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Soy and Ice Fabric

Last Sunday our Out of the Box group gathered again to play with fabric. This time Margaret was showing us how to use soy wax to make batik patterns. She brought a pot full of hot soy wax and we played!

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We tried using different found objects like lids and cookie cutters as stamps. We tried painting with paint brushes to make our own designs. I brought some previously ice dyed fabric to paint. We all had a hand at seeing how the wax felt and worked.

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When I got home, I bleached my two pieces of fabric to lighten the background color. Then I ice dyed the fabric again to give a little more color. Kind of seems redundant now that I type it! My thought was to give the background a different color than what it had before.

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One benefit of using soy wax is that it is easy to rinse out. Instead of the endless boiling required when using beeswax for batik, soy wax can just be rinsed in the sink! After rinsing and drying and ironing, I compared how the fabrics looked to when we started.

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They are definitely lighter than the original, with the batik patterns standing out! But I don’t think my second ice dye really gave much added color. I still like how they turned out!

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I have two new fun fabrics to add to my stash, and a great new technique to add to my skill set. I look forward to experimenting with it more and collecting items to stamp with! How do you like to make patterns with soy wax?

 

Acorns – Seeds of Hope

In September, my childhood home burned in the Butte Fire. After four years of drought, California was dry and burned like tinder. The property was once a verdant forest, and in a moment became a blackened and bare world.

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After the grief and sadness at losing what once was, I started to feel hope. Visiting the property after the burn, walking the familiar trails and roads, I felt comforted by the resiliency of mother nature. The land will come back. It might be different, it might take a while, but it will. Already there are ferns and tree sprouts bringing green to the property, and we planted acorns and wildflower seeds.

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It was this thought of new beginnings that I started making wool acorns. My mom was visiting and we had a companionable day rolling wool roving into cute little acorn balls!

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I had collected some acorn tops last year for just such an occasion. We rolled balls and matched them to tops. So adorably cute!

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It was addicting, rolling each wool acorn. As soon as one was finished another was quickly started.

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Soon I started to get an idea about making them into ornaments. With Christmas approaching I thought they’d make great Christmas gifts! I drilled a hole in each top and strung it with string, and then glued the top to the acorn.

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After stringing the acorn, I felt if needed something more to stand as an ornament. What about a leaf to go with it? Beautiful black oaks grew all over our property, and I love the shape of their leaves.

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I found a sketch of a black oak leaf, shrunk it to a smaller size, and cut out shapes from wool felt.

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On each leaf I stitched lines for veins, and the ornaments were done!

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I loved each one, with its unique characteristics and style. I made so many, imagining that each was a gift of hope of what the future could hold for each person I gifted one to.

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And I remembered to keep a few for myself! Two acorns found their way onto my annual wreath, this year made from cuttings from our Christmas tree and sage brush collected here in the valley.

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Is it just me or do the acorns make everything look just that much cuter?

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Here’s to acorns that carry the hope of regrowth and a greener future!

 

Last weekend I had the great fortune to attend a two day workshop at Road to California with Gloria Loughman called Confident Colour. Before going I made time for one dye session, making a range of blues and oranges to bring to the class.

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The workshop started with a brief lecture on how to read the color wheel, and the basic types of color combinations. We colored in examples of the combinations, which would be our choices to work from for the rest of the workshop.

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Throughout the two days, we were tasked with making the same quilt pattern over and over, trying out different color combinations. The first quilt we were asked to do a monochromatic scheme, the hardest to do! I chose blue-green as my color.

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Halfway through the first day, Gloria gave a short demonstration on how to paint a sky fabric. I was entranced. I loved it and couldn’t wait to try.

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After dipping a piece of plain white fabric in water, I spread it out on a plastic surface. Mixing colors, starting from light to dark, I slowly painted the sky. It’s almost like watercolor the way the colors blend and combine.

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I really think the sky makes the quilt too! On the left is my monochromatic quilt as I first made it in the morning, with a plain blue piece for the sky. And on the right is after I learned to paint skies I went back and made a new one. The sky can turn the whole mood of the quilt, here making it stormy and dark.

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The second coolest thing about the workshop was learning to use the color wheel! We all have seen a color wheel, and basically understand how it works. What was really neat and what I had never done before was choose a color combination and select fabrics to match by holding them up next to the wheel. I really got a feel for which fabrics fell where on the wheel, and how a particular color wouldn’t fit within the selected scheme.

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This was my second quilt, with a complementary color scheme, from blue-green to red-orange. I love the sky so much! I would however, not put the orange hill in the foreground, I think I could have gone with all blue hills.

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My third quilt is my favorite. I chose a triad color scheme, using green, violet and orange. The sky was so fun to paint, and the mountains fairly shimmer with color. I really enjoyed Gloria’s teaching style. She left plenty of time for working and asking questions, but also filled the workshop with endless techniques and tips. On the second day she introduced making linear lines in the landscape by cutting up individual segments and laying them over another color.

