Saturday, June 24, 2017

One Off, One More On -And a Repair

Lately, my "craftiness" has slowed a bit.  I am doing some studying and trying to get more exercise. Of course, the study involves the creative process and new and/or different methods to do some of the same things I have been doing.   I am also doing some handwork or "slow stitching."

First up is this piece that I took off the loom a couple of days ago. It was washed (wet-finished), ironed while damp, and I hung it to dry.
There is an odd thread/fiber hanging there, but that is not a problem.
Once that was off, the loom was empty - but I had a warp already threaded and waiting to hang on the loom. Within 15 minutes, the loom was ready for more weaving.
I wove a bit to check it out and see that it was going to work well.
It is weaving up beautifully.
This is a narrow warp that was created  to play with matching the color repeats in the variegated yarn.  Only moderate success was achieved on this one - but I like the way it looks.  It is about 7 inches wide and will certainly shrink a bit when it is wet finished - but less than an inch.


The slow stitching I played with was loosely based on some of the study I have been doing.  I hope to tell you more about the study later.
At least two pair of my blue jeans developed holes in the knees.  This is probably because since retirement, I live in jeans.   To me, the denim is extremely comfortable.  
In each pair the hole showed up in the left knee.   Clearly, I kneel on that knee much more frequently.  A few days ago, I needed to kneel down to check something outside,  and "OUCH!"  there was a rock under the left knee - right where the hole was.
While cleaning and doing some reorganization of fabrics and craft materials (still a mess though)  I found pieces of jeans I had cut up to recycle/reuse.   One of those pieces became the backing patch for one knee.   I hand stitched around it behind the hole. Then I found a variegated thicker thread that I used to stitch from the front to reinforce the knee.  What I thought was a rust color in the variegation was actually a bit on the pink side.  C'est la vie!   I also used a blue pen to "blend" the patch just a bit.
Maybe not a pair of jeans I will wear to an event, but they are absolutely fine for day to day wear.   That patch is most likely one of the strongest places on those jeans now.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Finish -Hooray!

Yesterday (aka:Saturday) - I started a project to make a table topper from a kit that was given to me.
Yesterday - I worked on the topper. And worked
---and quilted
---and put on a binding
and
Yesterday - I finished it!

The quilting is mostly free motion.  I started with a funky version of a "square flower" in the center - but I added my own quirkiness to it. Then I used wavy lines and swirls for the chevron areas and the small squares.  For the outer border, the free motion foot was used for some organic "sorta straight" lines.
Hooray for a Finish!

I wonder if I can do three of these without borders for the center of a quilt. I had some other ideas for quilting that I could try if I do.  Hmmm...and that center square could be pieced or appliqued or.......
I think the muse is whispering in my ear again.
---but why doesn't she say "Let's finish some of those projects you started and haven't finished yet." Why?
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Table Topper Kit

Part of the day Friday was spent helping a friend with a loom that is new to her. I confess that it was new to me also.  This was a tapestry type loom and I had never warped one of those before. Long story short - we got it warped and I help her get started weaving on it.

As we were packing up to leave, she handed me a gift.  It is a kit that she put together for a table topper.
All of the pieces were pre-cut and all I needed to do was sit down and sew!  Of course it took a bit of time to arrange the colors.  But then I sewed it quickly. 
I am still not sure about my layout, but I think it looks great.  
I am planning to layer, quilt and bind it before the muse runs off again.   Then I am planning to make my own kit and make another one.  It was surprisingly easy to construct once I got going.  

And now - back to the work FUN-room. 
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dyeing Results

Confession - I was disappointed when washing out the dye from my last batch.  Going in, I was aware that my dye solution was "older" and may have lost strength. But once it was on the fabrics, it appeared bright and lovely. It showed great promise.
The fact is that powdered dye that is premixed with water loses some effectiveness the longer it sits.  To help counter that fact I decided to let the batch set for a full 24 hours - in vain it appears.
This bright piece
became this:
The red and fuschia faded to barely pink and the violet is entirely missing.

Here are the others



They are all useable as they are.  However, none are what I expected or hoped for.
For my next dye batch, I will be mixing up fresh dye concentrate that I will use up in one batch!

The "ugly" fabric that I was over-dyeing needs more pigment. So the next batch will hopefully make it useable.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This 'n' That

I have been doing a little bit of this and that today.  Earlier in the day I decided to use some pre-mixed fabric dye.  I soaked some fabrics in soda ash solution in prep for dyeing.   Here is that fabric in the various containers soaking up the dye.
The idea is for this to fade from blue to purple to fuchsia to red. 
I did layered color and drizzled dye on these.  Who knows what will happen!
Left: Three blues with some green mixture squirted on various areas.
Right:  Some "ugly" fabric that I am overdyeing with all of the colors I used above. 
I hope that some of these turn out amazing and that the others are at least useable.

Later in the day, I realized that I needed to actually use some of my hand-dyed fabric.  I cut pieces to make "four at a time flying geese."  I made two sets and then put them into these two blocks.
Once finished, I realized that the contrast on these is very weak.  Oh well!  I will use them with others that have great contrast and they will hopefully look okay in the final quilt.

I think my muse has gone to Tahiti without me.  If you see her, please send her home.
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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trash to Treasure

Hi folks, sorry for the absence but that is life.  Or at least, my life has moments, days, stretches of time that are like that.

I had been away from my loom for a bit so I sat down to play.  There were several bobbins that had been wound for the demo back in April.  I was trying to use them up.
Here is some of the cloth on the loom.
There are several layers wrapped around the cloth beam.  There is more than it appears in this photo.
Then I got to a bobbin that just looked too "precious" to me.   I decided to see what I could add in as I was weaving to make it more interesting.  I grabbed the trash bin from my sewing area - because it was in arm's reach.  You may remember that I have been working on some class samples like this one:
There is handwoven fabric sewn in with the quilting fabrics.  In the process bits were trimmed off and tossed in the bin.
There I found treasures to add into the weaving.
You may not be able to recognize them there, but the trimmings from my handwoven fabric were woven right back in.  I have marked them in the next photo.
There are also some thin strips of solid color and hand dyed fabrics added - but I save them automatically so they were not in the bin.

It is no wonder that I have so many craft supplies in my house.  It is difficult to toss out those bits that will be useful a day, a week, or a month down the road.

(please do not send me your trash - I have enough. Thanks!)

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Another Class Sample -and a Plan

It is so much fun making the samples for my upcoming class.  One more top for a pillow is pieced and trimmed.  I am debating whether I should go ahead and make it into a pillow cover or save it to show the process.  I will need at least one top ready to show how to layer, pin and sew it into a pillow cover.
Here it is as it is right now.
This one has two pieces of hand woven fabric in addition to several scrappy pieces of quilting fabric.  Three of those are hand dyed fabrics.  The other four are commercial prints.

As I was cleaning and organizing,  I saw the box that my Electric Quilt 7 software came in. When I picked it up, it was HEAVY.  So I looked inside.   There is a book that comes with EQ7 - and it is 272 pages!  I started looking at it and decided I needed to make real use of it.
The information is fantastic.  It even says "learn here" on the cover. Sigh, and I relegated it to the shelf.

My goal is to go through it doing everything. When I find something that I deem "cool" I plan to post about it. I hope I am not learning so much I forget to blog. 


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Friday, June 02, 2017

Samples and Squishy Mail

My latest project is making some samples and planning for a class I am teaching in August.  The class is for weavers to learn to use scraps of handwoven cloth along with other fabrics to make patchwork items.  The class will show how to make a pillow, but the skills will be perfect for so many other items. I am truly excited to have this opportunity.   I have made a couple of sample pillows.
Four-patch on the left, "kinda" log cabin on the right.
The juxtaposition of handwoven and quilting fabrics makes my heart sing.  Plus, the leftover pieces are useful this way. It is a new artform for me.   The class is limited to eight students due to space and time considerations.  I want everyone to walk out happy and confident.
There are sample pieces in progress but I didn't take photos of them. (sorry.)

The mailbox had a wonderful squishy package in it today.  When blogger and fabric dyer extraordinaire, Vicki Welsh (Colorways by Vicki Welsh) went on vacation, she had a weeklong giveaway.  Since I love her fabrics, I entered every day.
Surprise (or not) - I won from an entry on the 3rd day.  The theme that day was "Purples."  There are "scraps" of purple fabrics and an ice-dyed kitchen towel.   That towel is huge.  Perhaps I will cut it in half and have two for my kitchen.  Here it is draped over my computer/office chair.
The top is over the back of  the chair and the bottom is over the entire seat.

The "scraps" are lovely pieces of hand dyed fabrics.
Picture "borrowed" from Vicki's blog
That is the towel at the bottom.
Here are my photos - (not as good as her photo - hence the borrowed one)

I call them "chunks" of fabric.  These will be amazing for art quilts or whatever they become.
And then there are these pieces that appear to be excess from die-cut quilt blocks.
There will be piecing fun with these for sure.  Maybe a piece or two will end up in one of my pillows!
I do love a squishy envelope in the mail.  Thank you, Vicki.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Just a bit of Quilty Playtime

Some days it is great to just play with no planned project or expected outcome. I grabbed some block parts, some scraps, some pre-pieced parts and a fat quarter or two and started playing.
I sewed, I slashed, I sewed again. I inserted strips and sewed on pieces.
Then I finally squared it up and added a border.
What will it be?  At this point I don't know and it isn't important. My spirit of play was released and  it reveled in creating.  Perhaps this piece will become part of a quilt - or maybe a decorative pillow.  There is a possibility I may just quilt it and add some embellishment and let it be a wall hanging.

Do you allow yourself playtime?  It is important to the creative spirit to play without being judged.  So turn off the critical voices in your head and play.

This playtime was inspired by Rayna Gillman and Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Each of them have written books about playing with scraps that I find truly inspirational.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Little Designing and a Little More

Some days, when I am not busy making things, I love to sit and play with Electric Quilt software. I have EQ7 and it is amazing what you can do with it.  While looking for a way to add in a single strip all the way across a quilt design, the option of a horizontal strip quilt came up.  It is a lovely option and playing with it for a bit yielded this design that I call "To the Nines."
This quilt has 17 strips or rows in it. Each solid divider is a row also.  Once you use the menu for Quilt->New Quilt there are options for both horizontal and vertical row quilts.  I chose horizontal because for my quilt as you go method I usually have the "connector" strips go horizontally - although vertically is certainly an option also.
Once you have that selection made you can change each row, add rows (with the option of cloning the selected row) or delete rows.
In each row you can choose the block size.
If you look at the layout panel on the right you can see that for strip 6 (counting top to bottom) I chose pieced blocks that are 12 inches wide (length is the width of your quilt!) and 7 blocks across. If you are piecing square blocks then you want to  make your blocks square.  That is a link from one of EQ's websites that are so helpful to me when I am designing.

Strip four has 6 inch blocks so there are 14 of them.  For the strips going all the way across, choose Plain Block in the "Select a Strip Style" section and make it one  along length for a solid strip.  But check the other options too. If you want to piece the strip for a multi-color stripe there are some fun options there also. The secret to learning is "Don't be afraid to PLAY!"  Now, if you are afraid of messing up your design, once you have placed a few blocks you can go to the Quilt menu and Save Quilt in Sketchbook.  Then it is saved and you can get it back from the Sketchbook menu.

So what else has been happening?

I did sit for a while spinning some colorful yarn.
 For now it is just a single on the bobbin and I have a bit more to spin before I make any decision as to how I will  move forward with it.

And also my Mom had a birthday. She is now 81.  Actually she told me weeks before that she wasn't having anymore birthdays.  My reply?  "Good, I don't have to make a cake!"  Ha ha.  She wasn't fond of that option.  My brother recruited my niece to plan a small family party.  She called my aunt who said "Get Eugene to make the cake." (my family calls me by the full version of my name.) So I casually asked mom one day "If you could have any kind of cake to eat right now, what kind would you choose?"  She answered "Chocolate!"

For the last few family birthdays, I have been trying to "outdo myself" with each cake.  My brother wanted lemon - so I added a lemon ginger preserve filling between the layers and punched up the frosting with some extra lemon "kick."    My niece wanted strawberry, so I added a layer of strawberries in the center, added some strawberry jello in the already strawberry cake batter  and put fresh strawberries on top.

So now I was trying to make something even more "over the top" in taste (the cake isn't fancy looking- just fancy tasting if I succeed.)
So- making a butter cake batter, I used coffee for the liquid, added 3-4 tablespoons of cocoa and prayed it would work.  For the filling, I used cherry pie filling -and to do that you use thick frosting to make a dam so that the filling doesn't run out. The bottom layer had to be leveled - something I had never attempted in the past. It worked out okay, but I confess it wasn't perfect. I think I need a cake leveler if I want to get it perfect.
Frosting/icing (I never know which to say) - I melted a full bar of Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate and added 1/4th cup of  softened butter while still over the heat of  a double boiler (water simmering - not boiling!) Once fully melted,  about 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1/4th cup of whole milk was added and mixed well. Then I added in a teaspoon (roughly) of vanilla and a couple of pinches of salt and whipped until well blended.   While it was delicious - it wasn't the prettiest icing to apply.  I think it would be amazing reheated and poured over a sheet cake though.
For a garnish, I put three cherries from the pie filling on the top.
There was one good-sized or two thin slices left when everyone got cake (a couple got seconds.) It was quite rich and one slice was enough for me.
I told them that after my aunt's birthday in early July, I am retiring from "fancy cakes." But they didn't believe it and I don't think I did either.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Update on Me

As usual my life has been interesting lately.  With the advent of Spring, I started spending more time outside.  So I am doing less art/craft type things.  The project I am working on right now is private and will never be shown on my blog or facebook - so blogging has been put on the back burner.

Let me give you a gentle but firm warning.  Because of the mild winter - at least here in the South - there are lots of ticks and other insects.  How do I know?  I mentioned spending more time outdoors.  One evening I was sitting inside and I had avoided starting to use air conditioning so I was wearing gym shorts.  I rubbed the underside of my left leg and felt a small bump. It felt like something was stuck on my leg, so I picked at it.  When I got hold of it, I pulled it off.  Yikes, a tick. Honestly, I have found ticks on myself before so it didn't worry me.  I smashed it and carried on.
A couple of days later a friend said "Let me look at your leg. What happened here?" and I told him about the tick.  He said "You need to have a Doctor look at that."   I took a picture with my cellphone and saw that it was a round red area with a center spot.  So - fast forward.  I went to the Doc, got antibiotics in case it may have been infected with Lyme disease.
Needless to say, I haven't been doing a lot of outdoor tromping about since then.  I need to round up some 20% DEET repellent spray.

As you know, blog posts are not nearly as interesting without pictures so I am adding a couple.
Loopy fringe made using a method I learned recently.
It isn't attached to anything - it is some I made to use for embellishment.

A Pillow made with both commercial fabrics and my hand woven fabric 
My art/weaving/quilting website has been updated a few times in the past couple of weeks also.
I am not fully sure I am happy with it just yet. I am still learning to use the program that I am designing in.  You can see my site at www.geneblack.com


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

An Interesting Question

As you may know, I have a number of YouTube videos showing quilting and weaving techniques.   ((YouTube channel link.))

Puzzling the Past
Today I received a very nice comment that had an interesting question with it.  The question stated, "Were you a teacher?"
I thought about how to answer that one.  My thought was the question asked "Did you teach school?" The answer to that is straightforward - No, I did not.  But the question asked "Were you a teacher?" In my professional career with Public Health, I did indeed teach.  One of the classes I taught was a certification class on handling money.  I never had a student fail, although a few had me concerned by taking a very long time to finish the final test.
Another time we upgraded a computer program from an antiquated DOS based system to a more modern Windows application.  During development, I worked with the programmers to assure that the application was user friendly and productive. Once the program was ready to be released everyone that would use it had to be trained.  Did I teach? Yes I did.  Several of the committee I was on were scheduled to spend time at the State Training Center teaching this class.

I have also taught various people techniques and methods for various arts and crafts. I taught Sunday School starting when I was 15.  I have loved teaching for years.  In college, I took classes in education with the intention of perhaps becoming a school teacher.  However, I chose a different path.

So the picture above, "Puzzling the Past," is very appropriate as the image for this post.  One simple question, true.  But it required one rather complex answer. And now, I say this: I am a teacher.


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