Journal Quilt: Membership

Mal | Art Journal,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, August 31st, 2009

Journal Quilt: Membership

 A new journal quilt, titled “Membership.”  It’s sized around 12″x12″ and was one of the many that I sketched/designed before going on hiatus for my licensure exam.

My next exam is scheduled for this Friday. Oy.

Journal Quilt: Membership (back and tag)

I’m experimenting with new ways to attach the title to the quilt. This is permanent marker on a strip of ribbon, hand-stitched into the binding. The flip side shows the date, ”August, 2009.”

I’ve been using “throw-away” fabric for the backs of these journal quilts — the less it matches the quilt itself, the better. I’m a little bit thrilled to realize that I subconsciously chose a fabric for this cheeky quilt that matches the favorite pajama pants of my ex-boyfriend. I’m just sayin’. You do the math. Membership.

Journal Quilt: Membership (closeup)

Journal Quilt: Ice Cream for Dinner

Mal | Art Journal,Finished Projects,Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, July 27th, 2009

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One of the personal issues I have dealt with over the years is a form of disordered eating. These struggles become pronounced whenever I have extended or intensified contact with my family, as I’ve had recently.

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I’m happy to say that although I’ve mostly been able to get my binge-eating under control, I still slip into patterns of unhealthy eating choices when faced with stress. I eat out, neglect proper nutrition, and generally choose convenience and comfort over actual self-care.

Journal Quilt Inspiration

My recent indulgence has been a treat from Cold Stone Creamery. Unfortunately, the “Ice Cream Dinner” became all too common in these past few weeks, as I compulsively ordered and ate “Founder’s Favorite with chocolate base, please add marshmallows and could I get that in a sprinkle bowl?”

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When I needed to turn this ship around, I started to journal about it. I journal about everything that is on my mind, and this was definitely something that I needed to explore.

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And, in fact, one evening this week, rather than engage in the behavior, I decided to make a journal quilt about it instead. This is also my submission for this week’s Mini Quilt Monday.

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I used Dale Fleming’s pieced circle technique for the first time, and found that it worked perfectly for this purpose.

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I even pieced the fabric of the “waffle” to represent the waviness of that crunchy bowl of artery-clogging death.

Journal Quilt: Ice Cream for Dinner

At least making this quilt kept me from actually having an Ice Cream Dinner for a few nights. Maybe I can finally put this bad habit to bed.

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I still haven’t attached the beads to represent the sprinkles. What do you think? Beads? No beads?

 

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:

Tutorial: Folding Fabric

Mal | Home,Media,Organizing,Sewing | Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Fabric progress

Several people have asked about the techniques we used when cleaning out my mom’s fabric stash last week. There are of course many ways to purge, sort, and organize fabric, which I’ll write about later. But first, I wanted to address questions about the folding station and the folding method we used.

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

It’s the same method I’ve been using as I’ve been sorting and organizing fabric in my own apartment. Here you see an in-progress picture of my new studio corner with stacks of uniformly-folded fabric. This is a method I first read about from Monica, the Happy Zombie and later from Marilyn Bohn’s video.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Of course there are other ways, but this is the cheap, easy, quick one that works for me. The goal is to end up with a stack of fabric that is uniformly folded — the same length and width.

Tutorial: fabric folding

The height of each folded piece varies according to how much yardage you have to begin with.

(Read on for more…)

Tutorial: Cartwheel Quilting Motif

backofquilt

I got lots of questions about the quilting detail on the 100th Post Giveaway mini quilt. Some thought it was a simple square motif. However, you can see from the illustration above that it is a bit more complex than that. The shape is almost like a 4-leafed clover, with intersection-points in the center of each cartwheel. You can start at any point on the motif and quilt in a continuous line until you reach that point again.

Here’s the view from the front.

cartwheelfronton

The mini-quilt was machine quilted, but I think this motif would work equally well with hand-quilting.

Stay tuned! The winner of this mini-quilt will be announced tomorrow.

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.

Phat Quarter Swap: Anatomy

Mal | Embellishment,Finished Projects,Handmade,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Anatomy of a stitcher

Here’s my contribution to the Phat Quarter recent swap. The theme was anatomy.

Anatomy closeup 2

I wanted mine to look like an x-ray film, a bit blurry and fuzzy. So I used a single strand of embroidery floss and did a sloppy stem-stitch to give the effect.

At times it was a bit surreal — spooky, even — to look down and see my hand in the same position as the ghost hand, and to ponder the bones and veins beneath the skin. It was a pretty cool process, I have to say.

Anatomy closeup of needle

I even like how the hand looks as though it is sewing down its own binding.

