Friday, December 16, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

I absolutely love Christmas.  I know it's because of the wonderful Christmases my mom and dad gave to me while I was growing up.  My mother was the consummate baker; she created hundreds of beautiful cookies every year in her tiny kitchen -- our neighbors and relatives eagerly looked forward to the boxes filled with delicious treasures that Mary would take to their homes during the holidays.  My dad and I were in charge of picking out the tree from the grocer's lot next door and hauling it back to the house for decorating with hand-made ornaments.  I remember helping Mom wrap the presents when I was very young and then taking over the whole job when she convinced me that I was better at making bows than she was (clever woman).  I loved doing it, though -- it was my favorite part of our annual preparations.
Over the past few years, I've been continually making decorations to place in every part of our home that space will allow, including the garland on our bannister.  Some of these ornaments came from patterns, and others were my own creations.
The balls are styrofoam shapes covered in gingham and dotted Swiss fabric and trimmed in rick rack, ribbon, and buttons.
There are stuffed ornaments in different shapes (heart, stocking, bird, star, and bell) made with more of the dotted Swiss fabric and rick rack and trimmed in gingham.
The mice are egg-shaped styrofoam pieces, cut in half, and covered with felt, then trimmed with button eyes, beaded noses, and curled-wire tails.
The mushrooms are wooden spools and half-spheres, painted and glue together . . .
and it's all accented with a hand-made gingham bow.
There's a warm, comfortable feeling that seems to arrive in our home this time of year,  made even more special for me by the presence of all things created by hand.  
May this holiday season bring that same warmth to you and to your home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Haiku For Doyle

Recently, I purchased a most inspiring book by artist Quinn McDonald, entitled "Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art."  One of her many ideas to help bring forth the creative juices involves composing a haiku (a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines, each of which contains 5, 7, and 5 syllables) and doodling imaginatively around the perimeter of it.  
On an unusually warm October day, I sat on the front porch with our dog, Doyle, and this little tribute spilled out in a matter of minutes.  (The second line is a phrase borrowed from my dear friend, Ellen.)  Adding Zentangles around the poem turned into a meditative endeavor that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Some of you already know that Doyle was diagnosed with lymphoma back in January, and about two weeks ago we said "goodbye" to our beloved friend and constant companion.  We have consoled ourselves with the belief that he had a great life while he was here; he brought us boundless joy and unconditional love, and we will be forever grateful that he came into our lives.
And I will miss him more than I can say.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's the Bloggers' Quilt Festival!

"Pieces of Dreams"  57" by 57"  ©2008 Diane Evans
Once again, Amy from Amy's Creative Side is sponsoring the semi-annual Bloggers' Quilt Festival, and it promises to be a visual delight, as always.  We quilters have the opportunity to view each others' favorite creations and to share one of our own.
This time around, I've chosen "Pieces of Dreams." This is the second in a series of medallion-style quilts, using Ricky Tims' method of drawing a motif on a piece of paper that has been folded into eighths and then reflecting that motif eight times to create what is known mathematically as radial symmetry – a pattern of design that appeals to my left-brained sense of order. 
Hand-dyed fabrics from Joy's Fabrics were used in this quilt; it is both machine-pieced and machine appliquéd, and the original quilting designs were completed with Sulky 40-weight rayon and metallic threads.
The quilt was named for a much-loved song written by Michel LeGrand, particularly fitting since the sketch was drawn in the middle of a sleepless night.
Do head on over to Amy's blog and enjoy the treats on display -- how perfect for this time of year!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Love Letters: Amaryllis

Once upon a time, in a small kingdom far away, a self-professed art quilt blogger wrote about a terrific new book she had purchased, titled “Appliqué Art,” by Stewart Merrett.  This book was a visual feast, with beautiful projects created from sumptuous velvets, silks, and moiré fabrics.  The little blogger promised herself that she would one day tackle one of these enticing projects, and, finally, after a LONG, LONG time, she did.
She gathered together a collection of decorator fabrics . . .
and, using instructions from the beautiful book, she designed a letter “E” to place behind the lovely floral pattern.  She used a satin stitch and 40-weight Sulky rayon thread to appliqué the pieces to the velvet background.   The piece was then outline-quilted with 30-weight rayon . . .
She trimmed it with a velvet border . . .
"Love Letters: Amaryllis"  ©2011 Diane Evans
and brought it to her local A.C. Moore shop to have them place it in a gilded frame.
Her husband (a prince of a man) was so pleased with the little wall quilt that he hung it in a place of honor in the castle, which pleased the blogger very much, since it had taken her SO LONG to finish the piece that she was certain it would languish in her pile of QuIPs (“Quilts In Progress”).
The moral of this tale?  You can finish anything you set out to do if you have enough determination and a 65%-off coupon from your local frame shop.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Has Anybody Seen My Mojo??

