Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quilting Patterns

 Deciding on a quilting pattern for each quilt is always a challenge for me.

I also have to confess that this is my least favorite step of the whole quilting process.

I start thinking about how I am going to quilt a piece as soon as I start sewing the fabrics together.  Some decisions are obvious and easy, others are more of a problem. 

  First, while I try and match the colors of quilting threads (or choose a contrasting color for effect), my color choices are rarely that critical in the final result.  My fabrics are so highly patterned that usually the thread color is not that apparent.  So I have learned to relax and not worry too much about thread colors.

I also do not try to mark my fabrics as it will just be a line that I will not be able to follow and I do not want that pressure of concentrating on sewing an exact line.  I much prefer picking a general area to cover or using the edge of my embroidery foot as a guide to make further parallel lines as shown in the photos here.

With the subject of birds in flight I wanted to use flowing lines.  And since the birds themselves are fairly small, I wanted to leave them unquilted so they would "pop" from the surface of the finished quilt.  So I have decided on choosing various areas of the background to heavily (for me) quilt groupings of parallel lines.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Notes, comments and scribbles

As I'm taking my fabric pieces down and sewing them together, I refer constantly to my original pattern to see how the sewing should be done.

You can also see all the notes and comments I make to myself as I am selecting my fabrics.  These are things I want to remember such as where to put certain unique fabrics or value placements.

I also give nicknames to different fabrics or numbers to them if I have a selection of similar fabrics for a certain area.  This way I can make notes of which fabrics I will want where as I work on different sections.  I can write down my thoughts for whole areas and think things through before actually cutting up any fabric.  Doing this also helps speed up the cutting process as I can do several pieces of the same fabric at once as well as several different fabrics at once rather than one piece at a time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ready to sew, but wait a minute....

I have a rule before I begin sewing together all the pieces on a new project - always sleep on it, no matter how excited you are to continue!

With piecing, it is best to make sure you are happy with the overall look before proceeding as I do not want to rip out seams to insert a new fabric piece.  Nor can I simply applique (well I could, but that would go against my self-imposed piecing rule) a new piece over a fabric that I dislike.

So when I am done with my fabric choices, as I think I am now, I always wait another day before sitting down to the sewing machine.  And I spend time sitting and looking at my design wall, then popping back into my studio off and on for a fresh take on things.  Many times I have looked at my new piece the next day and something has practically leapt off the wall, begging to be changed and I cannot believe that I did not see it sooner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grasses and Trees

I've been busy adding different fabrics to represent grasses and a line of trees on the far side of the river.  
For the "grasses" I've selected lots of yellow-green prints with stripes and linear lines.  Most of the "trees" are being cut from this great fabric I found in my stash that has both lighter and darker trees.  Along with one or two other prints to help, I think this one will do most of the work.  
Now that my line of trees has been established, I feel like the last major element is in place and the finish is easily within sight......

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The benefits of being a hoarding fabriholic

Occasionally I will read about someone who regularly purges their fabric stash and think I should start that habit too.  It's a philosophy that I live with in every other area of my life, cleaning out closets and cupboards, but I cannot seem to do that with fabric.

Progress so far
Every time I think that I will never use a particular fabric, I am proven wrong.  So I hang on to everything because you never know.  I was searching for just that "something" to add to this project when I came across the cotton upholstery fabric pictured here that has been in my collection for at least ten years.  I have taken it out, looked at the pattern and colors many times but always ended up rejecting it.

Now I think I've found the perfect home for it, adding it in two groups in the bottom area of the quilt.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Adding More.....

I'm filling in more of the details now.  Taking one
small section at a time, the landscape areas of
trees and brush are gradually filling out.

My mostly green, landscape fabrics are roughly in two groups, grayish or seafoam greens and yellow/light olive greens and I'm trying to keep them grouped together.  As I said earlier, I'm hoping that the addition of all the yellow-greens will help that central yellow floral blend in to work and play well with the others!

