Wednesday, February 26, 2014


My Darling Maggie

The Beyond Beyond Lesson this week involved tips for using a Wacom Tablet.  Since I don't have one, I decided to pull out my iPad and play with some of the apps I haven't gotten around to ...  I decided that I should buy a stylus (This one or this one?) to make some of the sketchbook apps work better than with my finger. 

Waterlogued is a fun app-- a bargain at $2.99 offering hours of fun, running a dozen of my pictures through the various filters.   I even stayed up way past my bed time on a "school" night.  It turns a photo into a watercolor painting.  In less than minute, you see the app draw a sketch, choose colors, mix and apply watercolor paints.    Very satisfying -- and no mess to clean up!

In the picture at the top of this post, you see my darling Newfie, Maggie.  She is difficult to photograph 1) because she's shy and 2) she's so darn black.  In most pictures she looks like a puddle of black, so this shot was kind of a test to see what the Waterlogued App could do with it.  This is the "Rainy" filter.  I'm happy!

Most of the people pictures didn't work so well, but this one did.   I've had this picture since last summer at the Bristol Ren Faire.  This is the accordion player for the band Vana Mazi. (You didn't realize accordians were around in the Renaissance, did you? [Wink!]  I haven't quite figured out what to do with this photo--the usual texture treatments haven't quite worked on it.   But this is quite nice!  This is the "Travelogue" Filter.

Here are some more pictures from my play time with Waterlogued.  I think I still have an Instagram account.  Maybe I should post these?

Tulips with Travelogue  Filter  (with Yellow toned back a bit.)

Here's something I might actually be able to paint in real life!   Watching the process does give me some ideas for how to do it, if I ever wanted to do more watercolor painting.     This one could actually be put through a few more processes.  That open background in begging for additional treatments!  This one may come back again ...

Bumble Bee on a Thistle

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you may recognize this phot of my friend Sandy one Fall day ...  I couldn't decide which version I liked better.  
Color Boom vs. Travelogue filters.  I'm leaning toward the Color Bloom ...

French Bike with Travelogue Filter
French Bike with "Rainy" Filter

Saucison in France with the Rainy Filter

One of the Oshkosh Public Library Lions.

Jump in! The water's fine!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Two Minds Meet : An Artist's Exchange

Idaho Beauty's Padfolio

I am in awe of how the internet allows like-minded people to connect no matter where in the world they may live. 

Over the past few years, I've developed a blogland friendship with Sheila Barnes at The Idaho Beauty's Creative Journey.  I think we must have met in an online class we were both taking, but I can't tell you anymore which one ...  We were both interested in surface design, and always had at least a dozen projects in the hopper at any given time.  What intrigued me about Sheila is that she would post some random picture that caught her eye, and I'd have taken a very similar picture within a few days (red berries, or light and shadow).  Heck! She even picked the same green blogspot template I had on Sweet Leaf Notebook back when it started.    It occurred to me that we were on the same wavelength.  Sisters on that Creative Journey.  ;-)

Last fall, we challenged each other to try some new techniques, and to DO something with our surface designs.  We take all these classes, and learn all kinds of techniques, but what do we really DO with that know-how?  Or we just make the same old things that come easy.

Here are some more pictures of Sheila's padfolio :

This is the whole cover stretched out.  She does beautiful work!  She printed the darker fabric with her own lino-cuts.  She said the gold fabric was a photo near her home--gorgeous results!  The best I've ever seen in terms of a photo printed to fabric.  All that and her satin stitching is impeccable.

Here's the inside.  She dyed/over-dyed the fabrics for the inside.  I know I have some of that 'ice" print in my stash.  I had never thought to over-dye it.  What wonderful results!

  Detail of the pocket with the over-dyed "ice" fabric.  

Here's a detail of the deer antler button closure.  My woodsy Northern Wisconsin heart loves that touch!   You can also see a that the photo fabric was a shot of golden fall color.

I'm planning to take this little padfolio along with me on our next trip to France, so I can keep track of French phrases, the itinerary, what we did each day, and oh, yes--the French cheeses we'll eat.  ;-)  The best part is I can use the cover again and again for trip after trip, just by replacing the pad of paper.  ;-)

Read more about how Sheila made this pad-folio on her blog : The Idaho Beauty's Creative Journey

Now for my contribution.

I had originally made a collaged Sweet Leaf Notebook Journal with Sheila in mind.  Collaged journal covers was a new technique for me, but it was claimed by my mother (I couldn't tell her no--the green velvet was a scrap from a vest she made for me years ago)  before I could send it to Sheila.  So I had to make Sheila another journal to fulfill my end of our Creative Challenge.

