Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Elvis lives!

This quilt was originally made for the "Why is the Sky Blue" challenge from the quiltart list. I didn't really have anything in mind for it once it was made, and it just sort of languished around for a while, occasionally being dragged out for a presentation or something, including a show and tell in my living room to a friend who came by to pick through some fabric fairy stash I had no need for. That was probably a year or more ago, and I recently got a call from her asking if I still had it. I did, and she asked about the possibility of acquiring it for the Embroiderers Guild of America for their convention next June in Memphis. We worked out the details and they now are the proud owner of the quilt, and it was officially unveiled last week at their regional meeting, to be used? Shown? whatever, for the next year until the actual meeting in June '08. It was well-received enough for the local chapter to be interested in purchasing another one for the silent 'tea cup' auction, and possibly one for their "Chicago national this Labor day." I'm putting all this stuff in quotes because I'm not exactly sure what it all is, I'm just pulling it verbatim from the emails back and forth working out the details. Some other discussion about doing a presentation to their group and possibly a class if they have enough interest. I'm actually pretty excited about the opportunity to work with another group and crazy quilters seem like a good fit for my style of embellishing.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hardy Orange

We have a volunteer tree/shrub/hedge/bush along one side of the fence in the back yard that has thorns longer than my index finger. We've let it get out of hand the last couple of years, and since it's a fast-growing thing it's gotten about 12' tall. We HAD to get in there and trim it back before it took over the entire right half of the yard. It was already impinging on the grotesquely over-sized nandina the dog uses as a scratching post. It's one of the few plants that are surviving the drought this year so I almost hated to whack it back. Almost.

It's green and springy so we can't burn it (ignoring for a moment the burn ban we've been under for months) and with those thorns it's a major ordeal even considering trimming it to 3' or less pieces so the garbage will pick it up. Even if we trimmed it to size and bundled it, I don't think they get paid enough to actually pick it up once they see the size of the stickers. It looks like something from the walls of Cinderella's castle. Was she the one with the castle fortified with brambles?

Anyway, we got it cut back with a minimum of injury and only a little blood, but we now have a 10' wide, shoulder-high tangle of the stuff just sort of lying there threatening us. No idea how we're going to get rid of it short of buying U-Haul boxes and packing it up so we can put it out for the garbage. Maybe we'll just leave it there until it composts back into the earth. It would be just my luck it would re-seed right there though and then we'd have a million of them to deal with instead of just three. I was considering intentionally planting some along the other fence line though where the really ugly fence is but I'd rather have wisteria. Too bad it's only the scary, dangerous stuff that roots so easily and grows so fast. The hardy orange took root and thrived in way less time than it took the mock orange right next to it to even set blooms.

By the way, in case there was any doubt that Southerners were strange, this plant is commonly called a gumdrop tree, and people actually use it as a centerpiece with gumdrops stuck on the thorns. "Hey honey, it's Little Becky's third birthday! What say we chop off a hunk of that deadly weapon plant in the back and stick bright colored candy on it to camouflage the thorns for the kiddies!"

At least it has too many off-shoots to make a good switch.

For a reasonably good picture of the whole thing, check out

Saturday, June 23, 2007

RJ and the Bird

Ignoring the crappy photography, I'm very pleased with these 2 pieces. The Robert Johnson is destined (most likely) to be donated to Tougaloo College for their art auction, and Bird will be one of my three for exhibit and sale. Robert Johnson is done with commercial batiks, photo printed fabric and real guitar parts and picks. I also used annealed brass corners on it.

Charlie "Bird" Parker is commercial batik (the black stripe-y looking stuff bottom right) and some of my rust dyed fabric. Photo printed fabric, and commercial prints for the staff. The bird applique is done with a pinwale corduroy so there is a bit of texture to it. I also spent 2 days with a microscopic screw driver, taking the saxophone apart to get the keys and thumb hook. A HUGE thank you to Chris at Morrison Brothers Music for taking the time to locate an old sax for me, along with some very cool cases and spare parts for future use. He also had some really good suggestions for other pieces of instruments I may be able to use.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Scout and the guitar bits

First things first, Boo Radley is a she, not a he, so her name is now Scout. That'll show me about trying to sex a kitten when they're so young.

And I hit the motherlode at the music store. I went in for a dozen 35 cent picks for the Robert Johnson piece and came out with 10 assorted tuning keys and 3 ....ummmm......decorative metal things with the keys still attached, whatever those are called. The guy I was dealing with was VERY interested in what I was doing with broken guitar pieces and took a lot of time going through his boxes of repair parts looking for other stuff I might be able to use. He also had some good ideas of how to use pieces of a guitar and told me which parts of it were veneer and which weren't. I love the look of the keys and the key sets (for lack of a better name for it) and I think they'll definitely find a home on some of my work. Big thanks to Stephen (of Kokojazzman fame) for suggesting the keys.

