Precious Metals II

It’s not a secret that I’m drawn to the ginkgo leaf. I love seeing them on and off trees. Click on an image for a larger view.

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Nature has a beautiful way of shedding and arranging the leaves.

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I’ve enjoyed using these photographs for some fun sketching.

12-04-15-ginkgo-sketch

In 2011 I created a small piece called Precious Metals. It won an award and sold almost immediately, leaving me little time to enjoy it.

Franki Kohler, Precious Metals, 12" x 12", 2011

As the season changes to fall, I’m reminded again of the beauty of this leaf as it changes color and falls from the trees lining my street. I was thinking of Precious Metals and decided to create another version of it. It didn’t take long before I had formed an idea. I started by bringing out possible materials to use. Then I created a design directly on the background fabric using a water erasable fabric marking pen. Once my machine was cleaned and oiled, I started the thread sketching using a gold thread over gold organza.

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This organza has tiny bits of sparkle attached to the surface — perfect. When the thread work is done I carefully trim away the excess organza fabric. Here are the gold leaves finished. I am doing this thread sketching through all three layers of the quilt. Because of that — and the added layer of organza for each leaf — there is no need to use an embroidery hoop or pins to stabilize the fabric while I stitch.

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Next I used silver metallic thread over a silver organza. It’s difficult to see the organza against the light oatmeal fabric, but it lends just the extra sparkle I was looking for.

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Copper was next up — here is the orange tulle in place:

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With the thread sketching complete, I turned to auditioning possibilities for quilting and beading. I was thrilled to see a bit of the fabric I had used on Precious Metals for the binding. It is so perfect for this combination of gold, silver and copper.

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I liked the idea of using Superior’s variegated metallic thread to quilt the background. I had a good start on quilting but quickly decided I didn’t like the look — it was too distracting, stealing the thunder from the central design of the ginkgo leaves. So I spent some quiet time taking out the quilting. Instead, I used YLI 100-weight silk thread, color 239 on the top and the same thread, color 242, for the bobbin.

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I love the way silk thread loses itself in the thick pile of this fabric. It creates a subtle overall texture on top of a heavier texture already there.

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And the bobbin thread accomplished the same goal on the back.

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And the beading has begun.

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I am loving this quiet, meditative hand work. Stay tuned for the finish. And oh! Happy Fall.

Tulips

Last month I had a vase filled with gorgeous tulips.

04-04-16 Tulips

I took many photographs of the flowers as they opened. This photo inspired the piece I am working on now. I chose to use a method that I learned from Denise Oyama Miller several years ago — she calls it broken color. I like the method and the results I’ve gotten using it before.

First, create a pattern. Transfer the pattern (reversed) onto fusible web, then cut the pieces out. Select fabrics and fuse the pattern pieces to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the pieces slightly inside the pattern line. Place the pieces under the pattern on a piece of background fabric. Here is the pattern with my fabric selections already underneath. Click on an image for a larger view.

05-11-16 Tulips, pattern with fabric under

When all the pieces are in their proper place, fuse the pieces to the background fabric.

05-11-16 Tulips, fabric fused

Notice the lines of background fabric which peek between the pattern pieces — hence the technique name broken color. Now for the stitching.

05-17-16 progress

My progress is slow but steady. This is the first work of this kind I’ve done since moving to Portland last summer, so I’m a bit rusty with my execution. I’m doing more warm up exercises to get back into my rhythm with free-motion work. I also like to tie off my threads as I go — say, every 2 – 3 pattern pieces. I find that I get into less trouble this way. The back stays uncluttered so I don’t have to spend time getting those loose threads untangled in the stitches I’ve done for another section of the work.

05-17-16 progress back

Of course, one has to have the right tools at hand but when I stopped to do the finishing work on the first few pieces, I realized that mine were not in their usual spot on my work surface. Now then, where did I pack those things last year? Happily, it didn’t take too long to find them. And here they are:

05-17-16 tools I use

I found this needle threader on line years ago — don’t ask me where, I can’t remember. But this is the only needle threader that I have on my work table while I do thread work. I’ll be back with progress on this work soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed the final notebook cover, the one I’ve made for myself. 05-17-16 notebook done

 

05-17-16 open

 

I enjoyed doing the hand stitching on this piece. This one sits in my desk, waiting for the day when I need it.