The sky is also finished as those fabric choices were all fairly easy decisions.  There were some

last minute changes as I ran out of one fabric and
needed to re-think my placement, but I always feel that those sort of problems usually work out for the best.  If I run out of a particular fabric I never spend time trying to track down more of the same.  I either make do or add something new and I always feel that it makes for a more creative and interesting result in the end.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Machine Quilting Unlimited

I just received my copy of the November/December issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited in the mail and it's very exciting to me to see what a beautiful job they did on an article I was asked to write several months ago.

In The Art of Combining Patterns in Cloth, I talk about my process and include several photographs of past work that illustrate my points.  I was very flattered to be asked to contribute to the magazine and they've done a fabulous job with the all the images printed - the colors are gorgeous!

If you're interested in reading the article and are not already a subscriber, you should be able to find the magazine at your local bookstore or you can order a copy through the link at the beginning of this post.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The wrong choice?

I think every good composition needs a bit of spark, an unusual accent or something out of the ordinary.  That zinger that gives it a bit of excitement. 
With that in mind, I chose the yellow floral that you see here, adding it sparingly across the middle of the piece, along the river.  I think it pairs nicely with the adjoining fabric of green leaves on a black background - both have patterns that are similar in size and scale.  But while the green and black leaves work well with my other fabric choices so far, the yellow floral seems too intense in color.  I would like your eye to be drawn to the birds first - not the odd yellow flowers in the middle!
I've searched my stash of fabrics and can't find anything that I like or that would work better.  And I'm not ready to give up on it yet.  A lot of the remaining fabrics I have in mind for this quilt are yellow-greens so perhaps they will help this yellow floral to fit in.  In the meantime, I'm keeping a careful eye on it and my fingers crossed!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Note Cards and Giclee Prints

Sometimes it's necessary to take a break from making art and spend time on the business side of art. 

I receive a lot of inquiries from people wanting to know if I sell giclee prints of my work or fine art note cards featuring my fiber art.  Thanks to Fine Art America I can now tell them "yes"!

If you're curious, I've added a link here and on my sidebar to the right.  Fine Art America has made it easy for me to offer a variety of images in a variety of styles.

Now back to making art - and I'll post images soon on the progress I've been making on my current quilt.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Looking for secondary patterns and lines

I've spent some time looking at my pattern, finding lines and shapes that I like and want to emphasize.  Lines that will take your eyes into the piece and keep your attention there (hopefully!).

I'm also looking at all of my fabrics again.  There are several stronger ones that I want to use sparingly, ones with very dark or very light values.  And one predominantly yellow fabric that I've placed along the middle.  That last one seems a bit out of place, a little too saturated in color.  I'll have to watch it and see how it gets along with everything else as the remaining fabrics are chosen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Starting with the easy decisions.....

 Like the birds and the river - they're easy fabric choices and the most important elements as well.  So I like to get those done first because everything else will have to work around them.  I know I want the birds to be black with very dark greens and purples.  The river fabric is one I really like and it fits perfectly with what I envision.

Next is the harder part, filling in the rest of the elements.  Some projects come very easy to me, you draw a tree and the bark will naturally be one color while the leaves will be another.  Definate shapes and objects speak for themselves in their color choices many times.

But with this project you can see that the rest of the quilt doesn't contain any specifically drawn objects, just random shapes.  To me, that makes it a little harder and I feel like I need to start treading carefully with my next choices in color, pattern and value.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Getting ready to draw that first line....

 I recently got out my huge roll of butcher paper (18" wide, you can find it online where paper supplies are sold or at restaurant supply stores) to start making my full-scale pattern for my new piece.  The size is going to be approximately 38" high x 56" wide so I cut several lengths of paper, attached them together with a glue stick and then scotch-taped over the seams for extra strength.

I then like to take my quilting rulers to mark out the size I want.  The large square ruler is my favorite to use as I then end up with a grid that later helps me when I draw.  Using an ordinary ball-point pen (it's subtle but permanent as there will be lots of erasing later on), I divide the quilt into squares or portions of squares and trace around the ruler, using the large straight one to also help me stay "square".  Then I like to take a Sharpie felt pen and outline around the edge of the pattern - just having that line down already makes me feel like I'm doing something with all that white space and gives my eye some point of reference.

