Archive for February, 2012

Sale in the Shop: All Patterns, Kits, and Marcia Derse Fabrics

February 29, 2012

March Madness is equated with basketball for many, but it also seems like a good name for a sale, so beginning March 1st and running through March 14th, all patterns, kits, and Marcia Derse fabrics will be on sale for 15% off in the shop. Just enter MARCHMADNESS at checkout.

All Shop Items 15% off During March Madness Sale

Happy sewing!

An Interview with Textile Artist and Author Joy Troyer

February 19, 2012

I first came to know Joy Troyer through her parents and her wonderful book, The Everything Seed, written by Carole Martignacco and illustrated with Joy’s beautiful batiks. In the last few years she has authored/illustrated several books, released prints of her batiks, collaborated with others to produce finished goods incorporating images of her batiks, and most recently, begun quilting. In this interview she talks about her artistic life and her inspiring work …

Fall Tree - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

Yvonne:  What is your studio space like?

Joy Troyer: When I lived in Minnesota, I had a full basement in which I did batik. You need “dirty space” to work with melted wax and messy dyes. I had lots of space and it was kind of my art cave. I played my music and thought of my work as meditation. Then I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I moved from a three-bedroom house with a basement to a one-bedroom apartment with no basement. It was too difficult to find space to do the batik. So, I started doing fabric collage and the occasional dye painting. I worked on the kitchen table and ate in the living room. Now I live with my husband in a two-bedroom apartment. He likes to have me around, so I work on a 6 foot table in the living room so we can talk or watch TV while I’m working. In the spare bedroom/den I have my bins of fabric and the computer. Since the sewing machine is usually out and a project in process, it means our living room is seldom “tidy,” but it works for us.

YM: When you are creating, how do you prepare your space?

Joy: When I start a project, I first pick out the fabrics I’m going to use, which can take up the whole den or living room floor. Then I put away all the pieces I’m not going to use and iron the ones I picked and try to start in a fairly neat space. Once I get started, though, I don’t like to have to put everything away, so it can be a little messy. One factor is that I have a cat. Kali likes to sit on my in-process pieces. If I leave cut pieces laid out, but not tacked down, they are spread all over the place when I get up the next morning. So, I usually gather the un-attached pieces and put them under a piece of cardboard. Kali comes and sits on the cardboard but doesn’t mess up the designs I’m working on.

Kali - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

I should mention that I believe cats indicate they like something by sitting on it. So, I find it quite encouraging that she sits on my artwork! She obviously loves my work.

YM: Do you work in your various creative mediums simultaneously or do you tend to concentrate on just one for several days, weeks at a time?

Joy: When I was doing batik, I would work on several pieces at a time in order to save time and dye by dyeing several pieces at once. With fabric collage and quilting projects, I tend to do one project at a time. I really like to see things get finished. Once I start, I tend to forge forward until it is done. Then I take a break and perhaps do some writing, take a class, do some framing, or do a small project before taking on another big project. The biggest project I did was an 8 ft. x 3 ft. piece for a local church (see “Community” below). It took me several months to complete since I do my artwork in my spare time. This one was hard to work on in my space because I had no where to hang it. I had to go to my upstairs neighbor and have her hang it over the balcony to see if it was proportional and hanging right.

Community - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

YM: What is your favorite part of the making process? 

Joy: I really love the designing part. I’m not one to follow pattens and I like coming up with cool ideas and figuring out how to start. With batik, I make several sketches and then decide which dyes to use in which order and make a chart. (I was a math major in college and I just love puzzles and charts!) The painting with wax and the dyeing part was actually kind of mediative, but not my favorite parts. Since you can’t “see” what you are painting with batik (painting with clear wax and then putting it all into a dye bath), you have to just let go and flow with the process. But I loved taking things out of the dye to see how the colors had taken and mixed and where the cracks were. And I loved getting pieces back from the dry cleaners (who take the wax out) at the end. That was really the first time I saw how the finished piece looked.

With fabric collage, I also like the design part. I belong to a quilters’ guild and they sent out a survey last year asking people why they quilt. One of the answers you could select was “It’s a good excuse to buy fabric.” I think that’s one of my favorite things about a new project – going to my favorite fabric store (New Pieces in Berkeley) and picking out just the right fabrics (colors, designs, etc.) for the project. I can spend hours laying out the fabrics side by side to make sure they will go together well. And I always leave feeling exhilarated and eager to start the project.

