Tag Archives: creativity

Value Finding Tools

I’m trying something new in my blog this week: a video.  This is my first attempt, and let’s just say, it was a learning process.  I’m thankful that I get to spend a large part of my day with teenagers who know all about this and are happy to advise their teacher.

Follow this link to learn about the tools I use to select fabrics.    Value Finding Tools Video

These tools are available in my web store if you want a set of your own.

Value Finding Tool Kit

Value Finding Tool Kit

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A Horse of Course

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but, as you might have guessed, progress did continue on the horseman.  In my race to finish it in time to submit to the Houston quilt competition, all available resources were diverted to making progress on this piece.  I did take some photos along the way and will share that progress with you in my next few blog posts.

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

This week, let’s focus on the stitching of the first horse.

I selected a variety of threads in the full value range.  This first horse is pretty dark, and if I think about what the horse would look like in real life, my thread choices would fall in the medium to dark range.  My analytical brain has to take over to pick the very lightest threads.  Because this horse is standing in water,  a selection of threads with dull and shiny finishes were chosen to differentiate between the wet and dry parts of the horse.

Often, stitching begins with the lightest threads, working toward the dark areas, but this time, I did the opposite. I can’t say why with certainty.  Perhaps it’s because the dark threads will complete most of the stitching and the lighter threads will add the finishing touches.  The first step is to make some broad, sweeping stitch lines to hold things in place.  That is followed by several passes, filling in more and more each time.

These photos show how the work progressed.

Stitching horse 0

Stitching horse 1

Stitching horse 2

stitching horse 3

While working up close, it’s hard to fully appreciate what is happening.  I have to rely on

Reference photo on the computer

Reference photo on the computer

what I know should work as I’m stitching.  I also keep my laptop near by with a reference photo on display.  It is always such a treat to step back and look at the work and be able to appreciate that it has come together as planned.  Sometimes, it’s even better, like the stitching along the neck of this horse.  That’s when I smile, pat myself on the back, and say, “Lea, you’ve done well.  You should have some chocolate.”

After a cup of tea and a few Thin Mint cookies, I had to admit that I was not thrilled with the nose.  More on that next week…

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See Me on The Quilt Show

I recently taped an episode of TheQuiltShow.com with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  Subscribers to that website got to see that episode last week.  Many thanks to those of you that sent kind words through email and Facebook.

sitting talking

Photo by Gregory Case

Now, I can share a link to that show with the rest of you. Click on the link here and you can watch too.

Watch The Show

This link will work until May 11, so make a cup of tea and sit back to enjoy.

Let me know what you think Also, for those of you that subscribe to The Quilt Show, I have a new series of lessons in the “Classroom” section of the website.  This course is on “Contemporary Batik”  If you’ve ever wanted to try batik, but were afraid of the mess, check out this class.  It will be FUN, and EASY!! http://thequiltshow.com/learn/classrooms FTI: you have to be a subscriber to the website to access this class.

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The Tangled Web

I’ve managed to get the first two panels of my 4 Horsemen triptych fused together and have come to terms with the reality that I will not get the 3rd panel finished in time for my May deadline. I will make the 3rd panel—someday—maybe in the summer.

Before I can begin stitching, I must to do some planning and prep work now if the three panels are to fit together later. Toward that end, iI want to make sure that each panel works individually AND in concert with each other.

Panels side by side

Panels side by side

Here is the process:

  1. Lay the panels side by side. (Panel 3 is just a large sheet of muslin)
  1. Mark the corner points and 1/3 marks along each side.
  1. Run a line of string string between each of these key points.

In doing this, I can accurately place lines of the riverbank, foothills, mountains, and place the final riders in just the right position. Additionally, this web of string creates a grid for identifying key lines and points of intersection within the piece.

Here is my dilemma: the whole thing is way to large to fit on my design wall. The best I can do is clear the floor in my family room and lay out the panels. Unable to pin into the hardwood floors, I’m left to lay the string on the floor and they won’t stay put.  They are continually shifting as I move things around under them.  Eventually, I do get a sense of how things are laying out.

