Monday, January 25, 2010

Rat Killin’

My sweetie’s grandfather usually responds, when asked what he’s up to, “oh, just rat killin’.”
I take that to mean a little of this, a little of that—all those things you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t found the time for.
So this was a rat killin’ kind of weekend. I
  • straightened out and organized a drawer full of hand-dyed fabric;
  • ran across some reverse appliqué squares I made forever ago and decided to stitch them together;
  • screenprinted Softscrub w/bleach onto some ugly fabric, and paint onto some other ugly fabric;
  • played with Neocolor water-soluble crayons; and
  • created a felted piece based on an article in a recent issue of Quilting Arts.
The felted piece was SO much fun. I used a fabric base, then machine-felted onto it wool roving, silk roving, yarns, and Angelina fibers. I stamped acrylics onto the felted piece and onto unbleached cotton, then sewed torn strips of the cotton, along with pieces of painted cheesecloth, to the felted base. I stitched on the green squares (more hand-painted fabric that’s been in my stash for forever), made some little “flowers” out of silk rods and cocoons, and then added some hand-stitching with dyed perle cotton. Here is the result:
And here’s a close-up:
I love the way this piece turned out, and it was great to use both my felting machine and some of those materials I’ve been collecting along the way. I definitely think I’ll be making more of these.

Here is a pic of one of the Neocolor water-soluble crayon pieces. This was a technique that I’ve been wanting to try for a while—applying the crayons to a screen, then screening them onto fabric with a transparent medium. I bought some transparent silkscreen medium a while back specifically for this technique, but when the time came I couldn’t find it.

On top of that, I ironed my freezer paper stencil to the wrong side of the screen (the inside, instead of the outside). DOH! Consequently, the results weren’t so good (ok, they’re downright hideous):


The good news is that I managed to fix this piece quite a bit by going back over it with the Neocolor crayons, a spray bottle of water, and a stencil brush. The end result:


Much nicer, don’t you think? I love the sort of ethereal quality of the background that came about because of the weird screening medium I used--a combination of textile and gel mediums.

All in all, it was a pretty fulfilling weekend! I'll save pics of the other projects for another time, when the projects are further along. In the meantime, I think I'm going to quilt up that little pear piece!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wholecloth Painting

This is the year I’ve promised myself that I’ll start putting all those wonderful techniques I’ve been learning and reading about into practice. One of those techniques comes from an interesting book called Bold and Beautiful: Artful Quilts from Just One Fabric by Judi Dains. The basic idea is that you draw images (in her case, flowers and leaves) onto fabric (typically, hand-dyed or batik); you then stitch the images with thread and color them with paint. Click the link above and take a look at the cover of the book if you’re interested in an example of the “artful quilts” Dains creates this way.

It’s a technique I’ve wanted to try to for a while, but I didn’t quite trust myself to draw the images from scratch. I ran across a sort of “cheater” fabric in Salado that was on sale for 1/2 price. Not only is it lovely in its own right, but I knew right away I could start with this and just fill in a little for my flowers & leaves:


So, that’s what I did. I started with a very small test piece (my weekly 6x6” journal square), drew in some details on the fabric, then thread-sketched them in with heavy black thread. Then, because I wanted to make sure the fabric paint covered up the green, I undercoated the images with white:


Once the white was dry, I added color. I decided to go with Tsukineko inks rather than paints, since they’re so easy to apply. I also added in some fabric markers here and there. Here is the piece with color added:


Then, onto the thread-painting. I used variegated rayon threads for this phase. I had already made a quilt sandwich with thin cotton batting and backing fabric, but the inks bled through to the back, and tension problems left the back looking not-so-nice. Plus, all the thread sketching had flattened the piece a lot. So I re-sandwiched with more batting and new backing fabric, and this time I left a wide border that I could roll into a self-binding. Here is the finished result:


This was a fun technique, but I’m not as thrilled with the results as I thought I would be. I may have missed something in the process by starting with the floral fabric. Rather than transforming colored hand-dyed fabric into a floral art quilt, I transformed floral fabric. Not quite so satisfying, I think.

