Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Berries

"In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer."
-- Albert Camus

These are the berries I see out the dining room window under the bird feeder. The birds don't like these little beauties. In the summer, I'd rip them up as pesky weeds. But in the depths of winter, they are a welcome burst of color in a world of white.

Ok, so I haven't really been sketching all that much, but I have been taking a pile of pictures, with great intentions ... until I realized THIS IS my sketchbook. Enjoy!

I love my digital camera that allows me to capture these moments!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Midnight Watchman : January Journal Quilt

Here's my entry for the 3CS Journal Quilts Challenge. A few years ago, I had a hollyhock in the garden that was this dark. No kidding! I think it was called Midnight Watchman in the seed catalogs. I loved it!

This one is actually postcard size. It's been sitting in my studio for more than a year, just waiting to be finished with something. I added the beads this weekend. It's made from some leftover burnout velvet, along with the red leaf that came from a spray of fake flowers. Lots of rich texture that is difficult to photograph.

I stitched it to the flap of this messenger bag. It was a freebie with a company logo on the flap, so I covered that up with the new postcard. I'm using this bag, now to hold my art supplies (pencils, brushes, erasers, Neocolor crayans ...) for the Sketchbook Challenge. This keeps everything together, and makes the kit more mobile.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sketchbook Challenge : Highly Prized

This is my 2nd-hand Newfie, Maggie. She is highly prized to me.
Methods : Photograph manipulated in Paint.Net
Pencil sketch filter
Sepia (above) and Black/white (below)

Maggie was laying on the snow on a winter day, so there was great contrast and not much going on in the background.

Read more about Maggie and her story here. These days, she's a normal, happy and joyful dog. Every day, I tell her how happy I am that she decided to stay with us. She is my pride and joy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dye Fractions

This weekend, I started putting together a new Dye Notebook, as recommended by Jane Dunnewold in her recently published book Art Cloth.

In this exercise, we're looking for the hidden colors in pre-mixed dyes. Basically, you tap a tiny bit of dye onto some damp fabric and let the colors separate. At present, I have about 50 colors in stock. You don't really think about a wine red actually having blue in it--but it's there. Or black having red and green in it. I know I could mix all these colors myself with red-yellow-blue, but I'm waiting for Vicki Welsh to write her book of dye recipes! (Hint! Hint!) It takes a lot of experimenting to get just the right colors, and sometimes purchasing a good pre-mixed green or purple is worth it!

This should be very useful for Snow Dyeing as it gives me a better idea of how the colors might break out and calibrate in the snow dye process.

New Techniques Binder

I made up a new Techniques Binder. My old journal for this purpose is plum FULL of stuff. It's difficult to find any empty pages if I want to add anything new. Also difficult to find anything in it, because new stuff was added where there was an open page.

This time, I decided to use a binder with pocket pages. This way, I can include copied/printed pages from an eclectic assortment of books and blogs and websites and listserves : All sorts of surface design techniques I want to try. I'm hoping this approach will make it easier to keep organized. (All the rust-dyeing stuff in one section.) And easier to give credit where it's due ...

The pieces on the cover is painted and salted lutradur. I learned this technique in an online class taught by the ladies at Fibre in Form.

Red Curry and Spice Quilt - Work in Progress

These are the Red Spice blocks I pieced up last fall at Quilt Camp.

This was a fat-quarter set from Hancocks of Paducah, called Red Spice Batiks. I love the way these turned out! Good enough to eat!

The pattern is Annie Unrein's Wicked Easy Quilt, which no longer seems to be available on Annie's website. I did find a copy of it at this Project Linus website. It's similar to Yellow Brick Road or Turning 20, or Sweet 16. It comes together fast, and it mixes up the different fat quarters to make it look unified but scrappy.

These will stay on the design wall until I decide on final placement of the blocks. Not a bad layout .. but I'll let it sit here a while to see if anything pops out as being out of place. Once I decide on placement, the next step is to square them up and stitch them together.

Sorry for the less than optimum camera angle. My sewing room is so small and packed with stuff that's it's difficult to get enough distance to these straight on.

