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.