28 February 2010

28 happy things in february

The 365 Happy Things Project just wrapped up its second month. Above is a mosaic of all the things that were posted in February.

Please visit the project's blog as it heads into the third month.

Where I Stand Sunday

The cold sticks to everything, clinging like a two-year-old determined to get her way. Peeling back her fingers from her vice like grip seems an impossibility at the moment. The world is smeared black and white and gray beneath this fog, surrendering in a sleepy compliance.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)


Original photo:

26 February 2010

my bags are packed...

So what's a girl to do when its already cold and snowy outside? Head farther north of course! And that's just what I'm doing.

I'm sitting here watching the snow fall and drinking my morning coffee before getting ready to drive up north for a weekend with art friends. I admit that I am not a good Michigander - I rarely make it out of the southeast area. I'm looking forward to escaping for a few days and hanging out and making art.

Seems like a good way to chase away the winter blahs. What do you do to combat the cabin fever of the long snowy months?

25 February 2010

i'm going to have nightmares...

I'm into vintage feeling stuff. I like traditional crochet afghans and some of the traditional quilt patterns like grandmother's flower garden. But this?

This frightens me on a whole new level...

There's chatter on Ravelry about a crocheted potholder swap. I'm thinking about joining. Do I need potholders? Hell no. But it looks like fun and from the photos that people are posting, they are pretty darn cool. Plus it would be something different so off I went looking for inspirational patterns that I could work with. I did not expect to find this horror:

Yes, my friends. That is a potholder with a plastic baby doll face attached in the center.

Aside from my issues of always whining that the creepy dolls give me nightmares while they stare vacantly at me (I suspect they are plotting different ways to suck out my soul when I'm not paying attention), does this strike anyone as incredibly sadistic?

I'm sure (I hope) these are meant to be decorative only but suppose someone decides they need to be functional? That means they are willingly melting the doll face under excruciating heat and torture. (Which I'm not entirely opposed to, they are creepy as all get out and we have to get our revenge somehow.)

I am going to take a break from looking at the potholder patterns for a bit. Who knows what other horrors may be lurking there...

23 February 2010

on the subject of putting things off

I can be a procrastinator of epic proportions. I often find myself spending time thinking about the things that need to be done when, in reality, if I took the time I use stressing about it just doing it, things would run smoother.

I'm not sure why I require a kick in the pants but apparently I am not alone in this strange habit.

I'm an admirer of Lisa Call not only for her artwork but for her tremendous discipline. She knows what she wants and attacks it full force. But you know, life gets in the way sometimes and when things get hectic, things get put off.

She talked about this problem in a post titled "The Magic of Completion" on one of her blogs, Make Big Art. Here is an excerpt from it (posted with permission):

"Completion is huge. It's massive and energy altering.

Completing a project can give you a boost. From big tasks like my studio. Or small tasks like mailing a collector a thank you note.

The act of getting something done, crossing it off a list, is magical. All the energy that was being used to worry about, stress over, keep track of, think about, complain about, etc - all that energy is freed up and suddenly available for new projects, thoughts and inspiration.

Completing a task or project builds your self confidence. You realize "Hey, I can do this." So the next task becomes just a tiny bit easier and your productivity increases and things are crossed off the list and energy is freed up. Its the snowball effect. Next thing you know, you are invincible.

Projects that were blocked suddenly become viable. New ideas are generated opening up new possibilities.

The power of completion is huge."

(Follow the link above to read the full post.)

This is completely true for me (and I suspect most people). I'm working away on a deep spring cleaning of the house and when I'm done, the difference will be huge - not only in my physical environment but my emotional side as well.

I need to find a way to be more disciplined in the studio. I don't really set too many strict goals. I keep my mind wrapped around a couple of things but outside of that, I don't feel like I push myself hard enough.

I think the trick would be finding a way to push hard enough to produce more work but not drain the joy from it. Its certainly a fine line.

I was about to say "food for thought" but that sort of goes against the whole point of the post, eh? I think I'll start small and work on my procrastination habits. We'll try to wrangle that beast first and then see what comes next...

