March 2, 2015

Jeremy's drawings

I have long admired the work of Paula Kovarik, which features extraordinary, imaginative stitching on a variety of surfaces--sometimes abstract blocks of color, sometimes re-purposed linens.  A few months ago, Paula put out a request for people to send her children's drawings of robots, monsters, and beasts.  She had been using drawings from her own family in some of her quilting, and was looking for more images to work from.  I sent in a number of my son Jeremy's drawings, made when he was between four and six years old.  To my delight, Paula has posted one of Jeremy's drawings in the left side-bar of her blog, and another in a recent post about the project; you can see both drawings here.  It is lovely to have these glimpses of Jeremy out in the world.

Here are some of the other drawings I found as I went through the big envelopes of things I'd saved from Jeremy's childhood.  It was striking to see what a narrow window there is for drawings like this. Before age three or four, drawings were more scribbles, without recognizable figures.  After age six (first grade), the whimsical freedom was gone; Paula tells me this is typical.  

a butterfly

 I didn't make a note of the subject; I think it may have been a spider.

 a caterpillar

a grasshopper

This is perhaps my favorite.  I think it was done the first time we did drawings to make plates, something we continued for a number of years.  Such treasures. . .

February 24, 2015

Self-Portrait at QuiltCon

When I posted a few months ago about "Self-Portrait, Year 2: Beneath the Surface," I didn't include a photo of the full quilt, for reasons I explained in the post. Now that the quilt has been shown at QuiltCon, and many people have seen it, I wanted to share it on my blog also.  Bill Kerr kindly sent me two photos, and let me know that many people were looking closely at the quilt, and talking about it.  

I also received several e-mail messages from people I didn't know, who had seen the quilt, and took the time to track down my address and write heartfelt words of appreciation and support, which touched me deeply.  Then yesterday, through the thoughtfulness of Weeks Ringle, I learned of a Facebook posting on the quilt by Bill Volckening, a quilt collector.  His post, and the many many comments on it, leave me somewhat stunned.  For many years I lived with this quilt in private--years of working on a design and then months of executing it.  To have it out in the world, and then to see how it has touched others, is deeply gratifying.  You can see Bill Volckening's post, with the comments, here.

It is fitting that Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle have a place in this story.  It was through their inspired teaching that I began to make quilts that helped me cope with my feelings of loss.  I took a week-long Design Workshop with them in 2005 and again in 2006.  In those workshops, I met the other quilters who have ever since provided support and the inspiration of their own work.  And I have continuted to meet with Bill from time to time over the years for crits of my work.  His comments on early versions of "Self-Portrait," including coaching on typography, were crucial to the work.  Thanks Bill and Weeks!  

December 28, 2014

Further progress with greens and purples

I've finished making the blocks for this quilt, and settled on a layout.  The next decision is what color sashing to use between the blocks and as a narrow border around the edge (1/2" wide, the same width as the narrow strips within each block).  This is narrower than in the "Glyph" pattern that I used for the quilt, but I'm going for a look closer to the "Mod Mosaic" quilt I made a while back.  I may well go with white sashing (which would give a look close to the blocks on my white design wall), but I have tried out many other possibilities as well:  various greens and purples, black, dark blue, tone-on-tone green, green batik.  I'll be near a fabric store on Tuesday, so will take a look for candidates there.

In the meantime, I thought I'd play around with the many scraps I have left from the fabric cut for the narrow strips in the blocks. 

I use the "mile-a-minute" method for piecing scraps, and put them together into this small piece, about 6x6."

I like the results, but piecing with such small bits is not my forté.  I will leave the rest of the strip scraps as they are!   I also have quite a few large pieces of yardage left from what I dyed for the blocks; I plan to pull from that for the back of the quilt.

