Archive for the ‘Work in progress Wednesday’ Category

Work in Progress Wednesday – Two New Quilts

Awright, so they’re not technically WIPs. But I haven’t shown all of them on here before, and I really do love them. And close observers will recognize the blog heading as the fabric in “Salmon Run.”

“Salmon Run” returned from its several-month engagement in Alaska at the Cordova Historical Museum. I love having it back – I am so fond of the fabric.

Here’s a close-up of the quilting.

You also haven’t seen my latest piece, “Bamboo Grove,” in a full shot.

This piece had so many techniques I hadn’t tried before. I am reconsidering the tops of the bamboo stalks…I may decide to take the leaves off and try another way of attaching them to increase their fullness. So I guess it still is a “work in progress.”

What am I working on now? I am doing an art show on November 20 with the Tucson Art and Craft Association, so I am preparing fabric for that, as well as requilting a few small quilts. I am thinking of revising my still-unfinished “Iceberg” piece from several years ago into a series of Icicles for Road to California – I have till December 15. I can still use all the techniques I had planned, just in some different forms. I am still thinking about the next “large” piece with marbled fabric and don’t quite know what it’s going to be……I have some really great large pieces of fabric lying around.

But…I also have about four other quilts in various stages that I need to get to! Such decisions we all have….what’s waiting on your list of to-do?

Work-In-Progress Wednesday – The Education System

I attended an interesting meeting after school today, a discussion about what makes an honors program at the high school. We brought up loads of ideas and good points to pursue further, but a number of things stuck in my mind – maybe it’s because I have been at teaching for over 30 years.

Point 1 – and I think the MOST important when it comes to learning – is that the JOY of learning is gone for students. Everything is assessment-based, to the detriment of actually learning. Students no longer know what to do with an idea that might be interesting, or a book to read that’s recommended just because it’s good. A number of years ago – and this was before the mess that is NCLB – I asked my fifth graders to choose a piece of science fiction and read it. I then spent 15 minutes trying to convince them that there was no assignment or test – they might just find the book interesting. It truly was a foreign concept. Nowadays it seems that students try to figure out just what they need to do to pass a test and get the grade. The actualy learning is way down the scale.

Point 2 – “regular” classes are now considered the “stupid” classes. This was a shock to me. I am three years into teaching at this school, and I know there’s a strong Honors/AP set of classes. For two years I’ve been working with the kids who had difficulty all through middle school with math. A good many of them didn’t belong in the support classes, and they would admit they didn’t want to do the work. Now I am teaching “regular” algebra classes, and trying to improve on the rigor in the classes. It never occurred to me that is was considered “poor form” to be in a regular class as opposed to an honors class. The big question is how to we provide an education that is rigorous and appropriate for every student? Given the class sizes this year, it’s even harder than in the past.

Point 3 – should there be requirements for being in an honors class? When I taught AP US History, I let anyone in who waned the challenge. My biggest class was 33 and most of them worked really hard in the class. When we looked at stats last year for our students who are exceeding on the #^$%@$# state assessment test, we found we had fewer and fewer kids who were excelling. Students were getting by. So requirements or open invitation? How do we get kids to take the challenge and want to do some appropriate and different work?

From the meeting I went to the chiropractor. This year is taking a huge toll on me physically: cement floors for very sore legs, white board writing which is throwing out my shoulder, long class periods that are messing with my bladder – this is definitely a job for young people. And then I listen to discussions, and I think that nothing ever changes, it only gets worse. I guess I really do recognize that it’s getting to be time to retire…I can’t generate the enthusiasm that I used to, even two years ago.

Education will always continue to be a work in progress, which is as it should be…..but we need to see some progress somewhere along the way….

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

If you’ve been following along on my bamboo piece, you’ve seen these leaves in progress – all eight hours of work on them. After finishing – I hope – the stitching this Saturday, I “dissolved” the stabilizer from Superior Threads. Here it is after all the stuff washed away, before I cut apart the leaves.

It certainly hung together okay. I starting cutting apart the leaves, saving all the pieces of thread fabric to create the grasses at the bottom of the bamboo stand.

I got more and more excited as I cut, because the leaves were looking fantastic. I think I have something for the future.

There are some problems – they aren’t as stiff as I would have liked, so I am having to revise my hanging system for the bamboo. But they look great – I used some RazzleDazzle in the bobbin and got nice shiny veins. I have two shades for the leaves, as I have a front and back for the original silk leaves.

Superior Threads

I’m trying for a close-up….(click it to see closer….)

