Nearly Abandoned


This one has been keeping me up nights.  The deadline for our annual Scraps exhibit in the Newtown Library is fast approaching.  The challenge for this year is to create a fiber work in the portrait format from a photograph.  My first choice was a wonderful image of an Italian chandelier.  After some hard thinking, I decided that it was probably just too difficult, technically, to do what I had in mind–at least with my current skill set. (If you have ever tried appliquéing perfect circles, and in silk, no less, you know just why I opted for an “easier” subject.) Hah! The joke has been on me.  Also, in the running was my cabbage photo…mostly leaves…lots of room for “organic” deviations…at least, that was my thinking…

What I liked about this photo was the crisp look of the leaves, with the surprise of the hot pink center, all against that wonderful turquoise pot.  Well, after two days of struggling with my fabric and my “vision”, I hadn’t gotten very far.So…then what?  It is wonderful what a night of tossing and turning can do.  I truly had decided to abandon all.  Even when I sat down to “work”, I was quitting.  Raw-edged appliqué, fusing, gluing, machine quilting…too challenging when the deadline to offer up an excellent piece of work is bearing down…

I can’t exactly say what happened…I just picked up a piece of fabric and decided to play.  And two days later, so far, so good…

All in a Day’s Work

Finally, maybe? a post?  Crossing my fingers that all will go…and that will also be another great “day’s work”!

One day last week I treated myself to a day (or two) to try ice-dyeing.  I had read about it in a recent issue of Quilting Arts in an article by Carol Ludington.  Those beautiful, colorful fractured patterns…I just had to have some.  Rationalizing that I needed some cabbage leaf-looking fabrics for an upcoming challenge for Scraps (my fiber art group), I put my spin on the process and gave it a try.  What fun!

I collect fabrics from all over and always have a pile of vintage linens (usually with some damage), intriguing silk end bolts from the flea market, and even some “real” pieces actually purchased in a store…I grabbed my pile and pretty much ran with it.  Started out with a few pieces in a large cylindrical vase, but by the time I was in my last dye session, I had 8 buckets, bins, and bags going.  If I didn’t like a fabric once it was pulled from the dye lot (waiting that 24 hours was challenging),  I just put it in the next round to try again.  They just kept getting better and better, especially the silk/cottons.

When I knew it was time to stop, I still had half a bag of ice left…what to do…just couldn’t let it melt without its “day in the sun” so to speak.  Looking up from my bucket, I spied a linen shirt, recently found at the Goodwill.  I grabbed it and another likely candidate, swished them in the leftover soda ash solution, wrung them out, twisted, folded, and smashed them both in the only thing not already full of fabric, ice and dye–the glass vase!  I layered them, each with their own ice and dye.  Pulling them out the next day was like Christmas!

The Value of Good Intentions

I am thinking that my “Flea Bitten” posts might seem a bit odd.  The photo never has much to do with my work; and I never have much to say about the object in it.  So here is the back story.  I bought myself a camera about a year ago.  It was a giant leap from my old and well-loved SLR.  I didn’t choose simple.  And, as expected, the technology has been overwhelming, but I am tired of dancing around it.  That said, I am still very much at the bottom of the learning curve…

So as a bit of incentive to “just get on with it” and learn how to use the thing (practice making perfect and all of that), I decided to try to take an “artful” photo on a regular basis.  Hence, Flea Bitten, in which some old thing that caught my eye and ended up in my bag at the flea market or wherever else, gets a moment to shine (?) on my page.  I am working on it, anyway…

Flea Bitten

Large and wonderful old clock gears.  All brass, nicely aged.  Saw them and thought “Christmas”.  Found at the Elephant’s Trunk, New Milford, Connecticut.

Inch by Inch

So, the saying goes, “Yard by yard, life is hard; inch by inch, life’s a cinch”.  My mom sent me this quirky observation, all neatly framed in a 4″x4″ frame, when I was just married, moved away from home–all the way across the country, and struggling to find a handhold on my new life.  It got hung on a wall in every new place I lived for years.  It is a saying that all the women in my family are familiar with, and probably those a few generations back, as well.

My life lately has not been hard at all.  I have been treated to frequent and unexpected opportunities to spend time with my kids–who both now live on that opposite coast!  Getting any meaningful work done in the studio, though, has been a challenge.   And that has been the joy of my crocheted scarf a la Sophie Digard.  I knew when I started it, that it would be a long term project.  As I wrote a while ago,  I decided from the outset that if I did just an inch a day that that would be progress and “good enough”.  And just look how all of those inches have added up!  Maybe I should use this approach more often.  Work seems to move along.  And, I am focused on what I did and not on what I haven’t done.  Maybe the tortoise was the winner in more ways than one.

I think the rows of motifs are done.  Three wide seemed OK, but four rows is luxurious: all those colors in a generous swath fold in on themselves.  Each time I try it on, the scarf looks different (but always, very colorful!)  The length seems just about right: it flips loosely around my neck and still has a bit to hang down on each end  to keep it in place.  I have a mini stockpile of the Irish roses in random colors that I am using to connect the rows together. The next step is to crochet them into place: one by one, inch by inch.  Stay tuned.

Legacies: Is one person’s treasure, another’s trash?

I have been giving some thought lately to the value others place on the things left behind.  I am an “enthusiastic” collector of vintage things–beautiful fabrics, hand-embroidered linens, travel souvenirs (especially cloth dolls), old beads and trims…the list can go on and on.  I love things that show the hand of the maker; and things which have obviously been loved and treasured.  In the past,  I have bought (rescued) something just because it needed a “caretaker”; I don’t do that so much any more.  One can take care of only so many things…and some, maybe even me, are certain that I have surpassed all expectations as far as that activity goes.  These days, I buy only what I love.  But, when left behind, will my treasure really be a legacy, or just a pile of stuff to be dealt with?  I guess I have decided to not worry about that.  There is no point in getting rid of something that I would just buy again.  But, it has started me thinking about other “stuff”.

I recently had to empty the closet that holds all of my fabric stash for some house repairs.  (Lots of other things live in that closet too: old beaded trims, feathers, ribbons…several pieces of needlepoint waiting for a chair, the marionette my father helped me carve, my trains(!)…many, many treasures…)  And as I put most of it back (and set aside a pile to donate), I came across my quilt tops–NINE !!! of them.  (I guess I like to piece far better than I like to quilt.)  And though I know my kids don’t love all my “stuff”, I figure they will have a hard time giving away my work.  And there is the problem.  I just don’t think 9 unfinished quilts are a great legacy.  And so, I have resolved to make this the year of the quilt…I am going to try to quilt a bit every day.  Maybe I will be able to at least stay even–I’ve got a few ideas for some fabric that I found in my stash!  Maybe I will manage to finish a few.