Friday, August 5, 2022

Rosie Lee Tompkins on Off the Wall Friday

Recently, I was cleaning out my fabric room and found my hoard of quilter "hand me downs".  Apparently, when people hear you are a quilter, they automatically will give you leftovers they had inherited.  As a young quilter, I just wanted to treasure them and marvel that in my closet sat work from quilters from the last 100 years.  Thirty years later, it dawns on me that I should either use them or Tessa will be passing them onto the next random young quilter she meets!  With that in mind, I did pull out some for a project for my upcoming September post for National Sewing Month.  

Sorting through it all (and yes there are several shelves!) got me thinking about quilters in days gone by.  It strikes me that no matter how different our lives as women we all have one big thing is common...we like to take fabric...cut it up....and sew it into something new.  

One of those women was African American folk quilter Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936-2006).  Tompkins, whose real name was Effie Mae Martin Howard, was born to a sharecropper family in Arkansas. She was very private and a devoted Christian. She would not give interviews or allow herself to be tape-recorded, photographed, or quoted.  
 This is notable since her work took the art world by storm with her first exhibit "Who'd of Thought It?" in 1988 in the Renwick Museum of the Smithsonian.  (If you haven't gone there - you gotta go - honestly, it's amazing!)  It was like all of a sudden the world realized that textiles could genuinely be a viable art medium.  Her work continued to gain recognition being shown in top museums and galleries throughout the country.  

In 2020, Berkley Art Museum gave a retrospective of 70 of her quilts.  She had made over 500.  In it, you can see how she used improvisational piecing to create her abstract pieces of art. Her work is made of all different fabric types, cut up and put together to make something beautiful.

Just like we do.  

I wish I could have seen the exhibit, but I guess I'll just have to settle for seeing a YouTube video of it.  'Cause like I always's not worth knowing if it's not on YouTube!

All quilts on this post were the work of Rosie Lee Tompkins.

That's your five minutes of art history for today....

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Off the Wall Friday

 I'm traveling this week, so I'll just host!!

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Friday, July 22, 2022

WonderFil Thread Pt 2 on Off the Wall Friday


After writing last week's post, I was really excited to try out some of the WonderFil threads I've been collecting.  They have been sending me nice samples for the whole pandemic and I've never gotten around to seeing if they actually worked in my Janome Horizon.  "Work" is defined as easily free motion quilted with little to no fussing or breakage.  I don't know about you but the one thing I HATE is having my thread continually break.  Not only does it annoy me but it ruins the creative flow I have when I quilt.  That was one of the main reasons I switched to Mettler's Polysheen.  I could easily switch my sewing machine foot to my darning foot and off I went.  No other adjustments were necessary.  I could FMQ till my bobbin ran out!  It's also why my Sulky rayons sit unused unless I need to straight stitch!

As for the WonderFil, I made this sheet using my printer and took an afternoon to test my threads.  I used DecoBob in the bobbin, a quilting or Metallic needle, a blue dot bobbin case, and just warm and natural batting.  I thought this was a handy size since it would fit nicely into a sheet protector in one of my binders.  

The Results

  • Spagetti - 12 wt Cotton  - actually free motion nicely (don't ask me how)  It definitely is a hefty thread though!
  • Glamore - 12 wt Rayon - not surprisingly I couldn't get to even begin to make a sample
  • DTwist - 20 wt Rayon - Started off good, but eventually broke.  I think with some fussying I probably could get it sew, but really, who likes to fuss?!
  • Fabulux/Splendor - 40 wt Rayon - both FMQ without breakage but the tension was off and I would have to fuss with that
  • SpotLite - 40 wt Rayon Metallic - FMQ like a dream - yes  - I am shocked!  It will now be my go-to when I need a metallic for a project.  I stop designing things with metallics because I couldn't get them to work.  This one though did great and it has a nice pretty glitz to it!
  • Silco - 40 wt Cotton - I had trouble with the tension.  Also, I felt like for a 40 wt it sat on top of the fabric a lot.  
  • Mirage - 30 wt Rayon -WoW!  love this ... the tension was perfect - it sews wonderfully and its not too shiny
  • Tutti/Efina - 50/60wt Cotton - as expected these quilted fine - but really how often do I quilt with cotton?
  • DecoBob - 80 wt Poly - I'm happy to report that this probably was my favorite.  The tension was spot on and it has a nice fine quilting line.  I definitely can see myself using this more often when I need quilting but not the "Line".
  • InvisaFil - 100 wt Poly - I could not get to quilt without breakage.  I'm sure it will straight stitch though and that 100 wt thickness is tiny, tiny!
Even though it took a long afternoon, I'm so glad to finally get these tested.  Now I know what I will and will not use or buy!

Under my other Likes...

With all this thread out I needed a place to organize it. None of these really had a home in my big thread
boxes, so I was looking for a smaller one that was economical, clear, and plastic.  After some searching ('cause you know there are 100 thread boxes out there), I settled on the Dritz Thread Storage Box.  It's a good size  (17 prongs) for a small collection of thread and I liked the $5.47 Amazon price.  I think the only thing I don't like is that the top doesn't snap on and off with any kind of latch.  Besides I already had one here so now I have a match set!!

Okay, I'm sure that is more than you ever wanted to know about my WonderFil sample thread...

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Wonderfil Mystery Bundle on Off the Wall Friday

Spotlight, Aqua
Okay, I'll admit it.  I'm turning into a thread geek.  I wouldn't say a thread snob but definitely a thread geek! It came on gradually.  I mean in the beginning, we were all taught that you MUST use cotton thread on your quilts because your quilts were made of all cotton.  Through experimentation, I found you could use all sorts of threads while making quilts (the biggest surprise was hand quilting with rayon on my drag around quilt.  It washed and wore fine!)  The more I explored, the more I found exciting new threads to try and of course, collect!  

Tutti, Mountain

So that brings me to my first "Haul" blog post. I decided to take a leap of faith and buy the Wonderfil Mystery Bundle.  I've made several purchases from them in the recent past and they were always really generous with their free samples. The deal was you get at least $100 worth of stuff for $45 shipped free.  They promise to include threads perfect for quilting, piecing, and general sewing. Crossing my fingers, I ordered.

I got....drum roll...

DecoBob, Dusty Rose

 1 Spool of DecoBob, 2000m,  80 wt polyester,  Dusty Rose...I  love this thread.  I already have big spools of all the neutrals for bobbin winding and small spools of all the neutrals for appliqueing and English paper piecing. It has totally replaced cotton when I English paper piece.  It also has replaced my love of Bottom Line threads since it's just that much thinner and shows less. For that matter being thinner it's cheaper (Bottom Line $7.60/1000 m) So I imagine I can use dusty rose sometime.  ($5.30)

1 Spool of Ahora, 40 wt polyester, Cream...this apparently glows in the dark.  Oh, that's new!  You  recharge it under lights or in the sun. Honestly, this is the only thing that I wasn't quite sure what I'd use it for, how it would work, and if I really needed it.   I'll let ya know! ($6)

Thread Dispenser

2 Spools of Tutti,
1000m, 50 wt cotton, Shell & this is their main cotton quilting/piecing thread line.  The interesting thing is that with a little math calculation the price/meter it is MORE than aurifil. (1000 m of aurifil - $10.31 US, Tutti $11.34 ea)

2 Spools of Spotlight, 1000m, 40 wt Metallic Rayon, Red & Aqua...these are apparently a metallic thread but made of rayon so it should quilt and embroider without breakage.  I've NEVER gotten a metallic to work with my machine so this ought to be interesting.  It definitely has a nice "metallic" shimmer to it, even more than a regular rayon.  I love the colors since red and aqua are definitely colors I will use for this kind of work!  ($16.40 ea)

1 Box of a 6 mini spool collection of InvisiFil, 100 wt polyester...I've tried this before to hand applique and EPP and found it too fine.  Now with this nice little collection, I'll try it in my machine to machine applique and free motion.  ($26)

Mini Spool Collection of InvisiFil- Great Colors Right?

1 Ultimate Thread Dispenser...I never thought to buy one of these but after watching the video Here, it has me wondering if it really is more than the latest gadget!  I have some threads that I can NOT get to feed right into my machine so if it works on them it's totally worth it.  I'll let you know.  ($16)

Retail that comes to $108.78

Plus they included a cute 2022 mini calendar which will fill a small space in my work from office and stickers (come on - who doesn't love stickers - do  you think it's inbred in us as little girls to love stickers or what?)