Now i just have to put it all together…maybe it’ll be done for next week Wednesday……

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

Carol Taylor

I managed to finish up the two small quilts based on the work of Carol Taylor and her “arc-i-texture” style. The DVD is from Interweave, and they have some scrumptious ones to choose from. I learned a few things, particularly about couching, and I finally got my satin stitch to work. I do want to try one with printed fabrics, but I really like the pay of light on the silk pieces.

Here’s the first finished one, in greens for Shelby, one of the twin girls I have know for a long time.

The edges were finished by adding a facing all the way around. I also showed you last week the beginnings of the quilt for Brianne, the other twin.

It’s pretty darn bland at this point, and I was worried about how it would finish. I next did my satin stitch to couch down the pieces of silk.

Definitely looking better. I do like the effect of the satin stitch, with a King Tut variegated from Superior Threads. From here I started the couching. I found some fuzzy blue yarns to try, one of which I liked, and one of which I ripped out.

Once I got the hang of how to use the couching foot, I really liked adding the circles. I learned to trust the machine and the foot and not to pull.

Finally the finished product:

Still not totally pleased with it. It’s missing that certain spark, definitely in the picture. It looks better in person – you can’t see the rumpled silk. I used a regular binding on this one, because I felt the blues helped accent the main part of the design. But this is all part of The Process Pledge…writing about what I am doing and learning, and I did learn a lot. And I know the twins will love them.

This pic is a current shot of the bamboo leaves in progress. I started with those about three weeks ago, sandwiching the thread between sheets of Dissolve to create thread fabric. I started doing the free motion on the top, using a variety of different threads. Still have no idea how this is going to turn out. Hopefully I will have the completed piece next week – or at least the leaves, as I start back to school next Wednesday. We’ll have to see…

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Work-in-Progress Wednesday

My thread arrived yesterday!! Lots of new greens, so I want to start in on the bamboo leaves tomorrow. Expect an update next Wednesday – and maybe even finished….

I wrote a while ago about using some dvd’s for professional instruction and how much I am enjoying this new manner of learning. One of the dvds was by Carol Taylor, about design. She called her method “arc-i-texture,” and by the time the video was done, I wanted to try it out. A long-time friend has twin girls whom we got reacquainted with in Vermont, so I am making them housewarming presents. Shelby likes greens, and Brianne likes blues. This started because Shelby gave me lots of small pieces of various silks to try and marble. For whatever reason (I think too much sizing) they didn’t marble well, so I decided to use them for this project.

While I finished Shelby’s, except for the facing, here’s Brianne’s to show you how I started out.

All I did was arrange some rectangles into a fairly pleasing design. At this point, ho hum – doesn’t look like anything. The next step will be to anchor each of the pieces, which I will do using a satin stitch on each of the edges. That will provide another layer of interest. Once that is done, I will couch down a variety of threads for a third layer of interest. What I found with this project is that as I attacked each new layer, the piece not only became more and more complex, but also more interesting. Here’s Shelby’s, so you can see what the final piece will look like:

Way more interesting! While I have a couching foot, I haven’t used it before this, and I do like how it works. I learned to give the yarns some play and let the machine and the foot do the work. Next piece shouldn’t have the drawing up of the fabric from my pulling the yarns. I will say for the blue one I tried a whole bunch of stores trying to find some interesting yarns and trims.

Carol mentions in her video that she’s made something like 400-plus of these, and I can see getting addicted. I like the sheen and play of the silk, especially since the “nap” is going in different directions and takes the light differently, but I want to play with some lights, mediums, and darks from my stash for the next couple.

I want to know what videos and dvds you’ve watched for instruction and inspiration!

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

I have to say, I have been busy. I originally was thinking nothing was going to happen art-wise in July because of so much work on the business. I was wrong…the last week has been incredibly productive. Last Wednesday I wrote about my lava piece just telling me it really wasn’t finished. Here’s last week:

And here it is now, since it told me it was “finished:”

Midnight Lava Flow

Turns out it needed actual lava – those little round pieces are actual chunks of lava I collected over a couple of visits to the Tucson Gem Show each February. I also added more lava flows, and nothing really interferes with the quote on the back. This is going to go up in the newly-developing Etsy store.

My “purse” didn’t make it as a purse…I loved the play of the fabrics together, but I couldn’t get handles to work the way I wanted them to…so now it’s a nice new basket for collecting fabric scraps.

If you were reading on Sunday, you saw the finished “Desert Heat” quilt, now on the wall in our bedroom.

