Saturday, April 30, 2011

Painting a Quilted Quilt

On Monday I posted an update on Hot Cast and details on how I'm painting the surface of the quilt with Jacquard Lumiere Textile Paints.

Sewmuch2do asked a great question in the comments of that post:
Why did you choose Jacquard paints over other mediums - i.e. paintstiks or something else? What about quilting overtop of the painted surface? How has he paint affected the hand and quiltability of it? Thanks!
This is such a great question, I created an entire video just to answer it!


So the first question - Why did I use Jacquard paints instead of Shiva Paintstiks?

The main reason is how the paint is applied.

Jacquard paints are much more liquid, basically the consistency of normal paint, so you can apply this paint with a normal paint brush. If you need to paint a tiny space, you simply pick up a tiny brush.

Shiva Paintsticks on the other hand are far more dry, oil based paint. A few paintsticks I've picked up were more liquid than others, but for the most part, these paints are either applied from the paintstick itself, which is like drawing with a giant kid's crayon, or applied with a stiff bristle stencil brush.

You can get a stencil brush as small as 1/4 inch, but for some areas of Hot Cast, that is still WAY too big! It would be like coloring in a kid's coloring book with a crayon the size of a broom handle - nearly impossible to paint within the lines.

I do like Shiva Paintsticks, which is why I used them in a past quilt. Almost the entire surface of Release Your Light was painted with Shiva Paintsticks. Everything except her body, hair and heart and I've heard many quilters comment that it's nearly impossible to tell that it's paint. Most people ask how I appliqued the points so perfectly!

Here's a video I created while I was working on the rays of that quilt so you can see how I used masking tape and a stencil brush to apply the paint:


The second question was - What about quilting over the painted surface?

This gives the quilt a very different look and it's fun to play with both options in a quilt.

Keep in mind that paint will ALWAYS change the hand (the feel) of the fabric. Since I quilt so densely already, this doesn't bother me, but I personally don't like stitching through painted fabric.

Why? Mostly because I find that painted fabric is stiffer and my needle pierces it, making noticeable holes. Also it seems that no matter how small my stitches, they just stand out more than I like on the surface of painted fabric. Keep in mind that this is just my personal preference.

As I said, it's fun to play with both options. Sometimes painting the fabric first, then quilting with a different colored thread can create some really cool effects you can't get any other way.

For both Hot Cast and Release Your Light, I choose to paint over the quilting and to be frank - this can be very, very scary.

If I screw it up, if I spill paint, if I smear an area, I will either have to paint over that area, or the quilt will be ruined.

You can always apply more paint of course, but for areas you want light, or you don't want any paint on at all, you will need to be very careful to make sure you don't paint outside the lines.

And the last question was - How has he paint affected the hand and quiltability of it?

This depends on the quilt, the fabric you've used, and how densely you've quilted it.

I find the best way to know what you're doing (and take the intimidation factor down a notch), is to make samples of your quilt before you start painting.

Using 6" squares, paint half the square with the paint you want to use, then leave the other half unpainted. Once the paint is dry, quilt the entire square with the free motion design you want to use.

Now paint over the section that was unpainted. Let this dry and see what you think - do you like the side with the paint on top or the quilting on top? It's entirely down to your preference!

Samples are essential especially when you're using multiple colors of paint to achieve a specific look. Here's a sample of the column:

I quilted this with several different fillers and with Metallic Pewter between the columns and Metallic Silver on the trapuntoed areas. I wanted to see the effect of the two different silver colors and see if it created the effect I was going for.

Without a sample, how will you know what you're doing? It's very important to take your time with this and know what you're doing before jumping in with both feet.

And it's also important to understand painting is very time consuming. If you do plan to cover a large section of your quilt with paint, think about how much time it's going to take, then triple that estimation!

But it does create a really cool effect on the surface of the quilt that can be very hard to achieve with multiple pieces of fabric, so it's worth it.

I hope ya'll have enjoyed this extra tutorial! It's been fun to make so keep those questions coming and I'll keep making new videos to answer them!

Let's go quilt (or paint),

Leah

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Videocast #9 - Quilt Painting and Sale Update

It's been a really busy, weird week because I've been off a day since Easter. Hopefully this weekend I'll get caught back up again!

If you're running behind on what's been posted on the project, you can catch up too by checking out this videocast:


Sewmuch2do commented on Monday's post asking why I chose Jacquard Lumiere paints for Hot Cast and not Shiva Paintsticks as I've used before.

This is a great question, but it would be easier to explain in a video so I'm planning to shoot a special tutorial on quilt painting to run this weekend.

This week we also learned two awesome designs: Heart Confetti and Double Matrix.

Right now I'm busy in the sewing room trying to get my words quilt finished in time to drop it off tomorrow for the art exhibit in town. Yes, this is down to the wire, but I'm really pleased with this little quilt and can't wait to finish it!

Finally, our Spring Sale is going to finish up on May 5th (that's 1 week from today) so click here to check it.

You definitely don't want to miss out on the savings of the Gidget 2 sewing table combo - after the 5th the price is going to increase to $245.00!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Entering Local Art Shows

For the longest time, I haven't called myself an artist. I was content with the title of "quilter" and left it at that. But having worked through so many limitations in Hot Cast, I've finally come to realize that what I make can be called quilts, but it can also be called art, therefore, I am an artist!

This is a brand new definition for me and already I'm seeing small changes in my quilts and what I plan to do with them.

