Thursday, March 31, 2016

ATCs: Calligraphy

"Create" by Dawn Spagna

Beautiful writing.

From the Greek:
kallos = "beauty" and graphein = "to write."

As a typographer, I love letterforms and was excited to propose Calligraphy as the March theme for my FiberAntics Artist Trading Card (ATC) swap. Calligraphy elevates letterforms and the written word to more than the carrier of a message... to something of visual beauty.

I often hear my friends that are teachers (or former teachers) say that penmanship and cursive writing are no longer taught in schools. This makes me sad. I can only hope that children find interest in the beauty of letterforms through classes and books about art and design, typography, graphic arts, printing, publishing, book arts or through collections and exhibits in libraries and museums.

When moveable type was first invented, the type was cut to mimic hand lettering. There was more than one version of an individual letter—say, for instance, 3 variations of the lower case "a" and 5 variations of the lower case "e." This was so the printed text looked like it was penned by a person—not a machine—with the inherent variations that come with hand lettering. Like our Artist Trading Cards, there is an intrinsic beauty, a uniqueness, and a personal quality to letters and texts that are created by hand.
"Calligraphy" by Karen Downer
"It is Writ" by Cathy Dillon
"Freeform Calligraphy with inks" by Marilyn League
"Calligraphy. The more you practice, the better you get."
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
"Calligraphy" by Debbie Joyner
"A Palindrome" by Diane Pineschi
"Calligraphy (One of my Favorites)" by Bonnie Stevens
When was the last time you penned any letters by hand?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter eggs

Happy Easter 2016!
Although the annual egg coloring process at our house gets more elaborate each year with the various dying techniques we experiment with, Larry has perfected the egg boiling process! 
The new technique this year is the sticker resist.
Start them in cold water. Bring to a boil. Take them off the heat and let cook for 13 minutes. Remove the eggs from the hot water and put them into cool water. Done.
Free-motion quilting designs using crayons.
We had no cracked eggs in the entire batch! They are easy to peel and the yolk is not green. This is the way to do it.
Rubber band resist. Shibori eggs?
We bought some brown eggs again this year. They have to be dyed in a dark color—like green or purple—to see any contrast. However, the natural un-dyed brown eggs are a nice addition to the basket of pastel colored eggs.
Brown eggs over-dyed in green and purple.
Wishing everyone a happy and colorful Easter season.
Colored hard-boiled eggs for Easter 2016.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Glorious Hexagons Quilt Along—using a color board

We're having fun with EPP (English Paper Piecing) hexagon blocks in the Glorious Hexagons Quilt Along and posting and sharing pictures. Initially, I was piecing hexagons with random fabrics from various fabric companies just to get into the swing of the program and the technique. This "hexing with abandon" method can be crazy-fun, however, if you're looking for a more cohesive, unified look, you might consider creating and working with a color board.
Color board of cool colors; primarily blues and greens.
A tip that JoAnne at Paper Pieces suggested before I started the Glorious Hexagon Quilt Along, was to pull two or three "inspiration fabrics"—in essence, a color board—from which to base color and fabric choices. Most focal prints from a fabric collection are great choices for this. Above is a cool color board and below is a warm color board.
Color board of warm colors: yellows, oranges, reds.
From these main fabrics, you can add the supporting cast of coordinating prints and blenders. Here is how I flushed out these two color boards with other fabrics.

In the first, more blues and greens were added... light and dark... and a white to add a coolness and a sparkle... also a yellow-orange/cheddar-colored fabric to add a little zing (orange is the complement of blue).
Ensemble of fabrics for the blue/green color palette.
When choosing other ensemble members for your color board, remember the Elements of Design: value, texture and color; and the Principles of Design: scale, variety, contrast and repetition. This will make your color board interesting yet cohesive. Below is the warm color palette.
Ensemble of fabrics for the warm color palette.
Here is another color board that is grounded in grays (white, black and grays) with accents of rich, bright jewel tones.
Whites, grays and blacks highlighted with bright colors.
Blender fabrics do a great job giving breadth and depth to this grayscale color board.
Adding interest and extending the color range with tonal blenders.
Hexagon block #19 Nicole illustrates the use of the red, blue and green tonal blenders with black/white prints.
#19 Nicole block from "The New Hexagon" book and Glorious Hexagons.
For another take on the concept of color boards, here is a video of Nathan Turner for Pottery Barn, creating and working with a mood board. It's just a matter of starting with things you like and auditioning additions so everything goes together.

