Thursday, December 22, 2016

Scrapbooks and Ephemera, Part Two

Ephemera n.  1. Anything short-lived or transitory.  2. Such things collectively: a writer of ephemera.  3. Items, as pamphlets, notices and tickets, originally intended to be of use for only a short time, especially when preserved as collectibles.  (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary,  1991)

I want to bring to light a little about Theodore Langstroth in regards to scrapbooks.  Langstroth assembled his scrapbooks in 1975-1978, after retiring from a career as a dye chemist, spending the bulk of his adult life in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He must have collected material for his scrapbooks long before his retirement, and also must have had great connections in order to secure the paper and images in his stash.  Read more about him here, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has most of his scrapbooks.  Some images from his scrapbooks may be seen here.

A few of Langstroth’s scrapbooks reside elsewhere, I had the good fortune to catalog a few of his scrapbooks for a former employer.  While researching his life back then, I discovered the insightful observation that Langstroth saved whatever needed saving.  He latched onto subjects that no one else thought were significant.  Now, these collections are treasure troves of information.  He collected not only subjects such as color lithography, art on stamps, Price and Bonnelli's Greater New York Minstrels Showboat, the Boss Washing Machine Company and the use of flags on envelopes in the Civil War; he also collected items on individual people: Hiram Powers (sculptor), Blondin, the hero of Niagara Falls, artist Fannie Manser and Joseph Boggs Beale.  Not exactly household names anymore…

Information on Langstroth from John Fleischman, “The Labyrinthine World of the Scrapbook King,” Smithsonian Magazine, Feb. 1992.

Next time, I’ll introduce you to Joseph Cornell before I tie all of this together.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hollyhocks in December

An extra post this week, as I am excited about my hollyhock dyed silk!  I was expecting some deep red-violet colors, instead I got this:

Interesting gray-green shades; color I thought was not possible without an iron modifier (something I have not tried yet).  I used flowers from a "black" hollyhock that I started from seed.

Maybe the red-violet color that was indicated in the book could be achieved with flowers from true red hollyhocks.  I will plant both red and black hollyhocks in 2017.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Marigolds in December

On this bitter cold and snowy day, I'm cooking up some fabric!  I saved some marigold flowers at the end of the gardening season, and I am just now getting around to dyeing with them.  

I am pleased, a nice variety of shades just by using different silks (dupioni, noil, organza, habotai, etc.).  There is a pot of dried hollyhock flowers on the woodburner right now, I'm hoping for some deep purple-red shades.

Speaking of cooking, I've wanted to rant a bit about a book I recently read on being a creative artist.  I'm not going to reveal the author, I'll keep this anonymous.  The author devoted an entire page in this book on why she hated to cook.  Her complaint was that it took away from her painting time, and that painting was all she wanted to sustain her.  I get it that is sometimes troublesome to stop progress on an creative project to take care of chores and yes, even basic needs.  But, we have to take care of ourselves, not just in satisfying our creative impulses.  I wrote a related post on this quandary on August 25, long before I read the book I just described.  Creativity should filter through to all aspects of our lives, that is one reason why art matters.  What ways can you foster more creativity in your everyday routine?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Scrapbooks, Part One

If you’ve been a frequent reader here, you’ve likely noticed my fascination with bits and pieces – scraps.  Not just scraps of fabric, but scraps gleaned from research projects, bits from the lives of others (my auction addiction) and so on.                        
I have a great appreciation for antique scrapbooks from the late 1800s and early 1900s, having had the opportunity to view some stellar examples in a couple of libraries where I used to work.  I have not really jumped into the contemporary scrapbooking trend, though I do have a couple of sketchbooks in which I keep clippings from assorted sources for creative inspiration.  Assembling a scrapbook of this nature is a great way to have a steady source of ideas in one place.  The creative-type scrapbook is also a way to condense piles of magazines.  Pull out the articles you want, (making sure to note the title and date), get rid of the rest.  Don’t be afraid to add anything else that inspires you: advertising graphics, literary or music quotes, names of artists to study, whatever strikes your fancy!

Earlier this year, I acquired a box lot of paper ephemera that was definitely the remains of a disassembled late 1800s scrapbook.  At that time, “chromolithography, die cutting and embossing unleashed a flood of cheap, brightly colored scrap [commercially printed paper],” made specifically for the scrapbooking hobby then.  (John Fleischman, “The Labyrinthine World of the Scrapbook King,” Smithsonian Magazine, Feb. 1992.)

Personally, I think that the 1800s printed scrap papers are much better in quality and innovation than the scrapbook papers churned out today.  That said, most of the 1800s scrapbooks that I have come across at the antiques shops and markets are just page after page of litho pictures, nothing else.  Rare is the one that has a clear theme and/or includes text of any sort. 

I picked up these small volumes at an outdoor market this year. 

They consist entirely of newspaper and magazine articles on a single subject.  The dealer had a large boxful of them.  I selected volumes titled Color, Wool, Textiles, Vegetables and Fruit.  Sadly, most of the articles lack a source and date, but from the few dates that I found in them, the books were assembled between 1920 and 1957.  They are a fascinating insight into the midcentury decades, and I love the idea of keeping personal groups of related articles.

