Frogs and knitty

True to form I had almost completed this long sleeveless vest when I saw this pattern on Knitty. I was already having doubts about the vest I was knitting and thought the wool, royal blue tweed, much more suited to the jumper. So last night I was frogging my knitting again. Why am I so useless at choosing patterns to knit that I will actually end up wearing? Who knows?

Of course there is a little problem with my new choice. It is actually designed for a thinner yarn than I have. I hope that knitting a size smaller in the new pattern will do the trick. I’ve done the maths and actually the numbers fall between two sizes. I feel too challenged by the prospect of trying to redo the maths completely so I’m hoping that the finished jumper won’t be too baggy. Worst case I can always frog it again and look for something new to attempt.

1 = 4

The last three weeks I’ve been working on various projects in the house. The first one I finished off has been on-going since Christmas last year. We bought material and the mechanisms to put up Roman blinds in the lounge. I made the first blind at Easter. Later in the summer I made two more. We have 3 windows and wide patio doors in the lounge so there are a lot of blinds and I don’t have much time for sewing when I am here in Spain. So the two large blinds for the patio doors had to wait until now. It felt good to finally tick off that project from the To do list.

Next on the list was painting the wall behind the TV and media furniture. We agreed on the colour for the wall last time I was here at the end of August. So that we only had to buy the paint and get started. It took the two of us to put up the painter’s tape to create the outline, as we didn’t plan on painting the entire wall. But once that was up I was left to my own devices with the paint. It took 3 layers of paint and some final touching up to get a good finish. But the final results have received much praise.

The original plan was to mount a couple of shelves with invisible mounting on the wall to balance the cupboards on the left hand side. We even bought the shelves and made two holes in the wall trying to get them mounted, but it soon became clear that it was not going to be a success. All the interior walls in the house are stud work and plasterboard. It’s the one thing we regret. It is a real pain trying to fix anything to them. The studs are metal and they seem to be everywhere. So after filling the holes and repainting the wall, enter Plan B. We decided to hang some art work instead.

After pulling out various smaller quilts and not finding anything that really fit the bill I had the idea of slicing up Farbenfroh to make 4 smaller pieces. Despite having 2 attempts to get the whole quilt to hang well (I took off the first binding, retrimmed the edges and bound it a second time) it never did. So although Sqeze was quite shocked that I was prepared to wield the rotary cutter, I had no qualms.

We bought 4 stretched artist canvases here in Xàtiva. I dyed some material to cover the stretched canvases and attach the mini-quilts to. This was the fist time that I had done any dyeing here in Spain. Although I followed a recipe I had used before the finished fabric was quite a bit paler than expected. I don’t know if it’s the different water here, whether the dye powder is getting too old or whether it was because I didn’t wash the fabric before dyeing. Although it is unbleached cotton I suspect the latter may be the cause, but I’ve not done any more dyeing yet to find out.

It was time for the cut! Using my two L-shaped frames cut from a large picture mount I first auditioned the areas that I wanted to use for the 4 smaller quilts. I pinned the areas as I went along to be sure that I didn’t overlap anywhere. After cutting them out, I faced the quilts using the fabric that I had just dyed using the method described by Kathleen Loomis in her tutorial here. Once faced I then took a critical look at each piece. One piece I left alone. On the other three I added some more beading. And on one piece I removed a piece of the sheer fabric that I had sewn to the surface of the original Farbenfroh quilt. I did a small amount of hand quilting on that mini quilt too.

Once I was happy with the four quilts I cut four pieces of fabric large enough to cover the stretched canvases and wrap around the sides and onto the back. I sewed the quilts by hand to each piece of fabric using a backstitch. This was based on information I found here on Leslie Tucker Jenison’s blog. I used backstitch rather than running stitch because I felt the quilt would be less prone to sagging away from the canvas under its own weight. It might be overkill, but I remember learning at school that if you sewed seams by hand to use backstitch and not running stitch for a more secure seam that also looked better.

Finally I mounted the fabric and quilt to the stretched canvas using the method described by Lyric Kinard in her tutorial. I was pleased to have found this tutorial, because I have not had good results in the past with stapling fabric to stretcher bars, even though we do have an electric staple gun. Lyric’s method gives a very neat finish and avoids staples. I wasn’t able to find the really strong fusible web here in Xàtiva (although I didn’t try all the quilt shops). The lighter web did not fuse as well to the wood of the frame as to the canvas, so I helped it along with some textile glue.

The only thing left to do was to mount the four quilts on the wall. That was another joint effort involving much measuring and arithmetic to get them all lined up nicely in a square. We are very pleased with the final result. And I have no regrets about cutting up one of my quilts. How about you? Do you recycle quilts? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve done something similar. Please let me know in the comments!

