Friday, September 25, 2020

Facts You Didn't Know About Faith Ringgold on Off the Wall Friday

Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 1991

 I love female artists....all ages...all media.  Shrug...maybe it's because it seems like I can relate to their subject matter. Basically what they think is important is lots of times what I think is important.  The female condition.

That's what originally brought me to Faith Ringgold (age 89).  Not only was she a female artist, but she was one that took her subject matter from causes that were important to her...racism, sexism...segregation.  Every woman, especially every African American woman could look at her work and relate.  

Subway Graffiti #3, 1987

Facts You Didn't Know About Faith Ringgold

1.  Faith started out as an art teacher.  She enrolled City College of New York to major art but

The American Dream, 1964

instead had to major in Art Education because female students were limited to certain majors.  (Stop and let that sink in a minute!!)  While teaching, she was also raising two daughters alone with the help of her mother.

2.  Faith was an activist starting in the 1970's.  She was included in a protest on the Whitney Museum of American Art during an art exhibition that not only didn't include any women but didn't include any African Americans.  She was a member of Women Artists in Revolution and a founding member of the National Black Feminist Organization.  Her activism continued right through to the 1990's.

3.  Faith is not just a quilter.  She started out as a painter letting her trip to Europe first influence her work and later starting letting the plight of an African American woman push her into new series.  In the early 1970's she started experimenting with other media including textiles sculpture and masks.  The masks lead to a natural progression to performance art where she explored African story telling and music. 

4.  Faith is not your average quilter.  She originally made the switch to fabric to better align herself with a traditional African American medium.  Plus her mother, Willi Posey, helped in her quilt construction since she was a popular Harlem clothing designer and seamstress.  Her quilts are painted canvas, cut and stitched into quilts (3 layers) with stories written within them  The written word is very much a part of the quilts themselves.

Faith and Willie Quilting

5.  Faith is a award winning author.  She has written and illustrated numerous children’s books, including Tar Beach, Harlem Renaissance Party (2015), as well as an autobiography titled We Flew over the Bridge (1995).

I'm always a little shocked when I do one of these "Facts You Didn't Know" posts.  It's amazing how one woman's life can contain so much ... a lot of which people along the way told her she COULDN'T do.  Can you imagine how her life would have gone if she had listened to that art teacher in college who told her she didn't have what it took to be an artist?  It boggles the mind.

After my quick trip to my parents cabin, I haven't quite gotten back to my studio, but I've been itching to do it!!

So What Have Been Up to Creatively?

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Friday, September 18, 2020

The Value in the Umbrellas - Off the Wall Friday

 I'm so happy to be sewing regularly again.  I try to get in a couple of hours a day which goes a long way at getting a quilt done...go figure!  Progress Report on the Umbrella Quilt....40 Umbrella Blocks done ... 40 Fussy Cut Little Girl Blocks Done ... 10 Pin Wheel Blocks Done. (For the record I literally had to take out my first quilt book I ever used to remember how to do quilt block math and get my half square triangles to come out right .... how soon we forget!! )

I stopped right there and looked at all these little 6 in blocks I had amassed.  A lot of blocks considering I had  no set in mind.  I do know what I didn't like in the original pattern set.  It was #1 the lack of Underlying Value  & #2 Not Enough Whimsy for the Cute Fabric.  Now this isn't a criticism of the original designer.  The pattern was suppose to be for a beginner quilter who wanted to get her feet wet in EPP and applique.  But my obsession with the Abbie fabric line has moved well beyond THAT.

The original Quilt Pattern

I have been  brainstorming some ideas.  I found plenty of more of the Abbie fabric line to play with so that was no problem, but one thing I've noticed.....a lot of the prints read the same value.  With so many middle medium values, it's hard to put together a quilt design.  Luckily there are some really nice lights around those little girls, but nearly enough darks for my taste.  So I started there.

Since a good idea is to ALWAYS MAKE VISUAL DECISIONS VISUALLY....up the blocks went for a quick mock up.

