Monday, July 25, 2016

Weekly Study Square

I've been casting about for a new weekly project that I could attempt, because I've found that I've been missing having a small regular goal for motivation. Over the years I've done a few of these projects, the six word memoir, the 8" abstract challenge - eight inch squares inspired by one abstract concept, a few years worth of journal quilts - 8.5 x 11", daily paper/mixed-media collages, etc. All of these projects gave me a deadline (which I find I need) as well as some rules and limits (but not too many.)  I learned how to work smaller and faster with an emphasis on improvisation.

The above is a 5x5" piece I made at a CQFA retreat out of my table scraps at the end of the weekend. I can look at this little thing and remember what pieces I was working on that weekend even though it was four years ago, just from these little bits of fabric. And I like that, it's a journal of sorts, a very personal one that would probably not interest anyone else, but I find it valuable.

So, as I'm trying to control the amount of scrap-page that's accumulating around here (I literally have boxes full) my new project will be a weekly one, with these rules:

  • At the beginning of each week, I'll use the scraps that have accumulated on my work table from the previous week to make one Study Square Quiltlet
  • The study doesn't have to use up 100% of the scraps, but I'll try to use as much of them as possible.
  • If I don't have enough scraps to make anything, I'll use the leftovers from the previous weeks.
  • I won't purchase anything new to make my weekly study.
  • My prompt will be drawn from here. Any combination of the random 8 words generated.
  • I  can make more than one thing per week if I find it necessary.
  • Other things besides fabric scraps are allowed to be incorporated, but I can't buy anything new specifically for this project.
  • The size of each piece will be 8.5 x 8.5" (to fit this box I've had for ages.)
  • I will make a blog post with a picture of the weekly study sometime in the following week.
Weekly Study Square Project is beginning today!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What's on the Wall

 The design wall that I have in my workroom is pretty big, so it takes up a lot of visual space in my working realm. I tend to keep things up there for longer than I maybe should. Even when they're done like the quilt on the left, False Flag Sorbet. In theory I'm supposed to be using the design wall more for the recently Sizzixed (yes that's a word as of now) Wavy Scales and the Pies & Points pieces.
Part of it is that i like looking at something that's done when I'm working on the next thing, like a reminder that I can do it. I can actually finish something. I find it encouraging, which I need sometimes. All the positive self-talk in the world doesn't hold a candle to looking with your own eyes at something that you've recently completed (and that you hopefully still like.)
So for the big switcher-oo, I pinned up most of the smallish quilts that are close to being done. And it's like I'm having my own private art show. I haven't looked at many of these in months, so I'm finding all sorts of details I've forgotten. A list has been made of what I'm calling each of these things, where I'm going with them and what's left to do. I'm happy to say that I can see that they were made by the same person, there's that at the very least.

I'm thinking of making this a regularly scheduled blog post, maybe weekly or bi-weekly, just so I can look back over a year's worth of how this visible component of my artistic output changes over time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Neither a Big Shot nor a Pro

 New machinery in the studio to learn, after waiting for a good sale price, the Sizzix Big Shot Pro arrived a few weeks ago. Without the screw to attach the handle, but that was quickly handled by good customer service at . That was a hard couple of days to wait when I wanted to play with my new toy.
It is a pretty big machine, quite heavy so not something to put away and bring out again, it needs a dedicated spot. I'm still rearranging stuff in my studio, so for now it's on one of the reinforced Gorilla Rack shelves. But it may end up on the top of a short bookshelf that I have.
 I have my Pies and Points die from the class I wrote about a few days ago and I also purchased two small dies that were on sale. This is the small Wave, also from Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Here's a stack of six piece of fabric run through the machine all at once. That's why I bought this thing, the convenience, accuracy and saving the wear and tear on my hands. If I'd cut all these out with a rotary cutter...oh I don't want to really think about it. Let's leave it at there would have been a few days of consequences. As well as the pieces wouldn't have all ended up being the same size and shape.

 I chose this wave die because I wanted to try to refine my curve-sewing skills with this gentle curve shape. I really love the clamshell look to this, a bit like scales or something similar. I started out cutting fat quarters that had been washed but not ironed, but then remembered that ironing was recommended.

Color corrected so the fabrics look a little closer to reality. So, looking at this picture this shows me right away that I need to pay attention to which way directional prints are placed on the die. "We learn by doing," is echoing in my ears. Something to remember to use intentionally, I really like how the zig-zags look in the two orientations.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sewing at QuiltCon

One of the fun things at QuiltCon was getting to hang out in the Marcus booth and hand-sew some blocks with Victoria Findlay Wolfe's new fabric line, Mostly Manor for a fund-raising ALS quilt.
 After all the walking around I was really excited to sit down, what a great picture of Jaye though.
 I managed to only finish one, Jaye did two, I know I'm usually the slowest hand-sewer around since I don't do much of it. But luckily the block went together easily with the great curve-sewing instruction we'd gotten the day before from Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

 There wasn't any yardage available but we managed to find a layer cake of the new VFW fabric line in another booth, so that was cool. I like these fabrics, lots of color/pattern energy and variation in design scale.
 Were we fan-girling VFW by then just a teeny little bit? Yeah probably, she's pretty charismatic and we'd had an all-day class with her, plus she had this awesome quilt hanging in the booth too. So pow!

