Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Loose Threads

Time to do a little catching up. I have been busy in the studio, finishing up a few projects and clearing the decks to begin something new, while debating whether to schedule a new class. 

I put the final touches on the mermaid batik print, "Enchanted Oro Bay". This was such a fun piece to work on--threadwork, beading, quilting, glitter! At the very end I made the decision to quilt her skin, and what a difference that made.  I am so happy with the result that I plan to do the same for the three Fates depicted on "Working the Thread of Life" when they return from their Maine tour. That quilt, along with others from  Art Quilts Maine is held over at Kimball St Studios through November! I'll be collecting them after Thanksgiving, as the challenge pieces move on to the Portland Public Library for December and January. I do hope you have an opportunity to see the show at Kimball St--it is more extensive than the Challenge Tour. 

The piece below was begun in Dianne Hire's workshop this summer. We spent a day making curved pieced blocks, with free-hand cutting and easy stitching. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with her do so--Dianne puts on a really fun workshop. I put the finished blocks together while at Friendship and decided to depart from Diane's style of bold colors set off by black and white. I happened to have a large floral print on hand, which became a bold border for the muted blocks. Here is a shot of the top before quilting.

What's on my design wall now? In a further exploration of human figures, I decided to take on a portrait quilt. I am building "Layla" right on the enlarged photograph. Learning as I go, this piece is all about value and shape. I can't tell where it will end, or what decisions I may make along the way. For now, it is coming along an hour or two at a time. 

Time in the studio is great. Absorbing, challenging, sometimes surprising. Whatever your passion, I hope you find time to pursue it--whether an hour or two at a time or all day every day!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kimball St Update

Lewiston's Friday Art Walk is tomorrow, September 30! Art Quilts Maine has a great exhibit featuring the "Power of 3" challenge tour and several other items at Kimball St Studios, 191 Lisbon St in Lewiston. Plan to stop in Friday between 5:00 and 8:00 for the reception. If you can't make it Friday, the show continues through October. Call Kimball St Studios for details:333-3342. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kimball St Studios

I dropped off a number of art quilts and other items at Kimball St Studios in Lewiston today in preparation for the Art Quilts Maine exhibit. The exhibit opens with September's Last Friday Art Walk in Lewiston, Friday, September 30 from 5:00 to 8:00. If you can't get to the opening, the show remains on display at Kimball St Studios through the month of October.

Featuring this year's Art Quilts Maine challenge tour, "The Power of 3", the show also includes a number of embellished masks members made last winter, and several other member items. Bonnie met me at the gallery with an armload of beautiful quilts, masks, even a bag! Most of the pieces on exhibit are available for purchase. 

"The Power of 3" refers to the many ways the number "3" appears in culture and mythology. Challenge participants responded with quilts that delight and inspire. This group of 10 quilts debuted at Maine Quilts in July and will continue for a two-month stay at the Portland Public Library following Kimball St. Note that the gallery is located at 191 Lisbon St in Lewiston.

While in Friendship this summer I refilled my box of pins featuring a botanical theme inspired by morning walks to see the fairy houses in Martin Point Wildlife Preserve. The box is at Kimball St through October.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lady of Oro Bay

I'm liking Oro Bay as the location. Oro means gold in Spanish and finding this batik was like finding treasure. (See my earlier post here) Many sketches later, I finally committed to quilting the moon this weekend.

Clouds scuttle across the sky in white rayon thread, while the moon is filled in with bubbles and straight lines done in a pale green silk. This has been a fun piece to work on! Soon as I figure out how to quilt the sky, the quiltingt will be done and I can move on to embellishments--and I do plan to embellish! I realized that I have no plan for how to finish the piece--some sections of the print go right up to the edge of the fabric and may pose a problem. I'll tackle that later. For now, I'm really happy with the weekend's work. Here's a shot:


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Working the Thread of Life

Watercolor sketch
Art Quilts Maine issues an annual challenge to the members. The challenge is chosen from a list of themes, prompts and ideas members contribute. This year's challenge was titled, "The Power of Three." Discussion centered on the many references to the number 3, culturally, mathematically, mystically.

I knew I wanted to work with the human form. My mind wandered to the three fates and I started researching that thought. The three fates, from Greek mythology, are Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, three sisters who spin, measure and cut the thread of life.

An image from my research stuck with me: "The Three Fates," one of 54 drawings completed in 1884 by the American artist, Elihu Vedder as an accompaniment to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet. It seemed like Kismet.

Detail, Clotho
Using Vedder's figures, I painted a watercolor sketch of each woman, scanned the watercolor then printed it on muslin. I enhanced the printed images with thread paint and colored pencil. Once satisfied, I cut each figure out and fused it to my starry background fabric. A scrap of brown and gold marbled fabric proved just large enough, with some judicious cutting and arranging, to give the Fates a promontory on which to stand. Swirls of sparkly purple organza provided a sense of the Fates gathering the very fabric of the universe. In a nod to Omar Khayyam, I printed out the verse, "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all they tears wash out a word of it." 

We revealed our work at the Art Quilts Maine meeting in June, and exhibited the art quilts publicly at Maine Quilts in July. Mine is one of 10 pieces that will go on tour in Maine for the year. Among the venues are Kimball St. Studios in Lewiston from the September 30 Art Walk through the end of October, and the Children's Room at Portland Public Library during December and January. There are some great pieces in the show--hope you get a to see it!

Working the Thread of Life, 21" x 33" 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer Projects

My students have been busy this summer, completing projects begun in class. I love hearing about your progress and seeing your work!

Lisa came to 'Picture This!' in April. Although it is a two-day class, we are always working up to the last minute and I don't get to see the finished product. Lisa has been working at it diligently though, and sent me the great shot below. Her favorite part of this piece is the tree and leaves. Mine too!

Pat was in 'Baker's Dozen' improvisational piecing in May. That class was fun and free-form, slicing and sewing with abandon. She kept going after class, making more and more blocks until she had enough for a huge quilt, over 100" in each direction! I told you these improv blocks were addicting! Isn't it a sunny, happy, summer quilt?

Keep the pictures coming! I am looking at schedules and hope to have a few fall classes to announce soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the summer and hope you all find time to sew!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Free Motion Success Story

Barbara attended the Free Motion Quilting class in June. Having learned a trick or two, she went home and finished her first free motion quilted quilt, with stippling throughout and hearts on each of the Squares. It's a Disney Princess Quilt! Click on the photo for a better view. I love seeing what my students are doing with their newfound skills. Thank you Barbara for sharing your work and allowing me to post it. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

What I'm Stitching

While I wish I had a picture of this piece before I started thread painting, I thought I'd share the work in progress now, and post another picture when it is completed. I'm still thinking about a name--Anderson Island Mermaid? Dawn over Oro Bay? Nisqually Reach?

I acquired this beautiful batik while visiting friends on Anderson Island in Washington state. They had a large box of fabrics from a man whose quilting wife had passed away and generously suggested I take what I liked. Who can refuse an offer like that! In the collection was this batik piece, about 30"x 35", of a mermaid silhouetted against the sunrise (or moon? or sunset?) Regardless, it was too lovely to leave in a box of unclaimed fabric!

I admired her for some time, thinking about how to enhance the batik. I started thread-painting her hair, ultimately adding eight colors of thread over the dark batik base. My threads ranged from a variegated golden brown to dark purple. It was so much fun to thread paint such a large area! I then added scales to her tail, using turquoise, green, purple and yellow thread. The shelf she sits on was a solid dark blue, the same color as her hair and tail. I used my bag of 'tree bits' to add a wash of colors, with variegated thread holding the tiny bits of fabric trapped beneath a layer of tulle. I layered the main elements over a scrap of polyester batting for loft, then sandwiched the whole with batting and backing. Next step is to quilt the background--the sun (or moon) sky and water, and decide how to finish the piece for hanging. I am still debating further embellishments in the form of glitter, sequins or beads.

Got a suggestion for a name or further embellishment? Let me know!  Here is a glimpse:
Mermaid in progress--Rana O'Connor 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Mess of Thread

This is a pretty wonky post so if you aren't into the minutiae of quilting, you may want to just scroll through the pictures.

I thought it would be fun to describe how I came to quilt (and quilt) my latest quilt. Don't you find it confusing that quilt is both a noun and a verb? I started with a very simple pattern in one of my older books. The pattern is a traditional Boston Common with some four-patch blocks in alternate rows. I chose it because I had a stack of mostly sunflower fabrics to use and the required amounts meshed well with what I had. It's also a pattern I love, so I knew I would enjoy piecing it.

I chain pieced the blocks, finishing the top over a couple of weekends. Then came quilting decisions. One reason I put this simple top together was to practice quilting with my new toy, a free motion quilting foot set. It is pretty cool. Three different feet on a base that attaches to my machine. Open toe, closed toe and for lack of a better term, big toe.

I started off stitching in the ditch along several major seam lines to provide stability. I'm not convinced when everything has been spray basted that this is a necessary step, but it gave me a chance to move the quilt around under my machine, assessing what might work for free motion patterns. I knew I wanted some curvy quilting to offset the straight lines of the design, and I wanted some of that quilting to be feathers.

Starting in the light center portion, I quilted feathers out from the center to the yellow corners. I liked the effect but had chosen a variegated yellow thread and it just didn't show up as much as I wanted it to. I let that thought percolate for a while as I quilted a leaf and vine pattern in the green squares, treating them as a border. Originally I had selected a green thread for this, but opted to keep my machine threaded with yellow, increasing visibility on the green background. Better, though still not a strong enough statement. A friend suggested I go around a second time, outlining the leaf and vine pattern. That second row of yellow quilting really helped.

