Roundhouse Blues

Red is not a color I typically wear or decorate with, but it is making a big splash in my stitched art. The first pieces where red started was the vintage linen tiles with vintage silk scraps and perle cotton thread keeping it all in place.

The red feels like a crisp contrast to the creamy linen with its slightly coarse texture. Slow stitching gives me a place to meditate, hands working gently to snip and stitch, it is soothing and methodical. Mudita is my 2018 meditation. Sharing the joy of others, mudita, is so vital for us as a collective. We build strength together by shouting in resounding joy–even if its silent in our meditations–like the Grinch our hearts grow and grow.

It can easily come to us to feel left out, neglected, slighted, emotionally bereft and ignored with so much clamoring for attention in the world of unease and war. How do we find a path of peace and the gift of kindness? 2017 was my year for Metta meditation–sending loving kindness to all the sentient beings of the world. Sending love isn’t too difficult until one thinks of sending it to someone who deeply hurt us. Then Metta takes on new meanings. Mudita, sharing in others joy is similar. We might be happy for those we already like or feel good about. But what about when we are confronted with the good news of competitors or those who harmed us?

To open one’s heart for others good news is not so simple when we feel badly. But changing our meditation to open ourselves to hear others good news and feel genuinely happy for them is critical for personal growth and to further peacefulness. Sharing in others Joy is my goal for this year–to stitch, paint and meditate on joy for all sentient beings.

Each of the red works are about 7 or 8 inches and will be appliquéd onto a larger cloth and then machine quilted. I am a fan of combining several techniques and am open to what might happen yet. As this piece progresses or is completed I will share it. The name filtered to me as I was deep in stitching and with mind open, it seems it wanted to be called Roundhouse Blues.

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sore fingers sharp mind

I’ve often likened myself to a border collie, perhaps you might be one too. You are likely familiar with the legendary dogs, relentlessly working a herd or driving themselves in sporting competition until they have to flop into cool water because of the stress. I also think its possible to have a border collie mind–one darting to and around–herding thoughts and driving oneself to work. This work helps my border collieness by giving me an activity of both mind and hand.

Maybe 100 stitches fit into a square inch..although I don’t sew every square inch of the quilt there will be thousands of stitches in a piece that so far is about 48″. No surprise then that my thumb and fingers are a bit sore. A clean sharp needle makes the work much easier, but sharp needles cause more injuries. The accidental and infrequent stabbing of my own hands mostly happens with slight notice. Five or six hours of hand sewing leave my hands tired and fingertips delicately bruised. I have tried different types of thimbles and hand protectors. Not one style has really worked for me yet. Right now I am trying the Thimble-It which is a small plastic oval with adhesive that sticks to the fingertips. So far, the thread has caught on the sticky edge almost every time through and that has slowed me down considerably which makes me cringe more than being injured!

I know what draws me to this work, the repetitiveness I think is the most desirable part of the process for me. Analytical thinking while maintaining awareness of my surroundings are paramount to the final product–until I get to that part of the process–which then becomes an apparent necessity of design. Being able to listen to books and podcasts is vital to the operation–and the focus is intensified and I can retain so much more information when my hands are delicately engaged in repetitive work. I have favorite audio books that I have ‘read’ over a dozen times while sewing. I am convinced that my retention level increases while stitching and time slows while it also leaves me with the perception that there is no time. That trickster reveal, that there is no time, but simply a construct that we choose to abide by much like other constructs of our civilization.

books

Casually I tossed this latest quilt sandwich on the ironing table last night. The table is also used for laying out fabrics, auditioning items that may want to play together, winding hanks into yarn cakes…well you get the picture.

This morning, when I saw the red folds of the quilt sandwich, I saw books…they may need to become a quilt book. I had planned to add them to the neon quilt that is underway and set in an all dirty whites and vintage fabric block background…but now it wants to be a book. Not yet decided on who will win this gentle discussion.

In the meantime, see that neon variegated thread spool? It has no name and I am hoping more can be located. Although it isn’t vital in the entire scheme of the work, something else will come along that will fit into place if this thread is gone. More important to complete the work of art than to quibble over the exact materials.

The blue yarn is part of a ten pack gradient dyed lace weight that is being rewound into cakes, it is waiting to be couched…its good to have plans.

Yellow Box

   

stitch in progress
 
When queried about the yellow box in a recent piece I am stitching, I hesitated to respond. I know why yellow is vital to the piece. I like enigma in art and am not always prepared to explain.

Explaining my art can leave me feeling vapid, exposed and finally, curious: what does it mean to others to ask what it means to me. Then I reflect on that for some time and have to pull back. What do I want to share. How much of me do I share. I am not a selfish being. Helping people and volunteer work is a vital part of my life.
The desire to not share my feelings about my work comes from a place of being solitary. I like solitude. There is comfort in aloneness, making art and having a sense of peace. Spending years out in the country, alone and surrounded by nature, open fields and woods, that setting is a place of deep comfort. I don’t like a life thoughtlessly lived with abandon, but instead prefer focus and measured thinking, analytical and rational thoughts, philosophy and reflection.

Back to the yellow box. It is related to wisdom. And more.

The center. The viscera. Gut instinct. The fire in the belly. Desire. Power. Personal power. Energy . Vitality. Self control. Inner strength. Personal authority. Efficiency. Purpose. Perfection. Will power. Control. Anger.

Focusing on that space allows me to find a balance between inaction and overreaction. It says I have the power to choose. I travel into the yellow box, deep in the maze, amid the noise, the traffic, following the patterns that civilization has already prepared. Finding strength there and relating it to the purpose of my own life…the exploration of my power center. Being contained in the yellow space allows me to radiate this information through my own body space. How do i find my way there…? how do you…?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eckhaus Gallery

Many thanks to the vibrant and hardworking students of Kutztown University and their beautifully lit gallery on the main street in Kutztown.

