The Summer Indigo “Blues”

By Sandra Bruce

Hey, everyone, hope your summer is going well. Aside from really high temps that have me indoors more than I’d like, I’m still managing to play Pickleball, do a bit of gardening, and grilling on the deck. Pickleball, by the way, if you’ve never tried it, is totally addicting and great exercise. I needed something to counteract the hours I’ve been sitting lately, hand-sewing binding on some quilts 🙂

I did finish Maury and Maxine, as part of my bird series. The binding on it was some of the most complicated I’ve done, due to the color changes. This way of making matching binding is one of the techniques I’ll be teaching my students at Zephyr in September. I also have a mini-tutorial on CourseCraft on how to do it. (You can find it at https://coursecraft.net/c/matchedbinding). There are some interesting photos coming to my Zephyr workshop that my students have chosen to make their quilts from…..they have selected lots of animals! I do have a space left, (and I could stretch it to 2) if anyone out there wants to join us.

Here’s how it turned out, along with a closeup, and the back. It’s 24″ by 44″. The eyes are painted. Maury is the jokester!

Maury and Maxine

I never tire of making wonky blocks, and finally finished a batik wonky log-cabin quilt I started a while ago. I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s been fun taking a little break from Matrix to make some different and sometimes traditional-ish quilts. Here’s a closeup of it, showing the quilting. This has been my favorite quilting pattern of late. Smoky swirls!

I belong to a few groups, and the one that has been the longest running is “Friends to Dye For”. We have been meeting for over 23 years, less often now than in the first 15 years or so, but we still do get together when we can for fun days of different projects. In the past we have done every craft and sewing project you can imagine! Altered books, mosaics, polymer clay, prayer flags, paper collage, goofy hats, bedroom slippers…the list goes on and on. We decided recently to repeat an idea we did years ago that was very successful. Each month one of us (there’s 5) gets a turn, where we pick a quilt pattern and everyone shows up at your house to sew for you to get a whole top done in a day. I went first, and we had a blast sewing (inside where the AC was on, of course!). That was a 100 degree day, I recall, or close to it. I planned 2 quilts, as they were super simple and I hoped we’d have the time to at least start the 2nd top. The first, a pattern by Villa Rosa, “Beads”. In all black and white with chartreuse “beads”.

It went together super fast and we had the top together by lunchtime.

In the afternoon we worked on 144 of these little black and white squares (below)…the squares were made by the end of the day and I pieced them all together later. This also is a Villa Rosa pattern, called “Split Charms”. I ended up putting a mixed partial border on it, I’ll post it when it’s done 😉 The photo below shows the blocks loose on my design wall. Lively! I think scrap quilts are my favorite.

A few weeks later it was Michelle’s turn. She wanted squares made from dyed indigo to make a quilt with. We first spent time at Michelle’s kitchen table, with a box of assorted items such as wine corks, rubber bands, string, thread, twine, clamps and other trinkets. We used these things to tie up the stack of white cotton squares before us, in differing configurations, before throwing them in the dye bath, outside.

After coming out of the dye bath, the pieces needed a bit of sunlight. Interesting blue blobs.

Then we sat and untied/cut the rubber bands and such from the squares, to reveal the patterns we created.

Oh my, did they come out beautiful, or what?!

The clothesline filled up as the day wore on, it was such a delight to watch them appear.

Here’s a couple of my favorites…

I have to say, typically this blue is not one of my favorite colors, but I have to admit I love these and can easily imagine making something using this technique. Michelle will put this quilt together, and I will quilt it for her. Can’t wait to see what she puts together!

Coming up, I have a rather complicated Matrix quilt idea in the works, it’s still in my head but I want to start it before summer’s over. Looking forward to making a summer garment first. Then I will have Artistic Alchemy prep to take care of, as the retreat is around the corner! Happy sewing, and stay cool and safe.

Balancing Summer with Quilting.

This is Jane. Summer is here and I have been thinking about how to combine my quilting business with taking time off. Whilst running a quilting business from home it is too easy to spend all your time working and not taking a break. My sewing space is located at the front of the house, so its very easy to slip in and get sewing! My high school aged son is still home so I want to do fun things with him this summer. We are currently planning a couple of road-trips so really when I’m not traveling I can work. It’s about finding the right balance.

