Friday, December 29, 2017

Quilting: Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up

I missed the December 25th deadline for this present (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day kind of got in the way), but a day after the holiday I finished stitching in the ditch.  I then took another day to finish the binding (AND I had to redo joining the binding ends three times) and quilt label, so yesterday I finally delivered it to its recipient before he returns home to Southern California this Saturday.  I fell more and more in love with the quilt after it was complete.  I thought I would've tired of making this paper foundation pieced quilt a second time, but I love it so much that I look forward to making the red and pink color way for Valentine's Day and then the purple one for a March birthday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Breakfast: Eggs

Day 1:  Egg in a Hole
Day 2:  Herb-Baked Egg (I forgot to add butter but still delicious!)
Day 3:  Huevo Ranchero (hmm my favorite but I'll always cook herb-baked eggs)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Yesterday I had to stay after work to proctor final exams for a student.  It was a perfect situation.  I parked him in my office with its glass windows and installed myself outside in the reference section to use the big tables to pin baste a quilt.  Below I've pressed the backing by shifting an ironing pad all over.

Next the backing.  Pressing the batting on the table itself rather than shifting the batting from ironing board to backing taped on the floor and then being on my hands and knees after first moving my couch and coffee table to smooth the layers in my tiny condo was so much LESS ARDUOUS.

Lastly the quilt top.  I've my fingers crossed on there being no major puckers.  Lots more smoothing and again less arduous as I was able to walk around the table to tug and smooth, tug and smooth, tug and smooth...

Pin basting done!  I had wondered if I should've bought more safety pins.  This quilt sandwich is rolled up in my car, ready to be stitched in the ditch which I probably will sew on this same table because I am proctoring the next exams for the same student.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Quilting: My Circus, My Monkeys

Below is my finished quilt.

I used red, black, brown and purple thread on the quilt top and natural thread in the bobbin.  I'm glad for the most part that I used thread to blend in with the fabric colors which hides your stitching mistakes the best.  My stitching got straighter and less crooked in the stops and starts, and I lamented all those hiccups in my quilting.  However, DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.  And really all those machine quilting instructors are right, you'll never get better if you don't practice.  I've never yet sent out a quilt top to be finished by someone else.  I rather love that I've been in on the whole quilt from beginning to end.

Below is the scrappy back including the inspirational fabric, and lastly my quilt label.  As with all the kid quilts I've sewn, I hope the quilt will not be precious but functional.  I want its recipient to drag this blankie in the mud and that this quilt will have to repeatedly be laundered from constant, daily use.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Arduous but Important Task of Basting Before Quilting

Golly I will miss these funky monkeys, but they sure were inspirational for the funky monkey bars quilt top. 

I did not want to lose any of the monkey fabric in the back, and so I sewed panels on either side of it for the scrappy back.  I used a half inch seam allowance (mostly!) in piecing the scraps leftover from the quilt top.  My Saturday morning was also spent pressing, starching and then taping this scrappy back to the floor (I've no table big enough and even had to push back my coffee table and couch to make room for the quilt).  And then pressing and layering the batting over it.  And then pressing and starching (and noticing the that the top is not square but hopefully fixable or trimmable after quilting)and layering the quilt top followed by pin basting the sandwich on my hands and knees which took at least an hour and a half.  I pin a lot when I sew and even more when I pin baste!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Crib Quilts for Christmas

Below is the quilt top for my husband's niece's 2-year-old son, Grayson, in a blue and gray, of course, color way.

I've had this Funky Monkey fabric for years.  I love sock monkeys but never had the inclination to use this juvenile fabric.  The recent birth of my husband's niece's baby, Alexander, is the impetus for finally using this fabric which will be the back of a modern baby quilt.

Even though I'm not the most careful or skilled piecer, I felt a need to try improvisational quilting or of having a little bit of randomness in my quilt blocks.  I kept itching to use my ruler while making the blocks below; however, I did use the grid lines on my mat as a guide for freehand rotary cutting the strips for the funky monkey, a.k.a this monkey bars quilt.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone in making these wonky striped blocks.

