Thursday, February 22, 2018

I Like #56

Things to like this week!

1. Hiking!  This past weekend we had a church vestry retreat at the Diocese of Oklahoma summer camp St. Crispin's.  The weather was chilly and gray and damp, but I went out a little early so I could do some hiking on their really lovely trail system.  What a peaceful wonderful afternoon.

2.  The new Brandi Carlile Album.  I've been a Brandi Carlile fan for a long time, and her new album was the soundtrack to my hiking.  I really enjoyed it, you can take a quick listen here.  My favorite songs on the album are Every Time I Hear that Song and the Mother, but I like the whole thing.

3.  I got another blog post up!  It counts as a win in my book to get anything posted apart from my I like post!  This one is an in-depth description of how I made my small illuminated openwork initial.  Check it out!

4.  Flowers!  Of course everything here is still dead, but I was visiting a friend in the hospital this weekend and found these great bromeliads blooming in their lobby. My first instinct was that they were fake, but there were lots of different boxes of them and they weren't identical looking (some even had dead looking leaves), so they were real enough to cheer me up!

5.  My puppies!  They of course want to walk every single morning, and it was a bit treacherous this morning since we had an ice storm yesterday and everything was super slick.  We persevered though and it was nice to be outside!

I hope you guys have things to like this week, and thanks to LeeAnna for linking us up!

Monday, February 19, 2018

SAQA Donation Quilt: 2018

A few weeks ago I made my annual 12 x 12" quilt for the SAQA auction.  The auction is a major fundraiser for SAQA and I've participated for the past several years.  It's not until September, but our fabulous regional representatives from KS/OK/MO have organized a hanging of the 12 x 12 quilts from our region for the month of February.  If you're in or around Westwood, Kansas, you can see them in the Shirley Stiles Gallery at the city offices at 4700 Rainbow Blvd.

I really enjoyed doing the illuminated initials in this quilt, and this quilt, so thought it would be fun to do another one.  I also wanted to do another openwork piece, so it seemed like a fun time to try combining them. 

I started out with a bunch of drawing.  I knew it had to have a fabric frame because I needed a way to hang it, and then I sketched in the letter and the decorations.

When I started with the fabric, I made the top of the frame out of gold brocade, then sandwiched a layer of sitff peltex interfacing between it and a backing layer (just made out of cotton).  I satin stitched around the inside of the frame to give a nice finished edge.  Then I quilted the frame down to a piece of water soluble interfacing in a grid pattern so that the final openwork would have some structural stability.

It was fun to layer the letter and other elements on, and after I had them where I wanted them, I fused them to the water soluble interfacing.  I had to fuse a mirror image of each element to the back so that after the interfacing was removed the letter would be more than one layer thick and have a nice back.  And then I just started quilting!  For the curly-cues in the background, I tried to make sure they touched the grid as much as possible.  I've had bad experiences with openwork thread work collapsing on itself after you soak out the interfacing, so it's good to have things touching as much as possible.

And then when I soaked it, there was the most marvelous surprise!  I'd unintentionally gotten the backing fabric off from the front fabric a little, so that it looks like the letter and leaves have a really nifty turquoise shadow!  The turquoise you see is the backing fabric showing through.  I love the openwork look, it casts a lovely shadow on the wall, and I think the whole thing turned out great.  I hope it raises good money for SAQA!
A is for Art, c. Shannon Conley, 2018, 12" x 12"

And here's a quick picture of the regional showing!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I like #55

Welcome to another week of I likes!

1.  First up this week, I like having a fixed shelf on top of my cabinet.  I don't know why builders insist on leaving 12 or so inches of open, dust-collecting space on top of upper kitchen cabinets.  I feel like having the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling would at least give more enclosed storage.  Anyway, a bunch of my pottery serving pieces have always lived on top of my cabinets, but the stupid recessed space meant I couldn't always see them very well and they often tipped off crooked when I tried to set them back up because of the strange framing.  So this weekend I pulled everything down, ran it through the dishwasher to remove the gunk (some things twice!!), and then installed boards all the way across the top.  I didn't have matching stain, but the darker stain I had was better than plain white.  It makes me so happy to see my nice clean pottery up there, not half buried or falling over!!

2. I like this new book.  Marsha McDowell from Michigan State University has written this cool book called Quilts and Health.  The university bought one of my quilts a couple years back and I'm super excited they published it in the book.  It's a lovely hardback coffee table style book and filled with lots of writing and essays on the topic in addition to quilts.  I'm looking forward to reading it!

3.  I like hanging out with my friends, even virtual ones!  This week was a wealth of friendly support, complete with dinners out, an Arabian nights themed valentines day party (more on the costume for that in Tuesday's post), and a really wonderful, laughter-filled breakfast with my friend Linda yesterday morning.  

4.  I like doing small projects as a break from the big ones.  In the midst of more long-term things it's nice to make something you can finish in an afternoon!  Last weekend I made a new gumdrop footstool, and this weekend I stitched up a quick bag to hold my crochet on the go.  I wrote more about them on Tuesday if you want the details!