22 February 2010

seems messier

The fiber art group I belong to is meeting this week and some of us are kicking off an art journal round robin. Its been a few years since I've done one of these so I'm looking forward to it. The journal can be made from paper or fabric, whatever floats your boat. I went the paper route since I've taken an interest in that lately.

I've had my journal assembled for a few weeks but wasn't real sure how I wanted to do my pages. (We each pick a theme and do the first two page layout and then it travels around to the next person.) My theme is poetry. Yesterday I finally sat down and went to town on it.

I'm not sure this is done yet but I can always add more to it later when I get it back:

Here is the poem that I added, its one of my favorites:

detroit annie, hitchhiking
by judy grahn

Her words pour out of her as if her throat were a broken artery
and her mind were cut-glass, carelessly handled.
You imagine her in a huge velvet hat with great
dangling black feathers,
but she shaves her head instead
and goes for three-day midnight walks.
Sometimes she goes down to the dock and dances
off the end of it, simply to prove her belief
that people who cannot walk on water
are phonies, or dead.
When she is cruel, she is very, very
cool and when she is kind she is lavish.
Fisherman think perhaps she is a fish, but they're all
fools. She figured out that the only way
to keep from being frozen was to
stay in motion, and long ago converted
most of her flesh into liquid. Now when she
smells danger, she spills herself all over,
like gasoline, and lights it.
She leaves the taste of salt and iron
under your tongue, but don't mind.
The common woman is as common
as the reddest wine.

It'll be fun to read the poems that the others enjoy.

But since I'm only supposed to work on a single two page spread in my own book and I was on a roll, I decided to start putting together the other journal I painted the pages for a couple weeks back. All I concentrated on was adding collage elements and borders. Since its meant to be a journal, I want it to revolve around my writing as well as the collage so there are a lot of empty spaces. I figure I'll integrate and alter the collage elements as I write on each page.

Here are a few shots:

the cover

one layout

another layout

I'm really liking the uneven borders and I trimmed back several pages to get uneven sizes just to make it more interesting. I've got elements on everything but the last couple of pages and I really want to finish that up before I start writing and doodling in it. That way I can just haul it around with me when I go places and its all set to work on.

I've realized that I've trashed a lot of my markers over the years so I'm pretty limited in the colors I've got. But really? I don't know how far outside of black I'll venture. My aesthetic easily leans to the darker side (I'm sure you hadn't noticed) so I think I'll be okay.

I've noticed that my work table turns into a complete trainwreck in about thirty seconds when I'm working on these. Far quicker then when I'm working on fabric. I'm a fan of double sided tape so I avoid the whole glue fiasco which suits me fine. No warping of collages, no mess, no fuss. Just me and Martha's handy dandy double sided tape dispenser bonding for hours on end.

I ordered some solid fabrics yesterday so hopefully I'll be able to pick back up with my pieced abstract obsession in a few days. I want to redo the one I showed yesterday. The entire goal of that exercise was to find out if the sharp contrast produced the feel I wanted and it does. But the colors in the trial piece are a little ronald mcdonald-ish so I want to reconstruct it. I might keep the part that's already pieced (the left side), we'll see.

We're getting buried in snow today. I feel fortunate that I have a westie that loves the cold snowy/wet weather. Doesn't phase him at all so long as there isn't thunder involved. Of course, chasing him around the house to wipe the snowballs out of his leg fur is a whole different story...

21 February 2010

getting closer

I grabbed the pile of solids and headed into the studio today to make what is shown above. (I still need to sew the left half together but decided to step back and let it percolate because I think that side needs a little bit of work yet.)

This is getting closer to what I want to do. I'm definitely much happier with the sharp contrast. I've decided that I want to base these pieces off architecture. I raided my brother's photos for this trial piece to see if that idea felt right and it did. I'm particularly attracted to older buildings and decay, has more interesting lines to it. I still consider it free form piecing even though I'm following the lines in a photo.

Everything is clicking so far. Since the color palette I used for this practice piece is so limited it was a little frustrating. But I didn't want to invest a lot of money if it wasn't something I wanted to keep on with.