 Idaho Beauty Journal - Sweet Leaf Notebook No. 116

This is the journal I sent to Sheila.  It's the usual composed fabric that I've made before.  This time, I layered the scraps on EasyFelt, and covered the scraps with a black silk sheer fabric, instead of tulle.  It has a wonderful feel, and just disappears over the fabrics beneath.  A much nicer feel than the scratchy tulle I've used in the past.  In one of our exchanges, Sheila said she used to live in west central Wisconsin.  The colors in this journal remind me of Fall in Wisconsin.   The scraps come from this "Red Spice" quilt top :

And this Marsh Sunset Journal Quilt :

As for something new : I've been wanting to add metal to my journals and art quilts.  I've had the metal shim for years; I've been saving metal tubes for years.  Been reading about it on And then We Set it On Fire for ages ...  This Challenge finally gave me the nudge to try it.    The metal stitched onto the cover of Sheila's journal started out as this :

Yup! That's right : concentrated sun-dried tomato paste in a metal tube.

Here's the back side (formerly, the inside of the tube) after heat applied.

After opening the empty tube, and cleaning it, I held it over the flame of our gas stove.  With tongs to prevent burning myself.  The heat changes the colors on the "clean" side of the metal.  The more heat, the toastier it got.  The golden yellow part at the bottom got a little less heat treatment.   The oranges at the top got more heat. I could have scored a design into the metal, but I liked the natural waves it developed--kind of like a sunset, or waves over water.  It matched the color scheme for this journal, so it seemed a natural fit.  Then I folded over the edges and stitched it down to the journal cover with an old Jeans needle and my usual domestic sewing machine.

Detail shots of the heated metal shim (upper and lower) :


I tried a number of surface design techniques to add texture and layers of color to the journal cover, but nothing seemed to stick to that black silk sheer silk fabric.  On to Plan G, I finally decided to add a free-motion embroidery cattail to the cover.  Yes, it is done with free-motion.  I've never actually used the computerized embroidery unit on my sewing machine.  That always kind of felt like cheating anyway.

Here's the cattail design on quilting paper.  I stitched an outline through the quilting paper.  
After I tore it off, I could "color" in between the lines with thread.

This is what I ended up with ...

THANK YOU, Sheila, for a great challenge.  I haven't felt this inspired or pushed to go beyond since Conversations in Cloth, my old Art Quilt Group.  Every time I came with an artistic problem, 4 people there would offer solutions (or encouragement) to solve it.  It was a wonderful way to go beyond what I could do myself.  Kind of like standing on the shoulders of giants, and all of us making better art for the exchange and interaction.  

Something tells me, we'll have a few more of these challenges. ;-)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2BD37 Gothic Valentine

For this week's lesson (from last December, actually), Kim offered a set of PhotoShop Brushes.  I'm so glad they were not strictly seasonal and that I could use them a few months later--now.

I used a free slate texture from Stockvault as the background.
Then layered up a few of Kim's new brushes, including the red hart for a spot of color.
Added the text with a favorite quote from Rumi.

Done!  Easy-peasy!

Beyond Layers

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Birds and Bees Snowflake Pillow : A Simple Gift

That picture of a New Project a few weeks ago was a small part of this pillow.  This picture is without the pillow form since that makes the edges curve out of sight :

Jill Buckley over at The Quilt Rat Blog kindly gave me permission to use her Birds & Bees Snowflake pattern to make a quilted pillow for my friend, J.  [Thank you, Jill! I'm really happy with the way it turned out.  I'm certain you could laser cut some of your snowflakes with fusible and sell them as kits. They are beautiful, but kind of a lot of putsy work to make it up in fabric like this.  I see why you stick with the paper versions!  It is do-able in fabric, though.  The nice part about making something as a gift is that you can be thinking about that person the whole time you're working on it : One way to infuse it with love.  ;-)   Check out Jill's other snowflakes.  She has a wonderful talent for design!

My friend J is a wildlife biologist pilot out in Idaho.  She flies for wildlife / natural resource surveys and projects all over the west.  She loves her job!  Ever since we were in junior high, she wanted to fly--and she did it!  She got her pilot's license and a degree in biology.   She's living the dream!  In her down-time, she's been working on a Hawaiian-type applique quilt, but her project was stalled for various reasons.  I decided to go ahead and make this for her birthday.  It's an example of one technique of how to do a Hawaiian quilt applique.  This birds and bees pattern is perfect for J, because she keeps bees, too.  Yes, she's a bee-keeper with the fancy bee-keeping suit and everything:

Here are some shots of the project as it progressed :
 The snowflake cut out of freezer paper.  There's no way to cut so many layers of fabric this way, so I had to make a freezer paper pattern first.  I'm recommending to Jill that she have some of her designs made up as die cuts.  Then she can sell kits that will make the whole process that much easier--and she gets her designs out into the world!

 Here's the freezer paper pattern laid out on the fabric to be cut out one layer at a time.  The fabric has Wunder Under fused to the back side, so I guess that means I actually cut out 2 layers at this point.  A small pair of sharp scissors is essential at this stage.

