Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eucalyptus Road

One of the projects I worked on last week at the ranch retreat was this small abstract landscape.  I applied a layer of tulle over it, machine quilted it, and applied a facing finish.

So it SHOULD be finished...and yet I'm feeling that this needs something more.  I think what is bugging me is that the values are not quite right -- there needs to be some lighter light somewhere, maybe?  Maybe the judicious application of neocolor crayon or colored pencil?  I'm not sure, so it is sitting on my wall where I can comtemplate.

Any suggestions?  Why does this seem not-quite-right to me?  How would you fix this?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Something to make you smile

I am busy as a bee (well, I will be when I walk away from the computer) tidying my spaces and purging junk and otherwise trying to whittle down the STUFF that seems to surround us in this house.  So on this breezy Saturday, you can picture me rummaging through drawers with a big trash bag at my side.

But in case that doesn't cheer you, I thought I'd pass on this wonderful blog that always makes me smile:

That is Priceless, subtitled "Art's Greatest Masterpieces, Made Slightly Funnier." It's written by Steve Melcher, a Hollywood comedy writer, and he applies captions to great paintings ... and those captions are always spot-on funny.

Okay, back to my trash bag!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Return to Normal

I am back home after 4 days of delirious fun at the ranch retreat.  Pictured above is the main house at the ranch.  We used to sew there, but now there's a gorgeous new pavilion that can hold all of us, our machines, irons, lights and cutting tables, so we are there.   Some of the attendees still stay overnight in this gorgeous old building.

It is hard to describe the utter delight of a retreat with women you adore.  We chattered, sewed, laughed, showed-and-told, and ate delicious food.  There was much hilarity, many hugs, and I am already looking forward to October's retreat.

Each April, we do a challenge where someone chooses a fabric which the participants must incorporate in any way they like into a quilt.  This April's challenge involved two fabrics-- a black and white print, and a red tone on tone.  Here is my entry:

I used Susan Carlson's "Free Style Quilting" method to make this fellow and had a very good time.  The lettering, you might remember, wasn't the smoothest process but the result was okay.  And, remarkably, the resident artist at the ranch, the very very talented Lisa Thorpe, wanted this guy so we arranged for an artwork trade! 

Oh -- Hello to Elaine!  Elaine is a blog reader who attended the retreat for the first time and, I hope, will return for more fun in the future.  It was great to meet you!

Now -- off to unpack and make some sense of my sewing room...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Off Again

I promised you recently that I'd show you how far I got on my smaller piece in the workshop with Patty Hawkins.  Here it is so far -- needs some work, but I like it.

Now, I'm off for another fun time!  It's April, and that means I'm off to Bishop's Ranch for a fun, fabric and friend filled retreat for 4 whole days.  I've packed up a bunch of projects and I know I'll have a grand time.

Hope you have a fun week!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Simply A Mess

So I'm working on this challenge project -- can't show it here until the challenge is revealed on my retreat next week -- and I decided I wanted to add some words.  I thought about all of the different ways I could get them onto fabric, and then remembered a fabric spray paint I'd found while roaming the aisles at a craft store some time ago.  It says it's made to be used on fabric, preferably cotton, and that it works like airbrushing.

"Simply Spray," it's called.  I thought might be useful at some point, and yesterday I decided to give it a whirl.

I printed out the words on the computer, then made a stencil by cutting the letter shapes out of freezer paper.  I ironed the stencil firmly to the background fabric I was using.  And, following the directions of the spray, I tested a tiny bit first and it seemed like it would work fine.  I sprayed, waited for it to dry, and peeled away the stencil.  And here's what I got:

Aarrgh!  A total mess!  Look at how it bled!  It totally ruined the background fabric and made the lettering look like huge black blobs.  As far as I'm concerned, makes this product unusable UNLESS you want to just fill in a big area of color and don't need to worry about edges.  AARRGH!

Luckily, I'd bought the background fabric (which was perfect for my purposes) at the shop in town, so I hopped into the car and bought another piece.  And, while I was driving and seething, I realized I could just apply wonder-under to the mess and cut out the letters.

So, that's what I did, which led to this:

When I was cutting the stencil out of freezer paper, it had crossed my mind that I could just be cutting the individual letters out of wonder-undered black fabric, instead of using stencils and paint.  But the stencil and paint idea seemed so much better! And then I had to cut them individually anyway.

The good news is that I was able to rescue the project and get it to be where I wanted it with only a few hours' extra work.

But I chucked that "Simply Spray" into the trash and won't be buying THAT again.

Consider yourself warned!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Patty Hawkins

I have just finished a three-day workshop with master quilt artist Patty Hawkins.  What a wonderful, wonderful experience it was!  I am tired but energized and I really learned a lot.  If you don't know Patty, go check out her work on her website.  She makes the most gorgeous abstracted landscapes, and is most well known for her aspen scenes.  I can now verify that she is just the loveliest woman -- an excellent and encouraging teacher, too.  I was repeatedly struck at how clearly she gave feedback, but with constant positivity and generosity.  (Here is Patty with my friend Diana in the background.)

