Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Trees

Last year I pinned this fabulous picture and never got around to making anything inspired by it.  Then recently I found this, and really liked the idea of doing something canvassy rather than quilty.  When my minimal-sewing friend Linda and I decided to do a craft morning, I thought this might make a fun project.  We did kind of a hybrid of the two; the leaves are all fusible-backed and fused onto fabric.  After fusing, we mounted them on stretcher bars to make fun fall-inspired wall art.  It was such a stress relieving project, no worries about sewing or puckers or perfection; just pulling fun, inspiring colors and fabrics.

Here's the one Linda made, with mine underneath it.  We were both thrilled with how they turned out!

It makes a super fun addition to my fall decorations which I just put up last weekend.  Have you guys been doing any fall decorating/crafting lately?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Progress on Something New

For Today's WIP Wednesday I just want to let everyone know that Seymour is finished!!  I posted all about him and final pics on Monday so click on through to see them.  Here are his teeth which I sculpted out of polymer clay and made into beads so I could sew them on.  I'm so thrilled that he's done.

Other finishes this week:

Cathedral window pincushions
Fun Print Pillowcases

Progress this week:

Since I finished Seymour I've started working on my silk screened medallion I first talked about here.  I love making progress on this UFO.  Here's a sneak peak.  So far it's been fun and relaxing except for the part where I hit a pin REALLY bad and now my precious Janome
 is in the shop hopefully getting fixed.  Luckily I have the Singer which I usually use to quilt on anyway so progress doesn't screech to a halt.

No Progress this Week/UFOs/WIPs:

Dog Quilt
Nativity Quilt (this will be the next big thing I get out)
Memory Quilt for Linda (this has to be pretty high on the list as well)
Crochet Flower Afghan
English Paper Piecing Mini
Thanksgiving Quilt (I'm probably going to try some quilt as you go on this.  Someday. right now it's a medium sized quilt sandwich waiting to be quilted)
Amy Butler Weekender Bag
Sun Printing/Cyanotype Blocks
Anna Butterfly Blocks
Bobbin Quilting
Dream Catcher Quilt, Fabric Challenge for MQS (we got the fabric for this at MQS last year)
Secret Projects for Anna

Linking up with Lee as ever!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seymour is Finished!

You guys-  I feel like there should be a party!  Pardon the melodrama but I feel like I've poured all my creativity and time and energy into Seymour and now he's complete and finished and wonderful.  I've never worked so long and so focused on something so personal.  I've had quilts that have taken longer, but mostly because they've languished as UFOs for years in closets.  I checked; my first post on Seymour was April 10th; since then I've focused almost entirely (with only a few small-project breaks) on him.  One of the most startling thing about this project was how challenging each step was.  Rather than taking forever because I needed a million blocks or something, almost ever step required something different; figuring out how to accomplish what I wanted, how to optimize some technique I'd never tried before, or how to tackle something with my particular resources.  There was a TON of make-it-up-as-you-go-along, and I dare say many experienced quilt artists would have known exactly what to do.

In any case, here he is.  For those of you who've been following since the beginning, thanks for sticking around.  And for anyone just clicking through for the first time, I've been posting about Seymour fairly regularly, so for more info just click on his tag in my sidebar.  The final quilt is designed to be laced together to display back to back or unlaced to be displayed as a diptych.

Here's my artist statement:

S is For… #3: You Cleared My Name
24” x 70”, 2012
Shannon Conley

Coelophysis bauri, a carnivorous theropod dinosaur, is the state fossil of New Mexico due primarily to discovery of a large number of skeletons near Ghost Ranch, NM.  Coelophysis had long been the poster child for dinosaur cannibalism until work published by Nesbitt et al. in Biology Letters (2006) demonstrated clearly that stomach contents from mature Coelophysis were not juveniles of the same species or even dinosaurs at all, but rather were unrelated early crocodylomorph archosaurs.  In honor of Coelophysis’ “cleared name” I created this original art quilt depicting him, at approxmately full size. He is shown in his modern-day home (in front of Chimney Rock) on one side and in a more Triassic setting on the other side.  The quilt is made of commercially available fabrics of all types and embellished with twine, trim, wool roving, beads, dryer sheets, polymer clay, and paint sticks.

Here's a close up of the label and the eye and teeth which I haven't shown before.  The label shows a map of New Mexico with the Zia sun symbol over the area where the Coelophysis remains were discovered.  The teeth are polymer clay; I made them as beads and then sewed them to the quilt.

Thanks to everybody in blogland for all your encouragment!  I'm linking up everywhere this week since so many kind people from lots of different places have supported me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Quilt for Casey

I was lucky enough to be the recent winner of a giveaway hosted by the lovely Heidi. She blogs about quilting and longarming and crafting and family over at Buttons and Butterflies.  I love her blog and her writing style, you should check it out.  Anyway, she sent me a bundle of super cute fat quarters from Amy Butler and Dena Fishbein.  Alas, I forgot to take a picture before I cut it up.

I was so excited because last Thursday I got a baby shower invitation for Mike's niece Casey who's having a little baby girl pretty soon.  The fabrics from Heidi were just perfect; I cut them up and put them back together without much plan but I like the way it turned out.  It's 40" square and backed with some Amy Butler from my stash.

Thanks again Heidi!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Where I Am

Usually I do WIP Wednesday posts that just talk about whatever work in progress I'm currently focused on.  This week however, since Seymour is getting really close to being finished, I thought I'd do a legit WIP Wednesday post.   I hope it can serve as a reference as I go forward towards the end of the year.

I've been following Leah Day's progress on her UFOs and I'm really excited to start tackling some of mine.  For so long I feel like I've been working on Seymour, and as I was cleaning up my studio yesterday I kept finding UFOs/WIPs that I'd completely forgotten about!  Sadly, I did not find my favorite small scissors which were what I was actually looking for.  Over the next few months I'd like to make good progress on some of the larger UFOs, with a few smaller ones thrown in.  So without further ado:

Finishes this Week:

Baby quilt for Casey Ahlden
Funny felt thing (more on these early next week)

Progress this Week:

Tons of small details on Seymour; here's a picture of his newly made eye, I'm especially pleased with how his eyelids turned out.  In person they're so smooth and curvy!  There are still many small things that have to be done and one large thing (the teeth) before he's ready to be officially finished.  My target for this is next Monday.

No Progress this Week/UFOs/WIPs:

Dog Quilt
Nativity Quilt (this will be the next big thing I get out)
Memory Quilt for Linda (this has to be pretty high on the list as well)
Crochet Flower Afghan
English Paper Piecing Mini
Thanksgiving Quilt (I'm probably going to try some quilt as you go on this.  Someday. right now it's a medium sized quilt sandwich waiting to be quilted)
Amy Butler Weekender Bag
Sun Printing/Cyanotype Blocks
Anna Butterfly Blocks
Silk Screening (I have the blocks I silk screened with mom over Christmas maybe?  I'd completely forgotten about them).
Bobbin Quilting

Things I'd Really Like to Make But am Trying to Resist Starting:

Cathedral Window Pinchushion
Dream Catcher Quilt, Fabric Challenge for MQS (we got the fabric for this at MQS last year)
Secret Projects for Anna
Embroidered Clock for the Studio
Boxy Bag (this has been on my wish list for a long time)
Sunglasses Case/Frame Purse
Crochet Something with the Beautiful Yarn I Brought from Germany
Snowflake Christmas table runner
Crewel Sampler  (I'm just craving this)
Shooting Star Block

Sadly, there are also a bunch of utility things I need to do and I know that any minute holiday sewing is going to start cropping up!  I just have to tell myself, one thing at a time.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, September 17, 2012

Adding Texture in the Foreground

Seymour is almost completely finished; just a few final touches and I'm declaring him done!  I've been working on the foreground the last couple of days and thought I'd share a few things I've added to the quilt since they use a couple of different techniques to add some texture.

Barrel Cacti

This is the easiest one of all; for the cactus I sketched out the size of barrel cacti I wanted (interestingly in pencil sketches they look almost indistinguishable from stem-less pumpkins), then cut them out of green fusible-backed fabric.  I drew the ribs with my white erasable marking pencil, and then shaded each alternating rib with my trusty beige Shiva paintstick.  I fused the cacti down and thread painted/FMQed the rest.  I used 4 different thread colors on the big cactus and two on the little cactus to try to give a semblance of dimension.

Sagebrush Bush

For the trunk/woody part of my sagebrush, I used fusible-backed brown fabrics and some jute/twine I had leftover from a macrame project.  I left some of the twine pieces intact, and separated others into fibers.  Before proceeding with the bushy part, I FMQed down the stems/twine.  I wanted to try using wool roving for the leafy portion of my bush since I like its fuzzy feel.  I'd never worked with roving before; I think it's mostly used for felting.  I picked up a couple of hand-dyed sample packs at MQS this year and was anxious to try it.  It feels and looks like a slightly denser cotton ball material; I just pulled off bits of different colors and spread them out over the surface of the quilt.  The next part was a bit of a disaster.  I first tried just quilting down the fibers but they kept getting all wrapped up and tangled in my foot.  Then I tried covering a section with parchment paper and quilting over it; that made the quilting go easily but it was impossible to get the paper off without pulling up all the fibers.  I actually had to rip out all that quilting.  I finally wound up covering most of the bush with small pieces of tulle.  They didn't quilt down particularly flat, but the bumpy bits combined with the places where the roving isn't covered give very nice bushy texture.  Anyone else have experience trying to quilt down roving?


The stems of the fern are made out of ribbon and the leaves of the fern are made out of used dryer sheets.  My mom got that tip in a class from the wonderful Betty Busby, and I've been anxious to try it out ever since then.  I dyed the ferns using acrylic craft paint, basically just mushing them up in my hand with paint (it turned my hands green- use rubber gloves if you have some) and then spreading them out to dry.  I shook a little green glitter on a couple of them.  After they were dry I ironed them, cut out my fern shapes, and tacked them to the quilt with a bit of gluestick.  I quilted down the middle of the ribbon stem and each leaf.   Finally, I snipped along both sides of each leaf and then kind of rumpled them so they'd stand out a bit from the quilt.

Grass and Pebbles

The "grass" is just a few randomly fused down green or brown pieces which have been quilted over.  I think they add visual interest though since the rest of the pieces are primarily horizontal.  The "pebbles" are a few random quartz beads I sewed down.  I originally grabbed them thinking they'd make nice teeth but decided to use them for some more texture in the foreground instead.

Final pics coming soon!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I finished Seymour in time to get my entries in for the Walk in the Wild show, so I'm super stoked about that.  There are a bunch of miscellaneous things I still need to do before he's completely done though (hanging pockets, bone reinforcement etc.) so I'm not declaring him officially done just yet.  I also want to share a few techniques I used on some foreground elements.

However, since I got the show entries in, it was time to address another "situation" that's been hanging around in my house since my family was here over Labor Day, namely the apples.  My folks have about 30 fruit trees, a mix of apples, cherries, and peaches.  It's a blessing, but in good fruit years it's also a ton of work.   This year turned out to be a great fruit year, and so my parents brought out 8 large boxes of apples for my sister and me when they were here visiting.  Becky took as many as would fit in her car, but that still left me with about 6 boxes of them.  I was originally a bit irritated with my mom and dad, I mean, who has time to deal with all those apples, but when I visited them last week I could see why.  In spite of them picking constantly, their friends picking constantly, and random visitors picking, many of the trees don't even look like they've been touched.  The trees are so weighed down with fruit it's unbelievable. 

