Base Layer!

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This is a sample for my upcoming online class called Stitch Journal, which I will present through my teaching site, The Clever Guild. In this class, we will create a stitch-able sample, using the techniques you see here, reverse machine appliqué, fusing, raw edge hand appliqué and Mistyfuse and more. And then, we will hand stitch and embroider it.

It feels great to get into teaching again. I hope my efforts are well received, and that you are interested in working with me.

I have been working and reworking this hand drawn nude for years. You may remember Repose, which won entry into Quilt National ’07, and if you poke around my quilt portfolio (I will update it. Soon) you will see a few more small work interpretations, like Repose in Blue. Recently, I recreated this image as Breastless Beauties, to honor those of us who have had breast cancer and body altering surgeries.

Little did I know when I originally drew this image that it would become a seminal work and a series to boot. I am well versed in this drawings needs, I know where the curves need to be just right, I know which lines are essential and which can be covered or altered. It is nice to know a drawing in this manner.


Abrupt change of topic:

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Please, go straight to Pinch of Yum and make this, ‘Life changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce’ Make an entire batch and dispense the paste to an ice cube tray, 3 frozen cubes works for a family meal, 1 cube makes a nice fry-up for one! It really is life changing. And versatile.

 

 

Stitching, embroidery and telling stories with thread

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Stitch is a gentle and impactful manner to tell stories, create imagery, and spend time. 

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Take, for instance this graffiti, a snapshot taken while in Barcelona, Spain, just over five years ago. I love birds, and am smitten with the quick, illegal stroke of the graffiti artists’ hand. Combine the two, and I definitely feel the need to snap a photo and go on to figure out how to use it in my own work!

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While most of the imagery I use in my work is drawn by myself, I don’t really feel badly about recreating a graffiti drawings in my work. I receive graffiti as an issue of the public domain, perhaps I am wrong in my thinking, I do not know. Beside which, I will not be selling any work with that bird in it, it is for my own enjoyment and personal use.

That trip to Spain was quite pivotal to me as an artist. I saw some graffiti that bowled me over and made me seriously embrace upon how to go about multicolor printing. That trip caused me to change course artistically.

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It made me start using stitch differently too. I began to use stitch as a means to journal, to use cloth as a place to store memories, thread as a medium to impart color, to draw and even to write. It made me start thinking of stitch as my own personal form of graffiti. Even if I am not doing it illicitly. 🙂

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It feels good to settle back into embroidery and stitch. In the next month or so, I will be creating content for my newly renovated teaching web site, The Clever Guild (there have been some behind the scenes updates and I am still fiddling with the particulars-but it is coming together, finally). I will be working with the idea of Journal Stitching and hope you might be interested in taking a class with me.

In the meantime, please read my rambles about the process here!

Pleased with the aesthetics of my choice.

This morning, this portrait of my person floated into my Facebook feed by way of NonDual and Stipe Erceg. I quickly changed it to my profile photo and began considering my part in the creation of this photograph, taken by Esther Haase.

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I have been a flat chested woman for just under 5 years. To be sure, this has been an adjustment. Some days, I process my loss and the change to my shape, feeling each thought deeply; and there are days when I don’t give it a second thought at all. There is ebb and flow in healing this aspect of my person. I marvel to think there are people in my life who never knew me as breasted and voluptuous.

As soon as I was diagnosed, I began thinking of exercise. I had not invested in exercise previously, and made the decision then and there that I would start just as soon as I could. While I was going through treatment, I was concerned with just how I might receive my changed body and I searched the internet for a path to become a body positive person. I wanted to become one who enjoys exercise. A person who appreciates the human form in all its shapes, sizes, colors, and gender expressions.

I searched the internet for types of exercise and imagery showing the effects of those movements. I settled on lifting weights. I found Bret Contreras, who, is a nerd about the glutes, I mean, he took up the name The Glute Guy, and he researches the best exercises to improve the derrière! And I figured, if I wasn’t going to have bumps in the front, at least I would have a round perky pair in the back. I joined the online training service Get Glutes, which was founded by both Bret and Kellie Hart Davis after publishing Strong Curves.

