Hello, old friend…


Today I took the dust cover off of my beloved Juki DDL-8700-7 for the first time in months. I haven’t done any sewing since the beginning of the semester back in January. I’ve been very busy with my studio classes in printmaking, watermedia, and painting, as well as a class for my general studies science requirement called Ecology for Non-Majors and a multi-cultural requirement class called Art & Cultural Heritage. In addition to this, I have several freelance design projects going on, but I really find it boring when people go on ad nauseum about how busy they are, so enough said about that.

The studio work has good and bad points. While it does push me to think in new directions and takes me out of my established patterns, it also distracts me from pursuing my own body of work. My mind is full of lots of ideas and concepts for things I want to do, none of them having anything to do with fabric. I’ve been really enjoying the painting and mixed media work I’ve been doing this semester, both in watermedia on paper and acrylic on canvas. So much so that I’ve wondered if I even want to go back to doing my textile work in the near term.

Well, something did come up that kind of forced the issue. Thanks to the very hard work of Kate and Judy at Translations Gallery, I have a commission! That’s the good news. Bad news: it’s due May 18, just a few short weeks away. The client wants another version of a piece I’ve already done, sold to EnCana Corp. last year, but now with a slight variation of the color on the bottom strip.

Iterations #1: Aquamarine, 30 x 66 inches, © 2006 Deidre Adams

So last night I got started on the prep work of cutting and ironing the fabric and basting the pieces together with the batting. Then this morning, I got down to the serious business of the quilting. Well, just a few minutes into it and I quickly remembered why I love the textile medium. The magic is still there. This medium has a tactile hands-on aspect that simply is not available in the other media I’ve been working in. I love the feeling of the fabric in my hands, the meditative back-and-forth rhythm of the stitching process, and the zone I get into when I’m working this way. The finished product has a dimension and depth that a painting lacks.

When I made this piece the first time, I was working with my Bernina Artista 180. At that time, I thought it was a pretty good machine, and it is, but I was feeling dissatisfied with it because of the restrictions of the small area of the center open space (I’m too lazy to look up the technical term for this, so if anyone knows offhand, please chime in) and also because I felt like it was too slow — I pretty much had it floored all the time and it still felt like it took forever to quilt something. It has a lot of fancy stitches and an embroidery attachment, which I have used exactly once. While it is a very fancy machine and cost a lot of money, it just was not built to do what I need it to do, which is take a huge pounding putting a gazillion stitches into some rather large pieces.

My first try at remedying the situation was the Grand Quilter from Pfaff. The store I went to is used to selling this machine with a frame and setup stuff that basically turns it into a long-arm quilting machine. I didn’t want all that stuff, I only wanted the machine, so they really weren’t equipped to deal with my questions. I bought it anyway and took the thing home, but within 30 minutes of using it, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with it. It was very loud and clunky and I returned it the next day.

The next step was to go to industrial. In Denver, that means Ralph’s Industrial Sewing Machine Company. This was a whole new realm for me. Turns out there is an amazing variety of industrial machines out there, including machines built to quilt mattresses, so they also had a hard time understanding what I needed. We went through quilt a few different models, with me testing each one using a sample quilt I had brought with me. I finally settled on this Juki machine because it sews 5,500 stitches per minute, has a large opening and an automatic thread cutter, and it counts down how much thread is left on the bobbin. Cool! It’s heavy and solid and sits in its own table. It is also amazingly smooth and quiet, and it has its own oil pan so I don’t have to oil it. Yay! Another bonus: everything in the industrial machine world, like thread and needles, is SO much cheaper than in the commercial home sewing world.

It was a bit traumatic getting the machine to work in the beginning. Because it was designed for straight-stitch garment sewing and I was doing free-motion quilting, which means yanking the piece in all different directions, I had a lot of thread breakage issues at first. Luckily, the technicians at Ralph’s are very professional, and the guy who came out on three different occasions finally hit on the right combination of presser foot, throat plate, bobbin case, needle, and customized hook assembly so that now it’s smooth sailing, full steam ahead. I can even use rayon thread with very little problem.

I’ve decide that this time, I’m going to work this piece in three separate sections and put them together after the quilting process, because it’s very difficult to keep the lines between the sections straight when each has different amounts of quilting from the others. This time, I finished the quilting on the first section of the piece in just a couple of hours — a huge improvement on the last time.