Moving forward

It has again been an age since I last posted anything on this blog. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I currently commute between 2 lives and 2 homes. The life and home with my textile art is unfortunately the one that I get to spend less time in. I am trying to figure a way to turn things around. I need to find a way to earn my pennies in Spain, to be able to give up commuting and live the life we have chosen.

So I’ve been doing some research. I took part in the free telesummit “The Push Up Entrepreneur” which had some interesting speakers and some good nuggets of information. This summit has finished, but I am now taking part in the Creative Passion to Profit Speaker Series hosted by Morna McEver.

Morna McEver Golletz is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Professional Quilters, an association to help quilters, fiber artists and other creative arts entrepreneurs build business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://www.professionalquilter.com. She recently wrote this short article, which she generously allows anyone to republish:

Do you have SAS?

Do you have SAS? I don’t. “What is SAS?” you ask. It’s what I call Starving Artist Syndrome, and you don’t have to believe it. In fact, one of the clients I’ve worked with over the years said to me a while back that she realized that she didn’t have to buy into that mindset. A light bulb moment! Right on!

The starving artist mentality is totally in your head. I’m sure you see successful artists all around you. What is it that they have that you don’t? I’m sure your work is just as good, and I’m sure you work just as hard. The problem is that on some level you buy into that romantic, Bohemian notion that artists should be starving. This doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve anyone else. No one ever said that you don’t deserve to earn a decent income doing what you love.

So how do you escape SAS? Here are some tips:

  1. Realize that being poor, or “starving,” doesn’t mean your art is better. I’d even say that if you can’t take care of yourself, your art is not as good as it could be. You have distractions keeping that belief and “starving artist” lifestyle alive.
  2. Try to figure out why you really have those beliefs. Journal your thoughts about money and people, even artists, who have money. If they are negative, ask yourself, “Is this really true?”
  3. Start today to approach your art as a business. Yes, you are the CEO of a business, your art business. Start to make your decisions from that place. When you are 100% responsible for what is in your life, you can make changes. Have you heard about the Law of Attraction? It says you bring about what you think about. Bring about a successful art business.
  4. Work to build your confidence in your money mindset, just as you build your confidence in your art. It will happen and you will leave SAS behind.

The career I am contemplating leaving behind me is one that has certainly not left me starving. It is one of the things I have to figure out – how not to end up a starving artist. It is encouraging to hear that it does not have to be the case.

If you have dealt with your mindset about being an artist, please share your struggles and successes with me in the comments below or comment on Morna’s blog, where you will find other interesting articles.

Adding to the library

If I don’t have the time and opportunity to do anything quilty, crafty at the moment I can at least read about it and make plans. My latest acquisition is Shibori Designs and Techniques by Mandy Southan.

Shibori Southan

I already had Janice Gunner’s book Shibori for Textile Artists.

Shibori JG

The books complement each other. Although both books cover more or less the same techniques I find the processes easier to follow in Mandy Southan’s book. There are many photographs of the individual steps and more detailed information on how to fix the dyes when finished. She also covers using discharge paste.

On the other hand Janice Gunner’s book has a larger gallery of images of finished quilts made using the shibori dyed fabric. She also has a chapter on the history of Shibori dyeing and gives information of the use of the technique in Africa and India as well as Japan. In the techniques section she also covers indigo dyeing. In fact many of the examples in the book are indigo dyed or use blue Procion MX dyes.

Neither book does a really good job of describing the kamosage knot. I’ll have to look for a YouTube video of that.

P.S. My gallery is also up and running again now.

Use Your Eyes made it home – finally

My quilt “Use Your Eyes” that was part of the Text on Textiles Exhibit at International Quilt Festival in 2011 and 2012 arrived home recently. While it was away we finally got properly moved into the house in Spain. Orginally the quilt was supposed to be away for 3 years, but unfortunately

Though we planned to travel the exhibit the three years following its premiere and had many discussions with possible exhibition opportunities, arrangements were not successfully made.

So when the email came to say that the quilt was to be shipped home early I decided to have it shipped to Spain to join my other quilts rather than to my flat in Germany from where it would at some point have to be transported on to Spain.

This is the sad story as reported by DH&CP on his facebook page:

5th March

The Germans refer to the “Servicewüste Deutschland”, meaning the lack of customer orientation in many German companies.

Let me tell you, delivery companies in Spain can teach the average disinterested company in Germany a lot.

One of Ruth’s quilts which had been on exhibition in Texas has just been returned. Fed-Ex sent us an e-mail saying they couldn’t deliver to our house because the address was wrong. This is excuse number one for delivery companies that can’t be bothered to come to Bixquert, where we live. They don’t bother coming, they just set the delivery status to “wrong address” and ask us to collect the package. In the case of Fed-Ex, they don’t have an office in Xàtiva, and the nearest office of a partner company is in Ribarroja – over 80 km away, near Valencia airport.