Now I am working on my “bamboo” quilt, started about 5 years ago with a piece of marbled fabric in the chevron pattern. One of the things I like about this quilting is that it is very zen-like, in that you can just follow the lines of the patterns. You can see the original piece of fabric here. You’ll see what I mean about the lines of the pattern.

As I was quilting yesterday, it occurred to me to take pictures of the process, and then that led me to think about putting together a tutorial on quilting marbled fabric. There is an interesting story behind the quilting. Years ago I pretty much just put marbled fabrics with blacks, as I wasn’t sure at all about my color sense. I did slowly branch out, but it was Quilt artist Ellen Kohen who took a piece of fabric and quilted it. I knew there was more I could do with the fabric, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Once I saw what Ellen had done, I was hooked, but it took confidence to start the free motion needed to accent these patterns. Starting this Sunday, I’m going to introduce “Sunday Stories,” and I’ll take a look at the story behind each of the pieces in my gallery on the website.

For today, here’s a close-up look at one of the bamboo strips (which I am aiming to finish by mid-August, as I want to enter it into an art quilt show with my “Ocean’s Bounty.”) You can easily see all the “lines” in the pattern and how I have followed the lines with a variety of different colored threads. The problem you might run into (as I have) is when to stop with the lines – you can get easily sucked in to quilting everything.

Chevron pattern

Serged edge

You can see the serged edge in this piece – which is how I usually finish these weaving pieces. I’ve learned over the years not to serge until I am finished with the machine quilting.

Walking foot

This is with my walking foot, but I’m not totally happy with the control with this foot. Because there are slight curves to these lines, I use my regular foot and am quite happy with it. I think this is probably a personal preference. I tried the free motion foot on this, but I didn’t have the control and even stitches I wanted for this design.

I have four and a half “strands” of bamboo finished at this point. I can quilt for a couple of hours, listening to some John Denver and just kinda zone…as I mentioned earlier this week, I am amazed at just how much I get done when I think a project will take forever. Now what probably will take forever will be the leaves. I’ve tried marbling some silk leaves – not happy with them. I am thinking some thread leaves, but they may not seem “sturdy” enough for this hardy plant. I do know thread leaves would be a great use of all my lousy threads I have hanging around. I haven’t broken any threads with some 6 hours of quilting – have I told you how much I love my Superior Threads?

If you would be interested in a tutorial on quilting marbled fabric, please leave me a comment and let me know. If you’ve got pictures of some marbled fabric that you have quilted, I would LOVE to see it.

Work in Progress Wednesday

So since school has started, I have been lamenting the lack of art time – happens every new school year. Given being sick and the death of my mother, it has been all I can do to focus in on what has to happen at work, and basically forget about art. I’ve decided I have to let those feelings go – not just because there’s not much I can do about it, but because the school year is my “work in progress.”

I love what I am doing – teaching algebra to kids who have never had any success in mathematics at all, especially in middle school. This is my creative role for the next few years, until I retire. Then my creativity can go in another direction. So I have decided no more whining about lack of art time. I get to be very creative in a totally different manner each school day. The kids are desperate for knowledge, although in many cases they would be the last to admit that fact. Yet we do these small celebrations each day to recognize their learning. Trying to find yet another way to explain the same topic is a challenge I love. I even enjoy the paper work (but not on the nights like tonight when there are over 300 papers awaiting me) because I get to see who’s getting it and who is still having problems.

So there – I’ll do what art I can, when I can, and not stress. In the meantime, here’s a continuation of Desert Heat: I added the batik border because it was so different, and it toned down the “heat” of the piece. As I completed the center square, the piece really seemed to be radiating too much fire, and the blues in these small strips helped tone everything down to a bearable (but dry…) heat.

Now I started on the next border – rearranging my half-square triangles into another pattern. Once the top and bottom are added on, there will be a larger border around it, and then I’ll figure on the quilting – going to be interesting trying to sew through some of those thick seams….

Now it’s paper time….

Work-In-Progress Wednesday – Moi!

This shot from Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona is now my screen saver. Every time I look at this I feel my blood pressure go down. This is just amazing country, with rock the best red-orange you can find. One thing about this summer is recognizing “me” as a work in progress. I am learning to stop and smell the roses – and look at the red rock – a lot more often. I’m realizing I have nothing to prove to anyone, I’m happy that I’m a teacher and have a great job – and believe me, it took a while to get to that point! The start of school is approaching, and while I am looking forward to it – I love all the planning leading up to the kids arriving – it does mean an abrupt end to a summer of art and marketing. My goal is going to be to maintain the momentum started last April. I have lots of things coming up art-wise to prepare for, and I do work well with deadlines – all those years of student theater got me to work under pressure very well.

