Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finished Jellyroll Rag...and on to the next thing

I think I finished the red jacket in record time for me, not too many interruptions this time.  I called this one Jellyroll Rag.  The swirls made me think of dancing and jellyrolls and the color was just like the filling in the bakery jellyrolls I remember from childhood.  How's that for free association...

Here's a detail shot so you can see the insets and couching work I've done to add spice to an already beautiful fabric.  I've added those sparkly threads inside the paisleys and along the swirl.  The couching helped to smooth the edges of the insets, and then I needed to add the threads in other places to tie things altogether.
Once I finished this jacket, I needed to work on some of the more mundane tasks around here.  A jacket commission motivated me to do a major sorting and organization of my fabric stash.  Kim wants a wrap jacket in blues and aquas for a wedding rehearsal dinner in June.  So I needed to go through what I have to see what my possibilities were.  I wanted to make sure that I'd left no stone unturned, so I decided to go through literally everything we have.  

Here's what our work area looked like while that was in progress.  It's a mess, but there's actually a method to that madness.
Once I got everything sorted, I realized I needed a better way to store the fabrics to make them easier to access and use.  (One thing always leads to another, doesn't it...)  So I made a trip to Target and bought a dozen large clear bins.  Now everything has been put away and the bins have been lined up and labeled.  I can see what I have and can get at things easily.  What a big improvement:
The tabletop is nearly clear now and I'm ready to start the next project...but after Christmas.  My son comes home tomorrow, so I'll be taking some time to hang out with my family.  Hope you have plenty of time to do that in the next couple of weeks too.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Red This Time

Three blue jackets in a row made me realize I needed to do something different this time.  Following my usual pattern yesterday afternoon I pulled out a bin of fabric to see if I could find something that called my name.  I started with a bin of silks and never went any farther.  A set of red fabrics nearly jumped out of the bin and into my arms.  

For me red is about as far from blue as I usually get.  It's not that I don't like red, I just hardly ever work with it.  

Here's the set of fabrics I pulled out.  The big piece with the swirls and paisleys is one I've had for along time.  I just love the patterning and the fabric has a nice soft hand.  

I didn't have a good idea of what I was going to do with the fabrics, I just thought that they went together well.  Some of them hadn't been prewashed yet so I took them home to do that last night and just let the ideas stew.

Today my ideas started to come together.  I decided to do some reverse applique to incorporate motifs from the flower and fern fabrics into the empty paisleys. 

Here's my test piece.  After I did a couple of these on the sleeves, I decided it needed a little something more.  I've started couching some sparkly threads around the outline and along some of the swirls.  It is coming out well, but I sure didn't set myself an easy task.  I did three and then decided that was enough for today.  It requires way too much patience for a late Friday afternoon.  I'll keep going in the morning when I'm rested.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dance Rhythms

I just finished another jacket that I'm anxious to share.  I call it Dance Rhythms because the wavy lines make me feel like swaying in time to some jazzy music.  Does it make you feel that way too?

Here's the Front
And the Back

 The background fabric is a great African hand-dyed damask I bought from Becky Hancock of St. Teresa's Textile Trove at the Quilt/Surface Design Symposium this past June.  My photograph doesn't really do justice to the wonderful interplay of the patterns from the dye and the weaving.  You have to see this one in person to get the full effect.  I've added inset waves that I've pieces together from lots of my scrap fabrics.  To top it all off, there are handmade glass buttons from Penny Faich.