Anatomy tilted

I’m sure my choice of an x-ray image is partially motivated by my work at a hospital. Hope Ben likes it!

Journal Quilt: Showering with the lights off

Journal Quilt: Showering with the lights off

Last week, I wrote about eliminating or reducing input from one of my senses — vision. As part of these experiments, I’ve been taking showers at night with the lights off. Although the idea is to reduce the chatter of visual input, the experience is still visual: the way the moon hangs in the upper corner of the window, the silhouette outline of the neighbor’s tree against the night sky, the invisible (but present) droplets. I love how the moon makes a halo of light around itself. It all adds up to a calming and soothing experience. I think I have finally found my insomnia buster.

Journal quilt: Showering with the lights off

I think I’ve also found a way to bind mini quilts into a book. The Art Journaler and Book Binder in me is so excited! Journal quilts! In an actual journal! Awesome.

Journal Quilt

This is my submission for Malka’s (of A Stitch in Dye) Mini Quilt Monday.

Mini Quilt Back

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.

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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?

What to do: Kill your darlings

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Hex closeup

I finally figured out what was wrong with my mini-hexagon project. Don’t worry. It wasn’t anything major — only the whole entire concept from top to bottom.

Fortunately I was able to switch it up pretty easily and get back on track. I also gained some good insight into some of the reasons why those hexagons have been compelling me so fiercely for the past few months. I’ll let you know more about that later.

Hex red flower

For now, here are a few thoughts on what to do when a project goes awry.

First, from Annie Dillard‘s book The Writing Life. This wonderful book is, you guessed it, a book about the writing process. However, there is plenty about general creativity to be gained here. Please don’t feel too badly about extrapolating from writing instructions for your knitting, pot-throwing, jewelry-making, or other pursuits. A quick jaunt over to Annie’s website reveals that she herself has been painting in recent years. Go, Annie, go.

The line of words is a hammer. You hammer against the walls of your house. You tap the walls, lightly, everywhere. After giving many years’ attention to these things, you know what to listen for. Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference. Unfortunately, it is often a bearing wall that has to go. It cannot be helped. There is only one solution, which appalls you, but there it is. Knock it out. Duck.

You must demolish the work and start over. You can save some of the sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. (Are you a woman, or a mouse?)

The part you must jettison is not only the best-written part; it is also, oddly, that part which was to have been the very point. It is the original key passage, the passage on which the rest was to hang, and from which you yourself drew the courage to begin.

Hex turquoise

There is a well-known quote of unknown origin. It is often attributed to Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or William Faulkner. (Does anyone have compelling proof of authorship?)

Kill your darlings.

No, don’t slip cyanide into your children’s chocolate milk. Instead, be willing to part with (slice off, scrub out, or frog) your very favorite part of a piece of art. If you’ve been laboring on any one aspect for too long, it runs the risk of becoming precious, overdone, and (for lack of a better term) priced out of its own market. It could be the very thing that is weighing you down.

Hex greenAnd this, from Samuel Johnson:

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Hex yellow

Here are a few more essays about the idea of killing your darlings, and an interesting sampling of creative media which appear to benefit from the advice.

What about you? Have you? Would you? Could you? Should you?

Getting back to it

Mal | Art Journal,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, April 27th, 2009

Hexagon colorway

Enough with the bellyaching already. Just because I can’t set up my sewing machine in the kitchen, or an easel for painting or anything else, doesn’t mean that I can’t get back to the business of creating. Thanks to some good advice from you guys and my own private butt-kicking, I’m back to it.

For instance, I had spent all that time describing how I can take my hexagon project on the road. There’s no excuse for not working on those just because my apartment is upheaved. Here are some cell-phone-cam shots of me working on hexagons in various places last week:

Hexagons at the laundromat

At the laundromat.

Hexagons on the subway

On the subway.

Hexagons at my desk

In my office. (Shhh… It was lunch hour, mostly.)

I also pulled out my art journal on the subway the other day and was a bit surprised to find that the rectangles I sketched out for drawing quilt ideas turned themselves — suddenly and quite unexpectedly — into a comic strip. Woah, dude. Guess I needed some blatant insight into some of my recent decisions. You can stare at a page all you want and wonder about subtle meanings and nuances until there is a drawing of yourself talking back to you. Yeah. Not so subtle.

Comic strip in journal

What about you? How do you kick-start yourself after a low point in creativity?

