Thursday, February 11, 2016

TAST2016 Stitch 28: Vandyke Stitch

As I said on Facebook when Sharon posted this stitch, I love this stitch. What's not to like? You can change the length of the stitches, the width, you can make them meet each other in rows, you can overlap them. I think you can probably lace them, but I didn't want to cover up the neat effect of where the stitches meet and twist in the middle.

For me it is a stitch with little confusion; I didn't have to take a long time to learn it because it is pretty basic. But it seems the more basic the stitch, the more possibilities there are for manipulation.

I started with the darkest blue, half of which is visible here. I had one side always stay the same length and varied the other side to make a sinuous line. I used 4 strands of floss, The next line meets it exactly, with two strands of floss. I doubled them on in one place, making two new stitches for every previous stitch.  Below that another row, again with it's doubled places; I let the stitches rove up along the sides and made them very short through most of the middle. More on the last stitch, kind of a dirty gray blue, in a minute.

I wanted the last row to be straight on the bottom. I scrunched it up on either end, with the stitches each one thread apart. Then I started stretching out in the middle. First, I allowed the stitches to fit into the slots left by the previous line whenever possible, rather than meeting it exactly. Then I started stretching out the space between each stitch, up to 4 stitches wide. These big gaps and long stitches made me wonder what would happen if I put a second stitch on top of the first. The second stitches are two threads in, but in the same row. The loops continue back as usual. When I made the next long stitch, two threads advanced, I only looped it back through the short stitch, though it might have also been interesting to loop it through both of the previous stitches. Another variation I might have made, but didn't, was to start skewing where the stitches come in and out, angling the upright lines.

These lines remind me of a GIMP pattern I once made....I'll have to hunt for it and link to it. And they make me want to do more to reproduce my GIMP design idea, using stitches like this that can form curving lines that have a forward motion to them.

Here is the blue portion of the sampler as it stands now. It's time to start adding the next color, once I decide what it will be, so that the next stitch has some combination of blue plus new.

The diamond stitches are my counted thread filler stitches. I had put them in this irregular pattern hoping I could make the next stitch flow around them.  Now the bottom line is straight again. Maybe time for a simple straight row or two before I fiddle around again.

Here is a diagram for the diamonds. I'm thinking of them as modified Scotch Stitches, with four corners meeting, but there is probably some other more official name for it. I tend to make up needlepoint as I go along.

I should try to diagram my earlier stitches, just because it's fun to do. :-)

It's good to set the deep thoughts and brooding aside and actually produce something. This was combined with several walks along various parts of the bay-side over the past few days and some brief but interesting conversations with strangers. I would say these are not major accomplishments, but I'm not sure how one measures the pleasure of the Bay in the evening and early morning, when the birds gather. Some photos to follow in the next day or so, hopefully.

Ah, here is what I want to interpret in stitches like this one. Lines that grow thick and thin and twist, plus an impression of backbones:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thoughts on the Significance of Words and Interests

A woman on the Textile Art Collective on FB posted asking us to provide a one word description for what defines us as a woman. First of all what struck me was the assumption (correct, I am sure), that she would be reaching primarily women? I've always been interested in why things like textile arts should be so strongly sex-linked as an interest? I know there are male textile artists, but they are the exception. In medieval times embroidery was a male occupation. I think in India that both sexes embroider professionally. Professional weavers, at least in books I read about England, were almost always men (has anyone read Precious Bane?). They would travel from household to household with their looms, helping the women of the household produce the textiles that they would be using for the following year.

But nowadays, on Facebook, our universal reflector and arbitrator of taste, almost all textiles interest is held by women.  I'm also interested in aquariums, and here, for the most part, the guys hold their own if not rule. Especially when it comes to large tanks with a lot of complex plumbing. But there was some speculation that more women collect betta fish than men.  More young women, I would say. There is a sort of true-believer type of betta keeper that isn't there for, say, freshwater shrimp or oscars. Haha, guys like oscars more than women do, I'll bet. Take a look at an oscar photo and you will see why.....totally macho fish!  But I'm being facetious here. Everyone should follow their own interests and the more the sex barriers are broken down in the process, the better it is for everyone.

Gardening seems to be fairly evenly divided, I'm happy to say. I see as much passion for a well-grown echeveria on either side of the gender spectrum.  But I digress, because my original topic was not going to be what sexes have what hobbies but in how does one describe oneself as a woman in one word.