It all started with being invited to join Fiber Art Options, a group of art quilters in Charlotte, NC. This fun bunch of ladies organize group shows and challenges, share news of local juried art exhibits, and are wonderful resources for quilting inspiration and information as most of them are also teachers.

The first meeting started with members sharing news of local art shows and I sat rather nonplussed, wondering if I would really fit in. For the last 8 months, my focus has been on my family and business, not really on showing my quilts. It sounded a bit scary - would Shadow Self really do well in an art show against a traditional painting or sculpture?

I left that first meeting wondering and opened my eyes to the possibilities around me. Here in Shelby, NC we have a very active art council that hosts many wonderful exhibits throughout the year. Just as I started looking, venues for my work started popping up everywhere!

So this week I have two deadlines: Shelby NC Art Council is hosting a juried art exhibit titled "The Art of Self Expression" and the Southern Art Society has a juried art exhibit titled "I am Woman." I don't think a venue for my quilts comes better than that!

- Just a quick warning before you get further -
Possibly disturbing or offensive photos below

I'm showing art quilts here which some might considered disturbing and/or offensive. If you don't want see them, please click here to check out the design I posted today.

It was the Art of Self Expression exhibit that pushed me to take down that old photo from my wall and try my hand at a black and white portrait which I played with in Experiment #2.

I made two versions of my portrait - one exactly as the photo showed and the second dark and twisted, a representation of my inner negative voice before I'd dug it out last year. I wanted to combine these two portraits together, kind of like a before / after photo, but I knew this was not really something I would want to enter into a quilt show.

So knowing this was destined for an art show actually freed the process a bit. I made decisions with this piece that I couldn't have made had this been destined for a quilt show, and this made the project go much faster. Last night I sliced the two portraits in half and connected them together with a piece of 1" binding. Red binding around the edge finished the piece that I will hand stitch down this evening.

I went to bed with my head buzzing after finishing up this little portrait. I'm SO pleased with it!

I know it's dark, I know it may be disturbing for some, but for me this is a beautiful piece. It is a visual representation of how far I've come, and that makes me feel wonderful.

As I laid in bed trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about the art exhibit again. Self expression...what does that mean?

I started thinking about words, how powerful they are, how destructive, and how healing. I thought about how words, mostly lies, had torn me down to nothing, but just the same way have words in books, comments from readers, and loving conversations with my family have helped me rebuild and heal.

What if I made a quilt of all those words together?

So I started writing a list of these words, every expression I'd ever heard, good and bad. It's sad to say that the list of bad expressions, cuss words, cut downs, and criticisms was far longer than the list of good words.

I even checked online to try to find more good words and phrases and struggled there too. Is our language the problem? We have far too many words that are hurtful and demeaning than positive words meant to uplift and love.

There are literally hundreds of single words that cut like a knife, like "asshole" or "bitch." In the brief searching I did this morning, I found no opposite to these words. You can say "You're beautiful" or "You're kind" but it takes more time and it doesn't have the same punch.

So I took my lists of words and organized them so every good word would be followed with a bad word. I did this quickly and without thinking. It's not poetry - just a list.

I set all the letter size to 48 points and had loads of fun playing with different fonts. Really this project has exhilarating because I've gotten to do so many things I never do: play with cuss words and funky fonts!

I created 4 pages of these words and printed them out onto computer printer fabric. Since I'm using my inkjet printer and I didn't treat the fabric beforehand, I have no idea how color fast the words will be or if they will even last on the fabric. I just needed this transferred very quickly because I have to get this second quilt finished in 2 days!

What am I going to make with all this nonsense? I'm going to make a banner, a long skinny quilt that I plan to hang in my dining room on the wall as you enter the kitchen. It's a good place to hang this quilt of expressions because this is where we do the most talking.

I want a reminder on my wall, just as I created a reminder with my portrait quilt, of the weight of words. As I wrote them down, I realized that some of the most hurtful phrases weren't even expletives. Words like "Go away!" and "I don't want you." cut far further than just being called a jerk.

Is this totally inappropriate? Hmm...I know it's pushing a line and I know if it was a choice between a quilt show and an art show, I'd put in in an art show without a second thought. I like being able to push this boundary and art will allow me that freedom.
So what am I entering into the "I am Woman" exhibit?

I thought about this a lot and really wanted to create something totally new for this show, like a goddess doll, but when it came down to it, I just don't have time.

Instead I'm planning on entering two goddesses from last year: Shadow Self

and My Cup Runneth Over

I'm intrigued to see how these quilts do against paintings and sculpture. Shadow Self especially is so huge, it will be a treat to see her on display, if nothing else.

Now I'm heading back into my studio to quickly piece up this quilt of words. I need to come up with a titles for both the portrait and the words quilt. Any suggestions?

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Day 274 - Double Matrix

With well over 250 designs, there are days that I will sit down with my design books on my lap and just flip through, searching for inspiration in past designs. Sometimes a design will pull on my brain and a question will pop into my mind, another "what if..." for me to follow.

Recently I was wondering if some designs could be doubled, literally stitching the design within itself. The best possible place to start would be Matrix, so here is Double Matrix:

Yes, this looks a lot like Psychedelic Checkerboard, but the designs are quite different. Rather than filling every wiggly box in this Matrix grid, I only fill every other one, which makes it faster and a bit easier to stitch.


