Friday, December 24, 2010

Quilts for Christmas

I heard from the recipients of these quilts that they were opened yesterday - to provide warmth during this wintry cold - so now I can blog about them. These are the two quilts I've been working on recently. Thankfully I was able to finish them in time for Christmas. This quilt is for one of my sons. The other one is for his wife. And just so you know, Josh . . . I did finish yours first, before I finished Sam's quilt! He saw this quilt top and made a comment once that given all the time I've had to make quilts during the time the boys were growing up, it wouldn't be fair to make one to give to Samantha before I made one for him. So, there you have it. I'm a terrible mother! (Just kidding! If you know me, and could see me, you'd see I'm laughing as I say this!) I've been sewing on quilt tops all these many years. And finally after all these many years I get some finished - after the kids have grown up and left home! How horrible I've been. And yes, I have one waiting in the wings for my other son. One that was intended to be for a high school graduation gift, but it never got finished. My goal is to get that one done before the new year. But that's another story for another day. Here's the rest of this story . . .

Here's another view of the front of Josh's quilt. I laid them across our bed to get the photo. There's not too many places in our house to lay out something this large. Josh's quilt measures approximately 81" square. I'll have to think of something else to photograph the quilts I work on. Those quilts shown in magazines seem to be so nicely and artfully displayed. Yes, I realize they are made that way by "professionals", but I should be able to do that! But I was trying to hurry to get them done and wrapped. Will have to attempt better quality photos and proper lighting when I photograph future quilts. If I keep working on my stack of quilt tops I should be a professional at it too, by the time I finish them all.

Flip it over, and here's what the reverse side looks like. I wanted them to be reversible. And these five inch charm squares were cut out already and waiting in my stash. Another of my goals with these, and future quilt projects, is to get busy using up stuff in my stash . . . so I can buy more! Just kidding really. I've got such a large collection of fabric it only makes sense to use it up. I figure with all the quilt tops I've got there in my Sewing Studio I can go through a large chunk of my stash just finishing them all up.

And another view of the back from a slightly different angle. I like the way it turned out. I look at the front and really like the color combinations of those 2 1/2" strips. Then when I flip it over, I think maybe this side is the best side. Actually, I like both sides. Depends on if you want to see more brighter colors, or the darker subtle shades of a more woodsy nature look. I guess you do see all the bright colors in nature, too. Often have the brights in the colors of flowers and even some of the colors of animals such as birds and such. Don't you just love color!?!

Here we go - all folded up and ready to wrap up in Christmas paper.

This one is Sam's quilt. One time she came over to our house and looked through some of my quilting books. She flagged the pattern of this quilt, and a few others, with sticky notes indicating the ones she liked best. When I saw her choices I selected this one as a great pattern to sew. Later on I ran into a conundrum. She was going to come over because we talked about sewing together and again she looked through the book and navigated right to the page with this quilt pattern. Problem was, about a week or two prior to this I had shown this quilt top, which I was working on, to Josh. But I told him not to say anything to Sam about having made it. At the time, I wanted to double check with him that he thought she would like the colors of the fabrics I put into it. The fabrics were based loosely on the colors Sam said she liked, and had selected for their wedding. Having asked a number of times if Sam might ever want to sew with me, and being told she doesn't really sew (she enjoys scrap booking a lot), I one day got a positive response. Sam and Josh were going to come over for a visit. She would sew with me and Josh would hang out with his dad. So we head downstairs to sew and right off Sam picks this pattern from the book again to work on that afternoon. Well . . . what to do? Tell her she cannot sew that one? Tell her I already made that one for her? Just let her go ahead and sew it and then she winds up getting two quilts the same in the end? Give the one I made to someone else? or keep it myself? Hmmm . . . what would you do? I told her to wait, just a minute, and went to get the quilt top. Come clean, that's my motto . . . just can't keep it a secret. I told her I already did that quilt for her, she could go ahead and sew one herself if she wanted, but let me show what I already did. She said she liked the quilt top I made and we worked on something else that day.

And a closer look at this quilt - and the quilting of it. This stitching is called stippling. It's fairly closely stitched loops, swirls and random jig-saw puzzle like shapes. Sam's quilt measures approximately 74"x86" in size.

Here's another view of it from the back. I was being kind of a slow poke about getting the quilts done . . . huh? what? me? no way! LOL! me slow? I had already told my friend Deb during our sewing and quilting sessions that I was planning to finish up these quilts as gifts this year. Then Josh and Sam dropped big hints, "We want our quilts for Christmas." Now, wait a minute . . . you'll ruin the surprise! Ha, ha! I don't think it was really that much a big secret in the end.

I saw a quilt in one of my recent quilt magazines that showed this pattern for a quilt. I thought it would make the perfect back for Sam's quilt. That pattern was somewhat the inspiration for the back of Josh's quilt, but I decided to use the charm squares I had on hand because the colors were right rather than cutting the 13 1/2" random width fabric strips. I liked the idea of filling up along the sides with the larger fabric yardage. It made the backs go together much more quickly.