Camping at Long Lake June 12th 2021 Photo by James Haworth

Since Covid I have received many custom orders from customers around the USA. They send me t-shirts or neckties to make into quilts. Although I am trying to cut down on this type of work it still flows in. Ideally I would love to have more time to spend developing new ideas for quilts, playing with fabric and making new work to enter into exhibitions or quilt shows. Writing this I am sure that is what many of us crave.

Playtime with my Gelli-plate and leaves

Part of my workshop at the Artistic Alchemy Retreat this year is a day of mark-making. I plan on spending time this summer exploring the various mediums and techniques I will teach at Zephyr. I think it’s all about having the materials at hand and inspiration to kick start your creativity. One of the materials I will provide will be gelli-plates so we can explore how they can be used. In the photo above I gathered leaves to print in layers.

This small quilt is the 12″ x 12″ donation piece I submitted to the SAQA Benefit Auction that happens in September every year. This piece I called ‘Keep Calm and Sloth On’ I have been meaning to make a large sloth quilt but “have no time!” and so at least I started with this small piece. It does include a lot of messy stitching, hand stitching and unusual materials. I used leaves I had leftover from a 2011 reptile quilt, some silk necktie off-cuts and threadwork I made using ‘solvy’, a dissolvable interfacing.

Inspiration photo for a new quilt

Often I will look at Pixabay.com for copyright free images for subjects that I aren’t able to take myself. Otherwise I will look over my own photo library for ideas. This picture I took at my neighbors house while letting out her dog. I love the contrast in colors and textures. This would be a great image for a fabric collage.

KitKat keeping during our hot spell.

In the same way this photo would be good for a fabric collage. I would probably crop it a bit. Again there are nice contrasting textures and lines and then the focal point KitKat, my cat. If you wish to start your own fabric collage of any subject or my favorite topic; pets and animals, think about signing up for my workshop at Zephyr Point. It will be my last year teaching here but I am looking forward to attending at a later date when I can work on a project like this.

I do love making quilts for customers using their saved clothes or ties. It is meaningful for them to preserve those memories especially of loved ones that are no longer around. For the first photo I made three of these lap quilts for three sons from their dads old polo, flannel and button-up shirts. I still have a pile of fabric left that I intend on making a surprise quilt for the lady (mom) who sent them to me. The middle quilt is a king-size necktie quilt that I am still working on and the last a t-shirt quilt made from a husbands collection of old rock music shirts.

Long Lake near Royal Gorge, CA

We recently spent a lovely weekend camping, hiking and backpacking with family and friends. It was a time to enjoy nature, friendship and life returning to normal. This spot is just an hours drive up I80 from our home into the Sierra Nevada mountains near Donner Summit. The hike is just over 1/2 a mile so we were able to take in extra supplies that normally when backpacking you couldn’t take! From our camping area we had amazing views of Devils Peak and could relax by this cold body of water.

I have spent this last year teaching online classes for the Mancuso’s at their various online quilt shows. This was the last workshop I taught called Big-Eyed Chameleon Fabric Collage. These photos include the inspiration photo, my sample and student work by Gayle. I love what she did and I think hers is better than mine. Hopefully that’s a sign of a good teacher! I have just a couple of online classes on my calendar and I believe as the Mancuso shows happen in-person they will still continue to host a portion of the show online, as requested.

My set up for the Road to California online event in May.

Although I do enjoy teaching online and students are able to get a great view, use their whole stash and favorite sewing machine etc it will be great to meet in person again. On Saturday I am teaching to a local guild which will be my first time in about 16 months. I hope i’m not too rusty!

My first in-person gathering was at the Carson Valley Quilt Guild in May. I got to speak at their guild meeting and share my quilts. I was very happy to see so many members brought in their animal quilts that they made after signing up for my on-demand class. In 2020 my workshop Love of Pets was cancelled so the guild signed up as a group and took the class online. The link is here Love of Pets

Demonstrating mono-printing using Botanicals.