These little scrapbooks raise many unanswerable questions though.  Did the individual who made them intend for them to say something about that person after they passed on, or were they solely intended for their maker’s lifetime?

Later on, I will profile two tremendous collectors of ephemera: Joseph Cornell and Theodore Langstroth.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pillowcase binding

Not a very exciting topic, but I've had several requests to post instructions for pillowcase binding.  I'm not a fan of the traditional bias strip edge bindings for quilts.  The pillowcase technique suits my style now.  Here's what you do:

1. Cut batting and backing fabric same size as quilt top.  Partially quilt the top and batting together, just enough to hold the two layers together.
2. Place backing fabric onto the top/batting layer, right sides together.  Sew 1/4" around the edges, leaving 1/3 of one side open.
3. Trim corners and excess batting from edges.  Turn right side out, iron.
4. Stitch or fuse the opening, quilt as desired.

There, that is the quick version!  For this collage, I am creating a three layer quilt base that the actual collage will be attached to at some point.  Here is the base in progress, with the collage to the right of the sewing machine, showing that it is clearly not being included yet in the construction.
I have to quilt the base layer again, and then decide if I want to attach the collage now, or do some more work on it.  I need to think about this for a bit.

Yes, that is a vintage Singer 201.  I LOVE that machine, a sturdy workhorse!  I am one of those people who names their sewing machines, this is Grace.  I found her at an estate auction, and I can prove that I am the second owner of this machine.  Grace was the first name of the machine's first owner.  I never knew Grace, but she took great care of her sewing machine, and I am honored to be the next owner of her treasured Singer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Progress on the collage has not been made yet, I do not have backing fabric yet!  I have found the lost quilt that I mentioned last time.  The search for that one has taken much of my time that was supposed to be spent sewing.  Now I can move forward.

I'm still debating how to put together the purple collage.  I continue to be somewhat mystified at quilt shows by the multitudes of viewers who have to see the backs of many of the quilts.  Yes, I get it that even stitches and so forth are an important part of good craftsmanship.  However, for an art quilt that is hung on a wall, should the back matter so much?  No one, no one, at an art gallery or museum asks to see the back of a watercolor or oil painting.  If anyone did, they'd be escorted out of the place.

It is important for my hand stitching not to come undone - I always end up with lots of knots on the backs of my quilts.  

I don't want the embellishing to fall off!  There is only so much I can add before I have to quilt, and some of my embellishing cannot not sewn over.  I have to add things after quilting.  
This (above) is the back of a small quilt collage that was completely embellished before I pillowcase bound it and quilted it with just four lines of decorative machine stitching (horizontal and vertical axis), and added a scant few decorative stitch flowers here and there.  The thread ends are hidden,  it is still technically a quilt, but not likely to be acceptable in quilt show judging.  The machine didn't like having to deco stitch over some of my embellishing, more points off for uneven stitches!
On this one, I did all my stitching through all three layers.  Since there is so much happening, the awkward knots and undersides of the hand stitching do not seem all that bad... the batik print helps to distract from the ends as well.  However, would this pass muster in a quilt show?  I wonder how much the back matters to the average non-quilter (potential) buyer of my work.

I am leaning towards options of finishing my collages that would disqualify them as quilts, but would result in a better looking back.  I'm not much for entering quilt shows anyway. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Getting Sidetracked

Despite what it appears, I have added a few pieces to the collage.  I had intentions to add more in time for this post, but I realized that I have to quilt this thing at some point.  Right now, it is only a top layer, with no batting or backing.
image copyright RPS, please do not repost

The stitching of the three layers to make my collages (technically) into quilts is a struggle for me.  I don't want the quilting to dominate the design and I tend to neglect this crucial step until I have embellished to the point were there is very little chance of me stuffing the mess under the presser foot of the sewing machine.  Not to mention at that point, adding quilting would flatten the fabrics, ribbons, etc. that I attach to come up off of the collage surface.  This piece will be be an experiment in minimal quilting in the currently open areas of purple base fabric, then back to the embellishing.

So, my next plan for this post was to dive into instructions for pillowcase binding, as requested from several customers of mine.  I have not found a piece of backing fabric to suit me, despite tearing through the fabric storage room not only in search of backing, but also on a quest to locate another half finished collage quilt that I want to finish soon.  It has been one of those weeks.  Time for a trip to the local quilt shop...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Quilt National Catalog Binge

Thirteen Quilt National catalogs, and that's not all that are out there!  In my still ongoing study of the Quilt National catalogs, I have noticed an expected increase in the innovation and creativity expressed in the entries.  I realize that it is useless for me to really discuss the QN shows here, as I cannot illustrate my points with images from the shows.

One thing I will discuss is a bit of a revelation happening within myself.  I am realizing that there are a surprising number of quilts through the thirteen catalogs that I cannot explain why they should be considered good art.  Now wait, I am not questioning the jurors or artists, I am questioning myself.  What is it that four other people see that I am not seeing? (The four people being the artist and the jurors.)  This struggle of mine is not exclusive to the QN catalogs.  I'm having the same trouble with nearly all of the the artwork illustrated in two books by the same author/artist on becoming a more creative painter.  I have the same feelings about nearly all of the contemporary artwork that museums and galleries think is fabulous.

