Sunday, December 28, 2008

Have you been making New Years resolutions?

I am not the best at making resolutions, my usual goal is just to get through the next year in one piece with a conscious effort to live it in gratitude and creativity. That includes making art myself and helping others make art by sharing the skills and techniques that I know.

If you want to start your year off with a boost in your understanding of color and how to make it work for you, take my online Color Theory Class. I am going to start the next session January 12th. It is a 9 week class for $60, you can read more about it here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

Here's Abby taking a short break from keeping herself warm in someone's shirt and posing for her Christmas portrait. Actually Nina added the antlers in Photoshop, Abby is not real fond of wearing any kind of clothes. Doesn't she make a cute little reindeer?

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, thanks for visiting me through the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holy Moly it's cold!

Last night the wind literally shrieked all night as it blew across the city and over our roof, following several inches of snow from earlier in the evening. We woke up this morning to -6°F with wind chills of -30°F!!!!!! and it did not warm up more than 3 degrees all day. Why is wind noisier the colder it is?

As I drove past the Chicago river it was steaming. Tomorrow we are looking at more of the same and then two more days of snow. It feels like we are living in the Arctic. I guess this is the weather that Chicago is known for. Brrrrrrrrrr...............

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas lunch with the CSOF

Sunday was the annual Chicago School of Fusing Christmas lunch with Jane Sassaman, me, Frieda Anderson, Emily Parson, Laura Wasilowski and Anne Lullie.
Frieda brought Champagne and cranberry juice for Poinsettias, yumm!
Emily brought out her 25 little knit socks for an advent calendar she is making.

They were so cute, every one wanted to play with them and ooh and ahh over all the lovely yarn colors. Emily knit these with leftovers from her Sophies Toes hand dyed sock yarn.

There is always too much fun with these gals, lots of talk, laughs and wearing an occasional lampshade before the day is over.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Riverwalk Quilters Guild

This week I gave a lecture and taught a workshop making Fiesta Ornaments at the Riverwalk Quilters Guild. The weather was lousy but the spirits were high.

A wonderful adventurous group willing to move out of their comfort zone painting and sewing metal.
Beautiful ornaments were made by all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nina has been busy!

My daughter Nina had a big order to make 50 of her Happy Monsters for Christmas. She has been sewing like a fiend, but has finished her order and sent them off to their new homes. They vary in size from 10-14 inches and are made from polar fleece and super soft fur.
I want a couple for myself. Aren't they cute?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One of a Kind Show

On Friday, I picked up Laura Wasilowski and Frieda Anderson at the train station and we drove over to the One of a Kind show at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. It has sort of become tradition since I have lived in Chicago. It is so much fun lunching, chatting and looking at all the art. We always enjoy seeing fiber artists at the show and spend extra time admiring their work.

Susan Hedin, from Minnesota, quilts saturated jewel tone and neutral colored silks in a contemporary geometric style. You must go to her website to see her work in all its glorious color.
Mimi Damrauer has a booth at the One of a Kind show each year. Frieda and Laura have been friends with her for years. Mimi's sister, Marcia Derse is also a talented textile artist and often has a booth in the IQF shows.
Mimi posing in her beautiful booth with a Crate and Barrel ad featuring a rug she designed for them.Debra DeWolff from Wisconsin makes beautiful whimsical jewelry combining felt balls with polymer clay. Frieda had to try on several in her color palette.
Look how color coordinated Debra and Freida are.Some how we managed to miss Susan Hinckley's booth, the show was really big this year. I saw this piece hanging in a display as we were heading out. I love her work and am so happy to see she now has an internet presence. Susan's work is humorous and beautifully made with felted wool and embroidery, incorporating messages with words cut from paper. Susan also has a blog now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mixing RIT dyes for new colors

When I was working on the project for RIT, I experimented with creating some of my favorite jewel tone colors. I found that I could create a really nice range of bright and earthy colors. These are some of my favorite color combinations.
The wonderful thing about low immersion dyeing is getting the range of values and sometimes little bursts of contrasting colors that can pop up when the different color dye molecules haven't fully mixed. I love that dark olive color.

If you would like the recipes for any or all of these colors you can find them over at my other blog Painted Threads Projects.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dyeing Batting with Rit

Now that my article on low immersion dyeing with RIT from the December 2008 Quilting Arts magazine has been published, I can show you photos of the artwork I made for RIT to use on a segment of Quilting Arts TV for season 3. The third season should begin in January. The episode that RIT will be on also happens to have the segment that was taped in the spring at Quilt Festival Chicago where I demonstrate making Fiesta Ornaments.

These circles are cut from dyed Warm and White cotton batting and stitched with a blanket stitch on the sewing machine. If I had an easier time with hand work I would have loved to do all the stitching with embroidery floss to really make the stitches stand out. Dyed batting can be like a cheaper softer substitute for doing wool appliqué.

I think dyed cotton batting would make a great substrate for needle felting. I can imagine a whole landscape made from pieces of dyed batting and embellished on a felting machine with ribbons and roving for trees and flowers.

You can see the back of the 9 patch is one piece of dyed batting cut with a prairie point style edge. I used a leftover block cut in half on the diagonal to make the corners for hanging, with a piece of painted balsa wood to rest on a nail in the wall. This is a super easy way to hang small fiber art.

On the left is a detail from the abstract piece at the end of the article. The wavy lines of color running down the center is the dyed fusible interfacing. This is the soft nylon interfacing that is usually meant to be used with knit fabrics.

