Monday, October 24, 2016

New Fall Decorations

It feels like I've been sharing lots of little projects lately rather than big projects.  Partly that's because I've taken a break from big stuff after pushing through my Dahlia quilt, my Eucharistic Prayer C quilt, and my Anonymous quilt in the spring/summer and it's partly because I'm holding off a little on sharing the new things I'm working on. 

In any case, last week I got out my fall decorations and decided that they didn't go well with my regular blue placemats, so I snagged a bunch of this floral fall colored home-dec fabric at JoAnns and made up some new ones.  I love the way they look with the warm wood and the copper candle holders.  Our everyday cloth napkins are a light green, so I tried to pick a fabric they would continue to match.  Unfortunately the ivory crochet doily that had been in the middle of the table was too big with the new placemats and all the other old doilies I had were stark white.  I wound grabbing one of them and just tea-dyeing it.  It took up just enough color to be a pale brown and now blends in fine with the rest of the decor.  The table would probably look better with not-white candles, but I'm not willing to spend any more money on this endeavor....

Then while I was cleaning out my sewing room desperately looking for a lost very important something which I had put someplace "very secure so I wouldn't lose it" (who knows where), I found this silk screened bird panel.  My mom made this silk screen a couple years ago, and at that time she and I both made several prints using it.  She finished hers into several small quilts (which have since all been sold), but my prints were just crammed into a drawer.   I decided to stitch one up into a little fall wall hanging which is now in my office.

One of the most fun things about this print is that I actually printed it twice, once in black on the navy fabric and then once, offset, in gold.  As a result when you look up close, there's more depth to the print and the black almost looks like a shadow.

Mom's prints were mostly black on a grey background and their ominous look led her to title the pieces Something is Coming... I liked that, so to make mine a little more interesting I drew out words and then free motion embroidered them.  On an aside, is anyone else addicted to calligraphy/lettering videos on instagram?  They're mesmerizing and have been popping up in my feed a ton lately.  Hand calligraphy/lettering is a field I've never really explored, but I tried a little here.  The whole thing isn't really quilted, I just backed it with some stabilizer to give it a little more heft for the stitching on the letters, and then bound the whole thing.

It was just a quick fun project, but I love getting cool things out of drawers/UFO piles and onto the wall!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Crochet Project: Black Shawl

Earlier this year I shared my small blue-green crochet shawl.  I've really enjoyed wearing it- it seems to be the perfect thing for cold offices in the fall and winter.  I decided to make a second crochet shawl, this time using the black alpaca yarn my aunt gave me.  The pattern is the dragonfly shawl which I found on ravelry.  I loved the lacy look, and it looked like about the same size as my green-blue shawl.  The pattern itself was wonderfully written with a very clear diagram/chart (that's pretty much the only way I crochet), and it was fun for me to learn a new crochet stitch, the solomon knot. 

 Unfortunately I underestimated how big it was.  By the time I realized how big it was getting I was in the middle of a multiple row repeat so had to finish several more rows and then a 10-12 row border.  This is in no way the fault of the pattern, but basically, it turned out huge.  You can see in the picture below, the central point falls below my knees.  Much larger than the little shrug/shawl I was hoping for.  I wore it the other day and it wrapped around my shoulders twice.  It wasn't quite cold enough for it- the alpaca is really very warm, so I was roasting by the end of the day.  I do love the pattern, and the witchy-spider-webby vibe seems very seasonally appropriate.  Next time I just need to remember that triangular things get big fast and I shouldn't underestimate the size added by the borders!  Ignore my weird look in the pic below, I have no idea why my eyes are closed.

And while we're on the crochet note, I have to share this absolutely fabulous amigurumi my friend Rahel made me.  She's crocheted me wonderful things before, notably the carrot potholders, but I think this takes the cake.  She's moving back to Switzerland in a month or so, and in spite of the fact that I'm sure she has a million things to do, and that usually presents go the other way, she made all of her friends crocheted going away presents.  You guys!! She crocheted me an amigurumi crochet hook!!  You cannot get any more wonderfully fabulously meta than that.  Hooray for Rahel!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Wallhanging for Grandpa Wilbur

About a month ago I went home to New Mexico to celebrate my Grandpa Wilbur's 90th birthday.  He and my grandma live in the same town as a lot of my extended family, and everyone else made a big effort to come for the party, so it turned into a de facto family reunion.  It was really great to see everyone and celebrate.  My Aunt Susan was organizing the party, but I volunteered for two projects.  
The first was the invitations which I designed in illustrator and had printed at vistaprint.  I've used them for lots of print-on-demand things and have usually been very pleased.  It always helps to find a coupon, and the shipping is a bit much, but the quality is good and reliable.