That word "one" is perhaps operative. I saw a lot of "I am woman I am invincible" words and I went for perhaps the first negative one and wrote "isolated". Then clarified it that it involved my status of being a widow. It caused a lot of people to feel bad for me, so then I regretted writing it at all, but it was still my most honest response. Because I look around at women (and men) and see a lot of struggle and if you don't acknowledge it, you are only skating across the surface and ignoring a lot of reality. Not that this was the purpose of the post, and I'm sure all the words were indeed descriptive of their contributors, and indeed of myself on good days. And I do aim for as many of those good days as possible, even though it feels at times like I am trying to outrun isolation and loneliness by being hyperactive. Certainly art helps. Especially photography. If I go wandering around some public place feeling isolated, that feeling often dissipates once I start taking photos. I edge myself a little closer to the action to capture some pattern or color. A couple times this week I have shoved up alongside the fisherpeople at the pier at Point Richmond, trying to get a better shot at a burnt piling or sleek seagull. So I become, for a while, a part of that crowd.

But that again brings me to the negative aspects of life because one of the people I struck up a conversation with was a woman living nearby, someone who loves the birds and the ocean smells and the sealion calls as much as I do. But I learned that she is about to be evicted from her apartment, and I came to suspect she has a little problem with the booze, and I realized how tenuous her life must be.  Hmmmm, tenuous is another word I would use to describe people if I needed just one word. Tenuous. Insecure. Hanging-by-a-Nail. To be honest, Addicted. Disoriented. But those particular negative words aren't me, at this stage in my life, just some of the people I see.

And do we need life to be all warm and fuzzy in order to create good things? I'm always thinking that we start to create, many of us, when we are a bit uncomfortable about something. When we need some distraction and something to control in order to keep us sane. We don't ask for Bliss. Power. Creativity. We just would like a bit of something that is an unqualified good, to balance off some of the other stuff.

Ahhh, too much thought about life. Also Valentine's Day is never my favorite time of year. That's just how it is, and that's just how I am. I try to accept isolation without letting it overwhelm me. Most of the time it works. and, like the contributors who offered Determined. Strong.  Courageous. Rebounding. one just has to move on, even if it takes a bit of artistic distraction. Even if it's more craftsy than artsy. Whatever.

OK, no more brooding. Reporting in on my Master Plan, or my Manifesto or whatever I am calling it, I am more or less on pace with my TAST embroidery projects, falling sadly behind in my Art Quilt class, not well focused at the moment, but taking a lot of photos and going for some decent walks. C- on household fixing up. Maybe even D. Doing well with Spanish projects for the class, not doing anything with speaking. These are the things that keep isolation at bay and bring happy thoughts. So no more brooding or philosophizing, I will get back to them after I eat some lunch.  Still, I invite the casual reader, 21st or 22nd century (see previous post), how would you describe yourself, male or female, in one word. Feel free to add a lot of one words if you need to.  Feel free to be as negative or positive, or both at once, as you wish.  :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A New Way (to me) to Follow Blogs

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Ah, I think it's OK to continue writing in this post, as long as I have posted the link. Yes, I've been cleverly manipulated into posting these people's link to their service so that I get listed on their service. Whatever.....

Which brings me to my actual thoughts. When I first got on Blogger, years ago now, one of my first links was to a woman in England, a complete stranger, who had a blog about her lurcher dog. I love lurchers! I think I was moved to comment once on her blog and the poor woman seemed startled, like she really didn't expect anyone but family to follow her blog. :-)  Haha, MY family never looks at my blog, as far as I can tell.  If, they do, well, hi there CD, ZO, LO, love ya! Never thought to see YOU here!  :-)

I learned that Blogger would let me keep my own collection of blogs and I could put links to my favorites along the sides of my own blog.  All to the good. The original woman with the lurcher stopped dog blogging when her doggie died of old age. Sad..... But somehow I found a new lurcher blog, one who expects to be followed and a couple of years ago enjoyed hearing about some of my own lurcher stories (doggies that spin around in random circles to throw off pursuit, doggies that can open refrigerators with their long sneaky paws and eat the contents therein, mid to even large sized doggies who think they are lap dogs). And her dog, William, is most photogenic and paint-genic as well.

So blogs have been a part of my life for some time now. I have kept up with mine over quite a few years now (since 2009?), sometimes posting a lot, sometimes barely posting at all. I neglect it, I come back to it, it's still there, providing a record of my thoughts and enthusiasms. I used to blog my emotions, posting heartfelt complaints about work and life. It must be a stage of life, to want to fix things that don't bear fixing to any great degree. Well, I did indeed fix the work problem, I retired. And that has worked. There were things I hated about work. Those things are now out of my life, but life goes on and there are new things not to like. Even before I retired I combed through this blog, using my handy little labels and looking for rants and complaints, and made them all invisible. Still there, but not making me look as cranky and complainy as I actually was.