The pinwheels are working ...with more of them they are adding some much needed movement and whimsy to it .... but they are still sorta all medium-medium.

See how just a little black makes everything around it pop?!  Now the question is how much black and where.  One thing I did not like about this collection is only one dark-dark - a black - sighhhhhhhh.  EVERY COLLECTION needs some really good light - lights and some good darks-darks!

There is this idea hmmmmmm but I don't know ....I'm thinking these blocks are too big - they would have be way littler if I do it!!

Anyways that's where I'm at......

Since I'm finally heading to go see my parents this weekend ... yes across state lines...Call Gov Cuomo and Gov Wolfe....I'm making a jail break.... the umbrellas will have to wait a bit.  I have some good ideas though to add a bit more whimsy to it and some scrappy bits.  Every little girl's quilt needs some scrappy bits.  

Honestly with my own princess turning 23, this might just have to get done waiting for her first daughter.  OMG did I just say that?!?!?!  These Abbie prints ARE getting to me.

So What Have Been Up to Creatively?!

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Friday, September 11, 2020

EPP According to Tula Pink on Off the Wall Friday

La Passacaglia, Tula Pink Style, 2016

So yes, it's true.  My English Paper Piecing bug has been reawaken and has been taken to new heights.  I knew that my creative juices would start to flow again...sooner or later...but I would have never guessed that a simple EPP kit in little girls colors would spur it!!  While I finished up the 40 little umbrella blocks of the Abbie quilt I'm making, I started to think what next?!  As usual I started

researching what other people are doing currently with EPP.  Well, apparently, while I've been in my Menofog....there have been truly creative artists dragging bringing the technique into the 21st century (who knew?!  apparently not me...but yeah I'm always the last to know).  And what they are doing with the technique is

One of these artists is Tula Pink.  Now...she.... I have heard of. She's an illustrator, fabric designer, author, quilter etc. What I didn't realize though is that not only she is crazy talented  but she's crazy funny and not one to hide that light of hers under a bushel!! Her designs are featured on all sorts of creative things plus she has sponsorships for Aurifil and Bernina.  Let's just say that Tula is one smart chick that has put the B into Branding which is exactly what every artist should be doing!

What finally put her on my radar though is when I took time to watch her EPP  videos she put out on YouTube in conjunction with the Fat Quarter Shop. Not only were they super informative without a lot of fluff (OMGosh am I the only one that hates fluffy videos?!?!) but they were FREE!  The set of videos were truly informative AND entertaining.  I highly suggest them for anybody doing EPP.  If you're interested in her creative process, you can get a nice glimpse of it here!

That all said ... coming from her videos  ...  I thought I would share some words of wisdom she's gleaned over 15 yrs of doing the technique. 

On Time Management . . .

"I have a lot of quilts to make before I die, so I have to get through them as quickly as possible"

"Maximum Impression. Minimum Effort. My goal every time"

On Perfection . . .

"Striving for perfection is admirable.  Achieving perfection is super boring and never gonna happen."

"Don't try to be perfect.  Put your effort into hiding your mistakes."

On Quilt Sizing. . .

"If I can't fit myself under a quilt, I'm really not interested"

On Friendship. . .

"Anybody who judges you by the back of your quilt, and not your front isn't your real friend."

Upon Thread and Glue Use . . .

"We are not in a thread drought.  Please do not sew till the last inch or two."

"The glue does not need to survive the apocalypses"

Tula teaching during her video

I'm sure I missed a bunch more but I was stitching and listening so I'm sure you understand!  I'm quite sure that the world today needs more people like Tula Pink in it  ... interesting... & Fun!

It's amazing what inspiration you can find online!!  We are truly blessed by those that share!!!

hmmmmm... there is a segue in there somewhere ....

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Friday, September 4, 2020

All About Hand Sewing Needles - Off the Wall Friday

 Ever since I was 7 and I got my first hand sewing kit from my Aunt Bert, I've always loved the way the needle felt going through fabric,  Plus they are so fine but strong and lethal.  I'm sure there is a good essay in there on how historically women have mastered a tool like the needle .... refined, graceful yet can draw blood....So let's talk Hand Sewing Needles!