I have learned much about ‘aesthetics’ from working on building muscle and from the figure model competitors and enthusiasts who use the program along side me. I don’t really train for aesthetic goals, but rather for health, but aesthetics do play a role, of course. At first I thought I was bonkers for turning toward a type of exercise that can seem to uphold standards of beauty that are no longer entirely accessible to me. I mean, I no longer have breasts and I do not make up for my lack of them. But, to be honest, that view is much too limiting.

Learning to lift weights takes mental fortitude, good form, commitment, and it can provide opportunities, such as wanting to improve nutritional intake, it can contribute to healthier sleep patterns, it revs up your metabolism. As an added benefit to survivors, it is supposed to help keep lymphedema at bay, providing the breast cancer survivor follows a well crafted program with the support of her/his doctors and breast cancer rehab specialists.

These are traits that contribute to passion, confidence, and ultimately, body love. 

Body love is where it is at. Human bodies, no matter if they are thin or fat, tall or short, perfectly proportioned or not, dark skinned, light skinned, breasted, reconstructed, or flat, are all gorgeous. Bodies help us -do- life, they help us sew, paint, print, work, walk, read, do yoga, lift heavy things. Our bodies are deserving of our love and acceptance, no matter the scars, the imperfections, the love of frosting… and who doesn’t love frosting. 

I am pleased with the aesthetics of my choice. I am grateful my doctors listened to me and provided me with a flat result, not all of us have been so fortunate. I appreciate where this choice has lead me and I appreciate learning to love, accept, embrace and -use- the one precious body I have.

It is my hope that you too love your body, your person, to the best of your ability and in the manner that works best for you.

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If you are so inspired, please consider donating to our IndieGoGo crowdfunding in support of LESS, a documentary that was shot along side this posts featured photograph by Esther Haase. We can use every little bit of help. And I trust that there are women, men, mates, husbands and wives who will benefit by being able to see 14 gorgeous people, being true and beauty filled, no matter the losses breast cancer forced upon us. 

LESS Trailer from Nondual Productions on Vimeo.

Jazzy Paper Dolls! (Make Art that Sells BootCamp 2016)

Recently, I joined the Lilla Rogers, Make Art That Sells, MATS Bootcamp 2016. This is a self directed 6 month class with deadlines, design ideas, many dedicated participants and lots of fun. (For the next 48 hours, you too can sign up for the class, if you would like to join in the fun). Please do!! I am having so much fun, it would be great to have fun with you too.

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This month, we were asked to draw faces with 1920’s hairstyles, which then turned into designing a coloring book cover using these drawings. The above is my contribution. You may not know that we moved one floor up this month. I signed up for this class and then quickly got busy moving. I was fearful that I would not be able to complete the assignment in time, but yesterday, I did it!

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I waited with bated breath to see my entry among my very talented peers. I find it interesting that I have little or no training in computer aided design. I sometimes wish I did, though I must say, I love designing and drawing, coloring and working by hand. My entry is hand drawn and colored.

I also find it interesting that I do not have training in graphic design. As I look through the other entries, I am learning much about designing, placing text, drawing the eye to ‘connect the dots’ of design.  I am unsure I will attain computer skills in support of this course, that isn’t my focus in taking the class, but I will keep my eye open and I am excited to be learning!

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I had to place a Uniboober Beauty in the mix! I took this opportunity to allude to Artemis, Greek Goddess of the hunt, often depicted with a bow and arrow, sometimes with a stag, protector of girls, and bringer and reliever of disease. It was fun to design an outfit for this body type. 

Below is a link to a PDF, containing these two coloring book pages. This is my gift to you. I would love if you were to print them out and color them!

AND!! If you feel inspired, design some clothing, with tabs, so we can play dress up with the Uniboober Beauty!! I would love to see what you come up with. Those of us who have different bodies do need clothing options!

Jazzy Paper Dolls by Melly <—- This is the downloadable PDF!

Enjoy!!

LESS, a documentary and help with funding it

Hello Good People, Friends and Family.

