Jumping Off Points

While we art quilters, or at least this one, would like to think all our work springs fresh from our creative minds, sometimes already made sources give us a head start. Like cheater cloth, fabric that mimics the look of patchwork but only needs quilting, I have used a tea towel and motifs from a bedsheet to do the heavy lifting for two of my current projects.

Because I follow Clare Youngs, a talented collagist and print maker, on Instagram, I learned she had designed a tea towel for Werkshoppe, a company that prints original artwork on products like puzzles and tea towels. Even though I find the company’s name painfully precious, I ordered a few towels and set about to translate one of Youngs’ motifs into a border.

This should finish at about 25″ wide by 30″ high

Youngs uses a flying geese type pattern a lot in her work, so I thought a wonky version would make a good border. To keep the long pieces straight I created a freezer paper piecing pattern and used my tutorial for construction. It’s a good thing I could refer to it as I had forgotten a few steps. I scrapped my original plan for a double border when it became apparent I didn’t have enough fabric bits. I always underestimate the amount of fabric triangular paper piecing takes.

For the back I dug out an old unfinished top that was partially disassembled and will add solid strips of orange fabric that’s been in my drawer for too long to bring it up to size. I am thinking of a traditional binding in black as I may use this on a table.

I never added the flying geese and have taken off the top and bottom rows.

My other assisted start project came about as an effort to use my fused fabric scraps. That’s right, yet another scrap collection. A friend had given me pieces of a sheet that was printed with stylized birds. I had attached fusible but never used them. I picked out any fused scraps that could represent leaves or flowers, found a blue piece of a tablecloth I used under painted fabric, and started composing with my scissors.

This should finish at 23″ wide by 19″ high, including the black border

Next, I got creative with Fabrico fabric markers (I have had them at least 9 years) to touch up stems, leaves, and petals. I plan to quilt it to the piece of black felt shown in the photo above and call it done. My working title is “Three Little Birds,” a tribute to the Bob Marley song. I mean, you can’t get more upbeat than that.

However, all quilting will have to wait for my injured left hand index finger to heal (I am a southpaw.) You should see me trying to type – slow and inaccurate.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques

The End of the Tunnel

While it seems like I’ve been quilting my sunset quilt for years, I realize it’s been only a few months in real time. Last week I finally saw the light at the end, and now I am out of the tunnel. As I wrote earlier, I have contacted the photographer whose photo I based my quilt on, but have never received a response. While I feel I can’t submit my quilt to a show or sell it, I see no reason not to show it here.

“Sunset Tangle” 26.5 inches wide by 40.5 inches high

The quilting took so long because of all the breaks in the sewing lines to skip over the “wires.” Because the quilt won’t be entered in shows, I felt free to ignore some niceties of tidy finishing. I decreased stitch length at the beginning and end of quilting lines rather than tying ends and burying knots, and I carried the bobbin thread over short skips rather than cut it.

About half the quilt is made of Vicki Welsh’s hand dyed fabric. The rest is hand painted commercial prints, curtain fabric, silk organza, and Evolon. The wires are made of Clover’s fusible bias tape. I used at least 12 thread colors in varying weights. It felt like the quilting was endless but I could certainly have done more.

Painted Evolon on lower left, hand dyed fabrics above. No idea why the colors are so different when the photos were taken a minute apart. The colors above are truer.
Detail of quilting thread colors

I spent time deciding between the more naturalistic wavy lines I used and a more stylized straight line approach that emphasized the wires. I even got my husband involved in the decision. Ultimately I decided that since I don’t plan to exhibit the quilt, a more naturalistic approach would fit in better in my house. The stylized alternative would have made the quilt more interesting for a show.

Rough sketches of quilting plans

Then, too, I would have redone the rippled quilting if this were destined for a show, but I have made my peace with it. With this one off my design wall I can return to other, long stalled projects. None should require as much quilting.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

“Photo Memory Quilts” Book Review

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a fiber art book here, partly because I haven’t found ones I thought were interesting enough and partly because there seem to be fewer craft books published these days. Thanks to my library I came upon Lesley Riley’s latest book, “Photo Memory Quilts,” which I really could have used a year ago when I was making my unknown family quilts.

The book combines discussion of why you would want to make a memory quilt, ways to get ideas for one, and nuts and bolts of constructing one. It has examples of quilts made by Lesley and others, so you’re presented with many different approaches.

Lesley begins with how to photograph old photos. She doesn’t assume you own all the photos you will use, but gives specific online resources for copyright free photos. Then she shows how to edit photos for printing on fabric and gives pros and cons of several printing methods. Of the methods she reviews, I have tried printing directly to prepared fabric sheets (Jacquard,) and on demand digital printing. I have used two other methods – cyanotype, and Solar Fast – though not with photo negatives. Lesley is so right that your editing before printing is important to get the look you want.