I'll be horizontally sashing in between these 60.5" wide strips and am wondering if I can effect a more modern look by not sashing the perimeter of the quilt.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Strip Quilting or Foundation Paper Piecing

I found a new quilting method, and I love it.  I learned about foundation paper piecing in a beginning modern patchwork book by Elizabeth Hartman, and I used her method in a quilt of her design called Valentine.  I took 11" x 17" copier paper and trimmed it down to 11" squares, drew a diagonal line down the middle and then 3/4" lines on either side of that middle line.  I then used a glue stick to adhere a 1 1/2" strip of white fabric to the middle of the paper.  I dipped into my fabric boxes for four piles of fabrics:  red, pink, violet; indigo and aqua blue; orange and peach; green and yellow.  I adore how precise the sewing was--lining up the blocks was a cinch.  I wished I had varied the strips more and made them skinnier and alternated more between light, medium and dark fabrics.  However, I hope one can still see the diamond shapes bordered by what looks like white sashing--it's not or rather it's genius how Hartman coordinates the blocks to look like their sashed.  I will totally use this method again!  I already have another 48 sheets of 11" squares cut and ready to adhere white fabric onto and am wondering if I can double the size.  However, I'm going to use fabric from my red box of stash and cut them into 1 1/2" and 2 1/2" strips, and alternate them on the block starting and ending with the 1 1/2" strips.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

El Edredón Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos is nigh, and the wall quilt is done.  However, it's much bigger than I had intended and therefore no wall space in my living or dining areas can house this bad boy.  I'm going to launder it today and bring it to school to hang.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Boy Witch

I made this fellow a couple Saturdays ago, but last Saturday when I went to the bisque shelf, there was only his head.  The hat kept falling apart when I was constructing him and must have collapsed or exploded in the kiln.  And so I aim to re-do the hat and brim, bisque it and then attach with bisque fix.  Gotta have a hat for this to be a boy witch.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ceramics: Back to my plates obsession....

I think I like making plates because they're so simple to create and so functional:  roll a slab, add a texture you like, cut and slump in a Styrofoam plate, and then glaze in colors you also favor.  The pattern above is my favorite "baroque" texture roller made by Xiem. These plates are now ready for a sandwich or a side salad or a slice of chocolate cake. 

Joining Binding Ends...mission accomplished!

I've sewn about 5 quilts in my second life as a quilter, and I think I've finally figured out how to join the binding ends....the trick is to make them overlap by the length of their width, which in the quilt pictured is 2.5" and then put right sides together and sew that same 45-degree angle as when creating the binding!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Color Wheel Re-visit

I've been obsessed with Josef Albers proposition that color rather than form is the primary medium of pictorial language, and hence I've since sewn an English tumbling blocks wall quilt following the color wheel order and embroidered a color wheel.  Continuing that preoccupation with color and using fabric and embroidery floss as my "paints", I spied the latest issue of Love, Patchwork and Quilting accompanied with a free Dresden plate template and bought it promptly though I had vowed to stop buying that magazine as the latest issues just didn't contain any projects I wanted to undertake.  I also checked out from the public library, Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson because of the color wheel quilt in it.  The magazine project is comprised of 12 spokes while the book project is comprised of 52, so guess which one I'm starting first?

The quilting is done on my Día de los Muertos

I finished all the straight line quilting on my Día de los Muertos quilt, and it is wonky and puckered...not show-worthy at all.  However, done is definitely less stressful than perfect and I think I'm rather in love with the homemade look of it:)  Today after work, I will search through my boxes of stash in order to add to the binding I started with leftover jelly roll strips.  I took two pictures of the quilt folded up....big reveal when it's finally done including hanging sleeve.  I just may get this done by November 1st.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Stitch and Rip Time

I spent last night and this morning, ripping out the micro filament and white quilting stitches of this embroidery panel because the pucker was really a giant 2 inch fold.  Sigh.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild Retreat

Two weekends ago, I stayed at the Wild Palms Hotel to finish this Dia de los Muertos project.  I stayed up Friday night until 2:30 in the morning, finishing the last embroidery panel of a wedding couple.