Inspiration and Hand Work

I’m still getting things just so in our new condo in Portland. Just this week I brought out my collection of foot-square art quilts purchased through SAQA’s annual on-line benefit auction. (This year’s auction begins September 16th but you can view some of the art that will be available and read about how the auction works here.) I think they make a nice statement hung in the dining and living rooms. (Click on images for larger view.)

05-08-16 Foot square collection

 

This is not my entire collection; more will find homes elsewhere.

Spring has arrived in our neighborhood and I’m enjoying all that goes with that! Morning walks along the Willamette River are lively and filled with many surprises. For instance, here’s a foxglove in bloom on the edge of the river, probably planted by a bird.

05-10-16 foxglove

Dogwood trees of many varieties are everywhere in Portland and most of them are white, my favorite color for this tree. There are 10 of this variety planted just outside our condo buildings — all are in a riot of bloom right now.

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Honey bees and bumble bees are getting their fill of nectar on a variety of plants on the edge of the river.

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This Great Blue Heron seemed to be truly posing for this photo! He held this posture for quite a while, groomed a bit and then returned to it. Those are blackberry vines in full bloom — promising berries for June. Yum.

05-10-16 heron and berry vines

 

I’m doing a bit of slow stitching on the last small notebook cover I have readied. This one will be for me since I am just about finished with the commercial notebook I purchased last year. This one uses stabilizer fabric that I’ve painted with acrylic paints and added a bit of machine stitching.

05-10-16 slow stitching notebook cover

The fast2fuse is a bit curled here but it will be in the right shape once I’ve completed the cover.

I’ve begun a new foot-square piece inspired by a photograph of some gorgeous tulips I had. I’ll share my progress on that next time.

Hand Work and Junk Mail

I’m still working on a small piece I shared with you earlier here. I’ve added quite a bit to this but I still don’t feel quite done.

01-27-work-in-progress-1Decisions, decisions!

01-27-work-in-progress-2While I pondered the seeming endless possibilities open to me, I realized that my stack of junk mail postcards is almost gone. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to refill the supply and — more importantly — feel a sense of completion.

In no time at all I had mail painted with gesso drying. Then I pulled out a set of rubbing plates recently gifted to me and I rolled acrylic paint on, using the plates like stamps. This fern plate got a second color of paint and a rotation; finally I used some watercolor paints and a two-inch brush and had fun dabbling it on.

01-27-junk-mail-3I used a ginkgo rubbing plate in the same way and with the same color scheme. Why not?

01-27-junk-mail-2 01-27-junk-mail-1In a very short time I created 25 postcards. Very satisfying!

If you’re just learning about my junk mail frenzies, read back from here about other projects where I turned recycle into something fun and useful.

Happy Creative New Year

My last posting was on Christmas Day. From there daily events took over and I missed my usual schedule of posting. It happens. I’m over it.

I’m on to the new year now. I know it’s official because I just took the first images of 2015 and created a folder for them. Here is a peek at what is moving and shaking in my world.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the revision that I made to Hand of the Artist. I’m a member of a critique group which meets monthly. I shared this piece with them and one of the members suggested a slight change in arranging some of the beads. I played with the idea and liked it a lot. Click on image for a larger view.

Hand of the artist, changesThe change is rather subtle: a number of the turquoise beads have been moved to form small clusters. You can see the original design by clicking on the link above.

I put the final touches on Black Oak and printed a label for it.

Black Oak label

And just in time, too, because it goes to the photographer tomorrow (along with Hand of the Artist).

I’m working on a piece that was begun in Lorie McCown‘s class in Tahoe. I removed the original straight-line stitching (you can see the white marking line which is not permanent) and stitched large free-motion loops over the surface. Then I started cutting out circles.

Work in progress

Right now I don’t know which end is up on this piece — literally. I’m simply putting down one thing, then the next, making decisions as I go about color and stitches. I’m enjoying hand stitching and the go-with-the-flow approach I’ve adopted for this small piece. I’m keeping the stitches simple

Work in progress, detail 2

and will let the work tell me what it needs.