Facebook has taken over my life for the past couple of years. I've posted photos there but not here. For the benefit of sharing with friends who wouldn't come to my blog to hunt them down. For the benefit of making friends with strangers when things get passed on. It is easier to feel a sense of community when comments can be almost instantaneous. Blogging is a much more tranquil and thoughtful medium. Which is why I'm starting to come back to it. On Facebook I worry about "going on" too much and boring people. Blogger is my diary. If you are visiting and you get bored, move on, please.....that's OK, just move on!  :-)  Not that I'm touchy about boring people or's just that I realize that there is a fine line between humor and interest-provoking material and over-worked, trying too hard to be funny and interesting material. I'm sure I sway across that line from time to time!

Anyway, I'm coming to value blogs again, other people's as well as my own. I want to read long examinations of life and see photo-documentation of creative processes, well annotated pictures of travel, etc. Not just the Facebook version. To me, blogs seem like one of the best methods of capturing our lives and the societies in which we live. So far, when we die, they remain. I'm sure one day they will go through, say "hmmmm, no posts for 20 years, let's take this one down", but so far they remain. There must be thousands upon thousands of abandoned blogs out there. Many due to dwindling interest and time of the blogger, but others will never see post again by their originators, who have gone on to that great post in the metaphorical sky.....The blog remains to state "here I was at the beginning of the 21st century; here is what I thought and felt and what we all assumed was true at this time."

So, online services that aggregate and distribute blog posts are important to me. It seems to me that reading blogs should be part of an educated person's daily life, as much as reading newspapers and magazines. Far better than skimming across FB or the home page of your daily news source, though both also seem necessary. Yes, I am better if I am not online constantly, so I am probably happiest when I dive in periodically, blog a bit, then go off and lead a more active life so I will have something else to blog about in a few days.

We'll see how Bloglovin goes.  Right now I subscribe to Feedly, I sort of sense that Yahoo and Google would also like to collect blogs for my daily reading, but both have been a pain to figure out and also they are both too big of entities in the online world. They seem a bit arrogant, particularly in their lack of ease in setting up.  Ooops, Google owns Blogger now, right?  Here is one blogger who will be removed from the rolls upon the instant of her death. Which Google will certainly know about, in some way. Perhaps through reading the inevitable Facebook tributes!

OK, on to life, enough blogging about blogging. The poor anthropology student, helping her professor research prominent art/craft blogs of the early 21st Century will be getting a headache by now and will need a coffee break. Go now, dearie, and get your coffee (made in a replicator so as not to cause ecological damage through coffee farming on tropical lands and transportation throughout the world) but make sure you come back after your break for my next exciting post, which will be an excellent window onto the mind of 21st century pastimes and pleasures......

Thursday, February 4, 2016

TAST2016 Stitch 27: Bonnet Stitch

I'm amazed at myself, completing a stitch on Thursday (US time) and not hiding out on Monday trying to finish before the new stitch comes out! Maybe I've found my "groove" least for this week. I'm balancing this class off against an art for quilters class, so now I have a lot more time to devote to that class until Monday. Actually what helped was going with my momentum from the week before.

I like the Bonnet Stitch, though I haven't yet played around with circles and such. My first attempt, top right, got more and more crooked as each stitch went on. I figured out that if I wanted the stitch to be regular I have to bring the needle up in the same hole as the previous stitch. Not that I entirely mind the little slanting sets. I could see doing a series of them, maybe four at a time. After that I imagine the distortion will start to adversely affect the stitch integrity.  The darker blue is done with perle cotton.

Next I took 2 strands of floss and made a series of bonnet stitches where the height of the next stitch increased and decreased. This also has more possibilities and you could make a matching pair by turning the canvas over and stitching up to the tops of the first row.  Hmmm, I wonder if you could then thread the places where the two stitches meet and end up with an emphasized wavy line.

The second row of stitches, visible in both of these first two photos, used bonnet stitch to tack down my yellow semi-translucent ribbon used earlier in the sampler. It's quite easy to have a regular stitch, with the needle coming in and out in two straight lines. Here I played with the number of threads in between stitches, changing from 1, 2, 3, 4, back to 3, 2, 1. As you increase the length you do warp the bottom of the stitch, with the little loop tending to spread outwards and upwards. So the effect was more flowing and irregular that I expected it would be.  Even with the distortion the stitches seem stable.  You could cover an area with a series of these rows, varying the length in similar, but slightly offset places, so the area would almost have a fabric-like drape, like long flowing skirts or curtains. I think it would give a very interesting effect when seen from a slight distance.

Here is a rather fuzzy picture of how I tack down the ribbon lengths. First, on the right side of the fabric, I take scissors and cut the ribbon in half, up to where the fabric begins. Then I took my tapestry needle and pulled each half down under the fabric, to be further tied down later. This first side was essential to keeping the ribbon from moving out from under the stitch as I was progressing down the row.

Here is the entire sampler to date. That dangerous irregular line has been safely contained and it's almost time to make another one. :-)  It's also time to find more blue threads and then think about what contrasting color I want to feed in next, further down the sampler. Maybe it doesn't have to be super contrasty. Maybe just green would work, and then move on to yellows. We shall see.

I'm hoping to find time to add a few more counted thread stitches before picking up on the next TAST. Maybe I will fill in some irregular space with them, forcing the new TAST stitch to then fill in the center.

Monday, February 1, 2016

TAST2016 Stitch 26: Arrowhead Stitch

I would say that this stitch is deceptively simple....just two diagonal lines that meet in the middle....and all the variations possible....long stitches, short stitches, close stitches, widely placed stitches, heavy threads, light threads, regular or varied stitch lengths and varying where the middle of each stitch is. Plenty to keep an experimenter occupied.

First of all consider the back of this stitch. Now, I'm suspecting that I was paying more attention to how the stitch looked than whether or not I was applying the needle in exactly the correct fashion (where it exits and enters the thread and how you hold it....sometimes I just gave up and pulled the needle in and out and didn't worry as long as there was a good angle between where the stitch went in and where it went out again. Anyway, I like the picket fence look of the back of the stitches.  I think it can be easier to work certain stitches by concentrating on the wrong side, if that makes counting threads easier to do.  Anyway, here are three backs:

The threading on this last is just how I tied down the thread at the end, but I would like to now try making two lines with uneven starting and ending points, and then threading it.

Here are the arrowhead stitches in context of the entire sampler. I am trying to blend between the yellow/orange threads and shades of blue, so here I did some modified scotch stitches on the left hand side that progress from being mostly yellow to mostly blue.

Then I used the same blue to make the arrowhead stitches.

And followed through with the same yellow. Next I will blend in another shade of blue and carry on to the next stitch below in a mixture of blues. This is starting to be fun.

A close up of the arrowhead stitches, first with just the blue:

Then with the yellow added.  I found all of the stitches interesting, but I have a special soft spot for the one with the changing center line, upper left. It has a very windswept appearance and it would be interesting to cover large areas of background with it, swirling in different places in each row.

I find I'm less annoyed by my random shape now that I've surrounded it in other stitches, just as I thought I would be. Later on I will make a blob coming in from the other side and then it will look even more like I planned it. :-)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ira Glass on Creativity

A friend posted this on Facebook today and it's worth reading....over and over:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”         Ira Glass.

My not-as-deep thoughts related to this:

I see it applying to my crafts every day And actually a lot of other things, like learning to maintain a fish tank, renovating the house. Pretty much anything that requires thought, creativity or skills. As far as the good taste part, I have a huge Pinterest list of my favorite examples of things; I have enough examples to last me to the end of my life (well maybe....)  And I know I will never have enough time in my life to be as good as most of these people are, especially in things like precision paper cutting, glassblowing, metal working etc.

And if it's possible to make it look good instantly, without any training or effort, then it was probably not nearly challenging enough! It may be that you try something once or twice and you genuinely decide that particular thing is not for you. But there are those things that are worth taking the time to develop, while accepting that you will not be instantly good at it, just working towards being good at it.

And I still value my immense collection of ideas, because I'm always hoping one craft idea will cross pollinate with another.  But I can see that I am not setting aside nearly enough time to fiddle and play, I mostly just let new ideas tumble around in my head and then flit off to some other new concept. Yep, that's me in a nutshell, dilettante.....dabbler....  :-)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Art for Quilters - Project One

We are supposed to be actually working with cloth right now, but I never got past the paper this week.

Lucky to get that far, I was.....heheh....

So, while I should only grace the project page with my final product, here is how I got there.

First I cut out a rather random bean-like shape:

Then I gradually sliced off portions of it, keeping the original edges matching, more or less. It can be rather difficult to do this....the first time I tried a triangle and a cat came visiting my lap and I could never figure out which edge matched which after that.

Next I cut two yellow triangles and arranged them in two corners, surrounding the bean shape.

More help from cats, one of them tip toeing across the top of the paper, with an "oopsie" look on her face.....sooo sorry, human, but why are you yelling at me? You can see that you placed your silly papers right in the path I need to use to dash across your bed!

It was only after I decided to use a left over bit from the earlier messed up triangle that I realized the shape in the middle was actually a fish.

I skewed the fish around a bit to make him look like he was swimming, I skewed the triangles around a bit to emphasize his motion. I don't think I would actually put the small greenish triangles on top of a quilting project, if I develop one from this.  I think I would do something that emphasized the center portion of each portion of the fish. And I would give him an eye in the piece furthest over to the right and maybe do something to the triangles to make them look more like water. But I like the idea of making an articulated fish splashing in the water.

Hopefully I'll be a bit more up on this next week's lesson; I'm short on time and feel like I'm getting good ideas for designing but just skimming the surface.