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Review: Stitch and Structure by Jean Draper – A luscious tactile experience

“This object that we hold in our hands, a book… that tactile pleasure, it’s just not going to go away.” –Maggie Stiefvater

I am incredibly tactile. If I see a beautiful object, I want to touch it. To run my fingertips over it, search for a scent, close my eyes and enjoy the texture over my palms. Doesn’t work real well in museum situations, but books, textiles, fibers? Plants and wood, leaves and flowers. It’s all the same to me. I want to touch. To breathe in the scents. To run my eyes over beauty and feel it in my soul.

Touch. And to touch Stitch and Structure by Jean Draper is sheer pleasure to touch. I Feet in the Soil  Jean Draper- sculptural  Pieced cottons and silks, dense hand stitching in Mulberry silk and cotton perle to give a three-dimensional structure to the surface: removed it from its packaging and was immediately surprised by just how tactile the cover is. Soft, with a definite velvety feel, as if I were touching a newborn kitten. The format is large, allowing me to rub my palms over the cover, my fingertips loving the softness. The beauty of the cover on a visual scale is gorgeous. Textured textile, cords and wraps, spread out in a luscious view, reminiscent of a landscape of mountains and valleys seen from above – and the eyes of the earth along the top, both clever and surprising.

Then, opening the book is yet another joy. Smooth, supple paper, cool to the touch. Rich, vibrant colour, brilliant black line drawings, the artwork leaps from the page, starting that little flutter of the heart that indicates that you have in your hand something truly gorgeous.

And then, the art itself. These are unconventional structures: linear and curved, odd and unusual, some radiantly colorful, some reminiscent of earth, wood and stone and the swirl of water, the nest of a bird, the striations of a cave wall. Beauty. Structure. Form. Light and airy, or dense and convoluted, each item on the pages carries a sense of the soul of the earth. Draper’s work is the epitome of organic textiles. You learn her methods, whether it be drawing with a purpose, photographing natures lines and edges to constructing with threads, mounting threads in apparent thin air – her methods are beautifully Jean Draper interview: Hand stitched landscapes - TextileArtist.orgdesigned, her art flawlessly flawed, making each piece a mix of odd, unique, and stunningly unusual in the best of ways. I am thrilled with the book, can you tell?

I won Stitch and Structure from Reader’s Desk (ijustread.it) in their Read Whatcha Like startup-logoGiveaway, and I can’t say just how pleased I am. Thanks, Reader’s Desk, for allowing me to choose this book for my prize!

Review: The Embroidered Garden by Kazuko Aoki

“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.” –William Blake

There is often great delicacy in beauty. Tiny stokes of paint, gossamer fabrics floating on the breeze. Tiny stitches on fine cloth.

“The Embroidered Garden” exhibits this sort of delicacy. Tiny, fine stitches, depicting flowers, butterflies and bees, fragile blooms which seem to float upon cloth, as if blowing in the breeze.

Embroidery is, literally, an ancient art form. From the ecclesiastical to the trim on luxurious smalls, embroidery has waxed and waned throughout history. Once a requirement for every young ladies training,  these days it is rarely seen outside quality couture shops and Victoria’s Secret.

It is nice to see such gorgeous handwork paid attention to once more. Aoki has brought back the beauty and elegance of a craft it would be ashamed to lose to the technical world we live in. I once did embroidery – the tiny stitches calming, repetition and the growth of beautiful handwork soothing to the soul.

Anyone with an interest in beauty and gorgeous hand work should find great pleasure in this book.

I received The Embroidered Garden from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Description

Whimsical, beautiful embroidery motifs created by an avid gardener—stitch roses, bees, or whole garden scenes. Kazuko Aoki has a unique talent for translating the beauty of the garden with needle and thread. By offering forty motifs, Aoki invites us to explore her gardens through embroidery. The forty motifs explore the roses and wildflowers that appear season to season, as well as the bees and butterflies that enjoy their nectar. The designs here are exquisite, detailed, and artfully rendered. Beyond the motifs themselves, Aoki also presents projects that feature the embroidery: brooches, notebook covers, pin cushions, and pouches. For those new to embroidery, detailed how-to illustrations are included.

 

I Made Myself A Nook Cover…..Of Course, It Doesn’t Fit!