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For my fourth quilt, I chose a split complementary, picking a range of greens from yellow-green to blue-green and a red-violet for accent.

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Gloria left us with lots of tips and ideas for how to quilt our finished pieces.

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Here are my friend Margaret’s quilts, I really love her gray cloud sky that she painted with some orange. Just makes it pop!

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And here’s a few others from the class. Amazing how even when working within set limits there is so much individual creativity!

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And here are my four completed colorscapes! What should I do with them? Combine them into one quilt? Make each a small wall hanging?

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Reflecting on 2015

One of my favorite quilt books is The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I stumbled across it this year as I was drawn to learning how to sew and piece curves. I was pleasantly surprised after reading it that this quilt book is much more than a traditional book of quilt patterns. It is a philosophy on life, sharing tools and skills to cultivate a creative life. It is a book that speaks to your mind and soul, encouraging you to be present in your work and life.

A few of this year's dyeing projects

A few of this year’s dyeing projects

In her introductory chapter, the author encourages the quilter to evaluate each completed project with a list of questions, instead of judging a work as good or bad. This allows the quilter to evaluate the process and the quilt to determine what’s next. This concept rocked my world. Up to this point, I’ve shared pictures and reflected on the different quilts and projects I’ve completed here on this blog, but haven’t quite considered my work with such directness.

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Self-portrait

And so as I thought about writing my annual blog post reflecting on this year’s projects, these questions and process seemed like an appropriate way to frame the conversation.

 

What surprised me?

My first thought about what I accomplished and completed this year was, not much! I didn’t feel like I spent much time sewing or dyeing fabric. I started a new job, bought a house, had lots of fun weekend adventures, and didn’t really feel like I spent much time sewing. When I took a moment to look through my past blog posts though, the truth was quite the opposite. I completed a lot of quilts!

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Equilateral Triangle Quilt

What surprised me was how many projects I completed that were many years in the making. You might call this The Year of Big Finishes: the Ocean Waves Quilt, the Equilateral Triangle Quilt, and the Mono Basin Quilt. All were listed in my intentions for 2015, and I feel proud that I finished them.

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Ocean Waves

 

What did I discover or learn?

This year I participated in the monthly swatch club with Alabama Chanin. Each month I would receive fabric in the mail with suggestions on pattern and how to stitch. I discovered that having a portable project to stitch by hand is immensely gratifying. Much like a knitter has a small bag with their knitting project, I had a small bag with that month’s stitching project. I pretty much took it everywhere with me in my purse, where ever my day would take me.

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Swatch of the Month

If I had fifteen minutes after work while waiting for my carpool, I could pull out the swatch and stitch. If I had a quiet lunch I could pull out my swatch and stitch. If I was waiting at the airport I could pull out my swatch and stitch. Earlier this year I learned of the fringe hours while listening to this podcast. I related to the idea that time for ourselves can be found throughout the day in short snippets, much like I was making time for myself with a little hand stitching here and there.

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Swatch of the Month

 

What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

The most satisfying process of the year was our Out of the Box quilt group being invited to have an art quilt show at the Mammoth Lakes Library. Being invited to participate in the show inspired me to sew a series of lupine quilts, and the deadline for the show gave me the motivation to get the quilts done!

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Lupine Series

Another satisying outcome was selling my first pieces of artwork! It is gratifying to know my work is appreciated in such a way. In addition, I realized that my art is a form of volunteering. Through my art I supported two important community organizations: the Mono Basin Historical Society and the Mono County Library.

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Art Quilt Show at Mammoth Lakes Library

 

What was dissatisfying?

At the beginning of 2015 I shared an intention to sketch a quilt doodle each day. I enjoyed this daily practice and it was going well for the first few months of the year. Then I skipped a few days, and then the skipped days started being more frequent, until I stopped all together around April. I have a strong suspicion this pattern pretty closely followed the increasing daylight length.

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Daily Journal

I am dissatisfied that I wasn’t able to complete this intention, but I also felt okay with letting it go. The best piece to come out of those few months was I made one of my sketches into a quilt! I have learned that it is possible to come up with my own original design.

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Baby Quilt for Pascal

 

If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

I think my goal could have been stronger if it wasn’t so narrowly defined. I’ve learned that the process of noting quilt ideas in a journal is helpful, and when ready to make a quilt I can go back to those ideas for inspiration. Instead of a daily must, I will try to sketch or write down ideas as I have them.

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Daily Journal

 

Where do I want to go from here?

With 2015 being a year of finishing quilts, I find myself singularly poised with an empty feeling looking ahead to next year. I have no quilts on my shelf calling out to be completed. This is an incredibly liberating feeling, and fills me with a sense of possibility. What do I want to dream of pursing next year? Learning. I want to take this moment to try new things, push my skills, and expand my abilities.

