Playing With Spoonflower

One of the reasons I took all those photos in 2017 was to build up a stock of images I could manipulate and print out on fabric. I got an early start in December when I succumbed to a special offer from Spoonflower and tried out their fill-a-yard offering.

Last summer I got carried away and took lots of German expressionist shots of our newly painted deck.

I downloaded them to my Spoonflower account and started playing with different arrangements. You can arrange your image to print several ways: just by itself, in rows, in what’s called half brick staggered rows, and in mirror image. You can also change the colors in your photo (both the number of colors and hues) and do some editing of your photo via PicMonkey. So, prepare to waste spend lots of time jiggering with your images before you even decide on a layout.

For my order I decided to use the fill-a-yard option to print half yards of four photos, two per yard. I chose cotton sateen because I love its silky hand. Yes, it costs more ($27/yard) than basic cotton or Kona but it’s wider (56 inches) and hey, I’m worth it.  You do get a bit of a discount if you’re the fabric designer.

I had Spoonflower print two of the deck photos, plus a shot of icicles on my neighbor’s downspout and a sun print I had made. My slightly manipulated photos are below. I changed them even more in Spoonflower.

For all of them I chose the mirror image layout as I love the kaleidoscope effects that can give. Did I mention you should set aside large amounts of time to play with all the possibilities?

It took 12 days from Spoonflower’s acknowledgement of my order to shipping, then a few more days for my order to arrive. You can speed up an order a bit by paying more for shipping, but don’t expect to get your finished fabric a day or so after ordering it.

How did my fabric look? (Please ignore the wrinkles)

 

 

I’ve washed and ironed my fabrics per Spoonflower’s recommendation. The color catcher I put in the wash showed almost no bleeding, despite the dark colors.

There are other fabric printing options available in addition to Spoonflower. Check out this article by the Pixeladies for their review of three services.

 

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Artistic Endeavors – “Fray”

Occasionally I dip my toe into academic publications. My latest foray is “Fray: Art + Textile Politics,” which The New York Times chose as one of the ten best 2017 books about art. I saw the word textile in the title and put in a library request for it. I won’t review the book, which “explores textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval.” That’s too much academic talk for me, but it’s not surprising as the author, Julia Bryan-Wilson, is a Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley.

The publisher’s summary is at the end of this post, in case you want to find out more about the author’s thesis. You’re on your own if you choose to read the details of her arguments. With the exception of her discussion of Chile’s arpilleras, it was beyond me.

See the source image

Instead, I want to concentrate on some points the author makes about the acceptance of textiles in art and what kind of bridge exists between craft and contemporary art. The former issue exercises me on occasion, especially when I see almost no mention of fiber art in art related news media such as Art Daily.  In a year I’ve noted two such mentions – a Sheila Hicks exhibit and a piece by Robert Rauschenberg made of silk panels, though there’s been plenty of coverage for various installations and performance art.

So, why the blind eye to textiles? I want to quote from “Fray” and add my comments.

In recent decades, textiles have provided a unique challenge to these divisions [fine art, non-fine art] as more self-trained crafters are absorbed into the art market…the institutionalization of the Gee’s Bend quilts, which are now displayed in art museums alongside abstract painting and sculpture, is the most striking exception to the still generally intractable separation of objects not originally created for museums from the self-appointed realm of contemporary art (p. 6)

Bryan-Wilson talks about craftivism, which started in the early 2000’s as a leftist, antinationalist, or innovative handmaking movement to buy handmade items and boycott the mass produced products of big box stores.

…this is one of the most paradoxical aspects of craftivism – just as in [William] Morris’s day, when his fabrics became upholstery for the wealthy – which is to say that so much of the purported handmade revolution is really about individualized niche shopping, a way to guarantee the value and originality of a bespoke purchase. (p. 27)

Bryan-Wilson talks about the special relationship that handmaking has to ‘slow time’ as it “helps practitioners more fully inhabit, and decelerate, the present moment. ” (p. 261-262) I’ve seen many blog posts about slow stitching and I’m sure you have, too.

There’s a paradox in the business of selling time consuming “slow time” crafts on platforms such as Etsy. It’s hard to make a living wage given the time and material demands of such crafts. (p. 263) This thought echoes recent blog posts about Etsy’s way of doing business, which is now undergoing even more changes to raise its stock price.