And here's the quilt all folded up waiting to be wrapped. Sam actually saw her quilt before I got it wrapped. Yep, I was a slow-poke and still hand stitching the binding in place when she came over to pick up their packages to take home to Josh. Sorry, I had to make her wait and get the packages the next day. So they were late - long, long hours working on them - but they made it in time for Christmas.

Next up on the agenda . . . finish up Ben's quilt and get that mailed off to him. Then I have some other recipients in mind for quilts I want to get done. That's right . . . quilting is going to continue on for some time. Check back occasionally for progress updates! Ha, ha, but don't hold your breath . . . you already know I'm a slow-poke . . . a slow-poke with a plan . . . am I describing a turtle quilter? Hmmm . . . it brings forth ideas for a drawing, but then I distract myself. LOL! Focus now, focus . . . work on quilts . . . forget about drawing and other artistic distractions! Forget about all those other things in life that are fun! Quilting is fun! Ha, ha, ha!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Got Oranges?

I had a craving for oranges to go along with my tea today. They were yummy! Have you had your vitamin C yet today? Have to admit I've strayed from taking daily vitamins. No reason, just have been neglecting to do that. My body must have been telling me, "Eat more fresh fruit!" We did enchiladas last night for supper. Hadn't made those for a while. Mmmmm . . . good! I ate some for lunch, too. Still have one left for a snack later tonight if I stay up to work on stuff. It's likely I will, I've been staying up late into the night working on various projects. Some of these projects need to get done within the next few days to make it in time for some body's Christmas. Not telling, but if they're reading this, I think they know already what's coming to them. The view you're seeing on my computer screen is from Lucy Knisley's site - a photo of her studio work area in her apartment. Here's a link to her on-line journal. I just love to look at photos of other people's studios and work spaces. To me it's fun to see what others place around their environment where they spend time being creative. It's also fun to see what inspires artists and creative types. That must be why I enjoy reading blogs. It's fun to glimpse a peek of their world from time to time.

I took some time for photos and to make a post about my December Daily progress. This is an image of one of my recent pages I posted about here , along with the snowflake paper punch I used on this page. I found blogger has changed the parameters for posting photos here on the blogs. It used to be you could go back after post some photos and add more later after uploading those. Now when I try to do that the program doesn't work the same way. I think I could publish the post then go back and edit it and add more photos, but am not really sure as I didn't try that. The improvement is better in some ways, but not in others. I had wanted to upload this photo showing the snowflake paper punch, but it would have meant starting again all over with the post or trying to work it as a edit after publishing. What a headache. This is like the third time I've run into this issue with the new blogger change. Kind of irritating since it looks like I have a tendency to do this same thing over again. And you may, or may not, have noticed I no longer am putting photo tags that show up when hovering over the photos. That's something they taught us we should do when I took those web design classes. Getting lazy with it I guess.

This is progress on one soon-to-be Christmas gift for someone. I will blog more about it later . . . after the 25th. It's coming along well. The thing should be done in time unless something drastic happens between now and next Tuesday. That's my final deadline to have it finished and wrapped so it can be hand delivered to the recipient.

And here is the progress of some hand work (yes, that's two four letter words - hand work!) that is showing progress. Doing this part by hand gives me an opportunity to sit back and kind of relax. The only problem I've encountered is I tend to do this later in the evening when my eyes are protesting. They seem to be telling me to let it go and do it another time - they must be tired and lose focus - or I need stronger glasses!

Well, I guess I cannot say too much more than this, or the whole surprise of the gift will be thrown out the window. So until a later date . . . Oh, and if you are a member of the 'Quilt Police' please avert your eyes. Sorry I don't pay bribes!  Just asking for leniency as I already know the quilting on this is not perfect. Just look at all those jerky, un-even quilting lines. LOL! It is what it is, though . . . a gift meant to be given with all my best intentions!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Festivus!

I spent some time today playing with my Photoshop Elements program. I wanted to make some goofy postcards to celebrate December - and gain more experience playing with software. I'll be sending out Christmas cards tomorrow, but wanted to just surprise everyone this year with something out of the ordinary, too. This idea of making the Festivus postcards came about from hearing on the news that a man in prison (death row?) was trying to get the authorities there to feed him kosher meals. Apparently he started a lawsuit and it went to court. When the judge asked what religion he was, I assume to establish the need for 'kosher' meals, the inmate said he celebrated Festivus. It struck me as funny - in an idiotic way. This led me to do a quick look on-line to read more about it. I remembered this episode of Seinfeld, but not all the details of it. One thing leads to another and I decide it would make a goofy card to post in the mail.

Here's the back of my postcard with the explanation of what this is all about. I left just a little room at the bottom to write a few short lines of text. I'm mainly just being goofy in doing this. Hoping all the recipients won't think I've given up on Christmas . . . that is not the case at all. It just struck me as funny and I wanted to share some quirkiness this winter. After all, we all could use some extra levity in our lives in the middle of a cold winter with white, snow-covered winter wonderland out there!

