SEW I SEE!

quilts, treadle sewing machines, crochet, watercolor, dogs, & other fun stuff

Leaping into Another Project (Soon!)

It’s my last chance to update the blog during the month of February—and an opportunity to get a February 29th time/date stamp—so here I am!

Spring has made its presence known, though we’re currently experiencing a brief cool spell.  The Japanese magnolias, azaleas, and loropetalum (pink and white) are all in full bloom.  It’s time to get out there and get some things done in the yard before the summertime heat ramps up!  

And before I get into the craft updates, here’s a random photo from this evening of Donald playing guitar while Luna listens… This is where the dulcimer lives, too. The floor lamp next to it makes it easier to see the strings. 

"Morning Glories" Quilt Progress

I am finally nearly finished with the “Morning Glories” quilt top, and I can’t wait to move on to something new!

Here are some progress photos from the past month…

working on the aqua blocks
design wall with aqua and purple blocks in progress
nine of the ten purple blocks needed for my chosen layout
ready to assemble the purple blocks
partial ta-dah design wall (some pinned over others, so it's a bit messy)
more blocks that didn't fit on the wall

There were too many blocks to fit on the wall, and not enough floor space, so I did what I usually do when it’s time to choose the final quilt layout—put as many blocks on the wall as possible, then arrange the others on tables and other surfaces.  It works, but it can get confusing, trying to keep straight in my head which things go where. 

Now I just need to give the layout another quick check, then join them up before I forget the plan for where everything goes!  (And I already see one thing I may try to rearrange, if I remember…)

I’m so very ready to be done with this project and am already thinking about what’s coming next, but first, these need to come together.  If all goes well, I should have these pieces joined before the end of the weekend, then narrow down ideas for my next piecing project.

Playing Around with Watercolor

There’s not a ton to show for this section, this time, but here’s what there is… I don’t know what I was even doing with the flowers here… Just playing around, I guess…

The next few photos feature a different type of watercolor paint—Kuretake Gansai Tambi graphite colors.  I haven’t done much with them yet, but they are interesting, and I like the muted, moody colors in this palette.  They have graphite (the stuff in pencils) mixed into the paint, which makes them behave a bit differently from regular watercolor paint, and the “gansai” type of Japanese watercolor is already a bit different from typical Western-style watercolor:  It can be more opaque and is designed for more absorbent types of watercolor paper made and used in Japan, though it can also be used on whatever watercolor paper you have. 

Those who want to achieve very specific effects and require predictability in their watercolor painting may want to know more about these differences, but all I feel I really need to know is that this type of paint is activated with water and can be used like any other watercolor—mixed, thinned, and cleaned up with water.  You can use it with your other watercolors, too.  Nothing will explode, burst into flame, or turn into a toxic gas, and the Watercolor Police won’t break down the door and haul you off to Painters’ Prison.  

The first doodle was inspired by one of Diane Antone’s YouTube video tutorials, and the second is another of my favorite “paint and roughly sketch in a landscape” thing-ums.

graphite watercolor + white paint pen + ink + gold pen
graphite watercolor + pen
...and more pen details...

I’ve been meaning to try using my light pad (bought to use with diamond painting) to trace images onto watercolor paper, but only recently got around to trying it. I had worried that the light pad wouldn’t be bright enough to shine through the thicker watercolor paper, but (with the paper I tried, at least) this technique seems to be pretty effective.  My tracing could use perfecting, though… 

The main downside of tracing is that you can’t leave the sheet of paper on the pad, which means that if you’re planning to use a lot of water, you might have more of a problem with the paper warping.  Taping down the paper helps, but it’s not my preferred method.  However, for less water-heavy painting styles, warping is less of an issue.

For these first experiments, I traced portions of some coloring book pages—some I’d already purchased and some that were freebies I found online.  Obviously you’ll have to be careful what images you trace if you’re planning on selling your work—copyright infringement, etc.—but since I’m just playing around for my own enjoyment, I just do what I like.  

traced and watercolored beetles

Next, I tried to trace a drawing of a Sheltie in a sort of stained glass style. It’s not absolutely perfect, but with more time and patience, it has promise, especially for those of us who aren’t the best at drawing freehand.  

(I used a birthday gift from Donald to paint these tracings—Sakura Koi watercolors.)

traced and watercolored Sheltie
...added to a gel print and turned into a card for Mom's birthday...

I wouldn’t want to do only this type of watercolor painting, and it’s probably more satisfying to not rely on tracings, but it’s nice to have this as an option, and it makes a fun change of pace.  You’re essentially combining watercolor with coloring books, only you can easily customize your coloring book image by choosing which parts to trace and where.  The beetles, for example, were scattered across a picture of flowers, but I just wanted the beetles, so I only traced them—in the exact placement I wanted.  Pretty neat!

I think kids might like this technique (especially if an adult helps with the tracing).  You can turn any coloring book page into a watercolor project on nicer, thicker paper that won’t dissolve into pulp—though if you’re using a coloring book that has printing on both sides of the page, that can make tracing more difficult.  If you’re able to get a photocopy of the page (or print one from the internet), you’ll find it easier.  (And if you don’t have a light pad, you can achieve the same results by taping the paper to a window on a bright day.)

I’ve seen people refer to printing images directly on watercolor paper using their printer, but you need a printer that uses waterproof media for printing and can handle thicker watercolor paper. Our printer uses toner, and I believe it’s waterproof, and I know it can handle cardstock, so watercolor paper might be fine, too, but I just haven’t tried it yet.  Maybe that’s something to do this weekend (assuming I remember).  

I’ve been seeing decks of inspiration cards designed for watercolor hobbyists, but didn’t know if it was something I’d use enough to justify the cost.  After briefly considering making my own set and then failing to follow through, I saw a couple of videos of Denise Love (another YouTube artist) doing just that. 

Well, why not give it a try?  It costs nothing but a little paper, paint you already have, and time.  Even if you end up never using them, making them is fun, and I think the process of coming up with the ideas and considering how best to represent them on each card has already sparked some inspiration for me and helped me clarify some of what appeals to me and areas where I could improve.  

I got several of my prompts from the videos I mentioned above, took some from other sources online, and came up with more on my own.  The good thing about making your own deck is that you can leave out the ones that don’t interest you at all and add variations on those that are right up your alley.

Your inspiration deck could be as simple as written words on scraps of printer paper, but I wanted something pretty, so I used watercolor paper (not the nicer stuff, though) and challenged myself to represent each idea on the front of the card, with the written prompt on the back.

Here are a few photos of my deck of inspiration cards, in progress:

As for how to use these cards, that’s really up to you.  I’ve seen people draw one, two, or three cards at a time, then challenge themselves to incorporate each of those suggestions, concepts, or styles into their next painting.  

You could draw cards at random or flip through the deck and choose them based on what appeals to you at the moment.  You might treat a random draw as a strict “assignment”—or give yourself permission to deviate from a prompt or ignore it completely.  The idea is to spark your creativity and get you over that intimidating hurdle of the dreaded Blank Page.  Once you have an idea, you don’t need to abide by the card, of course; it’s already served its purpose by breaking the ice and helping you get started.  

I had a visitor in my room the other night.  Frodo sometimes comes in and hangs out while I’m sewing or painting.  Luna tends to retreat into a nearly inaccessible nook of the room when she visits, and you might not even know she’s there unless you hear her soft snoring, but Frodo’s favorite spot is in front of a closet door.  

"Yesh? Can I be of ashistanche?"

Storage Upgrades

I’ve made a couple of storage improvements in my craft room recently.  (Is it weird to get excited about storage solutions?  Is that a boring-person thing?)

First, Donald saw these storage units listed in a local auction a while back and asked if I had a use for them.  (I think he was already planning on getting something else, then saw these.)  I’d just been thinking that this type of thing would be nice to have to add storage in the craft room, so—yes!  They’re in very good condition, and we were able to get them for much less than these usually cost, which was great.  (Even simple plastic storage containers aren’t cheap these days, in my penny-pinching opinion!)

Now I have three of these drawer units arranged under the longarm frame, providing much-needed easy-access storage.  I’m currently using them to store my quilt fabric strings (bagged by color), quilt tops awaiting quilting, and more.  

Second new organizational upgrade:  I added a utilitarian, office-style shelving unit next to the table where I paint, so instead of constantly having to shuffle things around to find what I want, I can easily access any paint palette whenever I need it.  All the shelves (except the top and bottom pieces) slide out for convenient access.  

If something’s too difficult to get to, I’m likely to just not bother—and it can even be a deterrent to sitting down and painting at all, so this will be a huge help.  To make it even easier to find what I want, I labeled most things with stickers on the sides facing out.  

(You may see that I’ve also put a box with my inspiration deck here, too, so maybe I’ll actually use it.)

There’s a lot here:  I don’t think I’ll “need” any more paint for a very long time…

Recent Listening & Reading...

I gave up on Bitter Sun, because it was just making me mad.  After reading reviews and going back to skim for a few details, I think that was a wise decision!

I’ve also finished listening to The Paris Apartment.  It was… okay.  Not my favorite, but fine for listening to while crafting or cleaning. 

After finishing that audiobook, I turned to a podcast miniseries—the very generically named “Ghost Story” hosted by Tristan Redman.  It’s a nonfictional podcast about the murder of his wife’s great-grandmother.  I found it interesting, though it’s not so much ghostly as it is historical true crime and character study.  

I finally finished the last couple of stories in a collection of E.F. Benson’s spooky/ghost stories that I set aside literal years ago.  One-sentence review:  They’re okay if you like old-fashioned ghost stories, but many of them aren’t really very creepy to a modern reader, and his best work is definitely humor—namely, the Lucia series.  Finishing these inspired me to start rereading the first in that series, Queen Lucia.  It’s just as entertaining as I remembered, but there is less incentive to keep turning the pages, compared to a new-to-me book.  (This is why I rarely reread, these days.)

As for music, here are a couple of things I’ve been enjoying in the past month—Chì Mi Na Mòrbheanna (Mist Covered Mountains), by the Rankin Family, and “Bluebird”, by Alexis Ffrench.  

Welcome!

I’m Michael (a female Michael, to remove any doubt).  I live on the Alabama Gulf Coast with my husband, Donald, and our crazy American Eskimo Dogs. 

I love to fill my spare time with various crafts and other hobbies, and this blog is where I share photos, record my progress, and ramble endlessly.

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