Work in progress, detail 1

I have been seriously missing sketching and watercolor work. Somehow I let the time for that creative pleasure vanish. I’m resuming the on-line class with Val Webb for sketching cats and dogs later this month (I had to drop out of it because I was over committed. I know that doesn’t happen to you!). I’m so looking forward to her instruction and getting back into a regular habit of sketching.

I have also signed up for an on-line class on blogging with WordPress. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a while but I know that I’ll learn from the class and it will also help me get back into the swing of regularly writing.

Some of the artists that I follow have a practice of adopting a single word as a mantra for the year — an interesting prompt. I’m not sure that I’m ready to do that, but if I did, my word (at least for now) would be DAILY. I am a person who thrives on order and schedules. The kind of habit I seek is not only good for my psychic well-being, it means that I am productive in the creative areas I choose.

New lessons don’t begin for a few days though, but there is no reason not to pick up a pencil and paint brush now. This charming teacup was a gift from a dear friend many years ago.

teacup

I’m off to sketch!

What are you doing to get 2015 off to its creative start?

Monoprinting

I love using Setacolor paints to create sunprints, however, during cold or rainy periods it can be more of a challenge than I’m willing to endure. I’ve done it once and it was not very much fun. So I went to my local art store and gifted myself with a gel printing plate from Gelli Arts. Their site is very informative and contains a number of tutorials.

The plate is a firm clear substance that has a gooey, tacky texture, just right for grabbing the paint on the surface. I used some Jacquard textile paint to experiment with a poinsettia leaf.

Getting ready And here are the first 3 prints I got from a single leaf.

3 prints from one poinsettia leafI appreciate the fact that the process is simple, not messy, provides instant gratification and is easy to clean up with running tap water. When printing is done, the best place to store the plate is in the container it came in. Done.

I’ll be looking more closely at my yard and the neighborhood to continue experimenting. Using Setacolor paints is next.

What are you experimenting with now?

Rain and Quilting

These two are a natural — rain and quilting. Here in Northern California we’re well into our worst drought on record so we’re especially happy to see the rain. Everything in the garden looks hopeful with a clean face. Click on an image for a larger view.

Sorrel, blood veined Blueberries in bloom Climbing camelia Cotoneaster Mandarin oranges PansiesAnd while the garden was getting a bath, I started quilting on Black Oak, a top I completed in August.

Black Oak being quiltedThis is part of my series on Native California plants. See the entire piece here.

More rain is predicted over the next few days so I am determined to make serious progress on this piece. Stay tuned.

Ginkgos in the Round

I’m in the midst of a couple large projects and seem to be moving slowly on them. In the course of working, though, ideas keep crowding my mind. I truly believe that the more one creates, the more ideas come to mind — sometimes, though, it’s a bit overwhelming. One of the ideas I was contemplating called very loudly to me so I decided to listen to myself and take a little detour.

I haven’t designed with ginkgo leaves in a while, but the images seem to float in my subconscious all the time. I was thinking about a class I took with Libby Lehman many years ago. One of her exercises was to sketch simple shapes on paper — rectangle, square, triangle, for instance — then create designs within the shapes. I thought it would be fun to use a circle and fill it with ginkgo leaves.

I chose a hand-dyed fabric and started drawing. The blue lines (a little difficult to see here) will disappear with a spritz of water when I’m done thread painting. I like the variation in colors of the fabric and decided to create a bold contrast with a 50-weight, solid gray-blue thread.

Ginkgos marked, thread selectedI cleaned and oiled my machine and replaced the needle. Yes,  I make a habit of doing this after 8 hours of stitching and/or at the start of a new project. After all, I expect my hard-working machine to be there for me and I feel that this is my way of meeting it half way. Next I did a test drive of the design on a fabric sandwich with the same weight fabric and batting I’m using for my project. And, boy, was I ever glad I had! I’ve been using 60- and 100-weight threads recently and the settings on my machine didn’t work for the 50-weight thread at all. Whew. Bullet dodged.

I stitched 2 leaves, tied them off and began on the third leaf. Almost immediately I felt a drag on the machine and was having difficulty moving the fabric sandwich. Naturally, I stopped to check the bobbin. Here’s what I found:

Stitched to the SliderAs my sister says, there are those who have and those who will. Clearly it was time that I stitched my Supreme Slider into a project. And now that the experience is behind me I view it as a simple reminder to pay attention. It is so easy to become focused on moving ahead and forget that what’s going on under the needle right now is worth your full attention.