I see some good things going on in the right panel:

Lines o the right panel

Lines o the right panel

  • A diagonal goes down the face, hits the shoulder, belt buckle, then follows the line of the tail
  • Another diagonal follows the line of the neck, a crease in the blanket, and the shadow of the back haunch.
  • The lower horizontal connects the reins, rifle, and blanket fold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the center panel:

Lines on the center panel

Lines on the center panel

  • A diagonal connects the hand, a stripe of the blanket, a line of rope, and then runs down the back leg
  • Another connects the eyes, bottom of the rope and follows the tail.
  • The lower horizontal runs along the belly of the horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the left panel:

Lines on the left panel

Lines on the left panel

  • I place the horses in the center between the horizontal strings
  • Diagonals from the upper left corner will fall along the head and back of the horse and also connect the nose, chest and stirrup.
  • I also sketch in lines for the background so that it will all come together in the end.

 

Doing this on the floor stinks! Every time I move something, I have to reposition the strings.   To make things worse, my trusty companion, Coco, has her own ideas about the placement of these strings.   I love her, but I REALLY don’t appreciate her design sensibilities.

Coco tries to help

Coco tries to help

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Does This Butt Look Big??

Too much off the edge

Too much off the edge

While fussing over the second horseman and I find a couple of problems with the composition.  I’m irritated by the horse’s back end hanging off the right side of the composition.  It seems to be too much.

Because I have already finished the background, extending it could be a problem.  Can it be done without creating a distinct line down the panel that is obvious and distracting??

 

 

horse butt after

Extending the water

I’ve got to try.  At this point, I think the key to the expansion project is to break up the vertical line.  As I add to each component of the background, I’ve got to stagger the additions of fabric.  The water is the largest area and most obvious, but I can camouflage that line with ripples.  Here is what I have at the end.  Let’s hope stitching hides the rest.

Try to ignore those black lines on the second photo.  I’ll explain them another day.

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Just the Right Face

Too much shadow.

Too much shadow.

The second figure has come together, but I don’t like the face.  Even though it is turned away from the viewer, it is still important to get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair and face distinguished.

Hair and face distinguished.

First, I don’t like that the head is a solid black shape as it creates too much shadow.  Replacing part of that black shape with brown helps to distinguish the hair from the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reference tools

reference tools

With that done, my attention now turns to the line of the profile. To make it accurate I  refer back to a drawing I did for my book showing the correct placement of features.  I hang it next to my fused image. BONUS: the drawing happens to be almost the same size as face of my rider.  Using a ruler I hang in front of the fused face, I place pins to mark important benchmarks: top and bottom of the head, bridge of the nose, bottom of the nose.

 

 

 

 

From there, I make some nips and tucks and put the best face forward.

Now its right!

Now its right!

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Sharing Student Successes

The reward of being a teacher is to experience the success of one’s students.  In recent weeks, I’ve been sent photos of finished work from several students.  Some of these photos have come from other states and other continents.  The magic of the internet is that it bridges great distances.  Below, please enjoy some of the work that others have done using my lessons on fused appliqué.

Work by Paula Tuaño, Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod (disregard the dates in the corners of the photos.)

Asleep in the Car

Asleep in the Car

Three Bums from South Ferry flophouses,  Battery Park, NYC 1941

Three Bums from South Ferry flophouses,
Battery Park, NYC 1941

Work by Joan Musick, Colorado Springs

Oscar

Oscar

detail of Oscar

detail of Oscar

Work by Marie Glover, Yeelanna, South Australia

title unknown

title unknown

 

Portrait Quilt by Marie Glover,

Portrait Quilt by Marie Glover,

Thanks for sharing, ladies.

