Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stamping with Rayna

I joined a workshop in one of my yahoo groups (A.R.T.) based on Rayna Gillman’s book, Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth.

For the first lesson, we’re stamping with household items. I didn’t branch out as much as I could have—I wanted to cut up a pool noodle and stamp with that, look for some interesting textured items around the house to stamp with, and find or make some stencils, but I just haven’t had the energy. I have quite a few hand-carved and hand-made stamps, so most of these pieces were stamped with those.

This piece was stamped with opaque fabric paint and pieces of Styrofoam plates that I cut up and drew into with a stylus:


This is a piece of painted fabric, stamped with a leaf pattern carved into a rubber eraser:


Here’s a piece of painted fabric stamped with a kid’s foam beads glued to a wood base:


This one is painted fabric, stamped with strips of plumber’s gasket glued to a wood base (ok, I’ll admit I cheated with this one; I actually created it a while back, but I think it’s a good example of interesting effects with very simple stamps):


Here’s a technique I learned in Lyric Kinard’s Playing with Paint class at QU; the “stamp” is a pear, cut in half and dried on paper towels, then coated with fabric paint:


And finally, this fabric-painted piece was stamped with a store-bought swirl stamp, then stamped with that rubbery grid-like shelf liner material. I added some hand-painted accents both over and around the stamping. I really like this piece:


Now, as always, I need to figure out what to do with these pieces of fabric, other than just folding them up and stuffing them into a drawer. I’m thinking I should start working with a pre-defined color scheme for projects like this, so at least everything coordinates and can be used together in a larger piece.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekly Square #18

This is my 6x6” weekly journal square for this week. You may be (but probably aren’t) wondering what happened to last week’s square, #17. Well, my 30th high-school reunion was last Saturday night, and I was waiting to get the picture disc I ordered from the photographer (hurray, digital images!) since I want to incorporate at least one into last week’s square. The disc came in the mail today, so now I’ll circle back and work on that one.

Influences for this week’s square include: techniques from my new favorite book, Stitching to Dye; the beautiful yellow bells that are in bloom in the front yard; and the heat wave (highs around 103-104; LOWS in the upper 70s) that’s going to quickly fry everything.


This is dyed (blue, green, and magenta) habotai silk on wool felt, with silk velvet "flowers" stitched on top. The whole piece was then re-dyed in lemon yellow.

The “binding” on this week’s square is something a little different; I cut the selvedge edge from a piece of sheer fabric and fused it to the front, then turned it and fused it to the back.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I’m Still Here . . .

sort of. I haven’t felt very well since my surgery. I had my follow-up appt. with the surgeon yesterday, and he said he wouldn’t have expected that I would be chipper and feeling well at this point. He’s revised his recovery time from 6 to 8 weeks, since this is what he calls a “re-do” (the 2nd surgery for the same issue). Plus, I’m fairly sure that the surgery kicked off another bout of pancreatitis, which the surgeon had said was likely. ANYWAY, enough of this boring stuff.

I have been hand-quilting my Garden Path quilt since I was in the hospital three weeks ago. I actually started this quilt almost exactly two years ago; I was writing in my 10-year journal the other day and noticed an entry from two years ago where I had written about completing the quilt top.

And now, I’ve finished it! Garden Path is 42”h x 26”w and is machine-pieced, raw-edge appliquéd, and hand quilted. Here are the results:


And a close-up:


The center of this quilt was originally a "convergence"-style quilt (from Ricky Tims' book, Convergence Quilts). I cut the plants and butterflies out of batik fabric and machine-appliqued them over the center panel, then added the borders.

I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I finish something like this. Otoh, I’m temporarily project-less and I don’t have the energy to start something new. I’m sure if I look around, though, I’ll find plenty of WIPs from the last couple of years that I can work on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weekly Square #16

Hurray! This square catches me up through last week (6/7-6/13), so technically I’m caught up with my weekly journal squares, since the current week isn’t over yet.

Would you believe this is an image transfer onto cotton batting of this painting I did a while back? I added some embroidered embellishment and a little color here and there with Prismacolor pencils.

Influences for this week’s square include: (too much?) time to think, especially about the future, while I’m lying in bed watching dreadful television: where am I going? what will it look like? How do I find (create?) the right doorway to my future?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekly Square #15

I'm not working on much these days other than the hand-quilting I started while in the hospital. I am trying to get caught up on weekly journal squares, though. Somehow it seems appropriate that I make these as close to the "moment" as possible, even if they don't turn out well. These journal squares are supposed to represent the actual weeks of this year, so if I can't concentrate, or don't have the energy to do good work, that's as much a part of my life as the weeks when I'm able to take more care with the journal square.

Here is my weekly journal square for the first week of June—the week I had surgery and was in the hospital. This piece started with some complex cloth I created a long time ago, using various dyes, over-dyes, and flour-paste resist.

  • I ripped the fabric in half, then laid the 2 halves on batting.
  • I ran a line of red Shiva Painstik down the tear, then used black embroidery thread to sew the Xs.
  • I added the backing, then hand-quilted various areas of the piece.
  • I finished the square with a whip-stitched binding, using embroidery thread.