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Stencil workshop and Shibori workshop

I also want to keep in mind what I enjoyed in past projects: how much I enjoy hand sewing and having a project to stitch on while on the go, sewing with our Out of the Box quilt group, and making art to support community organizations.

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Have you asked yourself questions like these after a project? Do you find the process helpful?

 

 

Equilateral Triangle Quilt

Stitch by stitch my equilateral quilt grew, until one day it was suddenly … done!
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After ironing the top flat, I prepared it for quilting by making the quilt sandwich. It was evening and I was tired and skipped a few steps thinking it would help speed things along.
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Famous last words. Skipping steps never speeds things up, and I discovered a number of bumps on the fabric backing. *sigh*
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I set the quilt aside and returned fresh at another time, carefully taping down my layers, keeping each flat and taut. Voila – the quilt was ready for quilting!
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I decided I wanted to use cotton perle thread for a large stitch look. And of course I then felt like being a little playful and using lots of different colors instead of choosing just one.
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I chose a radiating star pattern, using the natural diagonal line of the patchwork to make the quilting lines. I alternated colors randomly as each thread ran out.
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For the binding, I selected a mixture of yellow and yellow-green fabric. I think the bright colors complement the quilt well, while also blending in with the green.
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I gifted the lap sized quilt to my mother-in-law Joann for Christmas, thinking it would be lovely to snuggle under as a lap quilt or use as a room accent on a couch.
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All fabric hand dyed by yours truly, the quilt top is hand pieced and hand quilted. You can read three other posts on this quilt here, here and here.

Sailing the Ocean Blue

And, my other big finish this year was my Ocean Waves quilt. I first dyed the fabric for this quilt in the summer of 2008. I then proceeded to slowly piece and quilt it for the next seven years. Seven years?! That’s crazy. But I didn’t work on it all the time. I would go through bursts of enthusiasm with lots of progress, and periods where I wouldn’t touch it at all. And so it slowly grew.
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All blue fabric was hand dyed by me. I believe at last count there are 1008 triangles in the quilt with 35 shades of blue. The black is just a commercial solid black fabric. The triangles were machine pieced and the quilting was all done by hand.
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For each triangle I stitched a simple triangle inside. In the black squares I stitched a circular wave motif, and along the black border I stitched a geometric wave pattern. All stitching was done in a light blue thread.
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The quilt measures a very large 90 x 90 inches! In late summer, I took the quilt up to the White Mountains in the Bristlecone Pine forest for a photo shoot. I liked the idea of photographing it in front of the oldest trees, as symbolizing its complexity and slow nature. From dyeing the fabric, to cutting all those triangles, to hand stitching it all together, this quilt was made at Bristlecone Pine speed.
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It’s home is now with my brother Taven, the last sibling to receive a quilt made by me but not the least! It warms my heart thinking of Taven with this quilt in his home. My wish is may it be used and worn in the years to come, and keep my family warm.
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And a big thank you to my mom and Aaron who helped hold the quilt for the photo. It wasn’t the easiest task to complete!

If you are just now tuning in, you can see the quilting progress over the years on my blog under the tab Ocean Waves.

As I start to feel the year coming to a close, I realize I had two big projects I have not yet documented the finish of on my blog! Somehow, their binding was sewn and the quilts were given, but the posts didn’t get written. That is okay though, because I took pictures and can share them now.
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This habit of taking pictures was instilled in me early by my mom. Pretty much everything I’ve made has been given as a gift, and she would always waylay me long enough to snap a picture of the item before it left the house. This has left me with a photo history of all the things I have sewn to look back on.
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This quilt was made by our Out of the Box group. I wrote a post on my block of the school house back in January.
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We each chose an image of the Mono Basin that was special or had significance. The blocks were sewn in a stain glass style, and assembled into a quilt, each block framed by black. The quilt was donated to the Mono Basin Historical Society for their annual fundraiser last August.
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We heard the raffle was a great success, raising the historical society almost $900 in funds! It was also wonderful to hear the woman who won the quilt is a scientist studying pika in the Sierra Nevada mountains. How cool is that?!
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Then, we found out the historical society turned the quilt into a coloring book for kids! Each quilted block is a page of the book to color. You can pick one up at the museum for $5. How cool is that??!!
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Our Out of the Box has now done two fundraising efforts for local organizations, and I have to say both have been positive experiences. It is such a meaningful feeling to donate time and energy to my community, and to feel the love and appreciation for our efforts.
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And while the projects have been intrinsically philanthropic, I believe I have received more out of the process then I’ve given. Both this Mono Basin project and the library sale have prompted creative ventures that I would have otherwise not undertaken. Both in my individual craft work and our skill as a group of artists supporting each other grew through these projects. Supporting each other with encouragement and critique, pushing each other to go further and farther than our skills normally take us. I am grateful for these experiences, the quilts I have sewn, and the women I get to sew with. What projects will our Out of the Box group undertake in 2016? It will be interesting to see!

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