Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

It's off to work I will soon go...yesterday I accepted a half-time teaching job nearby! I worked at the same school full time last spring, and really liked the school, kids, teachers, and staff. I will be teaching either fourth or fifth grade, probably doing math and reading instruction. Last year I saved all my teaching money and used it to renovate and upgrade our kitchen and the floors downstairs. This year I will be using the extra money to pay bills. I feel very blessed to get this job. I hope I will still have some energy to do some Quilty Things since it is only a half-time job. My preference would have been to work mornings, or work a couple days a week. Unfortunately, this job will be every afternoon. So, if I am to get anything done, I will have to put an end to my morning lolly-gagging habits! I am very good at lollying! Anyway, I don't know when the job will begin, but it will probably be within a couple of weeks.

Once again I find myself participating in an intensive online workshop right at the same time I return to work. Last year, it was the Think Like an Artist class with Pamela Allen. This year, it is another Pamela Allen class called Still Life is Boring-Not! Many of us from the first class have "re-upped" for this one. I did my first homework yesterday...another black and white still life. This one is supposed to represent one of our favorite family with the fondue pot. When I got married in 1971, the fondue pot was a popular gift. We received three! The only one that was any good was one from Europe that we received from a family friend serving in the Army in Germany. We are still using this one. Mostly we fondue chicken, shrimp, and hot dogs in peanut oil, and then dip the cooked meat in barbecue sauce. Slow but savory eating!

The above piece is just glue-sticked down to batting, awaiting comments and "tweaking" from Teacher.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know that I am a big Pamela Allen fan. In the last workshop, we also started with a black-and-white still life. Here is my finished piece from that first class.

Each piece of fabric is cut with scissors with no pattern, and then hand-stitched to the batting with embroidery floss. Then, you go wild with machine quilting. It does not show up on the front, but check out the back:All this is on a quilt about 8" x 10", quilted on my Gammill Longarm, of course!

While I was watching Pamela's Think Like an Artist DVD in the mountains, I decided to get out my sketchbook and doodle many of the images she used on her quilts. It ended up being a little landscape that I call "Pamela-La Land."

The other day I had a doctor's appointment in Raleigh, and decided to go to the North Carolina Museum of Art to psych myself up for the still life workshop. The museum is practically across the street from my doctor's office. I ended up browsing for two hours, immersing myself in art. Highly recommended! Unfortunately, the entire American art collection is currently closed, perhaps because they are preparing it to move into the new building. Still saw lots of inspiration!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Purple Purse

Here is a fancy purse that I made using directions from the Needle-Felting Magic book by Margo Duke.
Hers was green and blue. I used purples and blue-greens because I happened to have three yards of hand-dyed silk ribbon in those shades to use as embellishment. You can see the ribbon going diagonally down the purse, and also used to make ribbon rosettes.

This one has a muslin base, to which I needle-punched fabrics in my color combination. All the raw edges then have yarn or roving needle-felted down. Then the fun of adding yarn pinwheels and other embellishments.

Then you have to do some machine-quilting, which I did in a shiny magenta rayon thread, with lots of swirls and floral motifs. After that, some beading and some larger ribbon flowers were done by hand.

Like every purse and bag pattern I have tried, I had some problems with these instructions. Namely: how to put in the magnetic snap. The snap package says "See pattern directions." The pattern directions were not specific enough for me. Which way are you supposed to bend the prongs? In toward the snap, or out? And are you supposed to put in the bracket-looking metal piece that came with it? I didn't.

This bag has a bright pink swirly cotton lining and a purple pocket in three sections. One is large enough for my cell phone.

I really enjoyed making this purse and will probably make another. Next time I will know not to bead and embellish all the way to the edge of the base fabric, because when you cut out the purse pattern, some of the extra stuff is too close to the bottom or seam. And I would move the snap up higher because it is right above the pocket.

I'm also not too sure about all that extra roving hanging from the edge of the strap. Should I whack it off?

I will probably keep this purse for myself, since I have several purple items in my wardrobe, but will probably make some more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Valentine Fabric Postcards

I have been busy making more fabric postcards. All of these were begun on my Babylock Embellishing Machine.
I think this is my favorite of all the fabric postcards I have ever made. I achieved the colors and layering effects that I was hoping for. It started out with a hot pink felt backing, to which I punched down strips of cotton fabric, silk, roving, and some striped ribbon. To that layer, I added silk and wool roving and a little Angelina. I covered all that with some of the same rainbow organza from the Trash to Treasure project. I stamped some flowers with blue and blue-green paint. Then, out with the heat gun to make some of the organza disappear and reveal some of the hidden layers.
Then I did some free-motion quilting to Peltex with black thread to add images of flowers and hearts. The edging is a combination of blue and red rayon threads.

