Band sampler: Chain stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Handmade,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Friday, July 24th, 2009

Band Sampler: Chain Stitch

I picked up my band sampler again last week, and scanned the list of embroidery stitches I intend to learn and/or practice. Not to be all emo-14-year-old, but the chain stitch jumped out at me as a nice way to reflect the experience of the past month.

Band sampler: Chain stitch (closeup)

I free-handed the text and stitched it on the subway to and from work for a few days using Sharon B‘s hand-dyed mulberry silk. The variagation is so vivid! I really enjoyed the process.

Band sampler: Chain stitch close-up

I was surprised at how well the chain stitch handled curves, but a little disappointed in starts-and-stops. Still, I got good practice with it.

If you’re interested in giving chain stitch a try, here are some good tutorials:

Making meaning: Hexagons and siblings

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Hex rough draft

There’s a saying in family therapy that each member of a family lives in a different family than every other member of the family. That is to say that each person’s perspective, their relationships to the other family members, and their unique experiences gives every family member their own story.

What does that have to do with my mini hexagon quilt project?

Hex stack

See, it’s not only my goal to make more things, but also to make more meaning with my creative endeavors. As an art therapist, it was natural for me to wonder if there was any meaning underpinning my hexagon phase. Maybe that sounds like a strange thing to say — hundreds and thousands of you are out there with your own hexagon quilts and that thought probably never crossed your  mind.

But the way the project seized me in the spring, the way I dove in headfirst and pushed the project into all of my spare moments, and the times and places when making hexagons became most important to me all added up to this: maybe there’s something there.

Hexagon pieces

I’m the 2nd of 7 children. My parents are still married and my siblings all get along fairly well. No one is disowned or giving the silent treatment to anyone else. All in all, compared with other families I know, I can say we are doing pretty well. Still, you can’t grow up in a family of 9 without it affecting you profoundly and there are certain, recent family circumstances — intense shifting of roles, jockeying for position, new alliances where there was once tension — that may have made this hexagon project take on an extra meaning for me.

 Hexagons clustered

You may remember that the hexagons hit me full force during a time when we were dealing with the state of my parents’ house (including my mother’s fabric hoarding), when armies of my siblings were descending for “clean-out days” and some of the fallout was reaching all the way to my apartment, two states away. The hexagons came to me during my brother’s engagement and were in full force when I went to his wedding.

And then it hit me. Here we have a hexagon — a 6-sided shape. Each hexagon connects to 6 other hexagons. Each has 6 sides, 6 corners, and a center. No single group of rleationships has been so important in my life as the relationships I have to my 6 siblings. Hmm…

Since having this realization a couple of months ago, I have come to believe that the slow, soothing process of stitching hexagons is my way of processing adult relationships with my siblings. It is the way that I have kept some of my anxieties (about the changing face of our family) at bay. It brings me back to my childhood, when my world revolved around these 6 strangers.

Hex stack

I believe that hexagon fever held meaning about my siblings long before I realized it. But, if you’re a skeptic, you might wonder about a chicken-and-the-egg effect. Do the hexagons hold meaning on their own? Or have I simply foisted meaning onto them by thinking about my siblings? Either way, the articulation of that potential meaning has psychologically connected this project to my sibling relationships, and I now think of them more frequently, more specifically, and more fondly each time I stitch a seam. When I connect two pieces together, I think about the connections I have with these 6 wonderful, crazy, frustrating people. I think about how we have evolved as adults, how our relationships get closer for a while, or weaker for a season, but how we always come back to center.

As my project starts to come together, these thoughts and feelings intensify. Sometimes it takes a little hunting, but I love to discover this kidn of meaning in my work. Knowing that these meanings come through in my own personal work makes my professional work as an art therapist even more powerful. I truly believe in what I do, and that’s such a privilege and a blessing in my life.

The view from here

Mal | Handmade,Here and Now,Prosaic,Works in Progress | Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Markers

Pictures from around the studio — lots of works in progress right now.

Blue and green

A little something to look forward to.

Beads

Another little something to look forward to.

matisse

A month ago, Victoria of Bumblebeans issued a challenge to make a quilt based on this Matisse painting called Interior in Aubergines. She encouraged us to “turn off your brain” and work quickly, intuitively. I wasn’t able to participate in the challenge at the time due to great disarray in my workspace, but the idea stuck with me.

