Sunday, November 29, 2015

Decorating tips for quilters

Section one: flooring
1. When installing new carpet, don't forget to ask if the pad is thick enough for pinning into. 
2. When installing hard flooring, check that you can tape fabric to the surface without damaging it.
3. When installing anything with a linear grain, ask if the grain can run parallel to the longest wall so you will have a plumb line to tape long sections of fabric on. See how I got that wrong below? Don't worry about the aesthetics of the room, it's all about getting a straight seam!

A good decorator will know the answers to these questions...

When the artist and the chemist's ex boyfriend finished our basement for beer and student loan money, we decided to go with a 100% plastic flooring. It looks like wood from say, outside the front door. However, if we are ever flooded, it will be hassle free, and it deals with painter's tape, dye spills, cat barf, and the artist's detritus (when he still lived here, oh wait, his junk is still here), and so much more without batting an eyelash.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Adolphia retreats?

There are rumors in basement land that Adolphia is retreating. (This is my family's affectionate name for me. See backstory here.) 

I used to work on a large picnic table. I think that you will agree that it now owes me nothing...
Due to terribly exciting circumstances which will be revealed in a later post, I needed to move two chests of drawers out of my sewing room. Since it seemed that mutiny would probably follow any further space incursions into the male part of the basement, I decided to retire the picnic table (saving the legs for shibori - dyers are weird..) and to use the chests of drawers as the base for a new work surface.

While Sonny Jim began the Adolphia nickname, he is very happy to bring home (to the house he no longer lives in) all sorts of junk treasures he scavenges. While other boys dream of being firemen, he wanted to be a garbage collector, because of all the great stuff he would get first dibs on. Thus we acquired a fully (non) functioning air hockey table top which someone else had very sensibly thrown out. He was sure he could turn it into a vacuum table for screen printing. Turned out he couldn't, but the huge table top remained propped against the wall in the basement until I had a stroke of genius, and decided it would make a great work surface on top of the chests of drawers. Enter dear husband and his power tools, to convert massive useless item into a sleek functional item.

 He sneakily reduced the width by about half, hence the rumors that Adolphia has decamped somewhat. However, I do not see this as a retreat, just a regrouping. Since I tend to expand to cover all available workspace, I actually work much more efficiently in a smaller space. My dye table is a 4 foot collapsable table from Costco. I could have gone with the 6 foot one, but it would just have accumulated junk. Same with the space above. I expect this to function better than the larger picnic table. An old padded plastic tablecloth, some duct tape, and we are in business! DH was able to keep the rounded corner of the original, so I will be able to keep my skin where it belongs, instead of losing it to sharp corners. Brilliant!

A brief pan around the work area offers further proof that dyers are weird. None of these food items is for eating. Rice and oat resists, juice bottles for dyes...
Another bonus of the rearrangements is that I can now justify getting rid of a ridiculous storage system I was seduced into buying because of the bright colors. It used to sit under the picnic table. I thought it would be a wonderful organizing tool, but it is the biggest piece of junk out. One of the drawers broke during assembly. The drawers are also so shallow that they are virtually useless. 
Things that look custom made often don't really fit the advertised purpose. Things that look like junk can turn out to be the perfect solution. Lesson learned. 

Meanwhile I am popping with excitement, like a 3 year old before Christmas. The space I have created in my sewing room will be filled soon! Soon!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Normal service resumes...

Strangely enough I was the only one quilting at Dulles airport..
 My scissors made it through the international check points, but were taken from me during an internal South African flight. My fault for not putting them in my checked luggage. Once again, why has teleportation not been perfected yet?? There is nothing like travelling for reminding you that you carry too much baggage on so many levels!

Somehow on an 18 hour flight in incredibly cramped conditions, seeing the dawn break is heartening. This was the outward trip. Coming back to the northern hemisphere, there was 17 hours of darkness. It was a very long trip...
If only South Africa could up its game on medical services and get the crime under control, I always think that it could become the old people importer of the world. The climate is fantastic, food is amazing, the people are friendly, and it is such a beautiful place. It could become the retirement mecca of Europe. Here are the entrepreneurs. One guy is doing amazing sand sculptures in the hopes that tourists will make a donation. The other guy is a rickshaw driver, giving you a taste of history. Click the photos to see the details.
One of my favorite birds, the hadedah, or glossy ibis. This bird's loud and somewhat mournful call gives it its name, and to me it is the sound of my childhood.  

