Collages Are Coming Together

I started work a few weeks ago on the 6 window-shapes that will be a big design element in my latest project, an art quilt about the January 8 shooting. You can see the beginning of the collage here. Once I created shapes that large enough to be trimmed down to 8″x8″ squares (the ultimate size of the inside of the window), I laid them out on a board covered with a towels and pinned silk organza over them and then used a silk screen to squeegee on acrylic gel medium.

Here they are after the gel medium was applied:

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking at this point; I wonder how much of the image from the paper underneath actually transferred to the silk.

And of course, you have to rush to rinse off your tools IMMEDIATELY because acrylic gel medium hardens like a rock in minutes and then you can’t get it off:

That’s what some of the advanced plumbing in my “outdoor studio” looks like!

Here are two of the six 8″ by 8″ squares, ready at some point to find their home in my ever-evolving project on this topic:

It is a bit depressing to think about.

I’m really hoping this turns out as well as I think it can.

A Quilt Making Evening

Isn’t this amazing? Last night the ladies in the quilt group I attend–the Sharp Women–met at my house; this is just a partial view of Becky’s Double Wedding Ring quilt top, complete with amazing piecing AND very impressive needle turn applique on the border (the flowers and vines, which you can’t see too well here). Becky is hiding behind the quilt top, above…. but she is helping to hold it up. It already look like a complete work of art and it’s not even finished yet!

We alternate meeting at different homes. My house is the smallest, and the last time everyone was over we hung out in the back yard, during the day, to dye fabric.  But I recently upgraded my dining room table, so I can fit more folks around it: here are (starting on the left): Linda, Diana, Becky, Manya and Kenci:

I did make a pretty good chocolate bundt cake, which is barely visible on the table, probably because it’s almost gone.

Not everyone fit in the photo (again, my house is small); here are Judy and Katie:

It’s always fun to meet up and see what everyone is working on, share tips and even knit! Yes, even knitters are tolerated and encouraged. Phew! Because I’m not quite done with my sock yet!

Arizona Historical Society Centennial Quilt Exhibit

Arizona’s Centennial was February 14th of this year, and the Arizona Historical Society is celebrating with a fantastic installation; “100 Quilts–100 Years” as part of the Arizona Centennial Quilt Project.

Andrea Stanfield’s quilt, above, is called “Arizona’s Flag 2012” and is made of 2000 postage-stamp sized squares of fabric: it’s a great example of smart use of color, and is really stunning. I would’ve gotten a better photo but the museum was packed with people yesterday for the opening of the show.

Below is my piece which I made in 2006.  After Libby Lehman saw it and observed that my piece appeared “ambitious”, I spent almost the entire following year removing the quilting stitches, and then I straightened it to the best of my ability and re-quilted it: I learned a painful lesson with this piece, and that is to NEVER combine raw silk, charmeuse silk, cotton and canvas in a quilt unless I am convinced I can densely machine quilt it to lay straight. Because silk loves to do nothing more than to drape… and while it’s usually an elegant drape, it’s still wavy:

The installation at the Arizona Historical Society Museum is very professional; clearly, they have experts in museum collections curating their shows. I really appreciate the thoughtful time and effort to make this show look fabulous.

Below is a group quilt made by the ladies in my art quilting group, known as the Sharp Women. I am very new to the group, having joined just a year ago; this is a row quilt they made several years ago. It looks fantastic:

Every quilt gets a placard next to it with the title, name of the quilter and a statement; sadly, you can’t read the text for the Sharp Women’s group quilt here, but at least you get the idea:

I encourage everyone to check museum hours for the Arizona Historical Society and view the show; there’s a great book of the exhibit which you can purchase as well! And there’s free parking.

Bread Baking and Paper Shredding

I started working on the collage fabric I’m making for my new quilt project about the January 8 shootings; above are ripped up photocopies of photographs I took of the memorials to the victims.

In between bouts of paper ripping I made a batch of bread with the stand-mixer I recently found on Craigslist for a steal.

I used this recipe I got from my mom:

place 1 cup whole oats and 1 cup polenta in a bowl, pour in hot water until grains just covered, allow to stand, then:

2Tbsp fresh yeast and a bit of sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water; allow to stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes or until nice and bubbly, then add:

oat/corn mix, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup good quality olive or safflower oil, 1Tbsp lecithin dissolved in a small amount of water, mix:

then, slowly add 4 cups organic whole wheat flower, mixing with a dough-hook. Add up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed until dough in mixer is nice and smooth to the touch, not sticky, but still moist. I’d say 7 minutes for sure in the mixer once the flour is added. Then place dough in a large greased bowl, brush top of dough with oil, cover with a cloth and let raise in a warm place for an hour or until double. Punch down, divide, knead each piece a minute and shape into loaves and place in loaf pans, brush with oil, let raise for 45 minutes or until loaf-sized, almost, then bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This is what my bread looks like:

I was surprised how good it turned out. Very yummy.

Screen Printing Revisited

Finally, back to an art quilt project. I have this idea of a piece about the January 8th Shooting in Tucson.