Influences for this square are, I guess, fairly obvious, but strangely complex: surgery, stitches, pain, sleep, strange dreams, boredom, anxiety.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weekly Square #14

I’ve fallen a little behind with my weekly journal squares. I wanted to finish this one before I went to the hospital, but I didn’t have time. I’m so bored with “bed rest” and daytime television that I decided to at least make an attempt to finish it up this morning, and hurray! success!

This square was for the week of May 24-30. It was influenced by the Stitching to Dye and Inspired to Quilt books that I was working with; by my sweetie’s garden, and those lovely green shoots pushing up through the dirt; and by the clear, open blue skies of early summer that felt like freedom before heading to Houston for my hospital stay.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book Review: Digital Essentials

I love taking digital photographs and using them in my work. OTOH, I don’t like all the technical “stuff” I need to know about working with digital images, and I usually have no idea what I’m doing with them. I would just as soon NOT know what a pixel is, or what dpi or ppi means, or what resolution to save my images at. I try not to think about compression or whether jpg or tiff is better. And the last think I want to spend my limited memory cells on is the best resolution to set for printing or scanning images.

But alas, digital images and files are becoming more and more important in our technological world, and I know that I have to better understand them in order to get the best possible quality out of my photos.

So I’m really glad that I have Gloria Hansen’s book, Digital Essentials: The Quilt Maker’s Must-Have Guide to Images, Files, and More. Not only is Gloria Hansen a talented quilter and artist, she’s digitally-literate and an excellent writer. Hansen’s book is well-written and edited, and the layout is really nice. She provides step-by-step directions, screenshots, and high-quality images to illustrate the information, and good formatting makes the information easy to understand. In general, the overall look and feel of this book is high-quality.

This book is crammed with over 200 pages of valuable information about all things digital. Hanson could have easily divided this into at least two, and maybe three books. Since so many of us have limited book-buying budgets these days, I really appreciate that this book is such a great value. (Btw, it really isn’t surprising that Hansen’s book is so generous with information; she’s on a couple of mailing lists I belong to, and she’s tremendously generous with information in those forums, as well).

But the best thing about the book is the answers it provides to questions that come up over and over again for me about digital files, images, and software. Here are just a few:

  • Should I save my pics as jpg files? tiff files? gif files? What’s the difference?
  • What is a megapixel, and how do the number of pixels relate to the size of an image?
  • What is resolution, and how do I know what resolution to use when saving pics, or scanning or printing images?
  • What is the difference between dye-based and pigment-based inks (a particularly hot topic with fiber artists who use printed images in their work)?
  • How do I resize images?
  • How do I work with layers and other features in image software? (Hansen provides information for working with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, AND Paint Shop Pro, three of the most popular applications.)
  • What does it mean—and why should I care—that the printer I’m considering buying says it will print “4800 x 1200 optimized dpi color”?

Plus, this books provides answers to questions I didn’t even KNOW to ask. Who knew, for example, that if your printed images don’t match what you see on your screen, you might need to calibrate your monitor? I do now! Hansen’s book has an entire section on color management.

I could go on and on about everything I’m learning from this book, but as I mentioned, it is over 200 pages. Instead, I’ll just point out a couple of chapters that might be of particular interest to quilters (or to artists in general): Chapter 11, Removing a Quilt From Its Background, and Chapter 12, Preparing Images for Digital Show Entry. As digital images become more accepted (and even required) for entering work into competitions, some of us (me) are really going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to create high-quality images for submission. With this book, I no longer need to fear submission guidelines that require digital images. And, because I do love incorporating digital images into my work, I think increased confidence from actually knowing what I’m doing with these images will make that even more enjoyable.

This is one book that’s going to get a workout for years to come, and I would suggest that anyone who works with digital images or files—or who wants to start working with them—make this book a part of your reference library. Even though Digital Essentials is not available from Amazon, you can read more reviews about it here. You can purchase Digital Essentials directly from Gloria Hansen’s web site at

Monday, June 8, 2009

Home Again, Home Again

And wow, does being away from home for a week deepen my gratitude for my home, my family, my precious pups, and even my messy “stuff.”

The surgery apparently went well, meaning that the surgeon accomplished what he intended to: creating a drainage path for my pancreas so that the fluid would no longer back up. He did say that I have some extensive pancreatic damage, and that I’ll likely live with chronic pancreatitis.

At one time that would probably have been devastating news, but it’s amazing to me how adaptable we humans can be. After the past year, I can honestly say that things could be so much worse. As long as I have weeks, or days—even hours, sometimes—at a stretch when I feel well enough to do work that nourishes my spirit, to spend time with the people I love, or to sit on the back patio listening to birds sing, I can manage the rest.

For now, I’m doing a little hand-quilting, watching some really awful but occasionally amusing reality TV, keeping up with the news (why do they insist on focusing on the same 3 or 4 stories over and over again? Isn’t there so much more they could be telling us about what’s going on in the world?), and taking lots of naps. A little twittering, some email, and blog-hopping fill in the gaps.

So . . . no new pics, projects, or tutorials to share with you for now, but hopefully those will be back soon.

I just hope my next project doesn’t end up looking like Jon and Kate or America’s Next Top Model :-)