I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Frame to Make You Smile

Sometimes I run across some crazy quilting that's so delightful that it leaves me smiling all day...  This block is so delightful and creative it has had me grinning all week whenever I think of it.  It's the work of Cathy LaBath and she confided to me that she was sipping a little homemade wine while she was working on it...

I did several posts on "framing" an image but this will be my all-time favorite.. Look at everything she has used to create her rainbow frame... embroidery, beads, buttons, ribbon work and all in such a delightful and varied ways...  I urge you to take a minute to really look at it closely..

I can certainly see how I could adapt this to other CQ....everybody needs a rainbow now and then...

At one time I was paralysed by having to work on such strong color but was cured by Laurie B... Even still it's a challenge to work with...  I bought DMC's neon colors for just such blocks because most of the threads and ribbons in my stash are just washed out next to it.  The blocks were done by Misty.  Now I find strong intense colors joyful and applaud people who use them....

Anyway I love Cathy's solution and where can I get some of that wine?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just a little update....

Since I was just talking about surface texture vs. motifs, here is an example I ran across today..  Berta did this little school of fishes for an UTS rr she's in... They're especially nice because she's captured the movement of a school of fish.... They quietly fill a space  and add texture which is my criteria for "surface texture..."

Also found this example in my picture files of a spider hanging out of his web  ...  I mentioned this earlier when talking about Lorraine's block... Here is a great example of making the most of the spider, the web, and the block.... The shape of the web is really effective because it fills the diagonal element of the block. And the spider is showcased as if on a stage... So if you are going to have your spider "hanging out" make sure you don't lose it...   Unfortunately I don't have a name of who did this... If it's yours or you know whose work it is, I would love to give them credit for a job well done...

I'm trying to work out a better system for cross referencing the data I'm collecting for block talk...  There's so much wonderful stuff out there.   I'm also woefully behind on the emails so if you've send me a request or question... I will get caught up eventually.. I want to also thank all the stitchers who have taken the time to write and tell me they find this block useful...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Deb's Block - My Two Cents!!!

I love Deb... not only because she does extraordinary needlework but also because she follows this blog and comments often... (and we all love comments!) Recently I visited her blog  and she had posted this block and asked for suggestions...  You know me I ALWAYS have a suggestion and I will tell you about it but first let's block talk about what is so great about this block..

The thing that I felt most compelling was the repetitive elements in the stitching..... a long loopy cadence... This ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! throughout the block actually gives the block rhythm..  Can you feel it...? I'm sure she didn't set out to do this intentionally but it happens in some stitchers' work and it is a mark of their style. The stitches are different but the unifying characteristic is the length..  I also mentioned this recently in someone else's block.   If you are aware of it you can almost feel the beat..

The next thing I want you to notice are the fans... same shape - completely different.. That arc element is even echoed (repeated) in the top of the heart.  As I say often it is this echoing of shape, color, or other elements that bring harmony to a block...  This IS something that you can do intentionally as you work on a project..  It can be subtle but should be there in your work and something to strive for...

I know I sound like a broken record but the one thing I learned from teaching primary grades is that if you repeat an idea often enough it starts to sink in...

Finally there is this patch with the all-over treatment which I refer to as "surface texture"  It has an entirely different purpose than a motif.  A motif is a focal point and draws your eye...  It says "look at me!"  Surface texture not only enhances the "encrusted" quality of a work, it give the eye a place to rest...  It fills a space quietly and elegantly. I love the way she let the pattern ease over to the adjoining patches... a very nice touch.

Here are three other examples..  The top one was done by Manya of Romania and if you do not follow her blog  you should because she is an extremely talented needle person. 

The next one is by Lisa Boni whose work I praise often.  This is from a work she is finishing up now and has been long in the works..

And it doesn't always have to be monochromatic.. The bottom is from a small corner of a block I worked on..  This block had some pretty dramatic things going on as focal points and this bit of needlework quietly filled this corner.  Usually, but not always, surface texture is vine-like in nature because it is easy to fill space this way.  I'm collecting examples as I go along and will devote an entire post one day to surface texture...  You can watch for it and send me examples when you see them...

Now remember the picture of Deb's block at the beginning...  When I looked at it I felt the poor little butterfly far right was lost and lonely...  I would have liked to have seen more to the left of the heart in that space left.  The heart touches two other seams and leaves that space.... a perfect place to add a few butterflies for some "action"    I also felt that seam by the butterfly could be extended to balance the one of the left of the heart. 

So with the magic of photoshop I sent this to her.... On the whole these suggestions were very minor and quite irrelevant....

but she did add to the seam on the right and added another butterfly and a darling little beetle to appease me..

Thanks Deb for letting me use your block on "Block Talk" and that's

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Post

Gerry is  recovering for a few days from a medical problem and I'm tending her  lovingly.  Monday I  have surgery and hopefully she'll be well enough to tend me lovingly.  We're behind  on posts, emails and all else... Sorry

Friday, August 12, 2011

Printing Images.....Answers and Important Tips!!!

2 part question from follower Sandi:  "May I ask what kind of fabric you use to print on? "

Well as to fabric ...this question comes up often on CQI list and there are almost as many preferences as there are members... Since I was struggling with this myself until recently I can only tell you what I prefer myself...  I knew I didn't like silk  ... the images were washed out and it had little body and in general difficult for me to deal with.. I had trouble with the brands for available   at fabric stores as they were jamming up my printer or misprinting altogether.  I tried lots of different products and techniques and have settled on what is pictured at the left.  Some stitchers do not like poplin but I LOVE it and now I back it besides with the wonderful Fusible Knit Tricot recommended by Allie.