Now to give me a little more of a structure to work within so I can have fun with drawing the details (which I'm still thinking about), I sat down and figured out the main lines, sections or "bones" of the piece on a bit of paper.  I also used a contrasting yellow line to divide this sketch into quadrants so I could more easily draw these lines onto my pattern.  At this point I just need a steady hand and a good eraser to start making those first lines.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Value and Composition

It's been a busy week and I've been thinking about my birds darting over a flowing river the whole time.  Yesterday I had my first chance to go through my fabric stash and pull some likely prospects.  Even though I might not have the chance to start drafting a pattern for this quilt right away, I like to make time to gather potential fabrics so I can have time to mull them over (I'm big on mulling) and do a little bit of tweaking here and there.

As I mentioned previously, I want to make sure that my birds will stand out against the background so it's important to establish the right values now between the birds, the river, the foliage, foreground and the sky.  I believe that value trumps composition (though composition is a close second), so I need to make sure the value contrasts are good from the start. What I like to do to test this is to gather any and all fabrics that I like and arrange them vaguely in the placement they might have in the finished piece.

The blue with the linear pattern in the middle is going to be my "river" (at least for now) and I want that to have a strong presence, though not more so than the birds.  The birds are going to be a very dark value so, going by that criteria, the river needs to be a middle value.  The potential fabrics for the birds are folded together at the very bottom of the picture so I can judge the contrast. With those two anchors in place, I went looking for foliage, rocks/gravel and skies.  You can see that I chose mostly light values for those and ones with very muted tones as well, almost neutral in color with very pale grayish blues, tans, celery and moss greens.  There will probably be a little more adjusting, but I think I've got a good base to build upon for this project. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Something that intrigues me....

 While biking alongside a river a few weeks ago, I noticed that lots of tiny swifts were darting back and forth over the water.  There were so many and it was fascinating to see them weave back and forth, dodging each other while staying on the same flight path over the running stream.  It seemed to me that, if you could draw a line of their flight paths, it would mimic the same flowing lines as the water and that's an idea that I've been mulling over ever since in my mind.

My main concern in creating a quilt with this subject was how to make sure that the swifts (or would I make them swallows with their great silhouettes?) would stand out against a busy background of water and foliage?  I finally came up with an answer that I liked while hiking a few days ago and have been playing around with the sketches that you see here.  (Very rough sketches, I might add with lots of notes to myself so I don't forget any details.)

What if I make the background muted tones?  Not pastels, but a lot of monochromatic grays, browns and black and white fabrics?  Then the birds could be done in a strong value and color that would easily contrast and stand out.  I don't want to do detailed birds (I am piecing, after all), but a large quantity of birds that could be broken down into three or four pieces, easy shapes to sew on a small scale.

So you can see here that I've been playing with the basic bird shapes.  One or two I like, others look like bats or UFO's.  The piece definately needs to be a horizontal shape, given the flowing lines of the water and the birds in flight that I want to use. Maybe I'll take some sections of the background and do a little detail in some pockets of color.  But I'm excited about this idea and think it has a lot of possibilities.  Time to start sorting through my fabric stash now that I have a vague idea of the color palette that I want.....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where to Begin?

After working for so long towards putting my Arboreal Musings exhibition together, I find myself at a loss for inspiration for the next project. 

I have an idea or two I've been mulling around, but nothing that "clicks" yet.  When I'm stumped like this, there are several things I try to do, the first of which is looking through my fabric stash at any forgetten gems that might spark something.  I was lucky enough to have a friend give me all the commercially printed fabric from her stash and had a great time going through two huge bins of fabulous and interesting prints.  Unfortunately, though, nothing spoke to me at this time but I see huge future potential in the pile (pictured here) that's currently on my studio floor.