The second project was to do something with this sign.  My aunt rescued it from my grandparent's garage many years ago.  My grandfather had written this message on a piece of particleboard and had always meant to do something with it, but never got around to it.  We all loved his handwriting, so I took some pictures and after a bit of editing, got it in good enough shape to print at spoonflower. 

When it came back I stitched some simple borders on it, added a little topstitching (with a couple layers of buckram-like material underneath to add a bit of stiffness, and then stretched it around stretcher bars.  

I think he appreciated it, and he's hung it up in the house.  Luckily there were extra prints of the center panel in the yardage from spoonflower because now both my aunt and uncle have asked for one.  It was definitely a fun and easy, but meaningful project.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park Handbag

A couple months ago I got a surprise package in the mail from my friend Barb. As an aside, there are very few things more satisfying than an unexpected package in the mail. Barb and I are science and quilting buddies, you may remember her as the microscopist who took the picture that inspired my photoreceptor quilt.

Evidently her friend Forest purchased a bunch of these small Rocky Mountain National Park panels based on vintage park posters and pictures. They ranged from about 3x3 to 5x7 inches. Barb had more than she had stuff to do with so she kindly sent some to me!

I'm a big national park fan, I hope someday to visit them all, but I've not yet been to Rocky Mountain.  Initially I wasn't sure what to do with the panels since they were so small, but after looking at them for a while I decided the vintage styling would be great as a mid-century inspired handbag. 

I'd purchased some wooden purse handles online a while back with no particular project in mind, but figured this would be a great chance to use them. I sketched several different shapes, but the maximum size was limited by the panels. I wound up piecing them together and adjusting my pattern a bit as I went to be able to fit the panels. 

The exterior is interfaced with automotive headliner fabric and the lining is interfaced with sf101. I put only a single zip pocket inside and a magnetic closure, so it's a fairly simple bag. 

I think it turned out really cute, and it's the perfect size for the amount of stuff I want to carry, a critical aspect since the amount of stuff I carry expands to fill whatever receptacle I'm dragging along with me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

On Dahlias

A long time ago, I pinned this beautiful sculpture by ceramicist Maria Oriza.  I've been really drawn to sculptural art lately, both textile and not, and that piece stuck in my brain.  When I finished the Eucharistic Prayer C quilt I knew I wanted to give the overly planning part of my brain a break and try something different.  I thought about what kinds of things in nature have that curved over shape, and the first thing that popped into my mind was dahlia petals.  After looking at as many dahlias in person as I could, I jumped right in.  The purple-pink-peach color scheme and the petal shape I chose are only vaguely reminiscent of real-life dahlias, but mostly what I'd wanted was a starting point.

I painted six large fabric petal pieces, each one destined to be the front or back of a single petal.  The fabric was my usual synthetic polyester-whatever-was sitting around.  Some of it was white, some of it was beige, some was heavy weight and some was very lightweight lining, but all synthetic since I wanted to melt it back.  I also painted a bunch of peach chiffon for the top section where I wanted it to lighten up. Interestingly, the way some of the fabrics took the paint was differently affected by the plastic I had underneath as I was painting.  As a result, in some of the petals there's some pattern in the color due to the crumpled plastic underneath.  You can see it a bit in some of the close up pics below.  Such fun serendipity!

After the paint dried, I used one painted petal for the back, and then started layering the batting.  The bottom half of each petal has a layer of wool batting, then a layer of polyester batting, while the center of each panel has only a single layer of polyester batting, and the top of each petal has no batting at all.  I then layered another painted petal on top and then fused down cut organza over the top.

Each petal was heavily machine quilted, and one of the most fun parts for me was picking the thread colors.  At first I stuck with blendy colors, but soon started branching out.  In the end I think it's the non-blendy colors, the blues, turquoises, and neon yellows, that give some of the depth of color.

After machine quilting, I cut out my open spaces and melted them back with a wood burning tool and then finished the edges by couching some thin matching yarn around the circumference with an invisible zig zag.

The hardest part was actually assembling the whole thing.  Of course the quilted petals wouldn't hold any shape alone, so I coated them with several coats of Aleenes fabric stiffener.  To get them to stay in place, I pinned the overlapping edges, and stuffed them with crumpled paper.  After they dried, I hand stitched the overlapping section of each petal, and also hand stitched the three petals together.  

