My Secret Weapon

March 22, 2017

I made a little progress with my lobster-beetle quilt. I’m definitely going to use embroidery, but it will only be sashiko-ish – I don’t have the right thread, and the motif is definitely not Japanese. To be honest, I’m not sure what shape the motif will ultimately take. That made me hesitate to do any marking at all until I remembered my secret weapon, soap.

I learned to use soap slivers to mark cottons from Maria Sakiyama, a good friend and fabulous seamstress. It lasts long enough for hand-work, but washes out easily. It’s readily available, easy to store, and easy to use.

That is, it is easy to mark a line. That doesn’t mean my needle will follow the line that my hand has drawn. Let me explain. This is the top with borders.

I drew a long, swooping line from the totem square down to the lower beetle strips.

Then I started embroidering. Lo and behold, my hand strayed from the line.

I have no idea why I couldn’t follow the line, but there it is. Now I have to decide if I’m going to keep the lines I’ve sewn or take them out and begin again. Since the soap line will wash away, I actually have a choice. If only all my mistakes were as accommodating.

Luck and wisdom!

An Inordinate Fondness For Beetles

March 15, 2017

Apparently biologist J.B.S. Haldane said this, and apparently he really was fond of beetles. I’m not fond of the actual critters, but I do like seeing pictures of them, especially the more colorful ones. I’ve even bought some beetle fabric, although in black and white.

While I was pulling out my lobster fabric, I found a small bag with the beetle fabric. Then I found my collection of animal totems.

“Self,” I said, “these are all black, white and red. You’ve got black and red lobster fabric, and black and red space fabric. What does that suggest?”

You’re probably thinking it suggests a little artistic intervention and counseling for me – no such luck. What did happen is I thought of labyrinths. Wouldn’t it be fun to make a labyrinth quilt from this collection?

Not so much, as it happens. I really don’t want to piece all the little sections that the design in my head requires. The work-in-progress is resting on my design wall, and I am considering quilting designs to enhance the labyrinth motif. Perhaps some sashiko would work. Suggestions?

Luck and wisdom!

L Is For Lobster

March 8, 2017

The latest Challenge assignment is to feature a motif that starts with the first letter of the maker’s name. I looked around at my fabric collections – lobellia, lightning bolts, lollipops . . . aha! Lobsters!

Yet another fabric collection I can’t really explain

My first thought was to make a convergence quilt, but the fabrics don’t play together nicely for that. Then I thought of keeping the lobsters as whole as possible and adding triangles to lead the viewer’s eye into a central panel. I counted the seams and decided I don’t want to work that hard on what is essentially a joke quilt. Then I read the Bridges post from Random Acts of Piece and thought, “Self, you could do this.”

Except I can’t. Not yet, anyway. The sad truth is every time I plan to use a large print, especially a novelty print, I need to make something that showcases the fabric first. Once I’ve got that done, I can slice and dice to my heart’s content. Until then, my hand hovers over the fabric, rotary cutter at the ready, but will not cut.

So, back to square one. I pondered why I buy lobster fabric, and decided it was because the little buggers look like space aliens. Then I remembered this hilariously awful 50s sci fi film – Teenagers from Outer Space – which features a monster (a screaming monster, no less) that is essentially a lobster silhouette superimposed on the frame. I pulled out my space fabric and auditioned a potential center on my design board.

A first draft

The more I looked at it, the more I realized I could keep this project simple. After all, what I really want is to remember the fabric as it once appeared.

Lobsters and space fabric

I may bead this, or sew on buttons that look like space ships. In any case, I am over my obsessive need to showcase the lobsters. Now maybe I can cut the critters up for something more artsy than jokesy.

Luck and wisdom!

Looking For Design Details

March 1, 2017

My friend Kat Mulkey gave me a present that I had to share – not the present, but the packaging. Someone went to a lot of trouble to design this box. Notice the details, especially the little feet.