Another trick I try is looking through art books, any medium or artist that grabs my interest as long as there are lots of beautiful images to gaze at.  Sometimes getting out and hiking, taking a walk or a drive through a beautiful, scenic area will help.  My last resort is to make myself sit down with pen and paper, turn everything off, eliminate every distraction and start doodling every idea that crosses my mind.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Opening Night

 Opening night of my first solo museum exhibition was a dream come true for me.  The Longmont Museum did a wonderful job of lighting all my pieces and doing all of the signage.  And there was a lot of signage to do.  You may wonder about the title "Arboreal Musings".....well, the "musings" were different quotations involving trees that I've been collecting for years and that I felt did a perfect job speaking for my pieces.

One of my favorites, and the "title" quote, is pictured here.  Aside from Krishnamurti, there are quotations by Lincoln, Churchill, Mu Dan, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Yeats and Seneca.  And I was often asked, which came first, the quote or the quilt?  The quilt, of course!  Now to figure out my next project and where to go from here.....    

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Arboreal Musings

I spent time this week helping to hang my upcoming exhibition, Arboreal Musings, at the Longmont Museum.  While I haven't seen the all of the signage up yet or the final lighting, I am already thrilled with the way my work looks in their beautiful gallery.  The opening reception is on Friday, August 3 from 7-9:00pm and the exhibition will run until September 23.  I will also have a presentation and gallery walk on Thursday, August 16 from 7-8:30pm for those interested.  If you're in the area, please stop by!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Denali Merchandise

In 2005 I served as an Artist-in-Residence at Denali National Park in Alaska.  As part of the residency, I donated a piece of artwork inspired by my stay to the park which they display at the visitors' center.

Just this summer, they have taken the image of my piece Threading Through the Gravel Bars, East Fork of the Toklat, and made merchandise that is for sale at the gift shop in the park.  Pictured here are a puzzle, a card, and a magnetic bookmark.  There is also a refrigerator magnet but, unfortunately (or fortunately!), that was sold out when I ordered these.

All proceeds from the sale of this merchandise go to Alaska Geographic, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to Alaska's wildlands.  While the items are not listed on their website yet, they can be obtained by calling the gift shop directly through the number on the site.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Definately done!

 The sewing, trimming, quilting, binding and everything else is done, even the hanging sleeves.

I'm calling it White Trees and, to give you a sense of the scale of the work, it measures approximately 45" h x 52" w.

I like to work in a little larger scale so that the fabric patterns can be shown off.  As you might be able to see in the detail image of the tree, those fabrics are on quite a large scale with 3"-4" flower repeats.

Now to think about the next project.....

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Done, sort of...

The fabric choices are all done and pinned to the wall.  They've been stared at and thought about and slept on and I don't see any changes I want to make.

Since I piece my quilts together, this is the time to take care of any doubts about a fabric choice before I start sewing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Getting there

I'm really happy with the way the foliage is turning out - the yellow greens of the main tree stand out nicely.

Now for the trickiest part.  The background is a bit undecided with me.  I have a few ideas but I neede to wait and see what the trees looked like before I could commit the rest of the fabrics.  At this point I will be auditioning them one at a time and very carefully seeing how they affect the balance of the whole.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Decision time

The pattern is on my design wall and I'm making my fabric choices.  Starting with the easy decisions, I've pinned up the tree trunks and have started on the background foliage.  I want the leaves on the background trees to be a darker green so the lighter colors of the focus tree will really pop.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Getting it down on paper

A vertical piece or a horizontal?  Maybe a forest but I like the idea of one larger, main tree to be the focal point.  And, if that's the case, what shape best suits that purpose?

I'm sketching around trying to decide those questions with very small (5" x 7") and very rough (as you can see) sketches. 

I'm also trying to decide where to place the lights and darks and how and where I might use those fabrics I pulled out earlier.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thinking about a new piece

Sometimes I feel the need to work with bright, intense color and bold patterns.  I found this great, large scale fabric at the bottom of the picture that suggests a forest background to me.

Even better, the circle-patterned fabric at the lower right seems to fit right in this color scheme I've been pulling.  I always enjoy including circles and dots into a piece.

Off to sketch a few ideas down now that I've got the key fabrics chosen.