Tutorial: Invisible Ladder Stitch for Quilt Binding

Mal | Media,Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Tutorials | Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Update: Apparently this stitch is called the Ladder Stitch. Personally, I prefer my title for it: Invisible Mamma-Jamma Stitch. While ladder stitch is common to embroidery, applique, and closing up stuffed plush dolls, apparently very few people have applied it to quilt binding. Let me know if you try it!

I mentioned before that my mom had taught me a stitch for quilt binding that was so simple and obvious yet so wonderful that I wanted to share it with you.

Quilt binding with whip stitch

The photo above shows the back of my rough draft quilt.

Whip-stitched bindign in action

Following the many tutorials and demonstrations online, I whip-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt.

Whip Stitched Bindings

But, as you can see in my photo and the ones above, whip-stitching can leave a very visible line of tiny stitches. In addition to being sort of unsightly, I worried a bit about the stitches getting caught and, God forbid, ripped.

Creative binding solutions

Some people go to great (and creative!) lengths to machine stitch their binding, as seen above. I imagine that at least some of them are frustrated (as I was) with the result of the whip-stitching and looking for alternatives.

When it came time to bind my friend’s baby quilt, I whip stitched the entire thing and hated it. On the phone with my mom (sewing consultant extraordinaire), she said there was a better way and that if I would be willing to re-do it, she would teach me. It only took me 3 evenings to unpick all that stitching, and 3 weeks for her to arrive in town with thread and scissors in hand.

Mom proceeded to teach me the ladder stitch — a stitch that is easy, fast, and nearly invisible! She uses it for both quilt binding and hand applique. I think it would work for any application requiring joining of two fabrics where at least one of them involves a fold.

The basic idea is to think of the shape of a castle wall.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 1

(I work mine from right to left, because I am right-handed. Lefties may wish to mirror-image the process.)

When you tighten up the thread of the castle wall, the bits that were visible disappear into the fabric like this:

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 2

So that all that’s left visible on the outside of the fabrics is a tiny dot of thread where the needle has passed from one side to the other. In my experience, you have to really hunt if you want to see that thread. Awesome.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 3

After my brother’s wedding, I took some action shots of my mom teaching the stitch. Hopefully you’ll find it useful!

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 1

Start off with the Mamma Jamma knot I already taught you. Then, insert the needle on the back side of the binding to hide the knot. Only go through one layer of the binding, as the goal here is invisibility, man.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 2

When the needle comes out, it should be between the two layers of binding fabric and smack dab in the middle of the crease of the binding’s fold. If you felt like popping the knot through the fabric to bury it, nestling it right into the inside of the binding’s fold, you can do that. My mom didn’t do that, though — you can see the knot poking out on the right if you look at the image below.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 3

Make sure the exit point is directly parallel from where you want to insert your needle into the quilt. Check the diagram above — you shouldn’t have too much diagonal or angled anything while working this stitch. In this case, mom started about a quarter of an inch from the previous stitches, since that’s about how far she spaces this stitch. For my part, I space them a little closer.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 4

Then stitch down straight across from that exit point. Make your stitch just above (on the quilt side, not the edge side) of your line of basting stitches.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 5

Come back into the binding fabric directly across from the previous exit point. You want to stitch right in the fold of the binding, because the thread will ultimately nestle there, perfectly parallel to the fold.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 6

Alternate stitches between the quilt and the binding, always inserting your needle directly across from your previous exit point. Again, refer to the diagram above if you have questions.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 7

When you’ve done a few stitches, gently tighten up the thread. As you do, the stitches will disappear and the whole thing will be held together by thread which is tucked neatly out of sight, buried inside your work. Be careful, though, not to tighten too much — if the quilt stretches more than your stitches, your stitches will break and your binding will come undone.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 8

And voila! The stitches are now only visible if you go looking for them.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 9

Continue along this way until you reach the end of your thread.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 10

To finish off, take a couple of stitches in the quilt, between the basting stitches and the raw edge.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 11

Mom likes to finish hers off by bringing the end of the thread through the loop before tightening the last back stitch to secure it.

And there you have it! If you try this stitch, if something doesn’t make sense and you need more/better explanation, or if you dispute the name of this stitch, please leave it in the comments!

Tutorial: Quilter’s Knot

Mal | Media,Quilting,Sewing,Tutorials | Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

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I’ve been gone for the past week attending my brother’s wedding. (You probably only noticed if you sent me an email and are waiting for a response!)

Because I was with my mom again, I convinced her to let me take photos of a few of the techniques she’s recently taught me. The first I wanted to share is called the “quilter’s knot” and it makes a much tidier knot than the one I’m used to. Normally, I lick my finger, wrap around and around, and twist it off. The resulting bird’s nest of a knot is unpredictable and, well, ugly.