I'm pleased that I got it finished in time for Holiday Open Studios this weekend.  Maybe some lucky woman will find this under her tree on Christmas morning...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fruit of my Mind

Last night I finished another jacket. When I looked back at my blog posts, I realized that I started it a month ago. I am definitely not a speed demon with my creations. Here's what it looks like. Of course it's not exactly what I had in mind when I began, but it's close and I'm pleased.
I called it "Fruit of my Mind" as a reference to the stylized fruits in the fabric and the ideas that come from my head in creating it.  My ideas always change as I design the fabric/embellishments and put the jacket together.  There are always things that happen in the process that require me to rethink my plan.  That's the challenge - and the fun for me.
As soon as I had finished this one I was eager to move on to another.  Usually beginning another means pulling out bins of fabric, sorting and more sorting, before I know what I am going to do.  This time it was a much quicker process.  Two ideas came together very quickly for me.
I am going to work with an African hand-dyed damask fabric that I bought this past summer at Q/SDS as my base.  Into that I am going to set curvy, pieced strips.  
I'd been wanting to go through my scrap bins and start piecing together similar colors into long strips - just to have on hand for when I "need" them.  I had a bit of time last night and decided to just start.  Then I noticed the length of damask and realized it would be a great background for my pieced strips.  The light bulb went on.
Here's my bit of beginning.  I can't wait to see where it will take me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Great Time at the Merrimack Valley Artisan's Show

Well last weekend was my first formal foray into the world of fine arts and craft shows.  I participated in the Merrimack Valley Artisans show--bringing jackets, free lace scarves and art cards.  It was a lovely show and I felt proud to be a part of it.

As a "newbie" with primarily pricey merchandise, my goal for the show was to gain experience and exposure.  I definitely did both and even made some sales, so I was a happy woman at the end of the weekend.  There is so much more to doing these things than you ever realize when you start out.  Just managing to get your booth set up and taken down without major mishap is a major accomplishment.  I'd purchased a black metal gridwall system thinking that it would look nice and give me a great deal of flexibility for future shows.  

It proved more difficult to set up and take down than I anticipated, but I think the look is worth it.  I got many compliments on how nice my booth looked.  Thankfully I learned several tricks that I think will make it easier to manage the next time I do this.

Response to my jackets and scarves was heartening, giving me good motivation to keep going and looking for appropriate venues for getting my work out there.  Another artist who's a colleague of my husband, Jacqui Hawk, encouraged me to participate in the Women's Works event sponsored by UMass Lowell's Center for Women and Work on December 1.  I'd considered it before, but the personal encouragement was just what I needed to make the decision to go for it.  It'll be held at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center in downtown Lowell from 2-7 p.m.  If you're in the area, stop by to say hello.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Rhapsody

Fall Rhapsody is a good description for my mood yesterday and it's also the name of a jacket I sold during the recent Lowell Open Studios Event.  Martha came to pick up it yesterday and she let me snap her picture.

She was on her way to work and was quite worried that she wasn't dressed appropriately to show it off.  That didn't worry me.  I may be prejudiced, but I think it looks great even with her jeans.  (She's promised me she'll have her husband take another picture of her wearing it when she's all dolled up for a night out.)

I have to say that it is an enormous high for me when one of my jackets meets its new owner.  This one fits Martha to a tee and brings out the red highlights in her hair.  Everyone commented about that when she tried it on during open studios.  So, even though I made it some time ago, it looks like it was made just for her.  I guess it was, I just didn't know it at the time.

So I'm still grinning ear-to-ear today...a good feeling to carry over into my first fine crafts show this weekend.  I hope you'll join me at the Merrimack Valley Artisans show in Chelmsford, Massachusetts either Saturday or Sunday.  Maybe you'll find the jacket that was made for you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Starting a New Jacket - Finally

After spending my summer working on Free Lace Scarves, I am finally getting back to working on jackets.  What with cleaning and organizing our new studio space to get ready for Lowell Open Studios and preparing for the Merrimack Valley Artisans show later this month, it has been a very busy time.  Until a couple of days ago, I couldn't see my way clear to starting a major new project.

I did manage to finish a jacket I'd started last spring so I'd have something brand new for Lowell Open Studios.  Mostly though I've been cleaning and organizing.  The little time I set aside for creative work, I've just been making Art Cards with little bits of embroidered piecework.  Fun but not quite the same level of satisfaction as a jacket.