It definitely is.

Here is a comparison with the first piece I put together:

Drastic difference.

I'm trying to decide if I want to dye my own fabrics for this or if I want to use commercial solids. I don't really have a prejudice against commercial fabrics like some fiber artists do. I have very limited space for dyeing so I'm thinking that right now, I'm just going to work with commercial fabrics to get this going.

These are thrilling me because they want to be larger pieces. (The one above is a little on the smallish side - probably around 20" wide by 18" high.) I normally work small and have been very happy with that but these seem to grow at a quick rate and its pretty exciting for the girl that normally makes little bitty things.

Still need to figure out how to finish them - meaning quilting or no quilting. Since I'm so undecided about it, I'm going to let it brew. I want to just make compositions and maybe as I'm working something will click.

I've got a weird way of piecing them together. I tried doing it the "right" way but just couldn't find a groove. Since I have zero piecing background, I figure I'll just mutate the technique to where I feel comfortable with it and not worry about it.

So there it is. Its another new direction and although I feel a little uneasy with it right now, I'm going to stick with it. I'm working on two opposite ends of the spectrums now - heavily surface designed pieces (where I gravitate strongly to hand dyed fabrics) and now these graphic ones where I seem content (for now) to attack with commercial fabrics.

Don't ask, I've got no explanation for you...

Where I Stand Sunday

Stepping downward, moving on, pushing forward. It can be one foot in front of another or a sudden rush down uneven heights. It takes a balance on every level, a certainty not in the outcome but in the decision to move forward with surefooted abandon. The freedom in the fall is only the beginning.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)


Original photo:

19 February 2010

practice pieces

I still have the graphic pieced quilts on the brain. It would appear that they don't intend to leave me alone any time soon. Who am I to argue?

I've been trolling around the internet studying whatever I can find on them. I decided that I want to do some practice pieces to try to find the piecing and color combinations that thrill me the most. I went to Joann's today and picked up some more economical fabric to practice with. I went bold. We'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow I'm heading out to the Flint Institute of Arts to see a Gee's Bends quilt exhibit. I'm really looking forward to it.

I've not been spending as much time as I would like in the studio lately because I'm on a huge spring cleaning binge. And I'm not referring to my studio - I'm talking about the whole darn house. Just seems like its time to purge all the really really old stuff that just doesn't get used and make space for the things we love. So we're working on that. Its taking longer then it should since I have to take breaks to avoid taxing my back but its getting done and that's all that matters.

In fluffier completely cute news, February is Dooley's birthday month. Little man is now eleven-years-old:

He offers you a view of his magenta platypus in celebration.


17 February 2010

something new - take 2

After making Strike 1 and Strike 2, I've fallen a bit in love with strong graphic images. Combine that with all the blogs I read that belong to quilters that are producing bold graphic pieced quilts and I suppose this was inevitable:

This is what's on my design wall right now (another benefit of the cleaning binge from yesterday is that I can actually use my design wall again - details, details...).

I don't love it and I don't hate it.

Let me just say that doing random piecing like this is not as easy as it looks. This is also the first thing I've ever pieced so that was an adventure as well. I've always avoided it because, well...I don't like all the measuring and fussing and sweating that is involved in the more traditional form of quilting. So the idea of this was far more appealing.

Here are the things I like about it:

1. The color palette. Neutrals, browns and blues - those seem to be my favorites lately.

2. Hand dyed fabric (those above are all from Gailforces Fabrics, very posh stuff)

3. The freedom of it

Things I dislike about it:

1. Too many big pieces (maybe too many pieces period)

2. Not enough impact (which means that my colors are maybe too matchy and there are too many of them)

3. Have zero clue on how to finish it

Since I work almost exclusively by hand, I had a bit of whiplash for how quickly things move when you use the machine. Sounds dorky, I know, but my machine and I have a long history of fighting and just generally hating each other. But we have long worked out a truce for sewing straight lines so it works out well for this situation.

Which makes the third reason under dislike list a bit of a conundrum. I'm not a machine quilter. Truth is, I don't like the astehtic for my work. I admire what others do with it but it took me a long time to realize that its just not my thing.

