Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sticks & Stones Journal - #3 in Sue B's Class

I finally finished Journal #3 in Sue B's current Journal Making Class. So far my journals have been pretty basic. I thought I'd spice this one up a bit ...

* I made the brown and black fabric a few years ago during Mess-Making Night for my local art quilt group. For this piece, I used a commercial foam stamp brushed with Soft Scrub with bleach which I stamped onto flat black fabric. This proved to be an effective color discharging combination. I affectionately called this fabric "Clay and Wattle" with a nod to W.B. Yeats in "Lake Isle Innisfree" ...

* The stone fabric is a commercial fabric. I free-motion stitched between the rocks to add definition and interest--though it's difficult to tell from the photo ...

Then I added the leaves and sequins for flowers and free-motion stitched a vine to tie them all together. Only then did I fuse the backing fabric for the front cover.

The back is just the unembellished wall. What can I say? The focus is on the front.

Trials and Tribulations : I had a heck of a time punching the holes through the paper this time. My paper punches have been "used up." They are dull as paint now. Time for a new one?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another Experiment : Craisin Beads

What do you think these little jewels are? I was going for a dried cranberry. Did it work?

This was my workspace as I was making these little jewels.
Would you believe, they are crumbled up bits of a Coldwater Creek catalog?
The basic ingredients are :
  • Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel (UTEE)
  • Glossy ad or catalog on shiny paper--Pick some colors you like!
  • Parchment Paper
  • Melting Pot
I started with the roses page from a Coldwater Creek catalog. I tore off bits and crumbled them up. Then I dropped them into a pot of melted UTEE. Then I dropped the coated nuggets onto the parchment paper. Once they were cooled and dry, the excess UTEE can be cut off and thrown back in the pot to melt another day.

I still need to figure out how to apply them to my quilts ... Glue (GemTack?) or other adhesive? I'm thinking a hot needle would melt the UTEE again enough to pierce a hole though it.

One thing about these little gems is that you can't iron them--the heat will melt them, and you'll have a gloppy mess.

Here's what did NOT work with this little experiment :

This little potpourri cooker never got hot enough to melt the UTEE--even after 2 hours. Good thing it was only a $1.79 purchase at the thrift store. I was hoping it might be comparable to Ranger's Melting Pot. Be advised--it won't work for melting UTEE.

Next, I tried a little candle burner with a little potpourri pot. This also did not work very well. The candle flame seemed too concentrated in one place. I was hearing cracks and pops and afraid the whole thing would break and really make a mess ...

What worked best : putting the little black crock pot directly on the gas stove over a slow, simmering flame. All the UTEE melted in less than 5 minutes.

I'm hoping to use the same technique to "finish" some rolled beads I made last summer. The UTEE can make them look like glass or amber beads. Stay Tuned!

Blue Pate Specials : April Postcards

Blue Plate Special I - Scrambled Egg Breakfast

Blue Plate Special II - Sunny Side Up Breakfast

Here is a set of fabric postcards I made this weekend. (I've got seasonal allergies with a vengeance this year, and it makes me hungry for comfort foods like bacon and eggs and biscuits.)

Notes : The scrambled egg was given relief and texture by taking a scrap of orange and yellow flower fabric and crumbling it up and then fusing it in its crumbled state.

The bacon looks a little burnt--some people like it that way. ;-) I think my next bacon in fabric will use a pinker/redder scrap to start with. These postcards are always fun little experimental pieces that can actually be finished in a day.

The toast is a piece of wool leftover from a skirt I made years ago ... I thought it had a nice texture for whole wheat bread.

And just because I think it's interesting to see how these ideas develop, here are some photos from the real (analog) Sweet Leaf Notebook where I record my ideas and let them simmer until I can bring them to life :

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Purchases - 2008 Quilt Festival in Chicago

Rust Dyed Silk Scarf from Lois Jarvis, the Rust-Tex Lady.
She was great about showing me her whole portfolio to find me just the right rust-dyed scarf for me. I was looking for a stormy skies pattern.

