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Next Step in an Experiment

Thursday already?  Time sure flies while slow stitching, strange how that works.  I have made two quick mini collages to go on the damask napkin that is my latest experiment in using these vintage textiles.  Here they are:

The collage on the left was stitched by machine with some hand embroidered details.  The one on the right was entirely hand stitched.  I think that it is time for me to measure and cut the batting and backing for the napkin base.  I am going to cut the backing fabric a generous two inches larger than the finished size.  My plan is to fold over the extra backing fabric to the inside of the quilt sandwich, then quilt to secure all of it.

There won’t be much room for error, and I am a bit nervous, since I want to use this technique on a much larger piece.  At this point, I need to just go ahead and try it and quit rethinking the process.  Find out if I succeed on Tuesday.  I need to come up with a catchy title for this piece too…

 

 

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Stitching to Music

I will get to the trial piece that I talked about last post – later this week, I promise.  Today, I want to share a couple of  4″ squares that I made while listening to opera.  The Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera performance daily during this coronavirus shut down.

The square on the left was made while listening on the radio to the Saturday afternoon broadcast of Puccini’s  Tosca.  The square on the right was created while I watched Dvorak’s Rusalka last night.  My process was to first listen and/or watch for about 15-20 minutes.  Then, I started picking out my fabrics from my scrap stash.  I kept on listening while arranging and rearranging the fabric bits that I selected.  After I had the pieces placed, I listened for another bit of time while deciding how to stitch the square, then commenced the stitching.  Of course, last night I stopped work frequently to watch the action on my computer screen, and made mental notes from some of the stunning costumes.  I finished the squares by the final curtain, but I was certainly not trimming or stitching during the entire opera performance.  Even when I am not trying to multi-task, I spend a fair amount of time on my art quilts in a thinking mode before I take action on them.

Now, I would never expect anyone to correctly guess the piece of music that was playing while I made one of my collages, but I enjoy linking the music that inspired me to the visual art as a part of its story.  It would be fun to get a few other artists together to create their own individual responses to the same piece of music.  Check back on Thursday for my progress on last week’s experiment.

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Working Through Challenges

Using vintage linens and working in a collage style presents some challenging problems.  Certain traditional quilt methods of assembly just don’t work well with my creative visions and materials of choice.  If you’ve visited my booth at a quilt show, you’ll know that I sell quite a few dyed vintage damask table linens.  Many of them have a nice finished edge that I want to preserve while using them in a collage.  I am still trying to come up with an easy way to bind all the layers and not lose that finished edge.  Today, I am embarking on my latest attempt at this quest.

Starting with a medium size dyed damask napkin that will be the base of the collage, I picked out a couple of smaller squares on which to stitch scrap compositions.  These smaller squares will be similar to the 4 x 4” square that I have been featuring in previous posts.  The next step was to select scraps to add to the little squares:

I pulled out more scraps than I’ll be able to use in this project, but that’s OK – it is good to have more to choose from during the early planning stages.  Next, I started working with the wool square.  Several little scraps jumped out at me, and the placement of them came together quickly.

Notice that all the pieces are separate from each other.  How would they look with a piece of fabric underneath (other than the background) that connected them together?

I like the second version, the additional piece of fabric adds another layer of interest.  I’m going to take a look at some trims and funky yarns to add, as I think I’m ready to start stitching this one over the next couple of days.

I invite you to follow along in my quest over the next week or so, will this work out, or be a dead end?  This will also be another look into my creative process.

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I Wonder What I Have Yet to Discover

Music is incredibly important in my life, and even though I have not played an instrument since high school, it is crucial to my well-being and I’d like to think that it has an influence on my visual art.  I listen to a wide range of musical genres, and I enjoy discovering new sounds.  Every once in a while a new-to-me song or musician comes along that first hits me with an electric jolt, then melts into my mind with the deliciousness of liquid chocolate.  I had one of those musical magic moments last weekend.

 

Many of these squares were made while listening to music.

 

First of all, the 1960s and 1970s music scene is generally not my cup of tea.  Especially not the more popular singers and bands.  The singer whose sound sent me reeling recorded two albums in the early 1970s and was relatively unknown (at least in the U.S.) until a documentary was made about him in 2012.  Being perpetually behind the times, I did not discover the documentary until last week, when I made a dash to stock myself with a few DVDs on my last day of work before the Great Coronavirus Shut Down.  This isn’t a review of the movie, or a summary of the life of Rodriguez, but I highly recommend the movie (Searching for Sugar Man) and you can read a bit about the fascinating story at sugarman.org.

