Thursday, January 30, 2014

Small Christmas Lights Quilts

Studio Art Quilts Associates is doing a 25th Anniversary Trunk Show and SAQA members were invited to make small (7" x 10") pieces for it.  I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try something that had been in the back of my mind for a little while.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going around to see all the Christmas lights, and back in December I took this picture while we were walking around the Chesapeake campus.  In one of my upcoming big quilts I'm trying to figure out how best to depict a galaxy, and I thought I'd use this opportunity to try out some possible techniques using a related subject matter.

There were three aspects of this that I was interested in conveying.  The first was the diffuse color arising from the lights that more or less outlined the tree.  The second was the bright punctate lights themselves, and the third was the leaves on the trees, which blend almost into the background since they're not illuminated.

I decided to make two different versions on two different types of fabric, one on some black polyester with a wannabe dupioni silk finish, and one on black velvet.  To start I outlined my trees, made some vector shapes, and cut them out of adhesive foil using my silhouette. I wanted to use adhesive vinyl but the foil came with the silhouette machine and vinyl didn't, but the foil worked fine.  I used both pieces of the cutout.  First, I stuck the outline to my fabric and used it as a stencil to fill in the tree shape with my Shiva paintsticks, then I peeled that off and stuck down the tree part.  I rubbed the paintsticks on the foil of the tree and then smudged it off onto the fabric.  You can kind of see the smeary edges around the tree outlines that I achieved doing this. The velvet was kind of a pain to use the paintsticks on- I think the nap of the fabric was not my friend.


To make the punctate lights I wanted to try foiling, so I made a screen, again cut on the silhouette from the adhesive foil.  I put it on chiffon and then tried to screen glue through it for foiling.  I didn't have foiling glue, so used regular creamy white fabric glue.  This was a bit less successful than the first step.  In the first place, although the silhouette cut out all those tiny little dots, they didn't peel out automatically and I didn't have the patience to peel them all out by hand.  To give you an idea of how many there were, my silhouette took an hour to cut this.  The places where I did get the pieces out the glue went through ok, but it dried in the holes really fast so I didn't get very much through on the second one.

When it came to ironing the foil, it didn't work very well on the velvet.  The foil didn't really want to come off on the glue, and the glue wanted to come off of the fabric (again, I think the nap of the velvet was bad for this).  It was even worse when I got to the quilting, the little globs of foil/glue were really popping off. You can see below how much less sparkly foil there is after I quilted it.

velvet one after foiling before quilting
Velvet one after quilting

Shannon Conley, Lights at Chesapeake, 2014, 7x10
This is the polyester one, it turned out better, the foil was much less inclined to pop off since the glue was stuck down so much better.  I did wind up dabbing the glue on mostly by hand (this was the second one I tried to screen with the glue so the screen was pretty clogged) and you can see some places where the glue was kind of globby so there's a big clump of foil.  On each of them, I put the leaves in during the quilting, and I think that part at least was successful.

Neither of them came out quite as good as I was hoping, but I went ahead and sent the right one (the one on the polyester) to the SAQA exhibit.  I hope it captures the feeling I was going for.  The jury is still out on how I'm going to do the galaxy though since this paintsticks-plus-foiling didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped.

Have you guys ever tried to portray lights, like Christmas lights or stars, before in your work?  How'd you do it?  What worked and what didn't?

I'm linking up with Nina-Marie's as ever.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Old Throw And New Throw

Over the weekend when Mike was cleaning out the garage and organizing his tools (incidentally, have any of you ever noticed how allan wrenches multiply),  I came across this giant quilt that my mom and sister and I made.  It was certainly one of our very first quilting projects-based on the T-shirts in it, my guess is that we made it in 1997 or so. The back is denim- all old recycled jeans we cut up into 6" squares and pieced. You can see it's tied, not quilted which is probably good as it's so heavy.  Of course this was long before we really knew anything about quilting so there's no interfacing or anything on the t-shirts, but it makes a superb picnic blanket (it's really too heavy to sleep under).  I'm so glad to have found it- I actually thought it had been lost.

And here's a new throw I just finished last weekend.  It's smaller, about 62" square, but I really wanted to make myself a cuddly throw.  It's backed with yellow minky, and uses some favorite prints that have been in my stash for a while.  I love that purply color (it's Kona Berry), and I just cut and appliqued pieces on until I liked it.  Kind of fun that the main shape is sort of kite like and we had to take pictures on such a windy day.  I quilted it (in contrast to the baby sized minky blankets I've made), and bound it with soft satiny blanket binding.

It's gotten cold here again, so this is the perfect thing to cuddle up under by the fire.

Monday, January 20, 2014

More Gifts

I promise this will be the last Christmas post-

I just wanted to share a few more things I made as Christmas presents this year.   Mostly there were ornaments-  I send ornaments to a few friends every year and also have the tradition of making a yearly ornament for Mike and Anna and Alex.  Alas,  I neglected to take pictures of the Anna and Alex ornaments and the ones I made for my friends....

