September 28, 2015

Other summer projects

Starting in May of this year, the main project I worked on was Accident 2, still in progress.  On a large, difficult piece like this, I need smaller projects to give me occasional relief, and there were also stretches where I was waiting for a dyed piece to batch for a week or two when I could turn to other things.  This post will give you a glimpse of the variety of other things I've worked on this summer.

I needed bandanas for myself and some friends going on a camping trip, so I decided to dye some of the ready-made bandana blanks sold by Dharma Trading Company.  I really liked six out of these seven, and dyed several others after this as well.  (Double-click on any photo to enlarge it.)

I used two different thermofax screens (done from photos of tree bark) to see if I could print on a T-shirt.  Came out quite nicely, although I like the back (blue/black) better than the front (red/black)

I made a few baby quilts, starting with a Cobblestones quilt from Kevin Kosbab, The Quilter's Appliqué Workshop.  I stayed close to the color scheme shown in the pattern, which I liked very much.

The back is hand-dyed fabric, made by pinning the fabric to a clothesline, and dripping two colors from the top.

 Fun to get a photo of the baby on the quilt!

I miscalculated how many squares of color I would need for the cobblestones, so I had a lot left over.  I used them in a "disappearing nine-patch" technique, that yielded the central column for a second quilt, with side panels using other leftover fabric.  When I started, this was going to be the back for the first quilt, but I liked it enough to make it the front of a second quilt.

And its back is another piece of hand-dyed fabric, this one shibori-dyed around a large piece of plastic pipe left over when our main sewer line had to be repaired earlier this year.  Dyers are always on the lookout for tools!

When I was on Whidbey Island earlier this summer, visiting my friend Mary Beth, we went to a quilting shop where I found this lovely turquoise fabric for the background of another cobblestone quilt.  Mary Beth encouraged me to "shop her stash" for some small pieces of novelty fabric, to use for the "cobblestones."  I decided that circles of these fabrics looked better than the improvised squares.

For the binding of this one, I put on a "faux-piped" binding, orange for the piping and light blue for the binding, both fabrics I happened to have on hand.  I like the way this finished.

I also finished the hour-glass quilt that I started this spring (see this post for details on the pattern from Modern Quilt Studio and some early choices).  I finished this with a "pillowcase binding," no batting, as I made it to use as a tablecloth for the large table at my synagogue where we gather for Shabbat prayer when we have a smaller group.

Here's a glimpse of the backing, which is one large piece of hand-dyed fabric.

I saw a pattern for a small zippered pouch on the Crazy Mom Quilts blog, and it looked like a fun way to use up small pieces of some favorite fabric.  I actually made six--I sent one away before I thought to take a photo.  I think I have to make a few more. . . 

That got me in a sewing mode, and I decided to try an Anna Maria Horner dress pattern that I'd bought a while back.  I've tried making a few garments in the last several years, but am usually disappointed with the fit or how it looks on me.  But this one came out quite presentable!  I used only fabrics I had on hand; the color of the side panels is not optimal.  But when worn, they're less visible.  Great pockets, and a comfortable fit overall.  

My favorite part was learning how to do a loop buttonhole with pearl cotton (back neck closing):

Moving over to knitting, I finished an afghan I started about 6 months ago.  Since retirement, I've been watching an hour (sometimes two) of TV in the evenings, so I've been getting a lot of knitting done!  I don't think I could watch TV without it.

 When I finished that, I needed another knitting project.  I found a modified log cabin pattern in Mason-Dixon Knitting, their "Moderne Baby Quilt."  I've changed the colors and dimensions a bit, otherwise following the pattern.  Here it is about one-third done.

And finally, I'm in search motifs to use with stamping or screen printing--something I've been wanting to do for a while, but have yet to settle into.  One thing I did this summer was to take some sketches of mugs that I did a while back, import them into Photoshop and try some arrangements and colors.  I would like to take these further at some point.