If I decided that machine quilting suited it best, I could send it out to have it quilted by someone else but that doesn't sit well with me at all (unless this was a personal lap quilt, then I'd have no issue with it but for my art? Nope, gotta be all done by me or it just won't fly).

I'm going to give it another stab, maybe work on a much smaller piece to see if I can get what I'm thinking of (the one on board is about 24" long by 20" high). I've also done some trolling around on the internet and there are a few other tricks that I think I'm going to try.

Not wanting to waste what I did already, I think I'll just keep adding to it until its a respectable lap quilt size and make it something useful.

It feels good to let myself off the leash and try whatever I want. We'll see if anything comes of this...

16 February 2010

thinning the herd

This may not look like much to you but trust me, this is a big deal.

I'm lucky to have a good sized studio space but this closet in the corner had turned into a junk pile over the past few years. Add to it the fact that there is a hope chest in there (that will be moved out shortly) and its basically become unusable space.

Its horrible to say but often my finished works get tossed about on whatever surface happens to be bare at the moment. I'm just asking for catastrophe to happen.

Yesterday I decided it was time to reclaim the space and start treating my work with more respect (meaning not leaving it on piles on the floor and walking around them.) Much of what was in that closet was old work and UFOs. I'm not the type of person that has to save every single thing I make so when I started the spelunking adventure into there, I knew that I would just toss much of it.

And I did. What you see hanging in the closet now is completed work and fabric that I've printed (that was previously hanging over the back of my work chair and constantly getting knocked onto the floor). The bins hold UFOs but they are work that I actually stand a chance of finishing, not just a freakish yearbook of every stab I took at executing something.

This makes me hugely happy. When I look at it, I realize I actually have a decent amount of work and its got me itching to make more now that I have a proper place to store it.

I expect I will obsess over this space quite a bit more once the hope chest is moved out but for now I just want to admire it in all its bizarre turquoise wall (which is not the color of the rest of the studio) glory...

14 February 2010

an art day

Yesterday Leann and I braved the cold weather and visited a few local galleries.

The first stop was to the Northville Art House where we both recently became members. The annual member show is hanging this month and we both have work in it. You can see Strike 1 and Strike 2 below:

That's Leann's very cool Voodoo Blue on the pedestal there.

After that Leann introduced me to two other galleries I had not been to before.

The first was Art & Ideas where we saw a wood block print show by Shaqe Kalaj. To say that the work is outstanding is a gross understatement. Not only was Shaque fascinating to talk to but her artwork has tremendous impact and I really enjoyed looking at it. If you have a chance to see her work, I highly recommend it.

The second place was Red Twig Gallery, a very funky little gallery that showcases local artists in the Plymouth area. Everything in there was charming - from the wide array of artwork (glad to see fiber art represented there) to the old doors that they jointed together to use as display walls.

There were block prints at Red Twig as well, I'm completely smitten with them. I've done some lino prints but its been a while, may have to try it again soon.

I spent the day on the sofa today trying to convince this stupid cold to leave me alone. Its not budging just yet. Its sucking my life force out, I have nothing nice to say about it.

I've got all my dyeing supplies but no energy to get going so its a little frustrating. But if you're looking for dye inspiration, go check out Gisela's blog. She's been snow dyeing fabric and holy cow, is she doing an absolutely fantastic job! I may have to give it a go since we have a good amount of it right now.

But tonight? Tonight I stare at a television and wait for my face to stop feeling like a brick is sitting on it.

Where I Stand Sunday

Falling into the abstract dance of shape and line is intoxicating, like looking inside a dream where none of the usual rules apply. My sketchbook happily bears the random movements and distraction. It's a source of ideas that is never lacking, a place where the simplest designs feel the truest.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)


Original photo:

12 February 2010

in scheming mode

Sometimes my brain moves so far ahead of what I'm actually capable of keeping up with it makes me wonder what brand of crazy I am. (But don't worry, I like it...)

I've got lots of things running through my mind right now and most of them are projects that I'm eager to begin. Unfortunately, a cold has settled right smack in the middle of my face and I sound sort of gurggly. It ain't pretty.