All and all, I totally thought it was worth the  $45.  I had a ton of fun opening it up and exploring exactly what they sent me.  I think it would have made it easier if they had included some kind of literature on what was what in there.  I had to track it all down on their website which actually is really nice to us and full of helpful information.

Plus now I can try all the different types of threads and report back on how they worked in my Janome!  I never had a stitch or thread sampler and I don't think it's a bad idea to have one.  

Any comments and suggestions on what thread I should try next would be welcome!

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Friday, July 8, 2022

All Hands on Off the Wall Friday

 "You know if you get up and sew you'll have something to blog about for Off the Wall Friday"

So my husband said to me last weekend as I was binge-watching 3 seasons of "Glow Up" a British make-up competition show (Netflix - I highly recommend seasons 2 and 3 ..grin).  God really blessed me when he put that man in my path.  He is so right!!  So I got up and tackled my studio.

First I had to clean it from top to bottom.  All the remnants of orange, green, and beige got put away.  Then, I had to search out all my free motion gear and switch my machine into the FM Goddess she is!  Then make up the sample quilt sandwiches, because Lord knows, it's been an age since I free motion quilted!

Once that was all done, I got down to the nitty-gritty!  I pulled out the boxes of my favorite Mettler Poly Sheen thread and opened up my new roll of Golden Threads quilting paper.  Okay, so how I got through 30 years of my quilt life without knowing about this magic, I have no idea.  Maybe it's because I have a habit of spontaneously free motioning instead of actually planning it out.  But I want to give a big THANK YOU to Jenny Lyon for clueing me in on it!!  This paper is specially designed so you can trace a design,  pin it to the top of your quilt, free motion along your traced line and then easily tare it off. Initially, I thought really?  Is it that much better than regular tracing paper or tissue paper?  The answer is yes!  And if you need proof, you can watch this short video by Leah Day.  Plus she shows you exactly how to use it which isn't rocket science.  Two Pro can easily be found on Amazon Prime and you can use a fine tip light color sharpie to trace and it works great. 

So after I got my FMQ chops tuned up, I managed practicing out some hands.  After the first one, I realized that one line was NOT dark enough.  I did it again going over the hand's line several times.  I also found that for me it worked best if I traced the line every couple of inches.  It gave me a nice smooth line.  This is the sample I cut out and put up on Tessa.  And yes, Tessa now looks ALL HANDS!!  I don't know why I didn't realize that #1 her hands definitely needed a light brown thread and #2 they didn't need to be all thicked line.

This is why you make visual decisions visually!

Funny story of the day, Paul came in to check on my progress (and I believe to make sure I didn't go back to Netflix).  He was all encouraging (I told you he was smart) and praised my work!  After I explained my process of trails, he look vastly relieved and said, "Oh good I thought you were going to leave it like that!"  See God blessed me with that man! He did ask me why are you doing so many trials?  Obviously, he has never tried to take out free motion stitching!!

Anyways, I did manage to get all the trials done and found the right color for the last.  Now I just gotta decide if I'm going to stick with the shiny Poly Sheen or switch back to a nice matte cotton.  Who knew there were so many decisions in one little project!

So the saga continues...grin....

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Exploring the Abstract on Off the Wall Friday

Walking Through Time, Sue Benner

Flora 6, Anna Brown
Okay, am I the only one that just looked up today and realized it was July 1st?  How did that happen?  I mean it's half the year!  I was cleaning my studio and noticed the little pile of Christmas gifts I got that I never really dug into.  One of them is this amazing book, Exploring the Abstract: an Instructional journey by Joan Blackburn. Although it's explorations using paint, it could easily translate to surface
design on fabric.  It landed on my wish list because this book is loaded with ideas on how to start an abstract piece.  I've had more than one person ask me how I do abstract pieces.  Honestly, I didn't really have a good idea.  I mean I have a vague idea of how to start, but what I wanted was a PURPOSEFUL way of starting!!  As I skimmed this book, I love how Joan didn't totally plan out her piece but it was purposely done with an innate flair! I want to learn how to do that.  

#1 Learn the Rules

#2 Keep to the Rules while Experimenting

#3 Learn when to Break the Rules

Red Head, Cynthia Corbin

I thought it would be a good idea to work my way through the book, sometimes using paint, sometimes fabric, and show my explorations here. I want to adapt her painterly exercises into fabric and see if I can learn something new.  I think I will do them in manageable smaller sizes and keep the best to do later in full scale...hmmmmm...we'll see.  

 I was hoping to have done more than skimmed it by now, but ya know, my customers need their clothes.  Luckily that seems to be coming to an end so I'm happy!  Must be all the fuss around the 4th and people realizing "Wow" it's summer!

So stay tuned!

Now under Things I like...

Last Friday I was contemplating how to transfer some of the quilting lines to my mosaic quilt. After wracking my brain for half a minute I got the idea to "Phone a Friend"!  I sent a  quick message to Jenny Lyon and asked if she had 10 min for me.  She message back yes and I opened facebook messenger, pressed video, and there Jenny was all the way out in California!  She was sitting in her studio and I in my family room and for the first time we got to talk face to face.  I'm not sure what tickled me finally be able to talk to someone for "real" that we've corresponded over the last 10 years or that it was so darn easy and cheap!  So it did take about 10 min for us to brainstorm some ideas on what would work with the project.....then it took another hour of us chatting once we started about all things quilting.  It does a body's soul to connect with your people, doesn't it?

So I want to give a big shout of THANKS to Jenny for the help and the creative boost.  I highly encourage you to reach out to an online friend and connect.  This separation from the last year is not doing anybody any good! 

ohhhh and apparently this is #500 OFF THE WALL FRIDAY!  Wow on the day I thought - we need a blog link-up that starts with art quilters....wonder if anybody would come every week if I hosted one....I never thought it would last to 500!!  Thanks everyone for being faithful!

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Musings on Mosaics on Off the Wall Friday


The moment when you realize you've let things get too complicated

So today I took the afternoon off to sew.  It isn't a great time to take off since all of a sudden, the country has decided it's actually summer and they want to buy, buy, buy their summer clothes.  It's been kinda crazy at work and with summer here, crazy on the social front.  All of that adds up to no time to sew.  So I did it. I took the afternoon off to finally finish up Tessa's Mosaic.

I've been three weeks trying to get what amounted to 5 hrs worth of work done on this piece.  In the past, I've hmmm'd and hawww'd over a piece, procrastinating till I feel in the mood to do it.  This was different though.  I knew what needed to get done.  I even had an idea of how to do it.  I still couldn't get myself to sit and get it done.  Why?

Timna Tarr had the answer. (Another reason to surround yourself with women smarter than yourself!)   I was very emotionally invested in this piece.  Not only was it based on my Princess (and the wonderful time we had doing her senior photo shoot) but also it was the first piece I've done since having a creative block (aka Menopause..gasp!)  Add in there the fact that it's my first mosaic and my first portrait  and it had me kinda frozen in fear of failure.  

After 30 years of quilting, you'd think that screwing up a piece wouldn't matter much.  It's not like it's the first time I've failed.  Nor the first time I've made a dog. Or the first time a piece was so bad I didn't have the heart to finish.  But...this piece means a lot!  

So that's why finally,  I took an afternoon off and worked in my 82-degree studio to get the top done.  I won't say it wasn't a struggle.  First I had to finalize a way to pattern out Tessa's face.  YES - I did track down her roommate who has a copy of photoshop to use the poster filter on it.

Then made the pattern  itself

Get the blocks sewn...who knew so much work could go into 9 little blocks?

Finally, get the top put all together... correct the twisted block my husband pointed out, and tweak up the edges I wanted to smooth.  I decided not to smooth too many but just enough so it wasn't distracting to the viewer.  A good press and it's ready for Off the Wall Friday.  

Now that it's done, it makes me think what was all the fuss about?!?  It's really that it comes back to the fact that no matter how well a technician you are as a quilter/artist, you still need to stay mentally strong.  Honestly, that isn't a bad distinction between craft and art.  Craft you can do technically well and succeed,  but for art, it has to be technically well, original, and a piece of you.  That piece is the part of yourself that wasn't too scared to show your vulnerability. It's the part of yourself that was afraid to fail. 

Next step is a nice mental break of cleaning up my studio which looks like oranges, greens and beiges threw a big party.  Then layer it and start stitching.  Hopefully, since I've been pondering the stitching line that will go smoother!

So that's my angst of the week...

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