Friday, December 3, 2021

Adding the Value on Off the Wall Friday

A Work Table of a Quilter?


About 10 years ago, Elizabeth Barton asked me to make value studies of the design I had chosen to do in her class.  No problem.....How many?


I beg your pardon?  Did you say 8? OMGosh!  Are you crazy? I sew.  I do not spend time coloring ... in greys!

But I did (Because why spend $600 on a class if you're not going to listen to the teacher, right?!)  Let me tell you it was time well spent.  Doing value studies really gives you good starting point once you start auditioning fabrics.  I mean think about it...You might pick the colors you want in your piece but how many fabrics do you have in those colors?  Do you just want to randomly start pulling them from your stash and auditioning them one after another?  Once you have your value study chosen then at least you know where the darks go - where the lights go etc etc.  It doesn't mean that you are strictly going to stick with your value map....but it's a start.

So my Sacred Threads Design continued this week (Yes this is week 2 and I still haven't touched fabric!).  I first want to give a big THANK YOU to Margaret Blank who pointed out that my original  chosen composition contained the sin of a tangent element.  With a quick google search I found out she was right so it was back to the drawing board! (And yes of course she was's Margaret!)

So after scrapping the tangent praise lady... I decided to bring back another element I had originally played around with

Cross, Ray, Circles

Now this I was happy with.  So on with the  value studies.  I start with  the line drawing  and reduce it down to 25% .  The smaller sketches are easier to color in with colored pencils.  I made due with grays from my  prismacolor  set.  Later,  I did find that DickBlick sells an actual tin of gradations of gray scale pencils which I put immediately on my Christmas list!  

It took a long afternoon and several episodes of Star Trek Voyager but I came up 8 different variations of value.

In the beginning I was using big blocks of the same value while later I started playing with an ombre effect which of course added even more movement.  (Sorry it isn't exactly clear in the photos) .  I do like how by placing the lightest of the lights in the circle it creates a window effect,  Also it adds emphasis to what probably will be the focal point - where they all intercept.  

One thing I did noticed was that they all seemed a bit "stodgy".  I've been watching a lot of the British Bake-Off lately and the Britianism's are starting to wear off.  (Stodgy - heavy, filling, full of carbohydrates).  So a composition that I wanted to contain light and movement was being weighted down.  hmmmm but by what??

So I went back to the original inspiration by Georgia OKeefe.  Here it is in greyscale.  See what she did?  She broke up the values to give more movement, helping the curve recede and then draw forward.  Cool right?  So I'm thinking I need more of that!  

And yes that means I need to do some few more value studies before I can play with fabric.  Elizabeth would be so pleased..grin

So What Have Been Up to Creatively?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Idea Continues on Off the Wall Friday

 Last week I explained how I create an idea from the very beginning.  This week I actually put it into practice.  With the Sacred Threads Art Show deadline 7 weeks away, I really need to get my act together.  Of course, after the year I've had, sometimes I forget where my act actually is so I can get it together.  Luckily I found some creativity I had squirred away for a rainy day and the design is well on its way.  

Red and Orange Streak, OKeefe
#1 Theme - For Sacred Threads, it needs to be themes that explore joy, spirituality, peace/brotherhood, inspiration, grief, or healing.So I'll pick something in there!

#2 Research - I spent a long afternoon researching different ideas and inspirations I had saved on Pinterest.  Honestly, I really think they should rename that site The Rabbit Hole since I open it up, and the next thing you know days hours have passed.  For this project, I studied how other artists interrupted praise.  It was all curves and radiating compositions which fits me fine!  Plus they are all drama, drama, drama.  Perfect!!  The more I looked the more I kept coming back to Georgia OKeefe's Red and Orange Streak.  Not only does it have a fitting composition Cruciform Structure (yeah just a fancy way of saying cross shape) but it's all about the drama!  So I stole that and went from there.

#3 Design - Now here is where things get dicey.  Once I have the initial idea, I do most of my designing  on paper.  It's readily available, comes in lots of sizes, easy to draw on and trace through, and most importantly easy to EARASE.  With tracing paper you can add in elements, take out elements and layer them pretty easily. So that's what I did!  Here are some of the trials....

