Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Name is Cathy and I'm Not a Pack Rat.

Get a load of this:
dig my floral skin, baby
This corregated cardboard ensemble came into my world nearly 30 years ago. It has survived numerous moves, countless disasters, and endless abuses. It has housed homework, vinyl albums, and fabric. It is tired and ready for a little shuffle board....maybe a nice blended care facility with optional group lunch and organized crafts.

Yet I cannot let go. I've never dreamed of life without these boxes. They have been part of my sewing room since 1989 and part of every zone of my personal space since my mom and I picked them out--probably at K-Mart or Hornsby's all those years ago.

I surveyed the floor plan of my sewing room tonight, looking for their new home. I found none. I felt dismay.

Let it stand for the record that I'm in complete denial about being a pack rat. I don't think I am. Mom says I have inherited a pack rat gene from a strong history of forbearers. The box storage in question is clear, touchable evidence that I might hang on to stuff past it's life span. Yet I refuse to believe. Say it with me: I'm Not A Pack Rat! I'm Not A Pack Rat! I shall will my not-pack-ratness into being, just like Dorothy willed herself back to Kansas. We must grab hold the reigns of our destiny and forge our own reality! Yes!.....At least until tomorrow morning. Maybe if I wake up early, I can sneak them back into the room before my Darling carts them to the burn barrell (oh no!). Promise not to tell, okay?

There was a brief bit of fern progress:
Baby steps here
You probably can't tell in this shot, but there's a considerable amount of satin stitching...note the spring green line on the inside of the ferns. I stayed up waaaay too late last night working on this and was back at it today after the kids and I finished school...and after my power nap. God bless The Power Nap.

My recent forrays into collage art have left me puzzled and unhappy mostly due to lack of flatness. I want the surface to be a bit puckery---as an aged quilt---but evenly puckered so that the whole work hangs flat on a wall. The serious buckling of late comes mostly from heavy duty free motion embroidery. I've been using free motion to secure edges, thinking it would be quicker than a more traditional satin stitch. This time around, I'm satin stitching---not too tightly---and am happy. It is taking far less time than I thought and I like the look. It will be a perfect base for the next step---thread painted shading. And with everything securely stitched, I should be able to hoop this with no problem.

There's only two glitches so far (stay tuned--there's sure to be more):
1. I didn't prepare this surface properly for such detailed work and am having to repin and adjust as I go.
2. I suck at satin stitch. Hopefully that will change as I develop my chops....and a machine tune up wouldn't hurt either. Here's a closer shot of the stitching:
you, too, can satin stitch this badly!

Maybe, if we get school done early tomorrow, I'll get to the shading part. That's gonna' rock!

Monday, January 30, 2006


Last fall, I took a workshop with Fiber Genius and creativity coach Laura Cater Woods. I've never been a big 'taker of classes', prefering instead to learn on my own through reading and experimenting. It is with my loner bent firmly intact that I must recommend a class with Laura. She has a gift for challenging each student where they're at. Our class was a mix of very new---I mean 'hardly ever made art' new---to experienced with exhibit history. Each of us grew and no two works looked anything alike. That impresses me the most...when a class is led and the student's style is still visible.

Here's my initial doodle:
just me and my black marker

And here's where I went with it:

The fabric doesn't quite capture the spontenaity of the sketch, but I'm still pleased with the piece so far.

Bias cut turquoise fabric is added to define some dark lines I want emphasized:
Hard to see, I know

At this point, I'm bothered by the center two background pieces. They're too light. I've not been making smart background choices lately. It's too late to replace the pieces--everything's already glued down. So I decided to paint...in my new sewing room...on my new ironing board cover...with no plastic:

I'm a genius. Let's just think of this as the baptism, the maiden voyage of my sewing room.

The paint (even though it was Setacolor Translucent) obscured the texture of the prints and made them look too much like the background piece on the left. So then, I took the whole thing to my kitchen sink and tried to 'unpaint' with the sprayer. Then the glue began to loosen and pieces began to fall off. The vintage fabrics--content unknown--curled into tight little twists. Which means I had to spread it out on the floor and pin several itty bitty pieces in place to dry flat. Oh yeah, I'm just raw talent in motion today.

The end result ended up being just right:

The background is just the right amount of texture and contrast.

Tomorrow, I contemplate thread.

Plenty to Report

Yes indeedy, Fiber Jedi! It's been a busy weekend.

Just when I thought the end was at hand, there was an emergency light fixture relocation:
Just a Man and his Wiring
In it's previous spot, the light's rays were obscured by my cupboard. It's now been moved toward the center of the room and I can't believe what a difference this makes!