The pocket was a nightmare since I couldn't put it on until all three petals were assembled, but at that point the whole thing was too stiff to sew easily, yet extremely fragile and crushable.  Then, since the pocket is about halfway down from the top (because of the odd shape), when I hung it on the wall, the petal tops flopped forward.  I finally wound up constructing a sort of skeleton out of yardsticks and stitching small straps to the back to hold the skeleton in place.  It now hangs nicely and so far isn't collapsing on the wall.  It's about 60" wide, 48" tall, and 8" deep and doesn't in any way get smaller for shipping, so I think I'm going to have to ship it in a mattress box with a bunch of packing material.
On Dahlias, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

On Dahlias, detail c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 48" x 60" x 8", photo c. Mike Cox

In spite of making several small paper mock-ups before I started, I'm not sure I got the proportions of the shapes quite right, but otherwise I'm pleased with how it turned out.  Certainly I learned some things about working in 3D on this fairly large (for me) scale, that will influence how I design work like this in the future.

I got it "finished" that is, stiffened and stitched together, in time to enter into Quilt National '17, but it took almost two more weeks to get the skeleton, pocket, and slat situation worked out.  I just found out last Friday that it didn't get in to Quilt National, but they were kind enough to send out the notices a little earlier than scheduled which meant I had time to enter it into something else with an upcoming deadline.  I'm sorry of course that it didn't get in, but for the time being, I'm enjoying having it hanging on the yellow wall under the big window in my studio.

Super super excitingly though, my mom did get a piece into Quilt National (Hooray!), so we'll travel together out for the opening next May.

Finishing this for the QN deadline was a big push for me, and the last three weeks have been really crazy on the personal front, but now I'm back home for a little while and have some time to start focusing on my next thing!  Incidentally, if you like dahlias, this is the best instagram account ever.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stitched in Color Mosaic Contest

Stitched in Color is one of my very favorite blogs.  Rachel has such a wonderful voice and the blend of work and family she shares in her space makes it a wonderful online haven for creativity and just general living.  She periodically hosts themed mosaic contests, and while I rarely enter, I always enjoy looking through what others have put together.

However this time, the theme was "Dreaming at Dusk" and the timing just seemed right.  Some of you may know I've taken up a new hobby this summer, crewing for my friend who races sailboats here locally on Lake Hefner.  It's been really a blast, but last night was, unexpectedly, the last night of the season.  I snapped this photo as I walked off the dock, and it seemed like the perfect dreamy, dusky, inspiration for Rachel's mosaic contest.

The mosaic contest is kindly sponsored by Lark Cottons,  who had a really lovely selection except for a dearth of periwinkles and greyed out purples.  Greyed out colors are usually harder to find anyway, but I think they can really add depth to fiber art, so hopefully we'll see more of them.  I had a lot of fun browsing through all the fabrics though to find the ones for my mosaic!

Thanks Rachel for hosting this fun contest!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Anonymous

It's time once again for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted as ever by the indomitable Amy from Amy's Creative Side.  She does such a great job of hosting and gathering sponsors and it's really one of the premier online quilt shows anywhere.  I really encourage you to click through and see/comment on the fabulous entries.

This quilt is my entry in the Art category.  For my regular readers it'll be familiar as a recent finish, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

This piece began as my attempt to work abstractly, inspired only by shapes and colors.  As I worked though, I slowly saw a person emerging.  Others have seen a large bird or other abstract designs.  My nameless faceless person can be anyone you wish, though in my brain she is always a woman.  Some have said she looks like a desert dweller, or is reminiscent of a character from science fiction; maybe from the dunes of Arakkis or even a Jawa from Star Wars.  In any case, one of my favorite things about abstract or semi-abstract work is that there is room for many different interpretations.

The quilt is entirely pieced (not applique) and the central portion is a completely separate entity, pieced/quilted/faced on its own.  It was then stitched down to the separate dark blue background, again a fully finished "quilt" that serves to frame the central image.  I really had a fun time working on this project.  It was so different from the way I usually work, and forcing myself to commit to a design process  I wouldn't normally use was very rewarding.  For more details on the project, you can check out the tag.

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h

My artist statement for this one is short and sweet:  In remembrance of women throughout the world who remain voiceless, oppressed, judged for their choices, or stripped of their identity. In solidarity of those of all faiths, or no faith, who choose inclusion rather than anger.

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail
Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Do you work abstractly?  What is your design process usually like?

Thanks to all those who clicked through from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, and I encourage you all to check out the great quilts there.

