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Time passes, months roll by, and the Master Class continues, with assignments due on a regular basis. Our sketch is due the 10th of the month, the blocked out quilt is due the 20th, and the final is due the end of the month. I work hard to meet as many of the deadlines as I can, sometimes I do better than others. The deadlines are a great motivator for me to set aside time and make the space to create.

color scheme

April’s assignment was focused on color – my favorite! With as much as I love color and think I know a lot about it, I still learned a lot in this month’s lesson, and it rocked my world. Don’t be literal with color. The assignment was to pick out a color scheme, and make a sketch, and then put the two together. I knew I wanted to try to do a bristlecone pine tree quilt. What kind of color scheme could I do that wasn’t green and brown? I looked online for inspiration, and saw some great tree paintings, using brilliant oranges and reds for the trees. From one of the paintings, I came up with the analogous color scheme above, mostly orange, with green as the compliment, and the dark red as the accent color.

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For my sketch, I drew inspiration from a photo I had taken of a bristlecone on one of our many visits to see the ancient trees. In the first round of critique, my teacher commented on not needing the sliver of tree to the left (again, this theme with making art – you don’t need to be literal! Do what makes a good design. But I digress).  She encouraged me to add shadows to the trees, and to mimic the lines in the tree in the background landscape. And lastly, she commented on the leaf area looking clumpy. I agree with that! Making leaves on trees is always a challenge for me. This gave me something to ponder … how to make the leaves less clumpy?!

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For the next step, I modified my sketch, incorporating the suggested changes. I enlarged my 5″x8″ sketch to 10″x16″, and was ready to select my colors!

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I pulled out all my warms reds to oranges and laid them out. I took a photo and converted to grayscale to get a sense of value. I continued to select and sort, and take a photo and look and sort and rearrange until I had a smaller selection. For each fabric I matched it to an area on my value sketch.

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Okay – this part took forever – and I would be curious to hear how you do this part if you have a better or different way! I took tracing paper, and traced each value/color piece on my sketch, basically making puzzle pieces. I cut out each tracing paper puzzle piece, then using that as a template, cut out each fabric puzzle piece, and then laid out on the background fabric in the position it was going to go.

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Here is my blocked out piece for the second assignment due date of the month. I was so pleased with how it came out! After lots and lots of cutting and arranging, seeing it all together, the color scheme and design seemed to just make the quilt sing.

I always eagerly await the teacher’s comments, and was totally blown away when this is what she posted:

I love it!  the colors are wonderful…and you conveyed the slight anthropomorphic feel very well. everything is nicely balanced with the shadows and the “tail” (!).

I really like the mystery of it….and also the richness of those gradated colors.  It wouldn’t have half the impact if you’d used a mix of many different colors….the yellows to oranges in particular are so rich especially placed against those cool greens – nicely done!   You totally got the point of this exercise.

Wow! No further work needed, just carry on, except, the tree seemed to be listed to the right. I adjusted it a bit, rotating it to the left, and started to glue. Usually with raw edge applique, I use fusible webbing, but one of the women in our quilt group had said she likes to use basting glue, as it isn’t as stiff as the fusible webbing and gives a more natural look to the quilt. I was encouraged to try and was excited to try it on this quilt.

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This part also took forever, carefully gluing down each little piece, lifting and gluing and placing back in the right place and adjusting and checking and making sure I got glue in all the areas it needed to go. The quilting came together quickly, and the little but mighty bristlecone pine tree quilt was done.

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I am so pleased with how it turned out! And can see how it would be fun to work in a series when the correct subject is chosen. I could do many many more bristlecone pine tree quilts!

May was a full month! When things slow down, it is always surprising to look back and see how much happened. Where did May go? One of the fun and new things that I squeezed into the month was the opportunity to lead a workshop for my local quilt guild!

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Our guild offers free workshops for members once a month. Mostly, guild members volunteer to teach a workshop based on a skill or project they want to share. Several months ago, a guild member had been asking me how to dye fabric, and our conversation made me wonder if other quilters would be interested in learning too.