Anyway, ever since they visited the apples have been sitting in my entryway (good thing we don't need to get in and out of the front door).  I've been eating them for lunch and took several grocery stacks full to work, but other than that haven't done anything with them.  The whole house smells like apple.  It was a really lovely smell at first but after a few days every time I walked in the house I thought, Oh-My-Goodness-I-
Have-Got-To-Do-Something-With-Those-Apples.  My mom and dad have been doing things with them almost every evening, making applesauce, apple butter, dried apples, apple pies, and who knows what else.

I don't do jams/apple butter/apple sauce, but today Mike and I finally dealt with the apples.  I dried three dryers worth, made six pies, six more pie fillings, and 3 cakes. Mike peeled them all (for the pies and cakes) and it took us almost all day.  You should have seen my kitchen and kitchen floor!  There are still three boxes of apples left, but I finally feel like I made a dent in them! Most of the pies and fillings are in the freezer, but I'm looking forward to snacking on the yummy dried apples and cakes.


Monday, September 10, 2012

One Thing, One Week link up

Just a quick phone update to say even though I was out of town over the weekend I made my goal for Amy's "One thing, One Week" challenge.

My goal was to get all Seymour's bones sewn down and I'm happy to say I made it!

Thanks for the fun challenge!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dry Bones!

You guys saw on Wednesday Seymour's body on the back side of his quilt and since then I've been working on his front.  I traced all the bones onto my ivory fabric, stained them with dilute brown india ink, fused them to thick double sided fusible interfacing, and cut them out in large chunks (like foot, or torso).

Since the two quilts may be displayed side by side not just back to back I wanted to make sure that the location of the whole body lined up with the whole skeleton.  I started by hanging the two quilts back to back with the bone side facing out.  Obviously where the body sticks off the side it's easy to see where the bones should go (e.g. for the neck and tail curve).  However, to line up the middle section I pinned through from the back along the edge of the body, legs, tail, and head so I could make sure all the bones fit within those parameters.  Then I pinned up each bone section so make sure everything was fitting correctly.

Next, I cut out each individual bone, pinned it in its proper place, and finally fused them all down.  I'm currently working on sewing them down which is going about as well as you'd expect (read, not well).  I really love the look of the skeleton though with all those bones!!

After finishing the bones, the final step is to work on the foreground of the quilts.  I think the bone side needs some foreground elements so Seymour's skeleton doesn't appear to be floating.  I'm going to do some sage brush and barrel cactus.  However, I'm of two minds about the back side.  I was originally going to put some fun ferns in the foreground, but now I'm not sure where they'd go where they wouldn't be blocking the lake or tree roots  (here's a picture so you'll remember).  What I really don't want is for Seymour to appear to be floating or just stuck on the front.  So what do you guys think?

Important question:  do I need foreground elements on the back (dark body side) and if so where do you think they should be?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More from Seymour

Hey everybody!  For anyone keeping track I'm now just a week and a half out from the deadline to finish Seymour.  Unfortunately, I'm going out of town this weekend so time is even shorter.  Luckily, even though my family was all here over the Labor Day weekend, I was able to get quite a bit done on Seymour.  It was actually even more fun working on him than usual;  I've been working on him so long that I'm past the "excited" stage and on to the "slog through please please please won't this quilt ever be done" stage, but my sister an my mom think he's really cool so I was re-invigorated.  They actually helped me out quite a bit and definitely kept me company while I worked.  

This is the "back" side. Even though the front needs to be finished first (for pictures), in order for the bones to be lined up properly, Seymour's body had to be attached to the back first.  I used heavy duty black interfacing and covered it with fabric coated in fusible.  The fabrics I used aren't quilting cottons; they're designed as synthetic leather/snakeskin/halloween costume sparkly type fabrics.  They were pretty light weight and even though they're synthetic they fused fairly well to the interfacing, I just had to use parchment paper between the fabric and the iron.  I actually think they feel more skin-like and leather-like after having been fused to the interfacing since that gives so much body.