Robert and the art cloth

Of which I only have pics of Robert so far. I sort of went off on a tangent with him after I got back from Vicksburg and had all my fabrics laid out together (translation: dumped into a pile on top of another pile on the table) and saw the blue and brown batiks playing so nicely together. I printed off the picture of Robert Johnson, after changing it to a sepia sort of color instead of the original gray/black tones. The lighter blue strip at the bottom will have tortoiseshell guitar picks and if I can buy some unattached tuning pegs they will wind up at the edge of the picture. A coil of rusty guitar strings (which reminds me I need to get out there and put the acid on them so they'll rust today) below the pic, then some quilting. I'm also considering "roughing up" the seam between the blue and brown by overlapping and lacing or something, instead of having the sharp line. We'll see. I have the patterns printed off for the next one, a Charlie "Bird" Parker piece, and the fabrics chosen and dyed for it. It's lying on the ironing board as we speak as I re-dye some rust stuff a bit darker to use with it.

The art cloth came out pretty well. A couple of pieces I absolutely love, a couple that I'm already using as wiping rags when I'm working on others. I really like the look of the shaving cream dyed pieces when they get done, but I'm obviously doing something wrong with the setting process since I'm losing most of the color once they're washed. The yard of gelatin plate printed fabric is going to be very hard to turn loose of, but maybe I'll get a couple more pieces made and will have a choice of which one to donate. This session of gelatin dying went much better than the last, and I'm actually happy with the result. I'll try to get a pic of that up sometime today. I'm also liking the effect of simply sprinkling dry Rit dye on the pieces as I'm doing something else to them. I need to add some salt filler to the shakers of dye though to control the amount a little better. A really pretty piece of rust dyed stuff with teal Rit dye will wind up in the Bird Parker piece. I also played with rust dying some colored fabric. I'll report back on that experiment once they dry and set and get washed. So far I like the effect though. They have more of an orange color too, since I dyed them in the rusty wheelbarrow.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The pain of art

Boo Radley and I have been playing together. A lot. And as a result, my arms and legs look like I've been flogged with barbed wire (which reminds me......) from where his little pointed cat fingers snag me a thousand times a day. So, I'm wide awake at 5:00 am and looking for something to do. My bright idea is to get started on some art cloth stuff, so off I go to my stash for some fabric appropriate for rust dying and gelatin printing and rubbing plates and shaving cream dying and other fun stuff. Pour the vinegar into the bowl and stick it in the microwave. Start cutting the fabric to size. The microwave dings. Add the salt to the vinegar. Load everything up and haul it out to the work table on the deck. So far, so good. Stick the fabric in the bowl to prep it for dying. DAMN! Open wounds and salt/vinegar at the crack of dawn is NOT a good idea. Too late to do anything about it now though so I just keep muddling through until I can get inside and rinse my arms. Of course I also now have pretty little hand prints across the seat of my pajama pants from where I snatched my hands out of the vinegar in reflex to the pain. The fabric is now cooking in the rusty pan, wrapped around various rusty objects.

Cross your fingers that I get some good pieces that were worth, literally, salt in the wound.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Meet Boo Radley

This is my new kitten, who already thinks he needs to help at every opportunity.

He's very vocal and demanding about getting attention too. But he's also a sweet kitten who loves to be petted and held more than any cat we've ever had. He sleeps in my lap while I'm working at the machine (at least he sleeps when he's not "helping" guide the fabric through the machine) and he apparently loves the sound of the Janome since he promptly climbs up and sticks his head through the harp to sleep. That position should be interesting the first time I try to quilt a big piece.

He's "helping" me iron that quilt top, by the way. Since this is a quilt blog, I guess I should mention the actual quilt and not just the quilt kitty. It uses about 75 of the almost 200 music print fabrics I have and is a sort of non-measured ....ummmmm....strip pieced sort of thing. I basically just cut a bunch of strips and started sewing them together then cut them up into triangles and sewed them back together randomly. Absolutely no thought to pattern or design, other than making sure I didn't get the same pieces together most of the time. I added the inner and outer border to stabilize all the bias edges and even then, added interfacing to make SURE it stayed square. So far so good on that. It's probably due to all the help I got from Boo.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Ah yes, nothing like a lazy Sunday afternoon. Two middle-aged women with hatchets and crow bars, an abandoned piano, high-humidity 90 degree weather, a pick up truck and a plan. What could be any more entertaining than that? It look us under an hour to dismantle the whole thing and get the pieces parts hauled out to the street. I now have a relatively unlimited supply of piano guts to do with as I please. An interesting note (at least to me) is that the hammers of pianos have different colored felt. The one I already had has red, the one I got yesterday has green, and Dorinda's has grey. I have a whole bunch of keys and the whole strip of the part where the hammers and other stuff connect. If I can talk the boys into doing it, I may try to send them back out there to get the big metal piece the piano wires connect to. I would make a VERY cool rust dying form. That part of it (I think she called it the sound board) was too heavy for us to lift into the back of the truck, but maybe if the boys unscrew it from the wood part the 2 of them can get it home.

