Posts Tagged ‘graph paper’

Star Wars Day, and The Mummy

May 4, 2016

May the 4th be with you, and happy Star Wars Day. Have I mentioned that I love made-up holidays?

There actually is a connection to the work I’ve done lately. The next Progressive Party project is about movies. I looked through all of my fabric collections, the ones that I packed in clear plastic bags, hoping for inspiration to strike. I adore movies, but not all the ones I watch over and over can sustain multiple visuals suitable for a quilt made by a committee. Then I came across my Egyptian collection.

I put embellishment options as well as fabric in the bags

I put embellishment options as well as fabric in the bags

“Self,” I said, “you watch the Boris Karloff mummy movie every Halloween. This could work.” The myth of the mummy’s curse started after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Advertisers, artists and even architects started using ancient Egyptian motifs (think Camel cigarettes, Art Deco and the Chrysler building). A good part of classic flapper fashions of the ’20s came from Egypt-mania. If it worked for them, it will work for me. So, I sketched a mummy out for a walk among the pyramids.

Anything is possible with the quilter's secret weapon - graph paper

Anything is possible with the quilter’s secret weapon – graph paper

After a little experimenting, I found a suitable fabric for the ink I wanted to use and the vision I wanted to express. This synthetic blend gives me good texture without letting my pen drawing bleed into a fuzzy mess.

The beginning of another collaborative art project - hurrah!

The beginning of another collaborative art project – hurrah!

Now I get to unleash the creativity of the Progressive Party – and I get to take one of the plastic bags off my shelf.

Luck and wisdom!

Composition Guides, Design Tools and the Lazy Artist

July 31, 2013

A painter friend, Janne Henriksen, was talking about art at a party recently. We discussed technique and process, and how she paints, and what tools or guides she finds useful. That’s when I realized I would be a much better artist if I would first find and then use the many tools I have bought over the years.


My favorite design tool is graph paper.


Lani Longshore graph paper


Graph paper is the single most useful thing a quilter can stock. My sketching skills are minimal, but give me a pad of graph paper and I can recreate the lines and angles of interesting shapes in a format that will help me create something wonderful in fabric.


I’m also fond of marking tools.


Lani Longshore marking tools


Colored pencils, markers, slivers of soap – anything that lets me add a line to fabric is welcome in my studio. Sometimes I need a sewing line, sometimes a cutting line. Sometimes I want to intensify the color of the fabric, sometimes I want to hide it (and sometimes I want to hide where the seams don’t quite meet).


When my free-hand drawing skills fail me, I turn to stencils.


Lani Longshore stencils


Stencils are great for quilting, embroidery, or beading designs. I like to look at them when I’m stuck for a piecing idea, too. No, I don’t do curves or pointy-points, but you’d be surprised at how the brain kicks into problem-solving gear if the fingers think they’re going to have to do something hard at the sewing machine.


Of course, even the most highly motivated creativity session can end in disappointment. This is where the most important design tool comes in handy.


Lani Longshore trash can


I decided long ago that agonizing over $1.15 worth of fabric and half an hour of my time was silly. I give you permission to bury your mistakes, too.


Habits and Patterns

January 16, 2013

You might have noticed that I collect things. I tell myself they are useful things, but we know that isn’t entirely true. There is one collection that should resonate with all of you, regardless of your craft of choice – the “someday I’ll do this” file.

idea collection

This is one of the piles of patterns, sketches, notes and scribbles for future quilts. Some of them are ideas for projects I can use in my prison quilting class. Some of them have been sitting in this pile – or one of the many other piles scattered around the sewing room – for a long, long time.

The good news is my class makes tops for community quilts, and they have asked for 48″ x 66″-72″ quilts. Now that I have a standard size, I’ve given myself permission to get rid of patterns that don’t fit (especially if I ripped the pattern from a magazine in the ’90s and haven’t touched it since). The bad news is old habits die hard and some of those patterns-notes-random scribblings are going into my personal “someday I’ll do this” file.

Then there’s the new project that came about – writing up my own patterns for blocks that are especially interesting in scraps and/or easy to cut. I know the best method for doing that would be to get software already designed to do just this, but my computer runs on Linux. I’ve seen software curl up its toes and dash screaming from the room when I’ve tried to install it on my computer. So, I am left to do my own designs with my drawing program, which is not as much fun as it sounds.

Then I made a mistake and had a revelation. I hit the wrong button on my camera and discovered it can do party tricks. In particular, it can turn a photo into a drawing.

This is the block in regular mode

This is the block in regular mode

- and this is the block in drawing mode

– and this is the block in drawing mode

“Self,” I said, “why don’t you just take a picture of the block you want and turn it into a drawing. Better yet, take a picture of the drawings you used in old patterns that you’ve already written on graph paper and use them.”

So I did:

Bordered 4-Patch - great in scraps

Bordered 4-Patch – great in scraps

An easy heart - also great in scraps

An easy heart – also great in scraps

Stone Mason's puzzle - good for using up strips

Stone Mason’s puzzle – good for using up strips

Now all I have to do is re-size and input the directions for these patterns – after I double-check the math – but that’s a project for another day.