The back is painted watercolor paper. This one is not for sale...I have a special artistic someone in mind who I think would like this.

Joy, 2009

The next one also has a layered look with a bit of dimension. Well, this one has a little bit of everything...beading, hand embroidery, sparkly yarn on the edging...I call it Love is Glorious.

Love is Glorious, 2009

The next one has a sort of artsy look to it. Silk and cotton fabrics were cut in heart and flower motifs, needle-punched to a cheerful orange/peach/pink print cotton, and then machine-quilted in black thread. My favorite new binding is to wrap a strip of rainbow organza around the edge and machine stitch it down.

Hearts and Flowers, 2009

And finally, the winner of the Sparkliest Postcard of the day: Secret Love. This one started out as lots of silk and Angelina needle-felted to a piece of coral chiffon (the scarf I bought in the mountains.) Then I added some free-motion machine-quilting, but I did not like the look. So, I added a message. :) You still could not see the word Love, thus the name of the card, but when I outlined it in black ink, it was not so secret any more.

This one also features a wrap of rainbow organza around the border. This is what the back looks like.

Secret Love, back, 2009

I am almost finished with an embellished purse that is very girly-looking. Hope to post it next!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trash to Treasure?

I have been participating in a Creative Challenge through the Needle-Felting mail list. I have had my doubts about this one, but am trusting that something nice will come of it.

You start with a black garbage bag and some colored plastic strips to make a background.

You make some lace out of long plastic strips, and add it to the background. Ah, stained glass effect???

Mine looked like something a homeless person might be sleeping on.

Then, you add some organza and needle-felt it down.

Ah, now we are getting something pretty! I used a rainbow organza from Wally-World that I purchased a couple years ago for some other project that I never made.
Here is another one. I tore up so much plastic that I made two backgrounds.

Next step is some machine-stitching over a wooden skewer to make fern frond stems. This is something very different and wild! But you know me, always willing to try something new.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fantasy Garden, 2009

I was notified that another of my fabric postcards is being showcased in what is called a "treasury" of Etsy finds. This one, "Hey Mr. Postman" is by Dayna at ThreadedExpressions on Etsy. Mine is the very first one in the collection.

I recently joined a "Creative Challenge" posted on a Needle-Felting list. The base is fabric is made from a black trash bag ironed to strips of colored plastic from shopping bags. I have been cutting up plastic bags and household items to get some colored plastic, and am ready to begin. Sounds awful, but the picture of the finished product looks lovely when organza and pretty stitching is added.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Embellishing Fun

During this week, when the weather outside was cold and wintry, I spent a couple of afternoons entertaining myself with my Babylock Embellisher machine. I finished two small art quilts that I began right after Christmas.

I definitely was imagining a warmer place and time...

The first of these is called "Tropical Waters." I remember being in Nassau and watching each wave roll in, and admiring all the shades of blue and green.
Tropical Waters, 2009, 6" x 6"

The fibers include silk tussah tops, wool roving, Angelina, Tinzel, Dupioni silk, and cotton. I actually incorporated an old experiment in making fantasy fabric with water-soluble stabilizer and stitching together. After needle-felting the top together, I took it to my Bernina and quilted swirly waves. I added some tiny seed beads to the waves, surf, and sand for additional shine. The border is zigzagged with a silver thread that also has a little silk roving tucked in.

Tropical Waters, details

The next piece is very similar, but I added yarns to make a tropical island. I have never been to a tropical island with mountains rising practically from the shore, but I can imagine one! This one has a bit of dimension at the edge of the beach to represent shrubbery. OK, I should have started quilting in the center, because the fibers bulged up, but didn't that add a design element?

Tropical Island, 2009, 6" x 8"

Then, I decided to try a project from the book Needle-Felting Magic by Margo Duke. This brooch includes chiffon and silk from the two scarves I purchased last weekend, some silk sari ribbon with a silver glitter stripe, some yarns and ribbons, a little glitter glue, some shiny beads, and a few of those charms I made from shrink plastic last summer. It is a little over three inches in diameter.

Valentine Brooch, 2009

All of these pieces will be for sale in my Etsy shop soon. I can't decide how to hang the little quilts. I am considering mounting them to stretched artist canvas, but am toying with mounting on Plexiglas.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some Mountain Art

I mentioned in my post about the mountain weekend that I saw some nice artwork in West Jefferson.

First, here is a little piece of stained glass that I also found at Antiques on Main. It was hanging from the ceiling in a dark corner. I thought they were bluebirds. I liked the colors and of course, love birds. A saleslady climbed on a piece of furniture and took it down for me. It was only $35.00, and the colors nicely echo the colors of a framed print and the bed quilt. Turns out the piece was titled "Parrots." I will call them "Artistic Mountain Bluebirds.":) This will hang in the kitchen window. So far it is just propped on the sill.