Finally, the Head Elf handed over the keys and I began to move in:
Less Empty
Lots of room to grow here
We're at the tip of the iceberg here. There will be much sorting this week.

Just when you think there's progress, this happens:
I don't know how....so much empty floor space, the machine all set up, longly calling me. I don't know. It all went so fast!

In the room, I've splayed out several recent pieces (none of them finished, but we're not talking about that now, -Riiight, PeeWee??-)
Nothing clever here
You can see most of all three works (note how the one on the floor blends in with the Bud Tugly carpet...let's analyze that another day, shall we?). Suddenly they feel like a 'style' to me. I'm often discouraged by not having a recognizable style. These three pieces seem cohesive (along with the little heart in my sidebar). This is mostly by chance, but there are a few probable causes:

-The Tub. Because my sewing room has been such a disaster, I've been working out of the same green tub of fabric since fall of 2004 (see it in the picture?). The tub was assembled for a workshop with Pamela Allen. Segments of it's contents have lived in smaller containers. But the tub always gets reassembled. New fabrics have been added to it here and there as I look for design solutions.
-Problem solving. My first heart quilt was a burst of inspiration that came from months of doodling. Everything made after that has been an attempt to fix some problem with that first quilt---a sense of movement, degree of color contrast, design control---whatever.
-Sticking to one thing. By and large, I've discarded most other assembly method and have focused on collage. I keep coming back to collage and I've purposely avoided trying some new techniques because I don't seem to have reached the bottom of the collage barrel yet. This mindset affects which magazines I buy, where I'm shopping for materials, and even which posts get read from certain lists.

See? I just look like a complete scatter brain. There truly is method to my madness. And I'm very slow. What takes some people two weeks to think through could take me a year. There is impercievable movement in the sludge I call 'brain', but discerning it is like watching grass grow--not exactly high action sport.

My husband, on the other hand, is my polar opposite. Witness the blitzkrieg that happened in my sewing room. I think his path in life is to get it all done.

My path is to figure out what I'm suppose to be doing in the first place .

Saturday, January 28, 2006

About a Shelf

Is a boring post about a worn out subject better than no post at all? Let's find out!

The centerpiece of my sewing room 'redo'....the reason I came to grips with the departure of my vintage industrial machine and a truckload of other unnecessary junk....is this shelving unit featuring pull-out wire bins:

Love those pants!

This is half the unit.

This whole makeover thing started when our Big Lots went out of business. My Darling Husband, a Big Lots frequenter, happened to be there when all the fixtures were on sale. For a whopping, wallet popping, tight-wad-non-stop-shopping $40, my spouse, black belt tightwad extrodanaire, purchased enough wire shelves to house a life time of collecting. And to fill two of these homemade shelving units. There's shelves hanging in the garage and in the basement. There are heavy duty shelves for me to use with my gridwall when I vend fabric. We've got shelves coming out of our ears.

So, a few shelves, a little paint and....
Look at him go!

See?  All green, all the time

Voila! We have storage. It's not perfect, but it is functional. And it cost about $30. What's not to love?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not About My Room

To break up the endless monotony of posts about my sewing room conversion, I will now post about crit group, which was last night. And which is no longer called 'crit group'. Now we are 'Eye for Fiber'. Beware! We are watching you! Are you making fiber? You should be.


We've decided that every other month, we'll horse around with a technique....for now....until we change our minds. Last night was Oil Paintstick Night. Here's my meager attempt at using them:
Was Bud Tugly fabric, now less so.
I've had it in the back of my mind to use heavily textured lace for a rubbing surface. It worked, but the results don't quite have that 'Wow' factor. The wierd plastic pink item is the wing device from my daughter's Swan Lake Barbie. When in doubt, rob the toy closet.

Yes, it's more fiber mediocrity
More rubbings....this time with a Lego base and the bottom of my shoe. You can see the Barbie wings rubbing. My friend Pat brought a wonderful assortment of copper tjaps and platic rubbing plates. Other people had tremendous success with these. Mine lack a little something. Maybe it was my color choice. Or maybe I'm Super Spec, Queen of All She Surveys Except Oil Paintsticks.

Drawing my own designs right on the fabric was more pleasing to me:
No one else seemed too impressed by these

But I love them
The results look a bit juvenile....certainly not as sophisticated as the rubbing designs. But they appeal to me more....especially the ones where I used a rubbing plate as background filler. Somehow, making my own mark feels more satisfying than using a prefabricated design. During the process, I was wishing for a finer point. Hmmmm....fodder for more exploration.