I am often missing what the artist explains in the statement for the particular piece in the QN catalogs.  It does not matter if I look at the quilt first, then read the statement, or vice versa.

As I said in the last post, we do not have to like everything, but why am I sour about so much?  How many of you out there consistently find yourself indifferent or worse towards the majority of works in an art quilt show?  I find much that I consider innovative and amazingly creative, but so few quilts that I want to look at for more than a minute or so.

Sometimes, it is incredibly difficult to sufficiently explain why we like or love something.  This will be something I will be paying attention to more, to the point of adding to my journal the things I see in artwork that rocks my world.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Books and Pieces

I’m taking a bit of a break on the purple collage… at least a break from it here.  I am continuing to add to it; it will return on this blog in a week.  Thanksgiving is here, and I am using the days off from work to sew and ponder some ideas for the near future.  Here is another collage in the works, a 7X10” little thing, for the 2017 SAQA Trunk Show.
 image and design copyright RPS, 2016.  Please do not repost.

It is loaded with many bits and pieces, but using a limited color palette. 

Another item on my agenda for the next few days is perusing the stack of past Quilt National catalogs that I have loaned from the SEO libraries.  There are eight of the catalogs on my dining room table now, plus the five catalogs that I own.  I am planning on going through them in chronological order, beginning with the earliest.  I want to make some notes on the evolution of the show, and how art quilting itself has changed over the years.  Look for my initial thoughts here on Tuesday. 

On my initial skimming of the earlier QN catalogs, I noticed a number of quilts that were made from many random scraps, resulting in an overwhelming visual overload – there seemed to be a trend to use as many different commercial prints in one quilt as possible.  Unfortunately, I cannot illustrate any of them here.  I’m wondering if the perceived trend came from the rapid growth of the commercial printed fabric industry that was happening at the time.  It appears that quilters were wildly playing with these new “toys” (print fabric lines), without much regard to good design.  Of course, this is just my opinion… I do love the more is more approach to collage, but with some limits (like my little collage above… with three basic colors).

I always could end up feeling differently about these quilts that right now for, are too much, visually.  Maybe next week, maybe in two years, maybe never!  We all have different creative visions, and we don’t have to like everything we see.  However, when you see something you love, celebrate it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cold Autumn Day, Sunny Summer Flower

Tuesday evening wears on, and the words for a blog post are not forming in my brain.  All I have today is a beautiful picture.
A stunning lotus flower, taken at a nearby lake this past summer.  The part of the lake that sits near the main road is a shallow area, and the lotus plants have taken over in the shallows, creating a floating field.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Making Progress

Since my last post, I have sewn all the fabric pieces onto my collage-in-progress and I added more couched funky yarns.  Time to step back and evaluate it.  One way to see a work-in-progress a bit differently is to take a picture of it and make your evaluation from the picture.
image copyright RPS, please do not post elsewhere

Right away, I notice that the two dark purple lace pieces are aligned nearly the same way.  I like to have similar elements in a piece turned different ways.  I'm not going to rip one of them out, I will add another dark purple lace later, making sure to place it a perpendicular angle to the first two.  I've probably mentioned before, but it is a good idea to use each design element more than once in a piece.  I need to add one more of each of the purple laces, so this will be easy to fix.

Since I am using several different techniques in this collage, I like to keep switching back and forth in the application of them.  I'm not sewing all the fabric pieces at once, then the couching, etc.  Instead, I sew a couple of fabric pieces, couch a couple lines of yarn, add a lace trim, then back to fabric.  I'm not sure if it matters, but I would think that my back and forth method creates a more layered look.  Well, there's another future project to test my hypothesis...

Back to evaluating a work.  While I have a photo of the piece, I like to view the image in black and white too.  This allows me to see how I'm doing with contrast of value.
image copyright RPS, please do not post elsewhere

Clearly, I need to add some darker shades and some pale tints.  The fabrics, trims and yarns I have selected so far are too alike in value.  The same two lace pieces that are bothering me for the way I placed them are the only dark elements now.  It is important to have strong value contrasts to add more interest to a composition.  The background is a nice middle tone, most of the added pieces are about the same lighter value.  The more I look at this image, I think I might be OK if I add a few more dark pieces.  I have some work to do here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Collage Project - Machine Couching

One of my specialty items at quilt shows is my small packs of embellishing fibers – assortments of funky yarns cut into manageable lengths for art quilts.  One way to use these funky yarns in a project is to machine couch them onto your quilt surface.

Set your machine for zig zag sewing.  Your stitch length and width will vary with the yarn that you choose.  On my vintage Singer 503A, I use the General Purpose foot.  Any open toe foot for your machine will work here, some machines have a couching foot.  The funky yarns won’t work in a foot that you have to thread with your couching cord.  Check the manual for your machine for specifics.

Place the yarn where you want it on your quilt top.  Here, I’ve pulled back a piece for fabric that is pinned for later sewing, and I am starting the length of yarn so that the end will be hidden under the fabric piece.  

I usually start by sewing a tack stitch, then slowly start zig zag stitching, keeping the yarn centered in the foot.  Watch your fingers!  Don’t try this if you are tired, or have other distractions happening in your sewing room.  I recommend having a toothpick or a chopstick that has been sanded to a point, so that you can safely guide the yarn as it feeds into the foot.  Yes, I learned all this the hard way!