Sketchbook Challenge : Highly Prized

The sketch with water color pencils.

Here is is after water has been applied.

Sketchbook Challenge : Checkin and Barriers (and a Pep Talk)

It seems like a simple guideline : Sketch for 15 minutes a day.

But it's difficult to find the time in a busy work day. For a few weeks last summer, I was Zentangling in the mornings at breakfast with tea--but it was too easy to lose track of time and be late for work. Just when I'd get into a groove, it was time to leave ... At the end of a busy work day, I'm too tired and exhausted to "produce" anymore, so it IS easier to look at pretty pictures, or spend a lot of time looking at the Flickr photostream for Inspiration. (600 members now and still growing!?! 900 pictures so far. Wow!) Some really amazing sketches by talented people ... then I fret about not being good enough ...

I can find all kinds of things to do to "get ready" like shop for supplies ("Oh--I just need the right journal, or the right watercolor crayons, or the right paintbrush, or the right pens/pencils ...")

So I've decided to set up some different guidelines for myself (still a work in progress).

It used to be that I sketched when I had something to put down. It was always a means to an end--not the end itself. Sketching was part of the process to make something else. This sketch was the idea for this Journal Quilt. For the Creative Cues last year, I often posted photographs. Photos are quick and easy. I can still practice "seeing" color, shapes, patterns, and textures. I also sketched a few things and found out that I liked working with water color pencils. This Sketchbook Challenge puts the focus on the MEANS as THE END.

Find a time to sketch, and stay committed to that time. Not every day, but at least once a week.

Find a PLACE to sketch.
My sewing room has too many distractions. The dining room table? That seems to be working (for now). And I'm forced to limit the time spread out on the table because we eat there.

Make a kit, so that the notebook and supplies are easily accessible and portable.

Part of my problem seems to be paralysis. That blank book, those white pages. What can I do that will be good enough for this group of talented artists? Get over it and DO something! It's not a competition. I don't have to post everything to my blog or the Flickr Group. In the meantime, I'm thinking about all the other techniques and projects I want to do--techniques I'm more comfortable with--those ENDS, rather than the means. I can let that lead what I do in The Sketchbook Challenge Pages.

Baby Steps
Life drawing is still very intimidating to me. That's sort of the default expectation in a sketchbook--you draw. And that's not really how I want to spend my limited free time right now ... Maybe I'll grow into it ... Maybe I can start with baby steps and try 1 a month -- a face, a hand, a foot--rather than a whole body. I can start with simpler subjects -- still life scenes like fruits and vegetables, objects. Just the same, I'm calling in reinforcements : Drawing for Dummies is on reserve at the public library for me. This is a chance to PRACTICE. Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly at first.

Even in photography, I know I have a lot to learn. I also know that I don't want to spend that much time on the computer perfecting an image.

The first thing I put in my Sketchbook Challenge notebook was a list of things Highly Prized to me. I often start with words. The visuals come later. Ideas have to sit and marinate a while ... "In the beginning was the Word."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Everyday Inspiration : Paper Curl

This little paper curl peeled off of a letter I opened the other day. I noticed it on the floor right after I drew out this feather :

I picked up this little desk size dry-erase board at my local Staples office supply store for a whopping $3. It will be perfect for practicing quilting motifs like feathers. Also good for car trips--I can't sleep the whole time! I can't remember which one of you wonderful artful quilting bloggers shared the idea for a dry erase board, but I thank you for it!

Last fall, I signed up for an online quilt design class (Quilt Whispering) with Carla Barrett. It was a good class--Carla put a lot of effort into her lessons with photos and video. Unfortunately, I could not devote the time or attention required to get the most out of the class. ;-( Anyway, this little dry erase board would have been perfect for practicing feathers and motifs and lines. I felt like I was wasting paper practicing--even if it was scratch paper. With the dry-erase board, I can practice and erase the less-than-perfect feathers.

