Monday, February 21, 2011


It's great to have a deadline.  Participating in the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge has pushed me to work quickly and to work smaller so that it doesn't take a year to finish a piece as it has on three of the other projects I am working on.  One of the latest challenges involved a style of abstract painting known as the color field movement.  Mark Rothko with his large swathes of color is perhaps one of the best known examples, but others included a natural element with the hint of a horizon line and other line gestures drawn from nature.   This challenge came out right before Christmas, and I was going to ignore it but was intrigued by the focus on color and letting color make the impression and tell the story.

So I thought as I wrapped presents and then packed for a trip to celebrate with the children and grandchildren.  I began to focus on a beautiful piece of green fabric that I had dyed last fall and thought it could be the major element for the piece.  But water is never far from our thoughts here in Pennsylvania as the gas drillers pump rivers of water tainted with all sorts of nasty chemicals past our water supplies, and the same chemicals seem to be evaporating into the atmosphere from the holding ponds.   As I thought about that horizon line I realized I could connect, with color, the sky and a river just as they are connected with the natural water cycles.

So this is the outcome of all my ruminations:
Piecing the river and sky took the most time, and then I did a lot of close quilting on the green fabric, which you can see better if you enlarge the photo.

I named it Reflection and just finished sewing down the facing so decided to share it with you.  It's about 20 x 28 1/2 inches. 

And if you're still reading, thanks for the company.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Playing in the Snow

Now I know from my own experience that you just might be able to tell what kind of a day I am having by how my quilting stitches look.  If I'm uptight or just generally in a grump, they look different from when I feel like I am dancing in a pool of sunshine.  But it wasn't until this week that I realized you could tell something about people's personalities by how they piled up snow.

On Monday afternoon three artist friends (non-quilters) came over to try their hands at some snow dyeing.  The snow had been on the ground a long time, was wet from a freezing rain cycle that froze into a hard crust and from the melting  (sigh of relief ) that was going on, and was wetter still from a brief rain that morning. In other words, it was good packing snow.  We commented on the lethal snow balls it would make as we piled it on top of the prepared fabric.  "Just make sure the fabric's well covered with snow,"  I had said as we went out the basement door.

Inside again,we placed our bins on a table side by side and started laughing.  Linda, the careful, detailed graphic artist,  had shaped hers into a perfectly smooth bread-loaf mound:

Jen, with her loads of enthusiasm, had created a veritable Everest of snow:

Kathy, who is generally laid back but with a wicked sense of humor, had created a happy in-between:

And then there were mine, kind of lumpy and free form.  Not sure what they say about me . . . .

We found much to laugh about the rest of the afternoon, and I am not sure that the way the snow was mounded impacted the results much, although Jen did cut the top off Everest before she applied the dyes.  The wetness of the snow may have made a difference, diluting the dyes more than usual, since my fabric was not quite as vibrant or petal-ly as it usually is, but still interesting:

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Version of a Valentine

For a good number of years, probably since I realized how important quilting is in my life, I have given Tom a little quilt for Valentine's Day.  Well, usually it is a quilt-in-progress, a.k.a. a quilt top, that many times adds to the height of my quilts-in-progress pile.  Last year I did manage to finish the quilt

This year, instead of hand-dyes, his quilt top was hand painted:
This is one of the pieces that began life as an exercise in the fabric painting class I talked about in my last post.   Our instructions were to try printing with string on a brayer and that technique produced the original blue lines that looked like bark to me.  I did a brown color wash over that and finished it off with the leaf print.  

At first I thought the print had not worked because the house was dry as the furnace fought the arctic temperatures we were having, and any paint on my palette or on the leaf itself dried almost immediately so the print was not as clear or "complete" as others I had done.   But when I looked at it the next day I realized  I liked it--and that it would make the perfect gift for my tree-loving husband.  

I have not quilted it yet and that may change its look a bit so I thought I'd share it with you now.  And, if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Out of My Comfort Zone

One of my complaints about taking some quilting classes is that I end up going to a great deal of trouble and money buying some items on the supply list that I use for about ten seconds or not at all.  Jacquard textile paints are an example:  I bought a set for a class several years ago and used exactly one brushful of one of the jars and they have sat on my shelf ever since.  So when I noticed that Lyric Kinard was offering an online class called Playing with Paint at Quilt University and the supply list included Jacquard textile paints I thought it might be time to try to get these off that shelf and do something with them.  Besides, it is definitely too cold to spend much time in my basement dyeing fabric, aside from the occasional snow dyeing, so this would be a way to create some interesting fabric even in the depths--and this winter has been particularly deep--of winter.

Now painting is not my strong suit; in fact it wasn't even in the deck of cards I played at quilting with, unless you include the Setacolor sundyeing I have done now and again.  But I knew Lyric was especially gentle with those students stepping outside their comfort zones.

So here are some examples of some of the things I have been working on the past couple of weeks:
This is a simple scrunching technique that makes a great background.  

These three are all prints done with various things around the house--poinsettia leaf, orange, and cranberries.  I will probably go back and add more color to all of them, but I particularly liked the orange--and who would have thought there was such a neat pattern inside a cranberry!

As  you can see, we are not painting pictures in this class, thank goodness.  The nearest I came to that was this doodle page I made where we were trying out a dry brush technique with some other techniques thrown in for good measure. Van Gogh has no competition here, but I learned a little about holding a brush and how it feels to apply this paint to fabric.                                                                      

Since I knew so little about painting on fabric, I have indeed greatly increased my knowledge in that area.  Some of the techniques are similar to ones I use in dyeing, and some I will try when I get out my dyes again, but I have changed my mind about using painted fabric in my quilts.  I used to think that paint stiffened the fabric so much that I wouldn't like working with it, but Lyric's class has convinced me otherwise.  When these textile paints are heat set with an iron, they become quite pliable and they can add great texture to a background or an area I want to highlight.  

I still have two more weeks to go and lots more to learn, but the playing I have done so far has only encouraged me to do more.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!