5.  I love my mom!  She makes my sister and I a valentine's themed quilt block every year, usually in some style she's been recently doing.  This year is a fun pieced New York Beauty block, in honor of her recently completed giant and beautiful New York Beauty quilt.  So fun!  Someday I'm going to start sewing the valentine's blocks together.  I love the variety in them, last year I did a retrospective, so you can see some of the others if you want.

6. I like being outside!  It's still very cold and dead here, but the birds don't mind, I have whole flocks of them that come to the feeder every day.  Unfortunately, the slightest movement on my part, for example to get the good camera, sends them scattering.  And the second picture was the sunrise on my morning walk this week!  The dogs drag me along, but when Bentley stops to poop I can take a quick picture!

I hope you are all having a great week!  Thanks to LeeAnna for keeping us positive!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Small Projects

I've finished a few small projects lately so thought it was time for a quick update on some of those!

Two weekends ago I made a new pouf, or gumdrop pillow as I think the official name goes.  This is the third or fourth one of these I've made, and they're all from an Amy Butler pattern.  Here are some of the old ones:

It's a nice easy pattern to make either 18 or 24" footstools, but I think it might be out of print. Anyway, I decided to make a  new one for the living room.  I currently have one in my studio, and the dogs love to sit on it.  I thought it would be nice to have in the house as a footstool (which I didn't have), for the dogs to sit on, and to help Bullett jump up on the sofa (his little back legs are getting a bit gimpy).  I picked out some fabric from my stash (Thanks Georgia!) and stitched it up.  I made the 24" size, but realized later, that it's about the same height as my living room furniture, so it wasn't much help for Bullett! I think the old one has just gotten compressed, and eventually I'm sure the new one will too.  It's stuffed with eleven walmart sacks of old scraps (cut off batting edges, selvedges, scraps that are too small to sew with, old clothes too holey to take to goodwill) and two old cut up king sized mattress pads.  It's always surprising to me how much material you need to really fill one up. The fabric filling makes it quite heavy, but also less compressible and sturdier feeling than if I'd used fiber fill.  I've already been enjoying having it to put my feet up while watching the Olympics!

The next small project is this bag I made up this past weekend to hold my on-the-go crochet project.  I have plenty of medium and large tote bags, and plenty of small pouches, but I needed something medium size (~13" square) that would close up but not with a zipper (which sometimes catches yarn) and was very lightweight.  It's for my current carrying around crochet project which is just shoved inside my purse so I didn't want anything too big or with too much structure.  It was really fun to pull out a bunch of fun bright scraps and piece them into a cute drawstring bag.  Now my yarn won't get caught in my keys and all the other purse junk!

And finally this last weekend my friend Liz hosted an Arabian Nights themed Valentine's day party.  I didn't have time to do anything too elaborate, but I grabbed some fabric from my stash (thanks Georgia!) and whipped up these harem pants and a headscarf veil thing.  They matched a shirt I already had and voila! quick costume.  The harem pants were super quick, I followed this great tutorial on youtube, check it out if you need a quick costume.  The veil is just a rectangular piece of fabric with some gold trim stitched down, but it did give me a chance to use the rolled hem foot for the first time ever.  Wow have I ever been missing out.  It worked great!  so much easier than trying to press a tiny hem, especially in ravelly synthetic fabric.  I only snapped one quick selfie before rushing off to the party, but you get the idea. 

One of the nicest things about all of these projects is that they were 100% from my stash.  I love using stuff I already have!

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Triangles: Finished!

Earlier in the week I shared my design process for a new dimensional quilt made out of cut up quilted triangles, and today I'm sharing the finished piece.  I call it a quilt, but then I call all sorts of things quilts.

It's named Tesseract, in honor of one of my favorite books as a kid (and now a new movie) A Wrinkle in Time.  I was inspired by the idea that a tesseract brings two points in space closer than you'd normally think they could be.  Of course that was in the fifth dimension and I'm only in the third dimension, but that's ok!

Tesseract, c. Shannon Conley, 2018

Here it is from the side so you can see how it rests on the wall.

Here are some up close details.  When you get up close you can see the tulle a little more.  I love the way the paint didn't sink all the way in around the quilting stitches since the triangles were painted after the quilting was done, giving a textural look to the colors almost like a grave rubbing.  And I also love the quilting stitches themselves.  They're a bit random since they came from whatever piece I cut up, but I love the variety.

I really love the way this turned out.  It's one, unlike the quilt I cut up to make it, which came out like I envisioned in my head.  It feels like a metamorphosis, something flat and ugly turning into something with depth and vibrancy.  I'm actually thinking of doing another two-dimensional piece based on this one to see how much depth I can artificially create by using shadows and quilting rather than sculpting.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Like #54

Welcome to another week of I likes!