 This looked so pretty through a sunny window--like stained glass.
It's a nice color combination, too.

 The next step is to fuse the fabric+fusible snowflake to the background fabric.
It's a delicate job to make sure the fabric doesn't tangle at this stage.  
The fusible acts as a stabilizer so it helps in that respect.

  Next is to stitch the applique down.   I am using a matching polyester embroidery thread for this stage.  I know some people would consider that heresy, but it's strong, it has a nice sheen, and it looks good.  I didn't want to use the invisible thread and try to zig-zag around all those curves.  It made more sense to free-motion along the edges of the snowflake.  At this stage, I appliqued the snowflake  which had been fused down to the background fabric.  There was also a layer of tear-away stabilizer underneath it all.  This worked well.  The worst part was tearing off the stabilizer.


For the next step, I layered the backing onto some batting.   I used an old mattress pad for batting.  The fitted corners always pooch out long before the actual mattress pad does.  I know -- again, this might be heresy to some.  I am not a fan of Warm and Natural.  I know some people like it for wall hangings because it doesn't sag over time.  But Warm n Natural always winds up so flat and lifeless.  I wanted this to have some dimension.  I wanted to be able to SEE and FEEL the quilting when it was done.  And I get to recycle / up-cycle something that would otherwise be tossed.

Here's a shot of the quilting stage.  You can see a safety pin that I'm using to hold the layers together as I quilt it.  I simply echo-quilted around the snowflake.  Since the snowflake as applique was not stitched to the batting, it pops up a bit, while the background recedes because it's being sewn to an additional layer.  Again, I used my new polyester embroidery thread from Thread Art--because it was the right color and it's strong.  [They had a great sale on Black Friday that made it all the more worthwhile to purchase and re-stock my thread pallet after the rayon thread rotted and broke--which is the real reason I haven't been sewing much in the past 18 months.]

 Next, I wanted to quite the same birds and bees motifs into the corners of the pillow, 
so I traced the pattern to some quilting paper and started stitching.

 This is a practice piece all stitched  1) to get the pattern into my muscle memory to make the free-motion stitching easier, and 2) to test that this method would work.  It worked beautifully!

 Here I'm in the process of tearing away the quilting paper.  This is my preferred way to mark a quilt.  There may be tiny little bits of tissue paper left, but it all comes out in the wash.   No marker that disappears before you finish quilting, and no marker that re-appears unexpectedly at a later date.  No chalk that disappears before you're finished stitching, or gets into your lungs.  I've tried a lot of methods over the years,  and this is my favorite.

 Here's the finished test piece.

 This is one of the actual corners.  You can see how it coordinates with the "real" snowflake.
See how that mattress pad batting gives it a nice "puff."

  The rest are just eye candy and detail shots for you to enjoy, my Dear Readers :

 Happy Birthday, J!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

First Shawl on the Triangle Loom Finished

 My first Triangle Shawl is complete!
Yarn : Lion Brand Homespun / Color : Lagoon

Here's a close-up of the rolled collar.  It almost wants to do this by itself.

It didn't really take long to finish the common weave cloth part of the shawl. The beauty of continuous line weaving is that when you pull the yarn through, you are adding weft to each side as well as a warp string.  Although I wasn't keeping careful track of my hours, I'd say it took about 12 hours to weave.  Then I let it sit on the loom for a week or so--It looked so nice!  I was afraid that it would become all mis-shapen once I took it off the loom.   Not to worry!

When I finally steeled the courage to go the next step, and pop it off the loom, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it fluffed up nicely once released from the tension of the pins.  I used a homespun acrylic yarn with yummy colors and very soft touch.   It makes a really nice fabric.

Here I am sitting on the couch on a frigidly cold day in January to work on the finishing tasks.  I am just so pleased and amazed that this first shawl came out so well!  So soft--and it didn't fall apart when I pulled it off the loom!

Detail of the crocheted edge.

After popping it off the loom, I finished the edges with a crochet hook, pulling one loop into the next--all the way around.  Although the cloth firmed up nicely, the loops that were hanging on the nails were a bit stretched and distorted.  Then I crocheted a simple border edge (with the same yarn) consisting of 3 double crochets + 2 chains repeated around the outside edges of the triangle.   This gave it a nice lacy/shell effect.

This is how it looked after I finished with the edge-treatment, but before I washed and dried it to "full" it.   It looks ok--maybe a little frumpled, but washing it really pulled things back into shape (as you can see up at the top).  It's a necessary step in the process.

Detail of the woven fabric.  
The one n the left is before fulling (straight off the loom); the right has been fulled (washed and dried).  You can tell it's "fluffier."

 Soon I'll be ready to give it to the recipient--and start a new one!