Here's the jacket I finished.  I call it Calm Waters.  This was my first wool jacket and the first time I added a button closure to my one of my Japanese-style jackets.
The button doesn't show up very well in my photo.  It's a beautiful handmade glass button from Penny Faich.  The background is dark with a bit of iridescent turquoise to match the colors in the jacket.  Penny and I have frequently been vendors at the same quilt shows.  When I see her I always buy at least a few of her buttons knowing they will add a wonderful finishing touch to some future project.  The jacket is fully lined with that lovely watered silk that I've used for the collar and cuffs.  The creative piecing is enhanced with couched threads to draw together the colors.

This week I started itching to start something new.  I spent a good part of two days pulling out fabrics from bins and making piles all over our new work space.  I hadn't done any fabric organization since we expanded so it was a major project.  I made many, many piles by color, texture, and weight trying to see what would call to me and what I had enough of for a project.  I finally decided on a gorgeous embroidered silk.  I tried to stay away from it because one of the predominant colors was jade again and I felt I should do something different.  But I've been wanting to work with this fabric ever since it came to me, so I decided to just go with it.

Here's what my initial idea is:
Even though the colors are similar, you can see that this one will be very different.  I'm excited to be back at it again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Free Lace Scarves

My summer art push has been Free Lace Scarves.  I've been traveling back and forth between my home and studio in Lowell and our summer house in Maine.  Between that and other projects (such as major accounting software problems), I've often felt my time was too fragmented to work on jackets.  
Creating free lace scarves has been the perfect project to keep the creative juices going and make me feel productive.  Turns out that the counter in my kitchen in Maine is just the right height and length for laying out the threads and creating the design.  I can tape the stabilizer to the counter so things won't move on me.  Check out my Facebook page for those pictures.  Then I have my sewing machine set up in the corner of the living room for doing the stitching.

This great view keeps me entertained while I'm working.  You can't get bored with a water view; it's always changing.  Tuesday it was rainy, but late in the day there was an unusual rainbow across the lake.  It was very low to the horizon and quite spread out.  I'd never seen one quite like it before.

So I keep playing with threads, ribbons, silk cocoons and stitching patterns to try to keep every one fresh and new.  Here are the latest ones.

More to come soon.  I still have more ideas to try out.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Balancing Art with Everything Else

Lately I feel like I'm in spinning-plates mode, trying to keep several projects in the air without anything coming crashing down.  So far I'm managing, perhaps just barely, but at least one of my projects is a vacation.  A real one this time, not just working out of town. We're headed for Montreal in the morning and on Saturday we're boarding a cruise ship for a leisurely trip back to Boston.  It's a belated celebration of our fortieth wedding anniversary which occurred while  I was in Columbus for QSDS.

One of the things I just did to get ready for my trip was to cut some more little fabric pieces to make into original cards.  I mentioned in my last post that this was how I spent my down time while vending at QSDS adding some embroidery to each of the little bits that I'd brought along.  Then over the last couple of days here in the studio, I mounted them on blank cards--doing some layering with some abaca papers and other handmade papers.  It's been fun and I'm pleased with how they came out so I decided to do some more on this trip.  Here are some examples of the completed cards.

 This first one started with a commercial fabric that had Paintstik rubbings on it.  I layered a sheer fabric with a bit of couching over that, added some sparkly abaca paper, and finished with a little embroidery to hold it all together.
 This next one started with a bit of fabric with some nice shiny couched threads.  I filled in one of the spaces with French knots, then layered it over a sheer handmade paper.

This last one started with a pieced remnant from a jacket I made a few years ago.  A little embroidery and an underlayer of more sparkly abaca paper  was about all it needed.

I love handwork; I find it very relaxing so it's a great vacation project.  I've been so busy with various administrative projects lately, that it feels really satisfying to make some art again.