We took a stroll through Jefferson Station, a former train depot converted to space for shops and displays. It is the temporary home of the Ashe Public Library. Sadly, many of the spaces seem vacant or closed. There used to be a nice quilt shop there. However, various artists and groups have donated mural-sized artwork that are displayed throughout the space. Many of them are representations of mountain scenes. This first one looks just like the rows of Frazier firs growing in a mountain valley. Sorry about the flash in some of these photographs.

Like many mountain towns in North Carolina, West Jefferson has attracted a thriving artist community. Probably the two most well-known artists are Lenore DePree and Joan Bell. Here is Lenore's painting called Winter River. I love this one.

Speaking of Lenore DePree, you may remember this painting which appeared as an ad in the quilting magazines a couple of years ago. I heard that she based the portraits on Ashe County quilters!

And this painting of an Ashe County Tree farm was done at our friend Tom and Vickie Herman's farm, and features some of their family! We dropped in and visited with Tom for a little while on Friday while we were in town.
Here is Joan Bell's lovely painting called August in Ashe.

This one features detail of birds and flowers with a mountain backdrop.

This one is kind of creepy, as there is a child huddling in the hollow tree in the snow.

Even the restrooms are treated to original art at Jefferson Station.

And there is a nice little "rock garden".Hope you enjoyed this little virtual art gallery!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two Finished Quilts

You have seen pictures of both of these as Works in Progress...but during my mountain retreat last weekend, I finished binding and labels for two projects.

This is Regan's Quilt, for my niece Melinda's baby, due in March. Can you believe it is finished so far ahead of time? Well, there will be a shower next month, so it needed to be done.

Ragen's Quilt, 2009, 36 x 42

For the backing, I chose a soft lavender rosebud print.

I also finished the sleeve and label for Pastel Spring, one of my little trapunto wall-hangings. This one has already been added to my Etsy shop.

Pastel Spring, 2008, 12" x 12"

Pastel Spring detail

We made several shopping excursions into Boone and West Jefferson, NC while we were in the mountains. One of my favorite places to shop is Antiques on Main, one of those vendor malls with lots of different booths. Everything there is not old, and some booths look more like a flea market.
I had just watched my Pamela Allen DVD on making art quilts, and was on the lookout for fun little objects to add to quilts. First I spotted this great big sturdy basket for only $5.00, and then I started filling it up.
I grabbed several old scarves. The coral one is chiffon and has already been cut up for a needle-felting background. The multi-colored scarf with fleur-de-lis is silk. Cut that one up yesterday! The awful gold and brown one is polyester and I can see its medallions and patterns in a Pamela-style art quilt.
Here is a sweet little pair of child's gloves. Pamela uses them for hands in her quilts.
And I could not resist this old pack of "Authors" playing cards. I remember playing this game as a child. These could be part of a collage, or scanned and printed on fabric for an art quilt. After all, I am an old English Major and a compulsive reader.
There are no big box bookstores like Barnes and Nobles anywhere nearby, but the newer grocery stores have wonderful periodical selections. I picked up these two magazine, Threads and Creative Home, and read them both from cover to cover. I had never seen Creative Home before. It is published by Better Homes and Gardens, and features many projects and ideas that I really liked.
Yesterday I took a break from traditional quilt-making, and spent the afternoon with my new embellishing machine. Love, love, love it! Will share some of those projects soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snow Day at Home

Poor old Maggy...she must be wondering, what is up with all this snow? It has not snowed enough to stick here in five years!

The cardinals and other birds were lined up at the bird feeder for the good groceries. They look so pretty in the snow.
This is our little creek in the back yard. It is small enough to jump over.

Remember the camellia bush in bloom? Wonder if these will make it.

Here is another iconic Southern shrub or tree- a crepe myrtle. This one sports a bird nest among its dried seed heads.
Our front yard, a former farm field, had no trees when we moved in. Every tree and shrub represents a hole dug and lots of 5-gallon buckets of water hauled to the ones beyond hose reach.
But in the back, we have lots of natural cedar, pine, dogwood, oak, and sweet gum trees leading to the woods. Our woods connect to many acres of forest and natural ponds out back.

Can you spot the red cardinal on the limb?
Anyway, yesterday, we were very inspired by watching the transition of government, and the joy on the faces of the crowd who thronged to Washington to see President Obama's inauguration. They just showed a montage of photographs as Good Morning America went off the air, to the soaring music of Aretha Franklin singing America. I don't know about that hat, but Aretha sure can belt out a tune.

A joyous day that America can be proud of!