Travelling by air is so inspiring in some ways, the scenery below has so much abstract quilt inspiration, curves and colors and patterns, oh my!

And then home at last, retrieve Ms. Twitch from the ceiling, where she has been hiding out while I was gone, although clearly not starving herself in the process. Next time I will sneak into your luggage, you will not escape me again, bwahahaahaha...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mini art quilts 2 - Working in a series

Once again, my art quilt guild has been a great learning resource. I never got the idea of working in a series until we worked through this book by Elizabeth Barton. Suddenly I understood that one might have an idea that could have multiple permutations; that one might not have said everything in just one quilt. 

Once I was done with the scissors exercise, which insisted on being a flower, I found that the flower center, or the hinge of the scissors was a shape I wanted to explore more. 

Scissor flower
 The great thing about being a pack rat is that I had some fabulous grey fabric I bought to make a path in a farm picture I made for my great niece years ago. It made a lovely texture on the shape I wanted to use, which now persisted in looking like a star. It's harder to work abstractly than one might think! The eye insists on attributing meaning.
Scissor star

Then to find some graduated color hand-dyes, some overdyes which picked up all the colors, some silk for sheen and some hand-dyed thread and play time! The scissor handles have been reduced to mere curls.

French knots yet again. I just can't help myself...I was pleased that I could do some blanket stitch on the silk. I've never hand-embroidered silk before, and somehow I thought it would be more difficult than it was. I'm sure that fusing it added stability.
Scissor star detail
Voila! I really like this one and would like to do it bigger, but now I need to play with recreating the grey circle fabric as I don't have enough left to work with. Isn't it amazing that the same prompt could create such very different mini quilts?

Thursday, November 5, 2015


On Saturday morning I leave home at 8:30 am EST to visit my mother in South Africa. With layovers, time changes and general chaos, I will arrive in Johannesburg at 5 p.m. on Sunday. I have been feeling somewhat cheated of a weekend! :-(

In preparing for the trip, I pulled out a quilt I have been working on intermittently for some time. It has reached the point where it needs hand embroidery (yay!), but I haven't had time to get to it. It suddenly occurred to me that rather than losing a weekend, I have gained 5 hours in which no one will expect anything of me other than that I keep myself quietly entertained at Dulles airport. Instead of being an annoyance, this long layover is suddenly a gift of uninterrupted play time! What a different perspective! :-) Now if only they don't confiscate my embroidery needles!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mini art quilts

I would never have made a mini quilt if I didn't belong to an art quilt guild. We have worked our way through a couple of design books and in the process have made mini quilts to practice what the chapters were teaching. I moved from thinking that mini quilts were a waste of time as they had no purpose, to realizing that they are a great way to test out ideas ideas for a larger quilt, or to try new techniques.

This one began life as an exercise from Lyric Kinard. She suggested tracing around a pair of scissors and then playing with the tracing to make an abstract quilt. I liked the intersection of the handles, but when I repeated the design it insisted on becoming a flower shape. Some times you just have to give in... Next blog post I'll show you what happened when I explored that intersection further. Here it is the "flower" center.
Scissor "flower"

Something I find helpful when I am between ideas, or needing to do something mindless while ideas percolate, is to make strips. The strips here were fused from small leftover pieces. One day I fused long chains, just playing with colors and using up scraps. Lo and behold, I finally found a use for them.

Another reason to love hand-dyes: the ability to create graduated color. All of the outer sections came from one piece of fabric, which was dyed in a graduation from cerise through apricot. 

Of course a mini quilt is also a great excuse to play with some hand embroidery, and to couch some hand-dyed threads. Because it is so small it comes together quickly and is a breeze to sew. A mini quilt can be like a mini vacation after a big project!