Friday, August 29, 2014

New Mandala Quilt

You guys may remember my quilt Ring Around the Mole, completed earlier this year.  It's been hanging at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in a SAQA exhibit, and I was recently contacted by some people who wanted to commission a similar quilt, but with different animals.


Ring Around the Mole


I met with them and worked up a design they liked so I'm moving forwards.  It's the first time I've made a second quilt in the same vein as a prior one and I'm trying to track how the two compare. The design process took about as much time as before, only two of the animals (the armadillos and the deer) were the same as in my project, but I didn't have so much difficulty with Illustrator as I did last time.  Designing Ring Around the Mole was really my first foray into vector graphics and designing a quilt that way, so it helped this time around to be much more familiar with the software.


Here are three different colored versions of the new design.  The clients wanted their ranch logo in the middle and then cardinals, squirrels, rabbits, chocolate labs, armadillos, horses, longhorns, deer, catfish, great blue herons, crested caracaras, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls.  If I've done my job correctly, you should see all of those below!  One thing that stood out to me this time was the bird feet.  My first quilt had all mammals, so there weren't any bird feet, but it was quite challenging to draw all the different bird feet for this one.







They liked the middle version of the coloring so I'll be using that as my starting spot for finding fabrics.  A lot of the precise colors will depend on what I find, and of course the colors will be much more vibrant and textured in fabric than in the drawings.  As before, I'm going to have to be careful to prevent it from getting too busy, but I think I'll be able to find a balance.  I'm excited to be starting something new, and it was fun to mock up a design for someone who I knew really liked my quilts.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Rearranged Bedroom

Ever since I moved into my new studio, my back bedroom has actually be set up for guests.  For a long time I had both twin beds pushed together to be a single king size, but for a variety of reasons I decided to separate the beds back out again. 

One primary reason (and the reason I'm sharing here) is because it means two of my earliest quilts get to be out enjoying some use!  The first is One Hen, Two Ducks, from 2009.  It had previously been out in that room but was way too small for a king bed so always looked quite funny draped over it.  The second is Eye on the Ocean from 2008.  It was actually the first quilt I ever entered into a show and was made from a bunch of fabrics I bought on wonderful trip to Hawaii.  It's been in a bag under my bed for the last several years so I'm thrilled it gets to come out and have some fun.  

Of course when paired with the boldly patterned roman shade my sister and I made and some other older quilts on the wall, it gives the room an all-color-all-the-time look, but that's me all the way!















Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Yucca and the Moth: Finished!

I finished my yucca quilt!  Facing, pocket, label and all.  (It's kind of like the lions and tigers and bears, but much more tedious).  You can see more posts on it here and here I really like the way it turned out- it's much more golden in person; so many of the fabrics have sheen and texture and shimmer.  My only regret is how many thread knots/nests are visible on the back.  Enjoy!

Shannon Conley, The Yucca and the Moth, 2014, 52 x 59"











Linking up with Nina-Marie as always, go check out all the fabulous links over there!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cooler Jug for Mike

I'm here today to share a project that wasn't an utter failure but came pretty close.  Mike wanted a lined coozy-cooler-case for his half gallon water jug so he could mount it on the bike for his long road trips.  We decided to make it out of neoprene with a lining of that stuff that car sunscreens are made out of.  

The problems began and ended with the choice of materials.  I started with the lining, and noticed first, that it was too stiff to force under the sewing machine and that the wrinkles from the folding sunscreen made pretty permanent fold lines.  I wound up using a combination of glue and large hand stitches, all put in with a curved upholstery needle.





The neoprene was way worse however.  We couldn't find any locally, so Mike ordered some we found on Amazon.  Unfortunately it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  It was flimsy and wasn't fabric lined on either side.  It's one of the reasons I hate buying specialty fabric online- you never know quite what you're going to get.  It was crazy expensive too!  Anyhow, I couldn't sew with it at all without covering both sides of every seam with tissue paper, which made a huge mess when I ripped it off.  I discovered the serger worked fairly well to sew the seams (it was pretty thin stuff), but the fabric had absolutely no strength!  It tore like paper as soon as you'd sewn it down.  He wanted a little strap on the bottom to loop over the back bike footpeg, and one on the side through which he could insert a bungee cord, and both tore off in an instant the second he tried to put them on the bike.  What horrible horrible material.  Anyway, the cylindrical case itself was ok, but it's terribly ugly. All the seams are wretched and I'm never working with that stuff again.  I'm sort of ashamed to have him go off in public with something like this, but he's leaving Tuesday and it's too late to make something else.  I told him if he didn't care about the "insulating" factor, I'd make him something much nicer out of canvas or something truly sturdy.  I say "insulating" in quotes because I don't actually think the thing will provide a whole lot of extra insulation over what would be achieved just with the cooler jug itself, but who knows.