This first yarn I selected is a flat one with a loopy flower at widely spaced intervals.  I decided to sew down several rows next to each other.  This is a good way to build up texture, use lengths of the same yarn, or use several different yarns.

Here, I am sewing a single strand of yarn to create a line that will draw the viewer’s eye around the collage.  I simply turn the fabric slowly as I sew to create a gently curving line.  

If you are using a yarn with loops in it, the loops will get caught in the prongs of the presser foot from time to time.  When that happens, stop, sew in reverse a couple stitches, slip off the loop, and use a toothpick to hold the loop down while sewing forward again.  Or, just cut the offending loop!  The loopy yarn is worth the extra effort, I like the way they look in my collages.

Couching is so easy, and you can do so many creative things with the technique.  Try using other decorative stitches to couch, just be sure the stitch won’t dominate the yarn.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Collage Continuation

Welcome back to the creation of my latest fabric collage.  I thought that I would sew more pieces down this afternoon, but I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do.  Some days are like that.  So far, all I have on the collage is flat fabric.  I want more texture in this.

I've had to rethink the attachment of the lacy trims and funky yarns that I love so much.  I don't want the ends unraveling, so I have to come up with a way of hiding the ends on a seamless base.  The obvious solution is to hide the ends under the fabric pieces that I will raw-edge applique to the base.

I don't want every trim end to start and end underneath fabric.  This is a design element, to vary what I do with a particular material, adding visual interest.  To avoid the unraveling of crocheted trim, I simply will fold under 1/4" of the ends that I don't hide under fabric.  

On this piece, I decided where I wanted the trim piece, and flipped it back to sew it as a short seam.  After trimming the first stitching line, I put the trim back in place and sewed the top edge.  The other end will be hidden under a fabric scrap:

Another consideration in design is to use a specific element in more than one place in a piece.  Keeping this in mind, I cut another piece of the light green trim to try sewing it by tucking under both ends and not hiding them under fabric.

Success!  It might be easier to sew the ends under by hand, or fuse with bits of Mistyfuse, then sew.  Sewing this piece by machine wasn't too bad.

 Onward with the trim!  I also will add some silk sari "ribbons" with this technique over the next few days.  On Tuesday, I plan on discussing machine couching.  For now, I have sewing to do...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Continuing with Collage

Back on August 19, I posted about creating a fabric collage using one of my hand-dyed vintage damask napkins as a base.  The first step looked like this:
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere

I did not get any further on that project, so it is now time for me to take it up again.  I fielded numerous questions on techniques at quilt shows in the past three months, and I realize that I can answer most of them by writing about the progress of this collage.  If you are one of those I advised to check my blog in the near future regarding your inquiry, the future is here!  By Thanksgiving, I plan on covering machine and hand couching of fancy yarns, designing-as-you-go, pillowcase binding, and other fun ideas.  If you bought one of my Creativity Kits, and are looking for ideas, the next few weeks here will reward you (I hope...).

I have the collage out on my table again, and I have selected a pile of threads, ribbon, trim, yarns and dyed doilies to select from to start embellishing:
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere

Already, there is a problem!  Since I do not have any seam lines from piecing on this collage, I cannot hide the ends of trims, ribbons or yarns like I would on a crazy quilt or other pieced and embellished quilt.  Normally, I'd be careful to plan my embellishing order of sewing so that ends would get hidden by another piece of trim, as you see here:
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere

Check back Thursday to see if I come up with a decent solution.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Recommended Reading for Creativity

I’m not sure how much reading one should do about creativity; I strongly feel that you become more creative by doing, but if you need a boost, or want to make an in-depth study, one book I would recommend is Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters, edited by Paul Maher Jr. (Chicago Review Press, 2011).  Waits is singer-songwriter whose recordings defy categorization.  What endears his music to me is how he combines a multitude of music styles (blues, jazz, traditional ethnic, folk, hip-hop, rock, vaudeville, storytelling, etc.) with mysterious characters and story lines into something completely his own.  That is what we all try to do as artists, we are indeed the sum of many parts.  The book is not a manual on creativity, but it is fascinating reading on the creative process of one musician, and there are many valuable insights into Waits’ inspirations and evolution as a performer.  Regardless of how his music hits you (his voice is an acquired “taste”), there are lessons in the pages of the interviews for all artists, performing and visual.

From a 1999 interview by Brett Martin in Time Out New York, Waits advised that, “… you can take James White and the Blacks, and Elmer Bernstein and Lead Belly – folks that would could never be on the bill together – and that they could be on the bill in you.  You take your dad’s army uniform and your mom’s Easter hat and your brother’s motorcycle and your sister’s purse and stitch them all together and try to make something meaningful out of it.”  Of course, I love the sewing metaphor since my focus is on textile art!  Waits is right on there.  In my world, I put together the works of Joseph Cornell, Viktor Schreckengost, and Claes Oldenburg in the same museum exhibit.

