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Archive for the ‘Favorite Products’ Category

Boo, J.D. (for Juvenile Delinquent)

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
Boo, J.D. by Sarah Ann Smith, 2019

Boo’s portrait is the third part of this trio of quilts. I had considered doing a self portrait, Sarah and her muses, with the selfie for my local Coastal Quilters challenge due next May. But then hubby, who has never ever asked me to make an art quilt, said when he saw the ones of Yoda and Widgeon, “you should make one of Boo, too.” Boo, you see, is his Very Special Cat. So I did that instead. Much nicer than a selfie! And it turns out the portrait challenge doesn’t have to be a selfie, and can be a critter–way better!

Just to remind you, here are the three portraits in this series on La Familia Smith (furry edition). Each is a 20″ square and they are debuting at the Janome Institute this week! I made them in thanks for over 15 years as part of their Janome Artisan program. I love their machines and would say all the good things I do even if I weren’t affiliated and paid full MSRP!

I prepared blurbs for Janome to use for each of the quilts, in the “voice” of each of the critters. Here is Boo’s:

Boo, J. D.
 
Emperor Yoda! Hah!  What does he know?  And why do they call me the Juvenile Delinquent?  Can’t they see that I am going to be KING of this realm?  I am young, I am strong, I speak, I jump, I am growing into being the largest and strongest in the realm, not like that tub of lard who is rightfully dubbed His Immensitude.  Stay away from my kibble, tubbo.  The humans love my chirpy voice and sleek, silky fur!  Now I will deign to let my human pet me and feed me my favorite wet food and pet me more.  All others, including the ostensible Chief Minion, be forwarned:  you are subject to attack!”  (Boo is a 10-month old Turkish Van. I am the ostensible Chief Minion.)

When I start a new project, I look usually at photos I have taken as “reference” photos. This time, hubby Paul’s photo was a better shape to fit into a square than what I had, plus Boo loves to sit with his paws hanging over the edge of stuff. I rarely use Photoshop any more to identify areas of light and dark, but I was curious to see what it would do. Meh. I like making the decisions as they are more nuanced than someone else’s software.
Step 1 is working on the collage with my reference images close by. I use Mistyfuse (my preferred fusible by far) and prefuse all my fabric, then cut the shapes I need, usually freehand but sometimes with other techniques that I share in my workshops. At this point the base layers just looks blotchy and blobby. It gets better.
Once the base layer is down, I start adding slivers of fur. Notice two of my favorite tools (and I’m not affiliated, just a fan-girl): Karen Kay Buckley’s purple-handled micro-serrated scissors (here) and Heidi Profetty’s awesomely pointy tweezers (here). The tweezers are new to my process and SO much easier than my old way of fingers, pins, skewer etc. Much easier and more accurate to place than to nudge! I like them so much I sell them in my workshops.
To tie the three quilts together, I took out all the fabric I would use for all three quilts at the start of the first one. The blue ocean-like batik plays a major role in all three: in Widgeon’s face, the background for Yoda, and here as the “bed” in Boo’s cat tree in the living room, and the other fabrics repeat. I liked the dark green in the background to pop Boo’s silhouette, but it was too much and boring as the entire top of the quilt, so I trimmed to have a “halo” of dark (no, that is not a commentary on the cat’s personality LOL!).
I selected assorted greens from my stash of prefused fabrics. I just didn’t like the way these looked–made the whole piece too heavy and dark for a rambunctious kitten.
So the dark greens, other than the “halo,” went away and my much-loved yellow greens (mostly my hand dyes in this set) came in.
The next step, as with Yoda, was adding paint via thermofax screens to refine the fur. Did I mention (another gratuitous self promotion here) that I’ll be teaching a 3-day workshop August 5-7, 2020, at ProChemical and Dye in Fall River, Massachusetts, on using paint on cloth? Sign ups open on October 2nd and I’d love to have you join me. Here’s the link to the Workshops at ProChem–details on the 2020 workshops will post on or about September 3rd. Anyway…. you can see the difference between the right where I have screened to the left where I haven’t, also up on the upper vs. lower parts of his face. I used a temporary mask of painter’s tape to avoid getting paint on parts of the background.
Final phase: quilt it to death! This is the Janome 9450–I began on the 6500 when the Horizon series debuted back in 2003 and every time I think they couldn’t possibly make the machine better, yet they do. This is pretty much my PERFECT MACHINE! I pick more threads than I think I will need for a project. Since I was doing three quilts at once, that was a lot of thread. Luckily, the most labor intensive one was Widgeon because of so many different colors. The quilting on Yoda (a beige cat with some dark) and on Boo (a white cat with just a tiny bit of black on him) was easier in some ways, though finding six shades varying from white to cream was interesting….ended up using a very very pale green for example, which reads as a mostly white/gray for the under layer.
Then the stitching begins! Here I’m putting in the first of three layers of thread used in each area. I teach a workshop on this, too (Thread-Coloring the Garden, but the process is the same for flowers, pets, people, landscapes, etc.). I really love this new open-toe free-motion quilting foot. It was designed for free-motion zigzagging, but it is awesome visibility. I’m not sure but I may possibly like it as well (or even better? is that possible?) than my all-time favorite thin metal open circle foot.
In this photo, I’m up to about the third layer of threads. Compare how it looks to the previous photo. Also, I do minimal stitching on eyes!
An angled shot always shows up the quilting best. I used the same leaf/vine motif on this that I used in the background of Yoda’s quilt to tie things together.

