The Boys in Blue

The phrase “the boys in blue” makes me think of policemen. Not here!

Here it is two men in vintage navy blue bathing suits enjoying the sunshine and the beach. I love the old style of bathing suits!

Two men in vintage bathing costumes, standing on the beach. Commercial and hand-dyed cotton, paint. Valerie Wilson 2015

Men in vintage bathing suits. Commercial and hand-dyed cotton, paint. Valerie Wilson 2015

This quilt will make a great companion piece for another of my quilts “The Bather” that is currently being exhibited at the World Quilt Show.

The Bather

Can you imagine wearing one of these suits?  They were often made of wool. Wool makes me itch! And it is reported that these bathing suits were very heavy when wet. 

Anyway, back to the two guys.

What intrigued me about this photo and these two guys was the differences between them. One fellow is tall and muscular looking, and has wonderful curly hair, while the other man is a little flabby looking with slicked-back hair. They both looked as though they were having fun, however.

Here is the original photo:

Two men in vintage bathing suits standing on a beach.

 

I had a few problems with the one fellow’s hand, as he must have moved as the photo was taken, and it blurred that part of the photo. I referenced a number of drawing books and had my husband model that posture so that I could see what the hand should look like and what size it should be. I think that it turned out well.

The other issue I had was that the men are looking into the sun and squinting, and all you can see is black slits where the eyes should be. I thought initially that I would just use a dark fabric there, but found in the end that I really wanted to be able to see their eyes. So back to the drawing books, and many sketches later, they could see!

Detail of eyes

Detail of eyes

A further issue was that I wanted it to have it look as though they had sand on their feet. How to achieve this effect?

I considered glueing some real sand on!

Beads I felt would be too much and take to long to attach.

Finally, I decided to try some paint. I used some fabric paint and tested first on a scrap of fabric. With much trepidation, I decided that I had the effect that I wanted and that I should now add the paint to the quilt.

Very nervously, I carefully added the paint to their feet and it worked! I was so pleased!

Sand on feet

Sand on feet

Now I am having a problem naming this piece. Friends have helped with suggestions for names, but so far, nothing has felt right.

What is the one man listening to? Did someone call their names, or say something humorous? What would you title this piece with these two men in vintage bathing suits? 

Can you help with a name?

Suggestions welcome!

 

Girl Sitting on the Step

I have completed the little girl sitting on the step!

Little girl on step - Valerie Wilson 2015.

A little girl on a step – Valerie Wilson 2015.

I love the pink socks and Mary Jane shoes. The colourful polka dot fabric for her dress was a great find. This piece came together well. I am very pleased with her hair, as I tried a different technique of layering small pieces of fabric to create it.

I wonder what her story is?

She looks a bit hesitant and somewhat sad and is biting her lip

Did a best friend not come to play?

Is she all dressed up to go someplace special, and has been told to go outside, but to stay clean, until the family leaves for the event?

Is it her birthday, and she didn’t get the present that she most wanted?

I always wonder about the back story behind the photographs that I use. Do you see a story in this piece?

I think that she needs a name. One person suggested Violet.

Would you give her a name, or name the quilt? Such as “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go” or …………..

Let me know your ideas!

 

 

 

Little Girl on the Step

As promised, here is my latest piece in progress. The background is done. I had fun working on the door, to get the highlights and shadows in the panels. Having once owned an architectural antique business helped here, as I have seen a lot of this type of panelled door.

A quilt in progress shwoing the side of a house and the doorstep with an outline of a little girl.

Little girl on step – in progress

Isn’t it neat the way that the background defines the space for the little girl? This demonstrates the importance of the negative space surrounding something.

I layered two colours of brown for the boards on the side of the house. I liked the effect but thought that it looked a bit plain, so added some slightly darker bits on top to give it some interest. I am almost out of this fabric and will be sorry to use up the last of it. It has been most useful for portraying aged wood, or fence posts.

As you can see I have started working on the little girl’s face. It looks really strange with only the face there! I may yet adjust the shading on her face, but will leave it for the moment, as this piece is still in the “ugly phase”. I also need to remember that I will be adding detail with the stitching, and quilting, later on. Do you find that your quilts go through an ugly phase before they are complete?

 

 

 

 

She’s a Cutie! My Latest Portrait Quilt Completed.

A little girl hoding a colourful sand pail stands on a beach.

Summer Fun Quilted

I have finished my latest portrait quilt, the little girl at the beach, and decided to call the quilt “Summer Fun”. She has turned out to be quite cute! I love her sparkly blue eyes and her sweet smile.

Close-up of girl's face

Detail of Summer Fun

Now I have to decide what the next one will be. I have two pictures that I am considering. One is a little girl sitting on a porch, and another is one of three boys in hockey uniforms, circa 1934. Subscribe to my blog, and find out what is next!

 

Gallery News

“Summer Fun” and a number of my other quilts are currently hanging in the Blankstein Gallery, on the second floor of the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg, MB. Here are a couple of photos of the preparations for hanging the show and a few of the quilts.

Laying out the quilts

Laying out the quilts

First we laid out the quilts on the floor, to decide the order in which they would hang. My husband was wonderful as a helper. Here he is putting a hanging rod in one of the quilts:

Getting the hangers ready

Getting the hangers ready

The next step was to actually get the quilts hung. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get it all done! It went faster after the first two, when we had figured out the easiest way to hang them. Here are some of the quilts on exhibit:

Vintage Portraits

Vintage Portraits

Nature's Glory

Nature’s Glory

And here is the view in to the gallery from the library:

 

View from the entrance of the Gallery

View from the entrance of the Gallery

It was wonderful to see them all hung. I hope that if you are in the area you can check it out! The gallery is open during library hours . The exhibit runs from August 3 – 30, 2015.

From Ugly Duckling to Swan

After I posted my progress on the little girl in the sunsuit, I decided she was in fact rather an “ugly duckling”.

I spent a couple of days, filled with angst before I figured out what was wrong.

Then came a number of changes to her face, hair and her eyes (I straightened them) and I like the result.

Part of the problem was the lack of eyebrows (see the previous post). Also, I felt that her hair looked too orange, so out came the Tsukineko inks.

I figured that if I hated the changes, I could always give her new hair. I am pleased to say that all worked out well! The new colour looks better and the highlights and shadows are in place.

She also now has feet and shoes which helps. Don’t you just love her strappy sandals?!

A little standing on a beach, holding a sand pail.

Girl in sunsuit revisited

I am now creating a beach scene in the background, complete with a sand castle!  So far, I only have a piece of paper standing in for the sand castle, as a prop, to see how it will fit into the scene.

I didn’t have a fabric that I liked for the water, so I painted some white fabric with Setacolor transparent paint. I love the look of the rolling waves. 

A small island in the distance helps with perspective and I have pinned a piece of multicolour fabric in place, as a test, to see if I like it for the sand pail.

If this piece is like any of my other works in progress, it will undergo several more changes before its final look.

Do you go with the flow when you are working on a piece, or do you have a plan and stick to it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please comment.

Sun and Sand

A little girl in a sunsuit holding a sand pail.

A little girl in a sunsuit holding a sand

My latest vintage portrait is one of a little girl with a sand pail. I loved her smile, the funky sun suit, pail and sandals. Don’t you just love the tan line on her legs? It looks as though she normally wears longer shorts.

Since so much of her face is in dark shadow, the trick was to create what I couldn’t see.

I think that she is coming along fairly well. Her face will gain more definition after adding stitching.

It is always hard to remember that the stitching adds so much life, and detail, to the portrait.

And now, I see below, that I need to move one of her irises, as she is looking a little cross-eyed.

 

Girl started

Girl started

I have changed her hair twice now, as I didn’t like the first set of highlights that I did. And originally I had given her a little flip of hair on the left side but decided it looked odd, so cut it off. I like the rounded look of the cap of hair better.

Do you make adjustments as you work, or do you keep to a set path in your work?

I find photos a great help for me to notice little things that need adjusting. It is so easy now with digital cameras!

Do you take photos of your work as you go?

Snow fun!

“Fun in the Snow” has been completed! Thanks for all the suggestions for names!

Fun in the Snow

Fun in the Snow

I didn’t quite finish it by my deadline of the 15th of June. However, I wasn’t far off, as I had it quilted and blocked by the 18th! The faces looked a bit too wrinkly, so when I blocked the quilt, I blocked the faces separately, along with the edges of the quilt. It worked great! The faces look better now.

Just the sleeve, and the label, to add, which I will do when I take a break to watch TV.

I wish that you could see it up close. The sparkle on the snow fabrics is really great.

I quilted it on my HQ Sweet 16, and found it easier than using my regular sewing machine. All that throat space is quite wonderful!

Next Project

I am now on to the next project – a little girl in a sun suit and sandals, holding a sand pail. Keep watch for updates coming soon!!

 

Next Project

I am now on to the next project – a little girl in a sunsuit and sandals, holding a sand pail. Keep watch for updates coming soon!!

 

Exhibition Update

Well, I didn’t get them all sewn down before I left for Quilt Canada, but I was happy with what I had done. I knew, that I only had a few more pieces of fabric to sew down, once I got back home.

The plan is to get these guy done by mid-June, for my solo exhibition, so I have to concentrate and work hard!

4-Kids-done---no-background

The kids were cut off the backing that I had used – in this case, stabilizer. I will never use this again as it is too stiff, and wrinkles badly. Lesson learned! I was able to cut some of it away but left the rest in place.

The kids were then placed on the background that I created.

Kids-with-sleigh-and-trees-

I found a lovely fabric, at a local quilt shop, that looked to me a lot like falling snow. Wonderful for the sky! 

The trees I had painted were appliqued to the background. I played with positioning them as I wanted them to act as a frame for the kids on the sleigh.

Then on to sewing everything down. It always surprises me how long it takes. Why I don’t know, as I have done this many times. Maybe wishful thinking that it will be faster this time!

As seen below this piece had more snow added and further detail on the faces.

Kids-with-sleigh-and-snow

The next step is the quilting. First, the detail quilting the boys, and then on to the background.

I always have a hard time coming up with names for my art. Is this a problem for you too?

I am trying to think of a name for this quilt. Perhaps the Four Musketeers. What do you think? What name would you give this piece? Can you help me out? I would love it if you would!

Last minute changes

Based on a comment by a reader – Thanks Marg – I added further detail to the eyes of the boy at the front of the sleigh. My husband says “he is now looking at you and not staring”. Check it out below:

Eyes on boy at front of sleigh have added detail.

Eyes on the boy in front of sleigh have added detail.

I like the change!

Preparing for a New Exhibit

Exciting news! I will have an exhibit in the Portage & District Arts Centre Gallery, in Portage la Prairie, MB next year, from April 4 – May 14, 2016.

The exhibit will be called “Past Lives“, and it will feature my portraits created from vintage black and white photographs.

To celebrate, I am planning on featuring my progress here in my blog, as I work on various portraits for the show.

The first one is four little boys on a sled.

Original photograph of four kids on a sleigh.

Original photograph of four kids on a sleigh.

I loved the four children piled on to the sleigh. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Note: In my research on this unusual design of this sleigh, I found out that this is considered a bobsled. The definition is a sled, or sleigh, with the front runners moving independently of the rear ones.  I found some pictures of log pulling sleighs with similar runners. The idea is if the front runners move separately from the back, the sleigh will go around corners easily.

 

Enlarged photo and line drawing of 4 chidlren on bob sled

Enlarged photo and line drawing of 4 children on a bobsled

Having recently learned how to select part of a photo, through a Photoshop Elements class at Pixeladies  I removed the kids from their background – a rather boring part of a house and changed the direction they were heading. I plan on creating an outdoor setting for them.

I then enlarged the photo to the size that I wanted. I traced the main elements on to a plastic overlay this time. Usually, I use tracing paper but thought that I would give this method a try.

It didn’t work that well for me, although I know of many artists who use plastic all the time. First, I found the plastic much heavier to lift, and second, that somehow some of the fabric pieces ended up stuck to the plastic when I raised it to add another piece. Very irritating! I think that I will probably go back to using tracing paper.

Anyone else with a preference for or any hints for using plastic as an overlay?

Once I got started on the kids, I really enjoyed putting the pieces together. I had discovered some cotton fabrics at a local quilt store, Quilt as Desired, that looked like various woven or linen fabrics, and came in 3 or 4 values of the same colour. A real bonus when doing portraits!

Here are two of the guys with all the fabrics in place:

Picture showing part of the enlaged photo of four small boys on a sleigh and the line tracing.

Picture showing tracing overlay on plastic and two children completed in fabric

A lot of the fun of doing these vintage portraits is researching the elements in the photos. All the kids had those old fashioned rubber boots with the metal closures and big loose mitts. It was fun finding different fabrics for the mitts and socks. Did you know that in the 1930s McCall’s patterns had patterns for these snowsuits complete with the helmet-like caps?

Now on to finishing these four guys before I go to Quilt Canada on June 2! I have two quilts, Stepping Out and The Bather, in the Juried show and am soooo excited about seeing them hanging in the show.

Keep posted for future developments in the work involved in getting ready for a solo show. To easily follow my blog, subscribe to my Studio Updates (the box on the lower left).

 

Let there be light! Adding an LED lighting strip to Your Sewing Machine.

The thing that I most wanted for a Christmas present this year was LED lighting for my sewing machine. And, oh joy!, I go it!  The LED light strip, with self-adhesive backing, mounts under the throat of your sewing machine. Once switched on you have lots of light, exactly where you want it!

LED-lights-brightness

LED Brightness

This is the light that I get with the LED lighting! This picture looks dark, as my camera registered all that extra glow. A great improvement from my earlier situation, see below:

 

Janome sewing machineThis was my sewing machine before, with just the usual sewing machine light turned on. A pool of light around the needle.

LED-Lighting strip-on-sewing-machin

Here is how the LED strip looks on my machine. I have tape holding the connector in place, but will replace this with double-sided tape, placed behind the connector.

I added a dimmer switch for those times when I don’t need as much light. You could add a regular switch or plug it into a receptacle. The whole setup cost $44.50, before tax, at Lee Valley Tools

The parts purchased were one foot of LEDs (minimum length you can buy), a lead wire to connect the LED strip to the switch, a dimmer switch and a power supply.

Since I only used half of the light strip on this sewing machine, I have another 6″ to use elsewhere. The cost without the switch was $21.00.

The dimmer switch sits just behind my machine:

Dimmer-Switch-for-LEDS

 

And the power supply sits next to the sewing machine.

Power-supply-for-LED-lights

 

I am quite pleased with how these lights work! I can now easily see my stitching, but find it especially helpful when I do free motion quilting with light thread on a light background.