With the Slider removed and the tiny leaf stitched, it’s time to get back into the rhythm of thread painting.

Slider removed, small leaf stitched

Black Oak

I’m still working on my Native California plant series. I completed the top for Black Oak which will finish about 26″ x 60″. I really enjoyed putting this one together using some of my ‘radiator series’ fabric created in Lonni Rossi’s surface design class at Asilomar, some rust fabric experiments and some sun prints. Once I pulled out a stack of likely-suspect fabrics to use, things just seemed to jump together for me — or did they? I loved the fabrics but something was wrong. Here’s where I pick up the camera and start taking pictures. It’s amazing what one sees on the computer that one cannot see on the wall. Click on image for a larger view.

Black Oak rejectThe large piece of rusted fabric on the left jumped out way too much. And the background doesn’t show at all. I took everything down and went shopping for a new background fabric. When I had the new background up the answers became clear. Here’s the final top.

Black Oak finalI’m thinking about how to quilt this piece.

While thinking about the series in general — there will be a minimum 3-5 large pieces —  I decided to expand the series. I’ll be making a foot-square piece as a ‘partner’ to each of the larger pieces using this pillar format. I’ll be using the same fabrics in each pair of quilts but I’ll use different techniques in the smaller ones. I think that the two sizes hung together could be a very interesting exhibit and working out issues in the smaller piece can lead to decisions for the larger pieces.

I’ve constructed the top for the foot-square Black Oak II piece. I’m allowing myself to think about just one section at a time, quilt it, then move on to the next section. Some days I just can’t tackle deciding on the whole top at once. It’s surprising how this one decision has relaxed me, allowing me to focus and just have fun.

Black oak Foot SquareI should have this piece completed very soon so stay tuned.

I’ve promised myself to go back to finishing my Sunflower Scrap VI piece — not done, but not forgotten! — before I turn to quilting the large Black Oak piece.

This posting has been shared at Off the Wall Friday. Click on over and see what’s happening there.

Back to the Junk Mail Artist Book

Finally! I’ve completed the fourth of five lessons with Carla Sonheim and her method for creating a small book from junk mail. This step was extremely challenging for me — each drawing extended beyond its page to pages behind creating a puzzle to solve: what the heck can be created from the partial marks here?? Here is what I came up with (click on image for larger view):

Book cover Pages 2-3 Page -4-5 Pages 6-7 Pages 8-9 Pages 10-11

Back coverThe final lesson involves more painting and drawing. Stay tuned — I will share the final book.

Click on the ‘junk mail’ link above to see the beginnings of this project.

Junk Mail Artist Book

I learned about Carla Sonheim from my friend and fellow-artist Priscilla Read and I simply could not resist trying her Junk Mail Artist’s Book class! In just five lessons at Silly U I am turning junk mail — the stuff usually tossed straight into the recycle bin — into a book. I can’t see a down side to this project.

Each lesson begins with a drawing exercise designed to get us ready to draw in the book by lesson 4. Here is a one-line drawing I did — no lifting the pen from the paper until the drawing is finished. (Click on image for larger view.) These exercises are not intended to be cherished art — they are simply warm-up drawings.

warm-up drawing The painting comes next. Using a brayer, a thick layer of gesso is applied to both sides. Viola! Great texture.

junk mail with gessoThen both sides are painted with 2 layers of watercolor paint — 2 different colors.

two layers watercolor paintWhen everything is dry, the pages are turned into a book, ready for drawings. Here’s the cover.

CoverNote that the pages are irregularly shaped and sized. Pages 2, 3: (Click on the image for a better view.)

Pages 2, 3This means that the drawings will overlap onto pages underneath! Very exciting. Pages 4, 5

Pages 4, 5Pages 6, 7

Pages 6, 7Pages 8, 9

Pages 8, 9Pages 10, 11

Pages10, 11The back.

BackNow the real fun and challenge begins. Here is my first drawing on pages 2-3. Notice that the top and bottom of the sunflower extends to the page behind it — page 5.