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Concentrate first on covering your quilting space with Matrix. You'll want to leave at least 1/2" between the lines of quilting (4-5 inches for a bed quilt) in the first grid so you can wiggle in to double the design. Then after the space is covered, travel stitch into every other square to fill it with more Matrix on a smaller scale.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. You're working from one edge of your quilting space to another with this design, so it's going to work best in areas you can either stitch all over, ignoring the piecing lines, or in narrow areas like sashing or borders.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This has a pretty clear horizontal or vertical texture, but when stitched densely it's going to flatten out the area you place it in. It would be interesting to see if you stitched one set of grids on the diagonal. I wonder what that would do for the texture?!

Suggestions for Use - I'm intrigued to see what this design would look like behind one of my goddesses, or in the land part of a landscape quilt. The flat, grid-like texture will be really interesting to play with in unusual places!

Back of Double Matrix

Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 273 - Heart Confetti

Here's a design that should have run in February for Valentine's Day! This cheerful, Heart Confetti can cover your quilt quickly and easily with beautiful heart shaped texture, perfect for bed or baby quilts:

Ah! I'm finally getting back on track now that preschool has resumed and I have a few hours to myself this morning. It's amazing how much that makes a difference for all of us.

So while James is in school for the morning, I'm planning to jump back into the studio and play with hand embroidery! I've been craving some simple hand projects I can work on around the house or outside enjoying the sunshine.


Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is a very easy design! Just stitch hearts! The nice thing about Overlapping Designs is you don't really have to think about what you're doing. Just stitch and make the shapes and layer them on top of one another randomly and it will make for a beautiful design.

Design Family - Overlapping. We haven't had very many of these yet because they are tricky to design. I find that if I overlap complex shapes the shape usually gets lost in all the lines of quilting.

For these hearts, I solved the problem by doubling the shape with a close echo which makes the hearts stand out, even when overlapped several times.

Directional Texture - All Directions. When you really stack the hearts thickly, the texture can get lost in this design. If you're quilting this on a bed quilt, try only overlapping 1-2 times and concentrate on making large, space filling hearts that cover 4-5 inches of quilt in a single pass. This way Heart Confetti will stand out beautifully and finish your quilt in no time!

Suggestions for Use - This speedy quick design will be best used on a soft and cuddly quilt for the bed, couch, or crib. If you need a super quick quilt for a friend, try basting just red fabric and quilting Heart Confetti over the whole surface in white thread. It's sure to finish fast and look gorgeous!

Back of Heart Confetti
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it!

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hot Cast Part 7 - Painting a Quilted Quilt

I took the weekend off for Easter and because James was out of school all last week it's making for a very weird week this week. Bear with me while I get back on track!

In the studio for what feels like the last 3 years (in reality only 5 days) I've been painting the surface of Hot Cast. To some, this would be a pleasant vacation. Right now it feels like a trip to purgatory.

Well...it's not THAT bad really. It would be a million times worse if I wasn't working my way through listening to the entire George RR Martin Song of Ice and Fire Trilogy. At least my brain is entertained. I don't think I'd be able to deal with the monotony any other way.

But this is still very time consuming and tedious.

You might be wondering why I didn't choose another method, like applique to add the different colors to the surface of the quilt.

Yes, that might have been more pleasant and certainly wouldn't have my neck and shoulders screaming in agony from sitting in the same position for so long, but I admit that I'm just not skilled with applique enough to create such tiny detailed work like these leaves and tiny stems.

Don't get me wrong - I certainly know it's possible to do this with hand applique and even easier with fusible applique, but I just didn't feel like dealing with a lot of fiddly pieces for this quilt.

And to be perfectly honest, I prefer the look of paint! Isn't that perfect - I hate to paint, but I love the effect it gives my quilts!

I especially love the paints I'm using over Hot Cast. These are Jacquard Luminere paints that add a spectacular metallic look to the quilt top. I could never have achieved the perfect molten metal look of the body veins with any other paint or fabric:

For the body, it's been a multi-step process because I was painting over black fabric which just wanted to eat the paint up, but show no color.

First I covered the veins with white paint, then layered on a coat of Luminere Gold:

Then I dry brushed Luminere Bronze and Copper lightly on top. I only dry brushed the paint roughly over the middle of the veins so the color would be darkest in the center and lightest towards the edges.

I'm extremely pleased with how the body has turned out. Right now I'm less pleased with the leaves simply because I'm struggling to get the right color.

Originally I had planned to paint the vines and leaves with colored pencils, but after getting started I realized painting trapuntoed motifs with colored pencils is impossible. The extra layer of batting in these areas makes them too puffy and it's really difficult to get an even shading.

After playing with the top vine swirl for more than an hour I admitted defeat and pulled out more Jacquard paints, but unfortunately I only had Apple Green and this is just not the color I was aiming for in this area.

But what I've learned with painting is that it's never the end of the world so long as you have other colors you can try or you can mix to find the right balance. While it might be time consuming, you can always add more paint!

So I'm planning to take a break on the vines for awhile and finish painting the sun and columns. Yes, it may seem overkill to paint the columns, but I really want three things to jump out at you when you see this quilt: the goddess, the sun, and the columns.

The landscape and sky were always intended as the background so they will remain unpainted. As it is right now the columns blend in way too much with the sky and easily get lost in photos unless I really concentrate on getting the lighting just right.

So I'm heading back down for more painting, more excellent fantasy story, and more mind numbing tedium. Oh the things I do for love!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Happy Easter!

