The Heat is the Excuse

It’s just so hot here right now. Working out in the yard becomes more of an ordeal than anything fun. It’s been so hot it’s hard to focus on art. I did some of the tidy-up yard chores today, the ones I do before the rain starts….and optimistically, our summer rainy season should be here in a week or two.

First, trim the out of control mesquite behind my cistern. I put a plywood board and a tarp over the top, so no branches would fall inside.

My mom loaned me this cool tool, it’s a telescoping saw/clipper you can use to trim tree branches high up:

I checked my tomatoes, usually something I do twice a day since I’ve put netting up, just in case a lizard gets stuck. To my surprise, the top branches of my tomato plant was stripped! I was surprised, and looked a bit closer and found….

Yuck. Tomato hornworms. So I guess I have finally had success at growing tomatoes if the worms are here. I’d totally forgotten about this threat. I’m sorry to say the worms are no longer with us. I have a natural insect spray with pyrethrin so I’ll try that tomorrow.

Even with the heat, I have some color in the yard, thanks to lots of cedar and rock mulch and a slightly higher water bill; here there’s creeping verbena, Greg’s mist flower, a native grass of the Catalina Mountains, some hollyhocks (though dwarf versions, it’s so hot), a yellowbells that’s not’s blooming yet.

It’s optimistic to see even a tiny bit of green this time of year!

Latest Sock Master Plan

It’s been six months since my socks class. I’ve been slowly gaining a better appreciation of sock construction and reading my knitting. I’m not really that happy with my almost-finished pink sock. I’ve started 2 other socks (you can see my progress above) and when they’re long enough, I’m going back to my LYS (local yarn shop, for those of you who don’t read knitting blogs) for some remedial tutelage on the heel flap.  My LYS is Kiwi Knitting, a very friendly shop that supports beginners. The very helpful staff can talk  panicked, anxious knitters off the ledge and get them back to their projects in no time.  I recently paid $60 for a year long membership to their Kiwi Klub so I can attend Monday Knit Nights to help me be a better knitter.

Because of course I have nothing but an abundance of free time to fill with knitting.

As for my sock plan, I hope to knit the heel flap on one of the unfinished socks while at Kiwi Knitting, so I can get the instructions again in person.  This I want to do by the end of the month. Then I plan to go home and immediately knit the heel flap on the other sock. This way I may better remember how to do it, because it’s the only tricky part.  And then ultimately I’ll have to knit matching socks. Maybe by the end of the year I will have gotten the hang of basic sock knitting: that is a modest and possibly achievable goal.

Taking Shape….

This is a very vague mock up of some of the fabric I’ve put together for my new piece:

I really like the fabric on the bottom, here’s a close-up: I’m tired of cutting out contact paper shapes, that’s for sure.

I experimented a bit with pleating some yardage and dyeing just one side, to get some vertical shapes: here’s the pleated fabric and the tub of water for the partial dye-bath:

And here’s the fabric actually in the dye bath:

This is a nice technique to use to get vertical stripes, and it’s something I learned from a book by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan. I had to do this four different times with four different colors to get the vertical striped fabric you see in first photo above.

Soon I’ll be able to sew all the fabric together for the quilt top. Very exciting!

44th Anniverary of the RFK Assassination

Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of RFK’s assassination. Very sad to think about that, and how things would be different now if he had lived. His words are going to be a powerful part of my January 8th piece I’m working on now.

This is how my latest paper lamination turned out, I think it has real potential. I mad a collage of photocopies of photos I took of the RFK grave site at Arlington National Cemetery and laminated them on top of some saguaro fabric I screen printed last year with a thermofax screen.  I burned some of the photocopies. Here’s a close-up:

I feel less enthusiastic about the mountain fabric, here it is layered on top of more mountain fabric:

I’m slowly getting all the fabric together…soon this piece will start coming together because I have the finished work in mind. More screen-printing ahead this weekend!

Latest Fabric Designs

I don’t mind the trial-and-error involved in art making; I just prefer the trial part, it always seems more open ended at least. The error part stinks!

Last weekend I made some fabric that didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. Drat!

I had this idea to make fabric with a large mountain motif. Here in Tucson, the Catalina Mountains are a familiar sight, so I drew a large shape of the mountains and then traced it onto contact paper (what you’d use for kitchen shelving) using my “light table” a.k.a patio door:

Here is a rather dim view of what the contact paper shapes (white) look on white fabric out on my patio on a hot day when the glare from the sun, even on my patio, made everything seem very white:

Here are the same shapes with dye screen-printed on top. Warm weather is very good for dyeing. The 4% ambient humidity might frighten some folks who dye, but I find that by adding enough urea to my dye solutions, that seems to be just enough of a wetting agent. As I’ve said before, I don’t batch my dyed fabric. It’s usually sun-dried and tossed in the washer within hours of being dyed.

I usually have better luck, but the above fabric didn’t turn out very well. I was planning on getting a fabric that I’d screen-print again, but what I got isn’t worth it. Sigh.

Though before learning the outcome (before it went in the wash) I made some foccacia, following a recipe in The Olives Table cookbook which I just got as a gift from my Aunt Mary. I find making some yummy food in the middle of a day of art making feels very luxurious. The focaccia recipe in that book is fantastic, here are how mine looked, slathered w/olive oil and peccorino romano and about 5 minutes from being done:

Anyway, a whole work week went by and today I picked up from where I left off, this time trying a different spin on the whole mountain theme. Here we have a panorama view of the Catalina mountains, made from color photographs photocopied and then taped together. I burned the edges of the bottom one and will do the same for the top one, as I like the effect:

Here they are on top of some previous screen printed fabric, also of the Catalina mountains. My plan is to laminate these photocopies onto silk organza, and then to layer the silk over the original fabric:

This is the roughly 20″x30″ piece of organza, pinned down on foam core with one of those contact-paper mountain shapes stuck on top. Not giving up on that idea! This fabric was screen printed this afternoon but not washed. Since it’s a sheer, and since the yardage is smaller, I’m hoping for a better outcome since the effect is supposed to be subtle. We’ll see tomorrow!