Many of you know that just over 5 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I chose to forego reconstruction and to embrace my body as it is, without wearing breast forms or presenting a shape that is not my own.

Since my diagnosis and much to my chagrin, I have learned that almost 58% of women diagnosed with breast cancer, like me, choose -not- to reconstruct their bodies. Where many find comfort in reconstruction or the use of breast forms as a means to resume life after breast cancer treatment, many do not. I am happy to be a part of a growing group of women have chosen to embrace their bodies as the beautiful vessels that they are, simply and without the need or societal pressure to present an hourglass shape.

In the last two years, I have worked to increase visibility for the breastless female body. I have written articles on my own blog, worked with Play Out underwear and FlatTopper Pride to create editorial content that went viral twice, I have also posed for HuffPO and Women’s Health magazine. I was filmed by CNN and the Great Big Story, telling my story in video format.

I have done this in an effort to reach as many women as possible and to make space for those who, like myself, chose not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer treatment.

LESS

Last September, in Berlin, I participated in a fantastic photoshoot with Esther Haase, a high fashion photographer, where footage for a documentary called LESS was also shot. Myself and 13 other women were interviewed, we poured out our souls, made bonds of friendship and created a tellingly beautiful array of images to help us embrace our own bodies while also giving us imagery for editorial content to be used in our social circles, countries and web sites.

LESS Trailer from Nondual Productions on Vimeo.

LESS, the documentary, needs funding in order to make it to the big screen.

PLEASE HELP US AND SUPPORT OUR DOCUMENTARY(!) and the Crowdfunding Campaign for the documentary LESS that features breast cancer survivors on the photoshoot of Esther Haase. LESS is not really about cancer so much as about these brave and beautiful women who – with the absence of breasts, quietly question society’s presumptions about what a woman should be and are calling for something all of us desire – an accepting and compassionate society where we can all be ourselves, no matter what.

Click here to donate, please.

Check out our LESS trailers and PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD & SHARE the Crowdfunding Campaign for this important project on fb, twitter and with your email contacts. Every little bit helps.

PLUS! I have donated three pieces of artwork to this fundraiser, I would love to see my work on your wall!

 😛 THANK YOU!
Melly

Gathering my color.

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The Gather your Sew-plies!! purse is just the right size to stitch, explore and complete. It is 6″ wide and 14″ long and given how it folds to make the purse, that can mean that you can stitch just the front area, making the stitchable area 6×7″ or so.

Of course, I like to stitch the entire purse.

The above blank, which is what I call these before they are heavily stitched, is a combo of my own quilted work and some previously stitched Indian cloth (at least that is what I think). The colors are rich and compatible. I seek to amp up the textural element, meaning my stitchwork, to integrate the Indian cloth with my own quilted fabric and soften the difference between the two. I may need some new thread colors…

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You may remember that Carol Soderlund and I collaborated on an article called Thread Dyeing 101 for Quilting Arts magazine last year. In the article we took two approaches to dyeing thread, we offered a color wheel, solid dye approach and a more fluid and playful manner of dyeing threads too.

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And while I think this thread is a bit bright for my current piece, I do like having all my threads ready to be used and accessible. Getting these floss off the StitchBow makes me want to wind some new hanks and dye some more thread in appropriate colors! I would love to have some browns, beiges, tans and soft, earthy colors in my thread stash!

Gathering my wits.

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I think I may have started this Gather your Sew-plies purse in 2012. This purse was made using this pattern (I call this Pattern #1), it is constructed differently than the pattern that was published in Quilting Arts Holiday 2014, (which I call Pattern #2). There will be an updated pattern coming out soon (Pattern #3), and I do hope you are interested in the upcoming changes.   😛 

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Back in 2012, I stitched the pink in the negative space, a scrolling flair with daisies.  When I got bored of stitching the scrolls, I began sewing a grid, also in the pink. Then, I put it down. The pink stitch work had taken a while, I had fallen in love with it, but I knew the design was unfinished and that I wanted to push it further.

I just did not know how.

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This week, after finishing the graffiti stitch Gather your Sew-plies purse, seen in this video (it’s from the post before this one). I took out this older purse ‘start’ and I could immediately see what I wanted to do. I could see these little green stitches, stacking up to color the negative space.

Stitch work is such a quiet and centering activity. Working, one stitch at a time really clears the mind of all activity. I bask in the quiet and apply myself to the task. It feels so good, like reading a great book whose characters are friends, anticipated, hoped for, at each turn of the page, the story unfolds like the glittering gems of a sunny day at the beach. Hearing the needle puncture the cloth, seeing the color of the fabric stitch and change as the stitches stack up is a blessing.


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 Just so you know, I am updating The Clever Guild, my teaching site. The first class offered will be free, and will demonstrate making your own Gather your Sew-plies!! purse using a new and updated pattern. After which I will release my first offering, Journal Stitch. Please stay tuned for more information. I really hope you are interested. 

I have had several people write to ask me to teach soy wax resist with paint. While I was at Craft NAPA, several students asked me to teach a course about color, and another about composition. If you have a specific idea about what you might like to learn from me, I would like to hear about it. Would you be interested in a class using Procion MX dyes? Thickened dye? Thread dyeing? What? Please leave a comment.

Gather your Sew-plies!! Part 3 and beyond!

The Gather your Sew-plies series continues with this video start, part 3. Above.

Intro, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Part 1, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Part 2, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Pattern found in Quilting Arts Holiday 2014

Above links embedded in similar order:

and also: 

and then, Part 1:

Part 2

Phew. Are you still with me?

I have added more video content to the Gather your Sew-plies!! purse series! In the next few weeks, I am going to be updating my blog with post about stitch, acquiring inspiration for stitch, thread and needles. I will talk about building and sewing Thimble Pockets, Scissor Pockets and Straps.

I hope you will follow along.

I have hit a snag in teaching through The Clever Guild, please stay tuned on that account. It is coming together. Just slower than I would like.

So, will you follow along? I would love it if you did. Stay tuned here, at my blog!


For Christmas, I was given a set of Personal Training sessions.  😀 Haha!!

I chose a young woman, a really neat person, to organize my training for the next few weeks.  My overarching goal is 10 Pull Ups and 10 Push Ups.  An underlying goal is to efficiently and proficiently perform the Get Glutes program that I am now a member of. Since joining the gym, I have moved right into the hugely supportive community, forums and group run by Get Glutes; Kellie Hart-Davis and clan.

I love the Get Glutes members. Love checking in and getting inspired by my fella friends in glutes! I love lifting heavy and learning to use my body. 

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And, my goodness, every push-up and pull-up is so hard won!! Winning accomplishments in the use of my body is very exciting to me. I admire those who pump out a bunch of push-ups! I am getting there. (I jumped rope for 140 consecutive jumps!!) And cable rowed 32.5 pounds this week!! I am becoming a gym bunny! 🙂 

The Peacock Quilt by Melly T

Big contented sigh.

It took energy and focus to prepare for Craft NAPA and I am glad to say, The Peacock Quilt is helping me transition back into studio life. And as it comes to completion, I am beginning to think of my next project. I am not as excited about finishing the Peacock Quilt as I am to start printing the fabric for NEW quilt!! 

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My next quilt is going to be a baby or ‘craft’ sized quilt, because I won some wool quilt batting from the BERNINA sewing machine piñata at Pokey’s Art Barn party. And I feel assured that it will be an extra special quilt because of its emergence from the piñata. I mean, just look at that thing. It is and was magic. And, I have never used wool batting before.

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Even though I am excited about moving on to a new project, I do have some more straight lines to quilt. I am using Aurifil Mako 12 weight cotton to machine quilt. I love dense ‘straight line’ machine quilting (None of my lines are anywhere near straight!). This thread shows off the sheen of its cotton fibers wonderfully at a lengthened stitch of just under ‘4’ on my BERNINA 1001. This stitch length is pretty long, but it’s a perfect length to show the thread off!

I will just keep swimming, and get this quilt finished! I look forward to snapping a photo and doing a finished reveal!! Soon.

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In the meantime, it seems like it might be a good time to flip through my design journal and see what designs are calling to be printed, expanded upon and colored. I love what I am learning about printing cloth.

Evaluating how big a quilt I would like to make, comparing that to the motifs I would like to use, then beginning to print those designs, is a magical process. I have come to understand how important tonal, textural and single color prints are. These simple, often single colored prints are work horses in the design of the quilt top, they provide a resting place for the eye and they contrast well with the more densely designed and multicolor prints. 

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Stitches pile up, life and CraftNAPA: an update

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It has been more than 2 weeks since returning from the magical event called Craft NAPA. I feel blessed to have participated. I stood among friends, watched their connection to one another, ate chocolate covered strawberries and drank deep cups of coffee while also teaching and meeting new friends.

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This is the view from Pokey’s art barn. Like so many of you, I have watched the blazing beauty that Pokey spins wherever she goes. To watch her build this barn, to see Crafting a Life unfold, to participate in her first event is an amazing endeavor. I feel gratitude, and I am honored to know her and to be able to lend my talents to her efforts.

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Indigo Perez is such a lovely person. I have watched her unfurl her wings and fledge the nest of my good friend Judy over these last few years. I have to say, Indigo is so talented, such a good person, I couldn’t wait to hug her. 

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Here are Pokey, Larissa and I. Both of these women are crazy mad talented. Larissa took my, You Can’t Resist This! soy wax resist with paint class. Her color sense and use is amazing. Not to mention, she now owns a class sample I donated to raise funds for Okizu, an organization that helps families affected by childhood cancers. 

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Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Pokey, Judy Coates PerezJane LaFazio and I recreated a photograph we took perhaps 8 years ago at MIU in Long Beach Quilt Festival. What an amazing group of people. This photo mash up was taken by Jamie.

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Midge and Libby became fast friends. I now own pieces of art made by each of these women. Happy sigh.

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Cheryl Sleboda and I were able to connect too.  She is a powerhouse. Smart, sassy and fun. Go check out her website! I bought one of her skull tShirts!

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You Can’t resist This!! Class photo.

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Journal Embroidery class photo.

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of my Small Works/Big Impact class. I am sorry about that. 

My take away from participating in this great event? I can see Craft NAPA being a creative home away from home, one that I look forward to visiting yearly. The food offerings, 8 Noodle, OxBow Market, the Napa Valley Art store? The community and commeraderie in this event sparkled bright. I hope I am asked to teach again, and I would love to take a class too.

There are so many more photos that I could have put in this post. I think I am going to upload them to Facebook instead. 🙂 Great fun, friendship, learning, and wine blending! So good, I still feel the glow of having had a great time.


 

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Upon my return and in wanting to establish creative balance after the participating in this great event, I have been stitching away the days. I am compiling a new class content for The Clever Guild. It feels great to be engaged with my creative process again and I look forward to providing opportunities to connect and learn from one another. I hope you will follow along as I dust off the site and start having some fun with it.

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I am hoping a few of you might volunteer to take the class (for free-of course), I would love some help in making sure the content is amazing. Stitch work, questions and participation is required. If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post and I will contact you with more information.

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I have been pushing the limits of layering and stitch and am quite pleased with my results. The Gather your Sew-plies purse is a great format to learn about and play around with stitch. The main purse piece is 6×14″, which makes it large enough to make a great purse, but small enough that filling it with stitch is an enjoyable affair.

Please speak up if you would like to be on my Journal Stitch crew.


 

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And then we get caught up to last night, when Joules Evans arrived in Brooklyn to attend the opening at Site:Brooklyn called American Road Trip. This is the first time Joules has had a piece shown in a gallery, and for it to be a great Brooklyn Gallery is no small feat. Congratulations Joules.

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To celebrate Joules’s accomplishment, Isis Charise photographer of Grace, Joules and I attended the opening and then walked over to Bar Tano to toast, eat and be merry. These women have been a strength and a balm to me. 

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Life is better than good.

 

A video posted by Melanie Testa (@mellytesta) on