This Shrikes my fancy!

I really can’t wait for The Book that Carol Soderlund and I have been working on to come into print! While I can’t go into specific detail about this, I can give broad overviews as to what you might expect to learn. So here goes.

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As artists, it is suggested that we find a subject matter we are passionate about and to apply ourselves and our artwork to this. We do this in order to work in series and to show continuity of subject matter. I have chosen birds and even more specifically, the Audubon list of Common Birds in Decline as my focus. (Unfortunately, Audubon has not updated their web site in such a way that all the links work properly, the above link shows the full list of birds, at least).

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Loggerhead Shrike is number 18 on this list. Delving deeply into acquiring knowledge of this bird began by drawing a Shrike from the pages of a birding magazine. From there I went on to inform myself about this bird, learning that it is a meat eating songbird who uses tools, like barb wire to kill it’s prey. This bird can sometimes be misidentified as a Northern Mockingbird, because of its color and size. It can also be mistaken for a hawk because its meat eating beak is sharply curved, to make it all the easier to eat its prey.

When bringing these facts to the design table, it is important to illustrate just the essentials. As you can see, when looking at the stamped image of the print, above, I chose to illustrate the curved beak and this birds propensity to use tools to kill it’s prey. These are two things that distinctly differentiate the Loggerhead Shrike from the Northern Mockingbird.

Note: A ‘strike off’ is a first printing of a stamp or tool.

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I love printing cloth to be used in quilts, so the Loggerhead Shrike print was paired with two differently sized feather prints and some commercial solids to help fill out the yardage necessary to make a quilt.

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And while, I have not illustrated how to make the tools for this particular design, the above quilt will be featured in our upcoming book with Crafting a Life, LLC. Directions on how to place your own most favored subject matter into repeat will be covered-in detail.

I know that I often choose some pretty detailed imagery to work with, so I followed Carol’s suggestion to teach the effective use of motif and repeat by using more simple and approachable motifs than Loggerhead Shrikes! That is what working with a coauthor and friend does!! I hope you are as excited to learn these techniques and ideas as we are in being able to share them with you!

An Exciting Reveal: Crafting a Life LLC, Carol Soderlund and Melly Testa

It has been pretty quiet here and today is the day to break that silence.

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A project I have been working on, with my good friend Carol Soderlund, is coming to fruition. And better still, we can now reveal, we are working with Pokey Bolton and Crafting a Life, LLC to bring this project to life!

We are writing a book on multicolor printing using Procion MX dye, our favorite medium! My smile is so big, I can hardly stand it.

Carol and I are both fiends for color, we love quilting, cloth, printing and motif making. And we seek to lure you into our printed fold! In writing this book, we strive to present a seamless and easily approachable foray into printing cloth and using it-in your next quilt. (I would love to go on making puns, but, I will stop there. It gets tiring!) But it is true. Carol and I have been ironing out the descriptives to some pretty awesome techniques! (The puns!!!)

Soon, some time soon, we will have a printed book to show for our efforts. And Crafting a Life, LLC is printing our book. Can I say, OMG? Pinch me, please! 

We are all quite excited to tell you about this project!!

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This book will discuss motif making, loose and formal repeat printing and many other printing techniques. And it will act as a printers workbook. 

The materials used to print the cloth are readily available; carving rubber, fun foam, stencil plastic and Thermofax screens. We present a simple method of working with color and gradation that is both unique and accessible. Basically, we have removed the learning curve related to mixing and using color and set the stage for you to begin printing your own unique textile designs with ease.

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We’ve been diligent in finding solutions for those who have little space, but are still drawn to expressing themselves creatively by printing unique and personalized cloth. And we present methods to enable you to print yardage too. 

Fabrics combined with commercial fabrics

To say this makes me happy is an understatement. To work with Carol is an honor. To have finally figured out how to print in repeat without a fancy studio or special equipment? Priceless. The fact that Crafting a Life, LLC and Pokey are supporting our efforts by printing, what I believe will be, hope will be, the surface design book of a generation? This is a complete and total blessing.

Thank you Pokey.

As we come closer to day when you can hold this book in your hands, we hope you will visit our blogs and social media accounts. I will be printing and piecing a quilt top as blog content, with updates to my personal FB, my Melanie Testa-Artist page and my Instagram page.

Follow Carol’s blog, Living Color, here. FB. Insta

Read Pokey’s Ponderings, and her post about Publishing Again. FBInsta 

Patchwork+Quilt Maker+Craft NAPA 2016 Blog Hop

It is so much fun to piece and use my hand printed cloth.

The nature of the printing process dictates that I print small pieces, fat sixteenths-I think, which is somewhere around 9×11″. I rip two yards at a time, and print all as quickly as possible. So when it comes time to begin piecing, I have many similarly colored squares, scraps really, all of which relate to one another color-wize.

But, they are small!

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My attention span for cutting and piecing blocks is short. This ‘attribute’, if I could call it that, plays into my ‘quilt building skills’. These skills are reprehensible by anyone else’s standard!!

My bottom lines:

  1. It must lay flat
  2. Use as much of the handprinted cloth as possible, even if this dictates wonky cutting or piecing… ‘techniques’! (Yeah, that’s it!)
  3. My quilt, my rules. My friend Teri reminds me of this often and I like it. 