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Embracing Limitations

I shake.  Most notably, my hands shake.   Some days are worse than others.  I have a condition called “Essential Tremor”. The diagnosis came back in the 90’s and after trying a couple of medications with side effects that were worse than the condition, I’ve resigned myself to live with it.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

The condition has been both a curse and a blessing in my art. The tremor makes it difficult for me to take good photos.  I have a new camera that has an anti-shake feature, but some days, it’s just not enough.  I like to work from my own photos so that I don’t have to worry about copyright issues, but am finding that increasingly difficult.  This is a contributing factor to my working from historical photos.

stitching oops!

stitching oops!

Another reality is that I have difficulty sewing a straight line when stitching with my longarm machine.  If you ever see my work on a traditional quilt design, you would not be impressed.  The up side is that it led me to thread painting.  My style of free-motion stitching doesn’t rely on the same kind of precision.  When it is necessary to be precise with details, I must slow down.  Sometimes, I make one stitch at a time: needle up, needle down, needle up, needle down. Sometimes, I despair, wondering what will happen to my art if and when the conditions becomes worse.

I just found an inspiring TED talk by an artist with a similar condition.  It applies to anyone on a creative journey and I want to share it with you. Phil Hansen TED talk

 

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Judging a Book by its Cover

Panning CoverAfter working on my new book all summer: sewing samples, photographing the stages, and explaining it all with text, it came time to design the cover.  I thought that using a photo of my work, “Panning for Gold” would be great since it has won a couple of awards this year.  That’s when I discovered the benefits of having a great editor and designer looking out for me.

It was pointed out to me that the cover I proposed was drab in color and portrayed an old, poor man, working hard in an icy mountain stream–No joy there!!  I was also forced to consider how the cover would look on a website where it would appear only a few inches high.  Details are lost, and colors blend together.  A cover has to work at full size and in miniature.

Another consideration is how the book will be displayed in a shop.  Often books are stacked on shelves that allow only the top 2 inches of the book to be seen.  This means that those top 2 inches are prime real-estate.

Finally, I didn’t want to add a subtitle.  Sometimes those seem to go on forever.  I like short and sweet.  Again, my team showed the value of using this opportunity to further define my book topic for those who are not familiar with my work.

I can’t say enough good things about Janice Brewster, editor, and Karen Sulmonetti, designer.  They are The Creative Girlfriends.  If you are thinking about writing a book, click on their link and get started.

With all of this in mind, it was back to the drawing board, and sewing machine, for a new and improved cover.  Here is what we came up with:

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Making Faces With My Friends

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been

writing. In fact, my fingers are nearly worn down to the first knuckle due to non-

Debbie Fishell worked from a baby picture of her husband.

Debbie Fishell worked from a baby picture of her husband.

stop typing these months of June and July. Among the various writing projects, the most exciting is that I’m working on a book titled The Thread Painted Portrait. It presents my techniques for creating a fused fabric foundation covered with threadwork. Now that the manuscript is being edited, I have a chance to stop and reflect on the publishing process and share some of it with you. This is just an introduction to be followed by several installments about the trials and celebrations I experience in writing this book. Check in and follow my progress, and look for the book hot of the press by the end of October.

First, Why write a book? I’ve beenteaching my portrait quilt workshop for several years now where I teach the fused foundation technique. It’s a real kick to see faces emerge from the fabric, and

Judy Armstrong added a pop of color.

Judy Armstrong added a pop of color.

an even bigger kick watching others get excited when they produce a portrait. Take a look at some of the portrait quilts that students have done.  Everyone adds their own special design element to their piece.

If you’ve seen my work, you know that this is only the beginning for me. After creating the fused fabric face, I spend hours covering it up with miles of thread. Invariably, in a workshop someone will ask me to teach them to thread paint the face. Being able to do something well requires a certain level of understanding and skill development. However, the ability to teach that technique to othersrequires an even greater level of skill and understanding.

Judy Liebo combined two very special images.

Judy Liebo combined two very special images.

It is only recently that I felt that I understood my process well enough to adequately share it with others.

Laurie Carson with her best friend.

Laurie Carson with her best friend.

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