Color, shape, line and space from rhythm, melody, harmony and tempo

 

This is about the shock wave that hit me as I listened to Rodriguez’s songs throughout the movie.  Some of his lyrics are very much tied to the time when they were written, and steeped in angry protest.

“Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues

                And I explained that I had already overpaid them.” (“Cause,” Coming from Reality)

Some of his lyrics transcend time and hit life experiences that all of us go through.

“I wonder how many plans have gone bad…

                I wonder about the loneliness that’s mine” (“I Wonder,” Cold Fact)

Some lines were a raw nerve, something that we’ve thought, but wouldn’t even admit it to ourselves, other lines were fairly simple sentiments that we overlook for being too obvious.

“Treasure what you’ve got, soon you may be caught without it.”  (“Inner City Blues,” Cold Fact)

We all need to be reminded of the obvious thoughts and the raw nerves from time to time.  I’m still stunned that this product of 1970s counterculture has appealed to me.  I’ve watched the movie four times now and I’ve been playing a few songs over and over on Youtube, and I am trying to remember that jolt of surprise that I felt while hearing the songs for the first time.  How does one describe that to another?  Each one of us experiences a song, movie, work of art, etc. in different ways.  I have often found that we can more easily describe what we don’t like, but struggle to explain something that we love.  We don’t like everything that we see or hear, and not everyone is going to like a particular work of art, and that’s to be expected.  There is so much out there, and I wonder what I’ll discover next.

Lyrics quoted written by Rodriguez from the albums Cold Fact (1971) and Coming from Reality (1972).

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Chickens and Candy

Being creative does NOT mean that everything you attempt will turn out successfully.  Sometimes, my ideas just don’t work out like I thought.  Today was one of those days, but I learned a few things in the process, and that’s always a good thing.

Over a year ago, I started a large art quilt that was going to be for a SAQA show.  The theme was “Upcycle,” and my idea was to create a piece using an old feed sack and somehow incorporate candy wrappers into the design.  In my very first post here, I featured the feed sack that I chose, and you will see how the candy wrappers fit into the project.

I have yet to finish the quilt, today I thought I’d try an idea I have for the candy wrappers.  My original plan was to quilt the piece with thread sketches of chickens, and add the candy wrappers as random accents.  A few days ago, I thought I’d try making collaged chickens using the wrappers and applique the chickens to the quilt.  Using one of my own drawings, I first traced the drawing onto a piece of Foundation Stuff, and made another tracing onto paper to create a pattern.  I numbered and cut out the paper pattern pieces.

Next, I used lightweight fusible webbing to bond candy wrappers to additional pieces of Foundation Stuff.

Using the pattern pieces, I cut out pieces from the bonded candy wrappers, then assembled them on the Stuff with the drawing.  I often use a glue stick to tack pieces in place before sewing, once dry, the glue presents no problems to sew through.  However, I discovered that the glue does not work well on Foundation Stuff!  The Foundation Stuff is a new product to me, so I am learning the capabilities of it.  I was able to slather both sides of the parts I was trying to join, and weight them down until the glue dried.  Then, I carefully took the developing chicken collage to one of my sewing machines.

I use an 80 or 90 universal or topstitch needle and quality 40 or 50 weight thread when sewing with paper.  Use a long stitch length (straight or zigzag), and remember that paper will dull your needle very quickly.  I sometimes save needles that I have used for a little while, but are still useful, for sewing paper.  Once you finish your paper sewing project, discard that needle.

So, here is my trial chicken.  It is an interesting concept, but in the end, I just don’t like it.  I don’t like the candy wrappers, they overwhelm the chicken.  This isn’t going to work for the feed sack quilt.  At this point, I don’t even want to put the candy wrappers in the quilt at all, not even in my original plan of randomly stitching them across the surface.  Since the quilt is no longer for an upcycle challenge, I am fine with this.  Now, I am considering making 3-D fabric candy pieces for this project.  I won’t know how that idea will work out until I try it.

Later this week I will have some musings on music and trying to capture the moment that you first hear or see something that just rocks your world.