Have you ever gone to buy needles and are faced with a plethora of choices?  So many sizes, names, companies....What's a girl to choose?  

Okay let's talk basics!   You want to choose a needle that fits the job AND the size of the thread you are going to use.  So needles are broken down into categories and number sizes.  The  BIGGER the number, the SMALLER the size of the needle (and the needle eye).  Normally you can buy packets in categories that either have an assortment of sizes or all the same size.

Although there are A LOT of categories - here are a few common ones that a textile artist should use sooner or later....


All-purpose needles with nice sharp fine tips and one of the thinnest needles.  Normal sized 1-12.  Good for all general sewing except on maybe thin or delicate fabric.


Short length needles make it easier to take small precise even stitches for traditional hand quilting.  Sized - 1-12


Longer and thinner than sharps, these are used for decorative stitches, pleating.  Also a lot of English

Paper piecing and applique work since the tips are super sharp and super fine.  Sized 1-11


Blunt thicker needles with wide eyes that will accommodate yarns or embroidery floss.  These needles will work nicely on any kind of lose weave fabric.  Sized 13-26


These are the sharper cousin to the tapestry needle. So these will also work with yarns and floss but sharp point will make it easier to get through tighter courser fabric.  Quilters are now using these for big stitch quilting.  Sized 13-24


Very similar to sharps, these have a larger eye so they can be used in embroidery and needle craft. Sized 1-12


Very long, fine needles with long eyes for...wait for it ...beading.  Sizing of these can be very important so that they will fit the specific beading or embellishments you are working with.  Size 10-15

And THAT's just a few !!!

You can see how picking the right needle for the job you're doing can get confusing!!!  Not to mention, not all needles are created equal AND the availability can get tricky too!!  Like anything, your choice in needle is very personal but since this is my blog I thought I would share what  I use.

For Applique, EPP, and binding quilts ... I use Richard Hemming & Son  large eye Sharps 10 .  I love, love these needles.  I always try other brands and other kinds and I keep switching back to these. Yes, I've tried Milliners which I do love for how sharp and fine their points are but my fingers can't get used to how long they are!!

For Traditional Quilting  - I have a box of Clover Size 12  - that I am working my way through (for the last 25 yrs) I can't honestly say what their quality is now since I bought the box of packets so long ago, but after trying many other hand quilting needles, I keep going back to my Clovers.

For Cross Stitch ... I use John James 26 ... I don't  do any cross stitching any more but I did do a TON at one time so you never saw me without size 26's!

Normally, I pick up needles from a vendor at my favorite quilting conference.  I can't get them locally and I won't even talk about needles I see in the stores here.  But this year, with COVID, pushing it ways into every aspect of our lives (even hand sewing needles), I had to come up with a new plan.  I found that The Colonial Needle Company had an excellent website.  It just so happens that AQS has a cool deal of 25% off of $25 with the code AQS2525 (I just ordered from them recently and was very happy with the transaction).  As always, I am not affiliated with them in any way (nor will I EVER monetize this blog).  Once I started looking, there are nice web pages out there for John James and others.  

Okay, I'm sure this is WAY more than you need to know about needles but it basically comes down to this - 

  1.   Think of the job you're doing
  2.   Think of the thread you're using 
  3.   Think of the fabric you're going through
I highly suggest you find your favorite all around needles and keep a half dozen packets of them.  They aren't expensive and you can grab a new needle as soon as yours becomes blunt or bent (or lost in the couch!) Also, I suggest having assorted packs in other types of needles that you use occasionally so when can use the right needle for the right job.  Nothing is worse than trying to play the struggle monkey with the wrong needle!!

Thanks for sharing our guilty pleasures last week - they made me smile a TON!!  

 sOOOOOO.....what needles do you use?  Where do you buy them?