Last week I was given a stack of home decorating magazines and, well, add in a little late-afternoon migraine medicine and the rest is history.

Matisse collage

It’s many weeks late, and it’s a collage (not a quilt), but hey. The other submissions are really neat to look at (scroll down). I’m so glad Victoria got this idea.

What about you? What are you working on today?

Seams behind the scenes

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Hexagons sorted

I had been randomly stitching hexagons with whatever scrap fabric I could find. The result was a large collection of tiny, penny-sized hexes but no intended design.

Hexagon planning

I got to feeling a little bit lost in the project, so I printed off a hexagon page (from the graph-paper generator) and got to work with some colored pencils. Now I have some order and a direction. Now, with some structure, I am able to begin the long process of joining the pieces together and creating something cohesive.

200905058622

I’m using the ladder stitch to join the into little flowers. It’s awesome because you can barely see the line of stitches. They are all hidden away — tucked into the folds and creases of fabric. They hold things together, but you don’t think much about them. This is a very interesting concept, psychologically.

Sometimes you want your stitches to show. Jude of Spirit Cloth writes about intentionally showing stitches on her What If blog.

For some reason, on this project, I want to hide them away. I think it has something to do with my process on this blog, actually — the way I reveal some things, but not all things, about myself and my work. Even still, burying the process a little bit from time to time is valid as an artistic and therapeutic choice.

What about you? Are you in the mood to show your process, or hide it? Visible or invisible seams?

Mini Hexagon FAQ

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Works in Progress | Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

200903268121

Nothing on my list of projects seems to interest people more than the miniature hexagons. Lots of questions have resulted from my posts about this strange, antiquated process. Between blog comments, scuttle over on flickr, and personal emails, there are a lot of good questions going around.

Today I’ll answer some of those questions and hope to help those of you who may be considering this undertaking. Don’t forget, I posted a bunch of tutorials on a previous entry and they are a good place to start.

200903268122

Several people, including Ralph RSC, have asked:

whats the scale? real size of the cells?

As you can see above, the hexes are just a hair larger in diameter than a US penny coin. I used this awesome graph-paper-generating website to create my paper hexes.

Scroll down a bit to find the hexagon graph. I set mine for .5″ hexes and a .5″ border. If you can’t get the generator to work, I’ve uploaded the resultant page so that you can download it yourself:  Half-inch Hexagon PDF

Also, please note that I am not in a contest to create the smallest mini-hexagons known to man. I just picked a size that “felt right” to me and will look nice in its completed project (someday!). That said, if you want to see some other really mini hexagons, check out Christine’s work here and here (website plays music). Fiesta’s seem to be about the same size as mine. Mini-Mum is into it, too. (Click here to see the tiniest hexagons yet!) And who could forget duniris’s unbelievably amazing hexagon pincushion?

I’m sorry. I think the mini-hexes thing is an illness. Unfortunately, it is contagious!

Leslie commented that:

 Hey! I have just about all of those same prints. That’s *way* cool.

Well, shoot! That is cool, and a little creepy, since most of these fabrics were gifted to me as scrap-bags and cast-offs from 3 different friends and family members. I’ve been combing through those bags for the smallest pieces. I’ve finally found the scrap size that I can throw away — anything too small to be a penny hex.

Melissa asked:

The one thing I’m confused about: do you pull out the papers before you stitch the hexes together or after you’ve basted the hexes? What I mean is, do you need enough paper pieces for an entire project at once or can you just reuse the same 10 or so over and over again for the same project?

You can absolutely re-use the paper hexagons and many quilters do. I haven’t, yet, because I am still unclear about the layout of my hexies and you remove the papers once you start stitching them together. 

Hexagons: Removing Papers

The trick is to only remove the papers from the hexagons that are attached on all sides. That is, as long as you don’t intend to sew the hex to any other hex, or all 6 of the sides are stitched to others, you can remove both the paper template and the temporary basting. (I’ve seen that some people don’t remove the basting, either. I probably will.)

Lots of people use heavier weight papers — cereal boxes, cardstock, even plastic templates — to form their shapes. In fact, one of my favorite hexagon stories to date comes from Sue of mousenotebook. She writes about her Great Work, which included:

Hundreds of hexagons carefully cut from birthday cards, magazines, old drawing paper, the scripts of my ex-husband’s novel and my Mum’s book of prayers. . . The last fifteen years of my life are bound up in the making of that quilt, and the history of my family is in the fabric.