So that’s my process and all three of the quilts. To read the blogpost about Yoda’s quilt: His Immensitude Yoda, Emperor of Minions and all He Surveys, click here for Yoda . To read the blogpost about Widgeon’s quilt: I Love, Therefore I Am, click here for Widgeon. Thanks for coming along on my summer quilting extravaganza!

I Love, Therefore I Am (Widgeon’s quilt)

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
“I Love, Therefore I Am” is the perfect title for this quilt of our beloved pug, Pigwidgeon.

Earlier this summer I made three quilts for Janome America to share at the upcoming dealer conference in Florida this week. Janome has generously sponsored me with a machine and included me in their Artisan program for over 15 years!!!! THANK YOU (yes I’m shouting)! I was delighted to make these in appreciation. Here is the blurb I wrote to go with Widgeon’s quilt.

I Love, Therefore I Am
 
Yoda, the love of my life, tells me that Mom has done a good job on my portrait.  Mom and I were sitting on the porch in late Spring even though it wasn’t quite yet warm enough, so I snuggled under the blanket and kept her company (and warm) one afternoon.  I don’t see or hear very well any more, but Yoda tells me the picture shows how much I love everyone in the whole universe, especially him, my boy, Mom, the rest of my family, and well, the whole world.”  (Pigwidgeon is a 12 year-old industrial-sized pug.)

My Facebook friends know Widgeon because of my dog walkies posts and other photos. My friend Rachel Parris commented on this photo that it was the best one I had ever taken of him, and the idea for the quilt was born! Often I end up working too much during summer and don’t get my “Porch Time” to relax, read, and enjoy life in Maine. So this year I started early, in our long, late, cold Spring, wrapped up in warm fuzzy clothes with a two-layer fleece blanket on my lap and the dog snuggled underneath.

This post will be mostly photos and captions (because we all know photos are better). They show the sequence of how I work, and towards the bottom if you keep going you’ll be rewarded with a mini-tutorial on couched and faced edges. And yes (gratuitous self promotion here) I TEACH classes on how to do this –my Bindings and Facings and Piping, Oh MY! class, and also my collage and thread coloring process: Collage the Garden and Thread-Coloring the Garden–just click the link. Have students (and contract) will travel (hint hint).

As you can see, the work area ends up just a bit messy! I tend to sort prefused (Mistyfuse ROCKS! It changed my life!) fabrics by color and value, then start working. The heaps are the “sorted” stuff (ha!). Widgeon is coming to lay down right under my feet so I can trip over him. He likes to stay close to his beloveds.
Sometimes Yoda supervises…..
Folks say “Oh that’s the perfect fabric for the nose.” Sorta. This is seven pieces of fabric, and that’s about half of the fifteen or so tiny bits that eventually created his nose. You can see the sketch under the non-stick mat (check out Goddess Sheets at Mistyfuse.com).
Here I’m looking at what to use for the background. I used pale yellow (on which I used a pale gray pen) for the book in my lap. The pale aqua for the pillow on the left got changed for a darker value.

Now it’s time for that mini tutorial on couching yarn for quilts with facings.