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence

It's time once again for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted as ever by the indomitable Amy from Amy's Creative Side.  She does such a great job of hosting and gathering sponsors and it's really one of the premier online quilt shows anywhere.  I really encourage you to click through and see/comment on the fabulous entries.

This quilt is my entry in the Original Design category.  For my regular readers it'll be familiar as a recent finish, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

This quilt is one of my most long-running ever.  The first post about it was February 18, 2014, but the project had been bubbling in my mind since at least 2009.  It's construction has been a comedy of errors, so if you're interested in more details, you can check out its tag.

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2016, 45"h x 62"w
The quilt is an exploration of the intersection of science and religion and is part of an ongoing series of liturgical quilts I'm completing.  The central text comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  It is a slightly more contemporary version of an ancient prayer used before communion.  I have always been drawn to the science/natural history feel of the text. It says:

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.

I started thinking about God in the world, the evolution of life on our planet, and those who use their talents to study the world around us.  Thus instead of saints, the illuminated initials contain pictures of notable scientists.

Louis Pasteur

Galileo Galilei

Marie Curie

Barbara McClintock

Likewise, instead of depicting biblical stories or other scenes from the life of the church, the borders illustrate the evolution of life on our planet.  Starting along the top are "galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses" along with sections of a Louis Pasteur quote expressing the idea that science can bring us closer to God. "par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu"

The whole quote is: Le premier regard de l'homme jeté sur l'univers n'y découvre que variété, diversité, multiplicité des phénomènes. Que ce regard soit illuminé par la science, — par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu, — et la simplicité et l'unité brillent de toutes parts.

Working counterclockwise, the far right border depicts early life: my interpretation of "primordial soup" (top), chemosynthetic bacteria at an undersea hydrothermal vent (middle), and stromatolites which helped oxygenate the earth's atmosphere (bottom) beginning in the Archean eras (~3.5 billion years ago).  

Working around the quilt counterclockwise, the bottom right border features a variety of creatures from the Cambrian explosion (~544 million years ago [Ma]) on the right.  These include everyone's favorite trilobite as well as examples ofHallucigenia, Opabinia, Pikaia, Marrella, and Aysheaia. 

The middle panel shows two examples of more advanced, later undersea life.  The bottom is a Eurypterid, which is basically a giant (up to 8ft) sea scorpion which first appeared in the Ordovician period (~505 Ma), but was present for an extremely long time (all the way into the Permian period ~278 Ma).  The top animal is a type of early jawless fish called Cephalaspis which appeared in the early Devonian period (~408 Ma).

The left panel is my very favorite of all the "creature" panels, and is meant to depict early life on land.  Life spread to land during the Silurian period (~440 Ma), and features an example from the order Trigonotarbida, a small spidery creature.  Of course life on land means early plants as well, so the little bug is pictured with a fern.

The skinny borders along the middle of the two panels effectively function as one set of animals, all from THE AGE OF DINOSAURS (that should sound like a deep resonating voice over a PA system).  At the bottom is my old friend the Helicoprion, a shark species with a round saw blade-like set of teeth. Definitely check it out if you aren't familiar. Helicoprion actually arose in the Permian period (~290 Ma), survived the great extinction event at the end of the Permian, and continued living on into the Triassic period.  The middle panels feature our old friend Coelophysisa carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods (~200 Ma).  The top is a Pteranodon, from the Cretaceous period (~144 Ma).

Back on the bottom (this time of the left panel) but continuing to work counter clockwise, I've included a Gastornis, a species of giant (up to 6 feet) flightless bird that lived during the late Paleocene/Eocene epochs (Paleogene period, ~60 Ma).  The center features a wooly mammoth from the Pleistocene epoch (first diverged from other mammoths ~400,000 years ago).  The final piece of the puzzle is people, and the bottom corner shows my version of Adam and Eve, sitting at the base of a symbolic tree of life.  They're reading On the Origin of Species, and the rest of the tree of life that runs all the way up the left side is filled with a variety of Darwin's finches.

I think most of the story of this quilt will probably not be evident to those who just view the quilt, but all the pieces were integral to my design idea, I wanted to explain them here.  After finishing this highly planned, quite precise/realistic/involved quilt, I'm looking forward to working on some other more abstract and free-flowing pieces.  I'll be called back to this series at some point though, so I'm sure there will be more illumination-style work in the pipeline.

What are your long-term-in-your-brain-forever projects?  Have you finished some of them?  How did that feel?  Were you happy with the outcome and how it matched what you had in  your head?

Thanks to all those who clicked through from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, and I encourage you all to check out the great quilts there.