In the last six weeks or so these cards and one free lace scarf is about all I've managed to finish in terms of artwork, but at least I'm doing something to keep that plate in the air.  Here's the scarf I finished.  I tried something new in that I made the ends of the scarves quite different from the middle.  I like the lacey look, I think I'll try that again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greetings from QSDS

I've been away from the studio now for almost two weeks - spending my days in a room without windows, vending at the Quilt/Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio.  Here's a little view of my area.  We're in a classroom at the Columbus College of Art & Design.  My sales area is shown in the left part of the picture.  I think I should have focused on that rather than my rather messy work area, but I think you get the picture.  I've brought as much stuff as I could fit on three 8' tables plus two small book shelves.  There are three more vendors in the room with me--Judy Robertson of Just Imagination with her hand-dyed fabrics, Bob Davis who has Helene's hand-dyed fabrics and shirts, and Becky Hancock of St. Teresa's Textile Trove.  We have all vended for QSDS for many years, so this is sort of like old home week for us.

Between customers I try to keep busy with some type of handwork, just to keep the creative juices going at least a bit.  This year I brought a bunch of small swatches of "leftovers" from various projects.  I have been adding a bit of embroidery to each one as a sort of finishing touch.  My plan is to fuse them to blank cards.  I don't know if I'll then try to sell them or just use them myself.  I guess I'll see how they all come out.  Here's a look at the first ones I've done.  Some are more successful than others--as is always the case--but they're keeping me busy and that's the most important part.

We are also managing to get in a bit of sight-seeing while we're here.  One morning we walked over to a topiary garden that's only a couple of blocks from the college.  It was delightful.  It was started in 1989 to not all the figures are complete but that does not take away from its charm.  The garden was planned to reproduce Seurat's Walk in the Park in 3D.  Here are a couple of views.

Here it is sort of as if you were looking at the painting.

And here is the pond at the back with the boats.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Playing with Color and Texture

I'm trying out new technology today.  We recently broke down and bought a small laptop computer for our business.  My main motivation was to be able to take it with me to the Quilt/Surface Design Symposium next month, but now I'm finding many other uses for it.  Today I'm learning about sharing pictures and documents from my office computer via the web.  I'm hoping I can add pictures to this post via a new service my husband set up for me.  It is my test run to see if I can manage this on my own.  I'm pretty computer-literate, but for many things I still feel like a newbie.

In my more hands-on world, I've been creating more Free Lace scarves.  The gallery I am working with in Newton has requested longer ones than I've made before.  Customers want to "make a statement" with their scarves.  My previous ones didn't have quite enough length for that.  I made a big push and made four scarves in four days this week.  I wanted to make them as different as I could.

Here's the first one.  I've incorporated triangles of shot silk as well as threads of various textures, even one with some sparkle.

This is the second one.  I had just a bit of some beautiful yellow threads that I wanted to use.  There wasn't enough for a big project and I also wanted the challenge of using yellow.  It's not a color I work with often.  The overall reads green to me because of the combination of yellow and blue threads, but the yellow adds a liveliness that pleases me. 

Here's the third.  This one incorporates triangles of silk and squares of an embroidered sheer.  With this one I got to a place where I thought it should be done, but it didn't feel quite special yet.  I had a random square of sheer fabric setting on my table that kind of jumped up at me to say "use me."  It was a fairly small sample that had an embroidered grid pattern filled with circles.  I loved it but didn't know what to do with it.  I realized that the colors worked well with my design and the sheer was soft enough to work well in a scarf.  So I cut it up and added it in.  Another example of why it's necessary to keep a stash of fabric and supplies on hand even if you don't know what you're going to do with them.

Here's the last one - another challenge color for me - orange.  The color alone makes a statement.  I've toned it down a bit with some purple, but it's definitely bright.

So I have to say that it's work I'm pleased with.  I hope they find good homes.

I also have to say that I'm pleased that I've managed this new system and gotten my blog written with pictures included even though I'm away from my office computer.  Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Need Lead Shoes Today

I haven't posted for a while because I was working hard to finish the jacket commissioned by my neighbor for his wife.  The hard work paid off - I delivered it right on time last week.  Today I got the nicest note from her.  She'd worn the jacket four times already and had received many compliments and lots of questions about where she got it etc.  She felt great and her husband was very pleased with himself for ordering it.  Makes me feel so good.

