Sunday, April 30, 2006

My fusing method

Please read: since I first wrote this entry, the Beacon company, makers of Liquifuse, have renamed and repackaged the product. It is now called "Liquid Thread". It is still the same product and can be used in exactly the same way.

I have developed my own method of fusing fabric that fuses the edges only. I thought I'd show you how I do it.

I have tried Wonder Under and other similar fusibles, but I just don't care for the stiffness, especially since I am often fusing three layers or more. I experimented with glues that could be used just on the edges, which I liked better, but those edges were very stiff. I finally found a liquid fusing product called Liquifuse. Initially I found it very difficult to use, and nearly gave up on it, because it was thick, would clog the opening on the bottle and it was hard to control. Having little to lose, I experimented, discovered that the product is water soluble and when thinned with water it is much more workable.

Here are some of the things I will be using:

  • pastel pencils in the oatmeal tin—these are not regular colored pencils, they are thicker and softer
  • line drawing of my design.
  • diluted Liquifuse in a small bottle with a fine tip. (That's the Liquifuse as you buy it, in the bottle with the red label) The proportion is probably about 1 part water to 2 parts Liquifuse. It's not a careful measurement. I add enough water that it flows nicely, but isn't water-y. Sorry I can't be more specific than that.
  • light box. You can tape your design to a sunny window if you don't have a lightbox.

Put the drawing on the light box and lay your fabric, face down on top, so you can see the design. Remember that the finished design will be the reverse of what you are seeing. For the black part of my crow I am using a black fabric with a dark gray design on it. I will use a white quilt marking pencil to trace the lines of the black parts of the crow on the back of the fabric. If I were using a lighter colored fabric, I would trace it with a black permanent marker.

Run a line of the Liquifuse just inside the traced line. For the inside lines on the wing, I will put the liquifuse on both sides of the line, as I will be cutting away a narrow section of line in those areas.

When you have traced all of the design with Liquifuse, lay the fabric on an ironing surface, with the Liqui-fuse face up. Lay a teflon ironing sheet over the top and press with a hot iron until the fabric fuses to the sheet and the Liquifuse is no longer wet. The Liquifuse can be allowed to dry before you do this step, but it isn't necessary.

Allow the fabric and ironing sheet to cool slightly, then carefully peel the ironing sheet off the fabric. You will see that you have a line of shiny fusing material outlining your design on the fabric.

Carefully cut along the marked line. The melted Liquifuse seals the threads and you will have a clean, non-ravelling edge. At this point you have a design element that can be fused to a background if you wish. I like to fuse each element to a piece of black or dark fabric that I will cut to create a dark outline.

After I have fused the black and gold parts of the crow to the black scrap, I like to add detail, shading and dimension with pastel pencils. I have used fabric paint for this step as well, but I like using the pastel pencils because I don't have to wait for paint to dry to see what the actual color will look like.

To get my black outline, I flip the crow over on the light box and simply apply the Liquifuse on the back, following the outline of the fused pieces.

Again, I iron the teflon sheet to the back of the piece, cool it and peel off the sheet. Then I cut the bird out, leaving a narrow edge of the black fabric all the way around. The black also shows through where I have trimmed out the wing lines.

Now I am ready to fuse the bird to a background.

For most pieces I use a narrow zigzag stitch around all the fused edges. Occasionally I use a straight stitch just inside the fused edge instead. The piece seems to tell me what kind of stitching will work best. If I am planning to quilt very heavily, sometimes I don't use any kind of stitching on the fused edges.

The pastel pencil needs to be set or it will smear and eventually rub off. I have used two methods for this. You can use very thinned down acrylic medium to paint over the colored areas. This secures the pastel and leaves the fabric relatively soft. I find that it sometimes dulls the pastel and can discolor black and dark fabrics, so I have started using spray fixative. It makes the fabric slightly stiff, but it softens up as you handle it and is still easily sewn through. (not nearly as stiff as a piece fused with Wonder Under) It seems to keep the colors nice and clear and does fix them. Use this outdoors. It really smells and I'm sure is not nice to breathe. The smell dissipates as it dries.