I used regular copy paper for my hexes. It’s worked fine, but if I were to do it over again, I would use a heavier paper — even just a finer quality of copy paper. I think it’d keep the hexes more uniform and less likely to warp (as my upper-right hex did in the first photo above — need to go fix that one).

Happy to answer any more questions, if you think of them! In the near future, I’ll post photos of my process, including step-by-step on my basting process, and images from other crafters at various stages of their projects.

Creating on the go

Mal | Handmade,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Monday, March 30th, 2009

200903268119

I mentioned the other day that I was doing a lot of my hexagon basting while sitting on the subway. With the creative use of some plastic containers, I can cart along everything I need to complete nearly 20 hexes a day, and my commute is only 13 minutes each way. I’ll be honest with you. In the past few weeks I have stitched hexagons while standing in line to have my blood drawn, while waiting for a friend at a restaurant, and while sitting in my car outside a movie theater.

Since I received some questions about taking this little show on the road, I wanted to show you my setup.

200903268116

The largest container is a 4-cup Rubbermaid with a red lid. It holds everything together, including pre-cut cloth hexagons. Then, a small pair of scissors, a spool of thread, and a scrap of fabric for keeping needles are obvious additions. The yellow container is from a set whose lids snap onto the bottom when open. That’s handy so that I don’t have lids flying everywhere. I use the yellow container to hold completed/basted hexagons when they’re done.

200903268113

The little red container is my favorite. It’s one of many tiny containers I collected when I was really into creative lunch packing (bento style). It’s super tiny and snaps shut, which makes it perfect for holding my pre-cut hexagon papers. (They are about the size of a USD penny.)

Portable hexagons

Of course, I’m not the only one who crafts or sews on the go. English Paper Pieced hexagon quilts are particularly portable, as you can see from the photo above. But, many others are taking their art with them, too! Recently, MrXstitch has been posting about his experience doing cross stitch on the subway.

Because I am so interested in people’s creative process, I love to see workspaces and projects in progress. We all know that knitting and crocheting are portable — all you need is a ball of yarn and a couple of metal hooks or needles — but, what else are people carting around?

Creating on the go

These are not just photos of manufactured kits or carriers. Lord knows plenty of companies are out there selling systems and caddies and all sorts of other accoutrements to sort and transport your project. Truly, we love our pouches and zippers and we’ll pay good money for them on a whim. But I only included photos in this mosaic that had evidence of actual crafting, and whose portable carriers and containers included space to carry an actual project along.

What about you? Do you take your projects with you on the road? How?

Laying out the hexagons

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Universal,Works in Progress | Thursday, March 26th, 2009

200903258106

Now that the french knots are temporarily put to rest, I am back to the hexagons. Last night, I pulled out the box of basted hexes and laid them out randomly, testing out color combinations and feeling very satisfied with the results.

200903258105

This project definitely does chew up a lot of time. But, I find the stitching so meditative and a little bit sweet, so I don’ tmind it at all. Because the hexes are so small, it’s a breeze to do this work during my subway commute. I’ve got my supplies packed in a small plastic container and as long as I’ve got a seat, I can stitch about 10 hexes before I get to work and another 10 on the way home.

200903258107

Stitching with Mom

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Binding a quilt

My parents were visiting for the weekend, which means that I didn’t get any of my chores done (laundry? food? shopping, anyone?) but I did get to spend three days stitching, designing, and laughing.

My mom is a very talented seamstress who spent the last 30 years raising her 7 children. In the past few years, as the last of us have finally moved into adulthood, she has made more free time for sewing, and gravitated toward quilting specifically. Every Tuesday night, she and two of her neighbor friends move into a large sewing room that one of them owns. It has a design wall, a television set, a mini refrigerator — you get the idea. Basically, it’s a needle-and-thread bomb shelter from the rest of the world. Mom calls Tuesday her “sanity day” and on particularly tough non-Tuesdays, she’ll sneak over there by herself to work. It’s kind of inspiring how she uses her chosen medium to regulate emotions and frustrations, connect with others, and find an inner center.