These students are smart and resourceful and work hard to bring art to the community. They wrote and asked if I would be interested in having an exhibit at Eckhaus Gallery in the spring of 2016. I agreed and then they handled everything – all I had to do was show up on the appointed date and they were prepared to hang the show with me. After quickly explaining my required selection and placement of objects they set about measuring and hammering.

The conversation was rewarding and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about art and college and their own plans for their art or careers. We had a lot of fun working together – and they were so willing to assist in every way with carrying work, handling it carefully and with respect, arranging for posters, price lists, photographs, publicity and a signboard. Senior students provide structure and have interns working along side to provide support. Their willingness to lead, listen, support and general good nature is one of the reasons I truly enjoy working with student groups. The evening for the exhibit was March 18th and they provided food and drink, a sign board on the street, and interns were there for support to help collectors and guests with questions.

Danielle Notaro – a poetic collaborator dramatized her poetry while giving a tour of my works that were one display. It was a memorable early spring evening!

 

Finding the look

2016-02-26 15.17.46Several new series were born as a result of doing small studies this winter. The studies are being shown this weekend as a part of exhibition containing a few watercolors and some significant works in fiber that are eco-dyed, handprinted and hand embroidered. I am an irreverent quilter and don’t follow many rules. Sometimes I experiment with fusible, battings and surface design before I quilt. The purpose of it all is to find the look, I am searching many traditional techniques and then bending them to my own style to get a texture and quality that I am not ready to define yet. I’ll know it when I see it.

Cutting on the bias, using my sewing machine, or working by hand, washing, ripping, tearing, machine thread painting, hand embroidery, framing, binding, not binding, giving structure on wood panels, using bamboo to hang work, vintage silk, found objects, eco-dyeing, tea dyeing and over-dyeing, mono-printing, heliotypes, and beading are a few of the ways I am working with fabric now.

2016-01-28 14.51.09-1Emerging are what I call Spirit Cloth’s…they are worked in a meditative state and result in a pure form of hand and mind being one and the same, a positive flow of the spirit of the artist.

There are also images born out of my love for the earthiness of tilling and gentle farming of grains and vegetables. The works include deep night skies and are simply stitched by hand.

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Its a great time for me and my need to explore what is available to me in fiber and art. Today I am scaling up one of the series and am excited to find new ways to bring the color and stitching to life…

Wonk Out

Textiles have memory and can also take on new memory and shape.  How we handle textiles, stitching by hand or machine, cutting straight, curvilinear or on the bias (diagonal), sewing curves, surface embroidery, and quilting all disrupt the weave of fabric.

This particular quilt began with a piece of white cotton fabric hand dyed and backed with cotton batting and a muslin quilt back. If I’m not hand sewing, the cotton batting works fine for machine sewing.

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I quilted an overall pattern in a medium teal Metrosene thread and then began to add thread painting with shades of silver, graphite, burnt sienna, gold, black and bronze rayon embroidery threads. I added the top grey and bottom rust sections after the majority of the thread painting was underway.
Then the final quilting helped to flatten out the lumpy bumpy hillocks and creases left from heavy but uneven thread painting. Still wonky and now only a series of gentle rolling bumps and lumps the last step is to block before finishing.  Photo below shows some of the warping that happens to fabrics that are stressed.

bumps and hillocks from quilting and thread painting

 

Before binding, the quilt will be dampened and blocked to de-stress the fibers and give it the shape I want it to have.

For smaller textile projects I use a blocking grid sold at Knit Picks.

foam blocking tiles

 

standard t-pins

 

putting blocks together

 

t-pins

The blocks are an interlocking grid that can be used many times over. 9 foam blocks come in a pack and can be put together in many configurations. You can purchase double or triple sets if you need them for larger projects. These have a small footprint for storage and last for years. I know you can use large inexpensive insulation board or even a carpet. The insulation board comes in 8′ sheets and a carpet would need to be rolled up for storage. I don’t have that kind of extra room to store bulky objects in my studio. At $24.99 they are a good deal and they store on a shelf.

You’ll need the following:

Blocking grid or mat

T-pins (rust proof stainless)

Spray bottle filled with fresh clean water

I put enough blocks together to make the grid fit the quilt in this case 4 sections work.

Placing the quilt face down I spray generously with water and smooth it out with my hands. I flip the quilt over squarely in the center of the grid and spray the top with water. It should be damp but not soaking wet.

Next the pinning begins. Starting at the center of the top, taking a t-pin, I press it at an angle through the quilt edge into the foam block.

 

t-pin in center

 

final push

I continue to place a t-pin at each center point along each side–while gently stretching the quilt and smoothing it. Then push a t-pin 3″-4″ apart on each side of the center pins. Again, I gently smooth and stretch the fabric as I go. Repeat on each side until the quilt is fully but gently stretched. See the photo below – pins evenly spaced and sides of quilt look wonky. They will be trimmed after drying.

pinned, damp and ready to dry

My home is very dry and if I do this at night by morning the quilt will be dry and flat. The next step will be to trim to the size I like and bind if desired.

Below is the next day – flat and free from ripples:

Note: I do not use an iron or steam unless it is absolutely necessary. I use a mixture of fibers and a hot iron could negatively affect delicate threads or fabrics with a hot iron set on cotton and would flatten the beautiful quilting textures. I also don’t use measuring guides. These are handmade, work of art and meant to meander and have shape and texture. I am not looking for perfection, but want it to hang crisply and neatly.