Page 3, The drawing beginsThe partial sunflower  petals at the top of page 5 inspired the dinosaur.

Page 3 drawing goes onto page 5

I have no idea yet what the tail of the dinosaur or the stem of the sunflower will inspire, but something will come to me.

This is a very different way of drawing and painting for me and it’s just plain fun. So, back to drawing, then the final lesson. Stay tuned, there’s bound to be another layer of surprise.

Quilting Sunflower Scrap VI

There have been unforeseen interruptions that kept me away from quilting this large piece. I last shared progress on it here.

Sometimes a long period away from a particular work can mean that new layers of inspiration have the time to fully develop. In fact, I’ve made a change to the original plan by adding 3 large full sunflowers and 2 large partial sunflowers quilted in navy blue. Click on the image for a larger view.

Back to quiltingI think these larger flowers add a great deal to the design. The background quilting is shaping up nicely.

detailI particularly like the overall peach glow that the thread is adding to this piece. That layer of color allows the large quilted leaves to be center stage.

So, it’s back to quilting!

This post has been shared with Off the Wall Friday. Go on over and take a peek at what these talented people are up to.

Progress on Sunflower VI

Progress, though slow, is being made. I decided to add a few large motifs in the background fill quilting. Here is the top portion of the quilt where I’ve added a leaf and berry spray (click on the image for a larger view):

Sunflower VI progressI have a variety of designs and design sizes with the dominant navy quilting and I want to create a similar variety with the background fill quilting. I think it’s just plain more interesting. I’ve added leaf and berry spray designs to the bottom portion of the quilt as well. The question I’m debating now is whether to add some sunflowers as part of the background quilting. I have 11 sunflowers in navy; the centers of those will be beaded. It might be interesting to have 2 peach-color sunflowers — without beaded centers — as part of the background quilting. They could add more interest without taking away from the featured sunflowers in navy. Decisions. . . decisions.

Once I make this decision I’ll be able to move forward with the quilting. Stay tuned.

This post has been shared with Off the Wall Fridays. Go check out some very interesting things that were happening this week.

Back to the Sunflower

It’s not usual for me to step away from a large project the way I have with the sunflower scrap piece, but I certainly did. Time to refocus and move this project forward.  Progress may continue in a slow manner, however, because I do have several small projects that are time sensitive and need to be completed soon. But for now, here is where I am on beginning the quilting that will fill the background on Sunflower Scrap VI.

Franki Kohler,

Beginning progress

I am quilting with a 60-weight cotton that coordinates with the peach fabric surrounding the sunflower fabric scraps. I’m pleased with the effect this contrast is having — standing several feet away, you cannot make out the detail of the quilting design but the thread imbues a kind of ‘glow’ to the fabric. As the quilting moves away from the flowers and vines I will switch to a light blue thread of the same weight.

Time to get back at it. You can see the beginnings of this project here.

This posting has been shared with Off the Wall Fridays.

 

French Knots and Finger Cots

I’ve completed the on-line course at Craftsy with Carol Waugh. I have thoroughly enjoyed working through her methods, constructing my own machine stitch reference and doing some needle work I haven’t done in many years — embroidery.

I used a fat quarter of fabric to create my surface design. There is extensive machine work in the form of couching, decorative stitching and quilting. When I completed that much, I cut the piece apart to create a notebook cover and (as always, click on an image for a larger view)

Franki Kohler,

Almost done with this notebook cover

some postcards.

Franki Kohler,

Almost done postcards

Then there is the hand embroidery. Carol took us through the techniques for stitching French Knots, running stitch and the lazy daisy stitch. That took me straight back to my childhood and learning those very stitches from my Grandmother. Whoosh! Nostalgia time.

Even though it’s been quite some time since I’ve done crewel embroidery, those stitches are still with me. I pulled Judith Baker Montano’s Elegant Stitches from my book shelf and looked through it. Her instructions are great and soon I was stitching a Squared Palestrina Knot — on the left, the ‘x’s’ with a knot in the middle– and combining buttonhole stitch with lazy daisy for a simple design.

