Tuesday, July 29, 2008

sadness and art

It just hit me today as we plan to head out of town for a memorial service, how much loss a cousin's family has sustained this month. In early July the son was killed. Then a granddaughter died. And now the mother has lost her battle with cancer. I'm at quite a distance and probably only met the granddaughter once or twice and I'm reeling--how sad for everyone.

It made us all really appreciate and revel in the family connections as the other side of my family held a reunion this weekend. So Saturday we mourned and Sunday we rejoiced. Quite a contrast. Our reunion isn't big (under 30 people) but cousins came in from all over the country and, very important, they brought their kids.

Here's some of the crowd from Sunday on my sister's wonderful river-front porch. I just noticed it is all the guys. The women were either down on the grass or sitting around the kitchen table (the best place to be for good conversation). And the kids congregated down by the river, sitting on the pier.

Needless to say, I haven't done much in the way of stitching. Things have been busy. I've mostly been reading when I've been home. I got a new issue of Selvedge this weekend. It is one pricy magazine ($25!) but I think it's occasionally worth it for the beauty of it. You can just sink into it and since it's all textiles focused it is perfect.

I also purchased The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall (with a very nice coupon from Borders). This book pairs beautifully with the Studio Journals class I've been taking. Like the Double Trouble books, this book shows the design source, journal pages as they work through the design, and the final piece. This book, however, is a bit more technique oriented and has clear instructions for how to do some of the techniques they use. The one that really got me going, since we'd been doing rubbings in the journals class, is to make a wire form of your graphic shape and make a rubbing of it. Then use the same shape as a stencil, as a mask, etc. I feel loaded up with good ideas.
This may be my only chance to post this week. I've done some playing wiht this week's project of clip art and wingdings and dingbats (I love it!). I took a webding (they're fonts in word processors with symbols rather than letters) and played with it in Photoshop. I've posted the photos on Flickr.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Fun

First I want to announce that a good friend has begun her own blog, World Stitches. I'm really looking forward to her posts. She's the kind of person who tackles projects that I just shake my head at. She likes, and actually completes, great big projects.

Yesterday I got a gift from Jenny in London, full of awesome stuff.
It came with a birthday gift but since that's still a while away, I set it aside to save. Her finds at local outings include this cool book on smocking. I once made my husband a traditional smock from the Folkwear pattern and I made some smocked things for the nieces, way back in time. This made me want to do some more of it. The fan is a card.

This book on fabric bonsai is also very interesting. They use materials from Japan but the basics are about how to make 3-D plants from fabrics. I need to look at some real bonsai but this could be fun.

The lace pillow is made up of a patchwork of lace trims and is beautiful. Jenny's mum spotted it and I'm very happy she did. The pillow itself is of a lovely plainwoven linen with a beautiful sheen. This inspires a lot of possibilities, such as planting some silk-ribbon flowers on the lace or removing it and mounting it on a darker background and using that lovely linen on something else.

The next item in the boxful of goodies made me realize that Sharon B's journaling class has taken hold. The first thing I wanted to do with it is snip and piece and place it in my journal and then experiment with it and paints. I think it may be too soft for a rubbing. I'm pretty sure it's the rubbery stuff you use under rugs to keep them from slipping. Now it's an embroidery material. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if it was zapped with a heat gun?

The last item in the package was this lovely red Coates box. It was chock full of lovely crochet and stitching items. Filet crochet pieces (unfinished), a round doily (unfinished), and a Battenburg lace doily (finished). There are pins, buttons, snaps, some threads and cording. Two lovely crochet hooks... And the pattern for one of the filet pieces.

There's also a mystery item--the small greenish stone toward the bottom. I think it's part of a pendant or brooch--it looks like wings and it's carved front and back.

I immediately picked up one of the hooks and began crocheting on the doily. I wonder who began this piece, if one woman started all three and why she might have stopped. I thought there might be enough thread to complete the round on the doily but it was just short. I'll take it back to the start of the previous row and end off. And then I'll search my stash to see if I have something the same weight and color as the filet pieces. Or perhaps I'll enjoy them as they are...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

June's Done--finally!--on to July

Well, June's endless TIF is finally completed. When I was done I made myself notes on everything. The front shows a stash run amok, full of ideas and plans. It's stitched on an antique pillowcase I found with a monogram M. I used it until it fell apart.

The two floral motifs came from 1940s British needlework magazines that were my introduction to my very good friend Jenny. The silk threads are from Rita's estate. The wools are Medici from my stash, mostly from Susan's former shop, and one green was purchased on my first trip to England in Burford. This trip probably never would have happened if I'd not "met" Jenny.

Most of the beads came from SJ Designs' line of beads and pearls. The wired flower centers on the right were leftovers from my niece's wedding last December. I used them as centers for tissue paper plum blossoms for her shower. Simple materials, really, and basic stitches.

There are penciled in drawings on the background of the front, showing designs that were lurking but never got stitched.