I've taken the weekend off from blogging and quilting to enjoy some time with Josh and James and the Easter bunny. Here we are about to go hunt eggs:

I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday!

Leah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Videocast #8 - Spring Sale and Stippling Tips

I swear if the pollen in NC doesn't start backing off, I'm going to move to the North Pole! Josh and I still can't tell if this is just allergies or a cold, but we're both sick of having stuffy noses and scratchy throats.

So if I sound a bit stuffy in this latest Videocast #8, you know why!


Of course the biggest thing going on this week is our Super Spring Sale. Click Here to check out the sale!

Also launching during this sale is the Australian Shadows Quilt Pattern. Don't miss out on the special launch price of this awesome new pattern and online quilting videos.

Now let's catch up on everything shared this week on the project:

Sunday I worked on another experiment, this time transferring a portrait photo onto fabric with a black Pigma pen and sharpie marker. Click here to read the original post.

While I don't think I'm very good at drawing, I just kept reminding myself that I was only using a fat quarter of white fabric, so if I totally messed it up, it really wasn't that big of a deal.

Yesterday I got into the studio and quilted along all of the lines with black thread. Today I'm going to quilt in the white sections with a multi-directional design. Which one should I use?!

This week we've also learned two new designs. Triangle Starships is a variation of Echo Shortcut and a great choice for a quilt you want to finish quickly and easily with fun texture. I might just use this design on my Supernova Quilt, if I can ever get the blocks pieced!

We also learned Seashells & Waves, a new foundational design. This will be the perfect texture to put on an ocean inspired quilt! The beautiful, flowing texture could really look great anywhere, so feel free to experiment with many areas of your next quilt.

I got a question a few weeks ago from Nancy in IN about Stippling and I decided to shoot a segment of tips on tackling this tricky design. Here's a sum up:
  • Keep in mind that Stippling is not the easiest design to learn first because it really doesn't give you a lot to think about. Sometimes the lack of instructions can make a design more tricky!

  • To tackle the vagueness of "meander around and never cross your lines" I personally start stippling by stitching a curvy letter "u" back and forth in rows until I get into the stippling groove.

    Then I start thinking of cartoon letter shapes like E, F, C, H, and S that are easy to think about and visualize. Stitching theses letters with curvy lines that never cross is much easier than jumping into Stippling with nothing to think about.

  • Keep in mind that it is NO BIG DEAL if you NEVER learn how to Stipple! No one is ever going to judge you for your inability to stitch this one design. Just because it's the most popular certainly doesn't mean it's the only free motion design that matters.

    So if you're struggling with it and getting really frustrated, take a break! Pick another design that is easier for you to visualize and stitch and have fun quilting it over your next quilt.

  • And finally, the best way to really get ANY design firmly memorized into your noggin is to stitch that single design over an entire quilt. Pick a full or queen sized quilt top you've pieced, but aren't extremely emotionally attached to.

    If you don't have a quilt top that fits this bill, make one today by taking 4 yards of fabric, cut this yardage in half, then seam the two pieces together to create a nice full sized quilt top.

    Baste this quilt top and stitch only 1 design over the whole surface, working from the center to the outside. I promise, by the time you finish quilting that whole quilt, you will have memorized that design completely and be able to stitch it in your sleep!
I hope these tips help you tackle Stippling! If you have a question about free motion quilting, share it in the comments below and I'll try to answer it in my next videocast.

Now I know I'm not the best at organizing all my videos, so I've created a special list on my articles page with links to each videocast. This way if you miss one, or if you need to watch it again, you can always go back and find the videos you need.

Now I'm heading back into the studio to work on my portrait quilt. The hardest part will be picking which design to use!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Sale Just Started!

It's official! Our Spring Sale has just launched (or should I say bloomed?) over at the Day Style Designs Quilt Shop.


Since Easter is coming up this weekend and Mother's Day is just around the corner, I figured it would be a good time run a sale.

Until May 5th, save money on all Books, Patterns, DVDs, and Quilting Kits.

Best of all, Arrow Sewing allowed me to lower the prices on the tables I carry, so even the sewing tables are on sale too!

We're also launching a new quilt pattern!

With being so busy in the sewing room, I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish the pattern for the Australian Shadows Quilt in time, but thanks to the help of my wonderful graphic designer, we managed to get it ready in time.

The really awesome thing about this new pattern is it not only offers you complete cutting and piecing instructions, you also get how-to-stitch instructions and diagrams of 12 free motion quilting designs, so you know what designs will work best in each area of this quilt.

I've also created four simple online videos showing you how I quilted the blocks, shadow areas, background, and borders with different designs from the project.

Like my other three quilt patterns currently available, this is a digital pattern, meaning after you purchase it, you will receive a link to download via email within 24 hours. This way you don't have to pay for shipping and handling, and you can get started working on your new quilt immediately. Click Here to read more about this new pattern!

Definitely don't miss out on this great sale! Treat yourself to something wonderful for Mother's Day that will make quilting more fun and enjoyable.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 272 - Seashells & Waves

Uggh! I'm not sure whether it's allergies or a cold, but I'm all stuffed up! It's days like today that make me wish I lived at the beach. Something about the sea air always clears out my head.

Since we're not planning a beach trip for several more months, I guess I'll just have to content myself with this beach inspired design, though I doubt it will help me breathe!

