Button Dumps

They're often referred to as "button clusters" but most often look like "button dumps". A pile of buttons plopped on to fill a space and most often without much interest . Even worse they are contributing nothing to the design of the block... I really cringe when I see this missed opportunity...

Using buttons is something that Sharon Boggon excels at and on the left are 3 examples I photographed at her workshop... Look closely at them... Notice contrast, contrast and contrast... She has used great variety in size, texture, shape, color, support details AND direction... These are buttons that are making a fabulous contribution to the block they are on...

Also noticed how she has added various sizes and colors of beads to add contrast and give the arrangement direction.. On the middle example she has added bits of lace as well. The beads and lace both act as support elements for the buttons adding excitement and shape. In addition if you have buttons with larger shanks the beads can be used to hold the buttons in position.

Each arrangement of buttons has a direction.

Just after I got home I heard from my friend, Susie W. who sent me the following photo of her Hearts to Sendai block... She had never been too enamored of button clusters and she was doing her very first one to fill the upper right hand corner... Being an artist herself she instinctively knew it wasn't working... It was too much the shape of the SRE on the left and she felt the rose button was just too much..

So she sent me a photo and we had a chat about it.... I told her forget "cluster" and think "trail" and also add contrast in all elements and add beads.... Also I personally loved the rose button and felt it was the button above (see arrow) that needed to go...

Well she reworked it and look at it now..

She did indeed think trail, added beads, lots of contrast and variety... It just "sings."

I just love what she did and now the button trail has a direction and leads the eye right down into the center of the block...becoming a critical part of the design of the whole block....

Here is a picture of the entire block which is spectacular... Susie is a stitcher "extraordinaire". Check out all the lovely motifs and seams... I am willing to bet she uses many more button "trails" in her work now... And Heaven knows we all have lots of buttons.....


Artist DYB RR and trismus

I have this large print framed in my bedroom... It was done by French Impressionist Berthe Morisot in the latter part of the 1800s. It is my absolute favorite painting as I AM that child..even still... My hair is grey, my skin wrinkled, and my joints ache but I inside I am still that child. My earliest fond memories are of dolls I loved and that love of dolls has woven through my entire life... Of course my daughter, step daughters, granddaughters and nieces all could care less about dolls.

So when I joined the Artist DYB with a dream team (Hideko, Ritva, Helina, Margreet and Gayle) I chose a specific subject rather than a specific artist. And I chose a girl and her doll. Since I found so many images I will be using them in other DYBs and do some myself so I enough to make a book. I chose the following six for this DYB.

Not been a good week... last Friday the left side of my head and neck began to swell and I felt like someone had hit the side of my head with a 2x4...then my jaws froze shut... Called my dentist as it might be a tooth (although not any specific tooth was aching) and he was closed 4 days over Easter so I went to see my doctor to make sure it wasn't hoof and mouth disease or some such thing... She sent me home with pain pills... Finally saw my dentist Tuesday and he send me to a endodontist today... It is an abscessed tooth under a crown and my jaws are still frozen shut and for a week I have been eating with a straw and tiny demitasse spoon.... mashed bananas, yogurt, boiled eggs and ice cream.

I am now on 2 kinds of antibiotics and more pain pills and hopefully in a week my jaw muscles will relax enough they can do the surgery... And there is actually a name for this condition... "trismus" - the continuous contraction of the jaw muscles. Expanding my vocabulary the hard way.


This and that!!!

Just a little catch up about life on the home front while I'm sorting pictures to use for day 3 of the CA adventure. I thought I would have the afternoon to paint but not!! I did find someone to haul away the dead refrigerator but then had to clean where it had been for years...Then both dogs got into the plowed muddy field and needed baths. I did get some buttons posted back on etsy and tonight I roughly sketched in guidelines for a button of Marilyn's grandson... Wasn't sure about working that small but think it will be okay... the head is about the size of a penny.

A couple days ago Pat Winter left this comment..."Gerry, your DH is most certainly a handsome fella! He deserves sour cream rolls by the dozen! " He liked the part about being handsome Pat...but he REALLY liked the part about deserving sour cream rolls by the dozen.... But they're a lot of work besides being my secret weapon so he had to settle for date, walnut and oatmeal cookies this time... Since Morris gets most of the comments it gave DH's ego a boost.. Thanks Pat!

And finally, remember last January when I was trying to give away this wall thing with about 100 pockets. No one was really eager to have it and I am so glad because it has turned out to be the perfect thing for keeping my buttons sorted after I post them.. I had tried several other things but nothing was working.. The buttons are so small they are easy to mislay. It's pretty empty right now so will have to get busy..

