Monday, May 21, 2012

Playing = Learning

 This little quilt above -- "Domestici-tea" is as far as I've gotten, and am going to get, on the piece I've been playing with.  It's been a fun adventure, and I've learned a lot.  I'll make another version incorporating what I've learned here.  Because I like the idea of things in a teacup, but there's just too much wrong with this.

First?  It needs to not be so static.  I was torn between cutting tidy shapes and cutting wonky shapes -- and now that I see this, I think it needs to be wonkier to convey the whimsy I want.

Same goes for colors.  I was just pulling impulsively, but this is a little to sweet.  So next try, a different palette.  I'll have to think about that scallop on the bottom edge.  I put it on, thinking it added to the domesticity subject -- but I think it adds to the overall sweetness, and not in a good way.

And see that black stitching?  I wanted it to look sketchy.  But I realize that even though I was trying to sew lose sketchy stitches, this is still too tight.  It needs to be more exaggerated to look sketchy and not just like crooked sewing.

And oh, that felt.  Forget that!  Look at how bubbly this texture is:

I have pressed the heck out of it, but it's still weird and puckery.

Oh well.  I've had fun and it has shown me what needs to be different.  Maybe I made all the mistakes on this one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It felt bumpy (ha ha)

On a whim this week, I started a new project.  Here's a glimpse of it, with wonky colors from the camera flash. 

But even while I'm having fun and liking certain aspects of it, something is going badly wrong.  Having just watched Deborah's video workshop in which she creates small collage quilts using acrylic felt instead of batting, I decided to give felt a try.  But, as often happens with my projects, it kept getting bigger.  It looks like it will be about 20 x 26, maybe.  And as I quilt, the whole thing is puckering up like crazy.  I've adjusted tension and pressed and pinned ... but I think it must be a function of the felt not having the same give as mostly-cotton batting.  So maybe as I stitch, the felt gives or stretches a tiny bit, but then it's still then it pulls back up?

I've had moments of thinking that I should stop. It's pretty bumpy and a bit puckery.  But then I decide to press again, and forge forward.  This isn't that big, and it's just for fun, and maybe when the stitching is even over the whole surface, it will at least look consistent.  Then I can press and it will end up looking like an old quilt that has had a bit of shrinkage for that quilty-bumpy look.  Perhaps I will just pretend it was intentional.

I'm already thinking I will remake this, using normal batting.  I like the imagery.  But I'm dismayed with the texture.  I'll be sticking to normal batting next time.

But have you quilted on acrylic felt?  Has anyone else encountered this problem? 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Contemporary Fabric Collage Video Workshop

Here's my friend Deborah Boschert.  (She's shown here at the Houston Quilt Festival last year, signing our Twelve by Twelve book.  Doesn't she have the best smile?)  I just love Deborah.  She's not just totally nice, and fun, and beautiful -- but she's got oodles of creativity and the talent of making it look so effortless.  When we do our Twelve by Twelve reveals, I always look forward to seeing what Deborah will do, because I know I will love it and learn from it.

Those clever folks at Quilting Arts apparently agree, because they have just released Deborah's video workshop, Contemporary Fabric Collage.

Because it's by Deborah, I was pretty sure it'd be excellent, and I was eager to download the digital edition and watch it.  (Oh, I forgot to tell you -- It comes in a DVD version and a digital download for instant gratification!) 

I was right. Deborah has reduced the layered collages she makes so well into an accessible formula, which she demonstrates with clarity in this workshop.  She talks about fabric choices, adding sheer elements, and embellishing with hand-embroidery.  As I was watching this, I found myself having to stop myself from reaching for fabric so I could play along as she went.  One of the best things about this, I think, is how Deborah shows how free-flowing and unstructured the construction can be.  Plus, I've been totally inspired to add some hand-embroidery to the piece I've got going now.

You can get a taste of the video in this excerpt from Quilting Arts.  But really, I highly recommend it.  Even if I didn't already know Deborah and her art, after seeing this, I'd want to!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scrappy Thoughts

I have a lot of fabric.  My closet is full of yards of  beautiful cotton fabric: charming prints of all colors, elegant batiks, lush hand-dyed fabrics.  I'm not shy about using it, either.  And yet, I seem to have this thing about scraps. I can't seem to throw them away.

Maybe it's the blessing/curse of the creative imagination: anything is fodder for a great creation.  We see the possibility in everything, so it can be hard to let things go.  I'm not one who saves every little bit -- I hear tell of folks who keep everything that's at least an inch square.  I have a hard enough time with the bigger pieces.  Last year, some friends and I decided to make "art parts" -- the description coined by Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston for the scrappy blocks they made for their collaborative quilts -- and at some point in the future we figure we'll pool our blocks and make three fun quilts.

