Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday. Wait, I mean Wednesday

Oops. Is it Wednesday and I didn't post something completed on Tuesday? Actually, I didn't post last Tuesday, but that was because my camera batteries needed charging. This week's excuse: My dog ate it. Well, not exactly. I've been busy finishing this top(I'm currently machine quilting it) and taking some new digital images for show proposals. As far as technology goes, the little victories mean a lot to me. I'm not naturally computer or digitally savvy, so figuring out how to resize my photos so that I could submit them was a big achievement.
Recently, I purchased lights, stands and a tripod so that I could make my photos as professional as possible. I have a great camera(Nikon D50), so I figured I should be able to take my own images. I used to take my own slides which is, frankly, harder than taking digitals because you have no idea what's working until you get the pictures developed. Also, it's so much more expensive. Now, I can take a huge range of pictures on an equally huge range of settings and the pictures that don't work are deleted from my camera. Also, I don't worry about the piece hanging straight or the background, because I can fix all that on my computer. Ain't technology grand! So, I thought I'd share some of the fruit of my photographic labor:I had to borrow this piece from the folks I sold it to, but I'm really glad I got some decent images of it.This piece belongs to close friends and former next door neighbors. I managed to take this picture the last time we were at their house.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


So I decided to drop the adjective "good" from my weekly feature. I still think that Tuesday is a good day, as good as any. And, I still plan on posting newly finished work on Tuesday. But, the 'good" part kept reminding me of the characters in The Crucible like Goody Sarah. The title just brought up weird associations, so I've edited it down to "Tuesday".
This Tuesday, I'm posting an image of a baby quilt I finished in the nick of time. I was making this for a dear friend and,coincidentally enough, both the baby and the quilt were birthed on the same day. This quilt was a bit of a departure for me as I used a lot of commercial fabrics, though I did over dye and pattern some of them. I really enjoyed making it and it sparked a lot of ideas for me about incorporating both new and vintage fabrics and hand-dyed and commercial material into the same piece. Also, the fun thing about using commercial fabrics is that I love embellishing them with embroidery. I didn't do this on this piece because I knew it would be used and probably washed a lot. But, I can definitely envision doing that on a future piece.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Class Photos

Since I mentioned teaching a class in African Folklore Embroidery, I thought it might be fun to post a few pictures of the kids in my class working on their pieces. My daughter(pictured above) also posted about the class in her blog, Fiction Fun .Here's another view of some of the girls hard at work.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Family Stitching

We've been doing a lot of stitching around here. Sometimes it feels like a scene from Little Women. We gather in the family room, take turns reading aloud and work on the embroidery kits we bought at Quilt Festival in Houston last November. I had actually noticed the kits the previous year and thought they were fabulous. At the time, I felt like I had too many projects going on to learn how to hand embroider, so I kept on walking. Since then, I've learned a whole host of stitches for a commissioned piece. So, this year, as we drove down to festival, I turned to my daughter and said," I hope that embroidery place is at quilt festival this year." It most certainly was there and it's called African Folklore Embroidery . Ordinarily, I don't think very much of kits. They remind me of paint by numbers. These "kits" are nothing like that. The images, which depict scenes from the everyday life of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa, are simply but beautifully drawn on black fabric. The kit includes a braid of thread, a needle and some basic instructions about various embroidery stitches. It's completely open-ended. You decide which colors go where or even if you want to stick to their palette of threads. You choose whether to add embellishments such as felt, beads, buttons, etc. I was so excited about these kits that I ended up buying three kits, one for myself and one for each of my girls.
We've been off and on working on our kits and here are our works in progress:This is Rachel's. She's almost done. I especially love the way she combined two different colored threads in the lion's mane and the felt ball that she cut in half, stitched to the surface and embellished with seed beads to create a three dimensional sun.
Here's mine. I too am nearly done. I've had a terrific time couching threads, adding bits of felt, and using both the thread provided in the kit and some wool threads from my own stash. I think I've even used some fingering weight yarn in this piece. I'm planning on quilting the embroidery and using it as flap for a bag. I can't quite decide if it will be a book/messenger bag or a backpack.This one's Abi's. She's actually just started working on hers. She is in an embroidery class that uses these kits. I came home super excited about these things and decided to offer a class at our homeschool co-op that incorporates these kits. Currently, I have six 9-11 year old girls happily stitching on their pieces. Also, I've proposed teaching a summer camp at the Art Pad that utilizes these embroideries.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Good Tuesday

I'm going to start a weekly feature on my blog to update projects that I finish. I'm hoping this will fulfill a two purposes:
1. My New Year's resolution to document all my work
2. Force myself to finish at least one thing every week.
Honestly, I probably finish more than one project a week, but, then again, sometimes I get bogged down and this will guilt me into avoiding that.
OK. This week's Good Tuesday project is/are(?) socks that I made for my husband. I ordered this beautiful hand-dyed yarn from Hello Yarn . It was a little delayed in getting here because of the mid-January ice storm we had here in Austin. We had no mail for 4 days. I was mistakingly functioning under the postal motto,"Neither snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night..." That has apparently been updated lately.
Anyway, the yarn finally came and I set to work. When I first saw the skein, I thought, I'll have plenty of yarn left over, but I didn't properly account for my hubbie's size 13 shoe. It takes a lot of yarn to cover those puppies. Thankfully, I had plenty and he loves his socks.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Stitched Surface

In my last post, I mentioned that I could envision doing a lot of embroidery on the surface of the quilt. I was thinking about that and decided to post this quilt, because this is the first quilt I made where I experimented with densely stitching the top. I made this piece as a commission and initially was just going to piece and machine quilt it. At the time, I was learning a lot of embroidery stitches, mostly from Erica Wilson's fabulous book, Erica Wilson's Embroidery. This book dates back to the seventies and isn't exactly eye candy, but it is chock full of stitches and the instructions are very clear. Anyway, I used this quilt top as a sampler of sorts. Piecing the top only took me a couple of weeks, but all the embroidery ended up taking several months. I loved it though; both the finished product and the process. I found the stitching even more relaxing and meditative than knitting. And it too was extremely portable. I can't imagine doing that amount of stitching on most quilts I make because it is so time consuming, but I really enjoyed exploring this technique and am really looking forward to doing some more.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

More WIP

This is a first stage picture of a small quilt I'm making for a friend. Like I mentioned before, I feel pulled in two directions when I make pieces for friends or family. On the one hand, I derive so much pleasure from seeing them enjoy and use the things I make for them, but...I know I should focus on making work to sell or for shows. Even worse, my interests don't end with dyeing fabric and making quilts. I LOVE knitting and embroidery. I would dearly love to learn to spin and dye wool. Also, I'd love to be more proficient at designing both knitted and sewn garments. And, just to top it all off, I'm so enjoying blogging, that I actually heard myself utter the words," Man, I'd love to learn html."
I'm pretty good about reining myself in, but that doesn't completely keep me from having a few too many projects going at the same time. My only saving grace is that I usually sense at some point that I'm over committed and I tell myself that I can't start anything new until I finish the work I've already started. And, in all honesty, I usually do finish my projects...eventually.

Here's the piece a little further along. I overdyed some commercial fabric using a shibori technique called itajime. I like using it to create dyed blocks that mimic a pieced look. I've also included some fabric that I dyed using another shibori method, arashi, and a fair amount of my batiked fabric as well. I'd get a real kick out of adding a bunch of embroidery to the surface once I've finished the piecing.