How Do You Work?

What is your thought process when you begin to work on a piece of art?  I have been thinking about mine, particularly as it relates to my piece about “Words”.  I think I work backwards.  I will share how I went about putting “Words” together.  I started with a yard sized piece of rust dyed fabric.  I had a fat quarter of a screened design in turquoise/black that I loved and I loved it with the rusted fabric.  So I started with color.  I love color.  I laid the turquoise/black fat quarter on the rusted piece, then added a discharged black cotton sateen fabric.  I laid out a composition, then left the fabrics there to “study” for about 3 weeks!

I had no real concept in mind, except the colors.  I like to work abstractly and intuitively.  It may not happen that way all the time, but I think most of the time, I just go to my room and start “playing” with cloth, and something happens.  I really don’t know if this is a very “artistic” way to work, but I do get inspiration just playing.

I wanted to see if rusted fabric would discharge so I took a round stencil brush and stamped  with automatic dishwasher detergent and that made little circles on the bottom edge, which I figured I would cut off anyway. It was just an experiment.

After deciding I liked the composition and the colors together, I thought about how can I make these parts relate more to each other?  I used construction fence as a stencil to add a few of those areas on the rusted cotton.  The turquoise/black fat quarter was made by laying construction fence beneath the cloth and rolling dye paint over it.  I had used a soy wax screen with x and o on it to discharge the black sateen, so I decided to screen some more of that design onto the rusted fabric.  Probably somewhere about this time, the idea of the theme came to me, along with the other things to do to it.  Sticks and stones…and words became the theme. (See prior posts)  I stamped “sticks” with a bamboo skewer and left the discharged circles as “stones”; I did use ink to outline them.  To unify it, I wrote  across the whole thing all the way down to the area of the “sticks”.

This seems like a backward way to do it, to me.  I guess I think it should be more “planned”. I like how Linda and Laura Kemshall plan and shared in their book, The Painted Quilt. But everything I do turns out to be a surprise to me, because I don’t plan like that.  I am really curious how others work through their process, so please share!  I am very interested in this subject.  I think because I like color and collage, that is why I don’t really start with a “theme” or subject in mind.  Sometimes an image or an idea to unify it around a theme for me comes later.  Is that normal or unusual?

A Bit of This and That…

Not much to share. My husband was off work for two days as they were rained out of harvest. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t get any art done while he’s around. :=) Saturday we just worked around here, then took off for Harrisburg to shop at a different Walmart (I go to the local one more times than I care to count) and to eat Chinese and visit Radio Shack. Sunday I yelled at the kids in class at church ’cause they just wouldn’t shut up. They seem to think every time the teacher isn’t talking, it’s their turn. I still love ’em, God bless their little hearts, but some days I could just scream. They are very social little people. After that, home for lunch and the Traditional Sunday Afternoon Nap. I love that part.

Today, I am getting ready to leave tomorrow. My friends Susan and Robin will be driving home from Houston tomorrow. I am driving home to visit quilt guild, see a friend for her birthday, see my niece and nephew and maybe take them out for dinner, and then catch up with Susan and Robin. I will spend the night and we’ll party on Wednesday!! I do have to teach sewing this afternoon and make sure hubby has food, but I am looking forward to a couple of days’ break in the routine of life. We filled up the gas tank in the van for $2.59/gal. Woohoo! I couldn’t believe the cost was only $45. (It doesn’t take much to make me happy.) How boring my life must seem to most of you.

I’ve made my decision for entering “..Sticks and Stones…Words…” and I won’t be entering it in any shows that prohibit prior posting on a blog, so here is the finished (I think, but who knows?) piece. It’s very possible it could evolve from here. It measures 33″ x 42″, the largest piece I’ve done in quite awhile.

Sewing on Rust Dyed Cloth…

I quilted “But Words Will Never Hurt Me” quite easily (see closeups below). I used 100% cotton batting and a hand dyed cotton backing. I usually use a needle made for quilting by Schmetz or a Microtex needle; these are sharp needles. Not having many Microtex needles, I used a size 11 quilting needle. The quilting part went fine. I ran into trouble when I went to sew the folded binding down. On the Bernina, the thread kept breaking. OK..change needles. The thread still broke and the needle seemed to have trouble going through the cloth, even stopping entirely. This has not happened to me before. I had broken two needles previously, so I thought perhaps the timing was off. It pieced two pieces of cloth together with no problem, so that’s not it. I put the Bernina away and got out the Featherweight to see if there was any difference. It too would sew a couple of inches and then stop and the needle would not pierce the fabric. I posted a Help email to the quiltart list and got several suggestions… use larger needles, use a different thread, use a Microtex 14 or topstitch needle. Walmart had no topstitch needles and I only had a Microtex 12. And I live an hour from any quilt shop.