I spent the rest of Saturday adding log cabins to all the panels.

But when I put the panels together, there was no color balance because I was making the panels monochromatic and I needed to move the eye up and down and across the quilt.  And so I added even more logs in contrasting colors.   The quilt top may almost be done I think.  The dimensions right now are 57" x 54.25".  
I don't have enough leftovers to make a scrappy binding, but maybe enough to add another 4 inches to the length.  I am used to seeing rectangles on my walls, but this almost square quilt is too big for most of my walls.  It will have to be sold.  I just can't imagine how much to price it.  It took me months, starting back in the spring from which I took a break in the summer, resuming it this fall in the hopes of getting it done before Halloween.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Ceramics: Workshop with Sarah Gregory

Below is my favorite vase made by Sarah Gregory, a ceramicist in Berkeley, California.  It's not the vase I bought from her 4 years ago which I also love and is smaller and not as detailed but was more affordable.  This color palette though of pink and green is so very very lovely, and if I hadn't splurged on so many classes and workshops in this month of my birthday, I would've bought it for the $230 price.  Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop in her upstairs studio at the Berkeley Pottery Guild, where I learned that this pink is a mixture of Amaco bright red and white underglazes.

Ceramic lovers are equally attracted to the deeper hues of her vases.
Everything in Sarah's studio is gorgeous, even the test tiles.  And I love how every tool she uses is visible and provides a glimpse into her process.  Sarah told us not to believe anything she said, but to first test, test, test it yourself. Materials that she uses include a personal palette of underglazes:  Duncan EZ Strokes and Amaco velvets for translucent color, Leslie Ceramics premixed underglazes for more opaque color.  She mixes her own colors with Leslie's underglaze base and Mason stain. She warns that there are colors that will work with any clear glaze and temperature but you MUST test them.  

Some of the shapes of her template echo the female form, and quite a few of her vases made me think of Venus of Willendorf.  Sarah is very visual and very keen on testing, testing, testing.
She created these examples to show her students.

My friend, Meral really enjoyed Sarah's demonstration of slab building vases. Below you see Sarah shaping the halves after she just scored the sides.  Sarah uses Standard cone 5 porcelain made by Michael Haney at East Bay Clay.  She claims it is water-tight at cone 5 and is the best handbuilding cone 5 porcelain she has ever used.  However, Sarah has also constructed vases from Bmix with grog, especially the taller and bigger vases.   

For tools, Sarah uses cheap and abuseable bristle fan brushes, numbers 4 and 6 and sumi brushes, number 2 as well as small detail brushes from big box stores like Michael's or Joann.  She outlines before she fills in with more underglaze her illustrations with an underglaze pen comprised of a plastic applicator bottle, filled to between 1/4 and 3/4 full with a .3 mm extra fine metal tip sealed when not in use with thin floral wire, 30 gauge.  The extra fine short tip is from Axner--search the item TMTIP, tip size extra fine.  Aftosa and Joann have tips starting at .5mm.  Also important are an xacto knife, work support in the form of a plastic covered pillow form with a towel over it, awesome task lighting (she has a skylight), high magnification reading glasses, a comfortable and adjustable chair, a spray bottle, 150 or 200 mesh sieve, plastic mixing cups, plastic storage cups (the coin top caps from Tap plastic are her fave) and feet support.