When I finally get the hang of it, and that motif becomes second nature, ingrained in muscle memory, I'll be ready to commit it to paper --or even stitch and fabric. If I do one on the dry erase board that I really like, I can always take a picture. ;-)

I've been following Leah Day's 365 Days of Free-Motion Quilting Designs. The dry-erase board will be perfect for practicing her free-motion designs ... or even just doodling or Zentangling.

Tea Leaves Quilt Top Done

This has been on my design wall for months. Time to finish it up and move this project along! This pattern is from Quilts from the Quiltmaker's Gift or More Quilts from the Quiltmaker's Gift. These are 2 of my favorite pattern books.

Detail of some of the leaves.

It's taken a long time to get this far on this little quilt. All those leaves were cut and appliqued. I used a technique there I stitched them to a foundation fabric, then cut, turned and pressed them. Then they were all stitched with invisible thread to the blocks. After each step, I would get tired of looking at it, and had to put it away for a while.

I'm planning to machine quilt this on my domestic sewing machine at Quilt Camp in February. I have a plan for how I want to quilt it ...

Season of Light

I took these pictures in my neighborhood one night while walking the dogs. One house had a really nice string of lights on the bushes in front of their house. I got these cool "dancing lights" effects just by moving the camera while the shutter was open.

I got these pics just in time, too. The next night, those lights were out!

If you click on the picture, you should be able to see a larger version on Picasa web albums. (Christian is my husband. He owns the Picasa account.) Enjoy!

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Sketchbook Challenge 2011

Okay--I can't resist this challenge. My own blog is called Sweet Leaf Notebook, named after my sketchbooks. Sue Blewiess and Friends are hosting The Sketchbook Challenge in 2011.

This project is a rare opportunity to peer into the sketchbooks of real artists. It's not about finished and beautiful works of art, it's about how ideas develop and grow. My own notebooks are a place to store/stash ideas until I have time and the gumption to really flesh them out and make them real (if at all). If I get those ideas down on paper, I don't have to worry about forgetting it--quilts I want to make, color choices, fabric samples, even quilting designs and motifs. My notebooks act as my "ectopic brain," my memory. Not everything will end in a finished piece. This project is about learning new techniques, developing a style that works for me. Will it be drawing? Will it be collage or photography? Words? Will it be a mix of all sorts of things? Probably! Stay Tuned ...

Already, I am interested to try the Stacked Words technique by Judy Hurwitt
and Carole Sloane's Grid Technique.
I'm sure there will be many more prompts and techniques I want to try before the project is through!

Sue Bleweiss is a wonderful artist and teacher in her own right. She has been full of encouragement and inspiration ever since I took one of her online classes years ago at She has some advice to begin the project. It's ok if you've never done some of this stuff before. There is a link to Tutorials at the top of the Sketchbook Challenge blog. She even explains how to add the Sketchbook Challenge badge to your own blog, along with a tutorial on using Flickr. Ok, I'll admit--that part will be new for me. I'm a Picassa girl. So I'll definitely be learning new things with this challenge, starting with Flickr.

Here's from a 2007 post on sketchbooks and visual journals :

This was one of my first sketchbooks. Not much to look at from the outside ... but bursting with ideas. That's why I had to start the notebook / sketchbook : I had many more ideas than I could possibly bring to life before forgetting the details. Now the Notebook is sort of a holding-place for those ideas until I do get around to bringing them to life. I keep a pencil tied to it, so I always have something to write with it. It's a spiral notebook so that if I wind up drawing something really awful, I can rip it out and not ruin the rest of the notebook. I haven't been able to bring myself to writing anything into one of those nive hardbound artist's sketchbooks ... They just seem too nice. Too permanent.


From time to time, I will continue to post a Page from My Notebook. I think it is very interesting to trace how the spark of an idea begins and grows and how close or how far the end product meets or diverges. Some projects take on lives of their own. Sometimes--it's what they want to be--not what I was intending. Usually, that turns out okay.