It's been very very cold and very very dry here.  The cold doesn't bother me, and it actually makes me happy because I hope for fewer bugs in the summer, but we're quite desperate for moisture.  I've been trying to water my trees, but it has to get warm enough for my hoses to unthaw, and I have to remember to always unhook them afterwards!

1.  I like being able to catch up a bit!  I feel like I'm finally getting caught up with a bunch of stuff after the holidays and like the new year is really on its way.  I managed to get a couple blog posts written about a new project this week based on my triangles, check back tomorrow to see the final quilt.  Here's an in-progress snapshot.

2.  I like starting new things!  I actually have two new quilt projects ongoing right now, one started over the weekend.  This one will involve smocking, I have no idea how it will work, but of course I'm jumping in with both feet.  I started by painting this fabric (it was a pale pink).  It was some sort of polyester satin stuff, and after painting it almost looks like a fake leather when you touch it.  Kinda cool!

3.  I like baking!  I try not to do very much because it's always followed by lots of eating.  But this week I used my mom's beer-bread pot to make my first loaf of beer bread.  It was quite easy!  I used a bottle of sweet potato beer I'd had in the pantry for a while.  I bought a six pack of them thinking it would be a fun thing to try and it wound up being the most disgusting thing I'd ever tried to drink (apologies to sweet potato beer enthusiasts).  I thought I'd save them for cooking, and of course the flavor was much reduced in the beer bread, but it still came through.  I think I'll probably just empty out the remaining 4 and recycle the bottles.  Otherwise the beer bread worked great!

4. I like singing!  This past Thursday was our annual choral evensong service.  We join up with another choir from a nearby church and sing this service as a guest group at St. Thomas Moore church in Norman.  It's a bit of a different singing environment (with regards to the placement of the organ and the acoustics) than we're used to, but I think it went lovely all the same.  I really enjoy it every year, and it's a bunch of fun music.  This year we used a Vaughn Williams setting for most of the music.  Here's a recording of the Magnificat from the service, hopefully you can play it!

5. I like my pups!  Of course I always like them, but they've been especially snuggly lately in this cold weather!

I hope everyone has things to like this week!  Thanks to LeeAnna for keeping us positive!

Monday, February 5, 2018

New Project: The triangles

I had been wanting to try some dimensional pieces that were more abstract than my flowers.  Anyone who follows me on pinterest knows I've been pinning lots of abstract sculpture and other three dimensional art.  And so late last year I decided to bite the bullet.  My idea was to take a bunch of quilted triangles, and stitch them down to something with some structure and then "magically" (in quotation marks because I always think these things are just going to work out) sculpt it.

I started with this quilt which I was never very fond of.  I made it for a show last year, and was glad it got into that exhibit, but figured it was ripe to be cut up and made into something new. 

Of course part of the reason I didn't like it was because the colors were so light and bland, so I painted over the whole thing with red and orange and then cut it up in to a bunch of small equilateral triangles.  I also cut up a bunch of quilted leftover bits from the iris, and painted/cut up some practice quilt sandwiches so that I had a giant pile of triangles.  

I decided that I might try stitching them to aluminum window screen as a sculptural base, and below you can see my small mockup.  It's aluminum window screen with chiffon on the front and back and the triangle sandwiched between.  I decided the chiffon was too matte looking, it really blocked the color intensity I was going for, but otherwise sewing over the window screen didn't cause any problems.

I next pinned a full size piece of window screen to my design wall and started pinning up my triangles.  I rearranged and rearranged until I liked them, and then started gluing them down (to the screen) with glue stick.  I needed something that would hold them in place enough for me to get it down on the floor to pin baste, but not so sticky that it would glue the whole thing to the design wall.  The glue stick worked well enough and only a few fell off.

Here you can see it on the floor- the blue tape is holding the background layer of tulle flat on the ground.  Then there's the layer of screen, then the quilted triangles, and then another layer of tulle.  The sides of the screen had selvedge-like things, but the top and bottom were quite pokey.  Fortunately, the weave of the screen helped me keep the triangles aligned.  

This is what the back looks like; basically the "grout" is empty, only screen and tulle.

Next I quilted between each triangle along the "grout" lines so that the triangles were secure and wouldn't shift all over the place.  This was tricky since the screen was a bit hard to maneuver under the sewing machine.  I used clear monofilament thread because I didn't want to see any of the jerkiness in the quilting stitches that I knew there would be due to the weird and hard to handle bulk.

After cutting and finishing the edges, the next step was to work on the sculpting. I played around with different approaches using some equilateral triangle graph paper.  I wasn't trying to get a final design so much as trying to determine what kind of shapes and ways of folding I could generate using these shapes.  It was really fun to play around with this, like a really cool spatial reasoning puzzle.  I love stuff like this.

Finally I started sculpting it myself.  Even though the screen is stiff, it doesn't fully hold it's shape, so everywhere two corners are folded to be touching, there are a few stitches holding it together.  This was a super fun project to work on, and I'll share final pictures on Friday!!

Have you ever done any dimensional work with quilting?  What approaches have you tried?