Received lots of suggestions in CT for buttons.. including pansies, violets, chipmunks, more squirrels, cats and chickens and even dragonflies and unicorns... I was getting kind of tired of birds so doing something else will be a change...

And I did sell every last scissor holder in CT so have to make more of those... We're going to some out-of-town bridge tournaments and I can work on those in the car... Will let you know when I have them posted again...


The eyes have it!!

The good news is that the eye activity in the type of creative needlework we do improves both our cognitive skills and our memory... Sharon referred often to eye tracking studies and someone wanted to know how it is done...

So here it is... The eyetracker is worn on a helmet with an eye camera recording the pupil position, and a scene camera recording the view in front of the subject. The head position monitor allowed calculation of the gaze position of the eye even during head movement.

There are many studies on artists creating and also on people observing art....This study was done on a portrait artist wearing the helmet and a similar monitor was attached to the artist's pencil. It's pretty technical but the illustrations show how often and where the artist looks at the model and how he puts what he sees on his canvas...

So the information Sharon shared was based on such studies. Her main point was that if the block is too busy or congested the eye doesn't know where to land... Likewise it needs quiet areas to pause and take in even more detail.... And that is really all we need to remember... So this is probably way more information that anyone wants or needs but I find the fact that they can do this kind of research is interesting.


Contrast in seams

Those of you who follow will remember I outed myself in February and made my big confession on how I make all my blocks.... (http://olderrose.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-confess.html) The only drawback to this method is that due to the assembly of sections I always end up with this extremely long diagonal seam.. (see white line).. This is always something that has to be address with strategically place motifs and buttons and sometimes I extend another seam visually to break it up...

Of course Sharon saw this immediately and wondered how I was going to handle the problem... I loved the first day but the second day was even better because it was all about seams...all eight hours..

Not only did we talk about building seams (stacking, combining stitches etc.) and seam variations. She spent a great deal of time discussing "expanding seams" and "condensing seams." She urged stitchers to create contrast in and with their seams a on every piece.

Seam treatments 1.2 and 3 are the pesky long seam. On 1 and 3 I did an expanded treatment which draws the eye outward and away from the seam...which keeps your eye from following down the seam... On seam 2 I did a very condensed treatment which hold it in place. She was also emphatic on letting seam treatment leave the seam line and wander across seam lines into other patches... again moving the eye and creating interest...

Seams 4, 5 and 6 are treatments to use to embellish quiet areas... Seam 4 is a valour rick rack (discovered in the barn) finished with ribbon and beads... Seam 5 is my favorite on the whole block... It is stacked herringbones laced with variegated silk ribbon and finished with bead.. quiet but elegant... Since it is such a bright and busy block I chose to keep the lower corner quiet... but not empty... I used gold thread to stitch the pattern under the lace motif and a tiny gold braid embellished with single row of beads for the seam.... If I have to choose one thing that will influence my stitching the most from now on, it is attention to creating interesting quiet areas on blocks...

The last day was spent on motifs, flower sprays and trims etc.... I will get to that also using some of her blocks... Although I will do a bit more on this block I am very tired of it.. Rushing through is not my style... I like to plod and think and rethink and rethink.. so a rest from this block is due.

Block for Sharon's class - motif issue

This is the block I stitched to embellish in Sharon Boggon's 3-day workshop.. I did this much in 3 long days and am kinda tired of it right now so it is a good time to evaluate it before I go any further with it. As usual when I gather things for a block there are items that HAVE to be on it for one reason or another. Most often because I am emotionally attached to them as gifts from a friend. Here it was the purple rose made by Theresa Rapstine, pink motifs and trim from Janet Popish and the lace in the lower right from a friend at my senior center...

Immediately there is a problem in that the flowers are almost the same size... I could have placed them together to quickly solve the problem... Since I didn't.... no matter where I placed them the eye would just jump from one to the other no matter how strong your path.. This often a design problem I see on blocks... There will be 2 strong focal points competing with each other... The solution is an easy one... make them unequal by building one up and reducing the effect of the other. Adding additional embellishing to the purple rose and giving it a prime position nearer the center makes it the dominant focal point...With the magic of photoshop you could see that I could even build it up even more. By removing some embellishment (not shown) and placing the other focal point at the lowest right (almost off the block) it is diminished in importance. Doing these two things increased the contrast between the two focal points.