The photos are of the kids. Ben on the left in the green shirt was from this summer. It was the 30th? 31st? of May - Pat and I drove to Minnesota to help Ben move from one apartment to another place. It gave us an opportunity to visit with him for a short while before we headed back home the next day. Thankfully we were able to make a stop, a very short stop, to visit my Grandma C. in Minnesota on the way back. We were in a hurry to get back home because of our three dogs. There ended up being a snafu with the arrangements we made for someone to come into our house to feed and care for the dogs. They were having none of it and barked and were ferocious with our dog-sitter. Aaahhh, the interesting times one experiences with pet ownership.

Josh and his wife, Samantha, are in the winter coats to the right of Ben. This was a photo taken just a few weeks ago here in December. And I think most people know the other 'characters' in the photo. I pulled it from a publicity shot posted on the internet. The background history of the Festivus holiday was taken from Wikipedia. If you want, you can read more about this Seinfeld episode and the origin of the Festivus holiday. You can click onto each of the images to see them larger.

I had picked up the book 'Good Mail Day' some time ago. I have always enjoyed receiving mail, and this book advocates making and mailing mail art on a regular basis. At the time I got the book I thought, "What fun!" and fully intended to jump in and get started right away with making/mailing more mail art. I've been slow, just signing up with a few postcard swaps via some groups on-line. But this activity is something I think would be fun to do more of. Does that saying, "If you build it they will come" translate to "If you make & mail our mail art some will come back to in return"??? Maybe . . . Okay, these postcards are going out into the mail tomorrow, then it will be Christmas cards and a few packages I still need to get sent out of here. Hope every one of you are enjoying your holiday activities.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Snow Games and Warming Up with Hot Tea

I went outside yesterday to take some photos of the new layer of snow we received. The day before, on Monday, I wanted to go out and get photos of the lovely frost on the trees. I missed my chance because the sun melted off the frost before I went outdoors. Thankfully we got the same fluffy frost the next day, on Tuesday. I hopped on the opportunity to get outside and snap some digital photos. This shot looks kind of misty and foggy. It wasn't really like that. It's an illusion caused by the moisture built up in the camera before it equalized to the outdoor level. Ooooooh, it's eerie . . . ghosts in the garden.

I like the way the dogs, and maybe the rabbit, have created trails around my raised garden beds. It made me smile. When I look at it the thought that comes to mind is a snow game we used to play as kids. We called it Fox and Geese. The way you play is to run through the snow to trample down a circular path. Then trample down the snow across the center of the circle in the shape of a big cross. The whole thing kind of looks like a wheel with four spokes. One person is the fox who has to chase, and tag, the others who are the geese. All players must stay in the trampled down paths or you're out of bounds. When a player is tagged, that player becomes the fox. It was a fun game for playing outdoors on a snowy winter day. Hehehe . . . looks like the dogs enjoy playing it, too!

Here's a view of the garden swing and our stacked patio chair frames. We tucked them up under the lilacs to get them out of the way, and to offer some protections under the limbs of those bushes. I see there is a trail leading under the chairs. I believe those are the tracks from our neighborhood rabbit. It seems to have its preferred paths to make the rounds of our yard and other areas of the neighborhood. By the way, it finished off the remainder of the parsley and other garden vegetation a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure what it finds to eat through the winter, but likely gnaws on bushes and other underbrush. I'd throw some kitchen scraps outside for it (ends of carrots and apples), but I really don't want to encourage it or make it more able to breed and produce more rabbits in the spring. It took out too many of the garden plants that I would have preferred keeping for us.

Ginger was excited to go outdoors with me. Here you see she's checking out where I've been with the car. I'm sure there are lots of areas to sniff out front. We don't usually let her wander there. She's got all the free reign she wants in the back where it is fenced. She was funny . . . got to the sidewalk edge and plunged her snout into a deep snowbank surrounding the trees on the boulevard. She walked around with snow on her face, then when we came inside, had melted snow - turned to water droplets - on her face. She makes me laugh. Apparently it doesn't faze her in the least! She would rather spend time outdoors, regardless of the cold, so she can go around exploring and tracking down all those intriguing scents.

And yes, the car is plugged in. For those of you who might be reading here, but do not live in a cold, northern climate . . . we have to plug in our vehicles in the winter-time. No it's nothing to do with electric cars, it's to power the block heater so on those really cold days your car will start. We certainly don't want our engine blocks frozen up or cracking on us. At the time I got my car they weren't selling the car starters with them. By the time I ever considered I might want a car starter I figured I was already going out in the icy cold to start my car and let it idle enough to warm the engine for driving. Now all these many years later I still don't have one. I figure it's an older car now, so what's the point of putting an engine starter in now. I'm used to going out there 4-5 minutes prior to taking off in it to let it warm up. Next car though will definitely have one on it as long as we're staying here in North Dakota. My friend even has seat warmers in her vehicle, and they keep theirs in a garage, not out in the open like we do. Now that's luxury!

I love the look of all this frost on the trees. This is a close-up of the lilac bush. It was so beautiful the way the sunlight came streaming through the branches. It's too bad photos don't reveal the true, awesome 3-D beauty of seeing it in person. It was a sparkly, glittery wonderland!

Another view of the swing through the lilac branches. So peaceful . . .

When I came back inside I couldn't see a thing. I experienced immediate fogging of my glasses.

Here's some of my stash of cold weather drink choices. I have them handy - sitting on top of the microwave. They'll likely go back into the cupboard soon. I filled my pottery containers with a bunch of tea flavors. See them peeking out from behind the boxes? One says tea, the other says coffee. I like to keep them stocked during winter weather.

This is one of my favorite activities when it is cold outside, and sometimes chilly in the house. Yum! I love a nice warm cup of tea. Lately I've been warming up with those fruit flavored teas. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy iced teas, but sometimes a warm cup hits the spot better. And actually, right now I have a cup of each on my desk as I'm blogging. A touch of the iced when those 'personal summers' present themselves, and a cup of the warm version when I feel a chill. Warm makes me sleepy, so can only do so much of that. After all, I've got to stay awake so I can get some stuff done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Playing with Photoshop and Other Gadgets

I played with photoshop earlier this week, and again tonight, to make up some badges advertising my new blogs. Here's a pic of the link to my scrapbooking blog. Pretty exciting to start working on some pages for my mini Christmas album. If you're interested in scrapbooking, and want to see how I am progressing with this hobby, click on the badge in the sidebar and go take a peek.

Just now, looking at this one from a fresh perspective . . . I'm thinking I ought to increase the size of the text here. This one may be photoshopped some more in the near future. That lettering is looking kind of puny to me.

This is my new badge for my doodling and drawing blog. I wanted to get more into hobbies that I can partake in while watching tv with my hubby. The act of drawing is something I can do that doesn't involve a noisy sewing machine, a noisy cricket or other gadgets. There's a time for gadgets . . . after all, I'm a "gadget girl" . . . but there are also times for doing things by hand - the old fashioned way. I love finding out about new gadgets that make hobbies (and life) easier. But when it comes to just relaxing and watching tv in the evenings with my hubby, I want to keep in mine that "relax" is the principle word. Sometimes that means doing things by hand one stitch, or one pen mark, at a time.

It has been a little while since I did some playing around with my Photoshop program. It gets easier the more I do it. Actions necessary to get the program to do the things I want it to do are easier to pull from my memory banks when I keep at it. This photoshop program is the "baby" one - Photoshop Elements 6 - not the full-fledged program. It would be fun to have the big master program, but for the present time I am doing just fine with this one. Some day when I've got lots of money burning a hole in my pocket I might think about upgrading. For now this works for my needs. They do have an updated version of this Elements program.
But even getting that update can wait for another day. I think I spend so much of my time doing so many different things it doesn't make sense to spend money getting an upgrade when I wouldn't use the program on a routine basis. When the time comes that I do more digital scrapbooking, digital drawing or altering digital photography more I'll give it further consideration. Splitting my time right now between so many different things keeps me moving between many machines and software programs. Currently my time is spent between sewing, quilting, machine embroidery, computing, building websites, and now scrapbooking and drawing. See what I mean about liking gadgets? I have gadgets, machines and programs for all these activities. I just love to learn new things . . . and learn to use new gadgets.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scrapbooking my Holiday

This year I am doing something different. I have decided to jump into scrap booking by making a mini book of our Christmas holiday season. I came across Ali Edwards' blog and info on December Daily 2010. It seemed to perfect opportunity to just get in there and start scrapping. In honor of this mini book concept, and the hope to make scrapping a more daily/weekly event in my future, I also started a new blog devoted to my new scrap booking activities. Perhaps you might like to follow my efforts at chronicling our lives and our memories over there. The new blog is called Doreen Scrapbooks, Too! My plan is to do all my blogging about scrap booking over there, so if you want to watch my progress and see where this takes me, then go ahead and bookmark that page. As I keep active with other artsy type projects, you'll find the artsy stuff here . . . and the artsy sewing stuff. You didn't think I was planning on giving up sewing, now, did you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hallelujah! King of Kings, Lord of Lords, For Ever & Ever!!!

One of the best videos I've seen in awhile! If I had been there that day I would have stood up and joined in on the singing - have to give it a standing ovation, too! It was excellent enough on it's first public appearance before King George the II - that he stood to his feet with a standing ovation - it's even better now - sung all across the world via the internet.

In case you are not aware of the story of Handel's "Messiah" I am including a link with some history of this extraordinary song and the setting in which it occurred.

Check these links out for more info:

Here the words are written so you can sing/follow along:

Here a very clear, crisp rendition with wonderful orchestra and vibrant chorus:

A resounding version featuring several 16th-note (semiquaver) melismas referred to in the Wikipedia article:

Hope you enjoy the music . . . I know it's Thanksgiving in a couple days . . . just getting a jump on getting into the holiday festivities now for the next month!

"You will have a song, as in the night when a holy feast is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goes with a flute to come to Yahweh's mountain, to Israel's Rock."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow Day!

I came across this video while visiting some of my favorite bloggers. And due to the fact that we are getting more snow today . . . and the cuteness factor of this little girl . . . I am declaring this to be a SNOW DAY! We're supposed to get 10 inches by Thanksgiving Day here in North Dakota.

You can see more from LoobyLu found in the sidebar to the right, or just click here. Her daughter, Emma, did a fine job with the musical stylings of the song. Such a cutie when she musters up all her courage to sing in front of this audience - then lets go with one of her radiant smiles. Love the high five at the end!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cold Tracks and Dry Leaves

The plant at the top of this image is my bay tree. I purchased the bay tree at our local garden center. The tag attached to it indicated this plant was not a good choice for our growing region. I have misplaced the original tag, but an on-line source says these plants are for zone 8-10 . . . we are zone 4. Big difference, huh? Makes one wonder why they were selling it here. I left it in its original clay pot - just sunk the pot and all at ground level outside in my raised bed garden area by the patio. I planned on bringing it indoors for the winter. I have hopes it will survive in the house till it is nice enough to move back outdoors early next summer. The leaves have really dried up. I gave it a good watering when I brought it in. And have watered it a couple times again. I am wondering if I should switch out the clay pot for something else, something that is not quite so porous. It seems to continue to be drying up. Then it occurred to me this plant may lose its leaves in the winter like most other trees. Might have to do a bit of research to find out more info. Actually about half the branches and leaves have greened up nicely and become supple again. If the rest of it doesn't respond better in a few days I may give it a little trim job.

The plant at the bottom is my Christmas cactus. This lovely plant was a gift from my daughter-in-law. It came to me filled with blossoms in bloom. Over the past year it has done well. I look forward to it blooming again. Don't know if I am supposed to do anything special with it to make it bloom again, though. Will wait and see what it does.

I looked out the kitchen window into the backyard this morning to see these animal tracks. Those going back on the left side are from our dogs. Those in the raised bed planter are from our backyard rabbit. It seems to enjoy nibbling the last of the frozen parsley. That's pretty much all that's left of any green plants out there.

Funny, you don't notice the screen so much when you're looking out through the window in person. It's really rather distracting in the photo - darkens the whole view.

After checking out the backyard animal trails, I thought I'd take a look at the front yard. That rabbit (or it's relative?) sure gets around pretty well. Here's the view of animal tracks in the front of the house. I don't think there's anything edible for it out front . . . just passing through.

Looks like we only got a couple inches. Not so bad. I heard a guesstimate of 6-8 inches the day before. Not a problem to get less! It turned out to be pretty cold out there, though.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Postcards Ready to Pop in the Mail

Yay! They're finally done! Here is a peek at all five postcards together. They will be dropped off at the post office in the morning . . . it's too late for them to be processed tonight. So glad to be finished. Hope all the recipients like the one they end up getting.

I wanted each one of these images to have its own distinct appearance. They do, yet I can see similarities in them as well. Doing this project has brought me back to painting again. It has been a lot of fun to try this activity again. Many, many years have passed since I last worked at painting. I can see I need to practice more . . . and I need to pick up a few more colors of paint as well. I could have used a few other colors to create these faces. It would have helped with some of the color mixes and the shading. But considering the number of colors I currently have on hand, I don't think I did too badly.

After standing back and looking over all of these I have to say I'm okay with them. I was a bit bent out of shape by one of yesterday's images, but have settled down since then. I really need to paint alot more to get better at faces, and work from some photos to help with the shadows and reflected light. These are more cartoonish than portrait like even though I tried to get some shading in so they wouldn't look flat. I want to keep working at it so I can get back to a more realistic portrait style like I used to do. I'll have to dig out those canvases I tucked back away in the closet.

Here's a look at the final postcard. I won't say which one I like the most, but I do have a favorite. Like I posted yesterday, they will mixed them up and I will randomly pick which card is sent to each of the swap participants.

Another thing I realized doing this is how much I've missed doing arty stuff just for fun, and as a challenge. I flipped back through some things I did earlier this year with Terri Stegmiller's Creative Cue. I only did two of those. Been thinking I should jump back into that and do some more of those, especially since the year will be coming to a close before we know it. I'll have to get over there and check it out, see what her current word is. Anyway, hope you've enjoyed watching my progress on this project. More arty stuff to come in the future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Postcard Progress Update

I have been busy painting more on these fabric postcards. I finished this one the other day. I think it turned out pretty well. Not quite what I envisioned, but I am happy with it. I wanted to incorporate alot of color in the piece and feel I achieved that.

