Monday, August 11, 2014

The Academy of Applique

At last! The big reveal. This is the applique project that saved my sanity during our crazy month of family comings and goings. I've been invited to teach at the Academy of Applique in Williamsburg, Virginia! If that's not cool enough, I'm going to be teaching two multiple day classes, giving us a chance to really explore and savor the applique process.

 This is the class sample for the three day workshop at the Academy of Applique. The class descriptions are on line now and registration will open on September 2nd. This class is called Gather Ye Rosebuds, and in the three days of class we will have the time to play with design and color. We'll concentrate on the more flexible, modular aspect of my applique technique in this class. I'll have dozens of preprinted flowers in various sizes and shapes with which to fill our vases. We'll even have time to design and sew our own custom backgrounds to give our bouquets just the right setting. I had so much fun playing with color values and shapes I am already planning another version.

I will also be teaching a two day workshop, Autumn's Bounty. This class will be a great introduction to the basic "Hand Applique by Machine" technique. We'll have time to audition and select just the right fabrics to show off our lovely harvest. (I'm in love with the grapes.) I'm expecting that we will be able to go home with our applique pretty much finished, which is rather amazing for applique workshops, if I do say so myself.
As I've mentioned before, I've really cut back on my teaching schedule, and I haven't done much teaching on the east coast. The Academy is a wonderful gathering of all things applique. Come on all you applique artists, this is the place to bond with your people, learn new things and generally have a great time.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Time Travel

Do you ever wish away time? Do you try to mentally project your thoughts to a date and time where life will return to what ever is normal for you? I have to admit that I do. It's not so much that I'm wishing away time, I know life is too short for that, but it is sort like casting out an anchor for getting through challenging times. In a way, it's like envisioning my victory over the current situation.

It's been like that for the past month. I've tossed a marker to today, knowing that our wonderful, but hectic, family gatherings will have been enjoyed and survived. Ironic, isn't it, that not too long ago I was deep in the throws of empty nesting, and now I look forward to being back to my quiet life. That's the thing about life, I suppose. It's always changing. Normal really is just a setting on the washing machine.

Our Kansas kids were back in town for about ten days. While we were home base, they were here to celebrate weddings and reconnect with friends. We saw them in the mornings on their way out the door, and sometimes in the evenings as they regrouped for nighttime activities. We did have a lovely time on the drive down to Detroit Metro, for their return flight home. Yeah, I cried a little when they left. It's a mom thing.

Our grandchildren stayed with us for a week. They are now seven and four, and delightful, well mannered kids, and exhausting. I don't know how folks our age manage young children of their own. But, we had a great time together, and I'm grateful that they live close enough that we can be a part of their lives.

Of course, in the middle of all the excitement, I had a class sample to finish. As usual, I stressed out about it way more than necessary, but it too, is done and gone. (More on that in a couple of days.)

It won't be back to happily boring though, for a few more weeks. I'm looking forward to three days of tapestry workshop this week, where I get to be a student. And there will be autocross for Kent. From there we will blissfully slide into our familiar routine of work and play. Not that I'm counting the days or anything.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How it begins

I've been invited to teach a three day applique class next March. Three days! I'm so used to trying to cram everything I know into just six hours that three days seems like an incredible luxury. I'm excited to be able to devote time to design, color theory and embellishment as well as technique. With this in mind, I've set out to develop the class sample.

My idea is to offer students a variety of flowers (you were expecting something else?), in several shapes and sizes, and allow them to arrange their own bouquets. The challenge is to present enough choices to keep everyone happy, but, at the same time, I don't want to offer so many choices that students can't make good progress on their samples.

Here's my preliminary layout, with some of my fabric choices surrounding it. I've gathered up three different styles of main character flowers, there will be three of each in the handouts. I've used one of each here as a sort of tease, but also because it is this sort of mish mash bouquets I have been cutting from my garden.

So far, so good, right? The vase isn't showing up well here, it is actually a little more complex that what can be seen. As I'm working on the glue basting I'm also considering what sort of embellishments I will add to the shapes. I may do a little ink work on the yellow rose, but I think the zinnia and the painted daisy will need some french knots, at the very least.

Moving on the accent flowers, it's there that I hit a snag. That's my little finger in the picture. That circle is less than a quarter of an inch in diameter. I want to challenge my students, not frustrate and discourage them. Glue basting shapes this small takes skill and patience. Most of my students would probably be able to pull it off by the end of the second day, but I'm thinking that I want to keep this class fun and gratifying. So, I'm back to the drawing board to simplify and enlarge some of the smaller elements. I think I'll leave some smallish ones in place, for those who really want a challenge.

I'd love your feedback! What would you like to learn in a three day applique class? Would shapes this small scare you off, or reel you in? Would you rather work from a proscribed pattern, or would the idea of designing your own bouquet excite you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A summer for gardening

It's been a lovely, quiet summer so far. The weather has been mild, a good mix of happy sunny days and charming all day rains. The flower gardens are really coming along, although I still have some major weeding to do on a couple of them.

Our hard winter was really tough on my perennials. Quite a few didn't survive, including several of my roses. I put off weeding and planning to see what really was gone, and what was just taking its sweet time about coming back. I've had a few nice surprises, especially from roses I was sure were gone.

The pond also suffered from the hard winter. We lost nearly all of our fish. The ice was nearly three inches thick when we finally hefted it out of the pond, near the end of April. We'd been waiting for it to simply melt away, but our cool spring prevented that. Despite having lots of aeration, I think the fish suffocated. We've added three new fish and a few new water plants. and I think it is looking well again.

Gracie is learning that grass is good for sprawling, but mom gets super mad when she lolls around on the flowers. I'd lay prickly rose branches between the plants to discourage her, but they seem to be her especially favorite to chew. I catch her swiping them out of the weed cart all the time.

The gardenia is now constantly in bloom, adding its scent to the lavender and roses. I've left the few milkweed volunteers, hoping to coax a monarch butterfly, or two. I haven't seen a single one so far this year.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

And now for something completely different

Part Three: Learning Curves
As the previous posts have suggested, I'm learning to weave. I'm taking a tapestry weaving online class from Rebecca Mezoff. She is charming, delightful, and an excellent teacher. I've learned so much over the last couple of months, and not just about tapestry.

It turns out that I am the sort of student who would challenge me as a teacher. I wanted to know all of it, and now. In the first few passes of yarn through the loom, I knew that I was hooked. This is a new way of playing with color, and my mind just sort of boggled at the possibilities.

Part Two: Demi Duites, Pick and Pick and Weft Joins
I chafed a bit when I learned that we wouldn't get to angles until part two, and curves would remain a secret until part three! I wanted to know it all, now. I will admit to some very ungracious grumbling. And then I recognized it. I'm that student. On the one hand, it's sort of a miracle to see from the teacher's perspective, seeing that moment when the door to all the new possibilities opens up in a student's mind, when a student totally gets it. On the other hand, it's super hard to contain the excitement and discipline myself to learn to crawl before trying to fly.

When it came to tapestry, I got it. I am the sort of person who is used to catching on to things quickly, at least anything involving needlework. It's in my dna, just as much as my green eyes and freakishly long legs. But tapestry is not needlework. There are no needles involved at all. There is an entirely new vocabulary to master, not the least of which is the interaction of warp and weft.

Part One: Hatching 
We're only part way through part three, and I'm excited to see what comes next. I can't say enough good things about Rebecca's class. It's part self-directed, but with a great deal of interaction with Rebecca. She responds to questions very thoroughly, sometimes even creating new videos to clarify a point for a struggling student. If you are at all interested in tapestry, check it out. You won't be sorry.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's called OLAD

Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder. OLAD. I knew about the malady, but never expected to be infected so quickly. Looms have very specific functions, designed for specific styles of weaving, sort of like the way sewing needles are designed for specific tasks, only taking up way, way more floor space. And I've got it bad.

My OLAD was still manageable when I had just the Baby Wolf and the Mirrix, each designed for specific purposes.

This sweetie is a terrific loom, but it has its limitations. It's considered a portable loom, so it's not quite sturdy enough for weaving rugs. (With all this fabric around me, I see many, many rag rugs in my future.) And, it only has four shafts (patterns are made by threading the warp through different shafts), the more shafts a loom has, the more complex the patterns can be.

I have woven several things on this loom, not the least of which is the beautiful overshot pattern to the left. With careful threading of the shafts and repeated sequences of treadling, marvelous designs can appear.

It was the "mathyness" that drew me to quilting originally, taking just simple bits of algebra to cipher out an entire quilt. Weaving is also mathy, and I love it!

But just as, after a time, all those straight lines in quilting designs began to chafe, so it is with weaving. So, I needed a tapestry loom.Tapestry weaving lets me draw with yarn. It's the weaving world's equivalent of applique. I am taking an online class from Rebecca Mezoff, and so far we are only up to geometric forms. The class has been just marvelous, Rebecca is a terrific teacher.

This is my final project for Part One. Curves aren't actually covered until Part Three, which is next month, but I couldn't help myself. They were supposed to be circles, those blobs, but at least the top one ended up a convincing oval. Even the triangle was a bit of stepping out, we're only just now getting the the lessons in triangles, in Part Two.

And now to the OLAD, one more type of loom, this one a for-real floor loom, a heavy duty loom that can handle rug making, and also with more shafts for more intricate patterns. I've been watching for a used loom to come up for sale nearby, and one did, just last week.

Introducing the Norwood. These looms have a delightful Michigan history, built by a furniture maker out of cherry wood.

She has eight shafts, and a weaving width of almost forty inches. She also has a sectional warp beam (it's the spiny looking thing on the left), so I'll need to learn how to work with that.

I wish I could say that I was done buying looms, but I fear I have a couple more in my future. I'm certain that I will eventually want a larger tapestry loom, and I'm also considering a band loom, to weave intricate, skinny bands of color. But that's it, really, who actually needs a loom with more than eight shafts, or hooks up to a computer, or is just bigger? Nah, I'm done with OLAD, really I am.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Loom Room

 To say that the office was a disaster would be an epic understatement. This picture shows the cleanest part. I am too embarrassed to show you the rest of it. The room was crammed with stuff. Parts of books and patterns, printing stuff, binding stuff, paperwork and general junk was piled higher and deeper and filled every corner. And it was all stuff we thought we needed. The room was so bad that, even though I relish a challenging organization job, I turned a blind eye to this room.

And then there was IKEA. I love IKEA, and luckily the nearest one is about two hours away or I'd be in big trouble. Fine furniture it's not, but its a big cut above chain store stuff and that's good enough for my purposes.

This wall is the office. What used to take up the entire room is now mostly hidden behind doors. The desk that filled a quarter of the room (and harbored stacks of homeless paperwork) is gone.

A center for tapestry weaving is replacing it. Instead of the jumbled mess from the first picture, a Baby Wolf floor loom awaits. I was worried that I'd gone a little bold with with paint color, but now I love it. The room positively glows! I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to the room because I thought I left the light on.

The room is still a work in progress. I'll be sewing up new curtains, there's a new top coming for the tapestry center with room for the bobbin winder. And before much weaving can go on, I'll need a proper bench.

My buddies always said that one day my stash would cause me to expand into another room, but I don't think this is exactly what they had in mind.