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After approaching our workshop chair, and talking with the guild, it sounded like indeed they would! I was signed up to teach the May Saturday workshop. I decided to do a twelve-step color wheel, one of the chapters in the Dyeing to Quilt book, where I learned most of what I know about dyeing fabric.

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From yellow, red, and blue dyes, twelve colors are made by mixing in varying amounts. I started the workshop with a brief explanation and demonstration. I wasn’t sure how long it would all take, but the timing worked out perfect. My teaching part was about an hour, and the dyeing part for participants was a second hour.

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And just to keep things interesting, I threw in a new technique which I had never tried before! When I dye on my own, I do it next to the kitchen sink, where I can constantly rinse my gloves and tools in the running water. For the workshop, we were working outside on tables, and had buckets of water to rinse in. I wanted to minimize the mess and need to rinse. I think that’s the great part about teaching a workshop. Not only was I sharing what I know, I learned something new too!

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In another of my dye books, the Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary, she shares a technique of pouring the dye into a ziploc bag with the fabric, and closing up the bag with dye and fabric. The main difference with this technique is that it is less messy, but the fabric needs to be agitated every ten minutes or so, depending on how mottled and variegated you want the patterning to be. You can see in the above two photos, after mixing the dyes, it was easy to pour the dye into the bag, and massage around. I was super pleased this technique worked since I tried it on the fly in the workshop! And am excited that I now have a new technique in my toolkit.

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It was a beautiful sunny morning to be outside in the garden. After my demonstration, all the guild members jumped right in to mixing and measuring their dyes. There was lots of laughter and chatting while mixing, and the morning passed most pleasantly.

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Everyone went home with their wet fabric in bags and instructions on how to rinse and wash after curing. Here’s my rainbow, I was pleased with how it turned out!

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It was my first time doing something like that; sharing about what I know, and talking about what I love to do was so much fun! So often, my craft is done solo at home. To play and share with others felt like a gift. It was also really informative to prepare for the class. Mixing and dyeing have become habit for me, so it was neat to step back and read my books again to think about the why and how to be able to describe the process and answer questions.

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And of course, I got a few fabrics out of the morning activities as well!

One last exciting update, my husband has been working on a dye counter in our garage for me, next to our washer/dryer/sink set up. We were gifted a counter top from a neighbor who remodeled their kitchen. Aaron just finished installing and building the counter and shelves and I can’t wait to move in and arrange all my supplies and start dyeing in the space! I will be sure to post pictures and share how it is to have a designated dye space soon!

And thank you to Marilyn, who shared with me the photos she took of me during the demonstration part of the workshop. Thanks Marilyn!

As Kristine shared in her note for May’s selection of fabrics for the Pressed Seam Club, California experienced an extremely wet winter after four years of drought. Rainy days are just now turning to hot sunny days, and the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the green has been lovely this month!

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The fabrics included are an array of greens and blues, in varying textures and thicknesses.

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Of interest to me was the double gauze from Japan, the green grass print. I’ve seen double gauze fabric for sale online, and this was the first time I’d felt it in person. It is lightweight, but I think possible to incorporate in quilts and other sewing projects.

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I have a lot more I want to say but it might have to wait for another blog post where the whole story can be told. I used a couple of my pressed seam fabrics in my most recent in-progress quilt! It is neat to start to dig into my stash and find the perfect pattern for a project from this selection of new fabrics I’m receiving from the club.

I think the months got all mixed up for everyone. April’s package arrived for the Pressed Seam Club, and the introduction card started with “Happy March Everyone!” And now it is May, and I’m sharing April’s fabrics with you!

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Kristine shared in her note that the collection started with the Jubilee print with lots of multi-colored polka dots, and went from there.

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There is a very geometric feel to this collection, with circles, lines, and solids. Some fabric is from Japan and some from India. Wow!