Who would be on your concert bill or museum exhibit?  That would make a great art quilt idea – an advertising poster for your show of your influences…

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Report from Mutton Hill

Now that the much anticipated Mutton Hill Quilt Show is over for this year, I can get back to my life!  I will now be back to posting here on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I have many new ideas to get to in the next few weeks, thanks to some of the shoppers at my booth during the past few shows.  If you bought from me at Mutton Hill, thank you!  I'd love to see what you make from my fabric.  I have a long way to go with this crazy dream of mine to support myself with creative endeavors, but I have come a long way already on the journey.

Here is a view of my booth at Mutton Hill:
I managed to get a little bit of everything in there. Next year, I am considering a double booth.  I would love to have space to demonstrate techniques with some of the more unusual items I sell.  Of course, by next year I hope to have some patterns available, plant dyed fabric, more kinds of fabric, and a vintage sewing machine or two to sell.

I am still trying to unpack from the short trip, so I will adjourn here until Thursday, when you can look forward to my comments on a book I have just read about a singer-songwriter... some fascinating insights into the creative process that are universal to any art.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Overwhelmed in October

Eleven days into the month, and I already realize this is going to be one of those months... I am not going to be able to keep up with my normal twice a week posting schedule.  I might, but I'm not going to make it a priority, as there are other things more pressing right now, most of them fabric related.  I'm trying to squeeze out two dye sessions before the Mutton Hill Quilt Show, and it does not help that my new job is providing all sorts of distractions.

The job is in a library, and I have checked out four books already, on top of the two books of my own I started a few weeks ago.  To make matters even worse, the library had their annual book sale this past weekend, and I managed to add ten more volumes to my own personal library.  Keep checking back here over the winter to find out how collage, the songs of Tom Waits, the photographs of Walker Evans, and ice cream all relate to each other... or how they don't connect!  Will I ever finish The Fountainhead?  Will I even start it?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Inspiration in a Meadow

I often get asked the question, "Where do you get ideas for your art work?"  For me, the answer is: everywhere, in almost anything!  I have too many ideas, and not enough lifetime, I'm sure.  If you are searching for ideas, scale things back - start by considering only one design aspect.  For example, look at color.  Decide on a color blend, and then choose a pattern or move forward with creating a composition.

This time of year, the meadows around my home are full of feathery goldenrod and deep purple asters in bloom.

Purple and yellow are direct complements of each other on the color wheel, making them fun to work with in design exploration.  Last winter, I had the goldenrod and aster in mind when I made these three crazy patch square boxes:

The flowers really are not referenced in the embellishing, I simply wanted to capture the colors.  Even without recognizable images of the flowers that inspired me, I am still reminded of my lovely autumn meadow each time I see the boxes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Last week was a significant transition for me, and I did not intend to let an entire week go by without posting, but it did.  I have started a part time job, which will provide a little bit of predictable income.  After two years of working for myself, trying to make a go of this art and fabric business, I must do a little restructuring.  I'm not giving up on the business, I still want to keep it up, it just won't be on the scale that I had hoped for someday.  Although, who knows, sometimes amazing things have happened in my life, and I'm sure great things are still waiting for me.

Over the past weekend, I was a vendor at the current venue for the Inspired by the National Parks quilt show.  I was very impressed with the fabric interpretations of our National Parks, the exhibit is a excellent showcase of the versatility of the art quilt and the creativity of the artists.  If it is coming to a location near you, go see it.  I am now inspired to attempt my own pictorial art quilt over the winter.

Thank you to those of you who discovered me and made purchases at the Vendor's Weekend.  I will be at only two more shows this year.  Next up is the Town Square Quilt Lovers' Guild show, Saturday, October 8 (9-6) and Sunday October 9 (10-5) at the Caldwell Elementary School, Fairground Road, Caldwell, Ohio. Admission is $5.

The last show for me this year is the Mutton Hill Quilt Show, Saturday October 22 (10-6) and Sunday, October 23 (10-5) at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron Ohio.  Admission is $10, it is a fundraiser for the Summit County Historical Society.  This promises to be a fabulous show, with more than 200 quilts on display and great vendors (including Rags Paper Stitches!).  If you are in Ohio, don't miss it!  Please come out, visit and shop.  I'd always love to see what you've made from my fabric and embellishments.

I promise to have a creative post on Thursday.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

More Cigarette Silks

In an earlier post this year, I lamented the lack of cigarette silks in my collection of vintage textiles.  I have corrected that now, with this recent antiques mall find:
This is an unfinished project, done in the crazy quilt assembly style.  Most of the pieces are true cigarette silks, printed with flags of various nations.  The silks are larger than the two that I have already, these are about 3 X 4".  Two pieces are commemorative ribbons from social club events with a European ancestry requirement.  These identical ribbons are dated 1927, and I have no idea yet what language they are imprinted with... will have to investigate "Kesajuhlet."  The world of old social clubs and secret societies is a whole areal of study on their own, a fascinating study.... for someone else!

The silks are machine sewn to a piece of muslin backing, then lengths of satin ribbon were machine sewn over the seams,  The maker hand stitched over almost all of the ribbon with a herringbone stitch.  What I want to know (and never will) is why the yellow herringbone stitching on the top horizontal row stops half way across, and why four of the silks are upside down.