Next is this block really needed stronger elements to draw the eye away the the diagonally path between the two focal points so I ruched the ribbon seam mid center bottom to draw the eye to the left and then back up to the other focal point...likewise the trim and dragonfly on the upper right... The path really need some tweaking yet... but I'd like to point out some points of interest on the seams from the second day of the workshop.... tomorrow...

Maureen B and Cathy K. are both posting great pictures of the adventure... Most of mine were quilt shots and most of the people shots were out of focus..


Sharon Boggon's quilts

Sharon not only brought this quilt but two other large ones, many smaller pieces, and her famous 75' long stitch sampler which stretched around the room.. They were all laid out on tables and she encouraged us to handle them, take photos and study them up close... This is her famous "I dropped the button box" quilt and what amazed me is how small the squares are...about 5-6 inches and each one is a lesson...all 100 of them..

Now that I've inundated you with information on contrast, take a few minutes and go to the site of this quilt..... Click on individual squares and look for the paths she creates for the eye to follow and start identifying all the various examples of contrasts in her blocks...especially the busy and quiet areas... My class block and more soon....

I finally am getting settled in... unpacked, taxes finished (nothing like the last minute), and house in order... Today is a "mother needs" day, getting groceries, and baking... as DH has only 4 sour cream rolls left..

THEN I can attend to getting buttons uploaded on Etsy and start painting again.... I had many special requests in CT including one from Marilyn for a painting of her grandson on a button... Is he cute or what? I've done watercolor portraits over the years but this will be my first attempt at a miniature on a 1 1/2" button..

More on the CT workshops so don't go away now and I hope you're enjoying my memories of this event..


And Why Is Contrast So Important????

And why is contrast so important?.....it affects how your eye sees the block and especially how your eye moves around the block!!! Since this is a favorite subject of mine I'll be able to use all Sharon's information on contrast..

First this is my "Hearts to Sendai" block which I took with me and finished on planes and off hours... There is some color contrast but it is primarily a red-on-red block. There is contrast in texture, scale and shape in the fabric as well as the embellishments but Sharon has some other areas of contrast that you can look for and include in your work.

1. Sheen vs. matte (in both fabric and embellishments

2 Structured elements ( buttons all round) vs. free form elements (daises that that are irregular

3. Single focus elements ( fan) vs. repetitive elements (hearts)

And my very favorite.....busy areas vs.quiet area. Quiet does not mean empty. An area can be heavily embellished and still be quiet....( the lower right corner which is covered in a rich red Venetian lace...) In all the examples of her fabulous work she pointed out the paths she created for the eye to follow but emphasized the necessity of quiet areas for the eye to rest. Over and over she stated that if a block is too busy the eye just flits about and doesn't really see the beauty of it.... Which is exactly how there can be two blocks heavily encrusted and one is beautiful and the other is just junky.... It will be hard not to get ahead of myself but I'll keep referencing these points as I go along...

Now I will get just a bit ahead because I will be sending this block off... The second day we immersed ourselves totally in seam work, which I loved being newly converted seam obsessive... But Sharon didn't always do every seam and some seams were quite simply done and some were rich and textured.. So there was even contrast in her seam treatments. She used all three techniques as part of the design of a block... As you can see I immediately embraced the very embellished seam... (more later) I can't even count the layers on the first seam but it was for an exercise in expanding seams (more later).

I'm including this second example because it is a rick rack seam... but the rick rack is glitzy red stuff underneath... What looks like blue rick rack on top is actually a needle weaving of a zigzag chain stitch. We did a LOT of needle weaving which was something I did very little of before so watch for it now in my work.... great fun and interesting!

Next post I will show the block I actually did during the workshop.. Sorry for some reason blogger is messing with my paragraph divisions...


Adventure with Sharon Boggon

In case I haven't mentioned it often enough I've just returned from CQ Adventure in CT. Start saving your pennies now in case they have it again next year... The first three days were spent with Sharon Boggon from Australia. She feels contrast is the most important key to a great block that really works... We spent a good deal of the first morning discussing all aspects of contrast and she referred to it again and again during the course... Cheryl A. brought this green block to show me.. It is from a tone-on-tone RR and was made by Cathy L. It will be a great exercise in using contrast without depending on color. After she showed it to me we weren't able to connect again to discuss it so here goes... That night at dinner Cathy K, Diane M and I began discussing green plants, animals, etc. to use as a focal point... Sharon had had a fantastic Brazilian grasshopper which would be great and we thought of alligators, frogs, turtles, lizards and various bugs....maybe even a John Deere tractor.

But if it were me doing a the block I immediately think of birds and a parrot or parakeets would be at the top of my list. When I start looking at images to do a bird I am especially looking for birds that are "doing" something or in an interesting position such as both of these photos..The bird eating is a photo from the archives at this site.. a fantastic site for anyone loving birds...do visit it... I'd probably do the bird in embroidery on a hoop or it could be printed and appliqued on... but another great option is a method Alison Aller is using a lot and would work here beautifully. She would print the parrot on fabric, add fusible interfacing, cut it out, and iron it on the block. So now we have added our first contrast... size! The parrot immediately changes the perspective of the piece... Then I would begin finishing the seams in as many ways I could think of using stitches of vines and leaves wandering here and there on the block... starting to work on another contrast...texture! Then I'd add branches using a heavy perle such as a 3....bringing the parrot to the foreground... Another contrast... dimension!

To further these steps I'd add the largest leaves using heavier threads, ribbons and textured threads such as valour with maybe even weaving some leaves attached only at the branch. As the final steps why not including a dragonfly with green organza wings and a jeweled body...and maybe a hide a lovely tree frog and even a salamander...

So to sum it up we have used all greens but have added variety and interest with contrasts in dimension, size, and texture... This is why I LOVE rounds robins... They are like puzzles and force me to think outside my comfort area...

My next post will cover a couple other aspects of contrast with the block I did in the workshop....


Home Again!!!

The new lamb is fat and frisky and a little camera shy... She is getting a supplemental bottle for a while and I really believe DH enjoyed feeding the little darling and Morris is totally in love with her.

Nothing was blooming when I left but what a difference 11 days make.

The violets are blooming by the big greenhouse.

The daffs are blooming EVERYWHERE.

The hybrid hellebore are glorious,... I have them in all shades of blues, purples and pinks besides the usual green... The hybrids are outrageously expensive so I only add one a year but they are such early color AND THE DEER (or gophers or rabbits) DON'T EAT THEM...

The rhubarb is up and DH is thinking pies

And we walked in the forest after chores... We were only going to do a mile but ended up doing three... It felt soooooooo good... All the hours of sitting just destroyed my back... first on the planes and then hour after hour stitching. I grabbed every opportunity to stretch out on the bed to relieve the pain..

Finally reality... Two blizzards, a strong wind storm and Randy Andy's last rampage destroyed the double sheep shelter... Since it is time to get the ewes and lambs out into the pastures this needs to be at the top of the critical list and will call Wil today...

The conference was fabulous and I have so much to share... Rather than just a lot of random pictures (although I will tuck some in) I want to use blocks to share some of the stuff we covered and I think you will find it helpful.. I figure it will take some time....and will start tomorrow... so much!! I still have to unpack and tackle the house. I left it in a terrible state as I painted buttons nonstop the last weeks... I did sell a lot of buttons and got lots of commissions and now I need to paint more


Copyright "carte blanche" & watch the long seams

If you are visiting while I am out of town I hope you take the time to browse a bit and look through the tutorials above... And if you type tutorials in the search box to the right, about 6 pages of mini tuts appear.

Also my blog is copyright "carte blanche". If you see something you would like to use or adapt...feel free... No need to ask for permission... When I was young and worked as a graphic artist I did feel proprietorial about things I created but now that I'm old I take the greatest joy in sharing...

One last bit about long lines or seams... You can see below that the long seam drew the eye right off the page... Above you can see the little touches I added to break up that long line.. a blue butterfly, the pink ribbon and the button at the bottom.

Happy Spring!


I'm all packed for the big CQ adventure and hopefully I will have all I need but certainly I can get by with what I have....and still have enough to share with others ... I'm going out this morning to pick up a couple items at a drugstore, get cash at the bank and to get a PEDICURE..(a rare treat for me).. My carry-on is filled with my painted buttons and important blocks and my suitcase has more stash than clothes... I deactivated all items on Etsy but be sure and watch for new listings around the middle of the month... Unlike Sharon Boggon I do not have posts done ahead so you'll just have to remember to come back when I start posting again mid month. I've been so excited for so long about this trip and can hardly wait to have Cathy Kizerian join me on the plane in Salt Lake for the last 2 legs of the journey... I will be seeing dear friends I haven't seen in a couple years, making new friends, and finally seeing in person longtime online friends. It's like going off to camp when you were a kid!!! The anticipation is delicious... The only down side is we have to leave the house at 4:30 am.....
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