I told her flat out "I could buy your CD tutorial, buy the supplies, including lovely blank silk satin scarves, but I know mine would not turn out as nice as yours. So buying one would be a better investment for me." She was happy to oblige. ;-)

I admitted I tried the herb dyeing as shown on The Wisconsin Gardener a few years ago. My results were disappointing (think : spots of mold from celery seed)--I still have all those scarves in a bag marked for a recovery/reclaiming/overdye project someday. Lois said she didn't have much luck with that either ... but her stuff is beautiful!

That said, the techniques she shows and teaches in her tutorial are repeatable and predictable patterns. If you are interested in rust-dyeing techniques, I would highly recommend her stuff. She's done her research. Hmmmhh ... I might get her CD yet.

What else did I purchase at the Chicago Quilt Show?

10 yards of Misty Fuse.
This is a wonderfully versatile fusible! If you've taken any classes with Sue Bleiweiss, you know the virtues of this stuff. A new idea for me was to color a piece of MF with Jacquard Paints or Dye-na Flow paints. It's filmy enough to let a background color through--a little like cheesecloth.
This has great potential for all sorts of texture and color ...

2 sample squares of Hobbs Silk Batting
The Hobbs stand was selling good-sized silk squares for $1 each.
The local quilt shops don't carry the silk batts (It's expensive.). I wanted to FEEL it before I bought a whole batt online.
It's Hobbs--looks kind of like the cotton 80/20 (same color) It is silkier, though. To make it hold together as a batt, they had to use a small amount of poly and resin. They said it gets silkier after it's washed. This means I can continue my Harriet Hargrave batting sample squares ...

They also suggested asking the local quilt shop to order what I wanted / needed. The quilt shop would not have to order in bulk. That sounds like a plan!

A few buttons from Laura Murray's stand :

I plan to use these for closures on Journals. I also want to study the finish so I can attempt effects like these with paper clay or polymer clay pieces.

Notes from the International Quilt Festival, Chicago, April 2008

Walking through the miles of the vendor marketplace is intense, and can be overwhelming. When I need a break, it's a good time to walk through the quilts on display. There's more space, and places for eyes to rest, and usually fewer people. It's cooler, too. I saw lots of beautiful quilts and got lots of inspiration. I'm more interested in the art quilts than the traditional pieced quilts. I took many pictures for my own study. However, I am reluctant to post someone else's work without their permission for copyright reasons.

I'm still intrigued by the journal quilts and the larger "Page from my Book" exhibit. These are meant to be experimental pieces, where the artist tries a new technique or medium. I still haven't mustered the discipline (or time) to consistently do a monthly journal quilt.

They published a book about the Journal Quilt Project called Creative Quilting :


  • Saw a lecture from Deb Caffery where she gave a great tip on borders. She suggested cutting borders parallel to the salvege edge of the border fabric. This is a great way to keep the borders from warping.
  • Saw a demo for marbled dye patterns with shaving cream at one vendor stand. They made it fast, clean and easy compared to my mess-making last summer. They used Tsukineko inks dribbled on and "mixed" with toothpicks. The fabric is pressed on top of the shaving cream pallet, and lifted off. The cream is scraped off, and the color stays on the fabric. It can then be heat set.
  • Lois Jarvis, the Rust-Tex Lady suggested tavelling with a Paint Sticks kit (mini-paint sticks, baby wipes, sip-lock bags, paper towels and masking tape) and a silk scarf. Then, at least once a day, take rubbings of textures of where you are --- metal grates, bathroom floors, textured tiles, etc. At the end of your trip, you'll have a nice memento ...