Not so with this tidy quilter’s knot. Enjoy these photos of my mom’s demonstration.

 Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 1

To begin, hold the needle and the end of the thread so that they are pointing toward each other.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 2

Bring them together to form a cross, then

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 3

holding the end of the thread against the needle,

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 4

begin wrapping the thread around the shaft of the needle.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 5

Wrap the thread around the needle 3-6 times.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 6

Grasp the wrapped threads snugly between your thumb and forefinger.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 7

Pull the needle through the coil of wrapped threads with your other hand.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 8

You’re still holding the coil between your thumb and forefinger as you pull.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 9

And pull…

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot 10

And pull, all the way to the end of the thread. When you reach the end, give a good sharp tug to tighten the knot.

Tutorial: Quilter's Knot Final

And, voila! A tidy little knot will be left there in your hand and you can begin hand sewing with ease.

Intermittent Inspiration: Memory Projects

Mal | Art Therapy,Intermittent Inspiration,Media,Sewing | Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Memory quilts 

The nature of textile art lends itself well to the process of grief and bereavement.

You’ve probably heard of the AIDS quilt, where loved ones create quilt blocks in memory of people who have passed away from the disease. When I was in grad school, I was lucky enough to be able to see some of the traveling panels in person. It’s a lovely (and now humongous) project.

Loved ones leave behind many items, but fabrics and textiles are easily repurposed. Sherri Lynn Wood calls them Passage Quilts.

But, cloth homages to our loved ones are not limited only to quilting. Allison Ann Aller of Allie’s in Stitches talks about losing her brother in a tragic accident many years ago. She embroidered her brother’s name subtly onto the beach in a lovely landscape she was making. I love how she described her process (quoted below), and I encourage you to click the link to view the gorgeous images.

This quilt is about many things for me….the place I love best in the natural world, the cottage itself that houses so much of my family’s history, my desire to push the envelope of what my crazy quilting can be…..but it is also about my brother, Freddie. . .

And the waves still lap the shore there, the sun still lights up the water and the woods, and we still find great joy on that porch, where such horrible news was delivered in July of 1958….that’s part of the incredible blessing of a place like Michillinda. It absorbs all the drama of our little lives, it’s unchanging beauty and rhythms give us a sense of perspective, and we have a polestar to refer to when all else is in flux….

So I had to write Freddie’s name in the sand on the beach….

I can’t tell you how wonderful it has felt for me to do this. Now the quilt is saying what it is meant to say in its entirety.

Have you seen, made, or received a memory quilt? Would you consider making one, or do you disagree with the idea of them? Please tell us about it.

Mini Hexagon FAQ

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

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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.

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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.

Stash infusion

Mal | Media,Sewing,Simplicity | Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Stacks of scraps

Now, I love my mom. I love her A LOT. So, I want to be careful not to sound judgmental or ungrateful in what I am about to say. In fact, as a licenseable psychotherapist, what I want to do first is sound clinical.

My mom is an obsessive hoarder and a compulsive shopper. I mean this in the most diagnostic and clinical sense. I’m sure that most of the people reading these words could stand up at the microphone and pound at the pulpit and express some level of embarrassment about the state of their “stash.” There’s a reason that groups and projects exist specifically for stash-busting and stash diets and blog giveaways and all sorts of other modes of stash regulation.

200903308131

As a family, we’ve had to come together and stage an intervention recently. Mom has been slowly filling up their 8-bedroom home with sacks and sacks of creative potential for years — art supplies, unused paints, pristine stacks of scrapbook paper, and the fabric. Mostly fabric. An estimated $12,000 of fabric.

See? It’s gotten a bit out of hand.

Recently, she’s felt a drive to clean out and simplify her life. Seizing on this opportunity, several of my siblings descended on the house a few weekends ago to help her sort through and purge. My understanding is that they only hit the very tip of the stash iceburg. Between me and my two sisters, we split up the wares. Mom brought the first installment of stash stuff last weekend, and I spent this weekend trying to assimilate it into my small apartment.

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But what a chore! This photo is deceptive because it doesn’t account for the quantity of fleece, felt (Oh, goodness — the felt!), patterns, notions, and kits that accompanied it. This photo only shows the quilters cotton. It doesn’t even show any of the fabrics too ugly to give away. But I loaded up my car and dragged all of these “acceptables” (mixed with many “very, very cutes”) to the laundromat on Saturday for a huge, tri-county pre-washing event.

