Thursday, April 28, 2016

Auction Adventures

Everyone has some vice, a weakness that they find difficult to resist indulging.  I have developed a bit of an auction problem.  Even as broke as I am right now, I cannot resist the temptation to attend an estate auction within a half hour or so drive.  Now, I am NOT a hoarder, not at all.  I don’t go to every possible auction, only the close by ones that have stuff that I actively collect or could use for the textile art.  I don’t buy things just to buy something.  Much of my auction attendance is for business, since I use mostly old table linens, doilies and other vintage textiles.


Last night, I went to an auction in a neighboring county.  I felt apprehensive going to it, as it was apparently the liquidation of a tiny historical society.  Being one who is appreciative of local history, I felt odd about the situation.  The offerings were rather mystifying considering the source (not a complete list, but enough of a word picture):
                Thousands of 1970s to modern postcards
                At least 100 sample advertising calendars from printing companies, none local
                Loads of unopened packs of cheap picture prints from the 1920s-1960s
                Railroad, coal and other industrial company papers, certificates, etc.
                Lots and lots of assorted advertising papers items, most with no local connection
                5-6 boxes of unused pop bottle labels from a bottler in another state
                Lots of worn, torn late 1800s/early 1900s clothing 

That was the bulk of the auction, and I could not make any rational connection between the stuff and the location.  There were a few local items, but not what I would have expected.  If that was the collection of the historical society, no wonder they had trouble staying open.

The best of my purchases was this: 

It doesn’t look like anything great, yet, but that is the sort of stuff I love to dye.  A couple small fancy tablecloths, some damask napkins.   

Another flat: 

Two torn old (before 1940, I guess) vests, two old nightshirts (I think) and a black wool coat, maybe early 1900s?  I don’t know fashion history.  The coat, I don’t know what to do with.  The rest of this flat will be cut up into other things, I have a plan to make cotton paper pulp sculptures someday, and I have a theory that old cotton will be great for that. 

The last box: 

Only part of the contents, but you get the idea - a lot of Victorian scrapbook cards, with some assorted advertising paper and a few calling cards from the late 1800s.  Finally, some progress towards fulfilling the “paper” part of my business name.  I already incorporate paper in some of my art quilts, and I want to make some fabric and paper collages on canvas.  Here I go!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fredericktown wrap-up

The year's first quilt show for me is now in the books.  Thank you to those who made purchases, now make something beautiful!  Sales were a bit light for me, but I received a lot of positive response to my hand dyes, especially the "Creative Kit" variety packs.  One color blend in particular has commanded a lot of interest:

I put this blend together as a winter color mix, but it seems to transcend the seasons.  I have been showing a 12" crazy quilt square in these colors and have had several offers to buy it.  I need the square as a sample idea for the Creative Kits, but I will now be making several to sell. 

I made a few purchases; some rayon Sulky thread to try out, and I finally secured a few men's ties to play with.  I have seen several crazy-type quilts made from ties and recently I've noticed some patterns for bags and for skirts that use them.  The wedge shape offers some intriguing design elements to larger art pieces, and I've been wanting to explore repurposing clothing into art quilts.  Right now, I am contemplating a pile of worn out blue jeans and the ties.  So many contrasts there - textures, fabric weight, plain versus pattern, dress-down versus dress-up...  this will be interesting trying to sew silk to denim.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

More Fabric Flowers

I have been chipping away this week at various nearly-finished projects.  One of the projects has been a sample for a future class that I want to teach.  Part of the sample includes making dimensional flowers with Tyvek (the woven plastic house wrap stuff) and fabric.  The process of working with Tyvek is detailed in Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, Lauren Vleck, Landauer Publishing, 2009).  I'm not going to quote the entire process here, but here is one thing to do with the Tyvek - spring flowers!

It seems like every creative project has to go though on ugly stage, even this quick, simple flowers.  Here they are, cut out after free motion quilting:

Not very exciting at this point.  But, after heating the fabric and Tyvek "sandwiches," they turn into this:

Much more interesting, no?  I still have to add beads to the centers.  Some of my flowers looked horrible before the heat treatment, but the puckering hides a lot of problems.  There were a few flowers that I thought would be fine, but did not turn out well in the end, sometimes it is best not to try and predict the outcome, but keep on making and see what happens.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Goals, Schedules, Slips and Skips

I've mentioned before that there has been a trend in the art quilting community to create small works monthly, weekly or daily.  The idea is to make time to create and learn new things.  I have had several such projects going, with varying degrees of success in keeping the time frame.  Starting my own textile arts business has mandated that some of these projects get set aside for awhile. 

This blog has been a challenging goal for me.  I have set it with myself to post twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I don't always make it.  Instead of stressing out over missing a day, I just pick up on the next scheduled day.  If you are trying to schedule time for creativity, take my advice, and just pick it up the next go round.  Just as it can be very difficult to break a habit, the same goes for starting a habit.  Keep at it.