I also like cutting pieces and making them all go together. The meditative part for me comes when I sew everything together. With fabric collage, I make the “picture” with pieces of fabric (sometimes I iron them down with Heat Bond and sometimes I put them under netting or Solvy) and then free-motion quilt over the top of the pieces. That quilting process is meditative for me. I am not an exact person. My designs are nature-oriented. So, I follow the curvy lines of water or trees with my sewing machine, making loops and designs while trying to make sure everything is adequately tacked down. The only part I really dislike is finishing the edges and putting on hanging sleeves. Now things have to hang straight or fit into a frame. Not my cup of tea.

YM: Can you share with us what you are working on right now?

Joy: Last summer I took a class called “If You Can Draw It, You Can Piece It.” I thought I “should” learn to piece instead of just doing fabric collage. The instructor helped me simplify my drawing and then create a piecing pattern. I love my design and picked out fabulous fabric. But I discovered that piecing is not really my thing. I think my piece turned out really beautiful, but it was a struggle all the way. I tore out lots of seams and ended up revising my pattern several times. At one point I was so frustrated that I put it away for a couple months. When I got it back out, I decided it didn’t have to be perfect and I just finished it (7 months later). I’m not sure if I will do that kind of piecing again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Pieced Tree - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

I think my next project will be to re-purpose some of my old batiks. I have several batik pieces that never sold. They were nice pieces, but had some design flaw (e.g., too much of one color). So, I have now started cutting up and putting them into fabric collage pieces. Here is one I did … before

Orange Sun - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

and after:

Orange Splash - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

This one (Suns Hanging pictured below) was three pieces that got merged into a single quilt wall hanging.  I have ideas for a couple others to work on next.

Suns Hanging - Photo Courtesy of Joy Troyer

YM: How did you learn to batik?

Joy: I accompanied a friend to a “Wellness Retreat” after her mother died. They offered classes, but they also had an Art Barn where a woman was on hand to help people who wanted to create. She had wax and dye and a tiny bit of knowledge about batik. I made two very small (and pretty ugly) pieces that weekend. But I’d always wanted to learn to do batik. So, I went home and searched for classes. Unfortunately, melting wax requires special ventilation. Dye is messy and requires large sinks. Most art classrooms don’t have either the ventilation or large sinks. So, no one offered classes. I went to the local art store and bought a book that was easy to follow and set up in my basement. Some of my very early pieces are also favorites like Fall Tree. [Please see the photo at the top of this post.]

Several years after I first started, I took a class from Betsy Sterling on wax resist/dye painting (roketsu zome) that honed my waxing skills a lot. Morning Sun below is a piece I did in that class.

Morning Sun - Photo courtesy of Joy Troyer

I took a community education class on color theory and did all the exercises with dye instead of paint. That was really a help in figuring out dyes to use. So, it was a combination of self-taught and classes.

YM: I love the American Craft Magazine series “Why I Make,” so why do you make?

Joy: I think it is really fun to start with next to nothing and end up with something beautiful. It makes my heart beat faster and gives me energy. I tend to dress in very neutral tones, but I do art with very bright colors. So, I get to buy fabric that I would never wear! And I do like it when someone tells me how much they like my artwork. I don’t have children, and I imagine my creations are my babies; sending a little bit of me out into the world. I think of my artwork as my contribution to making the world a little bit more beautiful.

YM: What is your favorite quote?

Joy: Gosh, there are lots of good ones. But one of my favorites is from Star Trek, the Next Generation. “Q,” the omniscient irritating character who puts Captain Picard on trial for crimes against humanity, says this at the very end of the series: “The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did. For that fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.” Very inspiring!

YM: What is your favorite art/craft book?

Joy: The one I’m looking at currently. So, today it is Ruth McDowell’s “Piecing: Expanding the Basics” because it is has so many cool designs and color ideas in it.

YM: What music do you like to listen to?

Joy: I love the music I listened to in college (Beatles, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Three Dog Night), but I also like some current artists (Adele and Lady Gaga), some crossover country (Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood), some folky types (Cheryl Wheeler and Peter Mayer) and Bonnie Raitt and Aimee Mann and the soundtrack to Mama Mia. I like music I can move to and sing-along with.  I don’t usually listen to classical music, but once in a while I put on the music from my husband’s Orthodox church choir which is wonderful. I guess I’m all over the place.

YM: What are your favorite art supply and fabric stores in the San Francisco area?

Joy: I love New Pieces fabric store in Berkeley. They carry only quilting fabric, but it is all amazing! Their staff are all incredibly helpful and patient. They teach great classes at reasonable prices. It is a pick-me-up just to go in there.

YM: What do you do to get inspired?

Joy: Having coffee or lunch with a friend is the best. They want to know what I’m working on or they tell me what they are working on (art or writing) or they share a website they like. And I go away with new ideas. The East Bay Heritage Quilters (EBHQ) group has wonderful speakers that also inspire me. And I love to go bicycling in Marin with my husband, Michael. The beauty around me always makes me want to try to capture the images or colors in fabric. I curate a rotating volunteer art exhibit at a nearby hospital. We have about 30 artists who participate and their work inspires me as well.

YM: Is there another art form you would like to explore next?

Joy: I just heard Laura Fogg speak at the EBHQ meeting in January. She has taken fabric collage to a new level that really inspired me. So, I’m looking forward to exploring her techniques.

I have to admit that I’ve always been intrigued by sculpture, not chiseling stone, but creating 3-dimensional pieces from a variety of materials. But while I’m still in a small apartment, I think I’ll stick with the fabric collage. Besides, I still have a lot of fabric to use up!

Joy and Michael - Photo courtesy of Joy Troyer

To see more of Joy’s stunning work, visit her website.

A Spring Scarf with “Dancing Flowers” Fabric from M and S Textiles Australia

February 13, 2012

With spring perpetually around the corner this winter, I sat down to make a cotton scarf to go with one of my favorite cardigans, a sea green one from the Land’s End Canvas line. The fabric, “Dancing Flowers,” designed by June Smith for M&S Textiles Australia is absolutely delightful and is all about spring. I bought the green colorway but it comes in a pink, too.

I was feeling particularly frugal the day I bought this fabric and so only purchased 1/2 yard. Rather than making the 22″ square scarf I initially envisioned, I made a rectangular scarf measuring 39-1/2″ x 10-1/2″ when finished.  Here are the steps:

1. Cut fabric to the dimension you want. Look at a favorite scarf to help you decide how long/wide you want it; also think about what you are going to wear it with and how you like to tie scarves. I cut the fabric selvage to selvage and 11″ wide, allowing for a 1/4″ hem all around. I would have liked it a bit longer, but since I was working with a limited amount of fabric … sigh.

2. Stay-stitch 1/4″ in all around the edge of the scarf. (Note: Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the detail more clearly.)

3. Starting with the long edges, fold the raw edge to the wrong side of the fabric all around using a generous 1/4″ fold; as you do this steam press the edge in place (watch that hot steam on the fingers!).

4. Make a rolled hem by rolling the raw edge under the fold to the inside and using a blind stitch to tack it down; roll and stitch as you go beginning with the two long edges of the scarf and ending with the two short ends. When finished, your hem will measure a generous 1/8″, all raw edges will be concealed, and the stay stitching will not show when the scarf is flipped to the right side. Suggestion:  Start at one end, not in the middle as shown below.

5.  Wear it!

Looking for scarf tying inspiration? Check out this Liberty of London You Tube Video, just one of many scarf tying videos.

If you love the “Dancing Flowers” fabric but can’t find it in your locale, Pieceful Heart Fabrics in Lisle, Illinois still had a few yards left in the store the other day. When I did a quick search of other fabric places that carry the M&S line here in the U.S., some online retailers that popped up were: CantonVillage Quilt Works in Canton, CT;  FiberWorks in Billings, Montana; and Heart Song Quilts in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Now better focus on the holiday at hand and make cards and cookies (the traditional Jackson Pollock inspired sugar cookies) for my daughter’s school party.

Playing with Duct Tape

February 4, 2012

I’ve not been playing with fabric very much this past week due to a rotator cuff injury – a side effect of my daily 1+ mile walks with Audrey who understands the concept of “heel” about 70% of the time. My daughter, on the other hand, has been playing with the medium of her choice, duct tape, which I have to admit looks a lot like fabric these days. We first made these great flower pens at a recent Girl Scout meeting and the girls are all hooked. Here are the directions for this simple craft over at the Seven Sisters blog.