I spent the day trying to rest so it won't get worse (I say trying because I'm totally incapable of sitting still) and while I managed to get my body to stop moving, I couldn't get my mind to do the same.

1. I've got two awesome opportunities sitting in the background and I'm itching to tell you about them but I've got to wait until I get confirmation before I do. One will be announced soon but the other will take quite a while before I can reveal it.

2. All of a sudden I've got ideas for about twenty different projects I want to start. Seems like inspiration is smacking me clear upside the head and I'm glad that the last time I went out to pick up some supplies, I also picked up a sketch book - something I haven't kept in a couple of years now. Here's a wonky view of the current one I started (just a close up, its still in pieces):

I'm pretty excited about this one. If it plays out the way I have it in my mind, it'll be a series.

3. I cleaned out my storage unit yesterday of all the things that I don't want to keep and during the process I unearthed a cutting table with collapsible sides (I got it from joann's but couldn't find it on their website to link to) that will be well loved and well used in my studio. I'm totally geeked about not having to crawl around the floor when I need to cut something out.

4. I also need to devise an inexpensive kind of organizing system for the closet in my studio. I plan to attack it with a vengeance and purge it once and for all. I've got too much stuff just hanging around that needs a home and its making me i-n-s-a-n-e. I'm considering this. Any suggestions?

5. I spent a large portion of today working on the website for the fiber art group I belong to, Running with Scissors. I'm still not done with it but I decided to go ahead and publish what I do have done. I'm also scheming on what else to do with that site...

6. I'm watching the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics while I write this and am really enjoying it. I'm a bit befuddled as to why it seemed that there was no advertising leading up to it. At any rate, its been fun watching everyone bounce around excited. (There's some punk rock kilt guy tap dancing right now. They get an A+ for originality.) I also loved the hats Sweden wore when they marched into the stadium - really awesome crocheted ones. Crochet represent!

7. Dooley is unimpressed with all my plans:

I'm really good at planning, especially when you give me an entire day to sit around and just think of stuff. This is usually how I get myself into trouble with far too many things to do. Or maybe its all the snow that makes me want to hibernate and then my mind wanders off the leash before I know it...

But I ask you honestly (because I know many of you are just like me), would you be happier any other way? That's what I thought...me either.

What have you been scheming lately?


08 February 2010

something new

For a while now I've been wanting to try art journaling. I've done a couple altered books but never really felt like I had a good handle on it. One part of the art journal process that I find trying is the collage part. I've never really been satisfied with what I've made. I feel like I have trouble incorporating it into the page and make it look like a whole rather then just bits and pieces slapped together.

I've been searching around online looking for tutorials. Found a couple books on amazon but nothing that struck me as a eureka moment.

A couple of days ago I was poking around on youtube (the place for all things instructional) and found a series of videos that finally gave me a nudge in the right direction. So I put together my first journal today.

This is definitely going to be a learning process.

There was a little bit of cursing involved while I was painting the pages. I couldn't get the right amount of water and ended up with some squishy pages. Luckily those were saved with some paper towel. I finally found my groove with some huge sponge brushes, tiny blobs of paint and two spritzs from the water bottle I use during ironing:

I got the whole book painted up today:

Completely unimpressive at this stage but (and this has become my mantra while working on this project) its all about the layers so shut up and keep working.

I decided to weight the journal down overnight because its a little curly and its making me crazy. I used watercolor paper but I think I oversaturated some of them but I think it will be fine if it gets weighted for a while.

But I wanted to keep working so I decided to practice some of the collage things on a smaller book I've been wanting to make called a simple book found in this book. I was intrigued by it because, as the name implies, its really simple and can be folded and unfolded back and forth between book and flat paper, which I think will make working in it easier.

I folded a page and painted both sides and then took a hair dryer to it because I have no patience to wait for it to dry, I wanted to keep going.

