Monday, August 27, 2012

Freedom! July's Bead Journal Project ATC

Each of my BJP pieces this year is about a special blessing in my life. How could I be more blessed than I am with the freedom we enjoy in this country? What better subject for the month of July?

Visiting Eastern Europe several times while it was still under Communist rule, I experienced first hand a little of what it must be like to live under political suppression. In Romania, for example, it was dangerous for folks to be seen talking to me, and definitely not safe for them to allow me to come in their home. A person could be arrested (worst case) or denied food (best case) for speaking Hungarian in a bread line. Nobody knew who might be spying on them, reporting them to the police. Many people didn't even trust their own family members.

So political freedom, such as we have in this country (not perfect, but better than in many countries), is a huge blessing. On my piece, I represent this type of freedom with a 1944 liberty dime. The ink-pen point represents a related freedom - the freedom to write and speak our beliefs and thoughts. I include the blessing of a personal freedom, which I grant myself, to write honestly and freely in my journals, blogs, and books.

The butterfly represents spiritual freedom. It has something to do with allowing myself the freedom to explore spirituality in a way that is not boxed by any traditional religious concepts. The bird? Well, birds fly, bless them. I want to be a bird in my next life, free to fly long distances, swoop and soar, and ride the winds.

When I hold my July ATC in my hand, it seems to throb, to exude the outward energy of freedom. May it grace the universe with each pulse.

I use Ultrasuede Light as a backing for each of my ATCs. With a watercolor paper stiffener between the beading and the backing, I stitch them together using a single bead edge stitch. The title, date and signature are rather casual (nice way to say my printing sucks). Perfection is not one of my blessings.

The fabric I used for this piece is some that I hand-resist-dyed in a workshop taught by Ann Johnston. I had been hoarding it for a long time. Working on Freedom gave me the freedom to cut into the piece and use it! You can probably see how this fabric influenced my color choices and the way the piece is divided into 4 quarters, each with a different symbol. The inter-twining vine ties them all together.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Showcase 500 – Beaded Jewelry

book cover

Lark Books has really done a great job with this book. But that’s no surprise because the fact is:  BEADERS are skill-building faster than you can say the word bead. Of course it’s fantastic!

back cover

I am totally impressed with these 500 pieces, made by 278 artists from many different countries around the world. Just a few decades ago, beaded jewelry was pretty much limited to simple earrings and strung necklaces. Now bead weaving and bead embroidery have joined forces with bead stringing yielding a beautiful and vast array of beaded jewelry.

fun necklace by Stephanie Sersich

As the book’s editor, Ray Hemachandra, points out in the introduction, “This collection includes work from many of the world’s best-known beading artists – the superstars and the master designers and teachers – and it also presents pieces made by talented beaders whose work has not been published previously.” All of it is good. All is inspirational and amazing.

Let’s let the photos speak for themselves. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

I always love Carole Horn's work!

Couldn't decide which of Carole's necklaces to include, so they're both here!

I like it that some of the pieces are primarily metalwork, with just a few accent beads.

If you click the picture, you'll be able to see more detail. I love this piece!

You'll find everything from funky to sublimely elegant in this book.

Myra Schwartz has a whole series of pieces featuring vintage pipes. She's an amazing designer.

I am so grateful to own this book, and recommend it 100% to anybody who loves beads, even if you don’t choose to make beaded jewelry. There’s so much about art, about color, about design, and about the beads themselves to be gained from study of these 500 pieces.

Here’s a link to buy it on Amazon, although I’m sure it’s also available in many bookstores and from many other online sources.

Heidi's work is always captivating. This one is so powerful, I had to include the detail shot below.

Talk about using beads to tell a story! Wow!

My one regret? Well… I received an invitation to submit pieces for publication in this book, but was so busy doing projects for and writing my own book (The Complete Photo Guide to Beading), that I let the deadline slip by. Whaaaa. I’d give a lot to be in such good company as the artists in this book. Congratulations to them all!

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By the way, my new book is available to pre-order on Amazon, here! It will be out early in December.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Hexies Galore - Grandma's Flower Garden quilt

English paper piecing, hand quilting, hexagon, grandma's flower garden quilt

My "hexie habit" began March 6th, when I folded my first 2 x 2 inch square around a die-cut, paper hexagon shape, and basted it in place - the first of about 3,500 hexies that will eventually become a single-bed-sized quilt, entirely hand-sewn.

Am I crazy? Well, it's entirely possible. It all started because my husband likes to watch TV and movies (DVDs)... a lot! I could easily not even own a TV, much less watch it. He likes me to watch with him, keep him company, somebody with whom to discuss whatever he's watching. Ooops.... big conflict of interests here!  In order to oblige him, I have to be doing something with my hands, something simple enough that I can still devote some of my attention to the box. Turns out hexies are the PERFECT solution! They also work well for when we take the ferry off island, parked in the waiting line or on the ship.

hand pieced hexagon flowers for grandma's flower garden quilt

In five months, I have:
  1. cut 3,500+ two-inch squares of fabric
  2. basted 3,500+ hexies, which are 3/4 inch on a side (pictures on this post)
  3. hand-sewn 213 single-ring flowers 
  4. hand-sewn a pathway ring of white hexies around 78 of the single-ring flowers
Still waaaaaaay more to do - many more hours of movies, documentaries, etc. with my husband. I reckon I've spent a little over 400 hours on it so far - that's TEN 40-hour work weeks in 5 months. This has actually been fun. Each of the 213 flowers is a different fabric, so there's always something a little new.

Thought you might like to see the steps for making the single ring flowers...

