Posts

Sumac

Sumac is such a stately, regal plant and I think that certainly shows here in this print. I started this piece before I started Maples which I shared here. I dove back into my supply of fabrics that I created and added two silk pieces that I painted with acrylic paints in a surface design class in 2015. I am loving how these fabrics are finding their way together.

Again I turned to some hand-dyed variegated thread I purchased from Elin Noble many years ago.

I like to create one step at a time, making decisions about what I will use and how I’ll use it as each new step presents itself.  Here is thread painting done. Now — how to quilt the background surrounding the sumac.

I’ve been doing this a while. I have a lot of thread. And yet, I did not have the thread I wanted for this portion of the project.  It just arrived this week. Stay tuned.

Eucalyptus and Fig

I’ve just completed a piece that I’m quite happy with. This piece is a very satisfying combination of old, new and hand made: my old cyanotype print on silk of a eucalyptus branch and new cyanotype prints on hand-dyed cotton of young fig leaves; some of my hand-painted fabric and hand-made fabrics from Africa. I met Janet Rothermel last year in a class at Oregon College of Art and Craft. Janet is a local pastel artist focusing on landscapes — check out her work here. Janet has a thriving garden filled with endless possibilities for printing and she was gracious in sharing some young dried fig leaves with me. The small size and great detail of these leaves are very inspiring.

After the concept for this piece was formed, the fabric was pulled for audition. Click on an image for a larger view.

I don’t expect to use every fabric; I do want enough choices to put pieces on the design wall and see how they work together. Here I’ve begun to cut strips and place them in possible layouts.

Possibilities include the direction of the cyanotype prints.

This step takes patience but is well worth the experimentation. While I was still considering a variety of possibilities, I became eager to begin the thread painting process. So, off I went to the machine.

I truly enjoy each step in the creation process, but the thread-painting step is probably my favorite. A little side note about the print: The eucalyptus trees that were near my home in California are the variety with long, slim leaves and beautiful acorn-hard capsules. The print above was created using a variety I found just outside Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. The leaves of this variety are shorter and wider, have a lighter grey-green color and, at the stage I took a branch, have clusters of tiny buds that will eventually open with white flowers. I enjoyed rethinking my process for defining the leaves and blossom buds. I began the process with a variegated green trilobal polyester thread. Next I went back with an olive-green polyester thread and finally I did some shading with a brown 50-weight cotton. Once the thread-painting was complete, I stitched together the fabric strips for the quilt top.

I spray-baste my quilt layers. Yes, sometimes I get a bit heavy handed with spray and that can lead to a sticky build up on the needle. It always cleans off easily and I move on. I am less annoyed by this than the process of removing pins or other stabilizers while I am quilting. I began by quilting the eucalyptus and the fig cyanotype prints using blue 100-weight silk thread. Next I marked the remainder of the quilt with guide lines.

See those vertical white lines? Those are my guides. I use just two marking pens. The pen on the top of this picture leaves white lines on dark fabric. These lines will disappear with heat from the iron when I block the quilt.

The blue pen creates blue lines on light fabric and is removed with water.  Now the quilting can continue.

When the quilting was done, I blocked the quilt, trimmed the sides and top and put it back on the design wall to determine how long I wanted the bottom panel.

I decided to trim 3 1/2 inches from the bottom. Next came binding and the hand work.

My studio assistant aka Cooper was more than happy to stay close while I was busy stitching Colonial knots in each of the bud areas. This art quilt measures 48″ x 19″.

 

 

 

 

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

Maple Print

I played with quite a few possibilities for thread painting the final maple leaf prints. I wanted a clear contrast to the weight and value thread I had used the first time around. I chose two threads:  a dark navy and a 1960’s green (think Laugh In, mini skirts and Goldie Hawn), both 60 wt. cotton.  Both go through the same needle.

I’m happy with the level of contrast.

I also like the way the two threads pile up on the surface of the fabric, more like the thick work of hand embroidery than the fine line of the varigated thread. I’m not sure how I’ll use this print but I like what has happened to it so far.

Thread Painting

I enjoy all the phases of creating my art quilts, but I particularly enjoy the very beginning of the thread painting.  This is the stage where shapes are becoming more clearly defined, taking on a new personality.  The process, always very meditative for me, is made more so by the patter of the rain I’m hearing on this late June day.  I’m using a DMC 50 wt. cotton. 

As the stitches are applied, a converation begins about the next layer of design.  At this close viewing, the effects of the rice and salt are more completely appreciated.  I want to enhance the primary design of the fern frond but I don’t want to lose the serendipitous secondary design achieved by the rice and salt treatment.  Ahh, the chat continues.