I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

This morning as I hung a wash on the clothesline, I saw a scattering of hail on the ground. I had been thinking of doing some fair weather fun outdoors activity during the day, but seeing that hail sent me back indoors! I know, I know. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, but really, if I am honest, I have to say I was looking for an excuse to stay in and play.

Whenever I have a day off from my "working to pay bills” job, I usually feel guilty if I don’t do something conducive to keeping the house running smoothly. If it seems I am spending the majority of my time doing things I want to do, I generally panic at some point and either cook something or rush around tidying up. Today I managed to keep all those guilt feelings at bay and other than one load of wash, I seem to have spent the day doing my “stuff”! My stuff included some quilting ( I bought more finger cots and finally found the bag with my quilting needles! YES!) and some stamp carving. 

I love carving stamps, but tend to be frugal with the carving boards because they are fairly costly. I try to remind myself to balance the cost of a large sheet against the number of stamps I can make from it, but it still takes me forever it seems to commit to a design. Today I had fiddleheads and waves on my mind and the process seemed to go a bit faster than normal. So I cleaned up some quick sketches from my moleskin and put knife to block.

Carving a clean design takes me a few steps. After I lay out my design on the block, I make my initial cuts with a small speedball blade (#2), then go back with a larger blade to make deeper cuts (#3). I prefer to leave some background lines, but each time I pull a print, I go back and clean up a bit more until I have the clean edges I want. The real trick is to not take too much - you can always take more away, but you can’t get it back if you have removed too much.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I consider myself to be a fairly solid Tim Burton fan and often use his influence when creating some of my quilts. In my mind, anything arty can always use some Burton inspired flair!

One of the earliest projects within our group, the Divine Stitchers of the YoYo Sisterhood was based on the Hallowe’en theme. I believe the dimensions chosen were 8.5 x 11 inches, but I knew my design was better suited to a rectangular shape so my piece finished at 6 x 14 inches. Like I have said before, we rarely stick to rules in this group. Best way to keep us all happy!

I really had fun with this project. Hallowe’en has always been a favorite of mine - you can be tacky and tasteless and anything goes! I actually wanted to have a Hallowe’en wedding, but sometimes things don’t work out just the way you hope. I did make up for this missed Hallowe’en opportunity by celebrating in big style with my children when they were younger. Creating a haunted house atmosphere was important and hosting an annual party was paramount. I also created one new witch doll and one new wall hanging each year to add to our collection. Years later I realized how dedicated and perhaps off the grid I was as I remembered one mother looking at me very strangely and saying, “ you actually brought dead trees and leaves into your home....” But, creating the best possible atmosphere sometimes means you need to go a bit beyond the norm....And besides, my kids loved it!!

These days Hallowe’en is a slightly more quiet celebration in our home. So perhaps my style is more subdued. Sigh. Anyway, I am very pleased with this little piece which is all hand painted fabrics using Seta Paints. The sky is one piece of painted fabric and the rest is another piece cut and laid over the top and fused. I have used a bit of outline machine quilting and also fused the binding. Accents are 3 Dimensional paint.

Friday, April 20, 2012

This week we have welcomed yet another healthy baby to our extended family! This makes our 10th grand nephew/niece and we are just as excited about this little guy as we were about the first little one many years ago!

These days my favourite baby gift comes from my incredibly creative sister and her knitting needles. Joanne has spent her entire life designing and creating and her knitting business is her latest success. Often times when we were kids, I ended up being her palette. Most memorable was the time she painted my legs with acrylics. I had lovely vines of colourful flowers from toes to hips and I was thrilled! In my mind, it meant NO MORE LEOTARDS! Mom, however, seemed less than impressed and I spent a number of hours in a bathtub of hot water and soap while I scraped and scrubbed away my personal garden.

The hats Jo creates exhibit the same whimsy that she once created on me. They are delightful and endearing and you can’t help but smile when you see adorable babies wearing her fun, colorful hats!

Treat yourself and check out her etsy shop. Be prepared to be wowed!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tonight was the monthly get together of the Baltimore Beauties. The nucleus of this group have been meeting every month with the exception of August and September for at least 18 years. If computers, with emails and blogging, had been a daily routine then as they are now, perhaps we would be sure of exactly how long it has been since we started meeting. My best guess is 18 years though it could even be 19....

We all began by taking instruction on the Baltimore technique from Nancy over a two year period and then someone suggested we keep on meeting. The idea was to meet, eat , drink, stitch and catch up on each others busy lives. Over the years we have had members leave, a few join, and some have taken hiatus. But, eventually most return as the pull of the shared friendship is just too great. We are supposed to work on our Baltimore quilts while at the meeting and at one point I believe a “date” was set for a showing of all finished pieces. But, I am sure that date has come and gone and still we stitch. Some of the group are more focused and have accomplished much more on their pieces than others. I happen to fall into that “others” group....but , there are reasons for it. 

I admire the techniques involved in executing a Baltimore quilt and understand the workmanship required. The points must be sharp, the stitches must be hidden, the 3 dimensional components need to be lifelike. I feel the fabric choices are crucial. The time and skill involved in completing one block for a Baltimore quilt is amazing. I really enjoy working on my blocks when I do have the time to do so and I know I have the skill level required. 