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Friday, August 28, 2020

Guilty Pleasures on Off the Wall Friday

 Yes, the umbrellas are continuing to take up all my free time and I can easily say that I've become addicted.  It's been so long that I've done this much hand work its so much fun albeit slow....I mean slow that I've only gotten about 12 blocks done.  Still the collection is starting to shape up!!  I have really love playing the pattern and color.  Some umbrellas make bold in your face

statements while others have soft edges that kinda just melt into the background.  Funny how this little block becomes an exercise in value and color.  

I decided to do each individual block at a time that way I don't get sick of doing them.  It's taken a while but my fingers are remembering all my many hours of hand applique.  It's gotta be over 15 yrs since I did any real applique even though I really love it.  I absolutely LOVE using my collection of Bottom Line bobbin because it does work amazing on making the stitches sink in.  Not to mention I have a TON of Bottom Line that I don't use often enough.

Speaking of which....that brings up a topic that came to mind while I was stitching....

Guilty Pleasures!!

Everyone has them and this week mine really showed themselves.  


I love children's music.  I became addicted when we listened to XMKids every morning during our school commute.  The more I  think on the quilt design, the more I want to base it on one of my favorites...It's Mary Kaye's Rain. (Take a listen - its less than 2 min)  Listening to the song again....also reminded me that I always wanted a good pair of rainboots.  I bought those too since they were on sale !

Anyways....I decided I'm going to design this quilt as I go basing it on the song...and since Rebecca Grace is exactly right....I  will show all the ups and down of the design process.  Also this song is on my spotify Playlist.... Kid's Music Adults love too! in case anybody has kids in their lives!


So what has kept me going through all this hand stitching???  I rediscovered romance novels where the girl always has great sex and gets her man in the end. I haven't read them in so long, it's like revisiting a long lost friend.  I ended up getting Audible Escape so I could listen to some of the older romances I loved (a lot of the romances today are just a bit too wild for my tame self).  Don't get me wrong, most are ridiculous but they make me smile and what more can you want during a global pandemic?


If you let me I would buy every print of my favorite fabric collections in every colorway.  I'm not quite sure if this obsession with the Umbrella quilt is because I love the handwork or it gives me an excuse to play with Sue Daley's Abbie collection!  It took a while but I tracked down another set of fat quarters plus yardage of some of the other prints so I have plenty to work with.  I'm quite sure I won't NEED all of this ...but I WANTED it all! Not to mention I want ALL the colors of my favorite thread collections 

(hence my TON of the bottom line thread!)

Normally, I live a pretty discipline life but this week it seemed all my guilty pleasures collided!!



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Friday, August 21, 2020

The Umbrellas Continue - Off The Wall Friday

Am I the only one that is kinda shocked that we are going into the third week of August?  It's starting to get darker earlier, ragweed season is plaguing me and all our customers are calling for fall clothes!  How did THAT happen???  Not to mention, this will be the first time since 2000, that August doesn't mean Back to School.  Instead my only daughter is starting a new job in her chosen field and she's out to change the world.  I did THAT happen?!?

So with all that, I was glad to finally master glue basting little umbrella pieces  in my latest English Paper Piecing project.  It only took hours of doing it over and over again.  I do like the glue stick pen and am excited to try it with other pieces , like raw edge applique or something like that.  It was kinda messy though and I managed to go through 2 refills.  I think in the end though, it is a lot quicker to buy precut paper pieces and glue baste.  That said, its easier to sit in front of the tv watching a movie if you cut them yourself and sew baste.  


Finally, I'm at the sewing them together phase.  It's fun to match up the umbrellas.  Who doesn't like playing with pattern and color??  I did design two alternative quilts for these little blocks to be featured in, but since both designs ended up in the trash....I won't bore you. So that's my goal this week, come up with a new layout design that will feature this pretty line of fabric better and get the umbrella's sewn together!!

So What Have You Been Up to Creatively?

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Off the Wall Friday


 Sew....Write my post...Sew ....Write my sorry!!!  Sewing won out and I'm blowing off my post just so I can have some quiet time and work on the umbrellas.  I will say glue basting is an acquired skill and it looks so much easier in youtube videos!!  

So What You've Been Up to Creatively?

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