Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stash Sell Off!

Okay, I finally made the decision. I am going to take half of my stash and sell it off - cheapie! cheapie! It was just cluttering up my shelves and taking away room from the fabric that I actually did want to use.

Now I own a lot of fabric - although I would not say an obscene amount but respectable for a long time quilter. I never was a quilter who bought fabric for a project. I would buy fabric because I had to have it and if I found a project that it would go into that was fine. I would always use my overtime money for it so it wasn't a big deal to my husband. Besides, I'm not like other women you know - I don't want expensive shoes or purses or a nice car or even a nice Bernina - I just liked to have a decent stash of fabric. Over the years its been a blessing too since I now only work when my daughter's in school and fabric is soooooooo expensive.

But lately I've found that its been more of a hindrance then a help. It seems like my stash was always in a mess and I couldn't find anything that I wanted. Plus, I needed to find a place for my hand dyed collection which is getting bigger. I also wanted to find the fabric in my stash that could be over dyed. So I started cleaning.

And clean I did - to the tune of over 500 yards - and counting! There is also a big bin of fabric sample cards I want to get rid of. I decided that I would start the sell off at a garage sale that I'm having. I just casually let some quilter friends know that I'm going to do a big stash sell off at $2/yard. I did manage to get rid of nearly 100 yards yesterday but still there is a ton more. I'm going to run the garage sale one more day because its been raining on and off both days - sigh!

Also I got serious today - I listed it on Craiglist, I contacted the heads of the quilt guilds I know or could find online and really just tried to reach anybody who might want quilt shop fabric cheap! I'll keep you updated. Plus I do a blog on my pretty - organized - remaining stash.

One quilter asked if it was hard to let go and the answer was a huge NO! I still have at least that much fabric in my stash and now I can actually get at it - plus its nice to bless another quilter with cheapie good fabric!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hand Dyeing Fabric on a Dime

Well, I finally took a leap of faith and started hand dyeing my fabric. I ended up taking a quilt back I had bought on sale and cutting it into 12" by 18" pieces - bigger than a fat eighth but smaller than a fat quarter. I put 26 of them into a soda ash bath and set it out on my wrap around porch. I decided after looking at many different quilter's dye station set ups, that I wouldn't go so fancy. I just put a vinyl table cloth on the floor of my porch - set a bucket upside down and worked there. I put two buckets of water around me - made my dye solutions and made sure I had enough beer cups labeled.

As an aside, let me just tell you, I never thought in my life I would have gone on a hunt for the elusive beer cup. I didn't even know they made such a thing - can you tell what a big drinker I am? I was following the methods set down by Melissa Will in her Dyeing 101 blog. Its fabulous! I asked a couple of neighbors concerning the cups and they clued me into the fact that you can get them in the 18 oz size at a discount store. So in case you hear rumors that I've taken up drinking in large oz glasses - its just that I'm really hand dyeing fabric!

Anywaysssss - Although it took me most of the day, the process was easy enough to follow. I ended up with 26 different color samples. I just used two sets of different blue, yellows and reds that I had bought on sale and applied recipes that Melissa had suggested (although she had used different primary shades). I thought the results were quite nice although a little pale. We have hard water here so I'll have to look into a softner or used bottle water to dye with. I cured them for 4 hours at 70 degrees so that might have been a factor too.

Still I love the results and that I actually did it. Its fun playing mad scientist for a bit. I love that you're not quite sure how the colors are going to come out and the sense of accomplishment you get when you see them all ironed in front of you. I did start a dye journal with the recipes and samples.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

To Dye or Not to Dye

For the longest time, I've said I wasn't going to be dyeing any fabric myself. First of all I already have a nice stash of hand dyed fabric that I've bought from other talented people. Then there's the fact that I just hadn't been doing that much sewing the last couple of years. Since it seems I've finally come out of that perimenopausal haze I had going, I really am starting to sew again. That said, I noticed all the pretty hand dyed fabrics ladies had done themselves at QBL this year. Now I'm thinking. . . maybe I'll give it a try.

So where does one start??? Well, since I'm so visual, of course I got a good book for beginners. There are alot of them out there. I read a couple from the library and bought Fabric Dyeing for Beginners which was really helpful. Then I read a bunch of the wonderful blogs they have on the subject including Mel Johnson's, Paula Burch's, and one by Melissa in Canada. These were most helpful and I can't believe the information these generous ladies give for free!

Next I needed the stuff. You know how it is - every new endeavor needs stuff. Since I'm suppose to be on a No Spending Spree (it is back to school time), I started locally. I went into ACMoore's in Erie and found the section for textile coloring. They had Synthanol, urea, and soda ash but no dyes. That didn't make sense - so I looked and looked only to be disappointed. A couple of days later, I went back in just to browse with a girlfriend (because you know its fun just to browse in ACMoore's!) Don't you know I found all the dyes in the clearance ailse (which I wasn't originally going to go down but felt drawn in) for $2 and $3 a jar for 3 oz. I was all happy with that and bought the 7 or 8 colors they had. I'm always surprised when God lends a helping like that. It never gets old and I never take it for granted. I then went up into my stash and found all sorts of fabrics that I can scour to practice with. Because our family is trying to be green I'm using recycled plastics to do the dyeing in but did buy new measuring and mixing stuff at the dollar store.