My original plan for attending this show was to test-drive the many long-arm quilting machines on display there--under one roof. I have since given up on that idea for the moment (though the one on my wishlist is the Tin Lizzie 18LS). Here's why this is not the right time :
  • I don't have space for the frame
  • I don't produce enough quilt tops / year to justify the $8K price tag
  • I don't plan on making it a business (I need health insurance)
  • I'm not independently wealthy
At the same time, trying to quilt a bed-size quilt on a small home sewing machine has been a real struggle for me. Having a frame and a "mobile" machine would make that task a whole lot easier ...

I was hoping to convince my mom and my aunt to go in on it with me. We'd be co-owners and keep it at my mom's house (she has the space). They haven't gone for it yet ... So for now, I'll keep quilting, and dreaming, and saving my pennies ...

Friday, April 11, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers Journal

Here is my completed Journal from Sue B's Journal-Making class, Lesson 2.

April Showers ... Bring May Flowers. As the weather outside this week has been frightful, I know Spring is not far away ...

The outside cover is made from a pole-wrapped Shibori I did a few years ago when I had an Indigo dye pot set up. This Shibori pattern is also known as "rain." I think it would make excellent flames if done in oranges and reds. Something else to experiment with!

[Aside : My undergraduate degree was in African Literature & Languages with a healthy dose of African Arts and Culture thrown in. One of my favorite topics was the Indigo Dying industry of Yorubaland in Nigeria, West Africa. My most prized possession is a starch resist Adire Olokun ...]

Inside the journal, I used some leftover fabric from this quilt :

The satin stitching at the edge used a dark (black and blue) thread, with a varigated rayon on the spring inside. I went around twice for more complete coverage, and a cleaner edge.

I had some trouble with the grommets--especially the middle two holes. My grommet-setter is more like a pair of pliers. There was no good way to do the middle set with my equipment. Now I wish I would have just done the button-hole method--or purchased the more versatile set in Sue's PDF tutorial. I did do a few practice ones ... Any ideas on how to remove a grommet gone bad? Or is a grommet forever?

The closure is a hint of things to come -- a pink shell cut into a flower with some ribbon yarns. The flap reflects the "rain" streaks of the Shibori pattern. I sat there for a while letting the fabric "speak to me" about what the flap should be like. This is what it told me to do ...

If you want to see a sampling of the other creative journals people in the class have made, check out our Flickr group, Sue B's Journal Making Class Mar 08.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

"New" Old White Treadle Sewing Machine

Katy's old White Treadle Sewing Machine

View of the pretty wood work on the side=panel / drawers.

The machine head (looks very similar to my National from about the same time period.)
1888-1889 White Treadle - shuttle style

Katy's treadle even had "papers."

My friend Katy is moving and starting a new life, complete with a family and children. She won't have room for an old treadle, so she gave it to me because she knew I'd give it a good home. ;-)

We brought it home this week. The wooden case is beautiful! The machine and treadle machanism could use a little tender-loving care. A thorough cleaning and oiling, and it should be good as new! That's the wonderful thing about these old machines--a little oil, a little grease, a little liquid wrench, and the run like new again! I think the only thing it needs is a belt, and I can make another treadle potholder!

Another project!

The drawers full of stuff have always fascinated me, too -- threads, buttons, bobbins, lace, a box full of attachments no one knows how to use. Years and years of history here!

Thank you, Katy! You can visit it anytime.

Moon & Stars Journal

I finished the Lesson 1 Journal in Sue B's current Journal-Making for the Fiber Artist. This one is called Moon & Stars (for obvious reasons) ;-)

Here's a tip I figured out only recently : Use the edge-stitching foot to do the satin stitching along the edges. See picture at Nancy's Notions : Edge-stitching foot :

This foot has a bar or wire that zigs over the edge of your journal (or postcards, or whatever). It finishes the edge cleaner than just doing a plain zig-zag satin stitch. It pushes down those stray threads. I've had that foot for years, and it just now occurred to me that this would be an appropriate use for it!

I didn't add any additional pockets to this journal, but I did add some bookmarks with some machine-stitched cords. I tried to use some flat magnets for the closure, but I think I need to get some stronger ones. These dots don't seem to hold it shut.