You know how sometimes when you wake up in the a.m. with something on your mind, a problem you are trying to solve? I woke up the next morning planning my next move. I decided to make the binding a single layer instead of a folded binding. I had a Microtex 12 needle and polyester sewing thread. It worked wonderfully. This information will not be interesting to anyone except those looking for a way to sew through rust dyed fabric! The rust dyed cotton sateen did seem very dense and I don’t know if the rust did that or what. I have heard of people who have trouble sewing through dense areas of rust, but that was not the case with my quilt; it quilted just fine through the densely rusted areas, and the binding had no dense areas of rust.

It’s been a learning experience.

In other news, my friend SuznQuilts left for Houston market this morning at 3 a.m. She and friend, Nestlings By Robin will drive the whole day. I wish her good success. I stayed home this year. The 15 hour drive is long.

Moving Right Along…

I love it when I get on a schedule where I can work steadily. It feels good to be getting things accomplished.  Working from home guarantees lots of interruptions! Now that I’ve said that, let me show you what I finished today…the “Kemshall Bag”.  My progressive work on this bag has been documented in previous posts.  The sample in Quilting Arts had square beads hand sewn on the edge and there were lots of them.  I had already put so much handwork time into this, I wanted to finish the edge in a more timely fashion, so I chose a pre-packaged beaded trim.  A little ribbon for the hanger and it’s finished and ready for gift giving.

This next project is in process.  It all started with a piece of rust dyed cotton sateen.  That was the inspiration along with a piece of screened cloth with turquoise and black dye.  I have had the pieces laid out together so I could stare at it for a couple of weeks.  Today I went into action to implement my vision. In the book The Painted Quilt, by Linda and Laura Kemshall, they document how they never start working on the cloth until they have sketched, painted, and mapped the initial idea out in a journal.  I love their journals and that is a wonderful idea, and I will do sketches and doodles, but so far they have never emerged into anything full blown.  I was enjoying the colors of the rust and turquoise together along with some discharged black cotton sateen.  So I took pictures of the layout, ran some photos out and then proceeded to sketch my ideas onto the photo.  For some reason, I find that photographing the layout and seeing it on the computer screen helps me to better see and finalize the initial composition.  Having photographs of that gives me the opportunity to sketch onto it more layers of what I see as the final look.  If that look doesn’t work for me, I can make another photo to work on.  I use 4″ x 6″ glossy photo paper from Epson.  Every time I order ink from them, I get a free packet of 4″x6″ photo paper, so I’m not really out anything but some ink.  I have done this a couple of times and find the idea very helpful for me.  I wish I were as organized and thoughtful as the Kemshall’s, but at this point, I’m just not.

The piece is larger than what I have worked on recently.  I decided I needed to do something larger.  Since I’m not sure what I will do with this or where it might be entered, if at all, for now I am going to hold out on the full view and just show a few closeups.  It is ready for quilting and I am excited to get it to this stage.  I don’t know if it’s good or not, but I love the colors and I’m happy with the theme and it does look just like my sketch on the photograph.  The name of it is….But Words Will Never Hurt Me. (You know the old saying..sticks and stones may break my bones…)  And who knows…maybe the start of a series?

Rust dyed cotton sateen, dye painted screened cotton, discharged black cotton sateen, stamped, discharged, inked.

Wednesday This ‘N That…

I have been here, I just haven’t been blogging. You know… how LIFE gets in the way. Monday afternoon I had to go teach my sewing class with young girls. There are five of them, although not all of them sew when I am there. They are working on a quilt called Crooked Nine Patch. It was designed by my friend SuznQuilts and was made so that it is easy for kids to do. They are so excited and having so much fun. Sometime later I will take pics of their blocks to show you all the variety they have.

On Tuesday, I had errands to do and pick up a few groceries. My husband is working long hours in the field, so I am trying to keep the food train going for him and try to keep lunch somewhat interesting, since they eat on the run. But Tuesday afternoon, I decided it was time for me to do some sewing for FUN!!! I actually haven’t sewed anything much for quite some time. First, I worked on the hand stitched bag that I showed awhile back. I liked the pears that the Kemshalls stitched on their bag, so, lacking any other inspiration, I stitched pears on mine too and then added some paint. This is a birthday gift for a friend of mine and that birthday is coming up soon. She likes folk art and I have kept the pears imperfect and a bit funky in shape. Believe me, it wasn’t that hard to do…with free motion stitching. The next thing to do will be to bind it and shape it into the bag, then maybe add some beads by hand.

Creating art takes alot of brain power, so there are times when I just want to sit at the sewing machine and do mindless piecing. That’s my break from thinking…that’s my fun. This is when I like to pull out something unfinished and get back to it. Yeah, I still like traditional fabrics, and yeah, I still like muted reproduction colors. So except for getting the applique stitched down, I did get the borders on and the stars fused to the quilt. This ended up being a double bed size, but the fun thing about it is, it has 579 different fabrics in it. It is called Civil War Logs, again by my friend, SuznQuilts. It is all (as much as we can tell) civil war reproduction fabrics. Four of us started collecting them several years ago and trading strips around so that we all had that variety. In this particular quilt, each fabric has been used only once. It is windy out today, so I couldn’t photograph it on the clothesline. It just flies up like a sail!

I am quite pleased with it and am thinking of getting it hand quilted (probably not by me) in keeping with the Civil War look. I think I know some ladies who hand quilt every week around a big frame.

Today I finished emptying out the van from the festival and organizing everything in the garage. It’s hot out there. I am sweating badly. The other thing I am doing today is attempting to discharge rust dyed fabric. Yep, it works. Here are the results. The circles on the bottom are the discharged areas. Now I want to do some screenprinting with dye paint. How many different chemicals can this cloth stand?

I Love The Benefits….

One of the perks of painting, with either dyes or acrylics, is that when you finish with your project there is usually lots of paint on the brush and on the painting surface. I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but, I was raised by grandparents who went through the great depression in the 30’s; we didn’t waste anything. And I won’t waste my paint!

Paint rag, discharged with a round stencil brush. The surprise was seeing how the circles discharged in the different colors.


I made some batik scarves yesterday.  I used soy wax on these, but am wondering if flour paste would be good to use. I may have to try it, but if anyone reading this has any thoughts about it, let me know in the comment section.  I do like the crackly lines.

I am also trying out some new types of silk from what I have worked on in the past.  I really love the flat crepe, the silk satin and the silk charmeuse.  I think the charmeuse is basically silk satin with a crepe backing on it, thereby making it a heavier scarf.  So this has been an interesting learning experience.  Tomorrow I will be putting these scarves out at the artisan’s festival.  I am always interested in customer response when I have something different to offer at shows.

Saturday Chit Chat…

My first post for October.  I’ve been here.  Trying to get some art done…and it went nowhere.  Then there are the days when I have so much housework to get caught up on and errands, that I can’t even think about making any art.  I’m doing good to just get things done.

I replied to a question on the quiltart list about leftover paint and also gave a link to a small piece of art.  Whew! You guys have all been going to look at it.  I was amazed at my stats after posting that.  The last time I had stats like that on a post is when I ran the “guess-how-many-dryer-sheets-are-in-these-tubs” contest.  I am thrilled so many came by for a visit.

Well, the only art productivity I feel I got done this week was the 12 silk scarves I worked on yesterday.  I used a slice of a pool noodle for a stamp and it worked wonders on some silk crepe that I hadn’t been pleased with.  Now they have some energy.  I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of any of them yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  I tried some new things like stamping and monoprinting on them, and I like how they turned out.  I also had several different kinds of silk that I had not tried before.  The silk charmeuse is soft, silky (of course), and basically rich and wonderful.  The flat crepe is light and airy, but shiny, and the silk satin seems to be  lighter version of the silk charmeuse.  Gee, now I’ve wet your appetite talking about all this lovely silk and I have no pictures.  Maybe I will get one right now, just for eye candy!  I also found a silk blouse at a yard sale this a.m., not to wear, but to do things with!

It’s almost evening here, but I think the picture turned out ok, enough to give you an idea.  That’s the silk charmeuse on the right. Yummmm….

I am doing these for the artisan’s fest next weekend at Carmi’s local festival. I don’t know if other areas do this, but around here, all the small towns have their local fall festivals.  One town has Mule Days; it’s going on this weekend (and there actually are mules there).  Another town has Dairy Days (but you can’t buy any dairy products there…I tried).  There’s Popcorn Days in another town and my town has Corn Days.  There used to be a Strawberry festival in another town, but I don’t think they have it anymore.  It was interesting to learn about all these festivals when we moved here.  Where we came from, there were homecomings at the schools, but not localized festivals named like these.  They still do cakewalks down here.  Does anyone do those anywhere else?  Let me know.