And just because it's the topic that won't die....and I still am completely geeked about it....here's one shot of my room today:
Look!  There's arranged furniture!
Oh, yeah. I've begun to move in (insert maniacal laughter)!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Slo-o-ow Progress

Oh, I'm so anxious I could just burst!! I didn't want to start this project because I'm a sissy-wiener. And now that it's started I want it done Right Now. Right Now! I want to go to bed and have the elves whip it all into shape while I dream peacefully (with full makeup on...just like tv).

What do you mean there's only one elf and he has a day job?!? I am She Who Must Be Obeyed! And I declare the project finished!! Well, okay, actually I'm just Super Spec...a tiny dot on the face of the universe. And patience is my master.

So...the Head Elf and I decided that since the room is ripped apart, the furniture might as well get fresh paint:
Egad!  Bring on the white paint!
Sad little furniture. My impatience wanted to throw the furniture back in the room unpainted.

Furniture. Take 2:
So much better
Isn't white paint a miracle? I'm so very glad the formerly mentioned impatience didn't get it's way.

In case you're wondering, the hole in the table is where my sewing machine sits. The table is a free castoff, headed for the dumpster. The Head Elf cut the hole with a router then built a sunk-in box to hold the machine. It's made for my Viking 990, but with a few pieces of wood in the bottom, the bed of my Brother also will sit flush with the table.
He's not only good lookin', he's smart...and handy.

And the Head Elf drilled a series of holes in my shelving unit. Now the shelves are adjustable and all my books can be stored properly. I tell ya', in addittion to being easy on the eyes, he's handy to have around.
Amazon, here I come!

And that's our progress report for today. I'm not sure how much will get done tomorrow. Tommorrow night, I have a date with some girlfriends, some fabric, and a box of Shiva Paintsticks. Sure to be groovy good fun!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Who Needs White When There's Hand Dyed?

Did I buy the white burlap for my cork board while I was at the store? Noooooo. I'm not that smart. Did I know I'd want to cover board today? Yes. (sigh).

So, I pulled out white fabrics from my stash. They were all wrong.

Then this hand dyed piece, too boring to sell, jumped out at me. And....gee....it's exactly the same length as the wall. I'm a genius---just not a very smart one. Get me?
See?  I'm a genius.
You can't see the staples around the edges. Some funky, staple-covering trim needs to appear.

I turned my back for a moment and an elf slipped in the room to do a little impromptu decorating of her own:
She's a genius.

She's hanging a piece I bought from Amanda Perkins. Amanda lives in England, near the coast, and does amazing things with natural dyes. Her artwork seems organic and time worn to me....as if it's been laying undiscovered on the beach for a century or two. Visit her site. Especially if you're a Tolkien geek. She's created many pieces based on the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Silmarillion.

I saw this piece titled 'Ninepatch' and knew that it must be mine.
Amanda's a genius.

Tomorrow, when the kids and I are done with school, I'm going to start moving in furniture. The anticipation is almost more than I can stand!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Let There Be Light

Today, the pictures will speak for themselves....with a little help from moi....

"Hi, I'm Sewing Room, and I am Brown."
bye bye, depressing brown

"I am the Pit of Despair. I am brown in mid-winter in Michigan."
how 'bout that groovy carpet?

"Hi. I'm Greg and this has been my paint outfit for over a decade. My sprayer has a motor that is so loud and obnoxious I must wear earplugs. This, of course makes it superior to any paint brush or roller."
this look is why I married him

"My name is Primer Coat. I'm the only one that does any real work around here."
let there be light!

"Hi, I'm Funky C. I chose this paint color and won't be happy until my entire house is painted green. Then I'll be happy for 10 minutes. Then it will be time to paint everything lavender."
let there be spring green!

"Anybody notice us? We're the corkboard wall. We and our brethren, the pegboard panels, united in rebellion against green and have chosen to be white. Pegboard gets white paint, we get white burlap. Don't get pushy, or we'll ask for better insurance."
lots and lots of spring green

"Hi. I'm the eyeballs. Please send me sunglasses to cut the glare. Shees, you'd think it was June in Texas, not January in Michigan."
it's almost blinding!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Like a Bad Hangover

I wake up, stumble downstairs, and see this:
where did all this come from?
That's right. My sewing room barfed into the family room. And now, I think it might be my turn. I knew this was coming. It's why I cleaned the family room...so my Sweetie could do wonderful things for me. It's just a little sickening to see it all (well, this is really only half...there's another room) of it stacked in one giant pile.