And what do you know, it doesn’t FIT! Sigh. And I LOVE the fabrics…
Anyway, Now that I have it made and it is a lovely cover, I am putting it up for sale. Someone should be able to enjoy it, right? The tablet area is 8″ x 9.5″.  It should fit what is called a “10 inch” tablet just fine – looking at the specs on those it appears the size isn’t exactly “10 inches” so you should fit fine. The yellow top bands are elastic covered with fabric, so they stretch around the top corners to hold the unit tightly. The fabrics are all high-quality quilt shop fabrics, not Joann’s or Hancocks. The cover is very soft – I lined it with high quality batting instead of foam so that it breaths better and is “squishy!” I looked online at Etsy.com and it looks like $45.00 is a reasonable price.
I am going to make another to fit my Nook. I still have some of the same fabrics, but I never make duplicates of anything – every item I sew or knit is Unique!
If you are interested, send me an e-mail. As with my editing services, I accept Paypal!
151
The fabric is so pretty! LOL.. But you can see it is two inches too big on the side. :-{
154
The back. The pins in the bottom are where it needs to be hand sewed to close it up. That will only take me a half an hour or so to close that area.
150
There are three small pockets on the left side, for your cell, etc. The yellow has a half pocket in front of it and a full sized pocket area behind the yellow. There is also a full sized pocket under the tablet area. Again, I need to sew the bottom opening closed, I will do it by hand.
152
The front cover with the tab closure.
155
Sushi Chef!

Review: Quilting Arts Workshop: Art Quilt Design from Photo to Threadwork

art quilt design
Check out the Video here.

I spent today in an “Artistic Haze” watching Sara Ann Smith’s “Quilting Arts Workshop: Art Quilt Design from Photo to Threadwork”. I purchased the download from The Interweave Store, a rather guilty pleasure of mine. They are one of the best online arts and crafts stores on the Interwebs. They have so much: quilting, crochet, knitting, beading, jewelry making, needlework, sewing and spinning and weaving, even mixed media is represented.

hoffman fabric
2014 Hoffman Challenge

For a few years I entered the Hoffman Challenge every year, and am very proud to say that my quilt actually got to travel with the International Show two years running! When I got cancer, I had a quilt nearly finished, and had a friend help me finish so I could enter the quilt. It wasn’t up to my regular skill level, of course, so it got sent back to me, but I was happy to be strong enough to at least enter.

2013 Hoffman Challenge
Click here to see the 2013 Winners

Last year, I liked the fabric quite a bit, but I just couldn’t’ get into the quilting part. {My workroom was a mess, to tell you the truth, but I was too lazy and too busy to go down there and clean it up . . . sigh.} Anyway . . .

This year’s fabric looks like it is going to be really cool. So, I decided to pull myself out of my “quilting slump” and get more interested again.

This is a great video. First, Sara Ann is a wonderful teacher. She is smart, well trained in colour theory and design. The pattern she chose (the one on the cover) is beautiful, and requires just enough work to keep it interesting without freaking you out. The colours are, of course, awesome. She takes the video step-by-step, from choosing the right fabrics, the right tools, and the extra little items that make the process fun instead of work. She does a quick discussion of using paints and pens for darkening or lightening fabrics, which I found quite useful. I have done that before, but her skill taught me quite a bit.

sarah ann smith tomato
This is the quilt that you learn to make in the class.

She gives you different methods of patterning, and a choice of being meticulous or “blobby” in your cutting of pattern pieces. Once she has the fabrics cut and ‘tacked down’ with a hot iron on the ironing sheet, she helps you decide on the background fabrics.

Once you have your fabrics fused down, she then gets into threads, both colours and types, as well as how to choose the correct bobbin threads.

threadwork unraveled
Check out the book here. It’s on Sale!

She spent a good amount of time on blending threads, which I have always had a problem with and was really thrilled that she took the time to both show and describe the quilting. I intend to purchase her book, “Thread Work Unraveled” to learn more. As a note, it is on sale for $20.16, originally $28.95, on the Interweavestore.com site.

If you are at all interested in art quilting and thread painting, I highly recommend this beautiful DVD. I purchased it for watching online, in standard format, but there is also HD format, or you can buy an actual DVD.

Highly Recommended!

Review: Quilting With A Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilt Community by Rachel May

modern quilt
Due to publish January 8, 2014
Storey Publishing

To say that I am torn in my reactions to Quilting With A Modern Slant is an understatement. Part of me liked the book. A larger part absolutely hates it.  But then, that is what ‘Art’ is all about, isn’t it? It reaches out and changes boundaries, pulling reactions, whether good or bad, from the soul and the heart.

Rachel May describes her book this way: Modern quilting allows artists the freedom to play with traditions and take liberties with fabrics, patterns, colors, stitching, and the ways in which they all connect. She then offers works from 70 different modern-day quilters, exploring their take on the subject of modern quilt art.