So what's in The Sweet Leaf Notebook, you ask? Wouldn't you like to know? At present, I have sections and drawings for the following :
  • quilt blocks and wall-hangings I am working out designs for
  • possible titles for quilts I'll someday make
  • layouts for samplar quilts
  • ideas for journal quilts
  • instructions and steps for quilts
  • dye and discharge project and design ideas
  • swatches of fabrics that might be good for kaliedescope or 4-patch posey quilts
  • machine quilting patterns I want to try (good to practice on paper first)
  • Instructions for potholders (developed by me)
  • Ideas that seem to translate well to visual images
    • I Remember Mama (or Gramma)
  • dye color combinations I like and want to try together
  • Websites for inspiration
  • Dye methods to try with notes on how it went
  • fabric painting experiments to try
  • Images to print on fabric
  • Ideas for the Sweet Leaf Website I have yet to build
  • Blog This section (though this section has moved into it's own Blog This notebook)
  • Quilting Classes I've taken, dates, or want to take someday
    • Who knows, I might want to become a quilt judge someday, and I might need to keep a record of all this stuff ...
  • Notes on favorite suppliers (and problem suppliers)
  • Mind-mapping experiments (lack of ideas hasn't really been a problem for me, but it was useful to learn the technique)
  • Leaf rubbings to use for patterns later
  • Ideas for fabric postcards
  • Sketches and drawing of architectural details (sometimes found on a candybar, or a bank railing in France ... ideas can come from anywhere!)
  • clippings from magazines glues in for inspiration
  • techniques I want to try
  • snippents of poetry and songs that inspire
  • The list goes on and on ...
I used to love going to office supply stores. I loved the paper aisles--all that blank paper--all that potential just waiting to be written on! Just waiting to become something else!

A sketchbook is yours to fill up as you see fit! You don't even have to show it to anyone if you don't want to do so. I hope some of you do start a sketchbook soon ... It's amazing to see how ideas start to build. Pretty soon, you'll have a whole library to draw on!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Books I Bought in 2010

Beading on Fabric by Larkin van Horn
I was looking for a good bead book, and this is the one I settled on. Not only does she clearly explain each technique, she has drop-dead examples of her work. Some of the other bead books I've seen explain techniques well enough, but the inspiration sections didn't inspire me. This one did inspire!

Serendipity Quilts by Susan Carlson
I have long been a fan of Susan Carlson, so I has pleased to see that she published a new book in 2010. Her collage technique is one I want to try ...

Inspired to Quilt by Melanie Testa
I get as many art books from my local public library as I can, so I can take a good look at it. If I think it's worthwhile, I purchase my own copy. This was one of those books. She has a lot of really interesting techniques - like layering organza and stitching or cutting it away to change the look and feel of a piece. Many of the same techniques I've seen before in other books, but this book has some new perspectives ...

Art Cloth by Jane Dunnewold
Step by step techniques for creating the layers that go into an "Art Cloth." I've been experimenting with surface design techniques for a few years, now. The mystery to me is how to put them together (layer them) into a cohesive whole. I'm still stuck thinking, "It looks pretty good now. What if the next layer ruins it?" And I don't go further ... Maybe I'll be able to break through that road block in 2011?

Fabric Dyers Dictionary by Linda Johansen
I had great hopes for this book unlocking the secret dye recipes to a thousand different colors. I have to say I was disappointed in the photography. Instead of the colors on the fabric, I see the weave of the fabric that was dyed in these pictures. I think the photographer should have backed up some. It's supposed to be about the color. Anyway, the recipes are there ... I'll be doing some experimenting in 2011.

Color Shuffle by Karla Alexander
I've been interested in her "stack the deck" method of mixing color in her quilt blocks. There are a few quilts in here that I have my eye on ...

Fiberart Montage by Judith Montano
This book is sheer eye candy! I purchased it site unseen because I knew it would delicious! And it is! Not only do we get to see close-up pictures of Ms. Montano's creations, she also explains how she made them.

Threadwork Unravelled by Sarah Ann Smith
Always good to have a thread reference on hand. Not only does she discuss threads, tension, and needles, she also shares some free-motion quilting designs.

