Saturday, January 22, 2011

Folk Costume and Embroidery

Seriously, some day I swear I will learn how to make a hyperlink. Don't email me with "oh, it's not that hard." If it wasn't that hard, I could do it.

It's been a long time since I posted. Life intervened with a brand new grand daughter who is the apple of my eye. My daughter, an excellent photographer, took this photo.

She says it's not quite what she envisioned, but I still like it alot.

None of this, however, relates to folk costume and embroidery. I started working on an embroidered quilt and then started reworking an embroidered mask I had been working on previously. In my internet travels, I came across this fascinating blog that deserves attention. The web address is at the top. Cut and paste until I learn how to make a link.

This is a Mari costume and if you want to see more, you need to visit this blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Loose Thread #3 Ocean Gate

Back in October, my niece sent me this open call for amateur digital photographs for the Hungry Man gallery in Chicago.

"We have been in the age of the digital revolution for some time now that this super speed world has become normalized. The Internet has changed how we perceive and interpret artwork, through artist websites as well as cut and paste blogs. Digital cameras have birthed a plethora of self-taught photographers. Are these outsider artists? Online tutorials and instructions litter web pages. Apprenticeship and art school practice are not necessary in order to learn how to make a picture. With the overload of images in our society, what makes a photograph a real photograph? It depends on who you are– your values and principles on your practice. Making a deemed “good” photograph is so subjective. This is an exercise and experiment in the values of our culture towards image making. What is your best image?"

I rubbed the callouses on my sewing fingers and figured, "Why not?" I sent in the above photo which I had tagged as "ocean gate" on my hard drive.

A few days later, I checked the blog where the photos were to be posted and there it was. If you want, copy and paste this link: (someday I'll figure out how to make a link) Look under October for me and also for my talented brother Mark Gallo, the father of the Chicago niece. In November, I got an email from the curator, Robin Juan, that 16 of the blog photos were going to be printed out and hung in a regular gallery show. Mine was one of them.

I found this alternately funny and exciting. You have to understand me and photography. I like to take pictures and my hard drive is crammed with thousands of pictures. I try, I really do try to learn more about photography, but when I read about white balances and apertures and ISO's, my mind glazes over and I start wondering if I left the iron on. This photo was taken with a little tiny point and shoot Sony about the size of a cigarette pack. I put a watercolor filter on it in a photoshop 6 program. Any more basic, I'd be carving it on a rock with a sharpened piece of flint. Robin Juan's statement for the gallery show said, "What we are making photographs of are more important than what we use to make photographs."

One of the files on my computer is called "Arches and Gates". In this file, I have pictures of, well, arches and gates that appeal to me.

The concept of looking through something to see something else is intriguing to me. My personal favorites in this group are the first one of the bridge and the last one of the gate in the stone wall. I was going to add where I took the photos, but somehow that detracts from them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Which I Wear a Dress

Well, a skirt, actually.

It all started yesterday when I had to wear a responsible adult disguise for a work-related court appearance. I have quite a few of those outfits left over from my previous job where competitive dressing was a form of office politics. Rummaging around in the darker corners of the Home for Wayward Textiles (aka, my closet) I found some things I had forgotten about, including this skirt and the purple ultrasuede suit that went to court with me.

These days, my job usually entails a lot of getting in and out of the car, sitting on the floor, and other activities not conducive to skirt or dress wearing. Today, however, I had to go to some meetings and then down to Monroeville for a guild retreat meeting, so I decided to wear the skirt. It has an elastic waist and promised to be comfortable. The poor thing had been lurking in the back of the closet for a couple years, still with tags on, and had never been worn. It deserved a day out. Then I realized I could wear my favorite boots with it. I don't know about you, but I just feel in charge of my day when I've got leather up to my knees. Even better, I could wear the burnt orange jacket with the wool embroidery. A decision had been made.

It was interesting, having a skirt on. I stepped outside to go to work and the first thing I noticed was..........I was cold. It was 37 degrees out. Not exactly the worst weather western Pennsylvania can throw at you in December, but suddenly the purpose behind our foremothers' quilted petticoats became clear. Erin on the Dress a Day blog swears that tights will keep you warm while skirt-wearing. Either her hot flashes are better than mine or she lies. I sashayed into the office meeting where one of my coworkers asked me what the occasion was. How do you explain a sudden decision to wear a skirt? Should you have to explain why you are wearing a skirt? "Oh, ah, just an experiment," I mumbled.

I went to the quilt guild meeting. Oh, those girls! NO subtlety there! Gladys grabbed her heart when I walked into the room. Bunch of hams, they are.

Now that I've got the skirt wearing urge out of my system for a few years, everything can return to normal. It was kind of fun, in a way, to walk down the stairs with my skirt trailing behind me. The elastic waist was nice for sitting all day and it was kind of fun to feel it swinging around as I walked (doing the boot-wearing walk!). People treat you differently when you have a skirt on. They're more polite and there's more door holding. Tomorrow, though, it'll be jeans and a sweater. Ready for action!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Progress Report

So here it is, three quarters of the way through the 2009 Year of Finishing and how am I doing? Well, I did finish this quilt and it is on my bed. Not a fancy quilt, but a nice every day quilt. I like to have a real quilt on my bed because those polyester fleece blankets make me all sticky and sweaty. (you wanted to know that, right?) This was Project #8 on this year's list. So that's one down and seven to go. Some sort of progress has been made on the other seven projects, but finishing is still a ways off on most of them.

I did deviate slightly from my no-new-projects resolution. I've been embroidering dish towels, which is not as weird as it sounds, if you are not from the world of compulsive sewing. Go into any quilt store and there are baskets of dish towels, attractively arranged, just waiting to be adorned and embellished. I end up in places with odd bits of time on my hands for my job and they are the perfect "few minutes" project to work on. The weave of the fabric is loose, so you're not taking tiny, exact stitches which means any kind of light is ok. I learned to embroider on dish towels as a child and really, how can you mess up a dish towel? You're going to dry dishes with them, maybe your hands, so unless you shellac them, you can't mess them up. They'll make nice little no-reason presents for my sewing friends. If I make some unfortunate color decisions, well, I'll keep them for myself.

In July, I went to visit my brother in Florida. This is the same brother that designed "Karli's Bees", Project #1 on the Year of Finishing project list. We'd both been feeling a bit stale, artistically speaking, and had several long phone conversations about trying something new. I took a jewelry class and Mark starting some copper chasing. When I visited, we spent some happy mornings bonding over the pitch bowl. I was hooked. Yes, that's my brother, father, and me bonding over a cast iron bowl of hot pitch in July in Florida in the garage. Yes, my brother and I are still in our pajamas. When the muse is upon you, you obey. Now I have my own little garage set up and I've been down in my garage, hammering away. I don't think that really counts as a deviation from the year of finishing since I specifically stated I wasn't going to start any new textile projects this year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Loose Thread #2 Grace Schulman


Seeing, in April, hostas unfurl like arias,
and tulips, white cups inscribed with licks of flame,
gaze feverish, grown almost to my waist,
and the oak raise new leaves for benediction,
I mourn for what does not come back: the movie theater -
reels spinning out vampire bats, last trains,
the arc of Chaplin's cane, the hidden doorways -
struck down for a fast-food store; your rangy stride;
my shawl of hair; my mother's grand piano.
My mother.

How to make it all new,

how to find gain in it? Ask the sea
at sunrise how a million sparks can fly
over dead bones.

Grace Schulman

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Loose Thread #1: Barry Adamson

Disclaimer: I'm not a musician and I'm not a music critic. A co-worker handed this to me the other day and walked away. I put this in my car CD player and have been letting it play over and over. I can't say if I like this CD or I don't, but I'm fascinated by it. If David Lynch wrote an auditory mash note to Jacqueline Susann during a drunken fever dream, it would sound like this.

Listen for yourself.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

It's the end of May and I am pleased to say I have not yet broken my New Year's Resolution. Good for me! I know, I know....New Year's Resolutions are dumb, old fashioned, and you don't need an artificial holiday to resolve to do something you should be doing anyway. I know that. I have a whole set of resolutions outside of my New Year's Resolution. There is my weekly resolution to exercise regularly, my monthly resolution to turn the reports for my job in on time, and even my quarterly resolution to perform some sort of spiritual upgrade on myself. I'm not talking about resolutions like that. I'm talking about a New Year's Resolution for I have declared 2009 to be A Year of Finishing.

A Year of Finishing means I am not going to start any new textile projects during the calendar year. I did this once before, in 2005, and was amazed at how much I accomplished. I made a list of projects I have underway.

1. Karli's Bees: Several years ago, like 8 or 9 years ago, my brother in Florida and I conceived a plan in which he would design a quilt and I would make it for his youngest daughter. It sounds so good, artistic collaboration among family members to create a lasting legacy and so on. The whole plan goes off line when you take into account my brother is a map maker by training and there are 90 some of those sharp little points,complete with shading on either side. I originally planned to piece them until I came to my senses, decided to paint in the shading, and if I carefully quilt along the painted line, no one will notice it's not pieced. There will be also appliqued flowers and leaves, trees, clouds, and little bees flying around. I'm particularly excited about the bees. I have some bright yellow cotton velveteen dyed to make the bees fuzzy. I hand dyed the flower fabrics, too. My contribution to making this already fabulously complex project even more complex was deciding to make the sky out of pieced hexagons so it would look like a honey comb. Karli is 11 years old now, and if I hurry, it'll make a great wedding gift.

2. Tim and Sue's Christmas quilt: If you know Tim and Sue, keep this quiet because it's a surprise. Every year, my Pennsylvania brother and his wife host Christmas and they do it up big. I thought I would make them a Christmas quilt as a present to say "thank you".

3. Kalidescope quilt: A few years back, only 6 or 7 years this time, I bought this Paula Nadelstern fabric and began making kalidescope blocks. I got some more of the fabric, simplified the block construction, and am making this quilt as a surprise for someone else.

4. The Dream Mask: I drew this sketch while I was thinking about a dream I had while I was listening to the Many Bright Friends cover of "East West". I am embroidering it on a piece of emerald green shot silk dupioni. I posted the sketch because the embroidery is all wrong and I ripped it out.

5. Twelve Days of Christmas wallhanging: Last summer, I was in Peace by Piece quilt shop and they had this as a block of the month. Each month, you get all the fabric to make one block and at the end, you have all your blocks made for the wallhanging. I had broken my kneecap and wasn't able to work the dye buckets or sit at the sewing machine, so the fused applique with the button hole stitching seemed like it a good couch project. Even under the influence of pain medication, it didn't seem like I could hurt myself too much. I am pleased to say I have kept up with it and will soon be ready to assemble and quilt it. This one is going to hang in my dining room this Christmas.

6. Dragon wallhanging: A friend asked me to make her a wall hanging. She likes Asian designs and I found the batik dragon at a quilt show. I got as far as appliquing it to the black and metallic gold background and inspiration deserted me. I have an idea now, so work can proceed.

7: Yellow leaf batik fabric: Yet another fabulously complex project. This appeared in an earlier post. I photocopied leaves, made plastic templates, and drew the leaves in a random overlapping pattern on a piece of yellow hand dyed cotton. I have the space between the leaves waxed and now need to carefully wax the lines of the leaves. The plan is to drop autumn leaf colors into the individual leaf shapes. Hopefully this will be good enough to go to the art cloth show next year.

8. Basket weave quilt: I am happy to report that this quilt is all quilted and has the binding machine sewn on. I just need to flip the binding over to the back side and stitch it down. This quilt got started when I felt the need to just sew something easy.

See what I mean? I'm a GOOD starter!

Then there are the projects that I have all the stuff ready for, but just haven't cut into the fabric yet. I asked a few people whether or not this qualified as already started projects, but most politely declined to commit themselves to some sort of opinion. My Child gave me The Look and Steve told me about an artist (I forget who) that would think and plan his painting all out before even putting a brush to canvas. Then he would just sit and paint it. If I follow this example, all the following projects count as already started, so if I cut into them, I won't (technically) be breaking my Resolution.

Here are the planned ones:

1. A fish quilt: I have some hand dyed fabric, with coordinates, with a batiked fish pattern. I'm saving it to make my first Smart Cute Grandchild a quilt.

2. 1820's reproduction pillar print quilt: My brother the mapmaker gave me a desk calendar a few years ago that had antique quilts in it and I fell in love with one that had a pillar print in it. I bought all the fabric and that's as far as it got.

3. Coverlet print flag: I have a couple yards of different prints taken from woven coverlets. The plan is to make an American flag using the coverlet prints. Like I said, got all the fabric and that's as far as it went.

4. 1920's embroidered baskets: I got a pattern produced from a vintage 1920's quilt that alternates blocks of embroidered baskets of flowers with plain blocks. I saw the original quilt at the Quilt Odyessy and it was gorgeous.

5. Jack and Jill baby quilt: This is so cute. It's a selection of prints taken from the old Jack and Jill school readers packaged in an old fashioned metal lunch box. It was a present from Gladys in preparation for a Smart Cute Grandchild.

6. Whole cloth baby quilt: I have a nice piece of pimatex cotton dyed in multiple pastels. I'm going to do a little raised quilting on it for my Smart Cute Grandchild.

7. Peter Rabbit quilt: I was at Peace by Piece picking up my Christmas block of the month when a Peter Rabbit panel jumped out at me. It'll be a nice every day, drag around quilt for my Smart Cute Grandchild.

8. Embroidered Christmas quilt: This is going to be a pretty quilt. Once again, I was down at Peace by Piece and saw this made up. It's a white on white fabric with a light teal embroidery on it with coordinating light teal batik snowflake prints.

So, I need a Year of Finishing. I could probably declare a Decade of Finishing and still have plenty to do. Wish me luck!