Talented artist and friend Joanna Monroe gave me sage advice the other day, when I bemoaned to her the fact that my get-up-and-go probably got up and went somewhere; she suggested that I try to make something small, such as an art card, so that I would feel as though I was creating something instead of simply wishing I were. I turned to one of my Zentangle® books by Suzanne McNeill for some inspiration, took out my drawing tools and scissors, and traveled back to kindergarten with my muse in tow.
I drafted a flower shape with leaves and enlarged it on my printer to a size appropriate for filling with tangles.
Using a Micron pen (and a pencil for shading), I drew some of my favorite designs in each petal.  I copied the flower onto white card stock and cut it out; the leaves were drawn onto green card stock and cut out as well.
I then cut three pieces of white and black card stock in graduated sizes, ranging from 4” by 6” to 4.5” by 6.5”, and glued them together to form a bordered background.
I backed a piece of black-and-white dotted fabric with Wonder-Under® and ironed it to a larger piece of card stock; after trimming, this was glued to the bordered background.
I assembled the flower and leaves and glued them in place, adding some hand-drawn tendrils to the empty spaces (the flower looked lonely . . .).
Some beads were sewn to a decorative button, and this was glued in place.
My little creation made me smile and seemed to wake up my sleeping muse.
Joanna, you are a wise woman – and a good friend.  Thank you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Wind Beneath My Wings" -- Fini!

"Wind Beneath My Wings"  Diane Evans ©2011
What began as a watercolor exercise is now a finished art quilt.  Here’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” all grown up and ready to go out into the world.
The interior machine quilting was done with 40-weight rayon thread; motifs were outlined with 12-weight cotton thread to add presence to the flowers and butterfly wings.
The hand embroidery was inspired by Laura Wasilowski’s latest book, “Fanciful Stitches, Colorful Quilts,” which features dozens of examples of wonderful hand stitches that add color and texture to any fiber art piece (Be sure to check out Laura's terrific blog here). 
I used straight stitches to accent the purple blooms and to create stamens on the central flower, and French knots were added in various places throughout the quilt.  As a finishing touch, white beads were sewn on –- after all, even a butterfly needs a little bling.
The kite-shaped quilt has been sewn onto a quilted blue background and is poised to fly away with its fabric-knotted tail.  It will travel to various exhibit spaces with other works by fellow artists in ARTAA, our fiber art group, during the coming year.
Thanks for sharing the journey of this art quilt with me – you, dear readers, are truly the “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thank you, Amy!

A huge "thank you" to Amy at Amy's Creative Side for inviting me to be a guest blogger on her site.  Amy is responsible for the creation of the Bloggers' Quilt Festival, an on-line sharing of quilts by hundreds of fabric artists, held twice a year on Amy's blog.  She continues to work hard to promote and support the on-line quilting community, and I know we're all grateful for her tremendous efforts.
I hope you'll stop by to read our interview here and check out all the wonderful things Amy has to offer.  She has a terrific blog -- you'll be glad you visited.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peeking Inside My Sketchbook

Here's a prayer that those of you who share the East Coast with me were able to come through Irene's visit unscathed.  She was quite the unwelcome guest, and we've spent the day cleaning up after her mess -- however, we still have our home and our health, and we're  grateful.
In between the urges to sew, I've spent time during the past months learning and practicing watercolor and journal techniques, inspired by Alisa Burke's workshops and the encouragement of so many of you, dear readers.  Here's a peek:
I loved Alisa's whimsical paisleys, so I tried a few of my own . . .
In this sketch, I tried my hand at shading with watercolor pencils -- I used so much water in one spot that the background paper just melted away, and I had to glue on another piece (the fact that I didn't throw the drawing away shows that I'm learning to embrace imperfection, don't you think?) . . .
Here, I learned how to mix the color chartreuse (it was a bit like cooking: a little of this, a little more of that -- and then remembering what I did so I could repeat it) . . .
I decided to try the watercolor pencils again and had better luck with my Tree of Flowers (I am nothing if not persistent . . .)
The bottom of the page awaits some inspirational journaling -- with luck, that may happen on a future sleepless night.
My thanks to all of you for being there on the other end of my computer . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Wind Beneath My Wings" Progresses

