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

Strings & Mixed Media

Continuing with Neutral Strings for "Cherry Crunch"

I’m still plugging away at the neutral strings for “Cherry Crunch”, but we’re nearing the finish line on those.  I could easily finish the remaining string units for this phase of the project today.  However, as usually happens with my quilting (and everything else I do, honestly), now that I’m getting close to finishing one thing, I feel like dragging my feet to avoid moving on to the next.  I’m not ready to finish this, because then I’ll have to make some decisions!

To start the next part of the project, I need to settle once and for all on a main color for this quilt.  In the original, that was red (hence the “cherry” in “Cherry Crunch”), but it can really be any color dark enough to contrast with the neutrals.  I’ve seen a pretty one in purple, and I think I have a lot of purple in my stash.  Purple is generally less “in-demand” than red.  Red goes with Christmas quilts and patriotic quilts, and I’m not sure my stash of red has completely recovered after making the stringy hunter’s star quilt. 

On the other hand, I believe I have a large piece of solid red that might be enough to do all the corner triangles for this project.  Making them uniform rather than scrappy might be more effective against these crazy neutrals.  (I hope I haven’t gone too wild in my so-called wild neutrals!  I don’t want another “Bitcoin” situation…)  If I used the solid for the triangles, I’d still need a variety of red strings for the border—or I could go rogue and make the border in another color!  So many options!

Well, in the meantime, here are a couple of photos of the neutral strings phase, which I’ve enjoyed so much:

It’s been fun to use up some of the crazy neutral strings.  They’re typically harder to find a place for, but they can be a lot of fun. 

Those blue roses are from a vintage sheet, the pastel plaid is one of Donald’s old shirts, the pink coral is from a newer sheet, and the white-on-white peeking out at the edge of the stacked sub-cut units is some of the first fabric I ever bought specifically to use for quilting.  

Watercolor and Mixed Media

I’ve also spent some time playing around with watercolor and… I guess you’d call it mixed media.  I’m not 100% sure, to tell the truth.  If you use only watercolor and pen/ink, then maybe that’s what most people would call it—watercolor and ink.  But when you add in gel pen and felt-tip markers, does it cross the line into “mixed media”?  Or is it already mixed media as soon as you include the pen?  For some, maybe it doesn’t feel like “real” mixed media if it’s not more dimensional, or using an even broader range of materials, such as pastels or another type of paint… 

Eh, anyway!  Once again, it started with watching a video tutorial on YouTube.  I thought it looked like fun, wanted to try it, and did.  If you’re interested in watching the video yourself, here it is:  “Watercolour Doodle – experimentation” from The Creative Cove.

As you’ll see, my results weren’t so free-flowing as in the video.  I might try to more closely imitate this style, another time.  For now, I was just testing the waters.  I do love this looser, less regimented style of watercolor, but I probably still gravitate toward “painting inside the lines”—and I do like that style, too! 

There are so many different things to try, but it’s easy to keep falling into the good old comfort zone, both purely out of habit and due to a reluctance to make a mess or “ruin” something (even if it is only a simple, unimportant sketch).

Watercolor "Blow Painting"

Before I get to the things more directly inspired by the video above…

I watched a different video before that one, where someone was demonstrating different ways to make textures in watercolor.  “Blow painting” was new to me.  It involves putting some paint on the paper and blowing on it with a straw to create almost a “splattered drop” effect.  

I gave it a try.  Some of my attempts worked out, but it’s definitely unpredictable.  I’m sure there are ways to manage it a bit more effectively, with practice.  Still, I’d hesitate to add them to something I’d already spent a lot of time getting just right.

I used mostly plain watercolor paint, but I also tried a few colors of the mica powder paint:

As you can see, some of them got messy.  I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so after watching the second video, I decided to try applying some of those ideas to a couple of these.  

They’re abstract rather than figurative (if that’s the right word)—random splotches rather than something you can identify, like a flower—but adding more paint and some marker and ink helped make them look more intentional.

Here’s one that started as just purple and gold splatter-drops:

…I mean, I don’t love it, if I’m honest, but it was interesting to try, and since I hadn’t loved it before, either, nothing was lost.  (Maybe I could improve it by adding more…) 

The next one started as purple and interference violet drops. 

I added more washes of color:

Then I outlined the interference violet drops with black ink… 

Then separated some of the different washes of color with irregular lines of dots in felt-tipped marker.

And finally, I went back and made the dots denser, also adding black pen to outline the purple drops.

This is how I left this one, and I prefer it to the other.  

I have a few more of these I could play around with, or maybe some other idea will present itself.  

Adding More Detail

Going back to try to salvage the blow painting experiments into something more interesting and “complete” made me think about those more-or-less failed sheltie stencil attempts from last month.  

You may recall that I tried using a cardstock stencil of a sheltie with some watercolor.  Some worked better than others.  In two attempts, the watercolor seeped under the stencil’s edge, leaving less than perfect results.  I tried outlining the dog’s shape in ink pen to define it a bit better.  That helped, but it still looked… blah.  Which is fine.  It was just for playing around.  (Like everything else I do, really, but even more so!)  But when I remembered them, they seemed like a good way to try out some of these new ideas without putting in more work or risking ruining something I already liked.  

To remind you of how it looked before, here’s the photo after outlining the dog shape in a dashed line:

To put the focus on the dog and add more interest to the whole picture, I filled the background with vertical broken lines.  


Then I continued to add details in felt-tipped pen and metallic marker.  I liked the whole thing much more at this point.

But then I may have gone too far… I still didn’t like the places where the watercolor had seeped under the stencil, so I thought I’d try to distract from that by adding a thicker outline to the dog, using more marker.  

Hm.  I’m still not sure about that… It definitely distracts from the oopsie with the paint, but do I like it better this way, or not?

It almost feels like some sort of 1930s Communist Party propaganda poster!  (Probably mainly due to the red and the bold outline around the dog…)  

Oh well, they can’t all work out perfectly!  

I had another stencil dog that I wanted to do something more with… This one started out like this:

Not bad.  The “coloring outside the lines” on this one wasn’t as egregious and almost looks intentional, but still… I wanted to try adding more detail.  

I started by putting in some darker blues around the whole thing.  Already an improvement, I think.  More interesting than the plain white background, and the blues effectively cover the mistakes with the stencil.

Next, I sketched in some rough dashed lines and dots in pleasing undulations:

I left this one for a while, then later on thought about adding some interference blue (mica watercolor) to the background.  A touch of shimmer in the form of dots on the dashed lines.  

I like it!

Getting Back to the First Video...

Okay, back to the video mentioned above…

I had some watercolor washes already made, so I decided to jump right in and try the dandelion mixed media drawing/painting of my own.  

Because of the shape of this piece of paper, I left off the roots.  (I’d like to try that another time, but so far haven’t.)

When I sketched this first dandelion, I didn’t remember exactly how it should look, so I left off part of the flower.  It looks a little weird, but no biggie.  We’re not going for realism, anyway.  

I drew the flower, buds, leaves, etc. in waterproof pen, then went back and filled in the shapes with more watercolor.  

I love how this looks!  The way the new color layers over the background gives it such a pleasingly grungy appearance that I’m really fond of.  

As I said before, my version bears little resemblance to the inspiration video, but I like both styles.  I think I’ll have a hard time doing everything in the video because I don’t like covering over things.  It sounds silly, but I don’t want to lose what’s in the bottom layers!  That’s something I’ll have to force myself to do…

For a final touch, I added some white gel pen detail in the background.  Mixed results on that.  I like the bottom “strand of dots” better than the top, which I find too straight and uniform.  I might go back and add more to make it more pleasingly undulating.  

Take Two...

I wanted to try that again!  

I started with another pre-made watercolor wash, this time in cool, springlike blue-green and spring green tints.  I drew my dandelions… Added some more abstract leaf shapes at the bottom… Then drew a winged insect that just didn’t quite look right. 


It’s okay.  This forced me to take a braver step and add a band of black marker wide enough to cover the ugly bugly.  To make it look balanced and intentional, I put in a couple more bands of black.  

Next steps were pretty much the same as before.  Add watercolor!  Because the black stripes were a little too dominating, I tried to lighten them a bit with white gel pen dashes (some later tinted blue with watercolor).  I also went back over some of the lines in the petals with a fresh coat of black ink, because the watercolor had dimmed them out.  

The final touch was highlighting the edges of the flower and bud that crossed the black bar.  Without that, they blended into the darkness too much.  This helps them stand out again.  

I’m very happy with how this turned out!  

Third Time's the Charm?

Why not do it again?  

This one follows the same steps as before:  Start with a dry background wash, draw your picture, color it in with more watercolor, add more details as desired.  

I think this one may be my favorite of the three, simply because I love that orange sunset glow… It makes me happy!

Same Style, Different Subject

After making the dandelions a few times, it felt like time to broaden my horizons a bit and try something different.  Mushrooms, maybe?

I’d already done some experiments with table salt, which can create beautiful textures in watercolor.  The salt thing didn’t work well for me here, because the paint had already dried too much when I added the salt.  (I’ll have to try it again another time!)  But the washes were already there, dry, so I chose one and got started.

I doodled some mushrooms, then added in a few fern fronds and pebbles:

Coloring-in in progress…

After getting the shapes tinted, I felt the background was boring.  It needed some interest, but also needed something to help the pale mushroom stems stand out better.  It felt like time to do something different from the white gel pen dots, but I also didn’t want to go so dark that the ferns would get lost.  

In the end, I settled on purple watercolor dots, bigger and bolder at the ground, then fading and shrinking as they rose.  

That was good, but I wanted more, so I went back with a red-violet.  I also added some simple pen lines to give the mushroom stems more dimension.  Dashed lines and more watercolor gave some weight and interest to the ground… And a scattering of tiny stars in white gouache finished it off.  

I’m satisfied with this!

Recent Listening...

“Overturn”, by Alexandra Stréliski:

“Don’t Leave”, from Above & Beyond:


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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