After getting the body covered in fabric but before attaching it to the quilt, I quilted some scales onto it.  Unfortunately it was hard to quilt on as my hopping foot wasn't crazy about the relatively sticky fabric, but I think it came out ok.  After quilting it, I sewed it to the surface of the quilt which turned out to be the hardest part of the whole thing.  I couldn't get the dinosaur to fuse or glue to the quilt so I had to pin (through All Those Layers) and then manhandling the thing through the sewing machine was nuts!  Luckily, there were only a few really thick parts (at the edge especially where it's already been bound).

He still needs an eye and probably some teeth, but the next step is the bones!  I love the way he blends into the quilt; this side was supposed to be low contrast and I can't wait to add a bright beady eye that will hopefully jump out at you!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


My family was here visiting over the long weekend; my mom was here specifically to do Arts Festival Oklahoma.  It was really really hot (still above 100), but we were glad to see everyone anyway.  Of course even though she was here for business we had to do a fun project together and sun printing was the order of the day.

My mom bought some photographer's formulary sun printing (cyanotype) mix stuff that was supposed to be easy to use.  Of course, unlike the easy kits of the "mix solution A with solution B" type, this one came as a bunch of different powders and vials that had to be ground up, heated, stirred, mixed, cooled, filtered etc., all in low light.  I borrowed beakers, a graduated cylinder, a hot plate, stir bar, thermometer, and mortar and pestle from the lab and the first night we followed the fairly involved instructions to make up the solutions.

The next day we painted the solution onto the PFD fabric in low light and let it dry.  You can sunprint with whatever opaque objects you want (leaves, botanicals, etc.), but we decided to use photograph negatives printed onto transparencies.  My mom had a picture of the historic Old Mill she printed.   It's the oldest building in Ruidoso (built in 1868) and something of a local landmark.  I forgot to take a picture of it before she took it home, unfortunate since it turned out the best of all of them.

The process is theoretically fairly easy, you take the fabric, cover it with the negative or item to print, and put it in the sun.  After letting it expose, you rinse it in water and hydrogen peroxide.  In spite of trying many many different things, I'm not sure we ever got the right balance of chemical concentration, exposure time, and rinse time to really make perfect images, but it was fun anyway.

Here are the negatives taped over the fabric, ignore the picture in the frame underneath, it was just something to tape it all down to.  The next picture shows a couple of my prints rinsing in the sink afterwards.

I chose four different sea-related photographs to make my prints and negatives.  All of them except the jellyfish were taken by my father on our trip to California a couple of years ago.  I took the jellyfish picture.  

On the top left is the original image (in this case a seagull), on the top right is the black and white negative of the image which I printed on the transparency, and on the bottom are two sun prints I made from the negative.  The one on the left is a bit over exposed but is probably one of the better ones I did.  The one on the right is ok, but something splashed all over it before it was dry so it has funny spots.

For the anemone, I made one fabric print from the negative transparency (yielding a positive print) but the anemone looked too washed out.  As a result I printed a transparency with the positive of the image and made two fabric prints from that (seen on the bottom), and I think they turned out better.  

I made two prints from the jellyfish as well (bottom row), and I like the dark blue color better than the more washed out looking one, but it's really hard to see the third jellyfish on the darker print.

The fourth picture I picked was this photo of a seal; unfortunately it didn't really have enough contrast to make a very good print.  I tried two.  The left one was ok, but not great, while the right one was so overexposed you can't even tell it's the seal!

This was a really fun project to play around with.  I'm excited to make some sort of mini-quilt with all of these blocks (each of them is about 6 inches square).  I'd definitely recommend getting the easy mix solution instead of the complicated stuff like we did though.  It's always such fun to try a new surface design/dyeing/printing technique!  

You guys do anything fun over the Labor Day holiday?  Try any fun new fabric techniques?