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So I make blocks in batches, I might cut as many 3″ squares for Half Square Triangles as possible, given the tiny size of my scraps. I sew, iron, and join these together and then, maybe I will cut some 4″ squares for Half Square Triangles, in slightly different colors.

My process is willy nilly. And fun. My blocks never match up, or sometimes they do and I don’t care either way. I just build them out and keep on sewing! Because it is so much fun to do! I have been so deeply immersed in piecing, I am thinking deep thoughts. I like the term Quilt Maker. I am a Quilt Maker. I like this better than Quilter. What do you think? Do you think about this at all?


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Here is a shout out to the wonderful CRAFT NAPA sponsors, BERNINA and Meissner Sewing and Vacuum Centers

BERNINA Made to Create Right

 

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I am participating in a blog hop that starts today! Comment on every post and your name will go into a hopper with great incentives. I will post my contribution on the 5th and will be giving away a copy of Dreaming from the Journal Page! Below is a list of participants, and it all starts with Jane LaFazio.

The grand prize is a $500 Gift Certificate from eQuilter.com! WOOT! And do not hesitate to sign up for a class!!!


Nov 30- Jane LaFazio – http://janeville.blogspot.com/

Dec 1 – Lynn Krawczyk – http://smudgeddesignstudio.com/blog/

Dec 2 – Judy Coates Perez – http://www.judycoatesperez.com/

Dec 3 – Jenny K. Lyon – http://quiltskipper.com/blog/

Dec 4 – Jamie Fingal – http://JamieFingalDesigns.blogspot.com/

Dec 5 – Melanie Testa – http://melanietesta.com/blog/ (Here you are!)

Dec 6 – Elizabeth St. Hilaire – http://www.paperpaintings.com/

Dec 7– Leslie Jenison – http://leslietuckerjenison.blogspot.com/

Dec 8- Carrie Bloomston – http://www.carriebloomston.com/blog/

Dec 9 – Cheryl Sleboda – http://blog.muppin.com

Commenting closes on:

Dec 10 – Pokey Bolton – http://pokeysponderings.com/

And do comment, because the prizes are snazzy!

Peacock Quilt, front and back.

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I know, the photographic color is off, the tops are piled up and are not shown to the best advantage, but I don’t mind. I am just having fun over here and this is the evidence! 

I started the weekend off by focusing on making a back for the Peacock Quilt. At first I thought this would be a using all my favorite Heather Ross fabrics, from my stash. But I have so many great Heather Ross fabrics, that it seemed to me, like it might be a distraction from the front. I spent most of Saturday sewing and admittedly enjoyed doing so, before deciding the back needed something else, something less, something simple. 

Sunday, I woke with vigor for the task and decided to use Meadowlark fabrics as a base for making a back. At first, it was going to be a 62″ square of the blue, with 12″ of the tile fabric on all four sides. But… I still had some left over blocks from the peacock quilt top and the woodblock ditty went to well with the Heather Ross strawberries… That, well.

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I love backs that have an element of love and satisfaction. Back’s need to play nicely with the front but also need to be fun, and pleasing. Heather Ross’s work does that for me. There is something sweet and fanciful in her illustrations and being able to see them along side my own handprinted cloth is a treat.

Progress and the peacock

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Nope! I agree. 

This sign was recently pasted nearby and it is a great reminder, I had to photograph it. No, indeed, our dreams are not somnolent, but rather invigorating. 

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This weekend I gathered with my gal pals to quilt at retreat. I spent the last two weeks printing the peacocks, woodblock ditties and chevrons and I was prepared to begin a quilt top using the fabric.

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I had forgotten that Pickles, the peacock would greet us when we arrived at the retreat center. Pickles likes crackers, but we assume this is not normal peacock food. Pickles did get some crackers from us. He worked very hard for them.

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I began a quilt top. I love it so far. I think it needs a border, an asymmetrical border of medallions and woodblock ditties as seen in the upper right corner of this photo. My goal for this week is to complete printing fabrics that can be used in the border. Fun! I love having creative goals like this.

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This sign resides on a wall close to the gym and I could not resist a selfie in front of it. I hope you are feeling creative too. Creative in the very way that pleases you most.


 

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I will be teaching:

You Can’t Resist This, where we will use soy wax as a resist along with paint on cotton fabric.

Small Works, Big Impact, where we will make small works while exploring the use of the sewing machine and some pretty nifty techniques.

Journaling with Embroidery, where we will make a Gather your Sew-plies!! purse, so you can sew, wherever you go!

A year of returning.

Last year I was given a glimpse into identifying too closely with yourself through the making of art. I had not previously been forced to assess the role that making art had in my life or that it was so closely identified with how I think of myself as a person. 

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I lost my ability to connect with and do my art for months at a time, I have never been as blocked as this and I hope never to become blocked like this again. There were a few days when I threw my arms up and asked myself, ‘what and who are you without the ability to make?’ All my normal jogs and pushes didn’t work, trying out new media, going to museums, hanging out with friends, I did these things, but they did not lead me back into the making!

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So, rather than to look at my art as a means to connect to self, I have decided that making is a fun thing I do. One of the many things I like to do. And sometimes, you just have to do those other things.

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Buying Dragon, my Thermofax machine, sure did help. That gave some extra luster to wanting to make the plunge and delve deeply into printing enough cloth to make something with.

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Rather than create new motifs, I looked to my collection of woodblock stamps for inspiration. These motif have the effect of being even more exciting to me because they are nothing like what I would design otherwise.

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This week, I hope to print some semisolids, some cloth that will allow for visual relief, a break from all the colorful clutter and motifs that you see here.

All, while I revel in the fact that my creative drought has broken and I am able to return to doing the creative work that makes me happy. I may yet become blocked again. I may suffer a creative drought, where I wonder who I am without the ability to access my creative center, I hope not. But at least I will know, it does come back! Even if I just have to let it run its course.


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I will be teaching:

You Can’t Resist This, where we will use soy wax as a resist along with paint on cotton fabric.

Small Works, Big Impact, where we will make small works while exploring the use of the sewing machine and some pretty nifty techniques.

Journaling with Embroidery, where we will make a Gather your Sew-plies!! purse, so you can sew, wherever you go!

 

Printing we will go

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I have been happily printing, because I am on a quilt top mission!! Each year I attend a pretty awesome retreat with great friends. The next one will occur next weekend. The cloth you see above was printed using dye left over from printing the Breastless Beauties. And, although these printed fabrics are quite pretty, the color is not as sharp or boisterous as I would like to see. I am happy to use up as much dye as possible though!!

This morning I mixed new dyes.  😀 HAHA!

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Do you want to know how very exciting it is to print your own cloth and use it in a quilt top? REALLY freaking exciting.

I mean. Right at this moment, there is a completed quilt, using my hand printed cloth folded neatly and resting over the back of my couch. On a very regular basis, I pet and fondle that quilt and admire my handy work. I feel blessed to be able to do this work.

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The prints I am sharing with you today were made using wood block stamps bought from Coloricious. First, I stamped each image onto paper, scanned these into Photoshop, created a repeat, then for the Peacock image anyway, a background was created.

I burned a Thermofax screen with the images. This, not the wood block stamp, is what I am using to print the cloth you see here. Of course I am printing with my beloved Procion MX dyes on cotton, which is just gorgeous and cannot be compared to any other media.

I bought these stamps perhaps two years ago at Quilt Festival. I like the stamps a bunch, but until now they have been a decoration. I love -using- the stamps, and better still, I really like the cloth I am printing. It makes me daydream about how I might piece and create a satisfying quilt top! Great big sigh. I love this. 


 

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I will be teaching:

You Can’t Resist This, where we will use soy wax as a resist along with paint on cotton fabric.

Small Works, Big Impact, where we will make small works while exploring the use of the sewing machine and some pretty nifty techniques.

Journaling with Embroidery, where we will make a Gather your Sew-plies!! purse, so you can sew, wherever you go!

 

PRELimSv1 PDF

Sylvia

This is a very rough draft document that follows the tracking of making this quilt top. More updates to follow. Please, check it out.

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Magical Peach +

 

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This is a reminder to all: There is much magic in the world and you never know where, how, or in what shape/form it might reveal itself.

The above is a typing that occurred when Peach, our cat, walked over my keyboard. I don’t think this was a mistake.

Just a moment prior to this configuration of syllables, I saw the correct spelling of the word,

“magical”.

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 And Peach, is, most certainly magical.

This month, we have had her for two years, she was a rescue, a city cat, she had kittens, she got caught with her babies. Her babies were placed in homes. Peach caught ring worm at the veterinary office, which placed her in solitary confinement for two-months-straight, this caused her to modify or shorten, her tail. She had plastic surgery (her tail is very cute!), she healed.

Then.

We found one another. We all fell for one another immediately.

When we met Peach, she was a charmer, whenever someone, a new person, came into her presence, she would charm them. It makes sense that if she were in ‘solitary’, that charming people would become necessary. She must have been lonely.

Everyone needs love and care.

In the last two years I have worked with her to lessen her fear of loud noises. Peach is becoming interested in sitting in our laps. She shows trust and love. She is much less a charmer. I appreciate this, as I prefer her needs are met and that she knows it, without feeling as if she needs to charm anyone.

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Now, I will change subjects.

Over the last year, I have been working to write a book with a good friend. It has been a lot of fun, I am learning new things. Making great art. Learning to collaborate. Unfortunately, the book was cancelled a few weeks ago. We retain full rights to our materials (no worries there). I will not go into details as to why this occurred, let me just say, the publishing industry is changing quickly. I have mentioned the book a couple of times here on my blog and I reference ‘the book’ in the article about me and my studio in Generation Q (Issue 14). The book will be published, in some form. I/we will not stop working to promote it. But as Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I am going to say about that.”

Life happens. 

Even still! This interview about me, my studio and use of space, is quite interesting. I do hope you will purchase a copy and share your thoughts with me. I have been putting a lot of thought into what a home printing studio ‘needs’ in order to function well. 

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Pardon me for the less that awesome photograph. This quilt top is a few months old. I have been sitting on it and waiting for quilt #2. (I am making two sided quilts.) The quilt I was working on over Holiday Break is the mate to what you see here. I am not ready to talk about that one yet. I will clue you in soon.

But this, one.

This is fun right? This is a total stash buster. I cut swaths of squares at 4″. Commercial fabrics, hand printed, I chose fabrics from my entire stash. I grouped these together and randomly sewed. Playing with light and dark was a bunch of fun, I wanted it to sparkle and think it does. I love loosing myself in mindless, though highly rewarding, tasks like this.  This quilt is about 7o” square, I did not make it as a bed quilt, not for my bed, which is a king. It is just that my bed is the largest flat place in the apartment. 

A four inch square stack of cut cloth is so rewarding. I want to use my stash up completely and start acquiring when needed rather than stashing and storing. I think this part is great. (Use The Stash–). I have been printing cloth for quite a few years, but I have not been using it. Using the things you have and make causes you to make more, doesn’t it? It is a complete circle.

I like circles.

And dots.


 (Hey! I have begun using Instagram!! Friend Me, please. This year, I will communicate more through photograph, than words, I am going to start using Instagram a lot this year. Let’s have fun together and hook up over there. Shall we?

Oh, and Quiltography for iPad? Best 15$ I have spent in a very long time. Christopher Oxley? Brilliant!!! And again, that is all I am going to say about that. Buy it. I am not making money for saying so. But, I am sold; hook line and sinker.

Oh, AND!!! I have mentally bought Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weights Faster 2 already. I anxiously await it. March 10.

Winner Announcement? Sonja Mclane

That is all the news that is fit to print.

 

 

 

In the thick of it!

I found the Quiltography app just in time. I am a bit addicted. 

I love figuring out how to affectively use Meadowlark. And this app is robust, it is certainly a great and easy to use springboard. My line of fabrics at first glance is far reaching, this is not a match-matchy line. Rather it is cheerful, playful and eclectic and colorful. The patterns and color choices are like a rainbow, some reds, oranges and yellow, along with some blue, purples, greens. Looking at them as a group, it is not entirely evident how to gather them up and redistribute the goodness into a good looking quilt top.  This app takes all of that away and helps me to see the possibilities.

I don’t know if you noticed but the programmer commented on my blog! Exciting indeed. I bought the app mid week. I stumbled around it and got to know it. When I got up to speed, which really hasn’t taken long, I posted my initial thoughts, and the developer responded to my blog directly! I like that.

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The first thing to do is to use the database! I headed over to my designers page at Windham Fabrics. I scrolled through and saved each of the largest images of my fabric line, 26 images in total. I imported these into the My Stash section.

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Then, I opened the My Blocks and started playing around, placing my designs in the blocks and saving. Then you move into My Quilts. By this time, you have used the features and you are cooking with gas! It doesn’t get much easier than this.

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 The blue grid fabric seen here? omg. The white lines in the grid? Wonk it up, baby.  😉 


 

I get nothing for talking up Quiltography. I just found it and like it. A lot. Maybe you will too! I mean, go buy it. Upload my line and let’s play!!! 🙂

Designing we will go

Generally speaking (at least in the recent past) when I make a quilt, I do it on the fly. I use no plan, I just start sewing and see what I come up with. I might get it in my head that I want to make wonky stars, or work with zigzags, and generally speaking, when I work this way, I don’t care if the blocks are slightly off, or if the points don’t match. I just go with it. 

Otherwise, I have been doing straight up jelly roll race type quilts. Yes, you heard it, strip piecing jelly rolls. I love that. It is easy. Fun. And without much thinking, you soon have a great quilt or throw that you can cuddle up in.

I am just beginning to experiment with quilt tops for my challenge and for now, I have decided to try using the Quiltography app for iPad.  I would like to play around with my fabric and see what comes of it, without cutting into my lovely bolts (yes, I have bolts of my line of fabric, Meadowlark). Let me say that again, bolts!

This app is new to me and I plan to spend a bit of time just playing around with half square triangles in the hope of loosening up and having some fun. I don’t yet know what my other 30% of the fabric will be, I figure that will make itself known after I fall in love with a design.

In the meantime, I will tell you my initial thoughts on the Quiltography app. The app costs 15$, which is a lot for an app. I know a friend who uses it and she likes it, so I figured, why not? It is fairly versatile. It is easy to import images of your intended cloth. There are quite a few block choices to start out, in addition to a ‘design your own block’ section that I have not tried. It seems you can also use a photo to ‘pixilate’ a design, which sounds neat, but again, I have not tried it.

It is a bit clunky in one respect-if you place a fabric in your quilt block and save it, you cannot delete the saved blocks. Being a fan of tidiness, this is not ideal. I will write to the folks who designed the app with my concern. Beside that, it really did not take long to learn to use the app and to save this, my first design using it. 

I am not completely sold on designing and working with the app (I do like free-form piecing quite a bit), but I value being able to experiment before cutting! Perhaps I will combine the two for a more planned free-form approach.

P.S. Fran Saperstein made the first quilt top using my fabrics, and she posted it to social media. Please check it out!

meadowlark quilt top challenge, thoughts and ideas.

Half square triangles. I hadn’t really ever considered how simple and effective half square triangles can be in designing quilts. Above are 72 possible uses half square triangles in combination. 

I return to this image often when thinking about making a quilt top. 

I like the idea of mega sized quilt blocks. 

I caught a fancy for the ease of making a 60″ throw sized quilt. I find this size to be easy to complete and large enough to have space to play around and have fun with.  

I love having a pile of quilts in the living room in winter time. We throw a few on the floor, snuggle, watch Tv. We each have favorite quilts and lots of pillows. 60″ quilts keep me making more quilts, it is my sweet spot size. Adding to the collection is great fun. 

And oh! I kinda decided that all quilts should be two sided. Because real estate. (As always, we will see.)

So these are my initial thoughts on making a top for the challenge. It’s a bit cobbled together. It will come into focus soon

I have three unfinished quilts in the works right now! 🙂

Meadowlark quilt top challenge! (and giveaway)

Above is a pillow I made using original prints. This was a gift for my Mom, “Hello Mom!”. I find it easy to use my original prints in a patchwork manner. The fabrics I print are small by necessity, so I find thinking about them in terms of patchwork quilting the easiest path.

In this photo, you see a quilt medallion or central portion of a future quilt top. This one includes a commercial print, the line drawn floral. Beside that, all fabrics are again original prints.

Here, I am pointing to a quilt designed and made by Stephanie Forsyth, whose pattern can be found in Modern Patchwork. The quilt is made entirely of Meadowlark. It was quite interesting to see how Stephanie used Meadowlark to make a really appealing quilt

I have been thinking it might be fun to host a quilt making challenge using Meadowlark. I love designing and making the patterns used in my commercial line of fabrics, but… When it comes to using that cloth, I hesitate. Over the past year, I have asked friends and colleagues to make quilts or items using Meadowlark to fill my booth at Market. Seeing what other people do with my cloth is a surprise and a delight each and every time. So I wonder if I might ask you, dear reader, to work your magical eye over Meadowlark, using this criteria:

1. The quilt top must contain at least 70% Meadowlark. The other 30% is up to you. I would really like to see what fabrics you pair with Meadowlark.

2. I encourage you to make a throw measuring 60″ square.

3. Some aspect of the quilt block Or quilt top must have half square triangles, because I like them.

4. This challenge is time sensitive, your quilt top must be completed between January 1 and March 1, 2015.

My rules are not set in stone, they act as guidance. If you make a baby quilt, great. If you use 65% Meadowlark, that is ok too. I may need to set the quilt police on your tail if you choose to omit half square triangles, but I bet you would survive that too.

Here are some of my thoughts about the Meadowlark line: 

I would love to see the fruit fabric interpreted in a ‘French provincial’ style. I say interpreted because the fruit prints are pretty colorful, and I think it would be a loose interpretation. 

The bird print is ‘my baby’, so if you wanted to feature that, go for it.

I think the oval daisy dot is a sleeper, so if you wanted to feature those prints, I would love to see what you come up with.

The vine prints? I think they would make great border prints.

 

Read the fine print:

1. If you are interested in participating in this challenge, please leave a comment. If you have a blog, leave a link to your blog in the comments. I will keep a list of participants in the sidebar of my blog.

2. If you would like to help spread the word about this challenge, I will give away a fat quarter pack of the entire Meadowlark line in one weeks time (Saturay, January 10).  What you need to do to participate in the give away, is link to this post on facebook, Twitter, or any other social media and post a link to that here, in the comments.

Places to purchase Meadowlark online?

The City Quilter

Gotham Quilts

Amazon also carries my line.  

big sigh of relief.

Let me tell you, it feels good to be printing for no one but myself. It feels good not to be working under a deadline. It feels good to take a break in the middle of the day and feel no guilt what-so-ever. It feels good to leave the house. It feels good to write a blog post. I have been busy. I miss the commeraderie and interaction that blogging provides. I miss saying, ‘Hey, this is what I am up to.’

Big deep sigh.

MellyforGenQ

 

I am happy to say, I have a few articles available through our favorite quilting magazines-I will be posting about two others later in the week.

This quilt was featured in Gen Q magazine. I love this quilt, as I dyed, surface designed and printed every piece of fabric within it. This quilt taught me to cut into and use my own hand printed cloth (again-this seems to be a lesson that I need to relearn periodically).

In my ideal world, I would not have a stash of fabric, though I do. I continue to whittle it down, as was my intention when I made this quilt. But, I do not like the concept of stashing, I would much rather know what I have on hand and use it before hand printing and storing, additional goods. For many years, I printed cloth, in loose repeat, using a plethora of techniques and tools, all of this cloth has been stored in the cabinets you see behind my workbench and in some other boxes not photographed for this post.

Rather than use the cloth, I immersed myself in learning other techniques, and I moved the cloth from one house or apartment to another. I would take the cloth out, now and again, and sift through it, wondering what I might do with it. I don’t know where the disconnect lay. Perhaps I felt, that because I designed the tools to print with, printed the cloth, washed and admired it, it was ‘too good to be cut into’. But if this is the theory, then that says that I am unsure I can print more cloth that will satisfy me as much.

And I know this is not the case.

So, I have begun whittling down my stash of hand printed cloth, making quilts with it, and then printing more cloth. This is purposeful. This suits my intentions and space needs much better!

I hope you like the quilt too.

 

Of friends, jelly roll quilting and embracing long unused skills.

DSC_0002This last year I have been in deep and total immersion into multicolor printing using Procion MX dyes. I have printed about 50 yards of cloth, believe it or not. And when you print that much cloth, it goes to say that you should also try to use as much cloth! At the same time, I have a back log of cloth that I have been printing and gathering for the last 10-15 years! I don’t consider myself to much of a stasher, not compared to my friends anyway, and I would love to get to the point where I am not stashing at all, but rather, making cloth per project/quilt and acquiring materials to fill out and finish said project.

I have been sorting, cutting and stacking, cut squares. I mean, Damn! Look at these fat stacks!

What you see here is  my backlog fabrics, not the ones I printed this year. These older pieces of cloth work really nicely in padding out my current multicolor printed cloth and they also show me my progress as a dyer and artist. Win!!

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This quilt, a jellyroll quilt, I put together a few weeks ago, while at my twice yearly quilt art retreat. This quilt is filled with girlfriend love. We put aside our personal projects to exchange strips of fabric with one another and bang out a usable quick and dirty beauty. This quilt has one piece of fabric from each member of the group and then then some (!!!).

Yesterday, Teri came to Brooklyn to help me bring my machine in for repair and to help me with the many, many projects that are piling up, with ‘just one last thing’ needed, before being able to call them complete.

Teri Lucas helped me complete the jellyroll in many ways. 1. Teri helped me with trimming the quilt down, teaching me how to square it and what to square it to. 2. Teri cut and attached the binding (teaching me her methods all the way through, this is a 2″ French straight grain binding, I usually cut 2.25″ bindings [the straight grain part was my idea and is related to the cloth I wanted to bind it with]). 3. Teri gave me the fantastic idea of utilizing my local quilt store to cut quilts down and possibly even baste- NYC apartment living can really crimp a large quilts style! 4. Teri got me out of the house and made me re-member how important it is to hang out with friends, I tend to be a bit of a recluse and artistic shut-in.

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 And then!! Last weekend, Stephanie Forsyth and her best friend Sally came to New York City. Beside walking up a storm, going to the Statue of Liberty, going to Carnegie Hall to see Handel’s Messiah, and eating and drinking while basking in our shared friendship, Steph hand sewed the binding on this quilt, made of my own printed cloth.

Do I have awesome friends, or what?

Want to know what I love best about both Stephanie and Teri, in addition to my retreat gal pals? I learn from these women. First, I learn what love, affection and friendship means, and I get to do it while dishing about cloth and fiber. I learn (relearn) that it is OK to ask for help. And my soul becomes fortified to what it means to have and be a friend.

Teri put forth a challenge to me to try sewing the finished edge of the binding she applied by machine. I have never done this before. I usually sew that last bit by hand. Elizabeth (a member of my retreat group) did this and I liked the ‘Done!’ factor! I mean, that is quick! Do you think I should take her up on it? Let me know in the comments.

Big Sigh.

MellyFatStacks

Hello. I have been a long time gone. Welcome. I am back.

I did it.

Heave a sigh.

Please! 

 

One day, in the very near future (May!), there will be a line of fabrics with my name on the selvedge. This is a dream come true. I am romantic about this step, I have wanted to ‘be’ a ‘textile designer’ for a very long time, so long, in fact, the idea has become personally mythical. To have actualized this dream feels good,

really good.

To say that I will have a line of fabrics? I need to pinch myself to remind me that I did it. This is real.

I will be part of printed textile history!

I love to paw through photographic repesenations, collections of textile designs. I love to read up on the artists, styles, color choices. Maybe one day, my prints will end up in books similar to my favorite. 

As a result of this hard work, I have lost my blogging voice in the process. All this activity and making stalls my ability to share and upload and post to my blog-but oh! My! Goodness! Soon, you will see what I have done! I am very excited. But, I miss sharing with you.  It isn’t that I don’t think about posting, I have just been very busy fulfilling deadlines. It has been great. I am doing the work I have always wanted to.

This means, life is good. Really good.

I am piecing and making quilts, using -my- printed cloth, which turns out to be

magical!

I love piecing, I love seeing the prints made smaller, cut, fitted and nestled against their fellows, once sewn, a simple four patch. I am on a mission to economically use as much of my printed cloth as is possible. I am cutting squares in 1.25″, 2″, 2.5″,25″ and 3.625″ squares.

Big fat stacks!

I want all of the usable cloth in this studio to be ON the chopping block. I am going to arrange them in gradations. I need more. Much more! Fat, fat stacks.

(I use the words ‘fat stacks’ in honor of Jessie Pinkman on Breaking Bad-I am somewhat obsessed with Breaking Bad.)

Oh! Plus there are soy wax resisted silk velvet squares mixed in there!

I need some wide whale corduroy…

 

 

Print, print, steam!

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Today is a day for steaming, soaking and washing finished work. I will print as I am doing this. I have the windows open, the high will be 77 degrees today and printing in warmth is a good thing.

What you see here is 4.5 yards of cloth (layered, three deep in newsprint). I love seeing my sample pile grow larger and larger.

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But honestly, it is time to start thinking about quilt block patterns and how to use the cloth I am printing. Last week I went to The City Quilter with Teri Lucas. I leafed through books and magazines and I realize, I am out of the loop. I have not quilted in quite some time and I feel like I need a refresher course in quilt blocks, settings, styles.

My fabric bits are small, measuring about 9×10″. I want to feature the prints but also want to use every inch of cloth. I have not yet decided on a block, and do not know if I will even try to create a specific block. I love the look of lots of white or light colored fabric alongside bright and cheerful prints, I like darks with bright cheerful prints. I also love busy prints side by side. I just don’t know! 

When Teri and I were hanging out, I threw several of my least favorite prints her way. This week she has been my ‘Tricky Quilt Fairie’ and has been making the cloth into a 9 patch blocks and setting them on point (she has been updating her facebook page with pictures). I love seeing the cloth in this way and it is helping me to get to the cut and sew stage. 

Hey! Help a girl out! If you know a quilt block or quilt that you think would show of my printed cloth well, please comment and leave a link! Pretty please?

 

Many Mellys

Brace yourself, this is a long one.

MellyBehaved

In the above photo I am wearing a Handful Bra with padded inserts and the camisole I am wearing says,

‘Well-behaved women seldom make history’.

This week, I read Stephanie Forsyth’s post called, ‘I Yam What I Yam‘, where she talks about being a potty mouth, beer guzzling, super-rad, quilter chick who doesn’t want to put on airs to please anyone else. Well? She stirred the pot and now I want to write a similar post.

I have kept this blog for many years, I was an early adopter and was blogging when few quilters had blogs. I published Inspired to Quilt in 2009 and my latest book in 2012. For years I thought my ‘audience’ was traditional quilters who had an artistic side that they wanted to indulge. I don’t think this anymore. I think I have gathered a community of artistic people and that I am a member of an artistic community who are interested in expanding and growing visually, many of these people know how to quilt traditionally, but only do so occasionally or under duress. 🙂 (I am kidding about that part.)

I have a personal history of catering to a ‘presumed audience’, with biases and traditions that do not apply to me or my work. In the face of this, I have held my tongue in fear of offending a potential reader of my blog and books.

Want to know some of my thoughts?

I don’t like the term quilt art. I think that the focus remains on quilt in the traditional sense and not art. When we show ‘quilt art’ in quilt shows, it separates us from the art world. Quilt shows provide space to show (which is wonderful), but degrades the ability of the quilt artist to be taken seriously in the art world because the focus is on conjuring as many categories as possible, so that as many quilts as possible can be shown. At the same time, quilt art is often judged by traditional quilt standards, when it does not seem that the judges are well versed in art history, tradition or technique. Many quilt shows also run along side consumer events which is an engine in itself, and a bit of a distraction from the event itself.

I argue that traditional quilting is a fabulous craft (This is not a bad word! Rather it is a respectable word used by people who hone their skills to high standards, to present beautiful and functional objects), and that art is art, non-functional in use, perhaps inspirational or confrontational and artist’s must learn many skills too, drawing, composition, color theory, history, materials and how to use them, to name a few. Artists cannot and should not work in a vacuum and I fear that many quilt artists work in the vacuum of the traditional/quilt art community.

I think it is great to have quilt shows (I both participate in and enjoy them), and understand that quilters have gone unnamed and and created works in anonymity for much too long, perhaps our need to fit as many categories as possible into each show is as a result of this. I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand how difficult it is for female art to get seen either, these shows do wonders in this respect. I just wish that the cross over between the quilt art world and the art world was not so vast and I question weather we do ourself a disservice by showing our work in insular, mixed focus environments. It is almost as if we parallel play with both the traditional quilt world and the art world.

And don’t get me started with ‘crafty art supplies’. I want my pigments and paints to mix to the color I-intend-to-mix and use, and so I want them labeled with pigment names and numbers so that I can get the repeatable results no matter what sub straight or media I use the paint on. I do not like using supplies whose real intention is getting me to purchase brand name refills.

Phew.

MellyKWest

Now onto some other topics that I would like to open up and explore in this space. It is no secret that I had breast cancer and that I opted out of ‘reconstructing’ my body. Choosing not to reconstruct and not wear prothesis is an interesting proposition. If you look at the numbers, 1 in 5 American women have (immediate) reconstruction after breast cancer treatment. This means that 4 out of 5 women are… wearing prothesis? I don’t know. If these numbers are right, there are a fair amount of Very Quiet Unobtrusive Women out there. Luckily for me, there are also a good number of women who are banding together to create community based on our Flat and Fabulous perspective. If you are flat and would like to join a private group for some support, comment and I will hook you up.

It may be a good time to read my Role/Reboot article on this topic.

So I wonder, why are all of these women being so quiet, where are they, why can’t I see them? Why are there such expectations for conformity and body image? After surviving breast cancer treatment, why is the human body, with all of its beauty and will to remain healthy, not enough? Must we put on the prothesis and carry on like nothing happened? Must we hide behind a body image standard that is no longer possible as a result of this disease? Is it because breasts make us female, womanly, feminine and without breasts we are…inadequate?

Recently I have begin to think that perhaps I am gender queer. I do not think similarly to the mainstream, I do not think you are either male or female. Gender is not a two way street. I don’t think this is a discussion about gender at all, but rather one of being human, open, compassionate, willing to accept difference and if need be to celebrate that difference. What makes this a discussion of gender is that mainstream society, and even the breast cancer community does not question the ‘breasts make us female idea’ often or thoroughly enough.

Are my scars, gotten through battle with breast cancer just too scary to contemplate? Is it freightening to know, to see, to understand that women get scarred from breast cancer?

Please watch this video:

The Scar Project from Sara Dehghan on Vimeo.

I really like and appreciate the work David Jay has done with The Scar Project. He has opened the door for a more thorough discussion of breast cancer, reconstruction and opting out of reconstruction. The above video rubbed me wrong when I first watched it. Now that I have had some time to think it through, I understand that what rubbed me wrong. David Jay was shocked to see the removal of a breast. Women’s breasts are sacrosanct, revered, used (and abused). David Jay made me realize that society is not acclimated to seeing women have scars, get scarred, or be scarred. As more women like myself begin to talk about our experience, and embrace the choice of Going Flat, as I like to call it, this body image will gain greater acceptance. And hallelujah! (When one of the plastic surgeons I interviewed said that ‘reconstructed breasts looked good in clothing’, he meant it, and to me, the amount of time spent on creating the look of breasts without the sensation or function is not worth the risks).

All of this is to say, my feminist head had been reared and I don’t feel like holding back anymore! Breast cancer is not going away any time soon, unfortunately. If I can be a voice for a simple, noninvasive and really quite beautiful result-bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, I will and gladly. (In fact, I am actively doing this, the breast cancer support forum I use has no pages on what to expect when opting out of reconstruction, no pages on what to discuss with your surgeon, if you need a plastic surgeon, or what testing proceedures to expect after having bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. I asked why this is and now they are creating content that says more than, “Some women decide not to have reconstruction and opt for a prosthesis instead.” And I got myself invited to a luncheon presented by City of Hope where I hope to make connections and to network on behalf of women who opt out. Doctors and nurses fall prey to societal expectations of the female form too! And I have the energy to speak out.)

MellySassy

And last but not least, goodness gracious, have I been having fun lifting weights! I have never been into exercise, but when I was diagnosed, I knew it was the one thing that might help me fight disease, it is an action that I can accomplish to help my body function as well as it possibly can for as long as possible. This space will not become a fitness blog, not by any means, but I will discuss my gains, how it makes me feel and I may well show my ‘guns‘ every now and again.

I am tired of not being fully present to myself. Not voicing my thoughts, needs, concerns. I have faced my mortality and do not want to live by half. So, thank you Stephanie. Thanks for speaking up on your own behalf and helping me do the same. And hey, if you, dear reader, don’t agree with me? Speak up! Minds are made for changing and my opinions and thoughts are no more important than yours.

Jelly Roll gives Soul.

We bought a couch. For years we have had chairs, or more recently a sofa and none of them were flat out comfy or inviting. After I was diagnosed I started thinking about the ‘nesting habit’, and I began thinking how very important having a comfortable, let it all hang out, home is. Then I started thinking about what I like in hanging out with my Man. And the bottom line is Snuggle Time. At night we watch rented movies and TV shows and we love nothing better than putting our heads in each others laps and getting strokes and attention as we watch. 

With Jelly Roll peeking.

So when I walked over to a furniture store near us, I had criteria for a smaller couch, one that could be laid-on with a flat surface, one that could take a flop and a nuggle. You know, you see couches in the movies and they look so lush and comfortable. This ‘couch’ is really two chairs-I think it is actually supposed to be a ‘sectional’, we could have bought them in a single color, the delivery guys were quite confused, but why not have a multicolor couch? The pillows are fabulous too, they are sturdy and they act as arm rests that are more comfortable than the back rest pillows. And the open end? Fabulous for a small apartment.

Back of Jelly Roll Quilt showing.

When I gathered up the fabric for my Jelly Roll Quilt, I was super happy that it pulled all the colors in our living room together. This is the first time in my life where I feel like our home matches our intentions. And it is so good to have a throw that ups the Nuggle Ante. I had enough fabrics to piece a back, so our Jelly Roll is two sided, I am not sure which I like better! In less than 3 week, I made the top, sandwiched, quilted and bound this easy and fun quilt. It made me fall in love with quilting again. In fact, I love this brainless project so much, I think we might need another throw. A pile of them.

But, Mom gets one first.

Melly’s Jelly

Jelly Rolls. Who knew? I for one am ignorant of these things. I rarely shop and I have come to understand that I am a quilter like I am a fish out of water. Yes, I quilt, but I don’t deal with 1/4″ seams, commercial fabrics or the latest new ‘thing’. 

So when I went over to Lisa Chin’s blog and watched a link to a woman ‘tutorialing’ (her word), Jelly Roll quilts, imagine my surprise in finding myself smitten with the idea. It helps that my Man and I will receive a new couch this week, I mean who wouldn’t want a pretty throw draped over a comfy couch? I am really taken by the blue in this line from Benartex. And I love the pattern on pattern effect. The color is somewhere between these two photos.

And the idea just snowballed.

I have to say, using an entire line of fabrics together sure does take the guesswork out of creating a palette. And when they say you can race to the finish and create a quilt top in no time flat? They mean it. This project made me want to do a Jelly Roll race! That sounds like super good fun, especially if I get a quilt top out of the whole deal.

Piecing the back may have taken longer than strip piecing the front! It isn’t complete yet, but it is really close and I started this on Sunday! Amazing. Thank you Lisa.