Cross  With Lady

It's a beginning ...but I'm not keen on the way the line breaks up her tummy plus how quiet the upper left hand corner is

Add Another Lady

Too much Lady - losing the Cross (Paul said Nina she's too big- oops he's right)

Lady and Little Lady

Well this helps but I have no idea what I'm going to do with little lady's chopped off legs - that just looks weird.  It could be worked into the a pieced background.  With this  - I'm losing the cross composition which really should be the star of the piece - Scrapped this idea

Cross, Lady and Circle

This was just one trial of many, many circle ideas.  Honestly I do think that a circle still could be worked into this design but maybe as a secondary element in a  pieced background.  I'm thinking with the primary composition less is more.

Cross, Lady, Rays

Now this I like...First of all who doesn't like rays coming down from Heaven to shine on a Praise lady (grin).  Secondly, composition wise it gives a push and pull to the curve without taking over the piece.  This one I'm keeping.  

Those are only a few of the ideas that I tried getting to the end composition.  Many of them were scrapped and some went into the trash.  With tracing paper though it was harmless and a lot cheaper than doing it with fabric.

Want more on how to evaluate a composition???  You can find posts  Here and Here!

What's Next?  Value studies and palette/fabric choices

On this Week's Edition of Things I Like.... One Expensive .... One Cheap

After watching me wrestle with my old laptop, my husband very kindly bought me a new Dell Inspiron 15 (not for Christmas - just because I deserved it!)  It's been 7 years since my last upgrade and OMGosh I'm in heaven.  It's so much faster which makes editing and writing this blog a breeze.  It keeps up with my fast internet so I can get things done so much quicker.  I love Windows 11 - much more than Windows 10.  I find where things are innately.  Plus the apps it came with are really what I

need...especially the To-Do it!  The built in webcam isn't the best but it's fine for my purposes.  

Finally under the category of  "It's the Simple Things" for all this paper work I broke out my favorite erasure, Pentel Clic Eraser.  I discovered this baby in 1984 in the Syracuse University Bookstore. and as a freshman engineer student I thought it was coolest thing ever.  Nearly 40 years later, I still love them.  The eraser is perfect for when you want to erase just what you want to erase.  Not to mention it doesn't smear and ages well without drying out Plus it's easy to store with your other pencils.  Anyways for $5 it makes my life easier!

So What Are You Up To Creatively?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Birth of an Idea on Off the Wall Friday


Honestly, I don't know how it can be Thursday already!  Work is crazy, the snow has started to fly (yes SNOW #lifeonLakeErie) and the holidays are just around the corner.  In all of this, I got the bright idea to try to enter Sacred Threads 2022.  With the deadline  fast approaching, it suddenly got moved to the top of my to-do list.   The only problem is I have no clue of what I want to enter.  I thought it would be fun to blog out how I go about coming up with a new design.  (Notice the use of blog as a verb...see the younger generation isn't the only one that can slaughter the English language!)  

(Now remember this is just how I go about giving birth to an idea!)

Red & Orange Streak, Georgia OKeefe

Step 1:
  Theme ... Here I decide what I want to say.  I've seen many, many quilters make a quilt and then decides what it says.    That might be fun for an exercise but for something as important as Sacred Threads that just won't do.  For me, though its easy.  I want to continue on with my worship series.  Worship for me is an big part of my spiritual life and it's fun to bring both my passions (worship/art) together.  This would be the fourth in the series.  

Victory Dance, Deborah Nell
Step 2:  Research ... Most times, this is where I need to learn more about the subject I
want to create.  Of course with this project,  I totally understand the subject.  That brings me to looking at inspirational ideas.  What works for me is to study how other artists have covered a subject.  From the beginning of art, artists have looked to other artists to inspire their own work.  With the advent of the internet it's become that much easier.  Over the last 10 years, I've currated my pinterest boards.  I use them not only to hoard collect pretty pictures but put together ideas for future projects.  With a new project, it just gives me an excuse to go down the rabbit hole of fact...I just had to stop myself from doing it while I was writing this post.  With this project, I already had a board going called Praise.

Step 3: Brainstorm ... In the past I would do this mentally, but as I get older I find it's not a bad idea to write things down.  Most of the time it starts out on quarter cut pieces of scrap paper that I'll jot down as I'm talking to  my customers.  It goes somethings like this..... VERBALLY  Yes, I'm sorry to say but the no-iron pants in  14 petite are  on back order till December 14....MENTALLY  I love how
those the curves radiate right off the edge of this painting.  It makes it seem like the praise just keeps going and going.  PHYSICALLY Jot down a quick sketch and put it in the pile for after work. (Oh yeah, I do get my customer her pants ... we always have those pants in some color!)    Then the little sketches can be later evaluated and stored for the next step.