Below is a detail from the flower piece. The flowers and leaves are cut from batting and the centers of the flowers and leaves are fusible interfacing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Embracing my inner silver and knitting berets

I hate dying my hair! I know it is probably the easiest way to hold on to that illusion of youth, but the earth mama that resides within me has always hated the maintenance and the idea that toxic chemicals are being absorbed by my scalp.

I have been dyeing my hair for at least ten years. I began dyeing it because my complexion looked really washed out when those stray gray hairs started growing in. For several years I dyed it myself but then the store bought dyes just did not cover the gray and I had to put my hair in the hands of a professional. As our budget became increasingly tighter this year I felt bad seeing such a big chunk going to my hair.

Before I made the final decision, I Googled "going gray" and came across this website and this blog. I was amazed to see that most of the women really looked better after they had gone gray. I think what is key, is having enough white so it doesn't look steely. It looks like I am pretty white in some places and streaky gray in other places, so I think I might be ok.

Of course my biggest fear about going silver is that I will suddenly look 20 years older. My son told me he thought if I went gray Silver people would no longer mistake me for 10 years younger, they would just think I looked good for my age. That boy is pretty smart for his 15 years. I am trying to envision that all that silver is going to show my "wisdom" instead of my age, lol, so I am crossing my fingers and knitting berets to ease myself through this transition.

In my internet search for cute beret patterns I came across a couple that I really like. The first one I knit was the Gwen Slouchy Beret this is an easy 4 row lace repeat that looks great knit in a variety of yarns.
The first one I knit with Knitpicks Comfy in Seafoam, knitting the pattern with 6 inches of repeats. I love the beret but it feels pretty slouchy, so I tried a few more with less repeats.

The red/orange beret and the purple one are knitted with my friend Emily's gorgeous Sophie's Toes sock yarn. I wore the red one a lot in Houston hiding not my horns as Kristin alluded to, lol, but my silver roots. I love the way Emily's yarn knit up a lightweight beret that could be worn year round. For these two berets I knit the lace repeat for 5 inches before the crown decreases. It has the perfect fullness for my taste.
This white one is knit with Cashmerino, it is so snuggly soft and warm, perfect for this cold Chicago weather. It sort of reminds me of a bleached sea urchin.
I found another pattern that I liked too. It is the Grace Lace Beret, I knit this olive green one with Knitpicks Shine Sport Leapfrog. I am not sure I knit the decreases quite right since it is a bit rippley but it knit up really fast and I really like the star design that happens on the crown.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't let tight finances keep you from making art

Many of us are spending a lot more time at home these days instead of going out for dinner, shopping and movies, so what are we going to do with this extra time that has suddenly come upon us besides vegging in front of the tv?

Make stuff!

Making art can be the best therapy for stress there is, we can work out our fears, lower our blood pressure, create new visions of our hopes and dreams and make gifts for our loved ones steeped in our creative blessings.

We are living in times that feel uncertain and frankly a little scary. With tight budgets many of us are feeling guilty spending money on ourselves or on anything that is not an absolute necessity.

There are several ways to make your craft dollar go further, here are a few of the things I do:

Use plastic dairy containers for rinse water and the lids make great paint palettes too. When finished painting, let the leftover paint dry on the plastic lid, the next time you are ready to work peel off the dry paint in one piece. If there are spots of thin paint stuck in a few places, rub the piece of dry paint you have removed over the paint like an eraser, it will pull up any remaining paint off the lid.

Buy textile paint with a friend(s).
8 oz. bottles of textile paint offer a big savings compared to small 2 oz jars.

You can buy large jars of Lumieres and Neopaque paints here.

Split up those big bottles of paint and store in 2 oz plastic bottles with flip tops. Don't forget to use a Sharpie to label the bottles with the paint names.

Paint in a squirt bottle makes it so much easier to put the desired amount of paint onto the palette. You will waste less paint when you can control how much comes out, I have poured out too much paint from jars so many times.

Buy reasonably priced synthetic paint brushes. Robert Simmons makes a good quality inexpensive brush for acrylics, I often buy this brand for smaller round and flat paint brushes. For large flat brushes I often buy the Da Vinci Junior student brushes.

Take care of your brushes so they last longer. Be sure to clean your brushes well with a bit of dish soap when you are finished painting, to remove any paint lodged at the base of the bristles. Do not leave brushes bristle down in the rinse water when not using, it will bend and ruin the points.

Buy pfd cotton sheeting for painting and dyeing at affordable prices.
Silk Connection on the west coast. User friendly website for ordering.
Test Fabrics on the east coast

Keep creating! It's good for the soul.

A study in Color

My daughter Nina and Laura Wasilowski in the Artfabrik booth at the Greater Chicago Quilt Festival show. I love the contrast of Nina and Laura dressed in black and white against the riot of vibrant color in the Artfabrik booth.

Sadly it looks like this was the last year for the Mancuso's to host a show in the Chicago area. They had committed to three years here and the turn out has never been that great at this show. It has never seen the numbers that the International Quilt Festival pulls in their spring show.

I think the economy may have had a significant effect on the show this year, it must have been very rough on many of the vendors. One thing we as quilt show attendees need to remember is that if we don't support these vendors and shows they won't be around for any of us to enjoy in the future. It is hard to find that balance between cutting back to save money and helping small businesses survive through times like these, but we need to find a way to support each other.


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