Most of the time, my quilts have facings, and some of the time they *also* have yarn couched on the edges. This makes the edges more crisp and makes it WAY easier to turn the edges in a perfect straight line (provided the yarn is sewn ON in a perfect straight line). This is what the bottom of the pin tuck foot looks like. Mine is a five-groove. There are other sizes (seven I think, and maybe three), which I prefer to the usual “couching” foot because I can fit the yarn to the groove that will best control placement. See how the yarn fills the groove…not too big, not too little, but just right.
I used 2.5 stitch width and length, then reduced the presser foot pressure (how much it pushes down on what is going under the needle) to couch the yarn that ends up on the edge of the quilt.
You can see the yarn is in the center groove of the 5-groove pin tuck foot. It is the perfect sized groove for the cotton yarn I favor for sharp edges on quilts with facings. I always used to chalk-mark where I wanted the yarn to go and then hold it in place with pins and my finger. But even then it would sometimes wobble, requiring picking out the stitching and fixing. Then I discovered a much better way on this quilt!
Drum Roll! Sound the Trumpets! A Better Way!!!! Using a ruler, Janome’s pin tuck foot, and a narrow open zigzag makes couching yarn on what will be the edge of the quilt easy! It worked best for me if I let the ruler hang over the edge and use the 1″ line. If I used the end of the ruler it was actually harder to see if it was perfectly aligned with the trimmed edge. And yeah, lookit all that threadwork!
Gotta love Janome’s great presser feet and plate markings, which make it possible to create a perfect facing. In my class I explain some of the extra stuff I do that makes my facings behave so well.
Wonder Clips by Clover. Buy them. Buy a whole lot of them. SO MUCH BETTER than being skewered by pins. If you buy the big set from Clover, they come in a well made reusable box.
I Love, Therefore I am. A view of the quilting from an angle which shows the stitching better.
And a close up of the Beloved.

To see Yoda’s quilt, go to this post. Next, I’ll share Boo’s. He is the Usurper. The Delinquent. Chirpy.

Quoted in Quilting Arts Issue #100

Monday, July 8th, 2019

I’m thrilled, touched and honored to be quoted in the Centennial Issue of Quilting Arts magazine! First though, CONGRATULATIONS to founding editor and publisher Pokey Bolton for starting a classic, congratulations to current editor Vivika Hansen DeNegre and the entire QA team (including alumni members among others Kristine Lundblad, Cate Coulacos Prato, and Helen Gregory) at QA for what you have collectively created and given to all of us. The two-page spread on pages 86-87 of all 100 magazine covers gives me goosebumps: it is still on my dream bucket list to make the cover of QA — I came close once, was one of the top two choices, so I will strive! It’s good to reach for the stars–even if you don’t ever make it, you’ll enjoy the journey.

The current issue of Quilting Arts magazine, issue #100!

When QA began, I was living on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington state. I was in King’s, one of the two main grocery stores on the island, and by mainland standards a pretty small store. It was the only store on the island to stock magazines, which I was browsing. I picked up Issue Number 2 of something called Quilting Arts, and the rest is history! I ordered issue #1 so I have every. single. issue!

A while back editor Vivika Hansen deNegre wrote many of us who have contributed to the magazine over the years (I KNOW… Me???? How lucky am I to have been published so many times?) to ask for quotes that might or might not be used. I was THRILLED when she said it looked like my quote would make it into the magazine, and indeed it did. Check it out on page 55!

I’ve blurred out most of the page…you’ll have to find a real copy, but left my bit un-blurred. But honestly, go find a copy and enjoy the whole thing!

When I got home, before I had even read the entire issue, I picked up the phone to subscribe. That was the first time I ever spoke to Pokey, and learned that she had attended San Domenico School in grade school, my beloved Alma Mater, and grew up in Marin County, California, where I did! She’s a good bit younger than I am, but what fun–and when I won a second prize at International Quilt Festival Houston in the Art Quilts Miniature category, it was sponsored by QA and Pokey presented the prize to me. What memories.

So THANK YOU QUILTING ARTS, and you betcha I’m shouting. Thank you for the opportunities you have given to me, including my own video workshop! (available here as a download), the opportunities and inspiration and learning you have given to legions. Here’s to issue #200!

Paint on Cloth at ProChem, Fall River, Massachusetts

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Another SQUEEE–this time ProChem! I am delighted to share that I will be teaching a 3-day Paint on Cloth Workshop from August 5-7, 2020 at Pro Chemical & Dye in Fall River, Massachusetts. Think kindergarten for grown-ups with paint and cloth: silk paint, transparent, opaque and pearlescent textile paints, as both the Movie Star and the Supporting Cast. I’ll be developing course materials over the next 15 months, so if you’ve got something you want to learn, TELL ME! And if you’ve got a brilliant title, I’m sure I’m gonna need suggestions on that, too!