So, along with Accident 2, that's how I spent my summer!

September 2, 2015

Accident 2, top done, and the context of the original Accident quilt

The top is done. It measures about 60 x 100."  

I do not have the full sense of satisfaction that I sometimes feel when I complete a piece--that I have gotten just what I wanted, or so close that there are no thoughts about going further.  But I am content enough to work further with this top to bring it to completion as a finished work.  I am thinking of doing hand-stitching through the top and a second layer of fabric (no batting); I have begun stitching trials.  It is less an issue of what stitching will add to the piece, as my needing to sit with it, stitching.

I have been thinking all along that I would leave a white rim around the printed area, maintaining the rough visual edges where the dye was scraped.  But I may decide to turn under the edges.  With the help of Photoshop, here's what it would look like:
If I later decide to do a different version of this piece, here are the things I would repeat and the things I would change:

  • the colors of turquoise, blue, ochre, and black
  • overdyeing most of the text, but leaving the key phrase in white
  • the size/style of the lettering
  • Work on making a better transition between the turquoise and the blue.  (I would need to get help with this--I tried various methods on samples, and could not get the look I wanted.)
  • Try a version with the ochre placed differently.  I'm satisfied with the slash in this version, but could see trying something else also.  Of the small watercolor sketches below, I'm most interested in #2 or 3.
  • If I leave a white rim, watch the shape of the large black area.  I didn't mean for it to get narrower towards the bottom.  (This is one thing I could adjust on the existing piece, if I decide I want to--I can just add more black.)
  • And more radically--and perhaps the most likely one of these I would do--I could change the scale and focus by cropping to the area immediately around the highlighted line.  I didn't think of this until I took a detail shot of that area of the quilt.  I think this could be a piece in itself.

* * * * * *
My intention is that when I show this quilt, it will be in close proximity to the first Accident quilt, a small piece (35x48") in which I stamped a narrative of the night my son died in 2004.  I want the viewer to be familiar with the narrative--so that it is recognized in the second piece, without a need to decipher the obscured text.  The focus instead is on expression through color and shape.  For Accident 1, I intended the reader to stand and read the narrative.  

I hope the narrative will be legible to you on screen here (double-click for a larger image), and if you read it through, I think you will see why I chose to highlight the phrase that I did.  

The color of the cloth is the color of the mud that covered Jeremy's body.  I dyed many pieces of fabric before I came to the color that matched the evidence I kept as well as my memory of it.  I incorporated much of this fabric into the back of the quilt.  I used the same color dye for the diagonal slash in Accident 2.

* * *
I could not have done this piece without a great deal of help, inspiration, and encouragement.  Thanks first to Claire Benn.  I signed up for her September 2014 workshop on "Graphics & Graffiti" in order to get more ideas for using text on cloth.  In addition to getting a lot of practice with text, it was there that I learned the technique of making a paper laminated screen; a small version I did at the workshop using a couple of lines from the Accident narrative was the beginning of this piece.  Claire had mentioned that one could work very large with this method, but when I started to think about doing just that, I realized the many challenges of upscaling.  When I wrote a few questions to Claire, she suggested that we talk it through on the phone.  I am deeply grateful for her encouragement to work this large, despite the challenges, and for the time she took long after the class to explain in detail how I could adapt the technique to this scale.  Thank you so much, Claire!

Thanks also to my husband David, who is my steady interlocutor for many aspects of this process.  He understands as no one else can the grief (and the process of living with grief) that shapes this work.  I often rely on his eye to help with design decisions as well.  And for this piece especially, he was my studio assistant, as I relied on his physical help for setting up the huge print table, and other tasks in the printing process that I could not do on my own.

Finally, thanks to my friends in the Quilters by Design Group.  They have seen all my major pieces in progress, and I depend on their supportive critique to move the work forward.  I am especially grateful that our teacher, Bill Kerr, has been able to come to some of our gatherings; the response and advice he's given on these two works on the accident have been especially important.