I have never had any "silkies" to work with and now will be buying a new printer to print some of my own images.  I need to buy the most reasonably priced printer that will do a good job.  I've read a little online, but kind of lost...do I need an inkjet or laser?   Thank you so much for your help, Sandi W.

I'd go for an inkjet as they are cheaper and even the cheapest printers are great now... I would recommend one with a scanner as it would be useful.  The higher price for most models are for all the extra bells and whistles..which you probably don't need..  As for brands I've always had HP with no problems... You can get a better print by checking the options or preferences feature on your printer... Choose the best or most dpi (dots per inch) for the most ink put down..

The most important things you can do are BEFORE you send the picture to the printer. 

Almost all software that comes with digital cameras have good editing options.  And there are some likely already on your computer...  Microsoft Office software has an excellent one called Microsoft Office Picture Manager and I know I sound like a broken record but unless you have photoshop or something equivalent you should absolutely download Google's Picasa...  It is FREE and has superb photo editing features which are so very easy to use by even the most inexperienced users.

Whatever you are using look for the terms like Color Editing, Color Adjustment or Color Enhancement.  It will vary with programs.  At the left is the Color box from Microsoft Office Photo Manager.  When you find that catagory the key thing you want to look for is the term "saturation"  There is usually a little bar and an arrow you can slide either way.. see bottom of photo on left.

When you increase the saturation  it intensifies the color already in the picture. Usually when you print you lose some of the color in the original and your printed version looks washed out...  By increasing the saturation before you print you get a much stronger image with very good color even though the saturated view on your screen looks rather powerful..  On the left is the original photo in my file... I kept moving the arrow on the saturation scale until it is as high as it will go and that is on the far right..  Allowing for inevitable color drop in printing process the final print from saturated photo will equal or be better than original..

As an aside if you move the satuation arrow to the left you can change a color photo to black and white.  This is often preferred if you are looking for a vintage look..

The second most important thing you can do for a better print is look for the option that allows you to sharpen your image... It will usually just says "Sharpen."  Not all programs have this option but Google's Picasa does and I use it on ALL my images for print.. This does indeed sharpen all edges in the photo and gives a much clearer print. Like losing color when you print you also lose detail... This takes care of that aspect.  Below it is not quickly apparent the difference sharpening makes  but look at the detail on the flowers and in the nest and on the wing and you can see it.  This is a subtle difference but  is the finishing touch for a superb print..  Try it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My two cents on Lorraine's Grey Challenge Block

I've had this in my file for a while because I knew I had a lot to say about it....  The Crazy Quilt International yahoo group recently had an "All About Grey" challenge.  Participants were to construct a 12x12 block in shades of grey (includes silver and pewter), use some glass, fiber and metal in the piece.     And Lorraine certainly rose to the challenge.  She talks about it from her view on her blog 

 First what I love about the block and that list is long... What I repeat often is what I learned at Sharon Boggon's knee (so to speak) is it's all about contrast.... but when you leave out other colors what do you contrast??? Well just what Lorraine did here with texture, value, and prints... especially prints.  That polka dotted sprint is inspired.. The regularity of the dots are the perfect contrast to the lace overlays.

Then there are all the scallops (#1 pink) repeated in various sizes.. Take a close look lower left where there are three little patches.  Rather than make 3 separate seam treatments she chose to unify the area with the two large scallops and they echo the two large scallops directly diagonally.  Scallops are echoed throughout the block. Nice!

There are lots of little directional elements going on that form a triangle that frames the focal points of the block... (#2 green)

She get an A++++++ for all the variety in her button feature with great diversity in material... ribbon, charms, beads and all kinds and sizes of buttons.
(#3 yellow)

Lorraine mentions on her blog that she is unsure about the web... Well she shouldn't be..  Webs are NEVER perfect which is why I love Helen Steven's webs in her books...  Lorraine chose the perfect location for this web... (#4 red)

It's a small but subtle touch the way she extended the beads from button feature out above it to add more texture to that area... You have to enlarge the photo to really see the effect..... (#5 blue)

I did contact Lorraine to get her permission to make just a few suggestions and she enthusiastically said go for it!!! So having said that....

First is the button feature...  I cannot rave enough about what is in it but it is sitting there shaped like a little sausage. I really love the term "button trail" because it implies movement and activity..  It needs to meander and have thick and thin areas...  So with photoshop magic I modified Lorraine's button feature.

Next is the poor little spider... Having a spider dangle out of the web is used often but it is only effective if it's leading your eye to something .... in this case it is lost..  It is a beautiful, glorious web...the focal point of the block and the spider needs to be in it.... Quite often the radial parts of a web are closer near the center... and it's not really necessary but it is a sure fire way to give a bull's eye effect and capture the eye..

Finally the seam below the web needed a treatment... It was a too large open area... So again I made these changes with photoshop and see if you agree...  I loved this block the minute I saw it and what grabbed me was the polka dots...aren't they the nicest touch...?  Thanks so much Lorraine for letting me "block talk" your work!!!!!   And that's