Modify the fabrics that you already have to create your art

I’m not usually an abstracts person, but I love the layers I was able to get from handwriting, screen printing, and stamping…come play with me!

Please let me know what YOU would love to do in a paint-on-cloth workshop. Personally, I want to go to dinner at the fabulous seafood restaurant out on the shore in Rhode Island after class, too! I’ll be back later in the year with more details, but in the meantime, tell me what you’d love to learn from me!

Cross Pollination

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Sometimes you need to do something else. You totally love your main “thing” (in my case it is clearly art quilting), but you need a break. And sometimes, that makes your main “thing” even better. I’ve learned over the years that good design is good design, whether it is landscape, interiors, architecture, photography, painting, sculpture, apparel, the principles are the same. So I have taken online classes in drawing and photography and been enriched.

At least ten years ago, I sat down between Christmas and New Year’s desperate to do something creative. The boys were still pretty young so time was scarce. I grabbed a pile of magazines and started tearing out words and pictures and glued them into my sketchbook. That has become an annual tradition…at least most years. This year Widgeon decided he needed to see if the collage passed inspection. Happily, it merited a wag.

I don’t know if I’ve done it every single year, and some years — like this one — it was done in (late) January instead. But I like reading what words have called me to use them and seeing where my head was in a given moment.

This year, I made sure to add information about whose artwork or photo. As with most years, a lot of my fodder comes from Down East magazine. North by East is a monthly column, and in December they featured work by Ryan T Higgins, a Maine Children’s book author. I must now go to the Library and see what they have of his. I was also stunned to see the “Sarah” quote, obviously about another Sarah. I covered up the “big” before dreams, but otherwise I really liked it.
This page got pretty dense…but I liked the quote at the top (from an ad for something). I also liked the bit on the pink, but it was too much pink, so I covered it up. Using blocks of text upside down or sideways works. And I LOVE torn edges…LOVE LOVE LOVE…that exposed white framing the image or words. I also dug out my circle punches. Have some circles and a few squares.

I’ve also taken a number of outstanding art classes from Val Webb over the years, ranging from birds to children to faeries to animals, using pencil, ink, watercolor, colored pencil…I learn so much, both about materials and tools but more importantly about SEEING. Observing. I’ll never want to be a colored pencil artist, but taking birds in colored pencil with Val taught me about patience and layering. I found I now do that with dyes, with paints on cloth, with thread, in my art quilts. And this year I also took a brilliant course at Sketchbook Skool, Watercolor. I always want more watercolor!

Over the past 8 years or so I have learned about the difference between student grade and artist pigments, that using quality paper makes all the difference in the world, and using pure pigments and mixing your own (just like dyeing fabric!). I decided I needed to get a bit organized and SEE the actual colors painted out from each tube. I had bought some icky (Bienfang) cheap watercolor paper that I will never use for a finished anything, not even a class practice piece. So got out my “tag” punch and did a paint out of every tube I have. Then ordered two more tubes! In search of the perfect pink…..and replacing one teeny tiny tube that is almost done. Each tag has the name, code for the manufacturer, and the universal pigment code (PV 42 for example is Permanent Violet 42). Yes, you can go wwwwwaaaaayyyyyy down the rabbit hole with this stuff!
A good mail and watercolor day. Turns out quilting templates and rulers have lots of uses, of course we all know that! I saw the clamshell cases at Jetpens.com and couldn’t resist. When I went to order, I discovered I had left that awesome washi tape in my cart, so it had to come to me also. And then there are those two tubes of watercolor and some empty half pans. That’s another thing I learned: make your OWN palettes with your favorite colors, use magnetic tape that sticks to the bottom of the pan, put inside a palette or metal tin. And then I used my quilting rulers and circles to mark a grid in my notebook/sketchbook.

I used to have both my to-do-etc notebook and a sketchbook. I never had the one I wanted handy. So I said to heck with the cost, and bought a GOOD sketchbook and use that as my “everything” journal. I write lists, take notes at SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) meetings, suss out ideas for quilts, and sometimes even sketch or paint in it! Now I will start filling in the circles with words, quotes, ideas, images/sketches, may fill the white backgrounds with ink textures…we shall see!

So that’s what I’ve been doing…along with quilting. What about you? And here’s an end of the day/blogpost dog walks photo from yesterday:

Sunset from the bottom of our driveway.