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Toward the end of March, a friend and I experimented with dyeing shibori. I tried a running stitch pattern, and chose this brilliant maroon color to dye with. When I returned home and opened my Pressed Seam shipment, I thought my dyed piece complemented the other fabrics quite well!

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So many intriguing, interesting, and neat fabrics! Such colors and designs. I can’t wait to make something with them! Maybe adding in my dyed shibori swatch to the mix …

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P.S. This mini photo shoot included scone, strawberries, and a cuppa tea. Heaven!

Many moons ago, I stumbled across Rebecca Ringquist and her dropcloth samplers. I was immediately smitten, purchased the book, subscribed to her 12 month sampler club, and decided I was going to learn how to embroider. I did complete a couple of the monthly samplers last year, but then life happened, as it so often does. As I received each monthly sampler in the mail, I neatly tucked it away into a drawer. And they sat there. And sat.

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Until this January, when motivation struck again, and I pulled out the samplers and began stitching.

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Suddenly, I was finishing one every few weeks. Maybe it was the intense winter we had, full of snow and wet and cold. Maybe it was the long dark evenings, when stitching while watching a show was enjoyable. Maybe it is because work has been extra intense, and stitching is a super great way to unwind at the end of even the most stressful day.

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It’s something I look forward to. Even if for just a few minutes, pulling out the gorgeous colors and feeling the threads and making the patterns, just warms my heart and gives me a place that is peaceful and simple.

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The second thing that really kicked me into gear and made embroidery fun was discovering Rebecca Rinquist’s class on CreativeBug, and utilizing youtube videos to learn how to make each stitch. In the picture above, I made the needle holder from this workshop.

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I discovered it is super helpful to actually see in movement exactly how the stitch was made. How the sewist held her fingers, positioned the needle, and made each stitch.

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As soon as one sampler was finished, I started on the next. I tried different types of threads and played with different colors.

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My favorite sampler of all I stitched towards the end. Raised stitches. Each was so unique. The construction of each was very detailed, and I was amazed again and again at the process that ended with such a fantastic looking stitch. I couldn’t get over each one.

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This sampler also had a few flowers on each side, which were a joy to stitch as I love flowers.

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Ready for the big reveal? Without further ado, all twelve samplers!

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What’s next? I think making them all into something would be nice. Maybe a book, like a stitch library. Then I could consult the book when choosing my next stitch (and maybe recall how to make each one).

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Have I stopped stitching? No way! Now I’m on to a colorburst sampler that was included in one of my dropcloth sampler mailings. It is neat to start to apply the stitches I learned in whatever way I like!

And from here? I am inspired to try a layered floral embroidery piece, combining different fabrics and patterns. I am interested in joining a wild boho stitch along. I’d like to try to draw my own designs to stitch, like this scene of wildflowers by Kelly Fletcher.

The days are getting longer and it is nice to be outside more, but I am still finding time to sit a bit in the evening and stitch. I’m guessing I’ll be sharing some more stitchery with you here in the future!

Are you inspired to try embroidery?

Playing with Color

I’m in the middle of my next quilt as part of the Master Class I am taking, focusing on lines. I’ve made a sketch of a mountain scene, and am in the process of turning it into a quilt. It’s quite challenging, but feels good to be stretching my skills and doing something that is hard to do (once the quilt is all the way finished I’ll have a proper post sharing more detail!).

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As I started pulling together fabrics to use, I realized I needed a few additional colors. So last Sunday, I had some free time to dye. Thinking of mountains, I wanted to dye a range of blacks and greys and maroons, with a few greens thrown in for the valley.

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I started by dyeing a value gradation of the three colors I wanted to make, using Better Black, Brushed Steel, and Sangria procion dyes.

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And then I got more playful. In the past, I’ve kept meticulous notes and followed careful directions to achieve specific colors. This time, I mixed and played at random, each new color a a delightful surprise.