So here's a look at it:

The bands on the front and cuffs are crazy log cabin squares.  I worked in many colors so she could coordinate with lots of things.  As an added challenge - and more fun - she had given me several fabric remnants from her 87-year-old quilter aunt to work in if possible.  I am pleased to say that I managed to use at least a bit of all the fabrics she gave me.  I think it's wonderful that the jacket has that added level of meaning for her.

Now the secret of this jacket is that it is reversible so she can get double the wear.  Here's the "inside."
In my original plan this side was going to be just plain, but as I thought more about it I realized it needed a bit of spark to be sure that she would really get double the wear.  That's when I decided to add the couched threads.  These are the Stef Francis 5400 rayon threads that I love so.  They add great color and shine.  (Don't tell her but these were leftovers from Sonja's wedding dresses.  The colors were perfect.)  In her note she said she'd worn both sides already, so I guess it was a good decision.

So now you see why I need those lead shoes - to weight me down to the earth after all the good news.  I've got lots to do, so I can't just go floating away...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Walking on Air

I think I need someone to pinch me to make sure I'm not just dreaming.  So many good things have happened this past week that I find it hard to believe I'm really awake.
It started last Tuesday.  First I had lunch with a very good friend that I hadn't seen in a over a year.  It was great to catch up on everything.  Lots of good things going on in her life.
After lunch, I went to check out a wearable art store I'd heard of from Barbara Poole, another fiber artist in the area.  I wanted to see if it might possibly be a venue for my jackets.  I am absolutely thrilled to say that the store was beautiful, it really does sell one-of-a-kind items, AND the owner was happy to carry my jackets.  (I had brought pictures, just in case.)  So as of today,  my kimono-style jackets and free-lace scarves are available at Dahlia, 97M Union Street, Newton Centre, Massachusetts.  I hope you'll stop in there when you're in the neighborhood and help me spread the word.
The next wonderful thing that happened last week, was that one of my neighbors commissioned a custom jacket for his wife.  This will be the second jacket I've made for her.  When we got together last week, she told be that she'd worn the first one at least 200 times!  And it still looks great if I do say so myself.  This one will be a quilted, reversible hip-length jacket with pieced bands up the front and on the sleeve cuffs.  She wanted blues.  Here are my preliminary choices.  We'll see if she approves.
Then Friday my daughter Sonja e-mailed to say that she'd received an award for outstanding performance in her division at work.  It was so nice for her to get recognized by "the powers that be" at work.  It's just not the same when it's your mom telling you you're great.
By the weekend we were both riding high, so when we heard that the studio next to us here at Western Avenue was going to be available in June we decided to jump on it.  Sonja will give up her little personal studio down the hall and we'll double the size of our joint studio.  We'll knock out part of the wall to make one big space.  It will allow us to expand our display space, hide all our messy supplies, and have more room to work.  It's going to be a lot of work to reorganize everything, but it will be awesome when we're finished. if I'm just dreaming, I don't really want to wake up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Riding the Roller Coaster

I've had quite a ride this past month.  I hope I can stay off the roller coaster and on more level ground for a while.  I've spent a good deal of time working with my siblings to get my mother moved into an advanced care assisted living situation.  If you've been there you know how much mental and physical work is involved.  Luckily the four of us work well together and we found a situation that we are all happy with. Our mother seems pleased as well, so we're hoping things will settle down for a while.

With all that going on, I haven't had much time for sewing, but I did finish a jacket yesterday.  I call this one "Persuede Me."  The fabric is a nice, buttery-soft micro-suede.

I think the fabric was designed with chair covers in mind.  It consisted of panels with what looked like organic "squares" screened in the middle of a beige ground.  I loved the patterns and the colors, but it took me quite a while to figure out how to use it.  I finally decided on my "default" of cutting it up in strips and then putting the strips together to create a new whole.  Once the new fabric was created, I added couched squares to add texture and echo the squares and rectangles.  Then I found a beautiful sheer fabric with a woven leaf design for the collar and cuffs.