But, I have to admit, I am a part of this group so I can hang out with my friends. Over the years these women have been my sounding board more times than I can remember. They have seen me when I am exhausted from work; they have seen me when I am exhausted from being home with sick children; they have seen me when I am flying high because I found a new supplier for surface design materials; they have listened as I have excitedly shared my children’s successes as they started Montessori, then public school, then university and now more university; they have wondered out loud if I have lost my marbles when I bought a new sewing machine for too much money on the spur of the moment! They listen when I whine, when I am talking too much, when I am complaining, when I am planning, when I am happy. They listen. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Like a lot of other people, I have a busy schedule. Lately for a variety of reasons, it has been especially busy. When I do get free time, I like to jump into my studio and unleash some of that pent up creativity! There are so many ideas! And so many tools to use! And so many places for said tools to hide! 

I remember doing some tidying up sometime before Christmas. I have two small sets of red metal drawers from Ikea that are perfect for storing things like small bottles of paint, markers, tape, scissors - all the sorts of items that need homes. I re-organized all those small items in the drawers in a sensible, logical order. At the time I did notice some gaps in very basic tools, such as quilting needles, and I registered the thought that I needed to get in a new supply. I also have a very vague memory of considering ordering a Platinum quilting needle. But, apparently that is as far as I got with my plans because on Saturday when I decided to start quilting the small top I had basted, all I could find were some very bent quilting needles that had obviously been missed in my great sweeping re-organization. Three needles that had already given their best and one lonely finger cot....that is all I could scrape together.

So, you might think I would have those items on my shopping list. I might even have considered making a trip downtown to pick some up. Or placed an order online. Isn’t it all about ease of execution? Making the activity fun and relaxing? Well, that all makes perfect sense. But, what have I done? I have made do with what I have and managed to spend some hours relaxing and quilting a project that only this time last week lay languishing on a shelf in my studio. And after excitedly discovering some new to me water based fabric paints online, I have ordered paint and fabric....

Logical? No. The way I tend to do things? Yep!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ah, yes. That is the thing about inspiration. And creativity. And good intentions. Sometimes things just don’t play out the way you expect.

I had such hopes for today. But, all it took was a sinus headache and a poor night’s sleep and my plans needed to change.

I did salvage something of the free time I had and tackled some mending. I organized a few things. I sorted. All bits of quiet work. And when my headache was under control, I road my flywheel like a maniac. Or, like someone who feels they are working toward making up for lost time.

While I was sorting, I came upon 2 unfinished quilts. One is a bright fabric baby quilt that is about 85% machine quilted that I had abandoned for one reason or another. The other is a pieced top that I made following a pattern of Margaret Rolfe's from one of her Go Wild With Quilts books. I had set the top aside because I felt it needed a border to finish it, yet I was unsure of what border treatment best suited it. As I opened it up today, I realized it is indeed finished and needs no further additions. So I chose a backing, found a piece of cotton batting and have started basting it.

I pondered this development in my way of thinking off and on the rest of the day. When I was studying Signwriting at George Brown College, the instructors often pointed out that the borders and lines and swirls that students were so eager to add were merely window dressing and that the substance and strength of the sign should be in the lettering of the message. And I saw today that it is the same with quilts. There is no reason to add more to the design just to make it a less awkward size or to wrap the quilt in a unifying border when the design is already strong enough to stand on its own.

And so I baste.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I have managed to carve out some play time tomorrow!! And this is my inspiration. 

I am thinking paints but that may all change by the morning.....hmmm.....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Most quilters are familiar with the term “Round Robin” and many quilt guilds make this project part of their yearly program. Over the years I have both organized and participated in many Round Robins with a variety of quilters with different skill levels. The key to the success of this challenge is to make sure there are compatible skill levels with each group created.

After one rather disheartening project, I decided to make sure I invited quilters whose skills I admired to be part of my group. We became what we jokingly referred to as a “control group”. But, making sure the work that was included on your piece and the piece of every member of your group was of a similar quality and caliber makes for a much more well received final result.

Like everything else in life, there is etiquette involved. Respect for the piece and the person who will own the final product is first and foremost. That means respecting the piece’s theme, color choices and quality of materials. It means keeping to the established schedule and putting in the same amount of effort and time that you would expect be used and spent on your piece. It means keeping the materials safe and well cared for. 

My control group quilts have been exceptional! One of them takes up seasonal residency on my wall and I always smile when I see it. For me it is a daily reminder of the possibility of creativity! I appliqued my section, shared my theme, added some small bits of fabric to set the tone for fabric expectations and sent it off to be built.
The top panel is mine and the theme I chose was “Babes at the Beach”. The sections are added as the owner choses  - they do not have to be added in the order made.

This is how Round Robins work. You chose a size and theme, create the first piece, indicate colors or fabrics you would prefer included and send it off to the next person in your group. This person creates another section using your guidelines, adds it to the package and sends it to the next person, or round. Once everyone finishes their contributions, it goes back to the original owner and she sees it for the first time since she sent it on its way. The owner then takes the pieces and creates her original art quilt. The final unveiling of all the art quilts is usually a grand time as we finally see the pieces together for the first time and see whether our vision meshed with all the others.

Once I had received all the sections, I created this Lifeguard hut with a list of Beach Rules.
Round Robins can be many forms. I have seen quilt tops, wall hangings and table toppers. They have been created in block form or strip form or rules such as use triangles, make 4 corner pieces finished size 4 x 4 inches, or create a border have been set. I have seen and been the recipient of some amazing workmanship. There is no greater feeling than seeing your work treated with respect and knowing that your quilting friends have embraced the vision you have for your art quilt.

Along with the hut and sand on the bottom, I added the side panel with a sun and 3 dimensional kites.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Crocuses are always the first blossoms to poke up through the dead grass and leaves and remind you that spring will eventually arrive.....