I buy the Liquifuse and plastic, pointed tip bottles at Michael's crafts. I have also found Liquifuse at some fabric stores—usually not quilt shops. I buy the pastel pencils and fixative at an art supply store.

© Terry Grant, 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Inspiring art

I really want to invite you to visit our other blog, about Ecuador today. I have written a couple of entries about Oswaldo Guayasamin, an Ecuadorean artist who is very inspiring to me. I have included a lot of photos. Between my two entries you can also read Ray's entry about where to eat out in Quito—just in case you were wondering...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday—odds and ends

It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful day. This is the view from my front porch this morning. When it finally stops raining in Oregon, it really knows how to do Spring. Gonna have to cut some of those lilacs—I love that divine smell in the house.

Things in the yard are green and lush. I love this time of year.

Old friends
I heard from an old friend this morning. From 1988 to 1993 I owned a quilt shop in Ashland, Oregon. There were a group of women who came to the shop every Tuesday morning. When they started coming in none of us knew each other, but all wanted a place to get together with other quilters and I was happy to provide it. We became very good friends—really special friends. Then I closed my shop and moved to Portland. They had a party for me and made a quilt for me and a wonderful little book of photos with their memories and comments, including little bits of some of the favorite fabrics they had purchased from me. Leslee emailed me this morning to tell me that she had recently visited Dickie, who moved to California. Dickie showed Leslee my blog and that prompted the email. It was full of news, including how two, sometimes three, of that old group are still meeting together and she said,

"So this weekly sewing and these friendships all began many years ago at The Scrap Peddler. What a great legacy—a store that begins fruitful friendships."

Well, how great is that? I miss them all over again.

I think about them all a lot. I have three little dolls that Leslee made. They sit on the Window frame on my stair landing and I pass them going up and down the stairs.

Dickie gave me one of her wonderful Kitty dolls that sits on top of a bookcase with my mother's Buddy Lee doll, my old, well-loved raggedy doll (that you can see in this picture the Christmas morning it was brand new) and a couple of raggedys that I made.

I am so happy to have these things and to have had these wonderful friends.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Head to toe

And now for something whine-y and self-absorbed...

Did you catch the size of my head in that photo I posted yesterday? I was shocked when I saw it. I have hair issues. My hair is thick and it has a lot of body. That's a good thing you say, and I agree, but it does present some problems too. It's limiting.

See my picture in my profile in the sidebar? That's the haircut I have had, more or less, for the last 40 years. I'm really tired of it. I don't know what to do about it. I have tried out so many different hairdressers over the past two years. I go to them looking for ideas and they just ask how I want my hair cut. I tell them I want something different and they look kind of blank and then give me the same old helmet hair. The last one I tried was recommended by my friend, who had a cute new haircut. I told him I wanted something new and stylish and not old-lady-helmet-hair. He spent our hour together telling me how burned out he was on hair-cutting and how he is getting into real estate. He gave me my same old haircut, except with flippy, wing-y things on the sides that, despite a healthy application of both gel and spray, wilted almost as I was leaving the salon. After paying him a breathtaking sum, he handed me his real estate business card.

I have the feeling that most hairdressers, who are considerably younger than I, don't think women over 50 care what they look like. Well, guess what? We do.

I have been cutting my own hair until I get a better idea. My daughter urged me to grow my bangs out. I have been doing that for about 9 months now and just last week could not stand them hanging in my eyes for one more moment and I chopped them off. (I tried, Emily. I really did. There was no amount of goo that would keep them back) Then yesterday when I saw the giant pumpkin head photo I grabbed the scissors and had at it.

So I'm pretty much back to square one. I left the top a little longer than usual, but it's a small distinction.

Last week on Quiltart they were talking about dyeing fabric with Koolaid. Then it got around to dyeing hair with Koolaid. I expressed an interest in how that might be done and how permanent it would be and I got all kinds of email urging me to try it and send pictures. As if! But some part of me really does want to try it. I'll do anything for a change. Here's a little preview, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

I think I would want streaks, not a solid coverage, don't you?

And finally, from my head to my toes, I couldn't resist posting this.
My friend, Gerrie Congdon posted this picture on her blog a couple days ago.

We have the same shoes in different colors. They are Keens and they are soooooo comfortable. They have wide toes and the ends are rounded so you have lots of room to wiggle the toes around. I think they are slightly comical looking. They look like toddler shoes to me—very, very LARGE toddler shoes. I hope Gerrie likes hers as much as I like mine. I wear them to walk every day. They honestly do put a little spring in my step.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Like a well-oiled machine

Isn't it nice to be part of a group that works well together—like a well-oiled machine?

When our small quilt group went on a retreat weekend to Cannon Beach, Oregon back in January we were offered the opportunity to hang a show at the Cannon Beach Historical Society museum. We've never had a show before—never even thought about it—but we got kind of excited about the prospect. Today we went over to Cannon Beach and hung our show.

After pondering the ways to do this, it seemed like the best option was simply to load up a bunch of quilts then figure out which pieces would work in the space once we got there. It is a small room with log walls half way up and windows all around—not the easiest room to fit quilts into. But after laying everything out on the floor, we started working our way around the room, anchoring it with Beth Nimmo's traditional wedding ring quilt on one of the longest walls.

It went surprisingly well and we found it to be a lot of fun to piece it all together, working to make the unrelated pieces relate and the varied colors flow. There was nary a disagreement, nor a cross word. There was a lot of laughter and kudos—"wow! That looks great there!"

We packed that little room with quilts, but I don't think they look too crowded and I think we have given them a nice variety of work. Beth's big wedding ring sort of represents the historic aspect of quilting and the other quilts show how far it has come.

We couldn't leave the coast without a visit to the beach. It was a perfectly gorgeous day and there were lots of people out enjoying the weather. This is a shot of Cannon Beach's most recognizable landmark, Haystack Rock.

The quilts will be at the Cannon Beach Historical Society until July 22. If you are visiting the Oregon Coast be sure to stop and take a look, then let me know what you think.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Never throw anything away

Now there's a dangerous philosophy and really, I don't subscribe to it. There are others in my family who are far worse than I—don't look so innocent—I know you are reading this and you know who you are.

But I digress. I have been in a mood to clear things out. I took a load of fabric to S.C.R.A.P. I took a bunch of clothes to Goodwill. I even cleaned out the spice cabinet. (I can't believe how many partially used bottles of cumin I had—) Sometimes it depresses me that I have accumulated so much stuff, not least of which are sketchbooks and folders with old artwork and ideas.

Last week I decided to make a salmon quilt for Illustration Friday. (See previous entry). I could have researched salmon and found photos to work from, but as it happens I did that about 20 years ago when I did this drawing.

It was for an invitation to a salmon barbeque fundraiser. It has been hanging out in a file of drawings all these years and last week I whipped it out, scanned it and it was a starting point for the new salmon.

This was not the first time it has come out of the file in the past 20 years. Several years ago when I was designing pieces for our garden art business, I pulled that salmon out and used him for a stainless steel salmon that can be mounted on a stake or on a wall.

It's hard to know what to hang on to and what to get rid of. I'm glad I'm still keeping most of my sketches.

This week's Illustration Friday topic is "Robot". I think I'll take a pass on that one.

So, have you looked at our Ecuador blog lately? We've been writing about the time we spent in Cuenca, our favorite city in Ecuador. Ray got some great pictures at the ceramics factory we visited and the Vega gallery was very inspiring. We had an interesting meal that is an Ecuadorean favorite and I share some of my favorite photos of Cuenca. Check it out—

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Spotted"

This week's Illustration Friday topic was almost limitless in its possibilities, but I seem to have animals on my mind, so I immediately went there. It was tempting to just do another beetle, but I decided I needed to branch out a bit and I kept thinking of those spots on the sides of salmon, so a salmon it was. This is Oregon, after all.

I was a little bit thrilled at how well the paisley (yes, paisley again!) fabric worked for the fish. Here's a closeup.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

An Easter Story

Easter is not being celebrated in a big way at my house. In fact it really isn't being celebrated at all, since I am the only one home and I haven't yet reached the stage where I enjoy hiding and finding my own Easter eggs.

When my kids were young, the Easter egg thing was a big deal. We would dye and decorate a couple dozen eggs the evening before Easter, which was a messy, but creative and fun activity. Andy was into mixing dye colors and dipping and redipping eggs until they were striped in various mud colors. Emily liked pure, unblemished color, then happily applied the rub-ons or stickers that came with the dye kits.

The next morning the eggs and Easter baskets, filled with cellophane grass and foil-covered chocolate eggs and jelly beans, would be hidden all over the backyard for the kids, in pajamas and robes, to find. I had counted the eggs so I knew exactly how many needed to be found. Throughout the day the eggs were hidden and rehidden—inside the house and outside. Eggs were eaten or stepped on so the number dwindled and the actual count became less precise.

One summer, my cousin and wife and their son, Eric, came to spend the 4th of July with us. Eric, who was probably about 8 that year, was between my kids in age, so the three of them were pretty good companions. It was a hot July day—up in 100 degree range. We had taken the kids to the parade, eaten lunch in the park and were tired and very hot, so we came home, closed all the windows and cranked up the air conditioning. We were sprawled all over the livingroom, fanning ourselves, sipping iced tea and waiting for the AC to do its job. Eric, who was stretched out in the middle of the floor, rolled over lazily and said, in a matter-of-fact voice, "I see an Easter egg", then plucked a dyed egg from an arrangement of dried flowers sitting on the hearth. It had been visible only from his vantage point flat on the floor. It was uncracked and the color was unfaded. It did rattle when you shook it, however. It had obviously been there at least since Easter, but maybe it had been there since the previous Easter, or the previous . . .

Eric is past 30 now, a handsome young man, a husband and a father. We don't see him very often anymore, but the last time I did, he said, as he always does, "remember the time I found an Easter egg on the 4th of July, at your house?" Then we all laugh. It is still a funny memory.

Have a Happy Easter—and try to keep track of your eggs.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Make that a grande, fat free, chai latte, extra hot with a shot of pop wisdom

I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. Lately, they have been printing quotes on the back of their cups, under the title "The Way I See It." Being good marketers, they have chosen some good quotes—thought-provoking and on a wide range of topics—not too corny or Hallmarkish for the most part. I usually read them and sometimes they resonate and sometimes not so much.

This morning I read the cup. It was a spring morning with a little rain spitting half-heartedly and the smell of green in the air, we were laughing and talking about what a good week we'd had and how good it had been to spend time with friends and how proud we are of our children. And I read the cup. And damn, it was just right. On a paper coffee cup. Sometimes it doesn't take that much to start the day off on just the right note.

Let go your sorrow.

Let go your blues.

Coz I know tomorrow

is yesterday's news.

Let go your sadness,

give up the fight,

follow your madness

and take flight . . .take flight.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Speed"

This week's Illustration Friday topic is "Speed". I am demonstrating a lack thereof, by finally posting the one I did for last week's topic, which was "Spring" . I doubt I will get around to doing anything to illustrate speed. Speed seems to be less and less part of my vocabulary.

This a fiber (quilt) piece, continuing my fascination with small size and small subject matter. It is roughly 18 x 22. It is all commercial fabrics, with the exception of the green, leafy fabric in the background. This is a piece that I dyed and silkscreened. On the quiltart list there has been discussion about the relative merits of hand-dyed fabrics vs. commercial fabrics. Personally, I think it is not a contest—whatever works for what you are trying to achieve. I love pattern, especially stripes, so I tend to use a lot of commercial fabrics. Some folks expressed the opinion that hand-dyes and commercial prints don't mix well. I think they work OK in this piece. What do you think?

Birthday aftermath
Thanks to everyone for all the nice birthday wishes. I was really dreading that birthday, but decided the best way to deal, was to announce it to the world and face it head on. As I keep being reminded, getting older is far better than the alternative. I love that my old friend, Carla, reads my blog and comments and I especially loved her birthday comments. She and I were glamorous sorority sisters back in the college years—well maybe not glamorous, but we were pretty cute! Over the years our paths seemed to crisscross as we have moved around. She is suddenly within easy driving distance once again, just "up the road" in Tacoma and I am looking forward to getting together soon. We will bore our husbands silly with our reminiscing about the good old days, though we have now known each other long enough that the husbands are old buddies by now as well.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's a big day

What do all these people have in common? (No hair jokes, please)

We were all born in 1946—the leading edge of the baby boom generation. That means we all turn 60 this year and today it's my turn. In addition to the faces you see above, I share my birth year with Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, Diane Keaton, Patty Duke, Tyne Daly, Sally Field, George and Laura Bush, Liza Minnelli, Bob Vila, Diane von Furstenburg, most of the Pocatello High School Class of '64 and millions of others. So, hard as it is to face the age of 60, I do it in good company—or at least a lot of company.

Our sheer numbers have pushed through the last 60 years like a wave. We thought we could change the world and maybe some of us did—at least a little bit. We came of age in the '60s. Our youth was tumultuous and hopeful and tragic and exciting. It was the end of polio, it was the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietman War movement, the Beatles, the first man on the moon, and too, too many assassinations. It was "never trust anyone over 30". Now I'm a little disheartened by how many of my former classmates have become complacent and conservative and how we seem to be revisiting some of the things I thought I'd never see again.

But for me mostly it has been a good 60 years. I was fortunate to have wonderful parents, a great husband and the best family. I've never been rich in the financial sense, but I haven't been hungry one day of those 60 years. I am healthy, still have all my marbles (I think) and life is good.

So happy birthday to me. I hope the next 60 work out as well.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A beautiful thing

It was beautiful here today, but I was stuck inside most of the day working on hard, crummy, number-crunching kind of work. I walked down the street to my mailbox and laying on the ground right in front of the mailboxes was this beautiful red leaf with little black splotches. It was the only one. I looked all around and could not figure out where it came from. I could see no plant or tree with red leaves like this. It's a mystery leaf. It seemed like a little gift. Thanks.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New work

These three pieces came from an Illustration Friday topic “Insect”. After I did the first one, I liked the idea of imposing unnatural pattern and color onto the fairly realistic, natural forms of the beetles and did a couple more. These may not be the last.

On the QuiltArt mailing list people talk about finding their artistic “voice” or developing their own style, and I have struggled with that myself and tried out quite a few styles for working. In “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland I came across this thought and it struck me:

“we don’t learn much about making art by being moved by it…. As viewers we readily experience the power of ground on which we cannot stand…”

How often we think that the art we love looking at is the art that we need to do, so we take a class from the artist whose work we admire, or we buy the book and do our best to emulate that work. But that is not our work.

There are so many fiber artists whose work I admire and love, but trying to work as they work is futile and ultimately unsatisfying. I love Lisa Call’s cool and rhythmic abstractions. I love June Underwood’s organic energy. I love Pamela Allen’s sense of humor. I love Rayna Gilman’s layered complexity and Melody Johnson’s joyous color, and so many others. But the pieces I am doing right now come from someplace altogether different and they feel, more than most of the work I have done, quite satisfying. I guess they are somewhat like I am. Quiet. Straightforward, I hope.

They are observation and a little bit of storytelling and, quite a lot, a consideration of pattern and relationships. And, of course, my own ideas about color. And while they do not convey any heavy messages, I feel they are quite personal to me and may be harder (for me) to sell than some other work has been.