Workshop with Velda Neuman
This is a book I've had my eye on for a couple of years. It's out-of-print, and used copies were so expensive I couldn't purchase it until now. She has some wonderful techniques for adding texture to her quilts (see the one about texture added to cantaloupe rinds). She also has a section on fish. Someday, I'll make some fish, following her direction.

Creative Cue : End ... and on to 2011

End of a Rope done with water color pencils.

Here's what my sketch looked like before I brushed it with water, and touched it up with a black pen. The water makes a big difference, doesn't it? I'd like to learn more/practice the brush strokes for desired effects. Maybe some watercolor books/classes are in order? I just keep hearing Bob Ross saying, "There's nothing you can do wrong that can't be fixed ... Pull down some happy trees ... happy clouds."

See other Creative Cues for End.

So here it is! The END of 52 weekly Creative Cues from 3 Creative Studios in 2010. I have enjoyed the weekly challenge and surprised myself with the discipline to do something for all 52 words--and some of them were truly challenging cues!

Since endings often coincide with new beginnings, the next question is : What's in store for 2011? There are a number of possibilities ...

* Find a new Creative Prompt outlet
AQ Creative Prompts Inspiration Page

* The Sketch Book Challenge
I'm going to keep tabs on this one, but have not committed to it yet. It looks like a wonderful way to learn new techniques, and see how other artists develop their ideas.

2011 Journal Quilt Challenge with Vicki Welsh at 3 Creative Studios
Vicki is leaving the themes, size, and how often wide open to anyone who wants to participate. She's committing to a weekly journal quilt. I'm thinking of doing in 1 x month. That means 12 journal quilts for 2011. That sounds totally do-able! I have some ideas in mind already .... ;-) That and the fact that Vicki will be giving away some of her hand-dyed fabric to participants. That was too good a prize to pass up!

3CS is also hosting a postcard challenge, and continuing the Technique-of-the-Month for 2011, as well as a Color Pallette Challenge (details yet to be revealed). Lots of opportunities to makes stuff, learn new things, and share.

I am also considering Lisa Walton's Online Beading Embellishment Class from Dyed and Gone to Heaven.
Lisa does some amazing and beautiful work! I'm just wondering if I'll be able to dedicate sufficient time and effort to get the most from this class at this time. Let's just say I was not able to "fully commit" myself to the online classes I took in 2010--unfortunately. I have until Jan 6 to decide ... Beading would be a good thing to do next to the warmth of the fire in the coldest months ...

Of course, then there are my other creative goals for 2011 :
1) Make that quilt for Unca Ray
2) The Olokun Quilt
3) Reds
4) Dyeing Projects - Dye Notebook
5) Technique experiments
Screen printing / Thermofax
Image Transfer

I have a head full of ideas for 2011!

Creative Cue : Bell

Sketch of a bell pepper, done with water color pencils. I might go over it again to make the color deeper and richer.

See other Creative Cues for Bell.

Creative Cue : Foot

With the New Year's thaw, the snow was perfect for footprints like this one. Just mushy enough to see the dark grass beneath. No--it's not a bear paw print. This is the insignia of my lovely Newfie, Maggie. Her actual foot is about 3 inches across. This print came out more like 4 inches. She's a big dog, but not as big as a bear!

See other Creative Cues for Foot.

Quilts : 2010 Review

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll have seen these quilts before. It's useful for me to review the past year and the completed projects. By completed, I mean with binding done and label attached. Done!

Millifiore Quilt for Christian.

Twin Connection.

Cathedral Windows hand-work, a small quilt done while traveling abroad (Several trips over several years.)

Gramma Pickles

Jacqueline's Quilt, donated to local Cancer Center.

Blue Picnic Quilt

Rosita's Bargello.

Cinnamon & Sugar, Horses for my Dad.

It's been a productive year! Thanks in part to being able to rent time on The Tin Lizzie long-arm machine at It's Sew Rite. After doing so many bindings this year, my skills have improved. I used to dread bindings. Now, they are no bog deal!

Now what do I have in mind for 2011? Stay tuned!