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I started with a bit of the black, and added a bit of golden yellow to lighten it. I then played around with adding golden yellow and sangria and brushed steel in varying amounts to various colors. I generally know how I got to each one, but it would be hard to recreate each specifically. Maybe that is a bit of the magic and why I love dyeing fabric so much. Each piece of fabric is unique and perfect and there won’t be another like it.

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And then my favorite piece. Inspired by directions in Gloria Loughman’s book Radiant Landscapes, where she shares how to dye a gradient. For my last rectangle of fabric, I took the remaining black, grey and maroon, and dyed them in a gradient. I want to dye a lot more pieces like this. The possibilities for quilting and design are endless.

As for finishing my March Master Class assignment by the due date … I am very behind. Life got busy this month with fun and work commitments, and my extra energy and time for quilting hasn’t materialized. How do you catch up on projects when you get behind?

February’s assignment was to explore the picture plane with shape, structure, and balance. A good design is an interesting design, with the shape and structure drawing the viewer in.

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Poppies are one of my most favorite wildflowers, so I chose to make a quilt filled with poppies. I was also stoked at the opportunity to practice sketching. For my birthday last year, Aaron gave me Law’s Guide to Nature Drawing, and I’ve been itching to give it a try. I printed a photograph of poppies that I took, and started to sketch. I was thrilled at how following the steps in the book produced such realistic looking poppies. And I don’t even know how to draw!

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For the Master Class, each month is divided into three assignments. The first assignment was the sketch. I photocopied my poppies and played around with arranging them in different patterns and backgrounds. Above is the one I liked the most. The teacher’s comments were to try adding to the design with flowers in different directions and with stalks that bend a little. She encouraged me to show something different about poppies that I have observed myself.

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I went back to my inspiration photo, and drew more poppies! I looked for poppies of different shapes and sizes to include in my design, drawing some that were facing the sun and some with petals that were more open.

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For the second deadline, I turned in my blocked out quilt. I continued to play around with the background design and color choice. The teacher’s critique here was to soften the background and really keep the focus on the poppies. I really like how she phrased this, so I’ll share it here, “It’s important to capture their essence, how they hold themselves and move in the breeze…rather than botanical details..” She ended with the encouragement to put my time into a lot of poppies!

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So I went back to the drawing board! I looked for as many shapes and poppies to capture from the photo. This time I spotted the smaller poppies, that were still buds or just starting to bloom. Then I cut out as many poppies as I had patience and time.

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For the assembly of the quilt, first I pieced the background and quilted the fabric layers. Then I arranged the poppies onto the quilt, and stitched them down in raw edge applique.

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As I placed them, I continued to keep my inspiration photo handy, to check placement in order to really capture how they hold themselves and move in the breeze.

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I like how the quilting adds the needed details to bring each poppy petal to life. I thought about making each petal a separate piece of fabric, but chose not to for simplicity. That would have made the small pieces of fabric that make up each flower really overwhelming!

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The final quilt is small, 12″ x 16″. The teacher’s final encouragement was simply to suggest trying to make it as a larger quilt. That would be a really neat exercise, to try to enlarge the quilt. I wonder what I would change or keep the same? Probably adding more poppies would be good!

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A little bit more about my inspiration. In September 2015, our family property where I grew up burned in the Butte Fire, as I’ve shared before. My mom spread poppy wildflower seeds, and in the first spring after the fire, they came up with abandon along the creek. This photo was taken in May 2016 when we visited the property. It was the first time I had seen the property since right after the fire. My first emotion was intense grief, when I saw how so much had changed and now looked different. But after spending the day there, hiking around, visiting, working, laughing and hanging out, my sadness went away and I felt comforted. The property still gave me the same sense of home. On the surface it felt and looked different, but the heart of the land was still there. The curve of the hill and the breadth of the sky was still the same. That’s what I attempted to share with this quilt. My memory of the sadness of what was lost combined with hope for the future and what awaits us just around the corner. Just as the poppies lean in towards the sun, ever hopeful and brave. Let’s all lean in towards the sun, bringing much needed color and joy to the world.