A while back, in this post, I shared with you the beginnings of a new art quilt based on a watercolor painting I had done.  I've finally had some time to continue playing with it, and it has progressed to the machine- and hand-stitching stages.
I began attaching the pieces, using machine appliqué, starting with the lowest layer of the motifs and working to the uppermost layer.  I like using a slightly open, flat zigzag stitch, so the color of the fabric will show through the thread.
Here, the entire right half of the butterfly has been appliquéd; the triangles and decorative stitching stitching around the purple center were embroidered by machine.   The black background fabric behind each piece has been cut away for two reasons: (1) to prevent build-up of the layers, and (2) to keep the color of the motifs from being dulled by the presence of black behind them.
I auditioned beads at this stage; I liked the white ones and nixed the red ones -- French knots seemed the better way to go, so . . .
. . . I decided to embroider them at this stage, before the backing was attached, so that the knots on the back would be buried within the batting.  (Full disclosure: I later learned that the type of knot I make is really an Italian knot because I wind the thread around the needle the wrong way . . .)
I then embroidered the black lines using a back stitch; to keep the stitches even, I placed a piece of masking tape, marked at regular intervals, next to the line I was stitching as a guide.  White perle cotton accents were added to the violet flowers at the top.
It's on to the machine quilting at this point -- hope you'll stay tuned!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Peek Inside My Sketchbook

I've been plugging away at my latest quilt, "Wind Beneath My Wings," and the progress is steady and slow, so I don't have any exciting pictures to share yet.  In the meantime, I've been playing in my sketchbook and taking a new watercolor class from Alisa Burke -- loving every minute of it.  If you're interested, you can join in anytime -- here's the link.
I thought I'd share more of my experiments with you -- some were hits and some were misses, and just being able to put that last part in writing is a big step forward for me, since I usually agonize over the things I've made that didn't please me (and then I throw them out).  So here's to the Likes and Dislikes and the learning that came with each of them.
(I folded a piece of tracing paper into eighths, drew a design on one-eighth of the page, and then traced it by reflecting it around a point onto the journal page; it was colored in with paints and markers.  There may be a future quilt hiding in here . . .)
(My effort at limiting the palette to two colors -- this was difficult for a person whose motto has always been: "If you can't decide what color to wear, wear 'em all.")
(Filling the page and learning to add depth to the image)
(Just plain having fun)
As always, thanks for sharing this journey with me -- it's really great to know you're out there. 


Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's A Spring Cleaning Sale!

"Masquerade" 20" x 20" © Diane Evans (Private Collection)
Granted, it IS a little late in coming, considering that it's almost summer; however, I seem to be a little late in getting many things off the ground this year.  Anyway, I cleaned out all the quilting and design books that I realized I was no longer using, and I thought I'd offer them to you, dear readers, at really great prices.  Just click on the page title above, "Books For Sale!", and see if anything strikes your fancy.  These books are in great condition -- many look brand new.  Browse, and then treat yourself -- there's a "Pay Now" button installed for your convenience on the page.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Blogger's Quilt Festival Is On!

"Autumn In New York"  17" by 14"  ©2009  Diane Evans
It’s that time of year when Amy of Amy’s Creative Side begins her Blogger’s Quilt Festival.  This event is always so much fun – we all have the chance to view each other's favorite pieces and to share the stories behind our creations.
This time around, I'm sharing a special favorite; it's entitled "Autumn In New York," and it makes me happy to think of this art quilt because it's in the collection of a very special family.
There's a tree in our neighborhood that produces spherical pods each fall; it always reminds me of an illustration from a Dr. Seuss story.  I have seen paintings where the artist used round daubs of paint to represent leaves, and I wanted to achieve that same effect in fabric.
So I began cutting out circles from scraps of fusible hand-dyed fabrics, and I discovered it was a very meditative process (I was much better at this than when I tried sitting still and chanting "ohm" . . .).  I fused the circles to a beautiful piece of fabric from Caryl Fallert's Gradations line for Benartex, and I quilted the whole piece with Madeira and Sulky 40-weight rayon thread.
The entire effect is reminiscent of our view of the Helderberg Mountains as we drive to the apple orchards each October for cider doughnuts (this is making me hungry . . .).
Hope you enjoy the Festival, and, thank you, Amy, for providing us an opportunity to attend this virtual quilt show and enjoy each others' work!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

More "Sketchbook Delight" . . .