Anyhow, I made this ornament for my mom- I was just playing around with different fonts for my embroidery machine.  It didn't really like the "r" on that gold font, live and learn!  It says "Keep your friends close and your seam ripper closer."  The quote was from pinterest of course.

Here's the one I made for Mike this year, it features the logo of the Iron Butt Association.  He's big into long distance motorcycle riding.

And here's the only non-ornament handmade Christmas present for the year-  a doll afghan for Anna to match the afghan I made Alex when he was born.  It was just from scrap yarn (you can see the bright red didn't even make it around once), but Anna seemed to like it and started carrying it around and wrapping her dolly in it right away.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Second Finish of 2014-Do You See What I See

Some of you may know this already, but in my non-art life I'm a photoreceptor cell biologist.  I've always said I don't really make science-y quilts, (in contrast to my mom), but in looking at my previous work, I find that's not necessarily the case.  Both Seymour the dinosaur and Ring Around the Mole were very much science-y in their development and outlook, even though I'm in no way an ecologist or paleontologist.  Here, however, I've veered into without-a-doubt-linked-to-my-scientific-work territory with a quilt featuring photoreceptors.

The quilt was based on an electron micrograph taken by my quilty crafty friend Barb, who is a fabulous microscopist.  Photoreceptors are the cells in the very back of your retina which are actually responsible for sensing light and converting it into the chemical/electrical signals that are eventually processed by the brain and register as vision.  They have quite different ultrastructure from other cells, characterized most obviously by a giant long extension from the cell body.  This is called an outer segment and is filled with stacked membranous discs (like a stack of flattened whoopie cushions or something).  These discs are packed with all the proteins necessary for sensing light.  All the photoreceptors in this picture (which came from a mouse retina) are rod photoreceptors which mediate peripheral and low light vision.

Photoreceptors really are the first step in determining how we see the world, thus the name for the quilt, "Do You See What I See" (for me the answer is almost always bright rainbows of color...)

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, 24"x37"

In this second picture I've labeled what these structures are, OS: outer segments, IS: inner segments, CC: connecting cilium.  Protein is synthesized in the inner segment and then is transported through the connecting cilium to the outer segment (by processes which remain highly contentious, in case anyone was wondering what photoreceptor people argue about).  

The quilt is pieced using Caryl Fallert's Appli-piecing method, and the photoreceptor discs were bobbin quilted using some fabulous rainbow wool yarn I got in Germany a couple summers ago. I had monofilament in the top, so in some cases you can see that my discs overlap in a most unscientific fashion, since it was kind of tricky to see where I'd already sewn! All of the organelles/trafficking vesicles/basal bodies/microtubules in the inner segment and connecting cilium are hand done.  There's embroidery with wool crewel yarn and with the rainbow yarn, as well as a fair amount of beading.  I feel like handwork is still one of my weakest skills, but I enjoy it, and it was fun to have something on which to practice.  The blue background was free motion quilted.

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

This quilt feels very "me", and I hope you enjoy seeing it.  Many thanks to Barb,  I can tell you the skills required to capture images like hers are very very rare.

I'm linking up with link-a-finish-Friday, TGIFF, and as always, Nina-Marie's.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Planning for the New Year

Here's a gratuitous dog picture of Missy queening it up on my giant pouf to start a wordy post.

I've never had a word of the year before, but I've decided that this year I should pick one, and that it should be calm.  I tend to be constantly running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and while I am busy and do try to do a lot of things, I can't imagine that I'm really truly busier than anybody else.  More importantly, I think my frantic approach is pretty unhealthy.  So this year, to use the 90s vernacular, I'm going to try to chill outcalm down, and relax.  My goal isn't necessarily to accomplish less or more, but just to be a little less "AHHHH".

When I look back at my goal post from this time last year, I feel like I accomplished most of the things I set out to do, including my two main goals which were 1. to finish my last big UFO (the dogs), and 2. to make four new art quilts in 2013 (you can actually see all my 2013 quilt finishes here).   Ring around the mole (the mammal mandala) feels like my biggest piece of 2013, but technically it's a 2014 finish.

For 2014, I have a lot of things I've either started,  have in my brain, or just want to work on.  I'm not sure I'll actually do them all, but here's a place to start.

Art Quilts-I have three new art quilts in my brain just bursting to get out, so far I'm calling them
Benedicta Quilt
Eucharistic Prayer C Quilt, and
Christmas Light Quilt
I also have to come up with some basic ideas for the Jane Sassaman class we're taking in April.

Quickie Quilts
I need to make a baby quilt for my friends Heather and Mark and
I want to make a pieced, minky backed lap quilt/throw for me.