Textiles are unique among art forms in that they move between high and low, between functional and artistic, but they

continue to be underrepresented within contemporary art history. These legions of hobby quilters, sewers, and weavers are in some measure responsible for the current academic and art-world interest in textiles, but … their actual work is often considered too mundane, uninteresting, generic … to itself cross the threshold of institutional visibility. (p. 33)

Bryan-Wilson talks about how different spheres of textiles – hobbyists, self-identified artists – are often in contact and inform each other.

…widespread interest in craft among everyday or amateur makers helps impel art – critical and art-institutional attention. Just as fine-art photography as a genre evolves under constant pressure exerted by the collective expertise of snapshot photographers, textiles as a field draws strength from a wide pool of self-trained makers who not only make up much of the audience for museum exhibits but also contribute to robust discourse around these techniques. (p. 273)

The surge of interest in crafts since the early 2000s has led to exhibits of some fiber artists like Sheila Hicks. While such shows might be a step in the right direction, many have tended to be highly formalist in nature, erasing the highly contentious…context in which many of these textile-based techniques first made their appearance within contemporary art. (p. 273)

I wish I could tell you Bryan-Wilson has some solutions in mind, but I found none in my admittedly hit and miss perusal of her book.

In closing I’ll suggest you read Barbara Brackman’s blog about quilts in an economic context. Her inaugural post talks about the romantic and nostalgic concepts about quilting planted by writers such as Ruby McKim, Nancy Cabot, Marie Webster, and Ruth Finley.

Brackman says: “Every one of those authors painted a false picture of the past by ignoring the economic and commercial aspects of women’s needlework at which she herself was succeeding admirably.” I’m looking forward to Barbara’s rants.

 

 

From the publisher:

In 1974, women in a feminist consciousness-raising group in Eugene, Oregon, formed a mock organization called the Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society. Emblazoning its logo onto t-shirts, the group wryly envisioned female collective textile making as a practice that could upend conventions, threaten state structures, and wreak political havoc. Elaborating on this example as a prehistory to the more recent phenomenon of “craftivism”—the politics and social practices associated with handmaking—Fray explores textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval.

Closely examining how amateurs and fine artists in the United States and Chile turned to sewing, braiding, knotting, and quilting amid the rise of global manufacturing, Julia Bryan-Wilson argues that textiles unravel the high/low divide and urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of textiles might be. Her case studies from the 1970s through the 1990s—including the improvised costumes of the theater troupe the Cockettes, the braided rag rugs of US artist Harmony Hammond, the thread-based sculptures of Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, the small hand-sewn tapestries depicting Pinochet’s torture, and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt—are often taken as evidence of the inherently progressive nature of handcrafted textiles. Fray, however, shows that such methods are recruited to often ambivalent ends, leaving textiles very much “in the fray” of debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities; the malleability of cloth and fiber means that textiles can be activated, or stretched, in many ideological directions.

The first contemporary art history book to discuss both fine art and amateur registers of handmaking at such an expansive scale, Fray unveils crucial insights into how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles—high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art.

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Filed under Books, Commentary

I Follow A Pattern

And why is that so earth shattering, you may ask? Because for 7, going on 8, years I have made my quilts up or altered the original source so thoroughly it was unrecognizable. However, when I came across Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Cascade quilt in her newest book, “Modern Quilt Magic,” I knew I’d have to follow the directions to have my version work.

Here’s her version.

I cut out the templates from plastic, hauled out my purple and its buddies scrap bin, traced the templates, and started cutting. There is lots of bias in each piece, so gentle handling is the key. As Victoria says, you need only pin in three places before sewing the units together. It also helps to match the registration marks piece to piece, and to mark them to begin with, of course.

When I got to the light fabrics area I had to break into stash, which of course generates more scraps, and explains why scrap bins never get emptied.

My version of Cascade, which I’m calling Church Windows per my husband’s comment, is smaller than Victoria’s. There is a limit to my purple fabrics. I don’t know if I’ll quilt this one myself or send it out. It’s quite bias-y though I’ve stay stitched all the edges.

“Modern Quilt Magic” focuses on partial and set in seams projects, and gives thorough explanations of the processes. You can see a video of some of the techniques here. I appreciated the line drawings of the quilts that you can try out colors on before cutting up your fabric.

I wonder what this pattern would look like in horizontal stripes or diagonal colors? I’d better break out my colored pencils.

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Artistic Endeavors – Color Generator

You may already know about color generator tools, or have a favorite one, but I found the Color Palette Generator for a hex color palette a fun way to pass a cold, snowy afternoon. What’s a hex color palette, you ask?

According to Dan’s Tools:

Digital color can be represented in a number of ways. The most common ways to represent color on the web are via a 6-digit HEX number, RGBA, and HSL (Support for HSL was added in CSS3).