We also did some gelatin plate printing yesterday and that was pretty cool. We were just playing, so I don't really have anything that I'm willing to show, but at least I got some ideas for the situations where it might be the appropriate technique for a particular effect. It did strike me as very project-specific though. One more weapon in my war chest to be used as needed. I also got the deck cleaned off and replaced the weird shaped piece of tarp covered plywood with a great solid wood exterior door to use as a work surface. If the rain holds off today (that's a joke, y'all....we're crying for rain) I'm going to try to get a couple of coats of polyurethane on it "just in case" the thick painted surface needs some extra help. I can already tell it's going to be a huge improvement. I can actually get to the cabinets it sits on, it's perfectly flat and level, the top is white so I can see what I'm doing, and it doesn't have an irregular shape. I also raised it about 3" higher than it was and my back didn't bother me at all, even after an hour or so of standing there working. My daughter came out on the deck and asked why I had plastic lizards and snakes and spare body parts lying around. After I told her what we'd used them for her comment was "Oh, so it was arts and crafts day at the B house this morning. You should run your own summer camp." I think I'm going to invite Mike Rowe to come paint and dye and discharge with me for his Dirty Jobs show. Or maybe I'll invite him over to just stand there and let me look at him.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

MQA June gathering

The MQA (Mississippi Quilt Ass'n) June gathering was this weekend and it came off without a hitch. I was one of the speakers Friday night (I took my timer this time so I knew when to shut up too!) and my talk and quilts seemed to be very well-received. Lots of interest and questions after the program and a bunch of people took pictures of me and the quilts. That surprised me. I've done several of those talks and I don't remember anyone doing that before. As I expected, "Sing" made a big hit and I intentionally saved it for last during my talk. Surprisingly, I think the second crowd favorite was the "Simplicity" quilt with all the sewing supplies on it, and it wasn't just because the women are quilters. Most everyone commented on having a lot of the old things at home themselves, and how much they loved them without using them, but couldn't bring themselves to throw out. I could see the gears clicking in their heads by the time some of them got through asking questions and checking out the assembly techniques.

I taught a beading and embellishment class all day Saturday and that was a ton of fun. I had a really good group of students, and we got a lot accomplished. I intentionally made the supplies list sort of vague so people would show up with a variety of fabrics and embellishments. It apparently worked too, since we had everything from a huge printed panel to a journal sized micro print. We looked at every piece and discussed scale and proportion of each. I think we solved every problem too, including the cute micro print. She just added a big applique of the same tiny motif and it was off to the races for her. Strangely enough, she was the only student who left class to buy more fabric this time. We had every type of fabric imaginable, from bright novelty prints to pastel watercolor fabric to a beautiful, rich looking blue and brown upholstery fabric. It was fun for me to see how the fabric choices "matched" the personalities of the women I knew. The enhancements we ultimately used ran the gamut from basic beading, with some fancy stitches thrown in, all the way through couched yarns and fibers to fabric paint and gel pens and dimensional overlays and bead encrusting to embroidery. I would LOVE to see all of the finished pieces. I did have 2 students from other classes stop by during the day to ask me for suggestions on their own work. I had to giggle at how they looked almost furtive about asking though. Maybe one day embellishment will be a universally accepted addition to a quilt. And in my own defense, "embellishment" doesn't always mean "stick more crap on it" either. Both suggestions I gave were very minor. One was simply a change in thread color, the other was to add a grand total of about a dozen color-coordinated seed beads. Embellishment isn't always about more-is-better, sometimes it's just about enhancing an existing element.

I'm hoping everyone left the class with a better idea of what can be done, when it's called for on their quilt, and that they are a little more open to considering the possibilities. I'm not advocating that everyone always embellish. I'm just hoping people who are very traditional will begin to see it as another tool in their arsenal of techniques. We have DEFINITELY come a long way in the last five years with that. They let us read our instructor critiques before we left yesterday and the one I liked best was the comment from a woman who said she was totally out of her box with embellishment when she signed up for the class, but left at the end of the day comfortable with going home and doing it on her own. I also got an email from a student last night who said she'd dragged out her beads after she got home, even before she unpacked her suitcase! THAT is the kind of motivation that keeps me coming back. I got so excited about the progress they made during the day, and how enthusiastic they were about doing more of it that I challenged them to a Bag O' Stuff round (limited to a quart bag and 25 people though) and I already had 4 signed up by 6:00 last night. I'll probably be a raving lunatic before we finish it up at the end of the summer, but I'm really looking forward to it. The cut-off for signing up is next Sunday, so if any of my 4 regular readers are interested, leave me a comment and I'll put you on the list.