The back is just stash, pure and simple and includes fabric, lace, paper, beads, buttons, and other bits and pieces I found laying around. It carries the title for the piece, Stash Stories.

This was a hard one to do. I think perhaps because once I began looking I saw potential everywhere and had a really hard time settling down to one thing and making a choice.

After taking the last stitch in June's piece, I began to work immediately on getting out the lurking ideas for July. I'm going to do a milestone. I'm going to be pretty blatant about it, mostly because I wanted to incise words into the top layer (carved into stone) and needed them to be simple. I'm going to use felt and needlefelt it from the front and the back. And I'm going to highlight the front corner of the stone, I think perhaps with some yellow roving needlefelted along it, to highlight the NOW.

I like the fact that this piece isn't a full rectangle, so that the other month's pages will show as you look at the milestone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

birthday feast

Monday was my sister's birthday so I took off work and we went for a visit. I brought green beans and birthday cake. My sister-in-law brought bounty from her garden: peppers, cabbage, carrots, green onions, cabbage, peas, cabbage, cherry tomatoes and, of course, cabbage. We had a wonderful feast. I made a forest from the carrot tops.

Not much else is new. I'm working away on the Studio Journals class. I'm having great fun with photographs this week and playing a lot in Photoshop. I'm also still working on my June TIF piece--it's getting there. And thinking about July. I'm amazed that July is already nearly over.

With Photoshop today explored abstraction and pattern. I went from this to this to this... It was very interesting but I'm having a hard time finding a balance between playing with the designs and finding time to stitch.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Plywood Lace

Amazing! photos and a link here. Many, many thanks to Susan Johnson of SJ Designs for this cool link.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Sharon B pointed out a way-cool website where you can make kaleidoscopes from your own images. Here are a couple of mine. The first two are from two different detail shots of a crazy quilt box top I made a while back (scroll down a bit on this page). I love the lacy look of them and can see them interpreted in embroidery or printed onto fabric for insets or buttons.

The third image is from a cone doll I made using a kit from Art Girlz. Pictured here on Flickr.

I found the process takes a bit of patience. You need to have the photo on the Internet and then you need to go to the properties of the image to get the url. After you make your kaleidoscope and make it a jpg then you have to save as to capture the image. I found that images with a lot of background around them don't work well--you need an all-over image for it to work best.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Still in downtown Chicago

Day three of the conference and for once everything is quiet for the moment. I'm still fascinated by the view from my hotel room. I tried to capture it in an expanded-square, part of this week's exercises for the Journals class. I pasted it down backwards, the sun's on the wrong side. I did several expanded squares and had a hard time getting the glue on the side I wanted to glue down and not on the top side.

In my room there's a sofa that has a window behind it--it's great light for stitching. I did a little bit last night on my June TIF. There's also a big-screen TV--it's amazing to me how little there is to watch, even with all of cable's offerings.

One of the "tall ships" was sailing by in this photo from my window. The view at night with all of the bright lights is wonderful but I wasn't able to capture it with the camera. This one was taken near sunset. I can see why people live near water--it's ever changing and you can just sit and watch it for hours on end.

Last weekend Steve and I went to the Antique Power and Steam Show in Crown Point, Indiana. It was our second trip and we enjoyed it just as much this year as last. It's an annual event, put on my the South Lake County Agricultural Historical Society and it's really fun. I didn't take many photos--this event is best captured in sound--motors and whistles abound. One area is full of little hand-made feats of engineering--mostly steam engines. The sounds are amazing--pockety-pockety, wush-wush, clickity-clack, and the occasional thwump. They had a steam powered thresher (chaff was flying everywhere! Now I know first hand where the term chafing comes from!) and a steam powered saw that was cutting shingles.

We sat in the grandstand for the Parade of Power, a most impressive display of tractors and farm equipment of all types. Some behemoths were from the early 20th Century. Afterward I learned the finer points of how to shoe a horse and we watched blacksmiths ply their trade.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Livin' it up!

The big conference has begun and I'm in downtown Chicago. I got here around 4:30 yesterday and immediately began working, straightening out some reservations. My room is lovely, on the 30th floor, with a gorgeous view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. I watched the sun come up over the lake this morning.

Yes, I was up and off to work early this morning. The day was bumpy--typical of a big conference. But all in all it went okay.

Before heading down here for the conference, I had a good weekend break. I worked very hard on my journals class--catching up from the week of doing no work on it at all. I did some exercises from week 2 and then began some for week 3 and I also began using the journal to collect some notes and things I wanted to keep and also to make notes on a design I want to do (in the fiber books group on Stitchin' Fingers) but just can't find time for right now. I brought journaling materials with me and hope to get an evening or two in to work on them.

Over the last week or so, I put the finishing touches on the back of June's TIF piece. I'm still working on the front and also thinking about the July piece. I want to do a mossy stone milestone and I think needlefelting might provide just the right look if I felt the green into the gray stone from the back. I'm still not sure what I want my milestone to say. I've been reading others comments on this month's project and as always I've found new things to think about.

