Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bento Box Block

The bento box block is all the fashion now and I thought I would give it a try. It's a very simple block and provides a great exercise in value.

I began with a dark value for the center square. The second round is a light value. The third round will return to the light value.

Here is the first large four square.

Here is the second one. I pressed the seams in one direction each time. I'm using black, white, grey, and yellow for this first quilt and I think it will be about 16 large squares. I'm also thinking that this will be a great block for the baby quilts that our guild is making in October. I'm headed back to make more blocks.

If you've made a bento box quilt, send me a link to a photo, will you?

Revision: 7/31/09 AM
Thanks to an email from a vigilant reader, I removed a link I had posted early because the website had posted Tracey Brookshier's published pattern for a Bento Box quilt. Not wanting to promote infringement of copyrighted material, I have also made some changes to the original post here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Virtual Tour of Safety Pin Studio

Welcome to Safety Pin Studio. This is the name that I gave to my workspace because I've always liked safety pins and found them oddly comforting. It's a small, intimate space here in North Carolina (about ten feet square), but it serves well. I'll just start as one comes in the door and move around the room to give you a sense of the space.

When I first met my mother-in-law, she gave me my first decorative thimble. Over the years, she's added to the collection as have my mother, my husband, and my children. My mom and dad found the printer's drawer on one of their drives from Florida to Indiana on back roads. It's a punctuation drawer to be exact and it works wonderfully as a display unit.

This wonderful carving came from the Museum of Appalachia right outside Knoxville, Tennessee and was purchased on my return drive from a Nancy Crow class at Arrowmont School. It's signed "Butch 1991" and was carved by one of the remarkable, outsider artist Troy Webb's children.

Jim gave me this strange little cabinet one Christmas. He found it in one of our favorite antique shops in Crawfordsville. It's designed like an apothecary cabinet, but the drawers are very short--only about four inches wide.

The drawers were all constructed using scrap wood from cigar and cheese boxes which is a tramp art technique.

It makes a perfect place to store rubber stamps and display little hanging ornaments and mementos.

This lovely basket holds yarn.

This is one of my two metal, library bookcases holding mostly art books.

I made curtains for several of the windows in our house the first summer we were here. This is my favorite. I love the fabric. They are all lined because of the sunlight, but my studio also has a special shade that cuts the UV rays to protect the books and fabric from damage.

The barrister's bookcase belonged to my Grandmother Warner and houses my favorite literature books and mementos.

Here's my trusty old Bernina and one of the larger studies I did after taking Nancy's first Improvisational Piecing workshop.

The second bookcase has my quilting and embroidery books as well as some family history stuff and scrapbooks.

The first summer we lived down here, I refitted a number of the closets with shelves and hanging racks. Fabric, notions, tools, and finished quilts live in here. The sliding doors have got to go one of these days.

This was a gift from the children.

These are postcards and a poster from some of my shows.

My worktable is the centerpiece of the studio. Our good friend and master craftsman, Gordon Huffaker built it using a tabletop he'd acquired. It's just high enough for me and was the only thing that had to come apart to come in the house when we moved! I store fabric on the shelf underneath--not an ideal solution. I miss not having my fabric out so I can see it and having a design wall. Except for those two things, it's a great place to work.

I would love to see your studio or workspace. If you've done a tour on your blog, will you leave me a link in the comments?
Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Influences on me as an artist: My Great Aunt Eileen

This wonderful old picture is my Great Uncle King and Great Aunt Eileen. It was taken in 1923. I love his bowtie and boater and her fabulous hat and peek-a-boo sleeve dress. They were always snappy dressers. They never had children, but treated my dad and his sister and brothers more like grandchildren than nieces and nephews. He was always called Uncle King, in the English tradition of calling an Uncle by his last name, rather than Uncle Lester. Aunt Eileen always called him King, too. Her real name was Dora, which she loathed, so when she reached 18, she chose a new name for herself and was henceforth, Eileen. They lived in Buffalo, New York where Uncle King worked for Remington Rand. He was always very good with money, and so they were able to retire early and build a house in St. Petersburg, Florida where he and Aunt Eileen moved in the early 1950's. (This is the house in which my parents now live.) He was a woodworker and Aunt Eileen was a great hand with the sewing machine.

This picture, from 1967, is Aunt Eileen with my grandfather Warner. They were brother and sister. Their mother (my Great Grandmother Warner) was the only quilter in my family. I blogged about her here. Aunt Eileen really looked like her mother.

This is one of the only examples I have of Aunt Eileen's work. When I was little, I had a Ginny doll that was my most prized possession. In those pre-Barbie days, there was no real doll furniture for this type of doll, so one Christmas, Uncle King made me a bed and a wardrobe for my Ginny doll. Aunt Eileen made all the bedclothes for the bed. She made a mattress, sheets, pillow in a pillow case, a brocade spread, and this gorgeous little quilt. It's a postage stamp setting and contains some old feed sack fabrics as well as some of the decorator fabrics Aunt Eileen used to make curtains and cushion covers.

Aunt Eileen lived long enough to meet our son Danny and she knew I was expecting Anna. She was so pleased that I liked to sew and she loved embroidery work, so I always made her an embroidered wall hanging or a pillow for Christmas each year since her eyesight wouldn't allow her to embroider at the end of her life. My mom has carefully preserved all of these in the house in Florida. Aunt Eileen was my inspiration for home decorative sewing, as well as fine embroidery. Thanks, Aunt Eye.

Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you cook is eaten so quickly. When you sew, you have something that will last to show for your efforts. ~Elizabeth Travis Johnson

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chair Cushion tutorial

I started making cushion covers many years ago when my mother asked me to make one for a rattan chair in their Florida room. She had found a woman who would make all the square cushion covers, but she said she didn't know how to make the cover for the round cushion. I took the old cover apart, including the piping to see just how it had been constructed and then used the old pieces for a pattern. This is what is now called "reverse engineering." The new cover fit like a glove and my mom was very happy.

I really liked the foam cushion on the armchair and decided to get one for the rocker. The top and bottom of the cover were cut exactly an inch larger than the measure of the foam square. The side piece was cut 3/4 of an inch wider than the side measure. I had to seam the side piece because it was about 80 inches around, so I reinforced the seams by topstitching.

Using my trusty bias ticket, I made enough bias to go around both the top and bottom edges.

The bias is an inch and a half wide to account for the cording.

The cording goes inside the bias to create the piping. (Pin the cording to the bias when you start so that it doesn't slip out.)

Starting in the middle of a side, pin the bias with cording inside, to the raw edges of the top. Curve the bias to fit in each of the four corners.

When you reach the point where you started, cut the cording so that it meets the beginning end with no overlap. Trim the bias at a 45 degree angle and place it inside the leading edge.

Pin in place.

Use a cording foot or a zipper foot for all of the sewing involving the piping. I'm actually using what's called an overcast foot on my old Bernina. Sew around the entire top about 1/4 inch from the edge. This will insure that the raw edges of the piping don't slip when you are seaming the top and the edge piece.

Pin the edge piece in place striving to make sure that seams do not end up in the corners. When the two ends of the edge piece meet, add one quarter inch to each side and seam with right sides together. Finish pinning edge in place.

The edge piece, now in a ring, pinned in place looks like this. Get as close to the cording as you can when you sew this seam.

Here's the top and the edge turned right side out on the cushion for display. Apply piping to the bottom exactly as you did to the top and sew in place. Pin bottom to edge piece on three sides only.

I sew a line of stitching one quarter inch from the edge of the fourth side. It makes pressing it under much easier. Sew bottom to edge on the three sides and turn cover right side out. Press down the fourth side.

Put cover on foam cushion. (This is a little bit like putting a sock on an giant who can't help you by pushing.) Whip stitch the fourth edge closed and put that side of the cushion anywhere but in the front.

Here's the new cushion all ready for our dinner party tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Friday already!

Well, I have no good excuses even. It's just been one of those weeks when I've done little jobs around the house that aren't very interesting like scrubbing bathrooms, priming quarter round, cleaning closets, hemming pants, and filing paperwork. We are having company for dinner tomorrow evening, so I've put the porch back together for now. That work will continue on Sunday. I am making a new cushion for the wicker rocker. I went to Hancock's to buy the foam and am using the decorator fabric with which I made pillow shams the first summer we lived here.

This must have been a low biorhythm week for me. Usually, I don't have any trouble getting motivated to do something creative. This last week, every day was just a slog. On the bright side, I will have a very clean house and time to return to Safety Pin studio on Sunday. Onward and upward.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wicker Furniture Dilemna

So, I'm scraping along and as I get large areas free of the paint, a little voice starts nagging at the back of my head saying, "Maybe you shouldn't paint it."

It's looking like the pieces may have originally been green. You can see a big patch of it on the rocker.

And once in a while I come across the most gorgeous little kiss of copper paint. Copper was THE arts and crafts metal accent. This furniture was made for all those lovely porches on Arts and Crafts and Craftsman homes being built in the teens and '20's.

The couch is in a similar state to the rocker: lots of green showing through and infinitely scrapable.

The chair is going to be tougher because it's been indoors and my dad has kept it painted, so more layers to deal with here.

I've written to an antique company that specializes in wicker and to the Wicker Woman to see what they think about the paint issue. I'll keep you updated. Back to my little blue-handled scraper.

Sunday on the Porch

There is still lots of scraping to be done on the large wicker pieces, but, for now, the avocado paint can has been sealed up.
The end table turned out well, don't you think?

Here's the little stool with its new Retro Avocado legs.

The wicker table was the first thing to get the new almond color called Wax Works. The avocado definitely improved the old red tray, too.

Here's the vanity stool now painted with Wax Works.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Porch Progress

Several days ago I began the project to refresh the furniture on the screened porch. The bureau turned out very well. It's taking quite a lot of time to get the loose paint off the wicker, so that part is moving a bit slower.

Here's the end table after a second coat. The tray and stool will get their second coats shortly.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thanks for the shoutout and visits during the apron event

Lots of fun with the apron event and some thanks are in order. First, thanks to Julia, the primary Apron Goddess for sponsoring the event. Next, a tip o' the hat to Scarlett Burroughs for thepicture and mention at Craft To all of you who left comments, I appreciate each and every one of you for visiting and taking the time to make a comment. Comments let us bloggers know that someone out there in the blogosphere is looking at what we post. You all rock.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Aprons, Aprons, Everywhere

Today is the day. The Apron Goddesses' Aprons, Aprons, Everywhere event has arrived. Follow this link to their site for a Mr. Linky connection to all the participating apron goddesses. It seems I always find wonderful new blogs during these events, so I really appreciate bloggers who sponsor them.

This is my fancy hostess apron that was inspired by the pink, black and white 1930's reproduction fabric I used on the binding. Thanks to Jim for serving as photographer.

Here's a detail of some of the embroidery and the button nest composed of gems from Mama's button jar.