20 February 2015

Catching Up In Bits and Pieces

I am astounded to see that my last post was written on January 31st. I feel like I am in a space and time continuum. It's as though I am standing still and time moves all around me and yet I remain fixed. Very strange. Very frightening at times! I also seem to be pulling away from social media a bit. The more I see the less I think that I have to contribute.

Anyway. I am keeping up - or ahead- of myself and these small circular wool embroideries. March is actually almost done. I taught myself how to add shisha mirrors, but I found that it was difficult to find real shisha mirrors! These days thin sheets of mylar cut into circles and squares and triangles are labeled 'shisha' but they really don't cut it. Thankfully, I found the 'real deal' at a belly dancing supply store! Phew!
I had been on the hunt for this book by Willyne Hammerstein. It is a bi-lingual book published in France by Quilt Mania and was very difficult to locate here in the States. Thankfully, Paper Pieces has begun to carry it...and they also offer paper pieces in a packet for the quilt that I was interested in making - "La Passacaglia".
The book is beautifully done and richly illustrated. it is a much more lovely book than I had thought it would be. It is presented in both French (on the left) and English (on the right). This delights me since it helps bring back a soupcon of my lost ability to communicate in French. 
 I will be posting more about this project soon. It will be a long term hand project.....
 The diagrams are VERY well done and they are easy to follow. A blessing!
I started this project from Elizabeth Hartman's  great book, "Patchwork City", but I think that it will be left alone for awhile. I just have not come up with the right 'formula' for a combination of fabrics that will not be boring, but that will also play well together and not be blinding to the eye. No background that I have tried seems to work (I tried, white, cream, black, grey, grellow etc). It will take a careful combination to pull this off the way I want it to look and perhaps a coordinated fabric line might be useful...I just have not decided on what to do or how to proceed. In this particular quilt each 'block' is composed of three separate blocks. Each one is sort of 'stand-alone' entity, but they all need to work together. I know what I want I just have to figure out how to get there!


Valentine's Day brought me two orchids to try to raise with love and light. This time I bought a plant light to see if it will help my normally dismal attempts at growing healthy orchids. I love them, but seem to have problems raising them successfully. I am hoping to turn the tables this time with more light and a once a week ice cube watering with diluted orchid food.
I finished my "Organized Chaos" (thanks to Sujata Shah's blog). Without the black inner border - or a black border in general - it was overwhelming busy and bright. The black pulled it all together and calmed the chaos. The red outer border brought my eye outside again and seemed to work. It turned out to be 76" X 88". Next is a simple back (more red I think!)  I am quite happy with the result.
So - that's a quick synopsis of what I have been doing..not all but some. I should take my photos! I hope that I will be organized in my next post and that it will not be as long in between!

  • Do you ever lose track of time too?
  • Does it get away from you?
  • Have you thought of any 'remedy'?!




31 January 2015

Pincushions

An irrestible face - but I can't bring myself to put pins in it!
Never one to resist a cute owl face I just had to make this pincushion pattern! Of course, now that it is made, I cannot bring myslef to stick pins in it! Maybe in the future I will be able to but for now it is just a cute addition to my sewing table.  This pattern is called Edgar Owl and Poe and it is from Heather Bailey. 

The sewing was surprisingly easy and the instructions are very well done.  In the not too distant past I had to write project instructions and I realized how difficult it can be to make them clear. Now I am always considering what I feel are well written instructions and which I think need work. These are great!
I am in love with these fabrics. They are from Fig Tree and the collection is called Somerset. The link goes to one of my more favorite online emporiums - The Fat Quarter Shop. They offer great service, great selection and good pricing with a low limit for free shipping. No affiliation etc etc...

The pincushion below is my new favorite. I had never used a wrist pincushion before, but now that have discovered them they are such an amazing help! WoW! I noticed a somewhat similar pincushioin in a friends shop and asked what she had used for the band. She said a slap-watch. I had never heard of Slap Watches but a quick Google search explained it all to me. Now I want to buy set of slap-watch bands and make some more of these.

As luck would have it I found a few Slap Watches in a local shop at half price. The bands were not the most attractive but I forked out a hefty (now that I know more about them and where to buy them) $15.00 for this band. 
The band is made from soft silicone and fits all sizes. It's very comfortable and just "slaps" around your wrist. I often forget that I have it on.