She had some wonderful exercises to help us with abstractions, one of which was to compose a mock-up of our chosen image using 5 values of ugly colors of construction paper.  We were to focus on value and shape, not color ... and using that paper was very freeing because had we been working in fabric, we would have been so distracted by the fabric color and pattern.  Here are some of the results:

(You can see mine on the top right, next to the waterfall one -- it was a scene of Eucalyptus trees and a curving road.)

Then we moved on to making smaller pieces in fabric, working in part from our value studies.  I was having such a good time that I didn't take many pictures, and totally forgot to take a picture of my own!  So here is my friend Marion's, which was turning out beautifully...

I came away with a small piece ready to be quilted, and a larger piece started.  I never used my "ruby beholder" and my reducing glass so much!

So, it was a very fun time.  I've yet to unload the car, but I'll take pictures of my results when I get them inside.  Now it's catch up time for laundry and household chores, not to mention tidying my studio from the mess I made when I was pulling stuff out to take to the workshop.

I just can't recommend Patty enough as a teacher.  If you ever get the chance to take a class, DO it.  Just meeting her and spending time with her and her sweet, generous, and funny person is worth the price of admission.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Too Much, All the Time

Many of you know that my daughter has Asperger's Syndrome.  This was diagnosed when she was about 10 years old, and although we've had some years to learn and understand how this affects her, we are always seeking ways to understand how she experiences the world and how we can help her learn to negotiate the world in a way that is comfortable for her.  We know that Miss C has some extreme sensitivities -- super-sensitive hearing, so that someone grating a fork against a plate in a restaurant will make her jump, or the high pitched, dog-whistle like ping of fluorescent lights will make a setting unbearable; high sensitivity to smells, so that eating in a cafeteria and smelling everyone's lunch smells mixed together could make her gag; extreme reactions to light flashes, so that someone taking flash pictures across the room in a restaurant can bring on a migraine... It's got to make the world a pretty unfriendly place at times.  When Miss C was younger (and we didn't know better), we thought that she was being sulky or rude or just tantrumy about being somewhere she didn't want to be.  Now we understand that certain settings -- which might seem perfectly lovely and tolerable to everyone else -- can be extremely overwhelming and/or downright painful for her.

You may well know someone who is on the autistic spectrum, and chances are they experience the world with some of those sorts of sensory sensitivities.  This short video provides an interesting example of what sensory overload feels like to someone on the autistic spectrum.

 Now, when I see a kid acting tantrum-y in a store (knowing, now, how malls with all of their smells and lights and sounds and echoy noises, are torture for Miss C) I think that maybe the child is just overwhelmed and can't cope.

It makes you wonder how you would cope if you had to experience the world this way, doesn't it?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Saying Goodbye and Letting Go

We are having a family excursion, mainly to come to Southern California to attend a memorial service honoring my mother-in-law Beverly who died in February.  Her passing was sudden, although not unexpected, and we have all found great comfort in knowing that she went exactly as she wanted to -- very quickly, with no pain.  What more can one ask, really?

So.  We headed south from our home and stopped about half-way, in San Luis Obispo.  We stayed at an amazing and famous old hotel called The Madonna Inn.  It's built in an over-the-top victorian style, and until recently the whole building was painted a vivid pink, with tons of white gingerbread trim.  We were surprised to find that it is all white now, looking a touch more sedate than it used to.  Each room has its own theme --we stayed in the China Flower room, which was decorated with a lot of (shall we say, tacky?) asian furniture and the walls and ceilings were painted gold.  The heart of the place is its restaurant featuring steaks.  The whole place was vivid, vivid, pink.  Pink floral patterned carpets.  Lush banquette seating upholstered in pepto-bismal pink naugahyde.  Fake flowers and sparkly lights everywhere.  A lot of pink food, in fact.  We were fascinated by their Madonna Cake (which we couldn't bring ourselves to eat but boy, was it PINK) -- white cake with pink tinted bavarian cream inside, we were told.  The restaurant was also full of old photographs from the place's hey-day-- John Wayne was apparently a business partner with the Madonna owner in the cattle business (hence the steak house, I guess) so his face was evident in lots of pictures.  If you are passing along highway 101 in California and want a kitschy but fun stop, this is THE place.

So, now we are with Roger's siblings and going through those mixed emotions of dealing with my mother in law's house and belongings.  Much laughter as old photos are found and stories are told, and of course tears as she is missed.  I am hearing stories that I've never heard about her.  This makes me think that we should have life celebrations for our loved ones while they are alive and can join in --- I've learned so many things about Beverly this week that I wish I'd known and could have talked to her about.

In the midst of this sad time, we are entertained by our new niece Buitumelo (from South Africa, you might recall).  She is thriving and growing and her english is highly entertaining.  She's quite insistent on shaking your hand and whispering "Pleased to meet you" each time you enter the room.  Buitumelo came into the family just after a nephew died suddenly, and her presence at Christmas boosted everyone over what could have been a very hard holiday.  Once again, her being here has given all of us a reason to laugh and chase balls around the backyard.  You should of seen all of us run outside when we heard the tinkling music of the ice cream truck approaching up the street!

There is a definite strangeness to sorting through someone's belongings after they are gone.  It makes me wonder what someone would think looking through my closets and drawers.

I think I'd better do some cleaning when I get home.