Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to Work

I've pretty much taken the last month off from doing 'art'. I've made the bed quilt top and two charity quilts for my guild. And of course Christmas was in there. And yesterday I celebrated (?) my 60th birthday. So now it's time to stop drifting and get back to work.

Except I seem to be a little low on inspiration. I spent time cleaning up my studio yesterday, and it's not just a way to avoid working. I have to put away all the fabric that I was using in order to clear the work space and also clear my mind. And while doing that I pulled pieces that appealed to me at the moment and stuck them up on the design wall. Unfortunately, they not only don't seem to be talking to me, they aren't talking to each other. At this point, I have to force myself to stay in the room and try to work something out.

Start small, cut pieces apart, stick them up, move them around, take them down, work on the composition, think about throwing some paint. Right now what seems to be rising to the top are fabrics that have circle patterns on them and I may just go with that. But first I need to add a little more pizazz to some of the fabrics so I'm getting out the paint.

So no more procrastinating. Back to the studio.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dyeing in Winter - Part 2

Success! The colors in these images aren't quite true, but they're close. The 3rd one is a lot darker and the blue markings aren't so obvious. But it worked. I think I would have gotten an even more deep purple if I had the patience to let the dyes work longer. But then maybe not, some of the dyes were quite old. The 3+ yard pieces were so unwieldy I decided to do the rinse in the washing machine. So after unwinding them, which was a struggle not splashing dye all over the place, I put them in the washer and set it to rinse with cold water. Oh so much easier. Then added the Synthropol detergent and ran them through the wash. The final rinse wasn't quite clear, so it got another rinse run through. I haven't ironed these yet, I was hoping a mangle would show up on my doorstep, but I don't think that's going to happen.

This piece is going to be the binding. It will end up as about 400 inches long. Something else I'm not looking forward to pressing.

But I'm thrilled that I'm not going to have to wrestle this through my sewing machine. The quilter has booked me for mid-March so I will just have to be patient until then.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dyeing in Winter

For my bed quilt I need to dye fabric for the backing and the binding. Dyeing fabric in winter is always a problem. Dyes need a minimum temperature of 70 degrees F in order to react and bind to the fabric. My house is heated to 68 degrees and with the cost of heating oil, it's really wasteful to burn the oil to raise the temperature 2 degrees. However, in the living room is a heating vent right below a huge window. During the winter the sun streams in this window and heats up the room. And I can trap the heat coming out of the vent by making a tent with plastic. So this little setup has been sitting for 24 hours and I'm about ready to wash out the fabrics. This technique has worked before but this time I'm using Turquoise as one of the dyes. The problem with turquoise is that it's a big, fat molecule and it needs warmer temperatures and longer time to react. The color looks fabulous in the pot but until it's all rinsed and washed it's difficult to tell if it has had sufficient time and heat to react.

So there are 2 - 3 yard pieces wound and twisted that I hope will have a sort of shibori look, another 3/4 yard in another pot in which I did a fair amount of smushing so that it will have a more even and less mottled look for the binding. And since I had a lot of dye solution left I ripped off another 2 yards and stuck that in a pot also. No point in throwing good dye down the drain. So now I'm ready to wash it out. Stand by, news at 11.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A "Real" Quilt

Every once in a while I have the urge to do a "real" quilt, that is, one that actually goes onto a bed. I have a double Irish chain, blue and white, on my bed that I made 20 years ago. It's hand quilted by me and it took 4 years to do the quilting. Let me mention that after I finished that quilt, I sold the frame, knowing I would never be hand quilting like that again. This quilt is getting faded and has a few little rips and the binding is wearing out and I think it's time to retire it.

So I have been pondering what kind of pattern I should use to make a new bed quilt. I'm not so good at doing the exact same block 100 times and some of my sewing skills are a little rusty, particularly the ones for precision cutting and matching points. I've always loved the log cabin pattern and so I decided to use that construction method but not the color patterning. I also thought about buying some commercial fabrics to make this but after looking at all the boxes of fabric I have dyed, painted, screened, printed, etc it would be a crime to go out and spend money on something I already have way too much of.

The room is blue and yellow, a nice combination for a quilt. I cut loads of blue strips freehand and a bunch of yellow strips freehand and commenced sewing it all together without benefit of ruler or concern about the shape that my blocks assumed. Since the strips were not consistent in width, many of the blocks turned out a bit wacky. The final blocks needed to be 9.5" wide, so I just kept adding strips until the blocks were big enough to trim down to 9.5". Some needed more extra strips than others. So after I made 124 blocks (needed 121 but did 3 extra) it was time to start arranging. Not all of the blocks had yellow in them but I wanted those that did to show on the top of the bed so I started with the center section first. Here is a portion.

Couldn't resist doing a few renegade blocks - split circle blocks and 4 patch blocks - after all there needs to be some variety. This picture is only a portion; the center section is 7x7 blocks and now what's left to sew together are the outside edge blocks. Some of those blocks will have small bits of yellow and the rest will be all blue. The final size will be nearly 100"x100" and I am going to hire somebody to quilt it. Some of my guild member friends do long arm quilting and so I've contracted with one of them to do this. I think her prices are quite reasonable; she supplies the batting and will apply the binding. I will be dyeing some fabric for the backing. Although I will have to do the final turn and hand stitch the binding down, it's a whole lot less work than quilting this monster. I would be back in physical therapy for my shoulders.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Out of the Past

Many years ago, nearly 40, before I was married, I spent a month in Los Angeles working for a film producer. Not the Hollywood big screen type, but someone who made 16 mm educational films. He was friends with my employer, who sold educational films. So I had an opportunity to see what it was like to make these little films. I don't remember all that much about the endeavor except for the one day that we went to William Talman's house to made an anti-smoking ad. William Talman played the character of Hamilton Burger on the old Perry Mason series; he was the DA who never won a case. We spent the entire day there, filming his children and wife, and then him talking about the lung cancer that was killing him and was the result of years of smoking. I think he said that he started smoking when he was 12. He died 6 weeks after we did the ad and before it was ever aired.

Over the years I have occasionally thought about this ad and wondered if it still existed. Last night at dinner we were talking about how it seems that anything anybody does now gets posted on YouTube, and I thought that maybe somebody had put it up on YouTube. A short search later and I found it.

Here it is. I didn't realize at the time that it was the first anti-smoking ad. Even more interesting is that about 15 years ago I worked with someone who had quit smoking after she saw that ad. I have never smoked so I don't know how difficult it is to stop. All I know is that lung cancer is a very painful way to die and I hope that those who do smoke find the strength and support they need to quit.