I almost didn't post this project, but I figured I might as well!  Not everything goes as planned, but it could have been worse!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yucca Quilt

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd posted until I clicked over today.  I've been quilting away on my yucca quilt.  Progress has been almost glacial in pace, and I think part of why I haven't posted is because I feel like progress was so minuscule as to be unnoticeable.

However, the fact is, I've now finished the quilting, so the project is definitely farther along than when I posted last!  I think the last picture I showed was this one of the top assembled but before I'd added the final flower buds.



Part of why progress on this was so slow is because I've been using 12 wt top stitching thread to outline and echo all of the applique pieces.  Some of them are even outlined twice (once on each side of the satin stitching).  Unfortunately, my machine does not like to free-motion with this thread, so I've been pushing the mass of the quilt around and around and around and around under the throat plate.




In addition,  you can't really backtrack with the top stitching thread (it's really obvious and heavy looking) so that adds to the stops and starts.  Finally, on things like the yucca leaves where you might think you could just start once and go back and forth, you can't really because they're only ditched on one side of the leaf (although the echoing is more continuous).  All of this was my own fault in terms of the design, so I'll definitely know better next time.



After finishing all the top stitching thread, I did some more echoing with Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle. I love this stuff, it has the heavy feel of the top stitching thread (and is sparkly) but works free motion since I put it in the bobbin.


All the background quilting is really simple, just horizontal or vertical swirls depending on the location.  It's quilted much less densely than most of my pieces, a choice I made because of the background fabric.  In the first place I wanted to preserve the rumpled look of the background fabric as much as possible, and in the second place, because of the texture of the background fabric, I felt like detailed quilting would have been really out of place.






The only place I have "interesting" quilting is in a couple of horizontal bars where I've stitched in a repeating yucca moth design.  I wanted to include the yucca moths somewhere; they live inside the flowers and pollinate them, but more appliques felt out of place.  I thought the repeating pattern was kind of fun, almost like echoes of an Egyptian or Arts and Crafts border.



I'm really pleased to be moving forward on this even if it's been frustrating at times.  I've  blocked and squared up, but unfortunately I forgot to take pictures when it was on the wall, so these were taken while it was laying on my work table.  I've just got to do the facing, label and pocket (oh if it really were "just"), and then I'll show some final pics and move onto a new project!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some Stitch Outs

I don't do a whole lot of machine embroidery, but I really love a lot of the patterns from urban threads. When I saw their Arts/Craft ambigram, I knew I had to snag it.  I've alwasy been intrigued by ambigrams, especially ones that read both ways (upside down and right side up) but don't say the same thing.  On an ambigram aside, does anyone remember the ones in the Dan Brown book Angels and Demons?



Anyway, the other day I was burying about a million threads on my quilt, and thought I might just as well babysit the embroidery machine at the same time, so I stitched this one out.  I made two t-shirts, black with gold and purple for me, and blue with blue and green for my mom.  The stitch outs went well as long as I remembered to keep the rest of the shirt out of the way!








And a gratuitous dog shot, because we all need one of those now and again!





Sunday, June 29, 2014

Swap Parcel: Recieved

A little while back I shared the stitchery I made for the Places swap at &Stitches, and today I'm back to share the lovely parcel sent to me by my partner Emily.  In addition to her piece, she sent me a really nice long letter telling me all about the place she depicted as well as other areas where she lives.  It's really wonderful to hear about a new place from someone to whom it's so important.

She currently lives in Brighton, on the southern coast of England and says:  "...but in the end I went with somewhere out of town a bit and more in the countryside: The South Downs, or more specifically the Seven Sisters.  The South Downs are a collection of chalk hills which extend all the way to Brighton (I can see them from my house) but depicted in my embroidery are specifically the chalk cliffs on the coast that make up the Seven Sisters.  In the foreground also depicted are the coastguards' cottages.  I chose this scene in the end not only because of their fame and beauty, but also because I feel a scene depicting nature is more connected to who I am and what I like to draw/embroider."






I looked up some pictures of the Seven Sisters, and it looks like an absolutely gorgeous place to live.  How wonderful to have that as a view.  No wonder Emily wanted to embroider it and share it with me.  I was super impressed with her tiny even stitches and ability to capture the feel of the place.

One final coincidence:  I just finished a quilt based on the seven sisters quilt block, so it's especially fun that she embroidered the real Seven Sisters for me!

Thank you so much Emily, you were a great swap partner!

Friday, June 13, 2014

New Project and Jane Sassaman Class

Back in April my mom and I went to a five day Empty Spools seminar with Jane Sassaman.  Her class was really fabulous, all about abstracting from nature, and it was wonderful to learn her design approach.  Her graphic abstract floral quilts are really outstanding and seeing them in person was remarkable.  We spent the first day and a half just drawing, sketching, and abstracting from our drawings.  Drawing has never been one of my strengths, so forcing myself through the exercise and acknowledging how much I learned from the process reminds me that it can really be a valuable tool for understanding what I see.


Of course we were all working on our own designs, and the plant/flower I chose was the yucca. Going in I wanted to work with metallics, and I thought the gold/warm feeling of the desert and yuccas would really go well with that idea.  Jane's design process (which we were learning in the class) is much more organic than mine usually is- definitely not a draw-out-the-whole-composition-at-the-beginning approach.  Here are a few in progress shots of what I was working on.




That backing fabric is some sort of soft shimmery polyester looking light brown fabric with wrinkles part of the fabric itself.  I love the texture it has.  Metallic fabric in general is so hard to photograph, I included the shot above because you can really see the glow from the gold lame accent leaves.

I've spent a bunch of time in the last few months auditioning different arrangements, and recently settled on what you see below (which I then stitched down).  The top isn't quite finished, there are a few more flower buds to be added at the tops of each stem.

The funny bubbles in the background are where the fabric isn't quite stuck to the interfacing.  They won't be there after quilting.  One of my biggest struggles with this project was the appliqueing.  I usually use raw edge applique or a sort of appli-piecing combo I learned from Caryl Fallert. Jane appliques all her pieces (some raw edge some turned) with a satin or decorative stitch, and all her work is so perfect!  Lots of my satin stitch really looks terrible- not smooth and even. Alas, I'm not sure I can do anything about it, so it may just have to be a practice-practice-practice or a different-technique-next-time situation.



One of Jane's working guidelines for abstracting from nature is "Twice as big, half as many" which I had a really hard time with, but I did try!

Let me know if you have any thoughts on the overall composition, its something I really struggled with and am not opposed to continuing to work on if anyone has any great suggestions.

Linking up with Nina-Marie as always!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

&Stitches Embroidery Swap

I'm a big fan of Carina from Carina's craftblog and &Stitches so when the &Stitches team organized an embroidery swap I had to sign up.  It could be any type of hand embroidery, and the theme was places.  Of course one of my very favorite places is my home mountain, Sierra Blanca, which you may remember from this quilt.  I'm also a big fan of Judith Baker Montano's fabulous free-form embroidery, and since I have her book I thought I'd try out some of her techniques.  I didn't have time for anything nearly as intricate and layered as her work, but I think this was a nice first try!

Since I knew I wouldn't be able to fill in the whole canvas, I started with a picture taken during a summer hike to Sierra Blanca peak.  I think it was my birthday weekend of 2003.  This shot was snapped right before the push up the last little part, after hiking to the top of the ski area.

I printed it out on a transparency and then monoprinted it on interfacing-backed muslin as I described here.  It gives a pleasingly imperfect look, quite different from that which you get printing directly on fabric with the printer (although I do that too).  For this project, where I was going to embroider over some but not all, I wanted the more textured look which comes from the monoprinting.
After monoprinting, before stitching.


Then I just started embroidering away!  It isn't completely filled in but I had lots of fun.  I used regular embroidery floss, perle cotton, and wool, and several different stitches.

To finish, I layered it around matboard (with a single layer of supporting batting to fill it out a bit) and popped it into a frame.  The back has a label telling about it and the picture.

I'm really a novice embroiderer, so I had no idea what would be expected for this swap, but I like the way this turned out and I hope my partner does too!

Sierra Blanca, 2014, Shannon Conley, 9x12