One of the things I find odd about the premise of the book is its heavy reliance on the art of the Gee’s Bend Quilters as a “modern” concept on quilting. The Gee’s Bend Quilt tradition began in the 19th century, in the Gee’s Bend community of Alabama. A cotton plantation belonging to Joseph Gee was the starting point for a style of geometric and highly improvisational quilt making brought about by the necessity of staying warm in rough, unheated slave shacks. Today, the quilts have been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. In the words of Alvia Wardlaw, the curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, “The compositions of these quilts contrast dramatically with the ordered regularity associated with many styles of Euro-American quilt making. There’s a brilliant, improvisational range of approaches to comphttps://soireadthisbooktoday.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phposition that is more often associated with the inventiveness and power of the leading 20th-century abstract painters than it is with textile-making.”

quiltsofgeesbend
“The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Arnett, Wardlaw, Livingston, and Beardsley.
geesbendthearchitecture
Gee’s Bend, The Architecture of the Quilt by Arnett, Arnett, Gordon, Herman, Mott, Blum, Whitley, Wallach and Cubbs.

First, I must say that the power and beauty of the Gee’s Bend’s Quilts is absolutely breathtaking. There are several books you can read that describe the quilts and their makers. Those listed here are only two of many volumes written over the years.

The quilts are made with what could be obtained in the day, showing the worn knees of work pants and the leftover pieces of dresses so worn as to be nearly indistinguishable in pattern. The careful stitching and clean lines are clear indicators of the care and thought that went into each one. The quilts were designed for use, but also an eye to beauty.

While many of the quilts in the book honour these concepts of improvisation and beauty, clean lines and careful stitches, others, well, others do not. Instead, they seem to rejoice in ugly fabrics, clashing colours, and a jarring lack of beauty in line and concept. Others are so blatantly derivative of the Gee’s Bend Quilts as to be nothing other than copies.

There are good things about the book. The segments on natural dying are quite good, as are the segments on paper piecing and hand quilting. However, all of these are better, and more thoroughly described, in other volumes.  I believe what pushes me into the ‘hate’ column with the book, overall, comes back to May’s description of, “What Is Modern Quilting?” In her own words, “Most quilters agree that it has something to do with a sense of experimentation. Modern quilters might take a traditional block or pattern and innovate to turn it into something “fresh.”” And here is my problem. Most of the quilts and concepts in the book are so derivative as to lack any sense of ‘new’ or ‘modern’. Instead, they fall back on ’MidCentury Modern’, that old standby from more than 50 years ago in the 1950’s and still so popular today. Even the fabric patterns are derivative of the 1950s, with some of those ugly, less-than-awe-inspiring 1970’s prints thrown in for good measure. Having started my own quilting journey in the 1970’s, I know all about ugly fabrics!

While some of the artists seem to have given great consideration to beauty, colour, line, and simplicity, or with a message,  (Denyse Schmidt, Denise Burge) others seem to define the concept of “Modern” as grabbing the ugliest fabrics in their rag bag and stitching them together with no thought for any of these concepts of design (names withheld to protect the innocent. Or my possible lack of artistic eye, whichever.)

chartres_street_in_bloom_-_artspan-495x322
Original Oil Painting
on Gallery Wrapped Canvas
“Chartres Street in Bloom” by Diane Millsap
48″ Wide x 30″ High x 1 1/2″ Deep
Art property of Diane Millsap. All Rights Reserved.
Click photo to go to website.

When it comes right down to it, if you are a fan of Gee’s Bend Quilts, you may or may not like this book. I love the originals; I am not so taken with most of the work in this book. There are some brilliant high-points in the book, such as when Nancy Crow talks about the quilts of Anna Williams, an elderly, illiterate quilters from Louisiana whose work, completed without patterns or rulers, shows absolute lyrical brilliance in her work.  All in all, this is definitely a book you should glance through before making a decision. Maybe my discomfort with the book is the fact that I am not a fan of the “Modern Art Movement” or “Deconstructivism. I have quite wide ranging tastes, but my favorites are works by artists such as Diane Millsap or Jos Coufreur.

Jos-Coufreur-Audrey-Hepburn-921x930
Audrey Hepburn.
Acrylic On Canvas.
Painting by Jos Coufreur.
All Rights Reserved.
Available through Bryce Gallery, New Zealand.
http://www.brycegallery.co.nz/art/audrey-hepburn/

This just doesn’t do it for me. Before you ask, I have widely diverse tastes in the works of quilters. Everything from the busy, ‘folk ‘ stylings of Susan Shie pieces to the meticulous Baltimore Album style of wonderful quilters like the often unacknowledged quilters who made complex appliqued Baltimore Album Quilts such as this one, in the Maryland Historical Society Collection. My personal favorites lean toward brilliant colour and intense quilting, such as anything at all by Jacqueline de Jonge. It’s all a matter of taste.