I started out last week wanting to do some sewing to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t want to snack. Took the doctor very seriously after the scare this summer about losing weight – just finished trying on some “old” tops in the closet…you know the ones – for when we “lose” weight and they will fit again….and I have several new ones for the start of school. Yay me! I went through my stash, starting with two dyed fabrics I did. They’re the ones on the lower left and middle right. I pulled lots of batiks and the pile kept getting warmer and warmer – hey, it’s summer in the desert!

So I sewed half-square triangles for a day. Sunday hubby and I started playing around with a potential pattern. The more triangles I put up on the wall, the hotter the piece got – and it gave itself a name – “Desert Heat.” Coincidentally it was 108 that day. Here’s a shot of the design center.
I have done some more, but no pics yet. I also have out my “bamboo” strips to continue working on a marbled piece that will be three-dimensional.

As I was looking for fabrics, I happened across a “finished” piece of marbled fabric I call “Sunrise.” I love the fabric, but when I was done, it didn’t do a thing for me on the wall. So I want some ideas – I am more than willing to take the cloth framing off and the quilting out to improve it. The piece just has me stumped. It’s not a great pic – I’ll try and do better. Any and all ideas welcome!!

Our art group will have its first meeting next Monday – I am excited about that. And my friend Suzan hopefully is coming down from Sedona so we can play before and after the meeting – nice way to ease into the start of school.

Stay tuned to the blog – Darya from Summer Tomato is working on a post for us on food and creativity. More to come…

Wednesday Work-in-Progress

So the commission isn’t finished yet, but half of the king-size quilt was presented on Sunday to my second mom. The quilt has been in the works since November, when I saw the perfect fabric for the author of a book on tide pools and the owner of an amazing sea shell collection. We were going to use family photos, but that didn’t work out. Because of tax season this almost didn’t get made. But then we decided to use the actual photos Betty had taken for her book The Edge of the Sea of Cortez on tide pooling. So every image on the quilt is hers.

I’m not one to use a pattern, but I was having trouble getting my ideas across, so I sat down with Photoshop to see if I could scan some fabric and create a pattern. After wanting to do exactly this for nearly 15 years, it finally fell into place. Here’s the working draft….

I started with some other fabric selections that would go with the base fabric. You can see in this photo that I have started the free motion quilting to accent the various sea life on the main fabric.

This is one of the first times I have been able to let the fabric and design guide the quilting. I knew when I saw the various fabrics what I wanted to do. We had it priced for long-arm quilting, but it was outside of our budget (it’s a California king bed), and the quilting wasn’t going to be nearly as complex as I wanted.

Now I don’t “do” big quilts. But when I learned to quilt, I learned in sections, so I figured I could do the same with this, although the sections would be much bigger! I was thrilled with the center section – a lot of unexpected design decisions came into play, and I realized I was pretty good with making ideas happen.

This next section is the medium fabric – a touch of purple and “bubbles,” which I figured I could free motion yet again.

I know a quilt is about the front, but I wanted to make a “sea” statement with the back that would carry over from the front.

And finally – where it is at the last picture. There is more done, and these two sections are put together. Overall I am really pleased. Too bad I was sick and couldn’t see the unveiling. I really could have gotten it done if I hadn’t been down for the count for four days….

Work-In-Progress Wednesday – Doing Commissions

I’m working on a commission right now – this is one I am excited about and can live with, and I basically have free reign with it. That was not always the case when we first started marbling fabric.

In earlier versions of our website, we offered custom work on silks, cottons, and several other types of fabrics. We actually had quite a good business going, and rarely has to refund an order. Then we ran into the two years where nothing we did worked – the paint literally washed right off the fabric. We had to stop the custom work, as we had no control over what we were doing.

As frustrated as we got, we eventually realized that custom work put too much pressure on us as artists, plus we rarely had time to do any pieces for ourselves. After all, it’s our art, so why can’t WE have some fun with it. That ultimately seemed to be a good decision, especially since we “got our groove back” and were able to marble again.

We don’t marble as often, since we’re not under any deadlines, and when we do, we’re back to trying new designs and new fabrics, always looking for that next great piece to turn into a fiber art design.

“Ocean’s Bounty” (below) is on its way to Alaska, (photo doesn’t begin to do it justice!) and I’ll post photos of the commissioned work next week when it’s hopefully done – got a lot of sewing the next few days!

ass="level-0" value="113">Tim Gunn
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