So after my little scavenger hunt, I think I'm ready to start to begin to hand dye on a dime. With the dog days of summer upon us, it looks like its something to keep me busy until work really picks up again. I did manage yesterday to get the thread work on the arches done and will finish quilting that this morning - Thank God. I'm sooooooo over this piece and am itchin' to get onto the next!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Woodworkers Who Marry Quilters

I've been steadily working on finishing up the first in the arches quilt. To me its amazing how long sometimes the thread work will take in a design. Twice I've put in lines that I've had to sit and take out. Annoying! Also I've been trying to follow my rule to sew at least an hour a day, but with the dog days of summer finally upon us that's all I've managed! Well at least this is another week and I'm hoping to finish it up so I can start on the next one.

I did manage to make Elizabeth Barton's blog - twice. Her and I do think a lot alike but it always surprises me when she uses one of my comments in a later blog. She's really hit a nerve with blogging out the whole debate on if surface design is a stand along art in itself. Interesting!

So my husband Paul left yesterday for his annual week at Marc Adam's School of Woodworking. He's taking an advanced class in veneering. I find it amusing how many quilters are married to woodworkers. I run into them all the time. Although Paul did originally start 17 years ago (the same time I started quilting) with regular furniture, lately he's taken on some more interesting projects. He's designing his own work and adding all sorts of marquetry. I love the curves that he's scupting into them - pretty! His latest pieces, though, don't fit into our practical need of furniture here so I keep asking him to sell them. He's been contacted by a couple of galleries and I sure could use a new bedroom set!

Since he took
digital camera - sorry - our digital camera to class, I thought I would post some of his latest pieces.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Sewing Hole - a.k.a. the studio

I'm quite sure that my sewing hole hasn't grown up into a studio yet. I feel more like its in that awkward tween stage. You know what I mean, just starting to show the signs of puberty - sorta smelly - a little rude and just not looking comfortable. You'd think with 14 rooms in this old Victorian of ours that I could find a nice place to sew. I originally was up in our bedroom since its 35 feet long. We slept on one side and the other had all my sewing paraphanalia. That was fine until I needed a design wall and I had to be downstairs watching my little daughter.

So we moved it downstairs into a hole off the family room. Now its a nice hole - as holes go. There is plenty of natural light, enough space (well nearly enough space) and a workable design wall. We reclaimed my nice big work table from a lab that I used to work for (how green of us!). Still there is not enough storage for my fabric. My fabric resides way up on the third floor in what we call our loft. Previous owners had converted the attic of this old house into a bathroom/dressing room. The dressing room is a huge 10 by 12 closet with clothes on one side and fabric on open shelving on the other. Its
continually a mess and one day we are going to get an organizational system that actual works but for now it is what it is.

Because my sewing hole is off my family room, everybody thinks they can go by and add their 2 cents on what's going on in there. Also it took a lot of training to teach my family that just because it didn't have a door that closed, didn't mean they could snatch any art/craft supplies they needed and that every odd and end couldn't be laid in there - even temporarily. It takes a lot of effort to keep everything in its place. For my fabric, I usually have to bring it down in a big bin from the loft, audition it in the natural light and return anything that I'm not using. I keep the bin by my table until the project is done for any fabrics that I might or might not use. Its a hassle but at least I don't have fabric all around.

I'm still dreaming of the day when we can convert the second floor of our carriage house into a usable grown up studio - complete with skylights, big white walls - oh yeah - and like my husband says - heat . It seems like a long ways a way but a girl can dream can't she?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Directions with Cynthia Corbin

My first week at QBL, was spent with Cynthia Corbin. This was the second time I have chosen a class with her and found out that she was just as easy going as always. I love Cynthia's laid back approach to design. This week though was all about moving us out of our comfort zone and trying to take our work into new directions. Each day she would give us a series of design exercises hoping to stretch us a bit.

Monday we used our favorite and least favorite color. At the moment, mine happen to be lime green and muckish gray. We were suppose to create 12" studies using our favorite colors with one other color and then use our favorite and least favorite together (and make it work LOL!) Everyone laughed but it was a nice stretch. Here are my results.

Tuesday we had to take the ugliest fat quarters we could find and create a study that was - not pretty - but ugly! We were to break all the normal "rules" we use - throw out the design elements we knew and experiment in ways of construction. Also we only had an hour, so we couldn't over think anything. Although most ladies felt the heat of this challenge, I was on a mission and really dug it. I pretended I was on Project Runway or something :) After we were done, then Cynthia said - okay - repeat that whole exercise but make this one even uglier. After a good groan and giggle, we took another hour to make another even uglier. We critiqued all of our creations finding some redeeming value in them. Our homework for that night was then to take that redeeming value and put it in a piece that was actual pretty. So here are the results.

