozen comments from people who also hate their washing machines.  And apparently people are still stumbling over it, and it still strikes a chord.  This week's visitor wrote: "My big problem is the water level.  After the wash cycle finishes and before the spin cycle starts I have actually found dry spots of clothing sticking up out of the water that had never gotten wet.  How could they get clean if they never got wet?"  Amen, sister!

Coincidentally, the same day that she left that comment, I had a washing machine experience that I'd never had before.  The two-year-old threw up in the car as it was pulling into our street, so we began the day with a bath and two loads of wash, one devoted to the covers from the car seat plus a couple of towels for ballast.  I thought the heavy seat covers would perplex the washing machine, which doesn't just wash things to order but has to think about it first.  In the past it has not been happy with large items that get off balance as they spin.  But these covers definitely had to be washed, now.

I chose the "Bulky / bedding" cycle, called for extra water, and kept my fingers crossed.  When I went into the laundry room some time later, it was nearing the end of the wash cycle and to my amazement, I saw the tub full of water!  (The door is glass -- lots of fun for little ones to watch the machine at work.)  The water actually came to within four inches of the top of the tub and the seat covers were happily sloshing away underneath.

I have never seen more than an inch of water visible in the tub, so this was a breakthrough.  I am now wondering whether I could replicate this in the future, such as when I want to dye, or soak after dyeing.

Out of the laundry room and into the studio....  I decided to sew narrow black bindings onto at least two of my four new quilts, and am now stitching them down.  I usually think quilts look more like art and less like bedcoverings when they are finished with facings, not bindings, but for these pieces I think the binding will be unobtrusive, the quilt will be flatter, and it's certainly easier.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Thursday, August 22, 2019

State Fair prizewinners 2 -- the overachievers

Two of my fiber friends just love to enter the State Fair, and have been regulars in the textile categories for many years.  Trish Korte and Kevin Schultz, who both were teachers (Kevin still is, but Trish has retired), spend much of their vacations making art, often working together.  For instance, this year you can tell that they had cyanotype play days.

Kevin Schultz, first place, surface design (pretty big -- the dress is adult-size)

Trish Korte, third place, surface design

Trish Korte, first place, stitched fabric construction

But they work in other techniques as well.

Kevin Schultz, second place, stitched fabric construction  (an ecoprint of leaves)

Kevin Schultz, second place, three-dimensional (cast paper)

Trish Korte, third place, manipulated fiber construction (felting)

Lots of ribbons between the two of them, and lots of beautiful work.  Well done!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

State Fair prizewinners 1 -- best in show

Last week I had the privilege of judging the textile categories in the Fine Arts and Crafts department of the Kentucky State Fair.  Here's the big winner, awarded the Best in Show award from Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists:

It's a hooked rug by Kaye D. Miller, showing scenes from the life of her father.  It has a folk-art flavor but is anything but naive in its masterly handling of color and technique.  The little scene vignettes are fit into every spare inch of the composition; the landscapes are realistic; the people are nicely depicted with no facial features.  I kept coming back to it, finding new little things to admire each time.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

Last week started off auspiciously as I judged the textile categories in the Fine Arts and Crafts department of the Kentucky State Fair.  I've been honored to be the judge for several years now, and this year was especially gratifying because for some reason there were a lot more entries than we have seen in recent years.  I actually had to debate with myself about which ones of four or five pieces deserved the ribbons, rather than whether anything in the category deserved a ribbon at all. 

I love to go to the fairgrounds before the fair opens, to see the huge expanse of space devoid of people and junk.  In a few days the place will be full of spilled popcorn, discarded napkins and paper cups, lost shoes, crying children and frazzled parents.  Or perhaps lost children, crying parents and spilled shoes.  But for a while, peace and anticipation.

(I'll write about the prizewinners next week.  And I haven't forgotten that I still owe you more posts about the Fiberart International show in Pittsburgh and the four-artist mixed media show at PYRO Gallery in Louisville.) 

Immediately after I got home from the fair on Monday morning, we headed to northern Michigan for my brother-in-law's funeral, a fast turnaround of 1100 miles in three days.  The funeral was excellent as funerals go, but the trip itself featured lots and lots and lots of road construction, plus the occasional accident and rush-hour traffic jam.

Back home, I am almost done with quilting the fourth crossroads piece.  Next week it will be decision time: will the quilts be finished with binding or facing?  I have been kicking this can down the road, but I hope to stop dithering and get them totally done and ready to go out in public.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week, embellished with one of the many leftover bits from my striped piecing:

Friday, August 16, 2019

A reunion with my handiwork -- too soon

Several weeks ago I wrote about making a piece of liturgical linen for my sister to give to her church, a small pall to cover the funeral urn if the decedent has been cremated.  There didn't seem to be any huge urgency in the project, but I was looking for something doable to jump start me out of a creative funk and get me back into the studio.I found an old linen tablecloth, beautifully woven with a pattern of stripes and roses (don't know if you can see them in this photo), and hemmed it. 

My sister was going to have a butterfly embroidered on the pall, but changed her mind and had them do a cross instead.

Much to everyone's surprise, the first user of the pall turned out to be my sister's wonderful husband, unexpectedly taken ill earlier in the summer.  After one long hospital stay and then two weeks in hospice, he died on August 6.

Here's the pall, in front of the altar at the funeral service.  (I like the cross better than the butterfly, so I'm happy they went with Plan B.) 

(So glad I didn't procrastinate on the project.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How -- and why -- I fixed my quilt

A month ago I wrote about a quilt top that I finished piecing but wasn't happy with.  I wrote "I think it's repairable, with a lot of fussy, fiddly ripping and remaking."

Shannon left a comment: "I wonder if you would be willing to share some of your critical thought processes or just general thoughts about what makes something good or not.  I struggle with this pretty often with my pieces.  Sometimes it's very clear that something isn't good, but when it's not so obvious I have a harder time.  I also really struggle with differentiation between pieces that are "good" and pieces that I just like.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this!"

I promised that I would talk more about this top, what I thought was not-so-good and how I fixed it, and last week I finally did pull it off the design wall and worked on it.

Here's the quilt in its original state, in mid-July:

When I evaluated the top, I realized I liked the inset effect of the multicolored lines in the northeast quadrant, but there were two parts of the composition that seemed weak.

In fine line quilts, of which I have made upwards of 40, I like the offset zig-zag effect that happens when you slice across an older seam and the two sides slip a bit before you sew them back together.  To me, that's the magic of this construction method (I even named a sub-series of these quilts "Fault Lines" because they reminded me of how the earth slips a bit in quakes).  But as more and more lines cross one another, the grid gets sloppier and sloppier.

So when I looked closely at this top, I realized the balance was off between the zig-zaggy lines of early seams and the straight lines of the latest seams.

First, I didn't like the wide area shown in the yellow circle.  It seemed too blowsy, too wide compared to the closer grids in the rest of the quilt.  I didn't like the contrast between the straight line on the right of that area and the wobbly line with multiple offsets on the left.  Worse, the straight line on the right went smack across the entire quilt, which emphasized its straightness.

You will notice that farther to the left is another wide area, with a looser grid than in the other three quadrants of the quilt.  But that one doesn't bother me, probably because it's near the outer edge of the quilt.

When I look at these designs I often see city maps, and I guess as you get toward the outskirts of town you expect the street grid to break down and the "blocks" to get bigger, but the yellow area, right on the main drag of this "city," bothered me.

How should I fix that?  I finally decided that the simplest way was to add another vertical road through the middle of the blowsy area, so it wouldn't be so wide and call so much attention to itself.

My second complaint was that vertical line that went clear across the quilt from top to bottom with no offsets.  I had originally planned that the fine line that went horizontally, shown in the blue circle, would be stitched back together with an offset where it crossed the vertical.  That would have put a zig into that long vertical line.  But I was careless in sewing, and the vertical line ended up just as vertical as before.  Yes, I noticed it at the time, but decided it was good enough.  (Bad decision.)

When I came back to reconsider and remake the top, I took the blue-circled seam apart and restitched it, adding the offset that was supposed to be there in the first place.  It would have been simpler to make this fix had I not compounded my initial sloppiness by slicing across the seam at the blue arrow.  I had to take apart the left-hand vertical seam, then make the cut-off segment longer so I could offset the blue-circled seam toward the right.  But when it got all sewed back together, the long vertical line in the center of the quilt now had an offset.

Then finally I added three more lines along the outer north, east and south edges.  I like the crossroads to be squared off; I think it makes the composition look more finished and balanced.  And the line at the north edge allowed me to put one more zig into that main vertical line, breaking it up a little more.

Here's the final version, ready for quilting: