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 

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!

 

PRELimSv1 PDF

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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!!! 🙂

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! 🙂

Dragon Lair.

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Let us take a moment. Above. You see a 13″ MacBook Pro, custom. Wealth. 

I am wealthy. And wealthy beyond measure, because…

Now, I can go mobil. To my favorite coffee shop. And you know what? I need to get out! I know how to work, head down, for hours, which has the tendency to turn into days, and… I find myself in pajamas for days on end. I love my pjs, don’t get me wrong, but. You get what I am saying.

David and I bought new computers this year. I am moving in! And moving on! Literally. Yahoo!

Watch out!

So anyway, my new Mac Book Pro 13″needed a tight fitting, Melly Made case!

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I am on a mission to learn to use the cloth I am printing. I have criteria, or maybe I should say, I am forming opinions, on how I want to use my cloth. I am focused on motif, color, ease of creation. I like to think about using my cloth with ingenuity and sometimes, striking differences in color and texture. I want the cloth to be the focus and not the quilt block design. Motif as communication device. Motif as story telling. 

So I made this MacBook Pro 13″ carry case! I am quilt savvy that way! You see, we already owned a zippered, padded case for David’s old 13″ MacBook, but they keep making these dang things smaller and smaller, so my new computer needed padding to kit out the zippered case. I made this as tight fitting as I was able. I actually like it better than the zippered case, but computers need packaging when in transit, and a snug fitting transit is better than loose. And now, I have a creative case using my own printed fabrics. Tada! I like being able to make do.

Now, I can easily travel, update my blog, write (hopefully) my next book and I do not need to be plugged into my desk and tiny apartment. I can get out. 

Oh and? The dangly eyeglass necklace? Do any of you wear and/or make these??? And if so, do you have a favorite finding to attach the glasses to the necklace? Please leave a link in the comments! I am interested in your opinions on this. I am going into the fashion district on Monday…

Findings Field Trip!

 

Somewhat Obsessed

I love the concept of the jelly roll quilt, simply accepting what happens when you sew strips together, fast, simple, almost mindless piecing and quilting in order to wrap yourself in ‘warms’ while watching tv, during the cold winter months. You can purchase strips in prearranged bundles or cut your own, in color groupings to your liking. It is like opening a bag of potato chips and devouring them, except, you get a colorful quilt out of this! It kinda feels like cheating, but I like to think if it as a reprieve from the other creative stuff I do. It is ‘weekend quilting’ and I love doing it. It really does relax me!

I sewed this one up a few weeks ago, during my retreat weekend. Each gal pal gave two strips of cloth to each person participating, we could use the cloth at our discretion, so long as each person and their fabric was represented. This quilt top, both front and back, contains fabric from each of my gal pals. Later in the week, I will update the blog with a picture of the other side. David and I have been using both of our jelly roll quilts to make ‘nests’ while we curl up and watch tv each night. What could be better? 

So In the spirit of easy, fun piecing and in an effort to start using my own hand printed cloth, I gathered some of my cloth and cut 60 degree triangles, pleasingly arranged. I sewed them together without thinking too much about color, placement or composition. I just wanted to piece and see how my fabric looks alongside each other in a mindless manner.

This quilt top taught me to enjoy simply pieced blocks. The 60 degree triangle block is easy to cut, simple to piece and it looks pleasingly more difficult than it really is. It is a win-win sort of block.

As you will see below, I went on a cutting tangent. This quilt top (I am on a mission to make two sided quilts, I want to stash bust!) is predominantly commercially printed cloth, there are a few low water immersion semi-solids and a few of my latest multicolor prints, but they are in the minority. Anyway, this quilt top has really been an eye opening experience for me. The cutting tangent helped me to understand how to group colors while cutting so that sewing four patches together is pleasingly mindless and effective! See. I am on a mission to mindlessly make!

I am in love with this quilt top, it is teaching me something. I haven’t heard the full story yet. The opposing side of this quilt top will be very similar but will feature my own printed cloth, predominantly. 

Anyway, I am piecing, machine quilting and sewing bindings like it was 1994! Hey wait, did they do that, like this, back then? Now, I am just making things up!

 

My Mom gave me this sparkly, glow ‘riddled’, stained glass art piece featuring the Wonky Star. This is happy making. It links my Mom, Wonky Star quilt blocks and me! I love owning a piece of my Mother’s work, she has been working to improve her skills and sell her work, I love her dedication and her wares. Thanks Mom.

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.

Facing my fear

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I started quilting when I was nineteen years old. I had taken a class at a local art center, it was great. I was still living at home and there was a great local quilt shop in my home town. I would go there and pull bolts off the shelf, think about how to mix color choices together, check out all the tools, read the books and of course buy stuff. This was an immensely informative period for me. It was while going through the meandering aisles of this tiny local shop that I came up with the idea of going to school to learn to become a textile designer. 

It took me six years to get a portfolio together and to muster the courage to apply to the Fashion Institute of Technology. When I did so, I created a portfolio with the requisite 15 pieces showing the depth and breadth of my artistic skills. But then , I also made my outfit-a silk blouse and a short skirt, portfolio case, I had woven the scarf I was wearing, and I might even have made the shoes I walked in with (that last part is a lie).

After I took the drawing test, I sat with two professors to discuss why I wanted to become a student at F.I.T. I told them that I had fallen in love with quilting and quilting fabrics and that I wanted to become a textile designer and work with the quilting industry. They promptly reminded me that this was a very small subset of the textile market. They also told me that they were suprised that I did not actually want to get into the fashion department through the ‘backdoor’ of Textile/Surface Design. They told me that they rarely did this and did not know if it was legal, but they accepted me right then and there, the acceptance letter that came in the mail a few weeks later was a formality.

After I left school, I blind called every quilt oriented textile house in New York City and I landed a job at a well loved and respected quilting textile house. Unfortunately, my skill set at the time was not up to the hopes of the head designer and they let me go after a six month period. Ouch. I went on quite a few interviews after that and I must say, the fashion industry (I had cast a wider net than just quilt textile houses at that point) was cut throat! I went on one interview where they asked me to take work home three times before rejecting me because my clothing was not up to their standards.

So I packed up my bags and took a job as a poster restoration artist that was based in my home town. I learned a heck of a lot while working that job. In retrospect it was quite an artistic life changer. I restored posters by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Mucha, Lautrec and on and on. I learned color mixing, I worked to deadline, I used every off hour to take workshops in surface design and quilting and to improve my artistic skill set. All while continuing to want to be a textile designer.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer and had a lot of time to think about what I really want out of life, and having a line of fabric with my name on the selvedge is still quite high on the list. This year, I have been working on creating a portfolio, putting motifs into repeat, printing the ideas on both paper and cloth, and now making these cloth samples into quilts and quilt tops to show perspective textile houses what my designs might look like in action. I have bought tickets to Quilt Market and I am going to try to make this dream a reality. If I am unable to woo anyone at Market, I have also come up with a Plan B- there is a trade show here in NYC for the broader market this coming winter. 

As my good friend Stephanie  reminded me yesterday, ‘If you have what it takes to go through treatment for cancer, you can do this’, and then she asked, ‘What is the worst that could happen?’ My response? Plan B

So wish me luck. 

 

 

Learning to quilt again

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 I have finally gotten to the point where I am using the cloth I have been printing all year long. I am very excited about this for several reasons. The most surprising of which is, I forgot how very much I like piecing and quilting. For years I have been ‘art quilting’, using thickened dye to create one of a kind wall art in a figurative style, as I wrote about in Inspired to Quilt . Over the years, I stopped making surface designed cloth for the fun of it, while looking at my storage bins and wondering for what or why I should keep them. Now, I look at those bins and I see potential. I want to tear through these bins and make throw quilts. I want a stack of throws, folded, stacked, pretty and ready for use! 

The photos you see here are the back of a quilt. I like two sided quilts and I think the backs should be as fun as the fronts, although I think backs should also be quick and easy.MellyQuiltsBernina

Because I have been focusing on multicolor printing this year, I have a criteria for what I would like to accomplish while piecing and quilting my cloth. I want the cloth and my designs to really show themselves off, it takes commitment and time to print cloth and I want my quilts to really show my cloth off to its best advantage. I am exploring different quilt blocks and settings to do this. Right now I think it is a good idea for me to work with bigger blocks of a simple nature, like 6″ half square triangles, 1000 Pyramids. I bet as I cut, piece and quilt the throws I am working on now that I will begin to see my way through the quilt block forrest a little better.

I am oh-so-happy to say, today I am heading over to Victoria Findlay-Wolfe‘s house for a day long class in 15 Minutes of Play . This book has been following me around for weeks, if not months. Victoria uses a technique she calls Made-Cloth, where she sews cloth together improvisationally, and figures out how to use it later. For my part, this is useful in that, because I have printed all of my own cloth, I want to use every last bit of it. Many of my multicolor printed cloth pieces are quite small, so I have been making Made-Cloth with it, but I am sticking with the same prints and colors, rather than using many prints in one Made-Cloth piece. Brilliant.

I will post and let you know about what I have learned in Victoria’s class. I look forward to meeting quilters, I can’t wait to see the synapse connections I make. I love learning.IMG_2583I uploaded this image because I like the hash marks. I also really like graffiti and poster art, so there! Enjoy.

 

Dots, Patterns, Quilts and Inspiration

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I have been seeing pattern and dots everywhere. I love them. It started because I bought a copy of Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s book 15 minutes of Play, and I fell in love with one of the quilts displayed in her book. The quilt is called Dot Calm, and was made by Karen Griska

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I have been seeing dots everywhere! Today while traveling the subway, I saw a man wearing a printed purple dots in an irregular pattern and then I saw a woman wearing dotted tights! And being a Mad Men fan, I have to say, Season 6, Episode 5 had Peggy wearing a red polka dot pattern seen here (scroll down). I have been daydreaming about those dots since I first saw them.

Anyway, dots are all the rage in the land of Melanie Testa.

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This graffiti could be considered a dot. I know it is a stretch, but as I said, I have dots on my mind. Lots and lots of dots. This week, I strolled the aisles of Mood and I saw more dots. 

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So, I have been printing dots, and have begun to sew and quilt while using them. I have not honestly quilted in years. I love to seam and piece. I love sewing a scant quarter inch seam. I love the meticulous nature of wanting to do a good job, of compensating of a short seam, I love trimming the cloth and ironing the seams open. I love the smell of the iron, even more I love the smell of the sewing machine after hours of having it on-it smells like warmed oil. I love piecing. I forgot all of this.

I have been visiting The City Quilter and hesitantly looking at the newest books on the market. Books with a modern quilting flair. I am hesitant because I do not want to be too heavily influence in the direction of another persons style. I would like my own style to emerge and formulate. The overarching current day method, from what I can tell, is improvisational. So, I embrace dabbling and trying this block, that stripe, a little bit of solids, lots of printed cloth.

After printing so much cloth over the years, I find using the cloth to be invigorating and inspirational. I remember printing each piece, the studio I used to print it in, I track the learning progression from one piece to the next. I am wowed. My brain is quiet. This is good.

SpainGraffitiI am putting this image back up on the blog. I took it while we were in Barcelona, Spain. This image has changed the trajectory of my creative life. This helped me to see the possibility of multicolor printing and I am forever grateful to have seen it, had a camera and to have taken a photograph of it.