After I finish this, I'm going to head for the pool. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Retail Therapy

I ordered this for myself in the hopes it would arrive in time for a preconference boost. It did. This is a wonderful book full of loads of stitches and ideas. I ordered it from the Wooly Thread, one of my favorite online resources.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tea and watercolors

It's been a very busy week with some fun crammed in. First my sister, niece, assistant and I had dim sum at the Phoenix yesterday. It was very yummy. We took a long lunch and walked over to the Ten Ren Tea shop and browsed a couple of other shops.

And this evening I'm stuffed from having a very elegant tea at the Peninsula with my friend Cassandra. We wore our hats and were tres chic. The food and tea were incredible. We had great conversations and laughs. We decided to make it an annual event.

These delights were in the midst of the crazyness of the last days before next week's big conference--printing papers, adjusting hotel reservations, finalizing the catering, and hunting for boxes to pack it all in. My office is piled high. When I've been home I've been crashed. I've not picked up a needle at all. I did do some fun watercolor experiments over the weekend for the Journals class. The first is cling film on wet watercolor. The second is salt on wet watercolor. They are a combination of backgrounds and playing with the color wheel. For the flowers, I colored in some pen and ink drawings from a couple of years ago.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Frottage and TIF

Since I had to come in to work on a holiday, I decided to get in a blog post. I had fun in my office yesterday with an exercise from the Journals class--frottage (rubbings). I have a little box of 2" squares that I made after sending others off to the Pink Art Doll Project. (a few are pictured here)

I used a 6B pencil and plain paper and made rubbings of my art squares and various other things in my office.

Last night as we watched Chicago's big fireworks show, I cut them up and pasted the resulting pieces into my Journal. Boy, is this fun!

And I was totally amazed of the things I found to take rubbings of. When I walked into my office and looked, I thought there's nothing here. But once I got going it was really hard to stop.

I used a 2" square window to find designs in my rubbing page of the art squares and I cut them out. I used a 1" square window to cut out my other rubbing page.

I also spent some time last night thinking about the June TIF theme. I made some jottings in my TIF journal along the lines of what I wrote in yesterday's post and then went a bit further and sketched out some ideas for making a milestone page. Right now I'm liking the idea at the bottom of the page and trying to think about where I might find gray wool felt in the middle of summer. I should go online shopping today.

All of this Journaling activity has meant that I haven't taken a single stitch all week. I need to figure out how to better balance things.

Well, I'm off to the meeting I came in today for. Then, tonight, Fireworks!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The theme for July is "how does it feel to be at the half way mark?" I must admit my first thought is relieved!

I'm still very focused on June, and the new Journals class, and am pretty blank on this and just beginning to think about it. My thought process was, as usual, helped along my Jane, who had some really intriguing ideas about half, half full, half empty, and how you pass through this half way point.

I usually begin with words and associations...
Pushimipullyu (Dr. Doolittle's two-headed llama)
balance, teeter-totters, fulcrum

Right now Milestones has the most resonance. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page, Milestones, and a picture of a milestone.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A little progress

Things are still quite busy at work and I've been feeling the stress. I really get annoyed with myself when I let the stress of things get to me. I did get some things done over the weekend. I completed the floral spray using Rita's silks for my June TIF journal page.

I plan to stitch a crewel leaf on the other side. I want the pencil drawings to show through. They don't relate to the design I'm going to do. I want them there to show some of the other possibilities that the fabric has and tell a story. (Inspired by some student pieces I saw in the senior art show at Lawrence college a few weeks ago.)

Across the top I plan some beaded flowers. It's not complete at all but much closer than a week ago!

I also began the back of the journal page--a stash collage. Some of the items have memories and others are just things I'd gathered. The quilt block was made, I believe, by Susan's mom. It's a bow-tie block. My grandmother made my sister and me bow-tie quilts when we were children. The blue piece of fabric in the upper left was from my mom's crazy quilting stash. The lace bit in the middle was from Eileen in England. There's a bit of gauze peeping out on the right, leftover from Steve's surgery a couple of years back. Some of the bits are from this summer's quilt expo classes. There's a bit of canvas and a bit of linen and a scrap of a charted design. I've added quite a bit since I took this photograph.

I find photographing or copying a piece in progress really helps with seeing how it really looks. When I took this shot it became obvious that the two white spots really stuck out. I've added some things on top of the linen to tone it down and I've added an off-white crochet bit, about the size of the white lace, just overlapping the lace a bit, to mirror the shape and help tone down that white spot in the middle of the page.

We've had some lovely weather lately...not too hot or cold or rainy. I try to take a stroll around the yard every day (not hard, it's small) to see what's up. Here are day lilies from the side of the house.

And here are my tomatoes and parsley, growing happily in their pot. I need to get some stakes for the tomatoes before they fall over. They have buds!

I also began the Studio Journals class with Sharon B on Joggles. Right now it's a bit overwhelming...it's a very chatty group. It appears to be an amazing group of people from around the world. In two weeks, once this conference is up and running, I hope to have time to really get into it.