This Sea Shells & Waves design is a variation of Ocean Current and Whirlpools. This is the first Foundational Design I've intentionally travel stitched and built up thread around the circular loops.

This made the circles stand out more because the thread is so dark in those areas. Foundational Designs make me endlessly happy because every new design creates at least 3 more ideas to run with!


Difficultly Level - Intermediate. While it looks advanced, this design is surprisingly easy! It starts with a simple, curving foundation line that occasionally loops around to form occasional cursive letter "e's." All you have to do after you get the foundation set is to echo it! It's really that easy.

Design Family - Foundational. These designs can be placed in complex areas of your quilt, but really they are far easier when you use them in large, open areas.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The texture of Foundational Designs is entirely dependent on the starting line, so make it as wiggly or as straight as you like! Because of the echoed loops, Seashells & Waves will always have a beautiful multi-directional texture.

Suggestions for Use - How about an ocean quilt? Seashells appliqued within sand colored blocks, with Seashells & Waves stitched throughout the sashing and borders. Sounds like a beautiful beach retreat to me!

Back of Seashells & Waves

Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 271 - Triangle Starships

Guess what's coming on April 23rd?! The new Dr. Who - Season 6!

Let's celebrate with a design inspired by space ships and time travel. This is Triangle Starships:

I'm super excited about this new season of Dr. Who! Last year season 5 was available through Amazon.com within 2 weeks of the show airing. I'm hoping they will do the same with this season so we don't miss out.

As for Triangle Starships, this design is a lot like Echo Shortcut. Both designs are echoing designs, but they break the rules! Watch the video to see how:


Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is very easy and fast to stitch. Start with a smaller triangle and only echo 3-4 times so it doesn't get out of hand. It can be hard to keep the triangle lines perfectly straight when they get really long.

Then again, a wiggly Triangle Starship could also be pretty interesting!

Design Family - Echoing. Technically this design is a bit of a cheat. Instead of travel stitching to create the space between your echoes, you simply pivot. This saves time and is much easier to stitch.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I love how the straight lines and sharp angles come together in this design! Typically straight line, graphic designs will recede on the surface of your quilt, but this design really wants to stand out and blast off.

Suggestions for Use - James is still over the moon about space travel, rocket ships, and aliens. When we go out to dinner, we've given up stopping him from telling everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) he sees that he is an alien from another planet.

So really this design was created with him in mind! If you happen to have a space monkey in your family, consider piecing up a simple Space Travel quilt, and make sure to quilt Triangle Starships either in the blocks or use it to fill the sashing or borders. It's such an easy, quick design it really can go anywhere!

Back of Triangle Starships
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it!

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Experiment #2 - Black and White Portrait

It's time for another Experiment Sunday!

This is a project I've wanted to play with for a very long time. It's actually pretty embarrassing to admit that I've been waiting to play with these materials for around 3 years!

Josh took this photo of me the summer after James was born. Unfortunately the original photo has been lost, so all I have is this blown up, printed copy and I've had it on my studio wall for a very long time.

Two years ago I tried thread painting this picture, but it didn't work out. Scratch that - it was a horrible catastrophe and it forced me to admit that I hated thread painting. That experiment ended up in the trash.

But I kept the picture up, meaning to get back to it eventually.

Finally, getting through the quilting of Hot Cast this week pushed me to finally take this picture off the wall and get started. It's high time I face myself - literally!

The first thing I did was tap the picture to my light box and make a rough trace of the darkest features. My eyes, eyebrows, outline of my face, and hair were the easiest. The nose and mouth were quite tricky as there weren't a lot of shadows to clearly show these sections.

Once I got a pretty close sketch on graph paper, I layered a white fat quarter sized piece of cloth over the drawing and transferred all the marks using a black Pigma pen.

It was actually very simple and wasn't difficult at all. I kept the original photo close by for reference so I if something wasn't clear, I could easily see how the image was supposed to look.

Once I got the marks transferred, I darkened certain areas to show deeper shadows or my dark furry eyebrows.

The nice thing about this type of drawing is it didn't have to be perfect. While it might seem scary to draw in pen on fabric, I just kept reminding myself - it's just a fat quarter! I could easily throw it away if I really messed it up and just start again.

So what is the next step? Quilting of course!

I'm planning to quilt all the dark lines with black thread, then go inside and quilt the white areas with microstippling and white thread.

- WARNING -

GRAPHIC / POSSIBLY DISTURBING IMAGE BELOW

Now for the weirder side of this experiment. I'm giving you fair warning because as Josh said - this image is pretty disturbing. He regularly watches scary horror movies and zombie flicks and declared my next experiment was simply "too much."

So if you don't want to see it, click here to go check out designs from the project.

While working on this piece, I started thinking about how my mental image of myself has changed over the past year.

A year ago, deep in the clutches of my negative inner voice (inv), I expected to see a horrible monster when I looked in the mirror. I expected to see a zombie, or at least a face so disfigured and ugly, no one would love it or trust it.

At one time I was told I was ugly. At one time in my life I was told I was so ugly, no one would ever love me, and I would be lucky of they even liked me. I'm sorry to say I believed these lies for a very long time.

A year of digging and understanding myself, combined with a good dose of compassion and kindness, has finally turned this corner and allowed me to believe, and see, my own beauty.

But this negative image was still bouncing around my head. I wanted to get it OUT and that means creating it in a quilt.