At any rate, I probably will try this again on a larger piece of fabric; I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll use the same lovely green floral fabric, or whether I’ll throw caution to the wind and try my hand at my own floral images on some hand-dyed fabric.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quilts for Kids

Well, A quilt for A kid:



If you don’t know about Quilts for Kids, check it out here:

There are a lot of quilting groups and organizations that get together and make quilts for Quilts for Kids, but you can also make them on your own. Either use your own fabric, or contact the organization (click the “Volunteer” button on the site) and they will send you the fabric and instructions for creating a child-sized quilt.

I’m trying to get my employer to add Quilts for Kids to the list of organizations eligible for matching donations and volunteer hours. My company encourages us to donate 10 volunteer hours a year to a non-profit group, so I’m half-way there, since it took about 5 hours to make this quilt.

And, if I can get 9 of my fellow employees (there are about 45,000 of us) to agree to donate their hours (or $100) to Quilts for Kids, the company will match my volunteer hours with a cash donation.

I considered volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, since I think it would be least interesting to build a house for a day or two. Once I found out, though, that I could QUILT for 10 hours instead, there was no turning back. Who knew that volunteering could be so much fun?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FFFC #40: Milk—It Does a Quilter Good

December’s Fast Friday Fabric Challenge was really fun. The idea was to use product packaging, particularly the colors of the packaging, to influence a still-life-format quilt with a plant theme.

I knew right away that I wanted to use this milk carton, since I love the colors. It makes me happy every time I pull it out of the refrigerator (maybe that’s why I drink so much milk?):


The red, white, and blue colors were easy to work in, but I wasn’t sure how to work in the white & black of the cow “print.” Eventually, I decided I liked the idea of a bowl of ice cream (with fudge sauce, of course) to tie in to both the cow colors and the milk connection to the packaging. Anyway, here is the result:

I like the finished result, but my vertical and horizontal lines are off somewhat, I guess because of the stitching; I definitely learned something about when to use extra stabilizer. I may go back and do some quilting to the piece, especially on the red “tablecloth.”

I really love the challenges in the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge group and I’ve had fun with every one of the challenges so far. Take a look at some of the other members’ results; they are really creative!

A Series of . . .

Coincidences? or Signs? I’m always a little wigged out when something like this happens; maybe it’s just my human brain trying to impose some order and meaning onto chaos, but you never know . . .

The other day, I was Googling “CitraSolv,” a natural solvent used in craft projects. I’ve been looking for CitraSolv all over the place, especially since the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors (or was it Quilting Arts?) featured an article on using CitraSolv to make background papers out of magazines. In the search results, I noticed a medical article featuring both “CitraSolv” and pancreatitis. Now, as many of you know, I experienced a bout of near-fatal pancreatitis in 2008 that kept me in the hospital for several months, and I continue to struggle with chronic pancreatitis. So of course, I had to read the article (or at least attempt to read it; medical articles are something like what I imagine it feels like to be dropped into the middle of a crowded, foreign bazaar where nobody speaks your language but everyone else seems to understand each other).

It turns out that CitraSolv was used during the course of an experiment to prepare samples. What caught my attention, though, was that the study was related to the use of anti-inflammatories (celecoxib, best know under the trade name Celebrex) to slow or inhibit the conversion in mice of pancreatitis to pancreatic cancer (a common problem with pancreatitis, and one that lurks in the back of my mind continuously). It seems that anti-inflammatories like Celebrex can almost completely stop this conversion in mice. Unfortunately, Celebrex and other celecoxib drugs can also cause heart problems, so you’re likely trading one health problem for another if you take it for pancreatitis.

The next morning, my sweetie and I went to lunch at Monument Cafe in Georgetown, one of our favorite restaurants. We were making a grocery list of healthy and low-cal, low-fat foods, and we started talking to our server. She mentioned that she uses Agave instead of sugar, and raved about the merits of this natural sweetener, which is made from the Agave cactus, the same plant used to make tequila. She mentioned that Agave is safe for diabetics because it has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners, and that it’s thought to be a natural anti-inflammatory.

That tiny light bulb we all know so well flickered on in my brain; if anti-inflammatories could be helpful in the treatment of pancreatitis, and especially helpful for stopping pancreatitis from converting to pancreatic cancer, and if I couldn’t take anti-inflammatory drugs because of their detrimental effects on the heart, what about natural anti-inflammatories, I wondered?