I am continually captivated by the inspiration that has poured forth from Alisa Burke's online class, "Sketchbook Delight."  Here's a peek inside my journal:
More fantasy flowers emerged after an evening of play . . .
The watercolor page above was inspired by a haunting ballad titled "When October Goes."  Its origin was a set of unfinished lyrics written by renowned lyricist Johnny Mercer and given to Barry Manilow after Mercer's death.  Mercer's widow hoped that Manilow could develop these lyrics into a complete song, and he did so in 1984.

Alisa also posted a wonderful tutorial on her blog, showing us how to create butterflies using pages from old books as the foundation.  My dear friend and talented artist, Joanna Monroe, had given me a stack of pages from a very old math book (what else??), and if you look very closely, you can see polynomial equations peeking out from behind these creatures . . .
And maybe, just maybe, spring is finally here . . .


Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Tribute To My Father

 On February 21, my dearly beloved dad passed away at the wonderful age of 88.  Even so, his passing was quite unexpected; we called him our Energizer Bunny -- he always seemed to bounce back from each new malady that befell him as he grew older.  He was very much like the late Will Rogers: He never met a man he didn't like, and everyone who knew him adored him.
We went through the requisite emptying of his apartment at the senior living facility where he spent his last few years, and we brought home many of his things, including several boxes of facial tissue he had stashed away (he was always afraid he'd run out).  I became intrigued by a rendering of irises on one of the boxes; because they're such tall flowers, they were drawn winding their way around three sides of the container.  So I tried my hand at depicting them the way I thought they should look, using watercolor paints and black and white pens, and this picture poured forth.  
I'd like to think that love guided me through the process; I know that love was the inspiration.
We're going to miss you, Dad.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Wind Beneath My Wings"

Alisa Burke’s fabulous Sketchbook Delight class has inspired me to try designing my latest quilt with the help of watercolors.  My usual modus operandi involves scanning a pencil sketch of my design into the computer and then auditioning different color palettes using Photoshop Elements.  This time, I drew the design on heavy paper and used Sakura Koi watercolors and a paintbrush – risky business for me, since I was pretty much committed to my color choices each time the brush hit the paper.
The theme for this art quilt came from our two latest challenges in ARTAA, my fiber art group: “Bugs” and “Kites.”  In a never-ending effort to complete my projects before the deadlines, I decided to combine the two themes into one.
I had already chosen the background fabric, so I did my best to mimic its color gradation with the paints.  White and gold marking pens added the elements that I planned to incorporate with thread.
The cartoon of the design was copied onto acetate, and my trusty overhead projector was used to enlarge the acetate drawing to its full size on newsprint. 
Here’s the quilt in progress; I always grow more excited at this stage, because I love the task of choosing the fabric that will do my bidding. I also know that the machine embroidery portion of the show is coming soon, and I’ll share more photos as I travel through that phase.  As always, thank you all for joining in the creative journey with me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Coming Out Of The Dark"

 (I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the many expressions of support, encouragement, and optimism you sent along after my last post.  I am blessed to have you in my life.)
Several months ago, Dawn Browning of Bee’s Fiber Art (check out her blog -- she's doing some wonderful things) posted a link to artist Alisa Burke’s blog, and that link has sent me on a soul-enlightening path along my creative journey.  I fell in love with Alisa’s incredible artistic expressions, especially her journals.  I immediately purchased the Koi Sakura watercolor paint set pictured in her article, gathered up pens and pencils similar to those she used, and sat down to follow her tutorial.  
My first attempt at depicting a seashell looked more like the top of a Dairy Queen ice cream cone; it didn’t matter to me – I was hooked on watercolors.
I then took inspiration from a greeting card I had kept, and the results tickled my heart. 
Emboldened by my tiny successes, I branched out to try my hand at fantasy flowers, using Alisa's techniques.
And then it was Christmas, and these ornaments came forth in the spirit of the season; a few Zentangles worked their way into the scene as well.
I am now finishing an online class with Alisa, called "Sketchbook Delight," and I am learning SO much and enjoying it tremendously; you can sign up for this class at any time.  Do check out her blog; her lessons and her inspiration have truly lit up my life.


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