What is fun for me is making connections with these vintage objects,  I'll never know the maker or the answers to the above questions, but I am certain that the hand stitches are done in Glossilla Rope embroidery cording ("Brighter than Silk").  I found a stash of new-old-stock Glossilla at a recent quilt show:
I have found it to be impossible to pull through regular cotton fabric, but it works well for couching or for the weaving thread in whipped and threaded back and running stitches.  Someday soon I will try it through silk.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quilting ideas

The actual process of quilting my textile art pieces always gives me trouble.  I'm bored with the usual quilting motifs; most of them just don't work well with my ragged edge collage technique.  I must quilt these creations, the stitching holds the layers together and it is mandatory to enter them in shows, the stitching through layers of fabric is the total identity of "quilt."  The quilt stitching is also a vital design element in the whole piece.

I'm not proposing any solid answers here to my own dilemma; I guess I am just ranting today.  I have some ideas that I am soon to attempt.  Recently, I found these line drawings while doing research on something else:
This page is from the October, 1887 Criterion magazine, located at the Marietta College Library.  I believe that it was part of an order form for embroidery patterns, but I am wondering if I could use the idea of line drawing and turn that into quilting designs.  The concept probably still won't work with most of my collages, but I could easily come up with another overall design concept to feature the line drawing-quilting.  Maybe I'll just use much bigger collage pieces.  Creativity is all about rethinking what you have done and figuring out how to do what you want to do.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

End of Year Goals

Five art quilt goals I want to meet by the end of the year:

1. Get through workshop #4 in A Fiber Artist's Guide to Color and Design (Heather Thomas, Landauer Publishing, 2011).  A couple of years ago, I made three art quilts from workshop #1 in this book, and got sidetracked on moving forward with the other workshops.

2. Make at least four more pages for my sample fabric book from Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Chandler/Kettle/Thomas/Vleck; Landauer Publishing, 2009).  Another ongoing project that I set aside.
Image and design copyright RPS, please do not pin or post elsewhere

3. Find my copy of Art Quilt Workbook (Davila & Waterson, C & T Publishing, 2007), and do two more chapters/workshops.  Do you see a trend developing here?  Finish unfinished things!

4. Finish my ATC-a-day project that I started three years ago, or was it four years...
Image and design copyright RPS, please do not pin or post elsewhere

5. Start my entry for Quilt National 2019!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

More Auction Treasures

If you are looking for creative inspiration, there is so much in your own community.  This past weekend for me was chock full of local history.  I attended an estate sale and an estate auction and came away with more knowledge of the area I now call home and some great future art project ideas. 
The first sale yielded a small collection of gravestone rubbing how-to books and supplies, among other items.  Old cemeteries are a great source for local history and genealogy, and potential places to observe folk art stone carving.  I have already been well acquainted with incorporating gravestone carving into my own art, first in ceramics, and now making crayon rubbings on fabric.  This is a printed vintage tablecloth, pulled out of the weekly junk auction, covered in a collage of gravestone rubbings:
Image copyright RPS, please do not pin or re-post

The auction was the estate of a couple who had printed the town newspaper for decades.  There were a few rare local history books; I was soundly outbid on one lot of the books, but I bought the second lot, and I am dutifully studying them.  Half of the auction was the contents of the house, the other half was the bulk of the printing items.  The newspaper was apparently printed in a shed at the back of the property.  A calendar from 1974 in the shed had a note on December 26 that read, “Last day of Home Towner.”  After the printing of that last newspaper, the owner must have locked the shed and left it.  I bought a boxful of copies of two local history booklets that had been printed there and were authored by the couple.  There were lots and lots of old metal printing blocks for advertising, all of them went out of my price range.  I would have liked to get a few for display and to have something from this piece of area history.  I didn’t want to bid too much on them, as the metal plates were too shallow to use for rubbings, and I don’t want to get into messy printing inks.  I’m more interested in things that I can use rather than just look at these days.

There were several boxes of 9 X 12” sheets of embossed advertising graphics.  They were embossed in a positive orientation, which made them good for rubbings, if the fine detail could be captured.
Image copyright RPS, please do not pin or re-post

 I decided to take a chance on them.  Luckily, no one else wanted them, I and have two large boxes full of the sheets and a boxful of the monthly catalogs for the ad sheets from the manufacturer.  The ad sheets I now have are from the mid to late 1960s.

I have not been able to find much about these ad sheets.  All I have found so far is from an Ebay listing  from seller BenningtonBargains: “In the days of hot type, advertisers would send these mats to newspapers who would pour lead into them and then use the lead plate on presses to print the ads in newspapers.  These were generally discarded after the lead pouring.  So this mat is extremely rare.”  It looks like they are made of fine grained paper (heavier than cardstock) with some sort of coating.

I am happy to report that they make great rubbings on fabric:
Image copyright RPS, please do not pin or re-post

They work decently with paper, although the sections with finer detail do not turn out as well.  These open up so many creative possibilities in my collage explorations.  I will have some of the ad sheets for sale at upcoming quilt shows, and I will list a few on my Etsy store in the next week. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Another Shop to Buy my Fabric!

I am pleased to announce that my hand dyed fabrics are now available in Southeast Ohio!  The Old Bank Mercantile has a small selection of my dyed vintage damask tablecloths and large napkins, some fat quarters and half yard cuts, creativity kits, embellishing yarns and dyed vintage fancy pieces (crocheted or embroidered items).  