As a fabric collection is built around a main fabric or focus print, a color board provides a roadmap for choosing other fabrics and coordinates. So, you might try orchestrating your Glorious Hexagon symphony around a color board to help with the fabric decision-making process. If you like the "Hexie with Abandon" approach, then have fun with the process and see where your hexagons take you. Nothing wrong with either path!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

8 essential tools for
English paper piecing your Glorious Hexagons

Including my latest Yuki dog hexagon block, I've completed 30 blocks thus far in the Glorious Hexagons Quilt-along. These EPP [English paper pieced] polygons are very portable—whether you travel from city to city or from your quilting room to the living room. I carry my equipment, completed blocks and partial block bits in a small tote bag. So what's in the bag, you ask?
30 English paper pieced "Glorious Hexagons"

My 8 Gotta-Haves in the EPP Quilt-along Tool Bag:
1) THE Book. (Pronounced "thee," with a capital "B" in book). You need Katja Marek's The New Hexagon book because the numbered blocks in the book are referenced in the monthly paper piecing kits. The book also has instructions for English paper piecing along with a few more hexie projects (should you desire more).
"The New Hexagon" book by Katja Marek.
2) Hand sewing needles. The EPP experts at Paper Pieces recommend a #10 sharp or #10 straw needle for piecing the hexagons. These needles have small round eyes and nice sharp points. They easily pierce and glide through fabric (and the paper, if you use that method). The shaft is uniform in size with the straw needles being slightly longer by comparison. If you prefer a different size needle, remember the bigger the number, the finer and shorter the needle. A handy Guide to Hand Sewing Needles can be found on the John James web site here.
The Gotta-haves in my EPP Tool Bag: 1. The New Hexagon book, 2. needles,
3. thread and (optional) conditioner,  4. straight pins, 5. acrylic templates,
6. paper pieces, 7. scissors, 8. pencils.
3) Thread. I use a good quality 50 wt. cotton thread for basting the fabric around the paper templates. I use up the "just a little bit left" spools. However, my go-to thread for hand piecing the hexagon bits into finished blocks is Wonderfil's 80 wt. DecoBob. It is a strong, fine weight polyester thread with a matte finish. The best part is that your stitches are nearly invisible on the right side! I have a package of DecoBob pre-wound bobbins with lots of colors and change thread color depending on the color of the fabrics I'm piecing. Optional: Thread Magic is a thread condition that minimizes knots and tangles in your thread when hand sewing. I use this occasionally on the cotton basting thread, but haven't found I needed it with the DecoBob polyester. (Ask YLQS about Thread Magic.)

4) Straight pins. I prefer glass head silk dress-making straight pins for my quilting and sewing projects. The glass heads will not melt if the iron accidentally touches them. The "silk" identification equates to these pins being thin, smooth and sharp so they don't make big holes (in delicate fabrics like silk). They are strong and about 1-3/8" long. I have a lot of these so use them for EPP as well.

5) Paper templates. Get the monthly kits from Paper Pieces and all the work is done for you. Open the resealable plastic bag and start in on the fun part!
Selective cutting or "fussy cutting" multiple motifs from the fabric.
6) Acrylic templates. If you want to take your Glorious Hexagons to the apex of magnificence, you'll want to do some selective cutting (fussy cutting) of your fabrics. The New Hexagon 32-piece acrylic template set is a must-have to achieve excellence with this technique (and prevent bad words from coming out of your mouth). Each template has the 3/8" seam allowance built in, a white outline indicating the image area (the finished view of the piece), and a label indicating its shape, size and what it's used for (ie. 1-3/4" Equilateral Triangle, or 1-1/2" 6-point 60-degree Diamond).
Acrylic template for fussy cutting multiple shapes from fabric.
7) Scissors. For cutting fabric and thread. I use small embroidery scissors for cutting lengths of thread for piecing and larger fabric scissors for cutting the fabric pieces.

8) Pencil(s). For tracing around the acrylic templates to mark the cutting lines on your fabrics. If you have dark fabric, consider a white Prismacolor or a chalk marking pencil.

1 to 8. These are the essentials in my EPP Tool Bag. I'm ready to take my Glorious Hexagons on the road. What's in your bag?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Doggie hexagon block

This one's for you, Yuki dog!
Glorious Hexagon Quilt Along: block #36
"Dog Park" fabric collection by Sarah Frederking.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Our big fuzzy dog

With great sadness and breaking hearts we sent our big fuzzy Yuki dog to heaven yesterday. Yuki had a good long life and she filled our lives with smiles and laughter as well as lots of Yuki fur. We miss her so very much.
Our Yuki dog.
Unlike Yuki's brother Carbon and her little kitty-sister China, who found us, we chose Yuki from the Humane Society. She was slated to go to a Husky rescue facility, but the paperwork was able to be changed and a week after expressing our interest, we got the call that we could take her home with us. She was about 9 months old—skinny, in need of a flea bath and not used to regular puppy food. It did not take her long to settle in and be part of our family. No doubt, it was meant to be.
Yuki amid the white irises. Right: "What are you doing in the bathtub, Yuki?"
"Yuki" in Japanese means "snow," and "luck." The "snow" name suited her because of her coloring. The "luck" part was all ours. Yuki had big blue eyes, a fuzzy tail and was about 50 pounds of dog and 30 pounds of white and grey soft, thick fur. A gorgeous dog—the kind you love to hug! When on walks, occasionally by-passers even asked if she was a wolf!

A report card from a sleep-over at The Ark one time said, "Yuki is a good dog and curious about everything!" That's our Yuki dog. We frequently found single socks, dish towels, a washcloth, or a streaming roll of toilet paper in various places around the house. A couple times, we found her in the bathtub.
Yuki the snow dog.
With all that fur, Yuki loved the snow and stayed outside in her yard most of her early years with us. She survived the 2011 tornado that barged through our neighborhood—while in her yard. The fence got crushed from a fallen tree limb but our fuzzy dog survived the havoc of that storm in her sturdy dog house. She was fearless, and thankfully God looked out for our dog that day.
Larry and Yuki in the backyard snow.
Some time after Carbon went to the Rainbow Bridge, Yuki decided she wanted to be an inside dog and hang out with "her people." With that, she kept China and our shared kitty, Lucy, company inside. Yuki pretty much ran the house and would sleep at the foot of the bed, or in the living room but she especially liked the kitchen and hallway cool ceramic floors.
Yuki was a happy dog... and strong-willed. She could con a dog cookie or a piece of bread from you by doing her Yuki dance. She liked belly rubs and playing chase with her Larry. Because of her white fur, she didn't show her 12-1/2 years of age. Over the last year she developed the typical "senior dog maladies" like arthritis and did well with water therapy at RIVER. She was actually quite a good swimmer and took well to the water, especially for a Husky. She was a real trooper and knew that we and the water therapy were helping her. It was likely a tumor that caused her to lose weight and diminish her always-good appetite. I am grateful for her long happy life and that we were able to share it with her.

I will always love you, my big fuzzy Yuki dog, and I miss you. Rest well, my good doggie. I know you are reunited with Carbon and China at the Rainbow Bridge and we will meet you all there... sometime in our future.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Have you seen "Dressed" yet?

"Bedroom Dressings" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
24" x 30"
It's not too late to see the "Dressed" exhibit in Chattanooga. This multi-media exhibit is on display until March 11 at the Jewish Cultural Center. The exhibit includes my piece, "Bedroom Dressings," and the work of 23 other artists that explored the theme in textiles, fibers, paper, oils, acrylics, watercolor and mixed media. And it is free admission!

My husband, family and friends attended the lovely opening reception in February with me and we got to meet a few of the other artists. Kudos to Ann Treadwell, Program Director for the Cultural Center, for curating a beautiful exhibit.

I posted details about my piece, "Bedroom Dressings,here along with close-up photos of the materials and free-motion quilting, and the quilt stats. The piece is a collection of orphan quilt blocks, an unfinished embroidery, a vintage dresser scarf and a lace-edged pillowcase, appliqu├ęd and free-motion quilted.

And here are a few pictures from the opening reception. They don't do justice to the art, so go and see the exhibit in person.
Watercolor of antique dolls dressed in fancy dresses
by Virginia Urani
"Dinosaurs dressed to Express" their inner feelings
knitted by scenic artist, Evie Durant
Left: "Kimono Collage" cotton fabric, paper by Bailey Earith
Right: "Party Time" oil on canvas by Jo Ann Bracey
"Is this the dress?" and "Dancing the night away" oil on linen by Barbara Brogdon
and a handmade evening gown, 1960s, by Frances Price Johns.
Larry won one of the door prizes—a bottle of wine—and I got to wear my reconstructed Tablecloth jacket that I created in a "Garments: Deconstruction/Reconstruction" workshop with Angelika Werth last year. It was a delightful evening all around!
My piece, me wearing my Tablecloth jacket, and my husband, Larry.
A list of the participating artists:
"Dressed" exhibit.
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