Lidded box with feet

Lidded box with feet

I try to put details in my art that reward the viewer for taking a closer look. I try to put details in my writing that reward the attentive reader. Then I come across something like this little box and I realize what a lazy observer/reader I can be. There are wonderful design details all around me that I take for granted. Things like headlights and taillights sometimes escape my notice because I’m not a car person, but they can be amazing if you really look. Even your home can surprise you if you look.

Hall light fixture

Hall light fixture

I went around the house, examining everything from fixtures to furniture. Presumably I noticed the little design details when we bought the stuff, but dang if I haven’t stopped seeing them. I’m thinking I should start writing myself a note on the calendar to really see the world around me. It isn’t enough to know details are important. You need to remind yourself to look every so often.

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Luck and wisdom!

Circles and Design Choices

February 22, 2017

This week’s design assignment focused on shape and placement of motifs. I couldn’t get a handle on what I was supposed to do until I unearthed some great banana fabric and decided to use that as my design inspiration. A piece of black fabric on the sewing table caught my attention, as did a piece of yellow in the scrap basket and a couple of rectangles of green on the design wall (sometimes I leave interesting squares up just in case I need a little surprise in my quilt). Here’s what happened.

Lani Longshore banana top

I had intended to fussy cut banana bunches and have them cascade down like wisteria clusters. After re-arranging the patches for the fifth time, reality set in. “Self,” I said, “keep a couple of bunches, but find a different shape for the rest. How about circles?”

Once I figured out that circles of bananas were the way to go, I decided to expand the motif. That is why the polka-dot fabric is cut into the shape of a banana (you can see it if you squint).

I learned my go-to technique for applique from The Chicago School of Fusing, but I knew eventually I’d be embroidering or beading all over the top. Yes, there are some lovely light-weight fusibles available, but I didn’t want to deal with even a trace of adhesive gumming up my needle. Nor did I want the extra bulk of a turned edge, no matter how scant the seam allowance. Instead, I choose raw edge applique with a hand-stitched zig zag.

Lani Longshore detail

My stitches on the first circles were less than stellar, but nothing a row of beads can’t hide. I got better with practice.

Lani Longshore another detail

This is another piece that might have to marinate for a bit. The fabric hasn’t told me what embellishments it wants just yet. I can wait.

Luck and wisdom!

Lions and Earworms

February 15, 2017

So, I was starting the next assignment in the design book my art quilt critique group has been using, and I got myself one doozy of an earworm – The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Couldn’t get it out of my head. Here I’m supposed to be exploring a dancing grid, and instead I’m dancing around the sewing room singing “awim away, awim away.” Then I spied a scrap of fabric that tied the two together.

In the jungle . . .

In the jungle . . .

I pulled out one fat quarter with a geometric pattern, and some other scraps that played well with my background and focus fabric.

Lani Longshore fabric collection

The piece ended up being more dancing columns than a dancing grid. It also needed something, so I tried the Laura Wasilowski method of adding embroidery.

Lani Longshore embroidery threads

Of course, there must be beads.

Lani Longshore beading

Here is the piece in it’s current stage.

I still have more room for embellishment

I still have more room for embellishment

So far I’ve kept the embellishments on the subtle side. You have to get pretty close to see the blue embroidery and blue beads on the blue fabric. That may change, but I have a feeling I need to let this piece marinate a bit – at least until I get that silly song out of my head.

Luck and wisdom!

Projects For Fidgety Fingers

February 8, 2017

Last month I attended an all-day writing workshop with some friends. I filled my tote bag with notebooks and pens. Then, for reasons I barely understand myself, I threw in a beading project.

So far, this is untitled with pearls

So far, this is untitled with pearls

My friends asked what the project was for. I said I wasn’t sure, but the truth is I knew my fingers would get fidgety. The workshop included a lot of time for discussion, and we all know that quilters/beaders/knitters/needleworkers can run both the mouth and the fingers at the same time. Sure enough, by the afternoon I was desperate for something to do with my hands when we weren’t actually writing.

When I got home, I noticed once again all the little boxes and bags I’ve collected over the years for portable projects. I opened a few and discovered that while I had indeed used all of them at one time or another, I had never cleaned out a single one.