HouseJuJu
HOUSE JUJU
Susan Shie
Wooster, Ohio
Finished July 8, 2003
Painted on muslin fabric, not stretched or framed.
Painted with Airpen, brush on Deka Permanent fabric paints. All hand quilted, embroidered, and beaded.
12.5 x 12.5 inches
Property of Susan Shie. All Rights Reserved.
Photo courtesy of The Art of the Quilt.
baltimore
Baltimore Album Quilt, c. 1848, catalog number 22, Maker(s) unknown, Baltimore, Maryland, plain and printed cottons, chintz, velvet; cotton, silk and wool embroidery, quilted in diamonds and embroidered, 282 x 275 cm, Maryland Historical Society, 1970.19.1, Gift of Mrs. C. Creston Cathcart)
Photo property of Maryland Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Overall, in my opinion, this book is recommended to some, not to others. Look before you buy.

_________________

I received my copy of the book from Storey Publishing in return for an honest review.

All opinions are my own, all artworks are the property of the artists.

I’m Such A Goof

I could have sworn I created an “About” page for my blog. Really. I thought I did . . . well, that is what I get for not paying attention, right? (Wiping drool off chin) Although, I have to admit, getting my book reviews done was more important to me at the time. Looking back, when I started my blog, I probably copied my Goodreads “About” and meant to post it here . . . then got distracted.

Ooooooooooo    SHINY!!!!

I probably should have been born a Raven. ravenI love shiny things. Probably why I have so many UFO’s in my quilting room and in my knitting basket. I get all excited about what I am working on, start in on making it, then get a new idea, and wander off to start that project too. Then, of course, I pick up a book and all of a sudden everything else goes away and suddenly it is 4 in the morning and nothing has been accomplished at all except that I am ready to write a new book review!

Example: I am now working on the Heather Hoodie heather hoodie(I had to take the shoulders out and am going to have to knit the front and back longer from there – the sleeve holes were too tight), The Jester Tea Cosy from Really Wild Tea Cosies really wild tea cosiesby Loani Prior (just picked up her wild tea cosiesWild Tea Cosies at the library and want to make them all!) as well as the Paperboy Cardiganpaperboy from Interweave Press.

See? SHINY!!!!!!

 

On Unfaithful Wings (Icarus Fell, #1) by Bruce Blake


A Noir Urban Fantasy — FIVE STARS

on unfaithful wingsI first ran across Mr. Blake when I saw his second book, “All Who Wander Are Lost” in my regular daily “freebooksie.com” mailing. I am always thrilled to get those – I don’t always find all of the books to my taste, but the cover of that one grabbed me right away and the description sounded interesting, so I downloaded it. I started reading it this morning before noticing it was a second in series, after “On Unfaithful Wings”. After reading a few pages, I was hooked and downloaded OUF so I could start at the beginning. I am so glad I did.

The characters of the Icarus Fell novels are by no means bright and cheery ‘angels running around with wings saving souls’ and these are no bright and sparkly novels. They are dark, moody pieces with a deeply noir feeling and a sharp edge to the humour which abounds throughout the book. Icarus himself, the victim of vicious childhood abuse by a priest, finds himself lost and alone on the streets, deep into drugs and booze, traumatized past what he considers any sort of salvation at all. Murdered one night in the graveyard of the same church where his abuse took place, he awakens six months later in a nasty No-Tell Motel to find that he is a Reaper of sorts. And things get even weirder and darker after that.

It. Was. Awesome. The whole feeling of the book can be described by this quote from the early pages:

“And, let’s face it, if God existed, he probably looked down one day on the shite he created, packed up his tent and went somewhere else to give it another shot, hoping for better luck on the second go-round.”

Mr. Blake does a perfect job of skewering the ridiculous nature of religion when looked at from a logical rather than superstitious view. The angels are, at best, incompetent clowns more intent on their political games than on actually doing good. One of the ‘good’ angels is guilty of rape and another is more interested in proving a point than helping Icarus save either his son or a kind-hearted selfless nun.

Is Icarus really better off helping the so-called good guys? Or are the so-called good guys so far off of reality that they don’t even qualify as such any longer? Child molesting priests meant to go to heaven, nuns carted off to hell and one comment by an angel that really points out the weirdness of it all:

“Murder is a tool. Just because someone kills someone else, it doesn’t make them evil. You’re all instruments of God.”

Perfect! Murdered and abused children, rape, torture. It’s all good! Blake writes the story that I have always wanted to write – if there really is a God, it is removed far enough from our reality as to no longer exist, if it ever did at all. And he does it with a turn of phrase and intelligence that led me at warp speed through his writing.

Overall, this is a dark, moody piece which left me sad in places and laughing hysterically in others. A Reaper who has a solid body and can be shot, knifed and beaten – and can’t really afford a car to go pick up his next soul for delivery? Love it. I am so looking forward to the next installment. If you are a fan of the old noir detective stories, the Nightside novels, or similar you will these novels. Off to read the next one!

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