It was a nice break this week to gather with the Mountain Art Quilters for an outside meeting in a members beautiful backyard. This was our first in-person meeting and was a chance to breath, relax and enjoy time with other creatives. This reminds me of that feeling I get when at Lake Tahoe at the Artistic Alchemy Retreat. I love the quiet of the lake early in the morning, the buzz in the dining hall when you chose new friends to meet and sit with. Heidi says they have a new chef so thats something to look forward to! Seeing what people are working on and how creative they can be is always inspirational.

Thanks for following along with my post this month and if you are interested in the retreat there is still time, so reach out to Heidi, Sandra or myself with any questions.

Whatsup?

by Sandra Bruce

I hear that word a lot from my son….. “whatsup”?

Well, summer is here (sort of…we’re having a rare chilly spell) and as we roll into the summer season we here at Artistic Alchemy are turning our thoughts and efforts to the retreat this Fall. I want to let everyone in our reading audience know, we traditionally have the deadline for signing up for Zephyr to be the beginning of July, but with this being our last year together teaching (after the year that we’ve all had!) we’ve decided to extend the deadline for those who might have been on the fence about coming. If this is you, please contact one of us for more information, or go ahead and send in your registration form. Having said this, we do have workshop size limitations, and the lake front rooms go first, so don’t hesitate to contact us for further info ASAP. At this moment I have a couple of spaces left in my Matrix workshop…hope you’ll join us! Over the last 8 years it’s been a privilege to work alongside Christine Barnes, Mary Boalt, and of course, Heidi Emmett and Jane Haworth. This fall’s workshop will be special, without a doubt.

I am a Juried Artist Member of SAQA, and am making an effort to be more involved with the local chapter and keeping up with some of the challenges and exhibitions they do, of which there are many. Twice a year a request goes out to make a 12″ by 12″ piece as a donation for an auction. I took an image that I had made before, you may recall seeing it, where I pieced blue squares together and painted an image of 2 pelicans onto it. I realized then that I like to paint on fabric, but it is piecing that I want to focus on. A bit of paint is OK especially to define something that is too tiny or difficult to piece, like eyes. Anyway, I took a portion of that image and reproduced it in Matrix for the auction. It was interesting to me to make a repeat image in a different method. Here’s what I did. Working small is a challenge to me for sure.

Recently, with life returning somewhat back to normal, I got together with my Friends to Dye For, for an outside dyeing day. We began this group about 23 years ago and we still get together, but just not as regularly as we used to. It was so fun to be with these ladies again! I found a stack of white fabric I was saving for a dyeing day, including a piece of velvet. I haven’t been sewing clothes much in the last few months, but now I have a stack to do some clothes sewing with. I came home with my pieces in buckets and pots. Yummy colors!

The velvet came out to be the best surprise, it’s a greenish gold that is one of my most favorite colors.

When I last wrote a post I was working on the big “scrap Vortex” piece that took up most of the length of my longarm, at 130 inches. It was a blast to put together, and no, I didn’t put much of a dent in my scrap bins. I counted the other day, I have 30 Sterilite 16-quart bins full of pieces that are fat quarters on down, in size. I think I could easily make a few more of these.

It made sense to quilt in as many different quilt patterns as I could think of…good for showing customers. I put in lots of words too.

Here is the finished piece on my studio wall. I matched the binding, natch. I have a short video on both IG (sbruce1955) and FaceBook (https://www.facebook.com/Sandra-Bruce-Creative-230949376954447) if you want to take a peek. People who have never seen a longarm doing its thing have been especially interested.

Back to my Matrix bird series….I’m working on a piece of 2 macaws. The photo, which I found on royalty-free Pixabay, made me laugh out loud. In progress:

I have 2 rows of 3 done (not sewn together), I can see I’m going to have to add a bit of paint to help distinguish some areas in the beaks. They don’t have eyes yet…they’ll be painted as well. I lightly drew them in for placement. Stay tuned!

That’s it for now…off to finish this top (hopefully) this weekend, in between my latest passion for Pickleball. Stay safe and happy weekend to you.

Five New projects.

This is Jane

I am coming to you from an unseasonably hot Spring in California. How I know this? Its because daily I check on our current temperatures as I have started making a Temperature Quilt. If you have never heard about these do a google search and you will find many examples. It was something started by members of the Modern Quilt Guild and they will be having an exhibition of Temperature Quilts at the next Quiltcon in February 2022.

Chosen fabrics sorted for my temperature quilt.

Project 1. Temperature Quilt

I started by figuring out the range of temperatures at my home over the year. Using one fabric per 3 degrees seemed right, so from my stash, I chose about 20 fabrics to use. I also decided to use the Drunkards Path block and made them 4”. Now each day either taking data from our weather station or Weather Underground online I choose the correct fabric for the high and low temps of that day. Getting the right data has been my biggest issue but now I have settled into it. I just have to remember to make one block each day.

I did decide to add data for rain days or nights by using grey through black fabrics. So far we have just had one rain day since I started on April 1st. This will fun to see the progression of this quilt and how many days of rain!

SJSA Quilt of Rememberance

Project 2. Social Justice Sewing Academy Quilt

As a volunteer for the SJSA I was asked to make a Quilt Of Remembrance for a family in Minnesota. The person being memorialized was Matthew Tuhkanen, a dad of five kids who lost has life by law enforcement. I was given some photos to print onto fabric and details of his kids names, favorite colors and activities he liked.

As I had no clothing to work with I started by printing the photos and photos referencing his hobbies. His favorite colors were blue and grey and I pulled orange from the basketball reference. I gathered my fabrics and began making smaller blocks and rows using Maria Shell’s book Improv Patchwork. You will see in the photos my progression as the quilt came together on my “design floor”. I think the quilt was colorful and will be a wonderful memorial for the family. Here is their email.

Making memory quilts is special to me, I think that is why I make so many Quilts from Clothes.

Purple version of Tilly by Jane Haworth

Project 3. Pet Portraits

Finding time to work on my pet portrait collage quilts is hard when I am working on making custom quilts and teaching online. Recently I got a customer order form a man who had watched me on Quilting Arts TV and wanted to buy the purple and yellow Tilly Quilt. This quilt was used on the cover of the Quilting Arts magazine so I couldn’t sell it! I am now in the process of making another one. It’s fun to make it again and since I don’t have all the same fabrics it will be slightly different.

 Anyone wanting to sign up for my Mark-making and Fabric Collage workshop at the Zephyr retreat in September is welcome to bring a photo of their pet or favorite animal and work on that. We start by making the pattern, choosing fabrics and then working on the collage. It really is an addictive and freeing technique. I have plenty of space available in the workshop and I’m looking forward to getting away to Lake Tahoe in September.

Gathering pieces for my Vignettes Quilt

Project 4. Vignettes Quilt

I am a member of the MQG Modern Quilt Guild and have never yet attended a show but this year as it was online I did sign up for a workshop. I really enjoy improv piecing so the class I found was taught by Heidi Parkes and was called a Vignettes Quilt. Th idea was to make a quilt focusing on using the Elements of Art, the Postmodern Principles of Art and Art Vocabulary. This meant we had to include line, shape, color, texture, value, space, form, economy, appropriation, text, representation, gazing, obsessive, juxtaposition and more. 

It was perfect for me as I was able to use many of those saved textiles, quilt blocks, clothes and fabrics that I already have. Heidi Parkes hand-quilts all her quilts and I am proud to say I stitched half and hand stitched half.

Pieces of my Life Vignettes Quilt

I love this quilt and am already planning a couple more.

A few examples of my hand painted wildflower cards.

Project 5. Watercolour Painting

Finally my last project to share is watercolor painting. I tried to do the 100 day project by doing a small painting a day but only lasted about 5 days! I have all my supplies out and have been drawn to paint some of the wildflowers in my yard this Spring. We have lovely lupines, blue dicks, fairy lanterns and more. I did challenge myself to paint some of these using my non-dominant hand which takes away some of the fear. This would be my excuse if it didn’t look so good! Actually I was quite pleased with them. I am now working on making these with fabric or including them in my quilting.

Work-in-progress Wildflower table runner!

I hope I have inspired you to try a new project or have a go at a non-dominate hand painting. And don’t forget to sign up for the retreat if you haven’t done so already. Having had my vaccine I am excited to get away and share my time with other creative friends.

Online Teaching and our In-person Retreat

This is Jane. For my blog post this month I am reflecting on what I like about teaching my collage classes. I’ve been thinking about how I have survived 2020 by teaching online and enjoyed the experience. But now, although I am still teaching via Zoom, I’m excited and looking forward to our Artistic Alchemy retreat in September .

Ready to teach Hens and Roosters via Zoom

 It seems a long time since I have gathered with quilters or traveled to visit a quilt guild. I have kept busy presenting and teaching classes to quilt guilds and taught at many online quilt shows. I think this platform is great for sharing information with students, demos are successful because students have the best front row seat and working from home they will not run short of supplies. Also I can set up the day before and be ready at my laptop 30 mins before class starts.

This may look like a crazy amount of fabric but its enough for this fabric collage of Ruby the Cow

I do miss cruising the classroom and chatting with my students, monitoring how their work is progressing and offering tips along the way. When I teach online its harder to see the progress they are making and with collage its tricky to pick the piece up to show on camera. But recently I have received photos via email of finished students work. It makes me feel happy that they have enjoyed the process and then spent their time working and completing the project.

When I am teaching I like to say to my students “Value = Contrast = Dimension”  These words are especially important when making collage and other art practices. I encourage students to” look” at their photo. If you spend 5 minutes really looking at what is going on in a photo your brain will see things that you do not expect. Sometimes when we work we make things as we think they are. By showing what is really going will result in a better and more successful design!

Looking at contrast in a photo

In the photo above I see contrast between the color families of the two types of succulent. I see contrast when looking into the shadows between the leaves of the succulents and I see contrast between what is in focus in the foreground against the blurriness of the background.

Ruby 24″ x 34″

To achieve this I encourage students to exaggerate what they see for a successful piece of work. Where you see the shadows or the areas that are layered this would be where you need to add your dark or black fabrics. For those light reflections or highlights, use your lightest fabrics even going to white or off white. The rest of the time we can use the medium value or our fun fabrics.

Enough of this lesson!

At the 2021 Artistic Alchemy retreat in Lake Tahoe, September 6-10th, I will be teaching collage quilting starting from a photo or you can use one of my patterns.

Little succulent designs in blue and white pots

We will spend time learning to make a pattern, choosing the right fabrics to use and then jumping into my technique for making fabric collage. If you are unfamiliar I don’t use pattern pieces or use fusible on the backs of the fabric but trace the shape onto the fabric and cut it out. It is a little more freeform with fewer rules. Resulting in a finished piece that is fun and unique. I don’t want students to stress over this process as its just “small bits of fabric!”

As well as the fabric collage in my workshop we will be spending the first day playing with surface design and mark making. I love to do this when the opportunity arises. What is better than using your own handmade textiles in your collage. 

Lino Cutting and printmaking

I like to use textural print fabrics in my collage and if I’ve made them myself that is even better. I use paints, fabric or acrylic paints and a number of simple tools to create unique patterns and textures. For my workshop there will be a small fee for materials. I will provide paints, a gel plate, fabrics and other materials. You will have the opportunity to paint on fabric, make your own stamps, lino-cuts, cyanotype prints and monoprints. 

Spring is on its way in my garden.

Now looking at this photo, and I am really looking, I’m thinking about mark-making and collage. I could paint some fabric to make those beautiful violet and lavender petals. Also the texture of the sepal leaves could be created using mono-prints and then there is the blurred background to consider!

So if you are considering attending our retreat this September the registration is already open. Go to the Workshop page on the blog and you will find out more info about the pricing etc if you click on the registration button. Remember priority for lake-front rooms is given to those who sign up first.

My latest recommendation

After my post back in November when I reviewed many of the books that I had read over 2020 this is one of my newest reads. I’m over half way through and am really enjoying the narrative and the rich descriptions in this book. I believe there are plans for a movie in the works.

Let’s hope as Spring arrives we are all more optimistic. We can savor the days when we will be able to socialize and have fun together at the retreat. Keep creative as Heidi, Sandra and myself continue to do.