Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Travelogue

Summer classes have begun in earnest now. My journeys began in California with a three guild visit: San Francisco Quilt Guild, the Santa Rosa guild and the Moonlight Quilter's Guild. Thanks to the organization of all the workshop chairwomen the travel between locations was smooth and easy.
And best of all, I was able to see some wonderful sights along the way.

I stayed in a modest but delightfully located inn right on the ocean and in Golden Gate Park. The Legion of Honor was just up the hill and the hiking path began almost outside my door. The trees above were on the path of my morning walk along the coast. As a Hitchcock fan, I was reminded of his movie, Vertigo, since so much of the movie takes place in this very location. Consequently, I had Bernard Herrmann music running through my mind during the entire trip. 

I was lucky to be able to spend two nights at a cozy home in Sabastopol. The California hills were just turning golden and the roads were faced by wineries and apple orchards all along the way. Here is a field of fragrant lavender in the midday sun located on the grounds of a handsome winery.

One night we drove over to Bodaga Bay on the coast. The landscape of steep rolling hills and occasional wind swept trees were stunning in the magic light of sunset. This is, of course, the setting for another Hitchcock film, The Birds. So there was a delightfully ominous theme to this trip! That evening the ocean was rip roaring and the wind was fierce, but that just added to the atmosphere of the location.

In Santa Rosa, I got to visit the home of the famous horticulturist, Luther Burbank. The grounds were filled with design inspiration. Above is an opulent branch of plump plums against the clear blue sky.
And below is a gathering of Love-in-a-Mist... one of my all time favorite plants. They will show up in a quilt one day, I'm sure. Here I also discovered a memorable quote from Mr. Burbank:

"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs and mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries, and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." 

Upon my return home, a huge storm was brewing. We got in the door just as the sky broke open with lightning, thunder and driving rain. We sat on the screened porch to enjoy the show. Now that's a welcome home! Our garden is very happy as I prepare for my next journey which begins tomorrow as I fly to Australia for a month of new quilting adventures. So Greg will be on garden duty and much will change in the weeks to come. But perhaps I'll come back to some ripe home grown tomatoes!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Free Form Embroidery

It has been another very wet week in the Midwest and I have been preparing for several long summer teaching journeys. But a bit of energy was directed toward more digital embroidery experiments on my 730 Bernina with basic Artista software. 

Synthetic threads are often used for machine embroidery because they are colorfast and strong enough to endure the wild action of the programmed machine stitches. These threads tend to be very shiny, so I have been tempted to try using shiny fabrics, too. So here I began with two silk doughnuts fused to a black cotton background. The sewing machine gives you the dimensions of your design, so I was able to center the thread spirals almost directly in the center of each silk circle.

The gray thread looks like silver and creates a wonderful glowing effect. By marking the background I was able to place the designs in almost perfect symmetry. These practice pieces have also allowed me to play with different interfacings and hooping techniques. Frankly, it is hard to stay away from the sewing machine these day, as so many ideas are floating by.

The spider was stretched so he was big enough to become the grounding element of the little composition. I am really enjoying the collage possibilities of mixing and matching separate shapes.
But my machine will have to be content to rest while I am on-the-road meeting new friends and collecting design inspiration.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spring Cleaning

It has been a luscious week. Everyday has been a mix of sunshine and rain. The lovely peonies where just blooming into their glory when a storm came through and pounded the poor things to the ground.
Luckily, Greg was able to stake this magnificent deep purple iris in time and save it from the same fate.

There have been some family distractions, plus I am waiting for some new digitized designs which I want to add to the black border of my new quilt. So since I was in a waiting zone, I used several days to clean up and reorganize the studio. I know it still looks messy in the photo, but believe me it's a major improvement. You can actually see the worktable's surface!

Since my artistic output was limited this week, I thought I would share pictures of two fabulous quilts made with Sassaman FreeSpirit fabrics. I love to get these kinds of emails! Even I don't have enough time to exploit all the possibilities of every new fabric line, so I really appreciate seeing what others have done.

The top quilt is called Four Cards Around and was made by Diana Ramsay from North Carolina. She used the Card Trick block for the basis of her design and it is a clever way to play with the gradating dots fabric. She has actually created the illusion of depth by arranging dotted fabrics according to their density. The black background makes the cards feel like they are floating in space and adds even more dimension. The simple border is delightful and just right! I am going to file this block in my "must try" ideas for the future.

The next wonderful work is by Sue Wood in Canberra, Australia. She claims this is only the third quilt she has made! I'd say she's gotten off to a roaring start! She has cut 60 degree triangles from the Teasel and Lace fabric (Prairie Gothic) to make the kaleidoscopic hexagons. Each block is fascinating and unique. I like the way she has organized them by type and especially enjoy the spider block in the bottom corner. The geometric blocks are a nice contrast to the spinning organic ones and create an icy atmosphere.

Both of these quilts are breathtaking... one for it's joyous simplicity and the other for it's opulence. Two ends of the spectrum and I love them both. Thanks, Diana and Sue, for sharing your talent and enthusiasm!

I did sneak in a little time to play with my digitized embroidery designs. I only have four designs to play with, but I am amazed at all the possibilities. The hardest part is rehooping the fabric, but that gets easier with practice. I can distort and move the shapes in my sewing machine to make these little embroidered collages. In this little experiment I like the transparency of the spirals and the life in the skewed spider.

I have dubbed this technique as "Free-Form" embroidery. Now I'm afraid I'll have to get another Bernina, so I can be sewing while the other one is stitching out digital designs! What a dilemma!