December 26, 2014

Changing the stitching on "Plain Spoken"

Back in May, I made the decision to quilt my shot cotton "Plain Spoken quilt with embroidery stitches.  In the months since, I scoured embroidery books for a variety of usable stitches and began the stitching.  I enjoyed learning the embroidery stitches; it is quite amazing how holding the thread one way or another, or placing the needle here or there, can create a wide variety of designs.  But after doing about 80 different stitches, I decided I didn't like the way it looked on the quilt.  Too much variety of color, value, and pattern--all of which distracted from the flow of color in the quilt.   (Ignore the loose white stitches--that's just basting that will be removed when the quilting is done.)

And a close-up, with basting stitches removed.  No better.  

So I decided to go back to something simpler, and did trials with various weight threads in either a simple running stitch, or the "conversation" stitch that I used on my Regret quilt.  

I decided on the conversation stitch (thanks to Mary Beth for the suggestion).  I'm using two threads, a dark, dusky blue 20 wt pearl cotton (hand-dyed) in the darker strips, and 2 strands of 50 wt Aurifil sewing thread in a pale yellow-green in the lighter strips; varying between the two holds down the value contrast between thread and fabric.  I think this is better.  

The quilt is also secured with in-the-ditch hand-quilting in all the vertical seams, done before I began the embroidery.

December 22, 2014

3 trees

About a year ago, walking in the woods of rural Illinois, I made the drawing on the right above.  I was struck by the relationship between the three trees.  I also think of the drawing as "The Three of Us."  I don't think of it as each tree representing a specific one of us--we're somehow interchangeable in my ruminations on it.

I thought for a long while of translating the drawing into a large quilt.  I imagined swaths of dark fabric against a white background.  I made several thermofax screens from photos I'd taken of bark (first row of prints below), and I also scraped thickened dye on fabric to get other textures (second row):

I talked with Bill Kerr about these ideas last spring.  He asked, "Does it need to be so literally like trees?"  Right, no need for bark texture--more abstract is better.  "The line drawing is very nice as it is."  Yes, agreed, I really like the line drawing.

So, I started thinking about doing a line drawing with thread.  While in New York this fall, I bought several interesting threads/yarns made by Habu, the gray and black ones being combinations of silk, linen, and paper.  I spent some time trying out various stitches with these threads, working on old linen napkins, of which I have a large supply from my mother and aunt.

After deciding on a simple couched stitch, I made a 9x12" version.  Then I decided to go smaller, to the size of the original drawing, about 4x6.  Better.  Not everything has to be large.  Seems odd to end up with something so small, after thinking about it for more than a year, but I think it's O.K.

I decided to mount it on a stretched canvas, rather than quilting it.  I've been wanting to try this method of display for a while, and this project gave me the opportunity.  I worked from a tutorial by Lyric Kinnard, though I stapled the fabric rather than fusing it.

 I still notice groupings of three in trees.  Maybe there will be more drawings. . .

December 21, 2014

Greens and purples

I'm making a quilt for Ashley, who picked out a color scheme of green and purple.  I had fun dyeing a range of colors.  I'm using a pattern by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr called "Glyphs," which incorporates improvised piecing; I've really been enjoying cutting and piecing this pattern.  Here are the first 24 blocks (out of 64 that I'll need for the quilt); I've made each block to finish at 6x8-1/2".

 Ashley prefers a bluish green, so I may have too much yellow-green.  Some is fine, but I'll probably re-balance as I make more blocks.

Here's a photo of the pattern, available in Modern Quilts Illustrated, no. 9.

I've changed the size of the block while keeping the proportion of width/length.  I plan to use a narrower sashing, and a border the same width as the sashing.  I haven't decided yet on the color for the sashing.  I'll wait until the blocks are done and then audition fabrics.  I'm thinking it might be a light green, or possibly a wide range of colors from the quilt.

December 15, 2014

Self-Portrait--an earlier design

Some pre-history of the "Self-Portrait, Year 2" quilt that I wrote about in my last post. The small maquette above (11x14") was done sometime in 2005/06.  This was my first design for the same idea (calm lavender at the surface, dark disturbance below).  The maquette is pinned to the bulletin board in my studio, and most people who see it comment on it.  I've collected a variety of black fabrics with the intention of doing a large-scale version of it at some point.