My mom also buys lots of books, takes lots of classes, and meets lots of other quilters. I, for my part, am a child of the Digital Age and because my mom lives far, the nearest thing I have had to a quilting tutor is the internet with its crackling circuits and bytes. It’s not exactly the most nurturing of teachers, but in this day and age it will have to do.

Binding stitch

Mom wanted to see what I’ve been working on, so I showed her some of my recent successes — the doll quilt on the wall (I’m sorry! I just think it’s cute!), the Obama cross stitch (with some trepidation, as our politics are quite different), and the next installation of my band sampler (stay tuned for photos).

What I most wanted to do, though, was share my recent frustrations and failures. I knew she would have fixes and solutions for me. I, as a visual learner, would benefit from her wisdom as she sat next to me, demonstrated with her able fingers, and brought clarity to my confusion. A few times, I asked her questions whose answers I already knew. I enjoyed making her feel wise and important and smart. I wanted to soak in the look on her face and savor the moment.

As we sat there together, chattering away, needles in our hands, I felt something deep and primal and wonderful at work. We were taking our part in the cycle of textile arts — one generation learning from another. For various reasons, I have more memories of that experience with my grandmothers than with my mother, so it was nice to close the gap a little bit. Plus, she taught me the neatest binding stitch I’ve ever seen. Armed with this little finishing gem, I think I am going to quilt like crazy, now.

What about you? Who is your best teacher? Do you teach yourself? Have you had a generational moment like this?

Think less. Do more.

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

200903128081 

A recent idea for a project was going to require some problem-solving.

Things in my life this week feel extraordinarily complicated. Craziness is firing on all cylinders, and much of my free time has been drowned away in worry and doubt.

Resolving the project was going to push me beyond my current skill set. It was going to lead me out of my comfort zone and force me to take a hard look at my mistakes.

Originally, I tried to solve the problem the way I always do — by thinking, plotting, and obsessing over it.

Obsessing over problem

Obsessing, though it is my preferred mode, is not always the best way to solve problems. Even cognitive ones.

Sometimes, taking a breath and getting to work is the only thing to do.

I needed this reminder — to stand still and tackle one hurdle at a time. To slow down and peacefully experiment. To stop rushing and obsessing and pushing. To take action, but calmly. To give myself permission to fail, but insist on trying anyway.

Think less. Do more.

Perfectionists and imperfectionists

Mal | Stitching,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Hope in progress

For reasons which will be incomprehensible to many people who read this entry (but are nonetheless real), I have been broken up with my ex-boyfriend since June of last year.

I mention this in part because of how grateful I am that we have remained friends; we see each other often, and have a deep caring and concern for one another. When I ended up hospitalized after my “same-day surgery” debacle and needed someone to not only take emergency custody of my dogs but also to speed over and hold my hand, he was the first person I called. When I’m having a bad day, have a ridiculous idea, or need someone to geek out with, I reach out to this wonderful person and he is there. I love him.

When he saw me working on my cross-stitch Obama a few weeks ago, he got so excited that he wanted to make one, too. I was happy to oblige by teaching him how, but he had some special requests.

First, he wanted the final product to be big. I mean, he wanted it to be big. He also wanted even fields of color, with no white spots peeking through. I explained to him that the pattern was created for a small end product and that the nature of cross stitch was for some of the fabric to show through the stitching. Still, we employed some tricks in the service of his vision:

  • We bought 11-count Aida cloth.
  • He is stitching over two squares for each X, which makes it essentially 5.5-count Aida cloth.
  • He is using two full threads of DMC floss in every needle, for a total of 12 strands in every stitch.

The end result will be a piece of about 8″ by 13″, with a deep pile and a rich texture. Dear Manbroidery, I think you may have a new brother. (MrXStitch, you certainly have a new fan.)

You have to imagine this punk-rock, bespectacled, Converse-wearing Mexicano stitching up his Obama with rapt attention. It is pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Since this is his first experience with handcrafting of any kind, he has understandably encountered some frustrations. But, for the most part he is enjoying the process and I think will be very pleased with the outcome. When we sit together, stitching, he calls me “Mother” and insists that I call him “Father.”

It’s always interesting to teach and observe someone else in a skill that you have employed for a long time. He is so careful in his stitching — he wants the back of his stitchery to look immaculate. He is very interested in the idea of embroidery contests and judging (such as when my brother-in-law and nephew enter their cross-stitched pieces in the county fair) and wants to be sure he is doing everything right. I try to explain that “there is no right” (and especially not on a first-time project!), but he’ll tear out rows of stitches if he feels that one is a little too loose or too tight.

