Quilt Testers In Action

Quilt Testers In Action


Friday, January 29, 2010


The word for this week's Creative Cue is "rolling". My free-motion sketch is of my rolling pin, working on some cookie dough.

My rolling pin was purchased on a trip to Vermont, early in my marriage. It has rolled out many pie crusts, and even more cookies. Cookies are important here.

 When First Daughter moved into her college apartment she complained about not liking the rolling pins available to her in the stores. I think she wanted mine, but that wasn't going to happen (mean mom). Eventually, I found Vermont Rolling Pins, and she got her rolling pin for Christmas. Her's is much wider and heavier than mine. Wouldn't want to get hit with it, or drop it on my foot!

I found this piece very hard to photograph. The woven plaid background did strange things to the picture, especially if I got any closer than this. I wonder if any of you have experienced this, and how you have dealt with it.

It's very cold and windy here today, so its a good day to sew. Stay warm, and have a fun weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Torii Gates

If you have come here from the website of my friend Mary Grace, Welcome! I hope you enjoy your visit. If you don't know Mary Grace, visit her at Hooked On Needles. She likes to try all sorts of needlework, and is very generous with sharing her knowledge.

Torii Gate

This piece from the last post is finished. It's a small quilt, only about 11 inches by 12.5 inches. It is called Torii Gate, because it reminds me of pictures of beautiful Japanese gates. I've never seen them in real life, but who knows? Maybe someday I will.

Here's a secret about this quilt. It was made from left-over strips of fabric that have been mashed into a drawer over the last 20+ years of quilting. The drawer can't even close anymore, so for the last year I have been trying to work from it. I haven't made a dent in the pile. I would show you a picture, but that would be even more embarrassing than telling you....

Another secret? This was supposed to be a test piece for something I want to do with some of my hand-dyed fabric. But, I think I like this more than the one I was planning. Maybe my dyed fabrics need to get more exciting.

Torii Gate, detail

This detail shot shows some of the quilting. I did it the same way I have been doing my free-motion stitched drawings for Creative Cue , going over the lines several times. The result is a heavier line than I usually use for machine quilting. It seems to give the drawing a stronger role in the quilt.

In place of a traditional binding, the edge was zigzagged, and then I applied an edging made of twisted yarns. I have been using this technique on some of my smaller quilts for several years now, especially when a regular binding looks too heavy. To do this, I first choose several coordinating yarns, and hunt down my spindle (that I use to spin bunny fur into yarn).

Then the yarns are twisted together.

When I get the right length, Weasley gives his approval. (Or, since he's a rabbit, his disapproval.)

In this case, I removed the yarn from the spindle, and let it double back on itself. The resulting yarn was stitched to the quilt using a tiny whip stitch that just caught one strand of the yarn. The stitches are not visible on the quilt, because the yarn puffs up to cover them. On some quilts I have used larger stitches, made with embroidery floss, that are visible, as a design element.

I encourage you to try this. If you don't have a spindle, tie your yarn ends to something solid, and start twisting. It's a fun look, and gives you another reason to grow your yarn stash!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stunning Weaving, And What's In My Machine

This morning we went in to Boston to see an exhibit of weavings by Chriztine Foltz. It was a beautiful show, with several large pieces woven on a special loom that she has to go to Canada to use. There are also smaller works, a woven floor screen with carved posts, and some unusual felted hats. If you are near the  New England Institite of Art in Brookline, stop in to see it. And if you do visit, look at the weaving close up, and then back off as much as you can. The weavings impact you in different ways from different positions.
A look at what is going on here. More about it soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's In My Back Yard and In My Chair

The word for Creative Cue this week is "track". My drawing shows some of the creatures that have been making tracks in my back yard recently. Probably some of them have been tracking the others. I have been following their tracks around, trying to see what they've been up to.

I made the initial drawing, copied it onto Solvy, and then stitched it free-motion style on my sewing machine. Can't you see this in an elementary school science text, maybe with some arrows showing which one is going to eat which other one?

Closer at hand, the resident wildlife spent the day in the old chair that Ginny is trying to eat, little by little. Weasley is in front.

When I started taking pictures, Ginny decided to check out what was going on.

Then, she gave me "the cold butt". That's the rabbit version of "the cold shoulder", with more disdain.

Guess she doesn't realize how lucky she is to be in here, instead of in the back yard with the coyote.

I'm going to go see what other people did for this Creative Cue. Hope you are making tracks towards something fun for the weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Bet Those Mountains Were Beautiful, If Only We Could Have Seen Them

Yesterday I returned First Daughter to school, for her last semester as an undergraduate. Despite the constant snow, it was just warm enough that the roads were only wet, and the visibility on the road was fine except for top of the hill in Gardner, Ma., and in the problematically named Florida, Ma. 

The usually spectacular views along Route 2 were pretty much invisible, however. We tried to take some pictures.

The Connecticut River was out there somewhere.

The Berkshires were out there somewhere.

North Adams was out there somewhere.

We found it eventually. And by the way, if you ever see this sign:

take the warning seriously. Unless your driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and are using this as your runway!

Now off to sew, at least until Second Daughter comes home from her half day of mid-terms....

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Isn't Snow, It's Cement!

Today's sewing time was spent shoveling. This stuff is nasty, 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, that has hardened into cement bricks overnight. I spent almost 2 hours, along with The Man of the House shoveling 3/4 of the drivewy. First Daughter helped with the rest of the driveway, and the paths to the front door, bird feeder, back door, oil fill pipe, and compost pile. Hard work, but at least it is pretty.

High Bush Cranberry (a.k.a. Maple Leaf Viburnum)

Our strange willow, sold under what I'm guessing was a made up name.

Two Dwarf Alberta Spruces, looking like ice cream treats.

Bird bath in front of  an old rose, climbing on a trellis.

I take First Daughter back to school tomorrow. The Berkshires should be absolutely gorgeous.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Good Dog

This week's Creative Cue was "heel". I used my sewing machine to do a free-motion sketch of my Dad, and his old dog Oreo. Oreo passed on not quite a year ago. He was a good dog, even if he did flunk obediance school.


This time, instead of tracing paper, I put my drawing on Solvy dissolvable stabilizer with a marker, and then layered it with fabric, and a heavier tear-away stabilizer. Then I free-motion stitched with black thread. It was nice not to be picking small bits of paper off the drawing with tweezers. Two things that I found to be an issue were:
  1. The Solvy was sort of stretchy, so I had to be careful not to pull and distort my image.
  2. It was hard to see my stitches, as they seemed to sink into the Solvy. I couldn't easily check the tension. In some places I had to go back and add more stitching after dissolving the stabilizer. This was because I discovered that I had only stitched those areas once, and I like the effect of a double or triple line of stitching.
Still, I would probably use the Solvy again, unless the drawing were a very intricate one that might be too easily distorted.

I hope you like this one, I am pleased with it. Can't wait to see what the next cue will be.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Get Out of the Car, and Regain Possession of the Computer

While I love having First Daughter home from college, it does mean additional work as "Taxi Mom". She was a premature baby, and while not legally blind, her vision is not good enough for a driver's license. Since Second Daughter doesn't have her license yet (and is back in school, anyway), I drive them both to their many activities. While I love the chance to have a captive audience, it's nice to have a morning off from driving.

First Daughter has spent alot of this vacation filling out grad school applications, all of which is done on the computer these days, and none of which is standardized. It also  requires that you repeatedly bug the people you asked for references to go to yet another website, find the proper forms, and submit your references themselves. (Note to any admissions staff: this is much more of an imposition than just a letter that they can make copies of, especially if they are not computer savy.)

Since her laptop's hard drive had recently suffered a meltdown (during finals week, with papers on it, but that's another story), she has hogged occupied the home computer. But, yesterday her new laptop arrived (yeah, Fed Ex guy!), and I can get on the family computer again!

Not everything I have been working on during my brief stints out of the car is camera ready yet, but I did photograph a checkbook cover that I made First Daughter to go with a handbag and notepad cover that I had made her for Christmas. Over the summer, she had joined me one day when I was painting fabric. I used this piece of painted canvas for the bottom portion of the bag.

This was made with the Desk Deli Lunch Tote Pattern, designed by Penny Sturges, and available from Quilts Illustrated. It is called a lunch tote, but she plans to use it as a regular bag. The made-to-go-with napkin is becoming a handkerchief (try not to think about it). This was an easy and fun pattern to use, as it lets you combine many different fabrics into one bag. If I were to make it for use as an actual lunch tote, I would probably try using Insul-Bright batting for temperature control.

With leftover scraps, I made her a notebook cover.

Then she requested a checkbook cover.

This pretty much uses up all her fabric, except one 3 inch square. Now what could we make with that....

This house has been feeling cold and drafty lately, so the rabbits have spent the last few days tucked up against the heater.

That is Weasley, the hedonist, with his backside up against the baseboard. Even Ginny cuddled up, but it's warmer today, and they are Up To Stuff. I'm off to remove Ginny from the old chair that she is eating, and stitch a binding onto that charity quilt. Or maybe take a walk while the sunshine lasts.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ginny in the Wild

Today we packed away Christmas, so the rabbits were let into the room with the tree. Weasley found a sunny spot and went to sleep, but Ginny had a good time exploring "the wild".  It must be wild, right? There is a tree!

If you are wondering why they didn't get to check it out earlier, there are several reasons. Although we don't use tinsel, many decorations are unhealthy if eaten. Rabbits are addicted to chewing electrical cords. Must like the buzz.... And in Ginny's case, there is another reason. This is a picture of our tree skirt, made around 1990. Look closely at the lower left.

Rabbits eat quilted tree skirts, also.

Now, off to enjoy some homemade turkey soup on this cold evening. Stay warm!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creative Cue: East

Last spring, I took a fabric painting and dyeing class with Sue Bleiweiss at the Danforth Museum. I really enjoyed it, learned alot, and continue to learn from her blog. Sue has another website with two other artists called Three Creative Studios. Recently they started a program where they give weekly topics to be used as drawing exercises (or painting, photography, etc.) They call it Creative Cues, and you can read about it here.

I didn't think that I would have time to participate in this, but when I saw that this week's cue is "East", I couldn't stop thinking about a photo I snapped last fall. It was of my parents and their friends, watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I would show you the photo, but maybe they don't want their PJ's on the internet.

I decided to make a free-motion stitched version of that photo. I put my drawing on tracing paper, which I layered over fabric and stabilizer. Then I stitched through all the layers. This is the result.

"East", 6" by 8", black thread on batiked cotton

Sorry about the darkness of the photo. I need to get better at that.  I like how this picture turned out, although I would probably simpify the ocean and sky if I were to do this again. Some other things I learned are:
1. My free-motion quilting needs to get smoother.
2. Not having a batting underneath, and having paper on top, really affects the tension of my machine. If I do more of this, I will have to do some testing to get this right.
3. Take a couple of vision restoring breaks on a complicated drawing.
4. Look for a disolvable stabilizer that can be drawn on to replace the tracing paper, as removing the paper tended to pull the stitches, especially on lines that were only stitched one time.
5. If using the tracing paper, put a tarp under the chair for catching all the paper bits during removal. Or sit in the bathtub (empty), and collect the paper bits that way. Of course, your family might think you are weird if you do this, but since mine needs no convincing....

This was alot of fun to do, and I will definitely be doing more free motion pictures.

You may have noticed that I added a profile picture. That is Ginny, who ordered me to gave permission for me to use this photo.
 Weasley was sleeping, as usual.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Art Disaster of the New Year, and a Name Change

     One reason for this blog is to prod myself into producing more, and better, artwork. I am hoping it will help me to FOCUS on my art goals, and ignore all the opportunities for procrastination. As a furthur prod, I decided to make FOCUS my Word-of-the-Year, ala Christine Kane. There was a small UFO from an on-line class that I didn't finish last year (lack of , you know...), which I thought could make a good sign to remind myself of this word. This piece already had a hummingbird zeroing in on a flower. I added the word FOCUS in red chain stitch, very slowly, because my hand stitching skills are rusty.
     Next, to FOCUS attention on the bird reaching the flower, I decided to add a gold leaf frame. I applied a frame of fusible web, carefully positioned the gold leaf, and ironed it on. Due to my past lack of FOCUS on this UFO, I completely forgot that at some point I had coated this piece with Gel Medium. Gel Medium, which acts as a what? That's right. Glue. The gold leaf stuck to the entire piece, not just the fusible. In desperation, I frantically scraped at the surface, but couldn't save it.

     I almost pitched this right in the trash, but decide to color in part of the bird and flower with marker, and hang it directly in front of my work space. Do you think it will help my FOCUS in the future? Or at the very least, keep me from making the same mistake again? Have you ever done something like this?

     You may have noticed that the profile name on this blog changed from Top Doe to Karen. This is because Ginny had a little talk with me, and let me know that I am Top Doe in my dreams only. Sometime I will tell you more about the power of rabbit disapproval, but for now lets just say, could you tell this face "No"?