I came home and did some research on natural anti-inflammatories, and found some very interesting information. Apparently, inflammation of the body can be a huge health problem. As I understand it, inflammation occurs as a natural healing response to trauma, infection, or allergies. You know how, when you cut your finger, it gets all hot and swollen and sore? That’s inflammation. It’s your body’s way of healing the cut. This is occurring on the inside of your body, too. Our bodies attempt to heal the damage we inflict on them, and that causes internal inflammation of various cells, organs. Chronic inflammation occurs when this healing reaction spins out of control. All of this is somewhat of an oversimplification, but I won’t bore you with the details. An excellent site for information about inflammation—what it is, its causes--and what you can do about it, is Women to Women.

In addition to the medical article about the effects of anti-inflammatories on pancreatitis, I ran across other interesting information that bears out the theory that my body may be chronically inflamed; fibrocystic breast disease is also thought to be related to inflammation (a few years ago I had to have a breast lump biopsied; it turns out I have “fibrocystic breasts”). Rosacea, a skin condition I’ve dealt with for years, is also thought to be a symptom of chronic inflammation. Women to Women has quite a bit of information about other symptoms of chronic inflammation or conditions related to it; a few of them are

  • acid reflux/heartburn
  • acne
  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • cancer
  • chronic pain
  • dementia
  • dermatitis
  • diabetes
  • edema
  • emphysema
  • eczema
  • fibromyalgia
  • high blood pressure
  • insulin resistance
  • joint pain/arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
  • obesity
  • systemic candidiasis
  • tendonitis
  • vaginitis

Anti-inflammatory drugs can cause all kinds of problems because of the way they work; for example, turning off the inflammatory response can negatively affect your digestive tract (think about the effects of too much aspirin, an anti-inflammatory, on your stomach). There are, however, a number of natural anti-inflammatories that I can incorporate into my diet:

  • Multi-vitamins, and especially vitamins D, C, E, and B12 (which my doctor insists on and tests for every few months);
  • fish oil (mercury-free Omega 3s) and olive oil
  • probiotics (yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.) that maintain a healthy digestive tract
  • herbs and foods such as turmeric, oregano, garlic, green tea, blueberries, and ginger
  • and, just like Mama always said, lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition, experts recommend that you eliminate processed foods and white sugar from your diet, and avoid trans-fat at all costs.

I’m going to have to continue to play around with my diet, since an overabundance of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains can cause problems for those of us with pancreatitis, but I’m optimistic that I may be able to incorporate enough healthy anti-inflammatory foods & supplements (as well as anti-inflammatory behaviors, such as stress reduction and exercise) into my lifestyle to at least significantly lower the chances of developing pancreatic cancer.

None of these ideas about the healthy benefits of vitamins, natural foods, herbs, exercise, etc. is new to me. It’s all information I’ve run across in the past and knew that I should be paying attention to in order to be healthier. But I think it makes a difference to me when I understand the why behind the what, and can visualize how anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories like vitamins C & E, for example, might be staving off those little cancer cells.

Oh, and the agave? Well, there are mixed reviews. There is some question as to whether it’s really safe for diabetics; some studies show that agave produces a much lower glycemic index if used between meals, but a much higher index if eaten following a meal. More importantly for me, It turns out that agave is metabolized in the liver, just like its cousin, tequila. For most people, this isn’t much of a problem. Since I have to stay away from alcohol because my liver is most likely compromised, I think I’ll skip the agave.

And the CitraSolv? Well, I never did find it. The CitraSolv site says it’s carried at HEB, including the one by my house where I do most of my shopping, but it was nowhere to be found. Maybe I should Google it . . .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Eye of the Turtle

This month I’m a super-straggler in the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge group. Those darned Christmas stockings threw me behind :-)

November’s challenge theme was getting REALLY close-up and personal (microscopic, even) with the subject, and the technique was fabric painting. I started with a photo of a turtle I took at the Galveston aquarium, zoomed way in on the turtle’s eye, and painted it on fabric.



Then, I machine-quilted the piece like crazy. I lost the 3-d effect of the eye in the transition from the photo to the piece, and I don’t know that it’s recognizable as an eye, but I had a lot of fun doing it. Here is the finished piece:


Now, on to December’s challenge!