I pulled out some magazines and snipped out some pieces to start building borders for each page. Not sure how well they will play out because this is a pretty small book (about 4" high and about 3" wide) but I did it anyway since I wanted to define the individual pages:

I did both sides. Which was totally moronic because (and I'm sure you've figured this by now) only one side shows once you fold it back into book form:


I chose the yellow side (I like the green but I think its too dark and I'll have to do a lot of work to add lighter things to it and since this is just a practice piece, I didn't feel like going to the effort).

I flipped through the magazines and tried to decide on some kind of theme. I chose hands. I like hands, have always been fascinated by them and plan to do a hand theme in the larger journal too. (I'm not really into the funky faces and pointy hats and sarcastic fairies. I appreciate them and find them amusing but they've been done a zillion times and I want to find my own thing.)

So I cut out some hands and put them down. I plan to manipulate them more. For two reasons: (1) I want to incorporate them more into the page so they don't look so separate and (2) I want to make sure I make them different enough so that I don't step on anyone's toes since the images were not created by me.

Layers, layers, layers.

Here's how one of the pages look with it folded back into book form:

Lots of possibilities there.

I ordered some pastels so I'm waiting to keep working until they come. Hopefully in the next day or two. I have to put together a journal for a round robin I'm participating in so I can work on building that in the meantime.

I'm glad I decided to do a smaller practice book first. I don't care for the really raw edges of the paper (I used a gigantic sheet of watercolor paper and the edges are all wispy and rough) so I'm going to trim those back on the larger book, I don't think they'll stand up over time and certainly not over the course of a round robin. I also don't know if I'll do borders for the pages with magazines. I think I might prefer to draw them in or block them out with paint. I might start another simple book to try out some other things to see which I like better.

One thing that I was very happy about is that Dooley has finally decided that my studio is an okay place to hang out. Little man needs an anchor in the rooms he lounges in, meaning he needs his little doggie bed or a blanket or something he can call his own.

I recently organized the linen closet and came across a blanket my mom crocheted when I was a kid. Its been pretty abused and has holes in it and is generally well loved. I asked her if it could become a Dooley blanket and she agreed so its now his studio blanket.

He's pleased with it (notice that it is strategically placed in the sun puddle so he can sun bathe while he naps):

The weather forecasters here are busy waving their arms around and running in circles because apparently we could finally be hit by a snow storm.

First they said 6-10" of the white stuff.

Then they said up to 6".

Now they're saying the storm is still 36 hours away so there's really no way to tell.

Way to instill confidence people. I'll wait and believe it when the junk is on the ground. They've raised too many false alarms for me to get overly concerned about it at this point. I've got tons of projects to work on and just went grocery shopping so if we get dumped on, then I'll be fine until things even out. I just don't get the freak out. This is Michigan for pete's sake - in winter - snow is to be expected.

I'll blog the journal as it progresses. Hopefully I have better luck with the whole thing this go around then I have in the past.

07 February 2010

Where I Stand Sunday

Its like a brand, one I find myself trying to deny while constantly having to embrace it everyday. The chronic state of it is sometimes grinding, it changes everything down to the simplest task. but it is a part of me, has opened unexpected doors into goodness. After a decade of it, I find I can look around the sharp edges of it into the future without apprehension.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)


Original photo:

05 February 2010

the quest for solids

Well, something unexpected has happened...I want to dye fabric.

If you know me, you know I'm probably one of the laziest dyers on the planet. All the prep and fuss and chemicals and temperature worry and blah blah blah is enough to make me avoid doing it all together.

I am the girl that the awesome Kerr Grabowski had to give a "talking to" when I suggested during her class at Fabrications last year that I was considering not batching my fabric. Luckily she is a woman with a great sense of humor and convinced me otherwise.

There are several reasons I rarely dye fabric:

1. About the only place I have to do it is the stainless steel sink in the laundry room. The pretty laundry room. The laundry room with the pale colored wallpaper and white washer and white dryer and lovely white lace curtains. (Mom has a delicate sense of decorating.) Needless to say, it makes things difficult if I'm going to fling dye about.

2. I live in Michigan. Its cold now and my usual plan of dyeing outside so I can set up a table in the garage and make all the mess I want is out the door. Plus there's all the hubbub of making sure the dye stays at a certain temp.