After finishing this one I completed the reverse side of the postcards. The back sides will be the same for all five of the cards. It is created on my computer and printed out on heavy weight cardstock. I incorporated a photo of the pawn - cropped to show just the gamepiece - as a feature on the backside. Once I get all the painting completed I will take them downstairs to my sewing studio and stitch the fronts to the backs.

I decided I will write the addresses on the backsides then turn them all upside-down and shuffle them. Then blindly pick a front and back to stitch together and each participant will randomly get one of the paintings. I figure it is too much trouble to pick and chose who would get which specific painted image. So far there are some things I like and don't like about each one. Random selection seems the best way to go. There were only four of us in this round of postcard swaps. I planned to keep one of these for myself, so that means I will have one extra. I've been considering to whom I will send it. Hmmm . . .

Here's the second one that I was working on last night before I went to bed. Honestly, I expected to be done with these a lot more quickly. I really am a slow-poke. Thinking I was putzing too much on them, I decided to move on to work more on the other three. I'm not sure if I will call this one done yet. It can pass for done. But once I stepped back from it and studied it with a more critical eye, I see several things I would like to change. Time will tell if I decide to paint over part of it and rework it. Since I'm already past the deadline on getting these mailed, I likely will let it go and just call it done. I'm not sure how I feel about releasing something, which I am not entirely pleased with, out into the universe. What do you think? How do those of you involved in the creative process handle something like that? Have you worked it out somehow where you've reached a comfort level that says it is okay to give someone something you might not be entirely pleased with? Just curious.

I goofed! I am currently taking a break waiting for my postcards to dry - and get started with making supper. In the process of working on these cards today I grabbed a black ink pen to draw in some details. I didn't realize it till I started painting again that the pen I grabbed was not a permanent ink pen. Here I was painting away, floating in some additional color, and noticed my black ink from the pen was streaking and smearing. Yuck! I touched up what I could before it could dry, then went in search of my spray fixative.

My hubby came walking in here not too long ago telling me, "I'm getting high over here!" Me, too! I took the cards outdoors to spray them. However it was too cold out there to stay out for long, so I brought them back in while still damp. That's some stinky spray! And my asthma started kicking in gear with a reaction tightening up my bronchials. Thankfully most of it has either dried of evaporated now - it's much better in here now. Thank God for modern medicine and pharmacy products that help with asthma! Aahhh . . . I could make a comment about 'suffering for my art' but won't go there - just kidding! And let's not have anyone calling the EPA with anonymous tips on me creating a hazardous work environment!  :)

Here's a closer look at those on the left.

Here's to hoping my next blog post will have me reporting these postcards have been dropped into the mailbox!

And here is a closer look at those on the right side. Still a ways to go before I can call them finished.

Okay, so there they are . . . still not ready to mail out, and the day is really getting away from me. I'm currently eating supper (chicken, chicken and brocolli Rice-a-Roni, and sweet corn) Yummy!!! I will be back to painting in just a few moments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Look What Is On My Drawing Table

Here is a peek at what is currently on my drawing table. I am working on another postcard swap. I should have put these in the mail by the 9th - I'm late. But I anticipate finishing them up tomorrow. They need a bit more detail work and have their back side stitched in place before I give them up. There is no mail delivery because of Veteran's Day tomorrow, so they will just be sitting in a bin at the post office when I do finish them and post them. "Sorry" to my recipients, if you're reading this. So sorry I am late with them. Soon, very soon your postcard will be in your hands! I hope you like this version that I came up with.

The assignment for this postcard swap was under the theme: Game Day. I kept thinking about pawns --as in the game of chess-- ever since the election and the previous months of politicking, speeches, advertising and news coverage that has been going on here in the US. It seems to me that we, the people of this country, get short shrift from leaders who make poor decisions and choices on our behalf. I was thinking about the similarity to chess where your pawns are expendable in favor of those game tokens with higher rank - anyway, that is what has been on my mind. Originally, I thought of doing something with domino images since we like to play Chicken Dominoes, but this image of the chess pawn kept coming to the fore front of my mind the most.

The way I made the postcards was to stitch together scraps of fabric and over stitch them with extra decorative stitching on my sewing machine first. I had in mind that there would be an underlying stitched pattern beneath the painted image. This was intended to reinforce the idea that there's more, at a deeper level, than meets the eye . . . more going on behind the scenes that affects us 'pawns' - the common everyday people of America.

After the background stitching I started the under painting with acrylics. First a base of paint across the whole background to cover over the stitching while not entirely obscuring it. Then I sketched in some of the basic image, blocking in the main components with pencil. Then I moved on to using some permanent markers, which showed up better and were not prone to smearing like the lead from the pencil, to lay in the basic features of the face. Next came the painting to create the faces and expressions. They still need detail, and also some shading on the pawns to give them dimension, highlights and shadows. I've been working on these a bit, off and on, but have been sidetracked with other stuff lately. That's why they're not finished yet and off my desk.

