This is not the traditional time to be dying Ukrainian Easter eggs. The design of the egg in the picture is not a traditional pattern for them, either. I’ve been a quilter long enough that I’m not even thinking of apologizing for playing with tradition. Respecting the artistry of those who went before me is important, but so is respecting my own vision.
Okay, so maybe vision is too strong a word for this egg. The beginning of the design was a swirl but then a glob of wax fell on the shell. “Self,” I said, “swirls and dots play very nicely together. Go for it.” I also made swirls and dots on the other eggs I dyed, along with a few straight lines when the melted wax cooperated. At the end of the day, I was a happy camper with some new eggs to display next spring. In times like these, I’ll take the win.
The Challenge Group project is on the theme of omens and talismans. I decided to do a talisman from found objects. Yes, only one object – the twig – was found outside. I will wrap it with the tail of the gold cord holding the other items.
Usually when people think of found art they imagine the entire piece is made from stuff scavenged from the street. Trust me, if you took a look in my studio you would understand why I consider all of my art quilts to be found art. Trying to unearth any given item is a miracle. I take what I can see and go from there. That’s going to be my personal definition from now on. If it works for you, great. Maybe we can start a new art movement – The School of Hoarding Quilters.
I took a workshop recently not for the technique but for the kit. It was worth every penny. The project, an iris created collage-style from organza, isn’t anything that fits into my current list of projects but I loved the effect. I also loved not having to source organza. We’ve got some good fabric stores nearby but they rarely carry plain organza. That means I would be trapped in the glittery, shimmery aisle and my willpower would crumble. I’d come home with 7 yards of laces, and sheers with lace, and sheers with sequins, and still not the right fabric for the flower. So, I signed up for a class that I sorta kinda maybe knew how to do and bought the kit. As I said, it was worth every penny, especially when I realized I had cut my first collage pieces too large, but since I knew the basics already I could finish it quickly and do a second piece that I liked better. The moral of the story is that quilters are only here for the fabric. Admit it, sign up for the class, and buy the kit. You’ll thank me later.
I use greens as neutrals, and thought I could make all greens blend. I was wrong. Greens can be persnickety. The photo above is proof (and those are all greens – the one that looks blue is actually more of a greeny-teal in person). The green laces and beads I chose for my kudzu piece are another proof, but the results so far are so hideous I don’t even want to show it. I won’t give up on the idea, but it needs a rethink.
While I am not pleased with this lack of success, I won’t let it beat me. I’ve put the kudzu piece aside, and am returning to other projects that have deadlines and places to go. Perhaps by clearing some of the clutter when these projects are sent off, I’ll be able to hear what the laces and beads want me to do with them.
I finally had an idea for a kudzu-inspired art piece using stuff I’ve saved and stuff I was given. The base for this piece is a cardboard packing insert that I thought looked like a mask. However, when covered with batting and fabric it turns into something entirely different. The green fabric was given to me by Rebecca Buzsaki, who has even more glittery stuff than I do thanks to her years of making dance costumes. I was hoping to use some of the wrapped floral wire that I bought for COVID masks (the wire is too heavy for that use), but of course I put the wire in a very safe place. While looking for it, I discovered some stiff paper that I used for making hat bands, and some stiffer paper that claims to be for making waists in dresses neat and tidy. Since my own waist is neither of those things, I have no problems using the paper tape to hold the lace I’m using for kudzu leaves – unless and until I find the floral wire.
There’s no pattern for this piece, which means it may languish for weeks until the various bits tell me where they want to go. I’ve never done anything remotely similar, so every technique will have its own learning curve. And I have no place whatsoever to display it. Why am I doing it? It’s art, sweetie. I’m making art.
My husband mentioned – not for the first time – about the long-lasting impact of ancient Greek ideas on what were proper questions to ask for modern science. For the ancient Greeks, truth had to be beautiful and beauty relied on symmetry. Okay, I’m oversimplifying, but those notions about beauty are still prevalent in the art world, and still determine the kinds of questions we ask about what constitutes art.