We wrote back saying that was too far and they could either deliver to our house, or to the Fed-Ex office in Frankfurt, as Ruth is in Germany at the moment. Suddenly they can find our address in Spain and have said they prefer to deliver there. I am interested to see what happens next…

6th March

hahaha – speedy delivery? We asked them when they thought they would deliver, so that I could be in. They didn’t know, so of course they came when I was getting my car serviced today.

We got a mail telling us that there were no house numbers and that I hadn’t answered my mobile when they called. There is a ruddy great number outside our gate (although not all houses have numbers, it is true), and there were no missed calls on my mobile…

So now we have given them the address of a pizzeria (we know the owner) in the next village to deliver to. If they can’t find that, I don’t know what we will do next…

8th March

yay! The quilt has just been delivered to the pizzeria

FedEx also called the ladies at IQF to say there was a problem delivering. They were able to extend the amount of time/tries before it got returned to them. All a bit disheartening, not sure I will be so keen to ship stuff off to exhibitions in the future, if this is par for the course. But the good news is that the quilt is safely home from its travels in the US.

I’m currently in Spain for Easter, so I am able to see for myself that it is back safe and sound.

Five regrets of the dying

Maybe some of you have already stumbled across this article. It has been syndicated on a number of websites. I ran across it this week on the Guardian website. Here’s the link to the original on Bronnie Ware’s blog Inspiration and Chai.

If those are the five most commonly expressed regrets by the terminally ill, then they should give us all food for thought. I’ve been feeling a bit displaced and out of sorts the last few weeks. Reading about this brought me up short. I don’t want to find that I haven’t made the most of my life when the time comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Black and white #2 is hung

The quilt actually got hung twice. First of all I made the sleeve and sewed it to the back and the same evening DH&CP cut a baton to size and banged some nails in the wall. That was Wednesday evening. On Thursday I realised that I hadn’t made a label for the back. So Thursday evening I made a label and attached it to the back. This is always a rather fraught operation, because I print the details onto PFD cotton ironed onto freezer paper and then feed into my Epson Stylus printer. If I am lucky it will print first time. Thursday was not my lucky day and the printer chewed up the first piece I tried to print on. Unfortunately the printer is not the most user friendly device when it comes to clearing paper jams.

The second attempt on a new piece of freezer paper was a success, but as I was pressing under the seam allowances I realised that I had put the date as 2012. DH&CP had made an obtuse remark about 2012, which did not register with me when I was still at the printing on paper stage. At this point I decided that the starting date for the quilt was good enough and not the completion date. I wasn’t about to go through the whole edit and pdf and fight the printer process again.

Here are a couple of photos of both black and white quilts hung together over the guest beds.

Mister Finch

I was wandering around the web last night – as you do – when I discovered Mister Finch. This is what he says about himself:

My name is Finch – it’s actually my surname… everyone calls me it and I like it.
I live in Leeds in Yorkshire, not too far from the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
I actually have no formal training in anything to do with sewing or my textile based work. I’ve learnt everything myself.
I’ve tried many areas creatively over the years and now I find myself sewing which I adore.
I’ve called my business Mister Finch so its clear from the start that I’m a man and one that sews.

He sews the most beautiful evocative soft textile sculptures I’ve seen. They remind me of the illustrations in children’s storybooks of yesterday. Here’s a taster:

Forest Moths Copyright All rights reserved by ohmisterfinch

Forest Moths Copyright All rights reserved by ohmisterfinch

You can see more on his blog and on flickr. If that has whetted your appetite he has an etsy shop too.

And he has cats, which makes him even more agreeable in my eyes.

Quilt almost finished

I did manage to almost finish the quilt I was working on – the sister quilt to “Black and White and Red all over”. I finished all the quilting and attached the binding. It was too late and I didn’t have the energy to make and attach a hanging sleeve. I left DH with instructions to take some photos to put up on my blog.

The new design wall was pressed into service.
Quilt on design wall

It was quite hard to come up with a quilting design for the centre area of hexagons composed of triangles. I played with circles, but it was difficult to be accurate and then it started to look a mess. So I went with straight line quilting in the end. So it seemed to be the natural conclusion to continue with lines onto the borders, but boy was that a lot of sewing that had to be done.

Black and White #2

Here is a detail of the centre panel, which is a one-block wonder section using some fabric I bought a good few years ago in Amsterdam that is a print like a comic book.
Comic book one-block wonder

I like the fact that the centre panel fits well to my philosophy that a quilt should allow the viewer to find details to surprise and delight on closer inspection. It’s only close up that you start to see parts of the face of the girl in the comic print.

So on my next visit all I have left to do is attach a hanging sleeve and Black and White #2 can be hung up over the second guest bed.