We got snow today. It wasn't a whole lot for us. The storm that came through North Dakota was more west and north of us. Yay! We got bypassed for the most part. And I heard it was supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow again, so the snow that fell today will melt by tomorrow. This is the second snowfall so far this fall. This photo is a view out the back door at our patio.

We covered the boat for the winter season and put all the patio chairs and table, the cushions, flower pots and various other garden things away in the sheds for storage.It looks so much larger and open now that it is empty. But it will make life easier for my hubby when he goes out there to snow-blow when the big snows hit this winter. We have to keep moving the snow back from the house so the dogs can get out there to do their business. Ginger, our bigger hunting dog, is more adventurous about going further out in the yard and exploring when the heavy snow is on the ground. But the chihuahuas will only go as far as the bottom of the stairs if the way is not cleared of snow for them. Plus, it melts so much nicer away from the house and the water run-off in the spring isn't such a mess when the snow is blown further back.

Notice my big planter box? My hubby built this raised bed planter for me this past spring for herbs, tomatoes, onions and the like. You can see a bit of some of the herbs still there. It looks like our backyard neighborhood rabbit was sitting there nibbling on parsley the other day.

I cut some of the herbs and hung them to dry on my laundry drying rack. I believe they are sufficiently dried now so that I can put them in zip-lock baggies and crush them. I need to go out shopping to get more zippy bags. We used the last of them the other day sending sandwiches with hubby for lunch and snack breaks at work. It won't hurt the herbs to hang there another day or two while I finish up painting my postcards tomorrow. After all, I've been side-tracked enough . . . first things first tomorrow is to get those postcards done.

This large pot of soup is one of those things that side-tracked me today. I've been meaning to make up another pot of this Potato Chowder. I ran around and got all my errands accomplished this morning, and when I saw the snow start falling after lunch I decided supper today would be soup. And it sure was tasty! There is plenty left for lunch tomorrow . . . so that means I can paint and not get involved with cooking anything till tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to another great day with art in the morning!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Peek a Boo! See, I'm Back!

Hello again. I'm finally getting back to posting here at my blog. {Smile} Sorry to leave you hanging, but I've been doing all kinds of things, and enjoying the wonderful fall weather we are experiencing this year. My hubby and I have been getting in some boating and fishing. Had to do it a few times - get out and enjoy the balmy fall season. It was so peaceful out at Governor's Bay on Lake Sakakawea.

Here we are about to back the boat down the ramp into the water. It was peaceful, smooth water most of the day. Just a slight breeze. The water was higher than it had been last year and also earlier this year when we were out here. You can see the tops of the trees a little ways off to the left of the dock. Those were all well above the waterline last year. There is a buoy set out near these trees that we had to maneuver around last year to get out more onto the open, deeper water of lake.

It was fun to be serenaded by these wild Canadian geese that flew in and gently glided down to the water. We slowly took the boat to circle around near them so I could try for some better close-up photos. They kept a close watch on us, but we were never that close to disturb them. So they settled down for a mid afternoon snooze and a rest while we continued fishing.

We got several bites on our lines, and caught some fish each day we were out on the lake. But we decided to throw them back. We were hoping for some Salmon or Walleye, but ended up catching Northerns and Perch. No matter . . . it was mainly just an escape to the outdoors anyway. Our main goal was to get out and enjoy the days we spent out on the lake before the cold and the snow set in. Looks like that might happen here in the next week.

Spending several weekends out at the lake was a wonderful way to finish out the summer and fall seasons. Now that it is dipping at or near freezing temperatures, we have started tucking aways the patio furniture, various flower pots, pulling up dried foliage and other things to prepare the yard for winter. The first batch of leaves has been bagged. Fall is in full swing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Broadway - Cats Postcards Mailed

Embroidery of the Cats logo went quickly using the design I digitized from the lettering of the Cats logo.I mailed off my Cats Postcards a few days ago, but am just now getting my blog updated with info. These are more photos showing my progress through the production of this mail art. I made a total of five cards. Originally there were going to be six, but one of the participants dropped out because of an injury. I thought I'd go ahead with all of them, but as you'll see in a photo further down, I goofed up on one of them. I decided to toss the messed up postcard. I planned to mail one to myself, so it worked out alright doing five cards.

This first photo shows the embroidery process of the Cats logo name. I downloaded a photo of the image from the internet and ran it through my embroidery digitizing computer software program. It is an easy digitizing job since the lettering was so simple. I just followed the image - easy, peasy digitizing. They didn't take very long at all to embroider out on my Pfaff Creative Vision.

I use Roxanne's Glue Baste It to adhere the little fabric pieces to add detail to the cat faces.This next photo shows my goof! I embroidered one of the cards with the logo upside down! I decided to toss this one. It was the very first one I stitched out, too. Obviously I wasn't paying attention. Good thing I caught it when I pulled it out of the hoop or I might have messed up more of them. I paid more attention after that. :)

Here you see a bottle of the glue I used to adhere the fabric pieces. I like to use Roxanne's Glue Baste It since the tip on this bottle of simple white glue places a fine, thin bead of glue directly where you want it. I can use just a tiny bit and not end up getting it all over everything. It's neater than regular plain old Elmer's white glue. I suppose I could refill my bottle with Elmer's glue when it gets low. So far, I've had this bottle for awhile as you can see from the crinkled label. I find it a bit irritating to have to always use a long, quilter's pin to clear the thin hollow tube applicator between uses. But that's a small matter considering it works so well - aside from that slightly irritating feature. I got this glue at my local quilt shop. They sell it for quilters who like to do hand applique without pins to hold down the small fabric pieces. It's so much nicer not having pins all over the place. And it is quicker and less expensive than fusible web that is ironed in place. It doesn't make your piece stiff like the fusibles. Plus it washes out if it were used on an item that is washable. Obviously that is not the case here for the postcards. Just a fine bead of glue does not show up from the front side, either.

Testing the position of the face over the fur head fabric.Here is a close-up of one of the faces. I trimmed around the face and positioned it in place over the outline of the fur head. I purposely made the necks a bit long since I knew I would end up trimming them off on the final cards. Fit looks good. Time to glue it in place.

Glue the face into place and trim excess at the bottom.This next photo shows the neck piece trimmed off at the bottom edge of the card. I am glueing the face into place. It doesn't take much time at all to dry when you are using only a thin bead of glue. Glue, press in place, move on to the next one . . . by the time I'm done with the fifth one, the first one is dry enough to start stitching.

Laying in a bit of color to the fur around the face with fabric snippets.I used a variegated ocher/tan piece of fabric to lay in some color to the cat's fur around the face. Using fabric was a quick way to add additional color to the piece. Originally I thought I would do all the additional color with a thread painting technique, but figured it would go faster filling in blocks of color with fabric snippets. After all . . . I was already late getting my cards sent off. Trying to make it go a bit faster cut down a few extra hours of sewing.

Thread Painting the details of the fur around this cat's face.I set my Pfaff 7570 up with the darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, and did some thread painting to add details to the fur around the face area. Thread painting is just a free-motion technique to create an image and add color by sewing details with different colors of thread. It is basically simple stitching here to simulate fur around the face. As the artist, I just move the fabric around to sketch the picture in thread. I had a movie set up in the DVD and listened to background 'action' on tv while I sewed. I 'watched' several shows on DVD while creating these cards. It's a good way to pass the time.

Zig-zag stitch around the outer perimeter of each postcard to prevent fraying of the fabric.After doing some simple thread painting with the tan color thread that coincided with the fabric snippets, I decided I ought to stitch around the outsides before I ended up fraying my edges. Here I set up the machine for a simple zig-zag stitch to cover the perimeter around the edges. This goes quickly, but I went around each card twice.

Previous work on fabric postcards has taught me that it is easier to stitch around the perimeter twice with a stitch that isn't set too tight. I used to try to go around them just once with a denser stitch and always had trouble with the way the cards were feeding through the machine. They tended to bunch up, skip stitches or snag at the corners where they wouldn't feed through at all. Lots of trouble! Now I just set the stitch length slightly looser than a dense, satin stitch and sew the card twice. Itt looks more dense and is easier to sew without problems with those nasty feeding issues.

After stitching around the perimeters, I went back and did more thread painting in a darker brown thread. I was going to add some black into the fur to match more to the original photos I was refering to as reference from the broadway play. I could hear my needle 'thudding' through some of the denser areas of stitching so decided against that. Sometimes when the stitching gets too dense it can get harder to sew. I didn't want to overdo it. It looked like it had the proper amount of stitching to suit me. So I called it done!

Here's a final look at the cards prior to sending them off in the mail. Note the reverse side as printed via my computer with the project description.I like to make up the back side of my fabric postcards on my computer and print them out on index card (110# weight) cardstock. This allows me to add detail about the project, the date and some info and provides a nice, stiff heavier weight paper base.

I use an old graphics program I've had on my computer for a long time for this step. I actually used the program years ago when I had an older computer. When I got my current Vista computer several years ago I figured this old program wouldn't run properly. Thankfully it did, so I didn't need to invest in yet another computer program. I like it when things like that happen. The graphics program I use is called Art Explosion Publisher Pro. It takes awhile to learn to use some of these graphics programs. I know enough of this one to get by, and I'm glad to still be able to make use of it. I really should use it more often and learn it a bit more thoroughly. I have to work to keep refreshing myself on it when I am away from doing graphis work for awhile. Computer programs seem to take lots more time to learn than they do to forget!! LOL!!

So . . . that's my mini lesson on how I make my fabric postcards. Now, I'm looking forward to the next time around. This group of artists will soon be coming up with another theme for the next Postcard Swap. Go check it out at Three Creative Studios if you want to join in the next swap!