When I got my new 'treasure' home, I popped out the watch face (I don't even know if it works and it is still sitting inthe bottom of my bag), whipped up a felted ball of luscious wool and then glued it in. Voila - the most perfect pincushion ever! 

The caveat was the glue. Because the band is made of silicone you have to use a silicone glue (available in many iterations at your local hardware store as well) or it will not work...ask my how I know this! I tried hot glue, 'regular' glues in several varieties, but the felted ball kept popping out. Once I got the silicone glue it worked like charm. I want to get more bands and make these as gifts perhaps.

Wrist pincushions just make so much sense and I would never have considered using one had I not looked at the one in my frined's shop.... kismet on a small scale.

25 January 2015

Circlets Of 2015 : January


One blog that I enjoy visiting is Woman With Wings. Her interests seem to align well with mine and I find a lot of inspriation from her thougts. One of the things that she did last year was to create a series of "Moondalas". These embroidered circles intrigued me. I have always been a fan of circles and they seem to have always been a metaphor for my life. I begin a circle/cyle, then seemingly leave it, only to find that the wheel of fortune has once more turned, and I am back where I began many years later - albeit with a different reference point. 

I used to think that this was a bad thing - that one should break away from the circles in one's life. Now, however, I look upon it as a good thing, and an opportunity to revisit things with a (hopefully) more mature, or at least different, mindset. It's like granting myself new eyes. 

I wanted to make my own circles, but where to begin? I loved the concept of honoring the moon, but Woman With Wings had done that already and I did not want to encroach or purloin her concept. The other problem was embroidery. I have done very little of it in my life. Never one to shy away from experimentation, however, I decided to make like Nike and "just do it".

I am using 4.25" squares of wool felt with a 2" diameter circle (also wool) along with a lot of size 8 perle cotton. This thread is larger than I usually like to work with (12wt thread being my favorite), but since it fits the cloth well in this case, I will learn to use it along with thicker and thinner as the mood strikes. This is my opportunity to learn about embroidery and these circles will serve as my own "self-taught" embroidery class.

My intention is to make one circlet for each month (to honor the way I feel about that month). These will be a meditative tool and I will teach myself stitches as I go with no plan in mind as I stitch.

The other day I was watching the news on television. The scene was outdoors and, for some moments, I thought that the image was being transmitted in black and white. It showed grey, gray and more grey. Then I noticed the news person's scarf and realized with a start that it was a live feed in color - it was the world that had gone grey! No wonder I feel the need for vibrance and warmth!

This then, is my January Circlet.  January and February are always my lowest months and I find myself yearning for bright colors and vibrating saturations.  

Do you find yourself at a low ebb at a certain times of the year? When?

How to do you like to learn something new? do you :
   Watch podcasts? 
   Videos? 
   YouTube? 
   Books (that's me)?

Have you ever done a project once every month? What was it and how did it turn out?


ps:
some of the books that I am using to learn embrodery are:

"Modern Hand Stitching" by Ruth Chandler
"Creative Stitching" by Sue Spargo

if you want to suggest other books please do!

19 January 2015

Sewing Machines: Which One For You?

Janome MC8900

I have sewed since I was about 8 years old. Back then my sewing was done on my Mother's Singer machine and, at the time, I suppose, the machine was a "top-of-the-line" model. Truth be told, I am not quite sure that the machine wasn't purchased with me in mind since my Mother did not sew that I remember.

Over the years, I have sewn on  lot of machines. There was the Sear's Kenmore machine that I had way back when I first began making quilts (1976). It was a well-built workhorse that did its job. It taught me many things. Next there was another Sears machine that I borrowed when I was moving around a lot during my "climb the ladder" career phase. 

The first sewing machine that I chose for myself was a Pfaff 7570. It was a great machine; a quiet, well-made and a workhorse. It was one that perhaps I should not have let go of. Sadly, a friend who purchased a newer model Pfaff within the past couple of years, said that the quality seemed to no longer be what it once was.