I made print paste mix yesterday to get ready for screen printing, as it’s best for the mix to sit 24 hours before use; it’s just sodium alginate, water and some urea. I’ve read several recipes that call for 8 Tablespoons of sodium alginate per gallon of water (a whole gallon is made because it stores well in the fridge); however, this is what the paste looks like with those proportions:

Yep. Very runny for a paste that you’re supposed to actually drag across a silk screen. So I added sodium alginate, increasing my total number of Tablespoons to 11:

And while it thickened some more after this effort….it was still too thin. I’m going to add 14 Tablespoons next time and see if I actually get a paste.

I then cut out some stencils of human shadows; I had this idea of creating fabric of the silhouettes of a man, woman and child to represent the different people hurt and killed at the shooting:

I settled on the shapes of a girl and a man; although it’s not my intention, I think this creates a more sinister feeling, and ultimately this may be very good for the piece, given the subject matter.

Here are the freezer paper cut-outs ironed on to the back of a silk screen:

Here’s my “outdoor studio”: plywood on top of sawhorses makes for my work space, and the patio table is my work area. Check out the wildflowers in the background!

Here’s one run:

Unfortunately, the freezer paper stencils didn’t stay ironed-on to the silk screen; they remained in place for the first run, then started remaining stuck on the fabric midway through the second run due to the wet conditions and the thin print paste mix. I just carefully unpeeled the stencils and stuck them back on the fabric. Here’s what the fabric looked like, wet, after 4 runs. I seem to remember from past practice that the fabric really can only absorb the dye from 2 runs, possibly 3 but not much.

I should make it clear that I have poor screen printing technique, and that I do all kinds of short-cuts and chaotic things while I print:

Here’s the finished fabric; it’s pale (I used very old dye to see if it still worked, I used Procion MX cold water dyes I’d mixed 4 months ago and left in the fridge, just to see how they’d perform:

I think the shadow idea worked well; the shapes are distinct. I like the colors, too, but I think I’ll mix fresher dye next time:

Sonoran Desert Wildflowers 2012

It’s another great year for wildflowers in the Tucson area; we had 3 inches of rain in November/December last year, followed by one of the warmest Januaries ever: the flowers are at least 4 weeks early and they are all over the place.

Today I took the day off from work, and my mom and I hiked along a trail west of Tucson, the King Trail, which starts directly across from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and goes to the top of Wasson Peak; we didn’t go all the way to the top, just did a 5 mile loop. Here’s a great shot of my mom:

There are giant pockets of poppies and lupines all along the trail:

I couldn’t believe how bright red-orange this Globemallow plant was; usually, the Globemallow I see in the city is a dull orange: this is crazy bright, with purple lupines in the background:

More poppies, looking down from the trail as we head back towards the car; you can see the trail we hiked in on here if you look to the top of the photo:

Here I am taking a short break and simply enjoying all the flowers:

This is either a wild onion or wild garlic; I’ve never seen this in the desert before, just cultivated:

This is another flower from the mallow family; it was the first one we saw on the trall–a small planet with a single flower– but a few hundred feet up we saw small bushes with the same flowers:

I’m sorry to say I forget the name of this flower. I think I’ve photographed this before and possibly it’s in a prior blog entry, my mom’s hand is there for scale:

All in all, just a fantastic trip; one thing great about Tucson is how easy it is to get out and in nature super fast. The trail is just half an hour from my house.

Cheese Danish Primer

Probably my favorite food period is a well-made cheese danish. These are hard to find, though, because almost no one makes danish/croissant dough from scratch any more.

In my quest to develop proficiency in making a good danish dough, I went to Sonoita today where my mom graciously shared her danish making skills with me. She made a sweet dough earlier that morning; a sweet dough is simply a simple bread dough with butter and eggs that is NOT kneaded. This is a 3# sweet dough recipe that will make 28 cheese danish, or 28 croissant:

5 Cups flour, 1 cup scalded milk (cooled), 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup melted butter (cooled), 1/2 cupt sugar or honey, 3 ggs, 1 teaspoon salt (I think 2 teaspoons of salt is better, but, this is my mom’s recipe).

Place melted butter and cooled milk in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour, 2 Tablespoons fresh yeast and 1/2 cup warm water; let rest for 20 minutes in a warm place. Then add sugar, eggs, salt and stir till smooth. Add all the flour and work into a smooth dough. Do not knead. Refrigerate overnight, though just for a few hours will be OK in a pinch.

Take half the dough and roll out into a 2 foot wide, 1 foot high rectangle (the shape below is not a very good rectangle, it’s an oval, but you get the idea); then take ONE stick butter and a cheese knife and slice the butter over one half of the rolled out dough:

Fold the dough in half over the butter to make a smaller rectangle, then fold the new smaller rectangle in three:

Roll out this new small rectangle into another 1 foot by 2 foot rectangle…

…then fold it the same way and roll out again:

Then cut the dough so that you have 4 rows five inches wide, then cut 5 inch squares from these rows.

In a separate bowl mix cheese filling: 1# cream cheese, half a cup flour, 1 Tablespoon vanilla. Place 2 Tablespoons of filling in the center of each danish square. Brush all four corners of danish square with egg wash, then bring 2 opposite corners to the center and FIRMLY press down to seal. Do the same with the 2 remaining opposite corners to create a danish:

I made scrappy little croissants out of the leftover pieces of dough:

Set danish on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let raise, covered, in a warm place about 40 minutes:

After raising they should look bigger, and if you look closely you might see the dough bubbling a bit:

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Here are our danish!

Yum.