So a few months ago, I pulled out my scraps, which I'd been stuffing randomly into a huge plastic bag.  Or two.  Or three.  And I spent a lovely afternoon sorting them by color, placed in even more separate plastic bags which are stored in a little rolling cart under my table so I can wheel them out and have instant access should the urge to sew scraps strike.

And you know? Having them all sorted HAS made me want to sew with them.  I've made all sorts of art parts, although I've found I run out of enthusiasm quickly when I'm not sewing with a specific project in mind.  And recently, I saw a scrap quilt in the beautiful book "Sunday Morning Quilts," and was inspired to pull out my white-background scraps and make my own variation.  It'll probably be a donation quilt, but considering that it has been a fast and simple quilt, I feel amazingly satisfied because I've used scraps.  I've just finished quilting it today, and I'm looking forward to sewing the binding on in front of the tv tonight.

I know I'll get to that fabric in the closet soon. But in the meantime, these scraps are calling to me.

What about you? Do you save your scraps?  Do you use them?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Judging the Judges

About a year ago, someone called me out of the blue and asked if I would be interested in judging a quilt show in my area.  I was pleased and flattered, but my first thought -- and then immediate answer -- was that I'd never judged a show and really didn't know anything about it.  I will cut a long series of events and phone calls short, but the upshot of the situation was that I hooked the show people up with a friend of mine who is a well-trained and very experienced quilt judge, and then she invited me to observe the judging with her and another experienced judge. 

As these things happen, that fascinating experience turned into other opportunities.  Curious, I asked those judges how one learns to be a quilt judge, and ended up signing on to help them resurrect a judging course that used to be offered on the west coast, but hasn't been available for years. 

Fast forward to now.  I've had the opportunity to shadow-judge numerous times, and I have found the process tremendously interesting.  I have been greatly encouraged to observe the complete respect, appreciation, and objectivity with which the judge's I've seen have approached the quilts they judge.  I'm also assisting Helen Powell, Jody Ohrt, and Dawn Licker, the judges behind the West Coast Quilt Judging Academy, as they prepare to offer their quilt judging certification course in October, 2012.  The course will be offered at Pacific International Quilt Festival, in Santa Clara, California, and should be an amazing opportunity to get instruction, tips, and lots of hands-on mock judging experience with knowledgeable quilt judges. 

I have to admit that I've had a lot of questions, and a little bit of ambivalence, as I've embarked on this new learning experience.  I mostly make art quilts, and we all know the rumors about (or have experienced) the "poor relation" status that art quilts get at some shows.  Almost every art quilter I know has a story about how some carefully thought out design aspect of an art quilt was remarked upon unfavorably by a traditionally-minded quilt judge applying traditional quilt "rules."  Still, I figure there's a need for quilt judges who know and respect art quilts, so that's the approach I've taken.

And, as I said, I've shadowed a number of different judges over the past year, and every one has impressed me with her genuine effort at not basing her decisions on subjective views, on really appreciating every quilt before her, and recognizing that art quilts need to be judged with a view to the artistic decisions of the maker.  It's been a humbling experience, as well, to see so many quilters put their work forward to be evaluated and shown.  I have to admit that, even with quilts I don't intend to show, what I've learned has made me slow down and take a bit more care with my own quilt process along the way. 

If you have any interest in entering any show, you might try to get involved in watching the judges.  Volunteer to hold quilts or be a scribe, so you can watch and listen to how the judging works.  I'm betting that you'll learn a lot and look at your own work in a new way.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Cheers to the Pine Tree Quilters

I have just had the pleasure of observing the judging of the quilts for the Pine Tree Quilt Guild quilt show in Nevada City, California. What a wonderful assortment of quilts of all kinds --with an impressively skillful set of art quilts. It will be a very good show! If you are in the Nevada City area on May 5 or 6 (this weekend), you should pop in!

Now I'm resting my tired feet, enjoying a glass of wine, and visiting with my aunt who just happens to live outside of Nevada City. All in all a delightful day.


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Driving by Number

Today is reveal day for us over at Twelve by Twelve.  For 2012, we are using 20x12 as our challenge size and the theme this time around was "map."

In making my piece, I found myself thinking about my experience with California freeways over my life, and so this is my response.  I had a great time making it.  You can read more about what inspired this quilt, and see the 11 other map-inspired pieces here.

Oh!  And I'm the featured artist over on the Dinner @ 8 blog!  You can read my interview here!