Next up were Berninas. Those purchasing decisions were nudged along by a couple of the teachers that I fancied learning from at that time. I have a Bernina 180 that was touted for it's smooth, easy-to-use, knobs (as opposed to buttons) for stitch length and width. I also have a Bernina 153QE which I will most likely always keep because it is orange (remember that brief period of time when Bernina 'got it's color on' ?!). The Berninas are great machines all in all, but the sound of the two models that I have never pleased me. I know that considering the sound that a machine makes sounds frivolous, but it is an important consideration for me. Some machines purr, others click and some kind of clunk along. I much prefer a purr to clunk or a click. I considered upgrading to another model, but my personal exchequer could not bear the cost.

All of these machines did their jobs and did them well. One of the many lessons that all of these sewing machine taught me was about what things are important to me. I think that buying the perfect sewing machine is a personal decision and it is also a matter of knowing what things are most important to you.  The best machine for me may well not be the dream machine for you. Finding your personal "sweet-spot" when you buy a sewing machine is important, which is why I highly suggest that a person goes into a shop and tries out the machines before deciding on what to buy.

My "love affair" with Janome began quite a few years ago when I was in Houston for the show. I fell in love with the Janome line after I tried out a few models on the floor. Again, money was a factor and I just had to wait. Flash forward to years later. To mark my retirement, I decided that I would gift myself with a new sewing machine. At the time, my friend (and Janome artist program participant), Sarah was using the Janome MC8900. It sounded like the perfect machine for me and so, when the time came I looked for  'good deal' on a machine.  In all honesty, the machine was just a bit out of my comfort level price wise, but it sounded so perfect! Although I like to keep my money in-state if I can, I found a slightly used 8900 at a price that I could not pass up from Amy Smith at Brubaker's Sewing in Pennsylvania. I sure did take a leap of faith! Brubaker's offers the most awesome customer service ever!

This sewing machine is everything that I could hope for in a machine. Using this machine has made me WANT to get up and sew, just for the pleasure of using the machine. After all of these years of sewing, I have finally found the perfect machine for me. 

These are the things that I wanted in a sewing machine:
  1. Dependability. Servicing is not an easy-to-to thing from where I live.
  2. Sturdy construction
  3. Wide throat
  4. Stitches that matter (I don't do embroidery, but I do use many utility stitches and a modicum of the "fancy" ones.
  5. QUIET!  
Finding a machine that calls to you and that meets your needs is a process. I think that you have to spend some time considering what really matters the most to you and then you should go and actually sew on a variety of machines, find the one the one that suits you best and then negotiate (or search) for a price that you can work with. Quilt shows and Sew Expos are great places to go to try out machines. All in one place! 

I am SO grateful that I was actually able to get the machine I wanted. Had it not been for a slightly used model (only 3 months old!), I don't know if I would have been able to get my dream machine. It takes some time to find the "perfect one", but when you do it is the beginning of an enchanting relationship!

I would love to hear your thoughts:
  • What are the things that you most value and look for in a sewing machine?
  • Have you found your own "perfect one"? 
  • What Brand and why is it perfect?
  • How do you feel about the cost of sewing machines these days?
  • Are you able to afford the one you really want?

10 January 2015

Fiber Arts For A Cause: Leaf Tales One


Leaf Tales One
9" X 12"
leaf prints (wisteria and dove-foot geranium), printed and woven cottons, raw silk, beads

Virginia Spiegel has been ne of my heroes for quite a few years. Not only do I like her art I admire her fund-raising efforts on behalf of cancer research. To date, she has raised a whopping $240,000. for cancer research through the efforts of her group "Fiber Arts For A Cause" (FFAC). 

This year - and Virginia swears that it may be her last year - she will be raising $10,000 in ONE day. For all of the details on she plans to accomplish this amazing feat and for a list of the amazing artists who are involved have a look at "the 100" FFAC page HERE.

When I was asked to participate I have to admit that every one of my insecurities surfaced. As I looked at the list of well know textile artists names my mind became blank. For just awhile, I came close to withdrawing! Foolish I guess, but insecurity is well-honed in my psyche.

Ultimately, I looked towards some of my favorite leaf prints from this past summer as my initial inspirations. The leaves are "printed" (steamed) onto raw silk. My aim was to show that something as ephemeral as a leaf can be a long lasting reminder of the strength of nature. This piece is 9" X 12" and is mounted to an art board.

I hope that some of you will consider participating in this event. I can't think of any families that I know of who have not, in some way, been touched by the pain of the dreadful scourge of cancer. We all really can make a difference- each in their own way.

sectional close-up