Clothes and Accessories
I have a crochet shrug pattern I'm anxious to start, and
two sets of fabric for tops to make.
I've also ordered fabric for some rainbow leggings (yay), and I'm currently working on a
Weekender bag for my Mom (which was supposed to be a Christmas present but which I just started)

UFOs- I'm bound and determined to finish at least some of these languishing projects this year.
EPP Star Mini
Crocheted Afghan
Armadillo whole cloth quilt thing
Christmas tree doily

General Things to Learn/think about
Work on Embroidery Software
Think about/test different edge finishes
Think about/test different methods of including shadows
Think about a pulley system in the studio for large quilts

And just because pictures are so much more fun than long wordy posts, here's another gratuitous dog picture.

This is Swatch and Shooter (a mother daughter pair).  Shooter always seems to chew on ears.  That's poor skunk dog in the background- he's my mom's precious very very old dog (16-17 I think), and has to wear diapers and takes lots of naps, but otherwise seems quite content to still follow my mom around happily.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas Presents

I'm taking things slow on the sewing front this January after stressing so much in November and December.  It's just as well as we're fairly busy at work right now too.  I just wanted to pop in and share three lovely handmade things kind people made me for Christmas.

The first are these adorable carrot potholders from my friend Rahel.  The dogs had eaten most of my potholders, so I've really been enjoying them.  When not in use, they hang on my fridge to be seen-  I love the way they appear to be looking at each other.

The second thing is this gorgeous crocheted rainbow (!) doily from my friend Barb.  It's so very my kind of thing.  The colors are obviously perfect and it's just a beautiful piece.  It's currently living on my piano where it really brighten things up!

And finally, my mom knitted me these great socks.  I have a trouble past with knitting but mentioned to her how much I love wearing the one pair of knitted socks I do have under my motorcycle/hiking boots. Incidentally, of the pair I had before, one sock was made by me and the other by her because I-just-couldn't-take-it (picture me fainting away onto a Victorian sofa at the thought of having to knit another sock).  In any case she made me another pair for Christmas!  With a beautiful nubbly pattern!  And they fit perfectly!  Hooray Mom!

How grateful I am to have such kind talented friends and family!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The First Finish of 2014

Having just arrived back from the holidays, my blog reader is full of wonderful year-in-review posts and goals-for-2014 posts.  I may share something like that but today I wanted to share the first finish of 2014.  As regular readers know, I've spent the last two and a half months working on this every single free minute, including vast quantities of time finishing it up at my parent's over the holidays (beading all the eyes took forever).  I'm really pleased with how it turned out and super glad to have been able to leave it in New Mexico (the first show it's going to is there) since I now have no more ability to putter with it. My design wall is empty and my brain is going to take a break.

I'm calling it "Ring Around the Mole".  My mom came up with the name and it really struck my fancy.  Not least because the moles are the hardest animal to identify so I think having them in the title really helps.

Ring Around the Mole, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2014 62" x 62"

I feel like I've been so busy working on this quilt that I haven't had much time to talk about it.  So a few details.

This is an original design I made using primarily adobe illustrator.  It features one or more mammals from each order/superorder represented in Oklahoma (the state where I live).  They're listed on the label which looks like this:

In twelve-days-of-Christmas fashion, there are:

32 bats
20 armadillos
20 prairie dogs
16 oposusms (with 64 baby opossums)
16 mice
12 rabbits
8 moles
4 bison
4 deer
4 bobcats
4 coyotes
(but no partridges or pears....)

The quilt is constructed entirely from apparel fabrics.  The only 100% cotton fabric used was for the backing.  It's mostly different silks and polyesters in all kinds of weaves including velvets, and some weird microsuedes (which I think are also polyester).  I also painted and used some evolon, a non-woven stuff that feels gross but looks pretty cool and is easy to work with.  The white/ivory background is a polyester bridal satin.

The animals were cut out based on my illustrator vectors using either my silhouette cameo or by hand.  They're all fused and machine appliqued down.  Each animal has a beaded eye, except the mice who have thread eyes, and the moles who have no eyes at all.  Even the bats each have two little black eyes you just can't see in the picture.

The quilt contains two layers of batting, one layer of cotton and one layer of wool.  It was all free motion quilted on my janome horizon 7700 home sewing machine.  All the background quilting is 100 wt. YLI silk thread (if only I could afford more of this).  The quilting on the animals is mostly 40 wt polyester (glide and isacord are my favorites).

The final quilt is 62 x 62 and is faced in contour with the shape of the bats.

This has been a fairly emotional and draining project for me, and I've learned a lot about things and ways of doing things that I want to avoid in future.   I really hope you enjoy seeing it!  Many thanks to my dad Doug for taking all the pictures, it's a really hard quilt to photograph.

Blogger informs me this is my 300th post, which just feels like a lucky numb

I'm linking up to TGIFF at Quilt Matters, Nina-Marie's Fabulous Art Quilt Linky, and Richard and Tanyas.