Here's the back:

I'm trying to keep up the momentum by moving right on to a new one.  A bit ago I pulled out several lovely wool fabric remnants in coordinating shades of jade and a lovely watered silk.  Now I need to figure out how I can put them together for another one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Jackets Completed

Since my last post I have finished two more jackets.  This first one I call Sheer Magic.

I had built up a stash of beautiful embroidered silks, including several sheers.  They'd been calling my name for some time, but I couldn't quite decide how I wanted to put them together.  I thought about creating a sheer jacket, but I knew it would need all French seams.  That process was just too daunting.  

In my usual fashion, I decided to just start in and see what happened.  In the process of laying out the fabrics to use, I noticed that layering the sheers over the other fabrics gave a beautiful haunting effect and that settled it for me.  In the body of the jacket the embroidered sheers are layered right over other embroidered fabrics.  In the collar and cuffs I've layered the embroidered sheers over a plain color.
The final design detail - couched rayon threads - was inspired by my daughter Sonja.  She'd pulled out several Stef Francis 5400 rayon threads for an order one day.  Turned out she'd taken out an extra one, but noticed that the colors coordinated beautifully with the fabrics I'd laid out on the table.  So she left it out for me to see.  The colors worked so well I just had to use it.

My most recently completed jacket also incorporates embroidered fabrics but this time I used embroidered linens.  
Again I added couched threads to accentuate the vine designs and add a hint of color to the tone-on-tone fabrics I'd chosen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Finding the Right Amount of Challenge

I learned about the Sketchbook Challenge back in December.  The organizer contacted us (Friends Fabric Art) to see if we were interested in becoming a sponsor.  As I read more about it, I decided that not only should we sponsor it, but I should participate.  I thought it be a good incentive to be more diligent about keeping a sketchbook.  My previous efforts with sketchbooks have been sporadic at best. I thought that having the monthly challenge structure would spur me to do more and the sketchbook aspect of it seemed loose enough that I wouldn't be too intimidated.  I'd taken a drawing class back in college but I was so scared of it that I took it pass/fail.  Though I enjoyed it, I just haven't done too much "real" drawing since then.  I guess it's still "work" for me, not "fun."

Sad to say, the January theme for the challenge proved too much of a challenge for me.  The theme - Highly Prized - just couldn't take me past the idea that I needed to draw something specific on that big empty page.  I just couldn't think of something that I prized highly that I felt competent to draw.  I thought about it a number of times during the month. I even brought a sketchbook on my vacation, but I just couldn't make myself do anything.  I wasn't off to a very good start.

Thankfully,  in February's theme - Opposites - I found some ideas that I could wrap my head around.  To reduce the intimidation factor, I decided to use a very small sketchbook for the project.  That helped and I actually did three little pages.  Each page is just about 2-1/2" x 3."  On each I played with words and colors: 
I started out just playing with words with opposite meanings and reflecting them in the colors and patterns.  By the third page I was playing with the idea of opposing the words and visuals--writing the word Stop in the color green and the word Go in read for example.  It was fun to do and I hope it has given me enough of a start to this that I can continue through the year.

In the meantime, I also realized that my personal complementary color scheme small quilt series fits very well into the opposites theme so the sketchbook challenge also helped get me back into that project.  I'd gotten kind of stuck on #5 in the series.  I didn't like it very much so it was lagging.  I finally managed to finish it and get myself started on a sixth.  This one I'm much more excited about.

Here it is as of a couple of days ago.  I'm having fun with a scrap of hand-painted fabric, bits of silk cocoons, some pulp lace ribbon, a sheet of copper foil and some scraps of plain and embroidered sheer fabric.  Per my usual I am adding lots of hand embroidery and quilting with embroidery threads.  I may add some beading too.  I don't know yet.  I am much more comfortable "sketching" with a needle and thread than I am with pencil and paper.  We'll see if the sketchbook challenge can change that.