3. I've thought about getting a dye dedicated microwave (to solve the temp thing) but I've got no where to put it.

4. Oh yeah...I'm lazy when it comes to dyeing. (This seems to be the biggest issue, really.)

I've been doing a lot of printing and painting on fabric lately and for some reason that makes no sense, I'm doing it on white fabric. And then spending hours working on filling in the white areas while cussing when I screw up the printed portion.

I obviously need to print on colored backgrounds (yes, I realize this will change the color of the screening or stamping but I tend to use neutral/earth tones anyway so I don't anticipate being disappointed by this.)

One thing I've noticed when I'm at quilt shows is that there isn't always a huge variety of neutral and earth toned colors. I suspect there isn't a big market for grey and brown. When I have found some, they've usually been mixed with other colors. Not really what I want. I want some solids, no variegated or speckles. The work I have in my brain right now is demanding lovely shades of s-o-l-i-d neutrals and earthy goodness.

Yes, I realize the commercial printers make solids but I know I don't have to explain to you that there is nothing like hand dyed fabric, even in solid tones. There is a very different feel to it.

You see where this is heading, right?

This all means that if I want the colors I'm dreaming of, I need to suck it up and dye them. Which led me to wondering if there is a dye easier then procion - meaning one that I don't have to use chemicals up the yin yang for good results - that would maybe make me love the dye process a little more.

That's when I remembered that Mary has been using Dylon dyes lately and she's been really happy with the results (you can see them here and here.) If you read about them at the link above, it says that the fixative is already mixed in with the dye powder. Score!

I went to Joann's and snagged some.

(I also found a kit from Jacquard there for indigo dyeing. I opened the box to read the instructions since I know nothing about it. I promptly put it back on the shelf. Holy cow, talk about involved. I have to admit, though, that I'm intrigued by it. But if I do decide to take the plunge, it will definitely have to wait until its warmer outside so I can do that in the garage. The thought of doing that in the laundry room makes me nauseous...perhaps I can work out a dye day with some of my fiber friends since it sounds like it makes way more dye then I could go through on my own...)

I also bought unbleached muslin (I'm out of PFD) and washed the heck out of it once I got it home. I've dyed up two yards so far - one in Bahama Blue (I love the name) and one in Dark Brown.

They aren't bad. There were a lot of factors involved that gave me less then brilliant results but I can't say that I'm unhappy with them. It was interesting to see how the unbleached muslin effected the color, I think its something that I want to repeat as it gives more muted tones. I got a good solid from the brown but didn't mix the blue around enough and ended up with splotches rather then solid. Although the blue looked totally cool while it was in the dye pan:

The next challenge for 12 Connected is bright colors. (Yes, you may laugh now...done?) It will certainly be a challenge for me as I don't work bright but it should be interesting to see what I can produce for it. I'm thinking the blue will come in handy for that.

Now here's the snag with the Dylon dyes - they have an incredibly limited color palette. Yes, yes, yes, I know I can mix colors to get what I want. Blah blah blah. That takes some experimenting and (repeat after me) I'm lazy when it comes to dyeing.

While pondering this dilema (and knowing that procion comes in over 100 colors), I remembered that I'm not the only one who labels herself as a lazy dyer - check out the nifty instructions from Melody Johnson on just this subject.

Her instructions aren't too different from what I did with the two yards of fabric above - which I did not find cumbersome at all.

Dharma has my order. (I especially love this line from the confirmation email they send: "Your recent purchase has been reviewed and payment has been authorized. Dozens of helper monkeys (don't worry, they're clean) are now rushing around in an effort to get your order packaged and ready to ship." Gotta love their sense of humor...) It will be here next week. I plan to use the last three packages of Dylon on some PFD and see how they do on that.

I will enjoy dyeing these. I may end up doing it more often. Me? A dyer? I would have never thought it possible...

**Oh, and a quick side note. Some of you may have noticed that comments are being deleted from posts. Its because the spambots have found the blog and are having a little field day with it. I tried switching the comments to moderation so that I could just approve things as they came through but blogger decided to eat every comment, whether I wanted to keep it or not. I trust that you are all swift enough to not follow links in comments that are blatantly spam so I've decided to just deal with the little suckers as they pop up. Carry on...