So I took another fat quarter of white fabric and using that same drawing, I made another sketch of my face:

The two were almost identical, but then I started adding the scars:

Soon I found the thin Pigma pen wasn't up to the job of coloring in all my darkness, so I picked up a black sharpie, permanent magic marker.

I really don't know how archival this is, so I'm not advising you use it on a special heirloom project you want your great great grandchildren to enjoy. It was just what I had on hand that would achieve the look I wanted.

So I let myself go with this for awhile. I wasn't going to for making an intentionally scary face, I was just simply drawing what I'd always expected to see:

I know you might not understand this. I know this might seem scary and awful and all things painful, but I assure you, it was not. I didn't cry or get mad as I drew this. If anything, I felt relief.

Relief that I've finally gotten this image out of my mind. Relief that this negativity no longer exists inside my head where it can hurt me.

Relief that I can look at these two portraits and I KNOW WHICH IS REALLY ME.

If this is too much to share, I apologize, but I do feel the need to share this because beauty is such a difficult thing for so many women and girls. I've carried this negative image of myself for so long, it was high time I let it out.

Now what will I do with these?

I'm planning to combine the two into one quilt. There is an juried art exhibit in my town coming up very soon and I hope to enter it.

Even if I don't finish it in time, I plan to hang this quilt in my studio so I see it every day. I need a daily reminder of what is real, and the painful result of believing lies.

Off to quilt,

Leah

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quilted Pincushion Tutorial

If you're like me, chances are you have loads of quilted samples floating around your quilting room.

I restitched more than 50 designs from the project this past winter and all the original squares have just been sitting in a pile, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. Until now!

I created this simple little pincushion last week to showcase my Pin Toppers from Sew Craft Jess. I wanted a simple project that would use up a few squares I've already quilted so I wouldn't have to piece something new.

I also wanted to play with some of the decorative threads I've been saving for months, but never gotten around to using.

So let's get started! Here's what you're going to need:
  • 2 quilted squares measuring 4" x 4"
  • Walking Foot
  • Polyester or wool batting scraps or fiberfill or trimmings from your last haircut
  • 4-in-1 tool (optional, but helpful)
  • Embroidery Floss
  • Variety of Decorative threads
  • Hand embroidery needle
Step 1 - Putting the pincushion together

With WRONG sides together and using your walking foot, stitch the two quilted squares together with a 1/4" seam leaving about a 1" gap on one side. Reinforce the stitching on either side of the opening by back-stitching.
Step 2 - Stuff the pincushion

Using the blunt point end of the 4-in-1 tool, stuff your pincushion with the batting or fiber fill.

Here's a tip I learned from my Grandma years ago: next time you get a hair cut, ask if you can sweep up the trimmings. Save these and put them in your pincushions! The natural oils in your hair will keep your pins from rusting.

Step 3 - Seal the opening.
I stuffed my pincushion really full, but still managed to squish it under my foot enough to stitch the opening closed. Back stitch again to secure your threads completely on either side of the opening.

Step 4 - Binding with embroidery floss

Originally I'd planned to bind my pincushion with bias binding, but once I stuffed it, I realized it was going to be really hard to get it under my presserfoot again.

Of course, if you really want to you could simply stitch on some bias binding by hand.

Or you could play with binding the edges with decorative threads!

The first step is to find some plain embroidery floss and a sharp embroidery needle. I'm using black floss, but it really doesn't matter what you use as it will be completely covered by your decorative threads.

Start by tying a knot in one end, then insert your needle through the raw edge of the pincushion and bring it out the front so the knot and loose end are encased in the raw edges of the pincushion.

Take your first stitch, inserting your needle 1/4" away and pulling it out the back. Don't tighten the stitch completely. Instead insert your needle through the loop and pull it tight so the threads fully incase the raw edges of the pincushion.

Insert your needle into the front again 1/4" away. From the back insert your needle through the loop, then tighten the floss until the raw edges are again encased.

I believe this is called a "Buttonhole Stitch" in embroidery, so if you have a good book on hand embroidery, look it up for a better diagram or picture of the stitch.

Here's what it should look like when the full pincushion is encased with embroidery floss:

Step 5 - Binding - Adding decorative threads

Now select some decorative threads. The thicker and chunkier the threads, the better!

Again tie a knot and secure it in the raw edges of the pincushion. Working from the front, slide your needle behind one stitch of the embroidery floss and pull it through.

Insert your needle behind that same piece of floss a second time, pulling a loop of the decorative thread around so it loops around the embroidery floss, covering it completely.

Now insert your needle behind the next floss stitch, again looping it around a second time to completely cover the floss. Work around your whole pincushion this way.

Depending on the thickness of your decorative threads, you may have to do this several times. I went around the front and back 2 times each, then wound an extra length of metallic embroidery thread around the outer edge for a shiny finish.

Please don't feel like you have to do this exactly as I've described. Bascially I used the embroidery floss as a skeleton for the decorative threads to be stitched on and wound around.

This way I never had to actually pull the decorative threads (which can be quite delicate) through the pincushion fabric itself. You could also experiment with adding braids, wider ribbons, and tassels to your pincushion as well!

So that's it! This simple project can easily be completed in a few hours, it uses minimal supplies and is a great use of quilted fabric and decorative threads.