On Wednesday we were to take a photo inspiration down to its basic lines and create a couple of studies using different values. Then we could start adding other elements to make the design more complex. This was the hardest exercise for me since I think the four hour sleeping nights were starting to catch up to me. Finally by 3:30 I went home for a well deserved nap.
With each of these exercises we were to take down what we had made and put them aside not letting them influence our next creations. But still you can see a progression in mine - done totally unconsciously. I found this all rather interesting. For Thursday and Friday we had our choice of making one big project or another set of studies going further with what we had begun in class. I chose to try a bigger project using some of the elements that I had been experimenting with. Now what I ended up was a nice strong piece but I thought was rather on the ugly side. One teacher, Marilyn Belford, came in and remarked how strikingly strong it was. When I whined that I hate making ugly things - she said,"Art is not supposed to be pretty." She has this really strong voice and I got a good giggle out of that because - 1st all her stuff is pretty great and secondly - she's quite right. Still I'm not sure if I'll finish this but I did manage to get it all sewn down to its foundation.

If you hadn't guessed - I'm quite sure I had more fun in this class than any other. Hmmmmmm I even learned a few things :)) I would highly recommend Cynthia to anybody looking to learn design in a low key safe environment. She's the best!

Working in Series with Elizabeth Barton

Elizabeth Barton first planted the seed to work in series during her class at QBL in July 2008. Then though, I immediately dismissed it without much thought. I mean, first of all how does one work in series? Then how do you discipline yourself to actually to it. Since I'm the original ADD quilter, there didn't seem like much hope. Still over a series of blog entries on the matter, she slowly changed my mind. By mid-spring I was ready to take the leap into her class this year at Quilting by the Lake entitled - what else? - Working in Series. I had learned a lot, the first time I took her. I was sure I would learn even more this year. I wasn't disappointed.
The week was. . . intense. She started asking what our goals were for the class - mine were to gain some focus on my art work and to work hard. Now you wouldn't think you would have to mention that last point - but some people go to quilt conference to socialize, have fun and do a little sewing. I do all that - just not in that order. Well Elizabeth took me at my word. She started the week with a 3 hour lecture on what is a series and the first elements of design. She then assigned us all unique afternoon assignments that dealt with our specific series theme. I chose arches. I had literally looked at hundreds of pictures of arches in the last month and still wasn't sick of them - so figured that's a good place to start. I spent the rest of the day (till 10 at night) working up 6 sketches from photo inspirations. I basically copied down the main lines and then added and deleted as I saw fit.
The next day she gave a slide show and a review of the series process she wanted us to try for the week. We were to pick a theme, size, shape, and title. Then we were to write a theme paragraph to detail exactly what we wanted to express in our series. We were then to pick one of the sketches to start the series and make a few value colorations of it. With all that done, we could pick out three colors for our first piece - one dominate, one secondary and one accent. We were to sort them by value and tempature. Finally - we could start designing.
So if you had walked in our classroom of 8 students on Wednesday morning, you would have seen a lot of white empty design boards. Still Elizabeth assured us all that by Friday, we would have a piece from the series to take home. I had my doubts, but I've learned to trust her. I worked through the whole process chosing the title Everyday Arches. After a little prodding I even posted my theme paragraph which - not one - but two people (not from my class) actually read and commented on. I found that surprising that people really cared.
Anyways, all that design work paid off because by the end of Thursday night (I worked both days till 11 pm), I had my design done. After taking a good look Friday morning, Elizabeth said - "Well that one looks done - want to start another?" She's lucky I like her so well, or else I would have slapped her LOL!! I settled on just discussing the next and started sewing down the first. I don't care to work horizontal on pieces - even in series. Anyways, I wasn't the only one to get the series started. Each of my classmates got a good start on theirs. Elizabeth promised to post them on her blog which was nice - she also asked us to commit to 5 more pieces in the series. So I did - I know - what was I thinking? Ohhhhhhh yeah - I was thinking that I wanted to gain focus on my art and to work hard - sighhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back from Quilting By the Lake!!

OMG! What an intense, amazing, exhausting, creative etc. etc. two weeks. I know that most people look to pretty beaches, amusement parks, cruises, tropical islands and mountains for vacations but give me a good quilt conference anytime! Quilting by the Lake 2009 was just simply wonderful! This is the 29th year for this conference and my 9th. I took classes from Cynthia Corbin and Elizabeth Barton and both were well worth the time and money.

Still QBL is more than just great classes. They have a great quilt show and lectures too. The new setting at Onedaga Community College was a great change. The campus is spacous and relaxing. The suites we stayed in were comfy, the air-conditioned classrooms were appreciated and the grounds themselves were nicely kept. In fact, the whole campus was very welcoming!

Although I'll get together my blogs on my classes later, here are some GREAT pic's from the quilt show. This is only a sampling of the ones I loved!