Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Design Challenge, Week 1 Results

Week 1 challenge was to design a quilt representing the first sound I heard when I woke up that morning and, for me, that was a train whistle.  Remember, the challenge was to try to capture something about the sound, not the object making the sound.

First step was my sketchbook, which normally resides on my bedside table so when I'm unable to sleep I can think about design ideas and sketch them without getting out of bed.  (Admittedly, some of the designs, when I look at them the next morning, look as if I were having a nightmare when I sketched them!)

When I think of sound I think of a wave, or perhaps the Doppler Effect.  It might be sin wave-like, but after years of doing podcasts with Audacity I'm accustomed to those visualizations of sound patterns.  They seemed a little spiky for the lonely, mournful train whistle in the distance so I decided to represent them with narrow bars.  It did not escape my notice that they would also be vastly easier to piece, should I actually make a quilt.  (The physics of it all is not even close to correct, I'm sure.  Sorry, Mike!)   Here are the preliminary sketches in my sketchbook.

 I like one or two better than others, and those I decided to play with in Word.  Yep, Word.  I have Illustrator and I use it for some of my pattern diagrams, and I have Electric Quilt which I use for some types of designs, but since I compose my patterns primarily in Word I have become fairly proficient in using it for diagrams and "sketches" such as these.

Here's the first try at a design.  I like it, especially the ebb and flow of the "sound" and the introduction of a second whistle as the sound of the first is fading.  I played around with wider bars but I like these narrower ones better.   I also like the choice of doing bars because they are a hint of railroad tracks, which relates back to the source of the sound.

I wanted to try some other options, re-arranging and re-spacing the bars.  I liked them closer together, rather than spaced far apart but what if they were grouped, with each group starting on a new whistle?

Not horrible but still not what I was looking for.   So, what would it would be like if they were close together at the beginning of the whistle--stronger, louder--and then further apart as the sound faded?  I tried it first in groups, with each new whistle starting close together.

It was OK and with some more rearranging it might have been better,  but I still liked the first design better.  Then I tried it with increasing the spacing from the beginning to the end.  I was running out of room, even after increasing the width of the design and it wasn't my favorite, so I didn't finish with the spacing.  This was enough to tell me that I didn't like it as well as any of the previous designs.

The other option was some fading on the color or shading of the bars.  I briefly visited the idea of color in the bars,  maybe a rainbow effect, but since I heard the train in the pre-dawn hour it seemed more appropriate to stay with black and gray tones.    So, I shaded from black to lighter grays, again starting back at black when a new whistle blew.

In the end, that is the one I like most.  (And who knows?  I might actually make it one day!)  What do YOU think? Which do you like most?

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Quilting Design Challenge

Monday is Design Day at the Spinster and, having finished my self-challenge to design 10 quilts using 10" squares, I'm ready for a new design challenge. (If you'd like to see the 10 quilts, visit my Warped Spinster website, particularly the Patterns page.  There are two more waiting to be quilted, so there will be 12, in the end. )  Those designs were primarily for patterns to make available commercially, those in this new challenge may well be just designs for my own fun, in the end--they may or may not result in actual quilts, and they may or may not end up being patterns.  The design is the purpose in itself, to get the juices flowing!

I've been thinking about doing this particular challenge for awhile now, and it's time to get it started.  I invite you to visit each week to see what my weekly challenge is, join me in creating designs, if you wish, or just watch what happens.  If nothing else, it could give you a laugh or two.  And we could all use some more laughter in our lives, right?  

If you're doing some designing with me in the coming weeks, please share what you're doing.  And if you have an idea for a weekly challenge, please let me know--I'm always looking for ideas.

These challenges will be based on things that pop into my head, and I expect some of them to be more of a challenge than others!  The end designs may end up being quite different from the first sketch or idea.  The original challenge topic isn't really important, it's a prompt to get the creative part of the brain working--if the final design has evolved into something that bears little or no resemblance to the original idea.  That's OK.  (It's a good "out," isn't it?)  I'll try to trace the evolution of the designs I do.  You may be interested in that (and please share YOUR processes, too), but I'm doing it as a sort of design journaling exercise for myself.

Week 1
What was the first thing you heard when you woke up this morning?  (If you're joining me in the challenge, you may need to wait until tomorrow morning, unless you remember from this morning.)  The quilt should represent the sound in some way, not the object making the sound.

I woke up to the sound of a train whistle in the distance, and I have an idea or two in my head.  They have evolved a bit already this morning.  Check back in the next day or two (or Follow the blog, under "About Me" on the right-hand sidebar-- to receive an e-mail when there's a new post ) for some sketches and design layouts.

I hope you'll join me for the challenge, as a fellow traveler in design, or as a spectator or commentator.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lace Adventure

Some time ago I started to learn bobbin lacemaking, mostly to make lace for crazy quilts.  And, of course, because I'm always looking for new fiber-related arts/crafts to get my fingers learning something new.   I purchased a beginner's kit, made a couple of bookmarks--a standard beginner's project, it seems--and then put it away.  It was fun, the clicking of the wooden bobbins was surprisingly meditative, and I love good bobbin lace.  (Perhaps one of the reasons I put it away is that I have trouble being a beginner, beyond learning the basics.  I want to learn something, and be an expert as soon as I learn the basics.  I like learning something new, but I'm not so happy with those 10,000 hours of practice that expertise requires.  It's a lifelong recipe for frustration!)

My interest was renewed on a recent trip, a river cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium.   The experience was the paramount purpose of the trip, but for "souvenirs" all I wanted to find and buy on the trip were a small piece of real Delft blue ware and a small piece of antique Belgian lace.  (Well, there was the chocolate, of course; never fear that I took care of that!  Chocolate isn't a souvenir, it's life.)

Our first stop in Belgium was in Antwerp, and I fell in love with the city immediately.  On the square I found a shop with modern handmade lace, and I picked up a few pieces.  You have to be careful that you're buying handmade, rather than machine-made, lace.  Modern handmade pieces are affordable, while still being beautiful.

Our next stop in Belgium was Brugges, a beautiful medieval city with, as one of our guides said, every other shop a chocolate shop with a lace shop in between.  (This is the only non-lace related photo, I promise; no interminable travel slide show here!)

The "egg" of Brugges--the medieval city center--sees many tourists and counts lace as one of its attractions.  They even have a map made from lace along a canal.

I saw similar pieces of modern lace in most of the shops, so they are likely buying from the same workshop--but they're still  lovely and I bought a few more pieces.  (The workshop is in Belgium, and Belgium does have a minimum wage so, while they may not be making what they're worth, the lace makers are not in a 5-cent- a- week sweatshop situation.)

But I was looking for a piece of antique lace.  A very small piece.  Because antique lace is pricey.  (If only those poor women could have gotten today's prices, or even anything CLOSE to that amount, as they worked themselves into blindness for very little pay.)

Eventually I found a lace shop with small pieces of antique lace, and I fell in love.  A very small piece was as much as I could afford and there were several framed pieces that made the decision difficult but my eye had been immediately drawn to a small, exquisite piece of needlepoint lace. (It looks as if it was cut from a larger/longer piece--I can only hope that the larger pieces was not sacrificed solely for the purpose of selling smaller pieces.)   It came home with me, and I'm still deciding where it's going to live in my house.  Perhaps it will move around.

On our way back to the bus to the ship we walked along a cobblestone street with houses where lace makers would come from the rural areas to sell their lace--you can see carvings of lace makers' heads above the doors.

Now I am itching to do some bobbin lace making again, so I went in search of my pillow and bobbins.  It was a 2-day effort.  I don't have a large house but my craft closets can be a bit daunting.  Yesterday I gathered my courage and dug into the downstairs closet, with success!  I'm back to the beginning with learning and it will be a LONG time before I do any finer lace (assuming I'm willing to practice) but the bobbins and the process are fun and relaxing.

I bought four antique Belgian bobbins in Brugges because I love the shape and it seemed appropriate for a purchase in Belgium.  As a practical matter, though, they roll a lot and I have ordered some East Midlands-style bobbins, which are more pencil-like in shape.  I will "spangle" them with rings of beads at one end, both to add a bit of weight and to keep them from rolling.   They're also very pretty and more enjoyable to use.    You can also buy them painted and pre-spangled, made from wood, bone, ebony or glass.  There are memorial bobbins--bobbin commemorating Prince George's birth or Prince Philip's 90th birthday, anyone?   They are beautiful but expensive; good for gift lists, or gradual collecting, I suppose.   A search on Pinterest yields many examples of lace makers (much, much better than I will likely every be in my lifetime) using many bobbins for a project, and some have a collection of these special little bobbins.

I'll write more about my lace making adventures, though it may be a little while before I have anything worth writing about.  I'm still aiming for that crazy quilting lace!  (I am including an Irish crochet rose motif in a class sample crazy quilt; that's something, right??)