What you see above are the results of $30 of quarters, 6 laundry carts, and 5 hours of work. The stack closest to the camera — which measures over 13″ high — is comprised entirely of fat quarters, 1/2-yard and 1-yard cuts. With rare exception, these fabrics are pristene — uncut and untouched. The basket contains pieces smaller than a fat quarter, which will all need to be ironed and sorted into scrap bins. Behind them are two stacks of large cuts — one of whites and neutrals, the other of colors — which will also need to be ironed.

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I saved myself the pain of ironing the fat quarters, though, by taking time to right them as they came out of the dryer. I painstakingly smoothed them out into a uniform pile. Some of them came out of the dryer so terribly wrinkled and cinched that I thought they would never untwist. I tried to catch them before they were bone dry, and while still a little warm, and with determined smoothing, tugging, and shaping, they came out nearly as good as new!

Below you see the stack of smoothed-out pieces:

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…and compare them with a few of the sad, wrinkled fat quarters that didn’t make it to the smoothing stack:

Wrinkly fat quarters

I am amazed at how much good that little bit of work really did. It is going to save me so much ironing time.

Someday I will have a house with a yard and a craft room. I’ll have a fabric stash which is accessible and turns over frequently. Shoot, someday I’ll have a washer and dryer of my own and can do this kind of chore in small bursts over a span of time rather than in one explosive flurry under the eyes of curious onlookers.

For now, though, I’ll be grateful to my mom for her generosity (and little bit of craziness) and vow to never, ever buy another piece of fabric again. For as much as I love my mom, I hope I don’t inherit her tendencies along with her cast-offs.

I envision some major giveaways in our future. If you’re not already subscribed, might I recommend you do so? You won’t want to miss it as I slowly give away the spoils of the war we are waging with my mother’s stash.

Do you have thoughts, tips, websites, patterns, or recommendations about stash busting? Please share!

Creating on the go

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

Intermittent Inspiration: French Knots

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Stitching | Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Inspiration: French Knots

I finished the french knot section on my band sampler, but have been collecting pictures of french knots for a few weeks.

Some people use french knots as outline, as ”fill stitch” or as a physical construct (i.e. tiny eyeballs or cherries on trees, which look just like french knots). Some are packed together tightly, like a carpet. Others are sprinkled sparsely to good effect. There are french knot hairdos, french knot flowers, french knot bacteria… I mean, really. There are lots of french knots out there. Don’t be scared.

Click the image for more details on the artists of these wonderful creations.

Passing it on

Mal | Media,Sewing,Universal | Friday, March 27th, 2009

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I’ve been teaching my dear friend/ex-boyfriend how to cross-stitch and he’s making good progress with Obama. I’ve photographed it with a US quarter coin to show you scale. This is Aida 11-count fabric, and he is stitching over two squares with double threads of DMC floss to give the largest, boldest effect possible. The finished product, which was originally designed to be about 3″x5″, will be larger than a sheet of typing paper when it’s done. His careful, meticulous nature is yielding wonderful results and I’ll never get enough of that sweet sight — him in horn-rimmed glasses, beanie cap, and Converse  All Stars hunched around an embroidery hoop.

Between this teaching experience and the recent visit with my motherI’ve been thinking a lot about the mentor-ly, multi-generational, tutor-iffic nature of traditional textile arts.

Grandma M. was my dad’s mother, and she taught piano lessons. In addition to teaching me how to play the hymns on piano and organ, she also taught me to crochet and to follow a simple sewing pattern. She taught me how to press clothing and how to piece afghans. The only thing that Grandma M. was unable to successfully teach me was tatting (but we tried — oh, how we tried!).

Granny V., my mother’s mother, was a school teacher and a librarian and she lived on a self-sustaining farm. Granny V. taught me to bake bread, to grow my own food, and to knit. Embroidery, cross stitch, french knots, and needlepoint were activities I also did with Granny V.  She encouraged me by choosing patterns and motifs that she knew I would like. She was patient and understanding of me as a petulant teenager whose whims would change on a dime. She would set up huge quilting frames in her front room and we would stitch together with the aunties for hours on end — cackling about this or that and “solving the world’s problems.”

A required Home Economics class in Junior High did me little good, as I had already learned to construct basic clothing and household items from my mother. Mom understands the basics of fitting clothing and working with utilitarian fabrics, but she is also a gifted quilter. When I take the time to

In a recent bestowal of good fortune (that is, in a box of discards from mom’s craftroom), I found this book:

 I bring it up here because of its dedication page:

She nods to the artists of the past and passes her knowledge along to us, the artists of future generations. Later, I’ll explore a little bit more about this mentorship, multi-generational thing and why it may be so unique to textile arts.

What about you? Who taught you? Whom have you taught?

Laying out the hexagons

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

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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.

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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.

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