Here are her steps for handbuilding a vase:
  • make a template
  • roll slab and place on mats made of plaster board rather than canvas for a smoother surface
  • cut shape
  • work edges and score
  • stand and use rib to shape
  • join pieces
  • clean joints and add a bead of clay when needed (Sarah uses a small handheld extruder from Joann's)
  • add bottom, which is thicker and a bit drier than the vase body
  • compress seams
  • create a foot (by cutting a tiny bit outside of the outline in order to have a bit of edge from the rest of the vase)    

Sarah doesn't use extra slip but works with her clay when it's rather soft--she created the slabs in the demo the previous night, of course covered in plastic.  I would describe the texture as pretty soft to the point of just about to become leather hard   She then uses water to create slip on the scored edges before joining the two halves.
Lots of compressing the ends at the top of the vase.

 Tips for Successful Handbuilding
  • the various parts should have the same moisture content, the wetter the better
  • try and use as little water as possible and wipe off excess slip
  • reinforce problematic seams with a bead of clay made from that extruder
  • compress all accessible seams and joints
  • for cracks on leather hard pieces or greenware, compress or soak with a thin mixture of paperclay (she makes from shredded toilet paper and a thin slip of the clay she is using) and then compress
  • for cracks on bisque, scrape away the clay around the crack until you get to the bottom of it; her experience has shown that if she only fills the crack (with paperclay or other mender) it will persist and get worse
  • dry slowly and evenly
  • remember to cut your nails before starting      
Then we got to the demo on what Sarah does for surface decoration.  Her underglaze pen is a combination of black underglaze and wax resist--she uses 037 Black Duncan EZ Stroke underglaze mixed with Aftosa green wax for cone 5 work.  The mixture is not an exact science.  She uses as little wax as possible to create a resist.  A 1:1 ratio is a good place to start.  For a strong line, she recommends using an underglaze that is heavily pigmented, and she adds just enough wax to the black underglaze to create a resist (again 1 part underglaze to 1 part wax is a good place to start).  For the base color within the lines of the wax resist drawing, she adds water and vegetable glycerin--for thinner applications and to extend drying.
One of the reasons I love Sarah's pots so much is the feel of the overglaze under my fingertips.  Here is Sarah's Cone 5 Transparent Satin Matte Recipe:
25.7 Wollastonite
34.3 Frit3124
33.3 Epk
6.7 Silica

She mixes her overglaze for dipping and applies it quite thin.  Her overglaze has a relatively tough surface when fired and goes over great over underglazes (that have been bisqued).  This glaze can be made more matte by lowering the silica 1 percent at a time and more glossy by raising the silica 1 percent at a time.  Sarah's satin matte works best at cone 5, but will fire more glossy at cone 6.
In her demo of base color, she uses one layer of color (1.5 to 2 even coats).  She says she adjusts the underglaze to suit the application with additions of water and vegetable glycerine and uses a fan brush for that background color.  She also showed us her color transition backgrounds.

After we applied background color to some scrap porcelain tile, we practiced using our underglaze pens.  I was using my friend, Meral's art book titled French Modern as reference for my drawings.

When using the underglaze pen, fill to between 1/4 to 3/4 of the bottle.  We tried learning to control the pressure, to clear back pressure and avoid blobs to start--a paper towel is handy for clearing the blobs from your pen.  Sarah gave us suggestions of drawing at a low angle, of trying not to push material into the tip, of letting the wax set up or hold the piece accordingly, and troubleshooting the pen.  We learned that the wax will lose resistance over time or if left in the sun.  Covering with plastic helps.  When filling in with color, allow for thick and thin and let the color pool.  You can fill with light over dark and dark over light.  With a second background color, there's possible pinholing leaving a lining of the first color.  Sarah also showed how she shadows and highlights, using darker shades for shadows by adding some of the original color.  She adds a bit of the color's opposite in the deepest part of a shadow or on a turning edge.  For highlights and lighter shades, mix a bit of the color and white; for a spot of highlight, add pure white on top of that.

My friend Meral's tiles...prolific and beautiful.

I was so impressed by the brushwork of my classmates.  I ended up leaving one of my tiles blank and am holding off using my new underglaze pen until I decide on an image upon my amethyst background colored tile and after I've practiced drawing it. So much fun and so much learning!