A darning box for socks I no longer own

A darning box for socks I no longer own

Some of the boxes are big enough to hold several projects. This plastic stacking bin is a good example.

Lani Longshore small tote

I have no idea why I didn’t put another project in the bin. Heaven knows I have enough work in various stages of completion.

A cupcake container makes a wonderful sorting tool

A cupcake container makes a wonderful sorting tool

I’ve collected fabrics that I think would work well together so that when the need arises for a quick gift I can grab a bag and get started. This year, one of my goals will be to clean out the bring-along boxes, and have projects ready to pick and go when I suspect I’ll get a case of fidgety fingers.

Lani Longshore fabric collections

Luck and wisdom!

Choices

February 1, 2017

Anyone walking into my sewing room knows I like to have choices. There are stacks of fabric everywhere, waiting to be chosen for the next project. Sometimes the stacks are organized, and sometimes they just exist.

Lani Longshore fabric stack

I used to feel guilty about this need to collect fabric, until I noticed all the other choice categories around the house. Some are mine alone, like the hand cream collection.

Lani Longshore hand cream

Others are collective choices. The whole family loves tea, so I keep a variety in stock.

Lani Longshore tea

What brought me joy, however, was recognizing I am not alone in my desire for choice. Only one person in the house eats breakfast cereal, and here’s the shelf where the cereal lives.

Lani Longshore cereal

It occurs to me that I will only be judged a hoarder by those who don’t appreciate what I collect. In the greater scheme of things, I am providing employment for those who make and sell the fabric that I love, I use my fabric (albeit slowly) for gifts and to make art, and I try to share when the opportunity arises. That makes for a balanced ledger in my mind.

Luck and wisdom!

Yellowstone The Quilt

January 25, 2017

Amador Valley Quilters will host Quilted Treasures XVII this April, and one of the quilts I want to show is from my Yellowstone patch series. That means I have to finish it first. Here’s how it started.

The itty-bitty beginning

The itty-bitty beginning

I wanted the patch that features two people looking out a window to appear as if the viewer was looking out a window. However, when you start with a 4″ center patch, you aren’t going to get a king-size quilt. I think this piece is 6″ x 10″. I added a boatload of beads, but it is still only 6″ x 10″.

Lani Longshore yellowstone detail

Since using an underquilt worked well for one of my Colors of the Vineyard quilts, I decided to do that again. After auditioning a bunch of browns and blacks, my eyes fell on this piece.

I let the print do the work

I let the print do the work

I love this fabric, and had just enough to bring the quilt to a respectable 16″ x 20″.

Finished

Finished

All that’s left is the sleeve and filling out the registration forms. See you April 22-23 at the Robert Livermore Community Center in Livermore, California.

Luck and wisdom!

The Landscape of My Memory

January 18, 2017

Once again, the Challenge Group project has given me a chance to explore my beads, my stash, and my world view. The theme is “I Remember . . .” but I’m rapidly reaching that time of life when I really don’t remember. The little gray cells are aging. I thought of the implications of the graying of the gray cells, and started this project in the brain quilt series, which I call The Landscape of My Memory.

My mind as a map

My mind as a map

The central background is one that the Progressive Party made when I asked for small art pieces to embellish. It really is a landscape. I added the borders and the beads. First I quilted lines with little blue crystals that represent those ideas/memories that seem to bubble up without a care in the world. Then I added the pearls, which represent those ideas/memories that bubble up but are actually worth capturing.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

The twisted red border comes from my brain fabric stash, and represents my neural network. Bless its heart, it tries so hard. I added some dark beads to represent the little nuggets of neurons that keep hanging in there, anchoring me to reality as best they can.

Work those neural nets

Work those neural nets

The bottom dark gray border represents the memory swamp where ideas go to hide. They aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but they don’t have a lot of staying power. Still, I always have hope that if I’m very lucky, someday I’ll be able to reach those ideas/memories. That hope is represented by the thin line of shiny crystals, just because I can.

Who knows what lurks in the shadows? Not me!

Who knows what lurks in the shadows? Not me!

Luck and wisdom!