For my part, I am much more interested in the process than the product. If you look closely at my Obama, you’ll see gross errors in counting, alternating, and snipping. I try to make the back of the piece tidy, but sometimes I run out of steam for starting-stopping and will skip around a bit. Still, the overall effect is pretty good and it suits my purposes well enough.

But no — oh no — no such flojera will be brooked with that guy. He is precise and careful and determined. The back of his piece is so beautiful it would make both of my grandmothers proud. Incidentally (and, this will probably not come as a surprise to you), describing these differences in our stitching style encapsulates some of the main differences between us as people.

What about you? Are you more likely to obsess over the process or the product? Are you a perfectionist or an imperfectionist? Do share.

Pushing toward hexagons

Mal | Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Tutorials,Works in Progress | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Pink hexagons

Yup. I’ve started on a hexagon project of my own.

When I posted inspirational mages of hexagon quilts last week, Christine asked:

Hi, I’m planning to do a part-hexagon quilt soon. I was hoping to be able to do it by machine, but if it needs to be by hand, so be it. In your searching, did you come across any instructions/tips and tricks for hexagon quilts?

I’ve had a few other emails about it, so I thought I’d post some of the great tutorials I’ve found to get me going.

While I’m at it, here is one more mosaic of inspirational hexagon projects I’ve found since my original posting. Click through for more info on the artists.

More hexagon inspiration

Dismantling the Wreath

Mal | Art Therapy,Media,Works in Progress | Monday, March 9th, 2009

Yo-yo Wreath close-up

I blogged a little bit before about what stitching has meant to me, emotionally, over the past few months. In November, I had a simple surgery which was complicated by surgeon’s error and has led to a long and drawn out recovery.

Yo yo wreath

This wreath made of yo-yo’s was the first of the stitching projects I started after I returned home from the hospital and has hung on my front door long past its season.

Yo-yo Wreath

The other night, I took it down and started disassembling it, making way for a new wreath project to take its place. I was pleased by the meticulous, careful detail of these handsewn circles, and the foresight I had to assemble the wreath entirely with straight pins. I guess I made it with the intention of disassembling it at some point, because it has all come apart with its pieces intact, and could be re-assembled at any point.

Yo-yo Wreath: blurry!

In some ways, I think that the trauma and anxiety of the surgery aftermath is a big part of what has been holding me back recently. Something about disassembling this project has been therapeutic — an un-doing of what has been done. A preparation for moving on to the next thing. Maybe it will help me break up the muddle I’ve been feeling. If nothing else, it will make way for a new season — for spring — with its longer days and new growth.

What about you? What are you doing to get ready for spring? How do you become un-stuck?

Worth the effort

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

…all the short, and cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honour — are just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser — they will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings, colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily. neither is to be done by halves nor shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.

—John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Getting ready to start a band sampler

Made progress last night toward starting a band sampler: edged the 6″ strip of linen (backed with light cotton), sank a center line for anchoring, got a good night’s sleep.

Cartwheel doll quilt

Mal | Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I wanted to try a “rough draft” before I jumped right in to this quilt project. I hoped it would work for a gift — a friend of mine from grad school is pregnant with a girl and I wanted to create something that was both whimsical and traditional, girly but interesting, and baby-like, not granny-like.

Love these colors

First, the problem of colors. Since I primarily see quilts as cloth color studies, and because I didn’t want to resort to pastel pinks, blues, and greens, I was pleased to hit on this combination of rich pinks, reds, and oranges.

Locking together

I was even more pleased to find that by taking my time, I could make these simple blocks “lock together” and even managed to develop that cute “four patch” seam that Eleanor Burns is always crooning about on the backsides of her blocks. See it in the middle of the block, there? Of course, I had to manually trim all the blocks, because I tend to eyeball things and not work with templates.

Layout 1: Straight on

My original intention was to lay the blocks out straight…

Layout 2: On point

But putting them “on point” definitely added a different kind of liveliness to them…

Blocks in progress

I’m really glad I am doing a rough draft.

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Roy Tanck | Free SEO by Court's Internet Marketing School | Get Tranquility White WP Theme

Technorati Profile SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline