Friday, November 30, 2018

Carol and Leigh -- are you there?

Send me an email to  and I'll send you an ornament!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ornaments -- still slogging away

I've been in the studio every day since Thanksgiving working on the ornaments.  Happy to report that after I spilled a glass of water all over my mat board, it dried without a trace.  I had a false start on the hanging apparatus -- made a handful with wire and then decided to use cord instead.

didn't like these hangers (sorry, no peeking)
cut them off
this is better
Now it's just a production line, cutting and pasting and punching and knotting. I have been amusing myself while working by watching the entire season of Dancing With the Stars, recorded through the fall but not touched until last week.  I have always felt confident that in the end one of the best dancers would win, despite the stubborn persistence of Bristol Palin or her awkward counterparts each season, whose fans vote them in the running long, long past their sell-by date.  But this year I am getting a bad feeling.

And for my own stubborn fans, if Carol and Leigh will send me your addresses, you'll be getting an ornament too!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Frustration over Christmas / thankful at Thanksgiving

Later this year than ever in the past, I have started grappling with the specifics of my Christmas ornaments.  I've had the general idea for the ornaments for several weeks, but in the flurry of activity of teaching, getting a solo show launched, and being sick for a week, I haven't actually sat down to work on them until Tuesday.  And it was a frustrating day.

First off, I couldn't buy mat board in any of the colors I had in mind, such as pale sage green, pale gray or pale yellow.  Settled for a gold, which is perfectly lovely, but not what I had in mind.  Couldn't decide which kind of glue to use -- YES! paste or glue stick.  Neither of them called out "Use me!!" Made a bunch of each one and waited to let them dry properly.

The last time I made ornaments using mat board I had a terrible time getting a hole punched through for the hanging cord.  I think I ended up using my industrial-strength hole punch and really leaning on it, which worked but gave me holes a lot bigger than I had wanted.  After that experience I purchased a set of heavy-duty paper punches which are supposed to drill neat little holes in three different sizes.  I forgot all about them, until miraculously a couple of days ago I came across them in a drawer while looking for something else.  Wow!  Serendipity!  Synchronicity!

So Tuesday I whipped out my new punches, found the right size, followed the directions and whapped them two or three times with hammer blows -- and the punch went through about half of the mat board.  Whapped some more with very little result.  Rooted around in a drawer and found a hole punch about the same size, which got me through the remaining layers, but "about the same size" also means "messy around the edges."  Futzed around with the punch for a while and got it a bit neater.

Wednesday was a slightly better day.  I figured out how to make the punch work better -- the very low-tech solution of positioning the board directly over the table leg so the table doesn't bend away from the blade when hit.  On the other hand, Wednesday was when I spilled a glass of water over my large uncut mat board.  Two steps forward, one step back.

I worked for a while on Wednesday while thinking about the issues yet to be resolved.  What size?  I had cut some two-inch squares and they seemed too small.  Then I cut some three-inch squares and they seemed too big.  Maybe two-and-a-half inches?  Maybe I need to incorporate paint into this process.  Beads?  Wire?  Linoleum printing?  If I didn't have to produce Thanksgiving dinner for nine people I could sit down and make a lot of progress today.

But let's be positive.  I am thankful that I have eight wonderful people to produce Thanksgiving dinner for.  I am thankful that I have 48 dear friends and family to make Christmas ornaments for.  I am thankful that my greatest worry this week has to do with paper punches instead of anything more serious.

As I do every year, I'd love to add one or two of my blog readers to the ornament list.  Leave a comment before Monday midnight and you might be the winner this year.  Trust me, by the time you get your ornament in the mail I will have figured out how to do it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Crabby about pockets -- amen!

One of my art pals sent me links to a bunch of articles about pockets -- namely, rants about how the pockets in women's clothing are always much smaller than those in men's clothing.  I read them all and found myself getting madder the more I read.  Because they are so right!!

Read the best ones here, and here.

Fortunately those of us who know how to sew can remedy the situation.  I can't count the number of readymade garments that I have augmented with better pockets, or pattern-made garments that I have improved with more pockets.  Among my greatest hits was a pair of pants that I cut off to knee-length, then used the cut-off fabric to put huge cargo pockets on both thighs.

In my closet right now are a pair of jeans with the shallowest pockets I've seen in ages. 

I added five inches in length to the right-hand one just before I embarked on a trip (but never got around to doing the same with the other one).

And a suede-like shirt that had no pockets at all!  What were they thinking!!  Even if you carry a handbag, which I don't, where do you put a Kleenex or a Chapstick?

Fortunately the shirt had a horizontal seam right about where the top of a pocket should fall.  I opened the seam, added a big pocket in a matching batik palette, made a button loop out of the batik and used the extra button from the little plastic envelope.

Hah!  Outsmarted the product police!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

Workshop report 3

One of my students has already finished the piece begun in the Loose Threads workshop last month.  Linda Bohlen sent this photo of her little quilt, "Snow on the Mountain." 