Step 4:  Design ... This is where rubber hits the road.  I mean, it's all fine and good to be
talking about a new design but if you can't get it down on paper, it's all for naught, right?!  For me I'll do simple line sketches of the different ideas and elements from previous steps.  They don't have to be anything fancy, but they have to start looking like an actual compositions.  I do this with both abstract and figurative designs.  And no...I don't do just one.... I'll do a few.  THEN I can evaluate which one is the strongest.   The strongest goes safely into my sketchbook where it can later be refined. 

And THAT's how an idea is born.  For me, it's all down on paper.  I know weird, but I really do need to have a road map on where I'm going or I'll just end up standing still...or worse yet....circling back to the beginning.  With that said,  I definitely don't guarantee that I will get to where I actually meant to but I'm quite sure it will be someplace interesting.  

So What Are You Up to Creatively?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, November 12, 2021

Connections on Off the Wall Friday


If anything Covid has taught me, is the need for connection.  How many of us have taken our
social time for granted right up to the moment when it wasn't there.  To be fair, since moving to "Working From Home" 5 years ago, I've been looking for a way to connect.  Still there wasn't any kind of sense of urgency. Until...well, ya know....March, 2020.  I don't think I really understood how much our year was going to change until the President closed the airports to Europe.  Of course, the connections in our lives were just  starting to be cut.  My work life didn't change.  Ladies still called, call after call, wanting their clothes but just the idea that I couldn't go anywhere was...well, let's just say it was a wake-up call.

Jump ahead 18 months and I get an email from a reader.  (That still kinda blows my mind.  10 years later, I still can't get used to the idea that anybody actually reads this dribble blog )  She wrote saying she was a reader and had noticed I was in the Erie area.  From there a conversation was struck up and...drum roll...a connection was made.  God truly blessed me since not only was a connection  made, but a connection with a lady that was just as smart and quirky as I am.  Plus she's a talented art quilter who knows what she's doing!  Like I said BLESSED!  

To-Do App On My Phone

  So we decided to stay connected by making a monthly meeting.  At this meeting, we can  Show & Tell finish projects, bring pieces we're stuck on and  review our To-Do lists.  Yes I said it...TO-DO Lists.  I was bold enough to suggest we start monthly lists of projects we wanted to be held accountable to.  Two weeks in, let me tell you, it was one of my better ideas.  Every time I don't feel like working, I think, "I can't report in that I've been a lazy ass slug all month." Plus, go figure the more I sew, the more I want to sew. Who would have thunk?!?!  

Out of the three projects from my list, of course I chose the slowest one to concentrate on.  Little by little though the pinwheels are coming together.  Since work is back to normal, I have enough brain power to sew a couple hours a day (I've been listening to Star Trek Voyager  while doing it - boy is that good!).  I decided to do the pinwheels in hunks of colors and values and then just arrange them up on the  design board.  I first started with hunks of mediums   and now have been adding in the hunks of lights.  You can see how all of a sudden it goes from just an ordinary scrap quilt to the beginnings of something wayyyyyy more interesting.  I always had an idea of what direction  I wanted  these little trapezoids to go in but to see it starting to come together is really exciting!












And it's all because I made a connection.  

This weekend I really need to get back to my sewing machine and work on the rest of the list.  Mind you, I said that last weekend and the pinwheels dragged me back to them...but my studio is lonely and needs me!!

Have you made any connections?  Was it a good or bad experience?

So What Have Been Up to Creatively?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, November 5, 2021

Let's Talk Piecing Thread on Off the Wall Friday


Okay, I know fusing  quilt tops is popular with the time-crunched quilters of today....very popular.  But there are still those of us that are doing a lot of piecing.  I love to piece.  I love the texture that extra layer of fabric adds with the seams.  You can feel it every time you run your fingers over your work.  

All of this came to me this week, as I spent time hand piecing my pinwheels.  It's amazing what you think of when you quietly make stitch after stitch after stitch after stitch.  From there I got to thinking about the thread I was using and how different it was from my machine piecing thread.  For the pinwheels, I've been using a Wonderfil DecoBob  80 wt polyester and WoW!  what a

difference it's made in my English paper piecing.  

If the DecoBob made such a difference in my handwork, would changing my machine piecing thread make a difference too?  I mean, 50 wt cotton thread is 50 wt cotton thread, right?  Well, it turns out, after some investigation the answer is no.  

I took some time to research the most popular piecing threads that are being used by today's quilter.  I chose 50 wt since that is the weight I use.  Here's what I found.... 

Aurifil -2 ply Egyptian Cotton, Long staple...comes in 270 colors...made in Italy

Superior (Masterpiece) - 3 ply  Egyptian Extra Long  Staple ...comes in 79 colors  (I could not find where their thread is made)

Gutermann - Long Staple Cotton...comes in 240 colors...(I could not find if it was 2 or 3 ply, also where it was manufactured)

Wonderfil Konfetti - 3 ply Egyptian Long  Staple Cotton - 60 colors - made in Canada

A&E Signature - 3 ply Egyptian  Extra Long Staple  - 96 colors made in the USA

Mettler - Silk Finished - 2 ply Egyptian Long Staple - 250 colors - made in Germany

If anybody knows some of the information I couldn't find like what ply or manufacturing country please let me know and I'll edit the list.

Now, I know what you're thinking ...Nina what does all that mean ??....well I'll tell you.

Apparently, cotton grown in Egypt is the best in the world since it has the longest strands.  Longer strands means smoother thread.  Smoother thread means stronger thread with less lint.  Cotton is classified in 3 categories - Extra Long Cotton, Long Cotton and Short Cotton.  As the ranking implies Extra Long Cotton will create the strongest, smoothest thread.

Then there is the ply.  2 ply means that they take 2 strands and twist them to make your thread.  3 ply will make a stronger thread.  Both are very fine and smooth but 3 ply will always be stronger.

All these cottons are mercerized which gives them a smooth finished.

I found these facts interesting.  I mean, can the average quilter actually tell the difference between a 2 ply and a 3 ply?  Will having a Extra long Staple make a difference than a long staple?  I found it interesting that my guess for the most popular  - Aurifil  - has only 2 ply   - long cotton staple.  It boasts of low lint, but it stands to reason that a 2 ply thread will create less lint than a 3 ply.  Also, my guess is that its the most expensive with the biggest marketing budget.

I've used all of these threads at one time or another.  For years and years, I swore by signature piecing thread.  I would buy big cones of it and never had a problem with it.  About 5 years ago, I switched to aurifil and had the same great result.  I think the reason I switched was that it was more readily available at the the time hmmmmm and on sale.

I have tried the sample of Kofetti but not to a great extent.  I didn't care for gutermann since I got a lot of breakage.  Last on my list was the Mettler.  Don't ask me why but  the thread was just too "silky" to

easily use.   I got a lot of breakage - tangling with hand sewing and it was generally a pain.  I literally threw out any last spools of it.

Also, I want to mention that I don't have a big "stash" of piecing thread.  I normally just keep big cones of the white, light grey, dark grey and black handy.  

After this exploration, I'm thinking I'm going to try going back to Signature.  Not only do I like it's stats but I also like the fact it's American made.  Maybe I'll get a cone of it in and test it side by side against the aurifil....I'll let you know.



Okay tell me....What are your experiences with piecing thread?  Does it change with the project or with machine.  Does price play into it??  Or the ease of where to buy it?

Let Me Know!! 




You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, October 29, 2021

Digital Printed Fabric on Off the Wall Friday


 So it's gettin' to be that time of year when my family asks me to fill in my Giftster list on what I want for Christmas.  This year it's harder than most since I really don't need anything.  I started looking through my studio and noticed how much digital fabric I bought this year.  Something about the vibrant colors and the funky abstract designs really appealed to me.  In the last 5 years, I haven't bought  much commercial fabric since #1 It's so Godawful expensive and #2 that midcentury "modern" design is not my jam!  Now that digital printed fabrics are becoming more main mainstream, it's captured my interest and my fabric budget!

When digital printed fabric was first introduced to the average quilter, most balked at the higher price and odd designs.  She wasn't used to the idea that with digital fabric, basically you can print any image that can be put into a digital file.  I mean really, how do you work some of those designs into a traditional quilt?

Screen Printing
Traditionally, quilting fabric is screen printed in Japan and Korea.  Due to the screen printing process it
is  limited to about 2 dozen colors in a design.  The screens need to be cleaned and the process is NOT environmentally friendly.  The fabric produced is high quality and color fast, but due to the process, it's time consuming.  The industry norm is an 8 month turn-around from when a design is submitted till when it's delivered back here in the States.  That means that re-runs of a certain designs is not the norm.  So once your favorite design is gone it's gone. 

Digital printing is much more environmentally friendly.   The printing process is continually evolving so that the quality of the prints are photo realistic.  Because of the process, there is no need for a large run size of specific print.  Design amounts can be order as needed. The designs are also not limited the repeat of the screen process.  So if you want a very big design repeat you can have it!

Robert Kaufman Fabric...Effervescence


That said, the industry is still slowly investing in quality equipment to produce enough fabric to meet  the demand.  As this is happening prices on digital fabric have come down.  (I can attest to that.  I bought all of mine for under $9/yd).

Over the years, I've heard concerns from quilters about color fastness of their digital fabric.  I  think that all the fabric that I've bought in the last 3 years has held its color fine (but I haven't tested it in continual direct sunlight).  I might or might not prewash my quilt fabric but haven't had any big difference in the hand of the fabric.  What I have noticed is that I find the digital fabric dyes intense so they need to be carefully worked in with my traditional screen printed fabrics.  Their designs have a crisp strong look to them.



From what I've read, the digital printing of fabric is definitely where the industry is headed.  Michael Miller  Fabrics has already switched all their fabrics to digital.  Hoffman (gasp!) and Robert Kaufman both  have  invested in several collections.  Both companies are touting the environmental concerns, but it also makes better business sense.  With digital printing, a manufacturer has better control of the quantities needed to meet sales.  This eliminates overstock of prints that would end up being put on clearance.  

I found this whole foray into the world of fabric design interesting.  I have tried spoon flower with lack luster results.  Although I thought it was great that I could get any design I wanted, I thought the cost was too high for everyday quilting and the fabric quality not up to par.  But the Hoffman and RJR digital prints I bought this year were fabulous and I definitely can see myself buying more.  

So what are your thoughts on digital fabrics?   Let me know  your opinions and experiences!


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Cherrywood Challenge on Off the Wall Friday


Grafitti in Erie, Pennsylvania

 So I have a secret.  Well to be honest, it's not really a secret to anybody who knows me....I'm a bit competitive.  In fact, I'm so competitive that it could get completely out of hand.  About 10 years ago, I decided that I would no longer compete in all. That said, I do allow myself to compete

against myself which is still fun but a lot less destructive to my psyche.  With all the other issues in the last two years, I haven't even done that really...until now.  

I decided to do the Cherrywood Challenge this year.  Even though I dye my own fabric, I absolutely LOVE their work! Their fabric has a super soft suede hand with gorgeous saturated colors.  Really, it's like nothing I've ever seen before.  For the last 7 years, they have been hosting a challenge all centered around a central theme.  The rules are pretty easy.  You buy the kit of fat quarters and design a 20" square using only those fabrics featuring the theme. Past themes included Prince, Princess Diana, the Lion King, and Bob Ross.  I've found all the past themes intriguing but never enough for me to make the plunge. (Well, I would have done the van Gogh, but I found out about it too late - aduh on me!)

 That is until now.  This year's theme is Graffiti.  I absolutely love street art.  Maybe it's because I've lived most of my life in a rural town or maybe it's the bold colors or maybe it's just the idea of outlaw art but I honestly am fascinated by it.  That all said, I've never taken time to research and study the evolution of street art.

The Cherrywood Challenge gives me the perfect excuse without making a huge project commitment.  I mean anybody can finish a 20" square right?  Plus OMG  the colors are bold and gorgeous with a nice few pieces of grey neutrals.  Plus a yard of mistyfuse is included which is good because I really should get used to using this light weight fusible more.  The best part of the challenge is that you are only allowed to use the fabrics

included in the kit BUT you are encourage to use any other kind of art supply to embellish your creation.  So that means get out your paints, dyes, inks, beads etc!!

With my kit in hand, I'm really excited to begin.  The first thing I have to do is research and I want to play with lettering.  I'll keep you apprise of my progress!!  Please let me know if you decide to join in!

So What Have You've Been Up to Creatively?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter