Soap, slap and roll!

Soap, slap and roll!

My wool collection includes yarns, threads, fleece and roving. On hot summer days, the latter two are some of my favorite toys.  There’s something quite gratifying about putting on your swim suit and playing with soap, wool and water.

Alanna Nelson art quilts and feltingNeedle felting is nice, but wet felting just brings out my beach instincts.  In any case, I’m happy to include both in my art quilts.
Several of my recent art quilts use a felted background.  It gives a lovely sense of multi textural goodness that contrasts with embroidery, quilting, applique and beading. For all of the fabric that I’ve dyed and painted, felting gives me a new dimension.

Here’s a background…felt art quilts by Alanna Nelson
That became this quilt…
Arabic Entry Blessing Quilt by Alanna Nelson
Earlier this week, my daughter’s college exploration took me to the Pioneer Valley.  She considered my suggestion to fiber shop audacious. “Oh, no…don’t you have enough projects going now?”

She’s probably right, or we would have definitely stopped by New England Felting Supply in Eastborough to pick up some dyed quick felting merino roving. Felting has been a fun change of pace from my Master Knitter Focus this year.

I recently felted some undyed Shetland fleece and am here to report that merino felts much more quickly (however the end result was fabulous, pictures in a future post)!  The slapping, stomping and throwing were undoubtedly excellent upper body work outs. If nothing else, I love playing with soapy water on summer day.  It beats sitting in air conditioning, doesn’t it?

5 Days of Painting Play with Mickey Lawler and Friends

Sunset at Horseneck Beach State Reservation, MAPitching my tent at Horseneck State Reservation, the sunset provided perfect inspiration for painting fabric at ProChem in Fall River, MA.  Mickey Lawler, the life force of Skydyes, distilled her thousands of yards of experience into five days of inspirational play time.  If you have yet to enjoy either of her books, “Skydyes” (now out of print) or Skyquilts, find them now, if only for the eye candy factor.

I have fond memories of attempting to create a particular sky for a quilt in spring, 2000, using her Skydyes book.  My garden in the Castelli Romani was awash in attempts using fabric paints, dyes and marbling.  What fun that was!   Despite the fact that I  layered several solid organzas instead of using any of the mountain of skies I created (look up at the banner and you’ll see some of the reject pieces that were perfect for another quilt), creating my own fabrics has been an important step in my quilting journey.

With this class, I wanted to renew that joy in a more guided setting.  Mickey is a gracious, fun, and spontaneous teacher who encouraged each of us and tailored the class as the wind and sun shifted.  The wonderful class members included many interests, representing New England, the Mid Atlantic and Florida!  ProChem was a great classroom host, and Vicki Jensen tended to our ProChem shopping sprees, many questions about the area and of course, our lunch!

Mickey says that her 80 percent of the time, she gets the results that she expected when painting.  Makes sense, with her experience.  The other 20 percent is serendipity, and she lives for that!  By the end of the class, I got the results I expected about 10 percent of the time. The other 90 percent was serendipity, thanks to my inexperience with the methods and techniques, and I’m not sure I was always content with that!  Here’s a few sunsets and fabrics that highlighted my week.

Opening the curtains this morning, I looked out at the band of pink edging the faraway Boston skyline and thought… Vermillion with pearl, watered down quite a bit, topped with ultramarine and perhaps a touch of black.  Landscapes may never be viewed with the same eyes again!


Signature “Sunspots”

Large chunks of last weekend were spent holed up in my winter studio space, working on a signature quilt from my sister’s wedding last summer.  With all of the weekend diversions and mild weather this winter, there’s not been too many home retreats for personal quilting.  It was sheer bliss, even though I discovered a mistake as I neared the end of the piecing.

Hopefully the quilt will be right and ready for quilting later this month at Laurena’s Longarm Quilting.  I love hand quilting.  And, as my skills grow, I love using the longarm machines as well!  Laurena teaches quilters how to use longarm machines.  After the lesson, you are ready to start quilting your own projects, or practice on benefit quilt tops that are in her care.   Laurena’s watchful eye and experience are a valuable part of the rental fee.  Silly mistakes are prevented, which means your quilt looks better and is finished sooner.  If you haven’t tried doing it yourself, it’s something to consider.  And if you have no interest, but want those tops done, put them in Laurena’s custom quilts queue.  Over the years, I’ve watched her hatch many ugly duckling quilts into beautiful swans.  She wants your quilts to look great!

But back to the Signature Sunspots…..

It all started with Kathleen McLaughlin’s Intersections which was on exhibit at the  Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010.  Very rarely do I purchase a quilt pattern, but Amalia Magaret’s Sunspots is an exception.

Intersections quilt by Kathleen McLaughlin at the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010

Intersections quilt by Kathleen McLaughlin at the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010

I knew I wanted that pattern. The opportunities to play with color are endless, and Kathleen’s was very inspiring. So when my sister asked me to make a quilt for her wedding with guest signatures, I saw my opportunity!

During the reception, 3″ strips of fabric with permanent, acid-free markers were on the table.  After the first toast, I picked up the microphone and asked everyone to sign and/or leave a message that would be used in their quilt. Before things got too wild, I gathered the strips (which I reinforced with freezer paper to create a sturdier writing surface), stuffed them into the bag and back home they went. These strips will be used in the quilt sashing.

My charming brother in law adores all sports, so it seemed sensible to emphasize the circular aspect of the quilt.  My sister asked for a blue and brown quilt… pretty neutral.  I’m embracing those but adding the bronze, gold and a bit of red to the mix.  I’m also throwing in a few novelty fabrics that represent some interests: cats, coffee, bicycles, books.  Some of these ended up in the backing, as it was easy to get wild.  Actually, as I laid one color option on the floor, my daughter said, “No, Mom, really, no.”  After all, they plan to use this quilt on a bed!

Piecing the curves has been quite simple.  This pattern  is well suited for batiks, as several pieces need to be cut in mirror image and batiks can be used on both sides.  I ended up cutting a few pieces backwards, despite knowing  this at the beginning.  The pattern itself doesn’t discuss the mirror image cutting, so I definitely wouldn’t encourage this as a beginner’s quilt project.

Sashing between strips means you don’t have to worry much about exact points.  Not a lot of opportunities for string piecing here, especially in my first attempt at this quilt.  Note to anyone who tries this: measure your strip before you sew on your sashing!  This way, that lost 0.5″ will be discovered without a lot of unsewing.

Choosing color mixes has been fun but challenging.  As I gathered fabrics for this quilt, it was clear that I had two color ideas in mind.  I’d like to make another one!  Even with the parameters clearly defined for this quilt, I trucked between my unheated studio space and the winter space, searching for more options.  In the end, I replaced 6 fabrics from my original layout, and added more dark blue background pieces from my stash.

What a tease, I know.  I haven’t taken pictures yet, but will do that in a later post.  Off to correct that mistake!

Stitched, the film

Many many thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts  for bringing the quilt documentary, “Stitched” to Boston this weekend.  Can we have more film like this?

Directed by Jenalia Moreno, produced by Nancy Sarnoff and with great camera work by Thomas Gandy, “Stitched” shares the stories of three well known American quilters: Caryl Bryer Fallert, Hollis  Chatelain and Randall Cook.  The ties between them are stronger than fame:  Caryl mentored Hollis who has in turn, encouraged Randall.  The International Quilt Festival in Houston as its framework, sharing the story of these three artists’ entries for the 2010 Festival.

For those who aren’t into the quilting, you may not know the lingo or the events.  The International Quilt Festival is Houston’s largest convention: last year, more than 60,000 people attended.  The film tries to highlight both traditional and contemporary quilting.  This film is an excellent peek into the quilting subculture.

As a quilter, I enjoyed their stories, the viewpoints and a peek into their studios.  The film editing was great, and musical score carefully chosen.  I even discovered my favorite song of the week:  Wash away, by Sum of You.

The distressing moment:  how empty the venue!  The Sunday afternoon showing had perhaps a dozen people in the Alfond Auditorium.  Friends who attended on Friday reported even more dismal attendance.  Perhaps the MFA, with its might mailing lists and plethora of cultural programming, hasn’t quite connected with the fiber community in Boston?  I know some MFA staffers create great knits, quilts and multi media journals.  Thank goodness someone did reach out to the Rising Star Quilt Guild‘s event page days before the showing, so I was aware of its presence in town!

It was fantastic to see a documentary with textiles as the subject.  Do you have any suggestions?

Ignite Craft 2011

image, Carpe Diem, quilt in silk, cotton, linen and viscose by Alanna Nelson

Carpe Diem, 2005 by Alanna Nelson

The Common Cod Fiber Guild hosted their first Ignite Craft in 2011.  “Ignite” events feature 5 minute slide shows, each slide on the screen for 15 seconds.  You get all kinds of viewpoints on a subject.  It was quite the entertaining and inspiring evening… if I do say so myself.  I was Secretary of the Guild last year and took the opportunity to share a few of the quilts I’d made.  Thanks to Brilliant Video, you can see both the 2011 and 2012 videos!