I think I'll make up a few for my guild's upcoming quilt show and donate them to the boutique of member created items. It's a great way to help out the guild and play with pretty threads all at the same time!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hot Cast: Part 6 - Thoughts on Self Love

I meant to post this update yesterday, but got busy and distracted and didn't end up having time before Josh and I headed out to see Sucker Punch, one of the most visually amazing movies I've ever seen.

But I have been wanting to post and share about what I've learned while working on Hot Cast. Yes, this will be a personal post, so if you'd prefer not to read it, just click here to check out previous designs from the project.

Since this is the 6th part of the quilt and since she's almost finished, here's a set of links to the previous posts on this quilt:

Part 1: Design | Part 2 | Part 3 | Getting Back to Hot Cast
Part 4: Slow Revelations | Part 5: Transitions

It's no secret this quilt is about love. Not the love between two people, like the love I feel for my husband or son, but self love: the ability to love, connect, understand, and cherish oneself.

Working on this quilt has been hard in so many ways, all of them emotional. I just kept wanting to rush the process - hurry up! Let me get over this already! - but Hot Cast wouldn't let me rush her.

For one thing, she is the most detailed and intricate goddess I've ever designed. Even though Shadow Self was bigger, Hot Cast is a million times more complex, and far more time consuming considering the large number of thread breaks and tiny, dense quilting covering almost every inch of the quilt.

So I was forced to take my time. A quilt I expected to finish in March is going to last until May. It has forced me to stop pushing, grinding, willing my way through hard times. Sometimes you can't get through something just by being an insane workaholic. Sometimes you need to sit in it, deal with it, and get through it by slow degrees.

I'm reminded by a Yin yoga class I attended in 2008. Yin yoga is a type of yoga where you hold the poses for a really, really long time, sometimes sitting in a pose for 15 minutes. It's excruciating to say the least and for the first 5 minutes your body and mind fight and war with one another. It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!

But slowly your body will ease, your mind will stop screaming, and you will find within yourself an ability to just sit and endure. To feel the pain without having to move out of it, run away from it, in order to relieve it. Until by the end, you could be sitting comfortably on the couch, the pain in your leg or hip no longer matters.

That is how it has been to work on this quilt: a slow, deep, methodical transformation.

At times I felt so frustrated, I just wanted to scream. I felt like I could always see what I wanted, but it was always out of reach or my way was blocked. Like the "x" on a treasure map, I knew where there was gold, but I didn't have the right tools to get to it.

I could see what kind of life I wanted to live: where I am my own best friend, where I listen daily to my wants and needs, where I follow my intuition with trust, and I no longer beat myself up, cut myself down, ridicule and berate myself for every weakness or failure.

To say it straight: I'm just so done with hating myself.

I'm done with my Inner Negative Voice and it's tyrannical hold on my mind. I'm done with feeling insecure and unsure of myself, not willing to place trust in my abilities. I'm done with feeling like my worst enemy in the whole wide world is myself, and that of everyone in my past who has ever hurt me, it was my mind that struck the worst blows.

I'm just done. I'm fed up in the way adults get fed up with a vicious dog terrorizing the neighborhood. It's time to shoot that mutt in the head and throw its manky carcass in the dump.

But when the vicious dog is in your mind, how do you get rid of it?

This is what stumped me for a very long time. This is what filled me with rage. How to live and love myself, when my worst enemy was in my own head.

I couldn't get rid of it easily. I couldn't just wish this away.

You can't go from a personal habit of hating yourself to loving yourself completely overnight. I've read so many books that included the sage advice: "Love and accept yourself" in almost every chapter, but how? How can I do this when it feels so much easier and more natural to feel ambivalent on a good day and full of loathing on a bad day?

So I started digging.

I've dug into the reasons why I have the INV, where it comes from and the roots of it in my mind. As I've sat at my sewing machine adding miles of thread to this quilt, I've dug back into the source of my self loathing.

It hasn't been pretty or pleasant, but I've made connections to my past that, once realized, seemed so obvious and logical, I wondered how I could have possibility missed it.

The best example of one of these past connections was the understanding of why I've always been sure, positively sure, that I would die before I turned 22. Even this year as I turned 27, I waited with dread for that lightning bolt to come down and wipe me out before I could get a year older.

I could never understand this feeling. For the longest time, I thought it was just my low self esteem, combined with a good dose of morbidity, that made me feel like the universe had to intervene at some point and clean up the mess it made by creating me.

But sitting on the couch, hiding the millions of loose threads over the surface of Hot Cast, I finally made the true connection.

When I was in 4th grade, I read two books called "Wait Till Helen Comes" and "The Doll in the Garden" written by Mary Downing Hahn, my favorite author at the time. Both books are ghost stories about girls who die very young, but live on to haunt a house and garden.

In one of these books, I remember reading something along these lines "God takes his best children first."

I don't know how or why, but that idea took root in my young mind and grew. Sitting on the couch with Hot Cast on my lap, I saw the long string of that idea and how it has played out in my life.

I never expected to live long because I wanted to die. I thought if I died young, it would prove that I really was good and worthy because God had taken me young, with all his best children.

But as I grew older, the idea festered further. Since I had lived to the ripe old age of 14, I obviously wasn't a good child, I was evil. God didn't want me.

So the idea changed. My death was still inevitable, but it would be because the powers that be had finally decided to correct their mistake, albeit a bit late in the game.

This is all a bit morbid, and I apologize if it's hard to follow my logic. Children have their own unique logic, and I think this idea took root mostly because it so perfectly fit with what I was being told and shown daily in my dysfunctional household.