02 February 2010

tote tuesday begins today!

Today is the first auction for Tote Tuesday, the latest fundraiser for Fiberart for a Cause.

One of my totes, shown above, is amongst the first group to go up. There are many many exciting items to bid on!

The auction will be conducted on Virginia's blog so stop by between 11am-2pm CST. Information on how to bid on a tote can be found here.

I hope you'll join me in making this another great success!

01 February 2010

brought to you by the letter M

The theme today was M-E-S-S-Y. I spent a few hours in the studio creating a large amount of mayhem. First up was the citrasolve paper thing that is in the latest Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

I've backed off on buying magazines lately, running out of room on the bookcase so I've gotten selective about which issues I buy, even on the ones that I really like. I'd seen this technique on a couple of other blogs and thought I'd give it a shot. Basically the idea is to alter the pages of the magazine with the citrasolve and you get some groovy backgrounds for paper art.

I decided to torture two different magazines: the one shown above that focuses on photography and the other was a National Geographic (which seems to be the magazine of choice of the author of the article and other people who have tried it).

I followed the directions and waited the prescribed time and then began to pull it apart. I wasn't real thrilled with the way it looked, most of the images were still fully intact and I put a lot of citrasolve on there so that wasn't it. The paper quality of the photo magazine was really excellent, much heavier then the national geographic so I wondered if that was it.

I ended up "helping" the ink squash around by taking a page that only had text on it and blotting it and wiping it across the other pages. It gave me better results. It also made my hand look like this:

In retrospect, I should have worn gloves.

I panicked a little when I started pulling the pages out of the magazine so they could dry. I ended up laying them out in the hallway, it was the only place long enough:

I started pulling apart the National Geographic while those were drying and got part way through it before I decided I hated the way it was coming out. Many of the images were dark in the issue I used and basically the black ink took over and made everything into mud. Plus (and this could have been my weirdness) they smelled funny to me.

The pages from the photography didn't smell (outside of the overwhelming orange) but the national geographic just plain stank to me. I ended up pitching that magazine and keeping the pages from the first magazine:

I'm not real sure how well I like the results. Granted, they are meant to be backgrounds so by the time all is said and done, they will be a small element of whatever they are used in. I'm reserving judgement for the moment.

If I ever did this again, I would choose a magazine with lots of bright colors and maybe even go so far as to pull out the pages with a lot of black ink on them. We'll see how much use I get out of the pile above (I ended up with about 40 pages) before I go make more.

While my hallway slowly began to smell like an overripe orange grove, I huddled in my studio and decided to paint up some more of the batik fabric I had left from Rayna's class.

Batik is obviously not my forte, but the pieces I'm getting out of what I printed in her class will be worthwhile. Here they are with the backgrounds painted and the wax ironed out:

The grey/blue fabric (second from the left) was painted with straight up acrylic. Won't do that again, doesn't look nearly as rich as the others that were painted with jacquard. Now that Joann's is selling jacquard, I'm not so hesitant to go nuts with it.

Got a ton of things to do tomorrow so I don't know if I'll get to painting the details on these tomorrow. I'm going to do one more X piece (I've renamed them to Strike 1, Strike 2 and the last one will be Strike 3) and the rest are kind of up in the air.

The westie is getting his stitches out tomorrow. I'm sure he'll be happy, he's been attempting to run around when he plays with his toys but he always stops suddenly and then just sort of stands there with a bummed out look on his face. I'm not expecting him to be pleased about heading back to the vet of doom (his words, not mine) but it'll be a short visit and then we can start going for walks again. And he can get a bath - two things that make westie-land all happy.

"Secret Things" revealed

Today is the reveal day for the first challenge from the art quilt challenge group I belong to, 12 Connected.

Our first theme was Sanctuary and I chose to do a piece about journaling and writing. Above is just a detail view of my completed work, titled "Secret Things."

Please visit the group's blog to see a full view of it as well as the work from the other members of the group.