Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Black Walnut Harvest

For the past two years, my black walnut trees have not produced any nuts, which has been incredibly disappointing as I look forward to them for eating and for fabric dyeing.  This year - a bumper crop!
This is what I pick up from underneath the trees:

The thick, soft outer hull must be first be removed, best accomplished by smashing them with a brick.  I save the hulls for fabric dyeing.  At this point, I rinse the walnuts and let them dry for a week or two.  There is still the concrete hard inner shell to be smashed.
Once they are dried, it will be time to crack them open, pick out the nut meats, and freeze them for future use in cookies, cakes and quick breads.  It is a very labor intensive process, making one realize why black walnuts are so expensive in the stores.  The same concept applies to art work.  It is not easy making things, but I find it worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crazy for Crazy Quilts

I'm in the midst of preparing for a crazy quilting workshop that I am teaching this weekend.  I think there is some connection between the late 1800s crazy quilting and what we art quilters now call fabric collage.  I'm just not sure of the intermediary steps, if there are any. 

I only have one example of antique crazy quilting, this lone unfinished block:

I have had it for some time, and I do not recall where I bought it.  Someday, I will put a back and border on it.  I should do that sooner rather then later, to protect it.  Just as with the 1930s unfinished quilt top I found recently, I wish it could talk.  There are stories in the stitches that I will never know.  The story inherent in a piece of art is something that I have been pondering this year.  Perhaps I am worrying too much about it.  I just need to go make more stuff!

If you cannot get enough crazy quilting, there is another new book out on the subject: The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design by Sharon Boggon (C&T Publishing, 2017).  As the title implies, it is heavy on design and composition principles, but this is a good thing.  If we want to have textile art taken more seriously, we need to approach the creation of it with the eye of serious fine artists. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Purple Collage, the Finale

Earlier this year, or maybe even last year, I periodically documented the creation of a fabric collage here.  It was finished for entry into the Mutton Hill Quilt Show, and here it is at the show:
Image and design copyright RPS

It was an experiment, not completely successful.  While I made it, I had in mind the paper collages of Kurt Schwitters (scroll down on the link for images of his work).  I think the influence of Schwitters is evident in my collage.  However, it is a bit of a wreck in the technique.  My most significant fault with my purple collage is the trial of sewing a slightly smaller quilt base, allowing the edges of the purple dyed damask napkin hang free.  I will not do that again!  It was hard to quilt near the edges, and I just don't like the floppy edges.  Additionally, the quilting made the whole thing lumpy!  The next collage that I make using a dyed napkin for a sub-base will have a slightly larger quilt base, not smaller.  I would like to try mounting future collages on canvas and stretcher bars, like a painting.  I have heard of other textile artists having good luck with that method, citing that would-be buyers relate to the treatment better. 

Another thing that I like about the collage is the seed stitching I did to create an unobtrusive border.  The stitching was necessary to try and secure the floppy edges, and it added more texture.  Not only is there paper sewn into this piece, but there really are pieces in there that would have been trash!  There are foil chocolate wrappers and plastic mesh produce bag pieces in the mix.  Look around as you go through your day with a vision to find unusual materials to stitch. 

Despite the problems, I really had fun making this and I still love it as a learning experience.  I will hang it somewhere in my house, as it is still a visual delight to me.  I hope to start my next collage this weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Scrap Lace Fabric

I always draw a crowd when I demo my "scrap lace fabric" at quilt shows.  I had several request to re-post the instructions, so here they are.  These instructions are copyrighted, please do not re-post this elsewhere or distribute elsewhere.  

Here is something fun to make with strips of sheer fabric and funky yarns.  I came up with this after numerous utterances of “what do I do with this?” from shoppers in my quilt show/market booth.  I sell packages of assorted funky yarns, and many visitors to my booth love them, but get stumped on using them.  I also had to find a way to use a stash of beautiful vintage rayon scarves that were a surprise in a big box lot from a recent auction.  The technique is an expansion of thread lace from two sources: Fun with Sulky Blendables and Solid Color Cotton Threads, (Joyce Drexler/Sulky of America, 2011) and Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, Lauren Vleck, Landauer Publishing, 2009)
2 pieces water soluble stabilizer (Sulky Solvy or Superior Threads Dissolve 4X), cut both pieces same size.
                HINT: Start small for the first try, about 10x10”
Assorted fancy yarns
Vintage scarf (rayon, polyester or silk)
Machine sewing thread to complement your color scheme

Here’s what you do:
1. Thread your sewing machine, set for free motion quilting
2. Cut narrow strips of scarf, roughly 1” wide, doesn’t have to be exact, vary the widths if desired
3. Place one piece of water soluble stabilizer on your work surface
Place strips of scarf on top of stabilizer, some horizontal, some vertical, some diagonal.  You don’t have to cover the entire surface, some gaps are OK.  You are creating a rough grid pattern.
4. Add random cuts of yarns on the strips; straight lines, curves lines, whatever looks good to you.
Add some more strips of scarf, but don’t completely cover the yarns you just used.
5. When you are happy with your arrangement of strips and yarns, place the second piece of stabilizer on top, matching it with the bottom piece. 
6. Carefully take the resulting “sandwich” to your sewing machine.  The fibers will shift as you sew, so watch for areas that are bunching and thin them out as you go.
7. Start quilting in a straight line pattern to “baste” the stabilizer sandwich, making your lines about 2”apart.
8. Once you get the basting lines done, you will now free motion quilt the entire sandwich.  Pick a quilting pattern that will allow you to easily double back over your design.  The first one of these that I made, I used the pebble design, and I simply stitched each pebble twice as I went.  The idea is to make sure the stitching is absolutely secure.  The quilting could take a while, since you are essentially quilting twice.  I also found that the stabilizer is difficult to maneuver at first, but it gets better as you go along.  I actually had to grab a fistful of one side of my sandwich to help it along.  Just be exceptionally careful that you don’t jerk it and break the needle.

9. When you are done quilting, you get to soak away the stabilizer.  Follow the instructions for the product you are using.  Let it dry, then you are ready to use it an embellishment, or attach to a piece of cotton and piece it into your next project.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Postcard from Mutton Hill

The third Mutton Hill Quilt Show is now history.  Sales were moderate for me and I was quite successful with three of my show entries.  Most importantly, I met more people who are or want to be more creative and who appreciate my unusual hand dyed textiles and art work.  Thank you.  I am energized and inspired by all of you whom I spoke to over the weekend, and by all of the lovely quilts at the show. 

I want this show to continue, for the Summit County Historical Society, for the vendors, for the quilt crafters and artists, for the supporters of textile arts.  The show dates for next year are October 19 & 20, 2018.  Please consider entering a quilt next year, and come out to the show.  This is a show worth supporting, all of us involved with it want it to continue.  Consider making a challenge entry, the theme for next year is the World War I Centennial.

Of course, I must brag a little.  I won a second place in the Challenge class, the theme being “What’s Your Story?” 
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

One of my boxes that are a specialty of mine won an honorable mention in the Fiber Arts category.
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

This was the first time that a Fiber Arts category was offered at Mutton Hill, so I am very honored (and a bit surprised) to have won first place Fiber Art this year! 
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

My statement for this little piece reads; “In July, the meadows around my rural home are filled with bright orange Butterfly Weed.  This is one in a series of felted and stitched pieces that captures the seasonal changes of the meadows.” 

I enjoy sharing my creative expressions with others, and I hope that I occasionally inspire others to try something new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Auction Finds

I had a good day at the local junk auction this week.  I came home with three sewing machines, though not anything greatly desirable.  These machines are robust but lower end models, not the machines that I look for as a collector who uses her collection.  This bunch will be serviced and donated to a group that works with abused and homeless girls.  The girls are taught sewing as a part of a therapy course, and each girl gets to keep the machine that she learns on.  I’m all for any program that gets any youngsters into making something.

I also bought this:

An unfinished hand sewn quilt top made with lots of different strips of 1930s printed feed sack cloth.  As much as I rant against looking at the backs of contemporary quilts, I must say, this one warrants study of the back.

The underside is a collection of more print scraps, and plain feed sacks.  This quilt top begs so many questions.  The obvious, who made it, and where?  Why was so much time spent on what is here, to leave it unfinished?  It also came with several loose stars, and two quarter stars.  Those little pieces will go into a collage.  I want to do something with the part top that preserves its integrity, but I have no desire to attempt to continue the pattern.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Last Two Vending Stints This Year

I was going to discuss the finishing of the purple collage, but I foolishly sent it off to the upcoming Mutton Hill quilt show without getting pictures of it.  So, that will happen later this month when I get it back.

Speaking of the Mutton Hill quilt show, I will be a vendor there, if you are in Ohio, please come out and see the show.  Better yet, buy some beautiful fabric.  I will have my hand dyed fabric of course, and I have recently purchased some great collections of vintage hankies and silk men's ties for fabric collage and crazy quilts.  These will be available along with other fun embellishing items.  I will be presenting a vendor demo each day on using vintage textiles, and I am also giving a presentation on the SAQA art quilt trunk show and SAQA Ohio's Art Quilt Gems. 

The Mutton Hill show is October 13-14, at the John S. Knight Center, 77 East Mill Street, Akron, OH.  Friday hours are 10-6, Saturday from 10-5.  Admission is $10, well worth the price for the quilts you will see and the vendors.

My last venue for the year is the Valley Quilt Guild show, October 20-21 at the First United Methodist Church, 1725 North Wooster Ave., Dover OH.  Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-3, admission $5.