I have been working on a daily project that was supposed to run for one year.  It is now into its third year, but I have not given up on it.  I was making an artist trading card once a day for a year, and some of them were taking far longer than the 30 minutes a day I had planned on.  Some of the ATCs I did not yet have the skill for the technique I wanted to use.  I got farther and farther behind, but I'm still working on it.  Maybe this will be the year I finish it.  I don't worry about it.  This time of year, I have a vegetable garden to get going, adding to the many things I attempt to do each day.  Priorities shift somewhat, but making beautiful things with fabric is still a significant part of each day for me.  Which reminds me, I have some silk flowers to finish, more on those in my next post.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Why I make art quilts

I thought I’d ramble on a bit about why I make art quilts/textile art.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I have dabbled in other art media, somehow intrinsically knowing I wanted to make something, but not being happy with the materials until I forced myself to learn how to sew.  My mother has always sewn, making some of my clothes when I was a youngster.  I frequently tagged along to fabric shops with her, and I always appreciated the art and design in the print fabrics.  It wasn’t until I started seeing books and magazine articles about art quilts that I became inspired to learn the basics of sewing.  I wanted to make art quilts, not clothing, not drapes, not bed quilts. 

A little bit of my fabric stash

Fabric is easy to find, and in the realm of art materials, relatively inexpensive when compared to paint or the investment of equipment needed for ceramics, glass or metal work.  Yes, a sewing machine can be a big investment, but if you do like I did and find a nice vintage machine to get started, it is not that much out of most budgets. 

Sewing does not require a lot of space, even though most of us who sew have vast stashes of fabric, taking over significant portions of our homes.  In theory, one could get away with a boxful of fabric and notions, a portable sewing machine and an ironing board that is put away when not in use.  I don’t need a huge kiln to fire ceramics, no welding equipment or cumbersome power tools. 

Sewing does not make too much of a mess.  No paint spills or splatters, no long drying times.  Yes, I dye my own fabric, which is wet and messy, however, I dye outside and in only a few intense sessions a year.  Most sewing projects are easily interrupted, from five minutes to several years.  I don’t have to worry about a project drying out before I finish it.  They are not going to be ruined if I cannot finish them in a day.  If a piece doesn’t go together right the first time, I just rip out the stitches and try again.  I remember so many ceramic pieces that I put a lot of time on, only to have them crack in the kiln.  No good way to fix those. 

There are so many amazing ways to manipulate fabric, multiply that by the many different kinds of fabric (cotton, silk, wool…) and you have endless inspiration.  I am constantly astounded by the art quilts in the SAQA shows, there is always something new.  Fabric is incredibly versatile.  If I had to choose just one positive characteristic of my chosen medium, it would have to be versatility.  Finally, I fell into art quilting because I did not want to make things that had already been done. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Rags on the Road - Fredericktown, Ohio

I am pleased to announce that my first venue for 2016 will be the Fredericktown, Ohio Quilters' Market Day on Saturday, April 23.  Hours are 10 AM to 3 PM, admission is $5.  It will be held at the Fredericktown High School, 111 Stadium Drive.  It is a small venue, and they are advertising it more as a quilters' flea market.  Last year, there was a good variety of items for sale, lots of good deals.  Some of the vendors were quilt shops from around the region, others were individuals cleaning out their sewing rooms.

I will have a variety - my standard selection of hand dyed fabrics, Creativity Kits, vintage hankies and scarves, buttons, and vintage sewing collectibles.  I might bring along a Singer 99 in a cabinet.  I'll have to see how much room I have in the car!  I will also have a good selection of batik fat quarters and half yards, grab bags of notions and fabric scrap bags (sewing room clean-out). 

I have been known to engage in some trading at these small venues.  I am always looking for vintage sewing machine manuals and attachments, vintage damask linens, fancy hankies, scarves, men's ties, cotton lace trim, and any vintage sewing machine ads and other ephemera. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Quilts, tanks and B-29s

I just got back from the Cleveland edition of the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo.  If you're a regular reader here, you are probably realizing that I like to unearth an unexpected story or connection to my textile art travels.

Here is this trip's history bit.  The event was held at what is now the International Exposition Center, next to the Cleveland airport.  The building was originally the General Motors B-29 bomber factory during World War II.  During the Korean War, it was the Cadillac Tank factory.  A proving ground was developed around the building for test the tanks.  Of course, now it is home to various trade shows throughout the year.  (I-X Center website

Much as I should be trying to sell my own fabric, I made a few purchases:

A small bagful of overdyed kimono silk scraps
Three small bags (three yards each) of assorted rayon ribbons
One Shiva oil paintstick
Two spools of WonderFil Eleganza perle cotton #8
Nearly two yards of a gorgeous flower trim, two different flowers in it.  The little orange ones are made from wooden beads!  No wonder it was $7.99 a yard.
Some thin ribbons in specific colors I need for a project
Three packs of Painter's Threads
A Ruffler - not a sewing machine attachment, the long wooden contraption in the center of the photo.  It makes a frilly strip out of thin fabric scraps for embellishing.  Suggested uses were garlands, flowers, garment edges.  Obviously, I am playing with it already, and I have some ideas of my own for using the ruffles.

I spent most of the day at the SAQA table, selling memberships.  Next year, I hope to be a vendor at this show.

A B-17, not the B-29s that were made in Cleveland.