This leads me to a confession: I like ugly fabric. Not all ugly fabric, mind you, just some. Ask any of my quilting friends about me heading straight for the least attractive bolts on the shelves in every single quilt store. It’s not like I feel sorry for the uglies and think I have to rescue them. I honestly enjoy including them in my work. Those batik frogs, for instance, are just waiting for inspiration. I know they’ll look fabulous. At any rate, that’s my truth about beauty.
I took a class from Karen Bolan about designing a minimalist quilt. When I told my husband what I was doing he laughed. “Right, the Bling Queen is going to go minimalist.” In my defense, I had chosen mostly tone-on-tone fabrics that I thought would lend themselves very well to a minimalist style. Then the class started and all bets were off.
We were doing freezer paper foundation piecing, which I’ve done before, so you would think that I would have remembered that whatever I designed would turn out backwards. You would also think that I would have remembered that foundation piecing doesn’t work well with directional fabric if you put in a lot of funky angles. I put in angles that I totally forgot were going to face the other way in the finished block and the background I wanted to use was one of the few that had a directional print.
The good news is that before I started cutting fabric I realized what I had chosen was not going to work. The better news is that this was a Zoom workshop so I could easily make a change. My eyes fell on my Halloween collection, and the block above is what I did.
So, yeah, the workshop was an epic fail as far as doing a minimalist quilt. It was an epic fail as far as doing an entire quilt as well, since I only made one block (and I know that I won’t be making multiples of it).
But the workshop was also a major win because I now have an idea for those directional fabrics. Furthermore, that idea will work well for a donation quilt, which takes a lot of pressure off me if I don’t have to make a minimalist quilt that I want to hang in my house. There is a benefit to making an attractive experiment that can go to someone who really needs a quilt.
Even better, the workshop was a major win because I really like my little Halloween block, I’ve got more of the fabric with the moon faces if I decide to make a full quilt, and even if I do nothing more with it this year I’ve got something new to look at for my second favorite holiday.
I discovered that I can embroider and bead on the drape fabric without much fuss. I marked the pattern with a sliver of soap, and the markings lasted throughout the whole process. The floss looks great, and although it was fussy getting on the needle, it eased through the fabric nicely. I planned to use round beads for the circle around the tree, but the oval beads were readily available. I like them better. This tree doesn’t need sequins, but I might do another one with sequins for leaves. After all, I have plenty of fabric to experiment with.
My friend Sheila Bali gave me some luscious red drapes that no longer fit her décor. They don’t fit mine, but they do fit my plans for my tree series. I have a heavy embroidery floss that has a bit of a sheen. It’s difficult to work with, so it sits in its box, taunting me. The project has to be worth doing or I won’t even consider using it, but so many of my projects are experiments so how can I tell it will be worth doing? Sheila’s drapes are worth the effort, even with this first test. Just in case the thread doesn’t do what I want, I have a Plan B. Whatever doesn’t get embroidered will get beaded, and if beads aren’t enough I’ll use sequins. That will tell me everything I need to know about this fabric, and how best to use it. Whether it becomes a significant part of the tree series is a question for another day.
I saw a cross-stitch magazine the other day and was captivated by the cover project. “What a stunning Viking ship! Self, you can do this,” I said. Turns out I can’t, at least not now.
For one thing, I really can’t count, which makes doing counted cross-stitch a challenge. The other day I tried adding 32 and 32 and got 72, and things went downhill from there. When I looked closely at the pattern and realized the magazine divided it into four (4!) sections, which I would have to line up – well, let’s just say it gave me pause.
For another, this pattern uses 35 different colors of floss. Even with my collection, I don’t have the range of reds, blues, and greens needed to get all that shading. I don’t dare buy more, because I will leave the store with the colors I need and another 35 skeins of colors I don’t need but can’t live without because they are so pretty (and that makes 87 skeins, right?).
Luckily, there are other patterns in the magazine that I can manage with my current skills and available floss. Moral of the story – buy the magazine with the stunning cover. You’ll thank me later.