  • Hex is a 6-digit, 24 bit, hexidecimal number that represents Red, Green, and Blue. An example of a Hex color representation is #123456, 12 is Red, 34 is Green, and 56 is Blue. There are 16 million possible colors.
  • RGBA is similar to Hex in that it has 24 bits for RGB color, bit there is an additional 8 bit value for transparency.
  • HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. The values are based on a position from the center of a color wheel. The value for Hue is from 0 to 360, representing the degrees on a color wheel. Saturation is the distance from the center of the color wheel. The L stands for Lightness, which represents the preceived liminance of the color.

So, in a nutshell, it’s a six digit number for a specific RGB color used with digital design. I gather it’s useful for working with PhotoShop. You can get a color map of about 1500 color chips from Spoonflower.

If you don’t care about all that, but want to identify the colors in a photo, paste in your photo on the Color Palette Generator and see what you get. Here’s one of my results. You could use the six digit number on each color chip to match colors for printing fabric.

 

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Filed under Commentary, Techniques

First Finishes of 2018

Frigid temperatures have discouraged me from gadding about, so I’ve been busy in my work room and have two finishes to show for it. You’ve seen them before in their unfinished states, but I trust they are now done, or done enough to suit me.

“Not Quite Nancy” is the last of my Nancy series. It took a lot of time to quilt as I decided to do crossed curving lines a half inch apart. Never again.

I decided I like it best with a horizontal orientation. It’s not my favorite of the series even though its boldness is in my wheelhouse.

Another series carryover from 2017 is “Bloodshot Bullseyes,” one of my three responses to an Ohio SAQA challenge. I created eight curved piecing quarter squares with scraps and sewed them to felt.

The ribbon on the sides has been lurking in my trims box for a few years, so I was delighted to put it to work. I also did a bit of beading in the bullseye centers. Beading is right up there with dainty embroidery in my most disliked embellishments list. That is, I dislike doing them. When other people do them well they’re lovely.

I have at least two more tops to quilt (more of the bullseye series) before I can really dig into new work. In the meantime I’ll be working to improve my photography skills or at least my equipment. I’m waiting on the lights now.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Modern Quilting

Artistic Endeavors – Soldier’s Joy

Since I’m on a mission this year to look for inspiration in art, I thought I’d share my finds with you. I can’t promise one every week, but I’ll try. First up is the recent “War and Pieced” exhibit that features quilts made of military fabrics by soldiers during wartime, principally the 19th century.  Military fabrics then were scraps of wool felt from uniforms.

War and Pieced installation at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square).

The use of wool felt allowed makers to butt pieces together without seam allowances. The felt pieces used are extremely small, some no more than one inch square.

Artist unidentified, Soldier’s Mosaic Stars Quilt (Found in Germantown, Pennsylvania, late 19th century), wool, 77 1/4 x 62 3/4 in (Collection International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

It seems hard to believe that soldiers had the time and inclination to take on such large projects, but I have to recall that 19th century warfare was different than today’s. The bright colors used for uniforms were to help soldiers identify the locations of their own troops, not to conceal like today’s camouflage outfits. The painting below seems to indicate that sewing helped some convalescing soldiers while away the time.

More photos are at the exhibit’s website. Hyperallergenic has some lovely large photos of select pieces as well.

Annette Gero, an Australian whose collection forms part of the exhibit, has published a 2015 book, “Wartime Quilts: Appliqués and Geometric Masterpieces From Military Fabrics,” which traces a history of war quilts. I don’t know who carries it in the U.S. Amazon certainly doesn’t.

While I’m thrilled that these quilts are in the spotlight, the 1970s feminist side of me thinks, wouldn’t you know it, the big ticket exhibit features quilts made by men.

The exhibit, which was at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, just closed, but you can catch it next at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Lincoln–Nebraska from May 25–September 16, 2018.

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

Sometimes I Give Away Scraps

Recently I had the novelty of giving away scraps of fabric rather than accumulating them. A local theater costume designer wanted to make a cotton patchwork dress for a character named Scraps in a play called “Talking With.” He asked me and another quilter for donations as he doesn’t use colorful cottons.  With them he created a full skirted dress and headpiece.

The mob cap is attached to Raggedy Ann yarn hair and a plastic mask covered with fabric. As you can see, the costume shop is jam packed with stuff. I was happy to donate some of my fabric as this designer has given me many scraps, mostly of sparkly, shiny fabric.

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