Squared Palestrina Knot, left; Buttonhole with lazy daisy, right

Squared Palestrina Knot, left; Buttonhole with lazy daisy, right

Most of the embroidery has been done with pearl cotton. Let me tell you, it’s not easy getting pearl cotton through fast2fuse and a layer of fabric stabilized with shirt tailor. After struggling to pull the thread through, I dove into my supply of tools and pulled out some finger cots. I rolled one onto my thumb and — ta da! — the needle comes right through — even with very bold French Knots. Grandma taught me to wrap the thread around the needle three times for a French Knot but Carol has no hard and fast rules. So I thought, let’s go for it and I was wrapping the thread 4 and 5 times. I’m happy with the bold look it gave  the daisy and solo French Knots on the left.

Bold French Knots

Bold French Knots

I’m not quite done. I have some beads that are screaming to be stitched on and then there will be a trip to my local bead shop to find just the right ones to add to the closure for the notebook cover. Stay tuned, I’ll share the final results.

Here is where this adventure began.

Stitch Reference Done

Done! Fun! And I’ve already used it.

Stitch Reference done

Stitch Reference done

With 1-inch rings it lays flat

With 1-inch rings it lays flat

There are 135 different utility and decorative stitches in this reference guide for the Janome 6500. My Janome 11000 has 419 stitches and symbols. Time to start stitching!

See the start of this project here.

Back to Basics

When concentration eludes, it’s time to dig into some basics. Lucky for me, I’ve just begun an on-line class through Craftsy with Carol Ann Waugh.   Stupendous Stitching focuses on using the decorative and utility stitches on your home machine to create your own personal surface design. It’s not surprising then, that the first assignment is to stitch out an example of each of the stitches on your sewing machine.

When I purchased my first computerized machine I did just that. But that was long ago and that machine has been replaced.  Let’s face it: the illustrations for most of the stitches on your machine don’t resemble what actually stitches out when you use it. I welcomed the opportunity to create a handy reference for my machines.

I’ve gathered the supplies: Pellon shirt tailor to stabilize the fabric (shirt tailor has fusible web on one side), Wonder-Under, trim to finish the pages and eyelets to allow the pages to be held together in book form.

Franki Kohler, gathering supplies

Gathering supplies

I became so immersed in this project that — oops! — I forgot to take a few in-process photos. There is nothing revolutionary about the process though: beginning with the first stitch on the machine, use the default setting and stitch several inches; vary stitch length and width to see how the stitch changes — even a slight change in the original stitch could reveal your favorite new design. Use a permanent pen to mark the corresponding machine number on your reference fabric. Repeat this process until all the designs have been stitched on fabric. Here are two of my pages finished:

Franki Kohler, 2 pages of stitch reference

2 pages of stitch reference

The pages were trimmed, pairs were fused together, the edges were stitched first with a narrow zigzag stitch, then with a wider zigzag while applying cording. Here are the final pages ready to be finished.

Franki Kohler, final pages ready to be finished

Final pages ready to be finished

When I finish the pages for my Janome 6500 I’ll be doing the same process for my Janome 11000.

Large Quilting Designs

The first stage of quilting on Sunflower Scrap VI is done. Here the fabric is still moist from the spritz I gave it to eliminate the blue marking pen guidelines. The moisture makes the fabric appear to be slightly darker than it actually is.

Franki Kohler, Sunflower Scrap VI Initial quiltingI will let the quilt dry on my design wall. If any of the blue marking lines reappear — they may just do that in areas where I marked a bit heavily or changed the design — I’ll just spritz and let dry until they stop appearing.

Stitching the large, sweeping vine and leaf designs was quite a challenge. I had to stop, shift fabric and restart quite often to move the design across the top. Doing that and keeping the lines smooth was not always successful so I did my share of taking the quilting out. Let’s face it, there is simply no wiggle room when using a navy-blue thread on light-blue fabric. So, in spite of the light amount of design that appears here, the stitching took 2 days to complete.

The next step will be to block the piece. The eleven sunflowers are stitched twice to make them more bold that the leaves and vines. That extra stitching has created a bit of puckering. Though it isn’t dramatic, I don’t want to run into any pucker problems when I begin the next phase of quilting. Blocking at this stage will ensure that I can focus on the quilting design and not how to ease in bulges.

I’m happy with where I am on this project. I limber up the peach-colored thread next! Stay tuned.