She thought the diagonal lines looked like a mountain range, and added some hand stitching to make a dusting of snow on the peak.

It's always nice when you like a workshop piece enough to take it home and finish it!  And even nicer when it comes out looking great.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Workshop report 2

Here's another workshop piece from Loose Threads that started as large-to-small -- one piece of fabric, sliced and restitched with a very skinny line of fabric between the two halves -- and then turned into small-to-large on the second day.  The very densely pieced small-to-large areas, because they can incorporate different colors in different combinations, add a lot of pizzazz!

after the first day

making a bunch of small-to-large strips and modules

adding them to the large-to-small composition

And she's not done yet!!  I'm waiting to see how this all turns out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Workshop report 1

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about leading a workshop for Loose Threads, a small group of fiber artists in Evansville IN.  When I teach fine-line piecing I like to spent the first day slicing up large pieces of fabric and piecing them back together with very skinny "mortar" lines.  The longer you work on something, the more lines will appear and the more complex the composition.  You can also turn the pieces upside down or add a second color before you sew it back together.


after working late into the evening



The second day we worked with a different method of construction: starting with small modules or strips and building them up into larger expanses.  Some people stuck with their first-day compositions and made them even more complex with new modules.

second day afternoon

The moral of this story, I guess, is that when the schedule says it's time to stop and move on to another task, sometimes it isn't.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Refugee quilt people -- the entry

I wrote recently about a SAQA exhibit called "Forced to Flee," about the world refugee crisis, that I wanted to enter.  I spent much of the summer making people out of old quilt fragments, enjoying the bedraggled, faded and distressed quality of their clothes.  I decided to enter this competition because 3-D work was encouraged, and my first thought was to stand the people on some kind of base, arranging them either in lines or in a crowd.  So I constructed each one around an armature of aluminum wire that could be inserted into a hole in the base.

When I visited my art pal Paula Kovarik in September I had my bag of quilt scraps and people with me, to work on during spare moments, and when I dumped them out on the table to show them to her, she thought it might be more powerful to just have them in a heap.  "Huddled masses" should come to mind in this presentation.  The more I thought about this suggestion, the more I liked it.  That would also make it easier to ship the piece if it were accepted.

But I didn't want them to be lying down in the heap, implying they had died or given up; I wanted them to be alive and looking us in the eye, holding us to account for what happens next.  That argued for displaying the people on a vertical support, emerging from the wall like a bas relief.  I happened to own some pre-stretched canvases that weren't actually canvas, but burlap, and thought the rough texture was appropriate to the subject matter.

I checked my supply and found two 12x12s and one 8x16.  The short, wide one seemed to be best, and I started to arrange the people on it.  Then I quite by accident went back and read the call for entries: the minimum size was 12x12.  That seemed to rule out the 8x16 canvas.  So what next?

I rearranged the heaps.  One 12x12 canvas was too small for the number of people I had made; two of them seemed too big.  Too late to make more people -- I had had to wait till my show was open before I could finish the project.  The  opening was Sunday afternoon; the entry deadline was Wednesday night, which wasn't a lot of time.

Finally I had a brainstorm: use the 8x16 canvas and let one guy be falling off the bottom, at least 4 inches worth!

As I sewed the people to the canvas I ended up not only with one guy falling off the bottom but several sticking up above the top, so the finished height was 17 inches, well above the minimum.

Interestingly, the most difficult thing about photographing the entry was to get a side view, required of all 3-D work.  Although I had a big piece of gray felt -- 45 x 72 inches -- for my photo station, it proved very hard to get the whole piece into the frame without also getting annoying background where the felt ran out.  That took an hour on Wednesday evening, as the clock ticked, but I got everything done and hit the "submit" button four whole hours before the deadline.

Now comes the part that always seems unnecessary -- waiting six weeks for the juror to make up her mind.  Now that online entry programs do all the sorting and recordkeeping for you, there doesn't seem to be any reason why show organizers can't have the juror ready to go the week after the entry deadline, and make decisions a few days later.

I think the six-week turnaround is a holdover from the olden days when show entries used slides, which had to be manually taken out of the entry envelopes and arranged in trays, and reshuffled as the juror(s) narrowed down their choices.  And the high-end shows that bring multiple jurors into town for in-person presentations still need more time for human logistics, if not photo logistics.

But why should we be tied to six weeks lead time when the only non-computerized task is for a juror to sit down at a computer screen for a day or two?  Just wondering.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Friday, November 2, 2018

The show opens

The show is open for business -- sketchbooks from a year of drawing out on the mantelpiece:

Two courses of daily news haiku on a pedestal:

The calendar quilt that started it all up on the wall:

Pedestals full of bundles and packages:

One of the daily people, sitting on a base:

Daily hand stitching:

And then, just for good measure, a lovely article on the show by our local visual art association.