Here's the sewing room now:
where my machines sit
This is the corner where my main machines and ironing board sit.

yes, another machine
This is another corner, featuring one of my prize posessions: a 1940's industrial straight stitch machine with a serious motor on it. Sewing with it probably feels a lot like flying a B-1 Bomber.....you can FEEL the raw power. They probably sound alike too. The problem is that the stitch length is permanantly huge. The manufacturer dug out what little information they had left on the machine...it's not adjustable...and it's Huge...probably 6 or 8 mm. I'm guessing it was used for heavy duty tents or car interiors. And I'm afraid it's going to have to go, along with a menegerie of other vintage machines that don't work. Anybody care to pick it up? There is one special one I'm hanging onto...a black portable Singer very much like the one I watched my Mom use...and that I used to sew my first panel pillow (a hamburger with a face). That was the most beautiful machine in the world and I loved to tilt the machine back and hide treasures in it's base. Remember it, Mom?

Rescued from the UFO Heap

My Best Beloved announced at Christmas that my gift would be a sewing room makeover.

He's been warming up to this project (read: waiting for me to get the family room picked up) and I knew Thursday was The Day. This was my cue to have a last minute sewing panic:

my view
Here's a little project started November 2004. For some reason, whenever I touch this project, threads begin to snap, needles break, and words are abused. This time I'm tackling it with Libby Lehman's 'Bottom Line' thread in the bobbin and a size 90 microfiber needle. The needle is to handle the tightly woven batik fabric, which sometimes gives me fits when quilting. I don't know why. It's just my path in this life.

started this a year ago
Another problem I had was that the heart is really the same value as the background. It's only defined by the collaged fibers around the edges. The bottom half was not highlighted with bright fabrics, so I enhanced the edge with a pale green thread. Now, at least, one can see the edges.

Here's a detail:
like my quilting?
The quilting thread is King Tut. I like it. No fuzz, no breakage. Nice subtle, varigated color. There's a giant dichroic glass cabachon for the center of the heart. And I'm thinking about mounting the piece on a wooden stretcher instead of the usual binding and rod pocket.

Will keep you posted

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Equation For A Smile

There weather here has been dreary. No sparkling snow, just day after day of 40 and raining. Yesterday, my antedote appeared:


Plus this:
bag o' fun

Equals DogFly:

How could I not smile?

She meant to make a butterfly. It came out as a dog with wings. That's the beauty of art. And for me, collage. The final result is always ten times more interesting that the original goal. And the journey is infinitely satisfying.

You smile, too. And let the sun shine today. Even if there's not one evident in the sky.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Miscellany

I've been tackling little projects here and there, all of them fun. Want to see?

#1. Barb's squares
These are the leftovers from the giant dye sample project. I plan to give them to my friend and fellow Fiber Jedi, Barb. She creates amazing art from 1" squares. Unless she calls and tells me her house is stuffed to the brim and she can't find her cats in an avalanche of fabric. What fiber geek in her right mind would ever say such a thing?!? None that I could think of....they'd lie about the cats and take the fabric!

#2. 'Batik' T shirts
This is a group of homeschool kids (and their moms) studying Indonesia. They wanted to do a batik project in 2 hours. We settled on corn dextrin dried with a heat gun. I ran into all kinds of technical problems with this project starting with the high demand for yellow dye. We began to thin the thickened dyes until everyone had enough to saturate their shirts. Then, error two, I brought the shirts home to batch in my cold basement. The thinned yellow came out so light that there was very little contrast between the resisted areas and the dyed areas. And the blue I was using turned out to be a mix containing much turquois dye--a notorious heat lover. For several shirts, I ended up resisting their designs again and re-painting. But! That's ancient history and don't they look happy?

And yes, I homeschool 3 kids. Why? Because I'm a goof ball...and maybe a masochist. And I have too much free time Yeah, that's it.

No, actually, my eldest (the one-hair-per-armpit teenager) is an 'alternative thinker' of the highest order. Gee....wonder where he gets it? I know he'll have to face the real world soon and I want his self esteem and confidence to be completely intact before he meets some prof or boss who tries to tell him how to think. Ask me how I know this. This is the kid who hated sewing until I showed him how to free-motion embroider. Now he has his own thread collection. And he's become a fine tie dyer.

Whoa! Back on track here.....

#3. My Denim Wong-Singh-Jones Buddha Baby Skirt
It's been a while since I've done garment sewing for myself. A new company called Hot Patterns inspired me to make this. So far, I can say that I love their patterns! The designs are fashion forward, well drafted, and the instructions were helpful without being insulting to my skills or my brain.

The skirt closes with vintage brass buttons from my Grandma's stash:

And most of the internal seams were mock felled. The facing and skirt flange were serged and topstitched:

The sample garment:
Made from some fabric that took a left turn in the dye pots. It probably wasn't mercerized and is not worth overdying. I could've used muslin, but then what nut would waste perfectly undyed muslin on a test garment?