How or why I felt this way doesn't really matter now though. What matters more than anything else is that I finally UNDERSTAND.

I understand with vivid clarity why I believed my death was inevitable and imminent. I understand why my young mind made the connections it did, and why every decision I made after that was colored by that idea.

As silly as it sounds, this understanding has set me free.

Because as soon as I remembered those books and that idea, as soon as I was able to see the full string of this idea and how it has wound like a ribbon through my life, I was finally able to let go of the idea, to release it completely.

It's not an exaggeration to say that I didn't really care about my life until I had James when I was 23. Every single day after he was born, I've wanted to live, and I've feared and hated that idea. I suddenly wanted to live very much every single day, but I didn't know how to kick the feeling that I didn't deserve my life.

But no amount of yelling or pleading at myself would ever unclench the idea from my brain. It has always been there like a ticking time bomb "You are going to die. You are going to die. You are going to die." It was only after knowing where the idea came from that I have finally been able let it go.

This wasn't the only connection I made while working on Hot Cast. I have dug to the root of many negative ideas, seen how their threads played through my life, and finally released them so they no longer tie me in their destructive knots.

As I've worked, I've kept a journal nearby to record my thoughts. Some days I'd fill pages as each new wave of understanding washed over me.

So after having gone through it all, I'd say the first step to self love is understanding.

You have to know yourself, sit with yourself, dig into your past, and figure out why you think and believe the way you do as an adult.

Because what you think and believe has a root somewhere. It had to start somewhere, and you have to find it and dig it out in order to get rid of it.

But as I've found, understanding by itself is not really enough. Reading through "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert and "I know She's in There Somewhere" by Helene Brenner, I found a common thread through booth books:

Compassion.

Compassion is the ability to hug yourself, the ability to look in the mirror and smile at your reflection, the ability to be your own best friend, and to find that soft voice within yourself that says "I'm sorry. I love you. I will always be here for you."

I have never had this ability. The only voices in my head would punish me, not comfort me. They never offered love or acceptance, only criticism.

Until now. While working on Hot Cast, while digging into those deep areas where the seeds of destructive ideas were sown, I've finally found that soft voice, that voice of infinite peace and acceptance.

It is a voice of compassion and understanding. It is the voice of the best friend in the whole world who will never leave you, never betray you, never discourage or criticize you. It is the voice of love for yourself.

I've found this voice finally and on the days when things are too much, when I feel sad and broken, this is the voice that tells me to go to bed, to rest, to cry. It is the voice that faces all my guilt, shame, anger, sadness, and spite, and hugs me anyway.

It is a presence that has always been there, but couldn't reach me through the INV. So filled with self loathing, I couldn't believe in the presence of a positive voice in my head.

But I can now.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on the Shakers, a religious group who once had communities throughout the eastern coast. They were a celibate group who believed that they could connect with God through work: weaving, building furniture, sewing, gardening. There is an endless list of daily tasks, that if preformed mindfully and with intention can lead you to grace.

My personal opinion after creating Hot Cast is this: if you sit to work with a dedication to understand yourself better, you will. If you seek grace, you will find it.

I have sought peace in this quilt. A peace from the constant gnawing of my mind, a peace from my anger and hot rage at the injustices of my life, a peace from the daily push and pull of stress that can make me crazy.

I have found this peace and miles more in this quilt.

As I finished the quilting of Hot Cast, I felt like I've turned a corner, a huge weight has been lifted off my mind, and I'm finally letting some light in.

But even still I feel my seeking change. I want to change the way I work.

As I finished the quilting, I blocked Hot Cast and left her flat on the floor for a full week. I need to bind this quilt, to finish the edges, but for once in my life I'm not pushing myself to act until I want to.

So this week I've played and experimented with other projects. I've done the work I've felt like doing, when I felt like doing it.

It might seem like a simple lesson, but this is very hard for me to do! I'm constantly running around like a chicken with its head cut off, nagging, reminding, bullying myself to finish everything right now.

But by this point of working on Hot Cast, I have decided that this has got to stop.

And amazing things have happened. While logically you might think that without forcing myself to work, I just won't work, the opposite has been true.

I've actually accomplished more: written half of my new book, designed a new quilt, experimented with new techniques, made a fun pincushion, and kept this blog and email updated perfectly.

I've actually finished MORE work because I did these things when I WANTED to, so they were easier and faster to accomplish than if I'd forced it.

Doesn't that just fly in the face of all logic?

Current work mentality dictates that if a task needs to be done, get it done right NOW, not tomorrow, not the next day. Logic doesn't take into account how we FEEL.

And as I'm finding, how I feel about a particular task is extremely important. It determines how much thought and concentration I put into it. If I'm writing with only half my mind engaged, will I write as fast or as fluidly as I could if I really wanted to write?

So even now Hot Cast is sitting on my tables and I still haven't bound her. I've decided to paint her first. That is what I want to do because that's what I feel like doing today.

I think the best word for this new way of living and working is kindness.

Be kind to yourself, listen to yourself. If your body is tired and exhausted, go to bed. If your mind is wired and crazy busy with ideas, go write or draw, even if it's in the middle of the night!

Understanding, compassion, and kindness. I knew there was some reason I wanted to put three steps in this quilt...

I certainly knew these three words and their meaning before Hot Cast, but it is only now that I'm actually feeling them for myself. Those are my thoughts on self love.

Off to paint,

Leah
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