There were so many buttons being given away, it was hard not to take every single one on offer, but it got rather heavy and clanky towards the end. Some of them are funny, 'Fee, Fiber, Fo, Fun!', Quilt Like You Mean It, No You Couldn't Make That.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

QuiltCon West

Way back in February, friend Jaye and I road-tripped to Pasadena for the Modern Quilt Guild annual convention, QuiltCon West. Up until that point, I hadn't been a part of the Modern Quilt movement, but I had been interested in it, so why not, it's alway fun to see more quilts! (and to go places with Jaye) 

The quilts themselves were very much worth the trip. I'm not sure what I expected, because the definition of a 'Modern Quilt' is rather amorphous, so it was fun to look at all of them and try to figure it all out. 

I think my favorite thing at the show was a special exhibit from a quilt artist from 1970's, Molly Upton. She'd been an inspiration of mine when I began studying the art quilt movement, especially because of the range of quilting materials that she used. It's very interesting to me that the Modern Quilters are also using her as inspiration. Here's a video slide show of all the quilts that were presented.
 We arrived in Pasadena and tried to take a selfie with the official street QuiltCon banners with about 40% success. Also shows the great mosaics on the outside of the one of the convention center buildings.
 This speed control button on the classroom Juki sewing machine cracked me up. I stayed on turtle most of the time.
 When we entered the building where our class was we looked over the railing onto the bottom floor and I was really struck by the great design of the carpet. Wouldn't this make a great modern quilt?
 I like this street sticker art modification, robots with heart, awww.
 When you go to a quilt show, everything looks like a quilt block at some point.

 I look like I'm up to something don't I? I was trying to win some fabric from this booth by posting on Instagram!
 From inside the convention center looking out at the palm tree shadows. I like how the almost-grid contains the trees.
 This was taken from an outdoor cafe across the street from the convention center, I like all the textures in this one picture, I was mainly taking it for the quilt block on the truck sign, but ended up with all this other great stuff too. All the letters, different fonts, some window reflections, natural tree/leaf shapes, industrial-ness of the truck. Good representation of Pasadena really.
I was taken with the street sticker art at the crosswalks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Arboretum Visit

 Way back on Mother's Day I made a journey with my parents out to the UCSC Arboretum to see what was blooming.  They have a great variety of small gardens and plant collections. The succulent/cactus garden had so many eye-catching shapes.  Seeing this picture again reminds me that I want to make a stamp out of this image, there's something about the star, almost spiral shape that gets me.
 This fan shape really made me think of an appliqué pattern.

 The Arboretum has an enormous collection of plants from Australia and New Zealand they are so different than the plants we're used to seeing. So many different structures and forms, it's kind of boggling. I took a lot of detail pictures.

The South African collection has so many varieties of proteas, and I can never choose my favorite.

 I think our favorite plant of the day was this one, a turquoise puya, which had us super curious from very far away down the path. The color looked almost artificial, the glowing turquoise had a painted or dyed coloring to it. But closer up it got even better.
 Here's my mom next to it for size comparison. I think she liked matching the plant with her clothing colors. Yes that's a sweatshirt jacket I made for her a long time ago.
Here's the close-up so you can see the color a bit better. And yes it's on my to-buy list at Annie's.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pies and Points

I was lucky to get into Victoria Findlay Wolfe's Pies and Points class at QuiltCon this year. I was on the wait list, so it was great to find out with just enough time to find some good fabrics to bring with me for the class. I bought American Made solids in several colors that would go with

a beautiful bright bundle of Amy Butler designs that I already had on hand.
The class was one where we were provided with machines which was nice because everyone didn't have to travel to QuiltCon with their own machines. But I admit I struggled with finding my groove with my class Juki, nothing at all wrong with the machine, but it takes a while to get used to sewing on something so different from your 'daily driver.' All the things I'm used to doing without a thought were a bit of a struggle, like finding a consistent 1/4" seam which impacted how much I was able to actually get done in class. 

Here is the sum total of what I got sewn together. I love the way the solids and the crazy prints play together in these blocks. The biggest thing I took away from the class was Victoria Findlay Wolfe's crystal clear directions on how to sew curves. She's so enthusiastic about it and very prepared to take the class along with her to get to competence on mastering thosecurves. It's a big stopper for a lot of sewers, myself included so that was particularly important. But after practicing a few times, I think I really got it. There are some great videos that she's made for Sizzix that pretty much cover what she said in class that are worth checking out.  If you ever get a chance to take a class from her, jump at it, she's a wonderful instructor.
Back home I played with arranging the bits I'd gotten sewn together, realizing that I'll have to pay attention to where the individual solids or prints will come into contact with themselves because it really changes the look of the block. This of course, can be used intentionally...hmmm....

The other big thing I learned in the class was how to use a die-cutting machine. Everyone in the class received their own Pies and Points die to use (and take home, what a great marketing tool!) There were several of the Big Shot Pro machines set up in the classroom and one of the Sizzix reps was there in the class to instruct us on their use. It was great fun and much easier than I'd thought it would be. Since I wasn't doing so great on consistently sewing a 1/4" seam I decided to spend more time on cutting pieces out since I didn't have a Sizzix to use at home.

 Here's what my "Parts Department" (as Victoria Findlay Wolfe calls it) looks like with all the pieces stacked up in the box my laptop came in. It's the perfect size with a foam insert that holds everything in one place. Also in the picture is the Sizzix die. Several of the elements of the block have to be oriented one way, so it's important not to get them reversed, so it's good to have them sorted out like this.
And yes, I do now have a Big Shot Pro because I liked using it in the class so much, so well done on that Sizzix marketing but more on that later.