2017-10-15T16:16:49+00:00 April 11th, 2009|Fiber / mixed media, Work in progress|6 Comments

Road trip, part III – More Amarillo

Drat those best-laid plans! I wanted to try to do a daily diary with pictures from the trip each day. But since each on-the-road post takes me over 2 hours between transferring the day’s photos from memory cards to the hard drive, editing them and deciding which ones to use, then uploading to WordPress on an unreliable motel wireless connection that keeps dropping out, and then figuring out what to say about them, I got antsy about how long it was taking and decided that my time would be better spent out exploring for more photo opportunities than sitting in the motel room blogging. Then after I got back home, I had to make up for lost time working on school assignments that were due right after spring break. But without further ado, I want to get back to what had me so excited about Amarillo. Here it is, the object of my affections:




From subsequent research, I learned that this is apparently the former Great West Mill and Elevator, built in 1919 and “instrumental in Amarillo’s growth as a regional industrial center,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online. It changed hands a couple of times and as far as I can tell, the abandoned mill is currently under the ownership of the DeBruce Companies. I wish I had taken a shot of it from the perspective shown in this Amarillo Public Library archive photo, but as we only stumbled upon it by accident, by glimpsing it from afar, I can only think about that as hindsight.

Now, it’s pretty obvious to anyone, myself included, that this falls into the category of stuff that you’re not supposed to go poking around. The immediate environment had a somewhat apocalyptic feel, but the surroundings were quite active, with well-used railroad tracks immediately behind the buildings and a busy salvage yard just beyond them, from which frequent but unintellible announcements and loud beeps continuously emanated from a loudspeaker system. This only heightened the air of tension, as at any moment I expected someone to come out and tell me to get the hell out of there (a not-infrequent occurrence in these kinds of explorations). But the lure of such a thing is irresistible to me, and in the absence of any obvious “NO TRESPASSING” signs, it seemed that a closer but very brief look around was warranted.

I wasn’t able to easily determine when this place was last used as a mill, but there was one area where thick piles of flour (?) were still very much in evidence on the ground. I thought maybe they should have been turned into a solid mass by rain and sun by now, but evidently not. The drifts were quite loose as though just freshly sifted from above.


Lots of tagging all around increased the feeling that someone, whether authorized or not, was lurking nearby and would most definitely not appreciate any company. Hey … what do you think happened to the owner of this headgear?


We started from one side of this building, circled around the back by the railroad tracks, and came back around to the front. When we got there, we were confronted by this:


A wide-open door beckoning us hither? No way! There could be any number of unspeakable presences on the other side of that doorway. No sir, not for me! But my semi-intrepid travel companion, my husband, has a far greater sense of adventure and a far less developed fear of the unknown than I do. So he pokes his head inside, looks around, and pronounces the premises to be free of bogeymen. “Come on,” he says, “We’ve come this far. Can’t turn back now!” So, protesting meekly and with heart pounding a mile a minute, I edge closer to the doorway, until I can stick my head in and flash a gander at the wonders that await within. “OK, I say, I’ll just jump in for a second and pop off a few quick ones.”



By now I am pretty much petrified with fear, so I say, “All right, that’s good now, besides, it’s dark in here and I don’t have a tripod, so I can’t get any good shots, so OK, let’s go.” But Intrepid says, “Well, the tripod’s out there in the car, let me go get it.” I try to talk him out of it, but curiosity has gotten way ahead of us, so there it is. I weigh the consideration of which is worse: possibly attracting more attention with both us trotting back to the car, or staying in that place all by myself. Uh…yeah. Out we go the several hundred yards back to the car to get the tripod, then back to the door and inside once again. This time we delve beyond the first big room and go through the doorway you see in the right third of the above photo. OK, for sure we are going to be killed now, no doubt about it. There’s even a warning in here confirming my suspicions:


But in for a penny, in for a pound. I go to put the camera on the tripod, and now I come to the very sad realization that I had earlier removed the mounting plate and put it back in the camera bag — which, naturally, is outside in the car — because I thought I was going to be outside all day. This time the annoyance of going back trumps my fear, and I stay inside by myself while the desired object is retrieved. When my husband gets back with the plate, he tells me there are a couple of workmen outside who appear to be aware of our presence and have gone into a nearby mobile office structure to call the authorities. I’m not sure how he could have known this specifically, but the urgency has now become very pressing and I have to hurry even though I’m in sheer photographic heaven. Time for just a very few shots because they are a bit long in exposure and composing with the tripod takes me forever.






Things got very curious in some places. I would love to know how all these hoses came to be lying on the floor in here.


But that’s about when we couldn’t stand it any more and knew we had to get out of there while the getting was good. We peeped outside, found the coast to be clear, and walked back to the car, our measured pace belying the sense of dread I felt as I expected to hear a shout or feel a hand on my shoulder at any moment. But we made our escape successfully — no flashing sirens appeared in the rearview mirror, so apparently all is well, at least so far.

I already wish I could go back there and spend a lot more time. I want to know what’s in there on the upper floors!

2017-10-15T16:16:49+00:00 April 4th, 2009|Photography, Road trip|5 Comments