The shop is located at 180 Broadway, Quaker City, Ohio; open Tuesday through Saturday.  Quaker City is not too far from the intersection of interstates 70 and 77, in the general vicinity of Cambridge and Salt Fork State Park.  If your travels take you to the region, please make a little side trip to check it out.  The shop is located in a 100-some year old bank building (could you tell from the name?).  The owners are still working on restoration, and have kept original fixtures when possible.  Their huge batting rolls are kept in the bank’s vault!  Stop by, support a local business, and support historic preservation.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Creativity Is a Way of Life

Some months ago, I was having an amazing day working on a sewing project, things were going spectacularly well, and before too long it was a quarter to six in the evening.  I was hungry!  I become very crabby about having to cease my creative progress to make something for dinner, but once I started cutting vegetables and cooking, I felt much better emotionally.  I realized that the process of making something is for me, the key to my well-being.  It does not matter what I am making, there is something soothing about working with my hands and seeing an end result.  

I just completed my third batch of canned tomato sauce, from a garden that I started from seed.  Truly my own hard work from start to finish, and I will have delicious pasta sauces and soups this winter. Maybe if more people made things for themselves; useful things, beautiful things; this world would be a better place.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More Fun with Fabric Collage

Here are some of  the same collage pieces that I was working with in my last post, on a lighter, smaller background.

images copyright RPS, please do not re-post elsewhere

It is amazing how moving pieces, overlapping, adding some pieces and taking out others changes the look of a work in progress.  Looking at the above images, ask yourself what elements appeal to you, and what ones you would change.  If you are a traditional quilter, think of the creation of an original composition as an extension of auditioning fabric for an existing pattern.  You are simply adding shapes to the decisions that you must make regarding fabric color and texture.  

If you are serious about creating your own original compositions, there are things you can do to help on your creative quest.  Get to know other creative artists, even if they work in other media.  Ask them for feedback on your art pieces.  Take classes, visit museum and galleries.  Read about making art.  Two books on design and making art that I highly recommend are: The Creative Artist by Nita Leland (North Light Books/F & W Publications, 1990) and A Fiber Artist's Guide to Color and Design by Heather Thomas (Landauer Publishing, 2011).  Look for them at your local library, if they don't have them, ask for them through interlibrary loan.

Most importantly, make stuff!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Collage in Progress

A day late, here is one of many ways to create something original out of fabric.   

I do not usually start with a finished vision.  I pick out a fabric or two, or a large embellishing item, and build a collage from there.  While ironing the vintage fabric scraps that I purchased last weekend, two pieces caught my eye – an odd bird shaped piece and a little hexagon.  These two pieces are the foundation of this evolving piece.  I selected a purple dyed damask napkin for the base, and started playing with the layout of other fabric pieces. 
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere

I next selected two long, light colored calico pieces for some contrast of value.  Creating a skewed L shape in an arrangement is a recurring design device that has gotten stuck in my brain from a workshop that I took a few years ago.  I keep using it, as it creates a sort of half frame that keeps the viewer’s eye moving around the whole piece – something that you want in a good composition.     
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere

Adding more pieces, I deliberately have no focal point here.  I’m not trying to recreate a concrete image.  These collages are meditative studies of texture, color, pattern and shape.  I want my viewer to have something to gaze upon that is a delight to the eyes. 

When playing with collage arrangements, take a picture of each one.  Seeing a smaller image of a composition often helps you evaluate it better.  Make one arrangement, snap a photo, take all the pieces off, start over.  However, set a time limit, otherwise you could spend days on one piece.  You want to create a finished work, move along with it!  Give yourself an hour to play, then look at your photos and pick one to make.  Rebuild the one you like, and start stitching.
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere
A different look, though I'm not liking it as much as the first one.  See how different a collage can become by rearranging the pieces and adding or leaving out things?
Image copyright RPS, please do not repost elsewhere
Ugh, too much going on!  After adding pieces, this one really is not working.  I still will add stitching, fancy yarns, paper and who-knows-what else.  The little details will be too much for this option.  Next time, I'll have a few more design possibilities on a smaller napkin background.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Coshocton Wrap-up

The Coshocton Canal Quilters show is in the books.  I sold a little, bought a little, met some new faces, and discovered a great local pizza place.  Should you find yourself in Coshocton, Ohio, whether it is to visit Roscoe Village, or for something else, I recommend Crowtown Pizza on Second Street.  If you are reading this blog for the first time after finding me at the Coshocton show, welcome to my world of ramblings!  If you bought something from me, thank you.  I’d love to see what you make from my fabric.
I often have people tell me, whether it is referring to art quilts in general or the unusual textiles that I sell, that they like what they see but don’t know where to start in making something unique.  There are many ways to address the “blank page” challenge.  One quick way to get started is to pick out three or four fabrics that you like, cut a few simple shapes from them, and start playing with different arrangements.  Decide on a finished size, keep it small, and when you get an arrangement you like, start sewing.   

As I mentioned in the opening of this post, I bought a few things over the weekend including some neat vintage quilt blocks and fabric scraps.  I have enough fabric to work with already, but these vintage treasures kept calling me.  I’m inspired to create something with them. 

In the next post (hopefully on Thursday), I will give an example of the playing with shapes method of starting a composition. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What to do with a Hand Dyed Napkin

If you are in Central Ohio, I hope that you can make it out this weekend to the Coshocton Canal Quilters show at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church, North Fourth and Chestnut Street, Coshocton, Ohio.  Admission is $5, hours are 10-6 Friday and Saturday, noon to 3 on Sunday.  I will be selling all sorts of lovely hand dyed fabrics, embellishing fibers, dyed vintage doilies and fancy pieces, and other vintage goodies. 

I have three suitcases full of dyed damask napkins; here are some ideas for using them.

1. Cut them!  Use as you would any off the bolt fabric.  I recommend fusing a lightweight stabilizer to the back before cutting.  Most of the damasks really don't have a "wrong" side, they look great from either side.

2. Use as a base for an applique design.  The damasks work great with wool applique too.

3. Make a fabric collage using a damask napkin for a base.  Make several napkin collages and join them together into a larger wall hanging.

4. Make useful kitchen items from them: place mats, mug rugs, table runners, appliance covers, etc.

5. Make purses and bags from them.

6. Make a quilt - any size!  They combine beautifully with commercial prints and quilting enhances the damask. 

Unfortunately, my hand dyed damask napkins are not available on my Etsy store, you'll have to come see me at a show or find them at Silk Road Textiles in Cincinnati.  I'm working on a couple more retail sources where they will be available.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Auction find! Singer Sewing Machine adversting

I'll admit, I am rather easily distracted.  While I am still basking in the glow of new fancy threads from my Lexington trip, the excitement has dimmed a bit due to this:

Image copyright RPS, please do not post elsewhere

Something I had never heard of before, an annual almanac put out by the Singer Sewing Machine company.  It is my latest find from the frequent junk auction near my residence.  It is filled with the usual suspect information akin to the still published Old Farmer's Almanac, but of course peppered with useful articles and advertising about Singer sewing machines.  This particular one still has a string through the hole in the upper corner, for hanging in an easily accessible location and its condition indicates that it was consulted frequently.  It is a fascinating look back into another time; a postal rate chart (two cents an ounce for a first class letter), time of transit table from New York City to various locations around the world (two days to Quebec, 33 days to Singapore), an article on "The Family Medicine Cabinet."  No one now knows what Jamaica Ginger was used for, on page 30, it was recommended as a stimulant for severe pain.

Also on page 30 is the following advice:
     "Every sewing-machine operator should have a piece of white (cloth or paper) and a piece of black to put under the needle in threading.  When the thread is black use the white cloth; with white thread the black.  One who has never tried this will be pleasantly surprised with the help it gives."
Image copyright RPS, please do not post elsewhere

Some of the Singer promotional articles are a historical gold mine.  I'm especially intrigued by a discussion of their cabinet making processes in the almanac.  And then there is the proclamation that Singer sewing machines were "America's chief contribution to civilization." (p. 45)  Arrogant?  Maybe not, the 1997 special edition of Life magazine listed the invention of the sewing machine at number 67 in their "100 Events of the Past 1,000 Years," and quoted Gandhi as claiming that the sewing machine was, "one of the few useful things ever invented." (p. 57)  Learning to sew certainly has changed my life.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Adventures in the Bluegrass

My annual trip back to Lexington, Kentucky always leaves me completely spent, but as always, a good time was had.  The main purpose for the trip is BreyerFest, the convention for collectors of model horses.  Since I lived in Lexington for five years, there are places that I got to know that I must revisit.   

This year, I planned to spend half a day in the beautiful Lexington Cemetery.  I have been playing with making rubbings of interesting gravestone carvings with crayon on fabric.  On previous visits to the Lexington Cemetery, I discovered several graves that had long, profound poems carved into them.  Way back, I made some rubbings on paper of them that I now cannot find.  I want now to make some art quilts incorporating those poems.  Of course, I never wrote down the sections where those graves were located.
Even at 9 AM, it was awfully hot and humid.  I wandered through a couple a sections, and made a few uninspired rubbings.  One was a nice Celtic knot pattern:

I drove to another part of the cemetery, wandered a bit more, still not finding what I wanted.  By accident, I found the resting place of the notorious General John Hunt Morgan.  I have a tenuous connection to the Confederate general – I’m fairly certain that Morgan passed by the property I now live on during his brazen Ohio raid.  At this point, I realized that I would have to come back in cooler weather for the sole purpose of finding the graves I wanted.  I had thought that I would have a nice start to a new art quilt featuring gravestone rubbings, but not yet.   

Then it was on to another favorite Lexington spot, The Stitch Niche.  This is a nice yarn and cross stitch shop, but I do not knit, crochet, or cross stitch.  As I’ve indicated in other posts, I use all sorts of funky yarns as embellishments, and there are a variety of fancy threads marketed for cross stitch that are also great for hand sewn embroidery (think crazy quilts, Carol Ann Waugh’s Stupendous Stitches, etc.).  I have really gotten to love the varied lines put out by Rainbow Gallery, and the Stitch Niche has a small selection.  I think I bought at least one of each of the different lines that they had:


It is raining now, much needed.  Since I cannot attend to the garden, I will be trying out my new fancy threads.  I need to start a crazy quilt sample for the upcoming shows.