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 1
Arrange petal hexies in pleasing way around center.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 2
Put one petal face-to-face with the center, and whip-stitch them together. I generally take about 12-13 stitches per 3/4" side.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 3
Join and stitch the first and second petal together along the side seam. Knot at the end of each side.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 4
After stitching the side seam and knotting, slip the needle under the folded flap of the side to return to the center hexie.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 5
Double knot the center hexie to the second petal. Then whip stitch them together. The first petal will have to be folded a bit.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 6
Continue adding petals around the center. This is the side seam between the 5th and last petal. I double knot at the end of each side seam.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 7
Whip stitch the last petal to the center.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 8
To complete the last side seam, the entire flower must be folded as shown above.

tutorial grandma's flower garden quilt, step 9
The back side of the completed flower looks like this. Click on any of the pictures to see detail of stitching. The paper pieces and basting stitches stay in the hexies until the entire quilt top is whip-stitched together. When the top is complete, it is ironed on the back side; the basting stitches and paper pieces are then removed, and the quilt sandwich is made.

hand pieced hexagon flowers, grandma's flower garden quilt
Stack of 50 hexie flowers! Only 163 to go....

Here's a stack of 50. Altogether, I made 213 of them, all with different prints.

The next step is sewing the white "pathway" around half of the flowers. (The others get green print hexies to represent leaves.) That takes about 1 hour per flower.

double ring hexagon flowers for grandma's flower garden quilt

Here are the first 50 of them - 67 to go.

After finishing the white rings, I'll start sewing them together in groups of 5 flowers with green hexie leaves between them. I'll post pictures and another progress report after I've done a few.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Natural Dye Day & Bundle Bash

Fabric dying is a love-hate sort of thing for me. I'm always attracted to felt and fabrics dyed by other people, especially Christi over at Sweet Pea Path. I get all excited about trying it, and take classes or experiment on my own. But the total unpredictability of it, the incredible number of variables that can throw the results one way or another, seems overwhelming sometimes. In the end, there's a daunting amount one needs to learn from others (like India Flint) and by experimenting PLUS lots of luck before one can expect to get pleasing results.

Still... when opportunity comes along, I always jump right in again....

This time, a group of Lopez Island fiber artists experimenting with shibori invited me to join them for a natural-dye play-day! We met July 13th, each bringing plant materials, fabrics and dye pots of various metals.

Here's my basket o' goodies: drift wood for wrapping the bundles, madrona leaves and bark, a bunch of flowers, leaves, berries, and some lichen. Being new at this, I didn't have a clue what might produce color on the fabrics. Fortunately other participants brought botanicals known to work.

Here's my stash of fabrics, all torn from used clothes purchased at our thrift store. Mostly it's linen, with a few pieces of cotton and silk. I boiled the linen and cotton fabrics in water + alum to pre-mordant them, making the fibers more receptive to taking color.

The thing that looks like a washcloth is blended cotton/silk yarn that I knit into this swatch. I threw it into the mordant bath as well. This is what I unraveled and used to wrap/tie all of my bundles, knowing it would take dye too (you'll see further down)!

Here are a few other things I planed to include in my bundles - rusty nails and washers, copper spirals, and tyvek tags for noting what I put in each bundle and what dye treatment it received.

And these are packets of spices - turmeric,  curry, cayenne, paprika, and yellow mustard. Why not give them a try too?

After wrapping our bundles, we put them in one of several dye pots. One was just a steam bath. Others included boiling mullein, boiling eucalyptus leaves, hot tansy ragwort, and cold berberis. The picture above shows my bundles after being in the dye or steam bath for an hour or two.

Then came the waiting and the mildew.  The bundles need to cure as long as possible. We decided to have a Bundle Bash, a grand opening of our collective bundles, on July 30. We agreed not to open the bundles until them. A problem developed with some of them... they started growing mold... black spots/areas, especially on the underside of the bundles. A second steam bath halted the growing, and a very slow bake in the oven to hasten drying seemed to prevent new growth.

So here we are two days ago, gathered like kids at Christmas, unwrapping our bundles, hard pressed to take even one moment to hold up a sample for the picture.

Here's a picture of all of mine. They need to continue curing for at least another week. Then I'll dip them in salt water (hoping to further enhance the colors) and let them air dry. Finally, after all that, I can wash/iron them, and see what they REALLY look like.

As I look at them together like this, they seem so muddy, so similar to old paint rags or maybe fabric scraps from making costumes for an end-of-the-world zombie movie. Harsh words, I know. That's what I mean by love-hate relationship.

On the love side, some of them, some parts of them, have potential. For what? I'm not sure... some sort of quilted, hand stitched fiber art, I guess.

This is the one made with the spices. It's the only bright one that I made, and it's much brighter than anything anybody else made. The fabric is silk and the dye bath was just steam. Obviously color from spices has potential. I'm thinking it could be sprinkled over leaves or other resist objects to leave patterns of un-dyed fabric showing. Hmmm... that's one to try!

This one is madrona leaves and rusty nails/washers on linen. The dye bath was tansy ragwort.

This one is eucalyptus and mullein leaves in a eucalyptus bath cooked in an iron pot. The fabric was some that Christi gave me; I think it's raw silk. I was surprised and pleased with the green color of the prints made by the eucalyptus leaves.

This one is clematis, lichen, and copper spirals wrapped with a pale lavender linen in a berberis bath. The clematis and lichen didn't seem to give very much color. But the mildew made some nice marks, don't you think?!

Lastly, here is the yarn I used to wrap the bundles. I expect this will be quite fun to use!

A lot of time and work went into getting this far. Is it worth it? I don't know yet.  But I can say this... I'm eagerly anticipating giving these a salt water bath next week, so I can get them washed and ironed!!! be continued....