For the outside border I chose piano keys for their straight lines, balancing the curved quilting everywhere else. The green thread worked well here. I used blue painter's tape along the block points to mark the keys and guide my stitching, which I carried into the green border, stopping each line where it touched the leaves. For these straight lines I switched back to a regular foot, not free motion. This provided greater control but also meant I had to stop and start over for each line. I think long-arm quilters use a ruler for this work. I hear a ruler foot is available for a domestic machine now--maybe that will be my next toy?

Red Thread!
Next came filler quilting. To make motifs pop you need to flatten the background. To accomplish this I first echo quilted my feathers twice using yellow thread, then switched to Bottom Line thread in off-white so it would not compete with my feathers and stippled the open areas. I loved how the feathers began to fill and stand away from the background but that yellow thread still blended into the background to the point of disappearing! In desperation I grabbed a spool of heavy, dark red thread and quilted over one of the feathers, figuring I could rip it out if I wasn't pleased. Not bad! I took a deep breath and over-quilted all the feathers with dark red, leaving the yellow beneath and as echo quilting. Much happier. Who would have thought?

Vines, feather, piano keys and fill
Remember the green thread? I decided to use it as filler thread around the vine, as the color blended with the background better than my Bottom Line off-white. Being thicker than Bottom Line, the green also provided a nice texture change. I filled all the spaces between the leaves on the side of the quilt next to the center, but on the side with the piano keys I opted to add filler only to a few larger spaces, between the keys. I love the effect!

All that's left is to bind and label. I'm seriously thinking of naming it A Mess of Thread--all that quilting and over quilting and issues with tension as I learned to work with my new feet! For the record, I really like them. Much better than my old clear plastic foot that wasn't so clear any more and was hard to see through and hard to see around. The metal feet are so much smaller they don't obscure my vision at all. If you've stuck with me this long, you are truly a quilting geek! Go quilt!

The back

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Picture This!

So proud of the students in the Picture This! class last weekend. In spite of challenges with the fusible web on Friday, they persevered and produced the truly marvelous parade of chairs seen above! 

The second day we worked on creating a landscape for the chairs and boats to live in. Everyone learned several new techniques, including the most fun way to make trees from Tree Bits! I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of anyone's tree, so take my word for it, they look amazing.

It is really cool to see how the fabric choices affect the mood of the scene. Even before any stitching is done, the pieces begin taking on perspective and dimension. I sure hope some of the students will send along pictures of their finished pieces (or works in progress!) Here are some photos taken around mid-day.

Lisa's scene with curly grass and swirly water

Sandrea played pattern on pattern to great effect
Pat's luscious fabric choice for her ground really wowed us

Missed the fun? Linda and I will be teaching Baker's Dozen Improv on Saturday, May 14. Sign up with Tyler at the Sewing Machine Exchange. It will be a blast! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Floral Nine Patch

Sometimes it's fun to do something quick and easy. I can enjoy the colors and patterns without over thinking it. Having just finished my piece for this year's challenge (which is not revealed until June) I wanted just such a breather. I had several florals kicking around--mostly sunflowers in various sizes. I did not want to buy fabric for this piece, so I found a design that accommodated the fabrics I had on hand (although I did have to mix in a few bits--but that always adds interest, no?) I might have improv pieced, but I've always liked this pattern, with its simplicity showcasing the fabrics, and it seemed serendipitous that what I had could be made to fit the pattern requirements.The large red print has chickens in it--a piece of red fabric with small black chickens was the perfect tie-in. It is coming together quickly, though I've not thought about how to quilt it. I'm sure inspiration will strike by the time I finish stitching the top--perhaps you have an idea? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Baker's Dozen

Just finished quilting a small quilt top I made last summer. Time can get away from me! In a departure from my usually more scripted work, this top was pieced improvisationally from strips and squares. I don't have solids in my stash, but I had a bag of solid scraps (and added one fabric to make 13 colors, but used the back side to hide the print!) With a few parameters in place, the blocks came together quickly and went up on the design wall. Pieced sashing helped blur the block edges and brought the composition together.

I enjoyed the improv piecing so much I started on another one right away! I made the second one from shirting fabrics and quilted it in Friendship last summer, in an all-over clothes hanger pattern. A friend snapped it up, but here's a photo.

Recently I pulled out the solid pieced top and decided it was time to quilt it. In keeping with the improvisational spirit, I  chose to let the quilting develop organically as well. The first decision I made was to overlay the quilting, rather than follow any of the lines in the quilt, but I wanted something more than an all-over pattern. I grabbed a dinner plate and a salad plate and a piece of chalk and drew large, concentric circles. Stitched those. Filled the space between the circles with smaller circles and curlicues. Added straight lines, like ladders. Decision by decision, the quilting filled the top.

Now that it's done, I want to share the fun of making these quick, no stress pieces. My friend Linda and I will be teaching a beginner friendly class, Baker's Dozen Improvisational Piecing on May 14 at the new class space at The Sewing Machine Exchange in Falmouth, Come if you can!