Two points of note here: Lesley is the developer of TAP artist transfer paper and she uses Apple products for editing, especially an iPhone. I haven’t used the paper, mostly because it costs about $3 per 8.5 by 11 inch sheet, so I can’t give any opinions there. I have an Android phone, but found the features available on my phone that I tried worked fine. I am looking forward to experimenting with suggested apps for sharpening blurry images and colorizing them.

Once your photos are on fabric and you have a design, Lesley walks you through some of her quilt construction methods, including edge finishes. Basically, it’s whatever works, including wood glue. She doesn’t treat the three layer quilt as sacred. Quilting is enough to hold the parts together, but isn’t dominant in the examples shown.

Would you to see some examples?

Each mini quilt was made separately and then tied together. I plan to use this idea.
Lesley notes that it can be important to have eyes look toward the center.
Hand dyed fabric, on demand printed photo, and machine embroidered fabric were combined.
Glued to a cradled board

If you’re interested in this kind of quilt I recommend you at least page through this book. It has lots of helpful advice and examples, without being a pattern book.


Filed under Art quilts, Books, Commentary, Completed Projects, Techniques

In Celebration of Trees

Every spring I am delighted to watch the trees behind my house green up. I want to nibble that delicate tender green as it begins with the weedy understory and creeps up the taller trees. I wait for the old apple tree and the wild dogwoods in the middle of the woods to bloom. And I celebrate the tulip poplar that has taken root at the verge of the back lawn.

However, before all the leafing out began I took many photos of tree trunks and logs that I encountered along the tow path, and played with them in Photoshop Elements. I don’t know just what I’ll do with them, but I am thinking of printing them out on fabric.

Yes, I’m partial to black and white renditions as I think they highlight the textures more than color does.


Filed under Inspiration, Project Ideas

You Don’t Know Until You Try

When I am given interesting materials I like to play and see what I can do with them. Recently in my volunteer work I came across the first of five volumes of a Braille book. No one knew what happened to the other four, so I got to take that volume home.

spiral bound, soft cover book

The Braille printed pages look like code, with raised dots on both sides of each page. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, “Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel rows each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a whole word.”

I experimented with dry and wet media to see how the crisp, white paper covered with dots took color.

Dry media
Wet media

The stamp pad and graphite pencil worked best of the dry media. Cray pas is smeary and the Crayola crayon was too waxy. For the wet media the diluted acrylic orange paint dried quickly so the raised dots remained crisp. I found that the water I applied on the Neocolor II crayon made the dots sink into the paper. The Posca marker (which is acrylic paint) needed to be touched to each raised dot. I tried to create a maze between the dots, but I wasn’t pleased with the results.

I used a bit of the acrylic painted paper in two of my 100 day project four inch collages. The paper certainly adds texture.

Days 72 and 73

Let me know if you think of any other possible uses for this paper. I am willing to try out viable suggestions.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under collage, mixed media, Techniques

Matisse’s Boarding House

Recently I did a stint at the Summit County Historical Society’s booth at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in Akron, Ohio. Much of my time was spent explaining features of the Society’s antique and vintage quilts on display, but I carved out 10 minutes to race around the expo exhibits. I photographed only one quilt – Ben Hollingsworth’s “M. Matisse Chambres a Louer.”

Ben explains its origin story and years-long making process here. When I first laid eyes on it I didn’t know all that. All I knew was this quilt ticked several boxes for me. One, it was an homage to Matisse and his color sense. Two, it had a dollhouse feel to it and I love dollhouses. Three, it used an Attic Windows approach to organizing the rooms, but layered lots of applique to create unique rooms. Four, it was kind of traditional, but totally original. Five, it was charming.

Here are some closeups.

If you attend your local version of the expo I hope you take time to admire this quilt. It is traveling with the expo exhibits.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Exhibits, Quilt Shows

I Make A Village

In between work on the 100 day project and my Textural Styles class I wrapped up my fantasy village quilt. I had been quilting it in little bits for a few months, and decided it was quilted enough or maybe I was simply tired of working on it.

My Fantasy Village, 20″ high by 23.5″ wide

I used a pillowcase finish and spent lots of time steam pressing the thick edges. As the front is silk, I had to be careful about the iron’s temperature. It’s always an adventure to find the spot where the steam works and the iron isn’t too hot.

My inspiration for the village began with the work of Zoe Zenghelis, which I saw last year at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Her paintings were often for architecture projects so they tied into my interest in designing a village. I was also inspired by this photo of a Mexican town.

Guanajuata, Mexico

I chose to simplify and flatten the buildings for a primitive effect. It may not look like there’s much quilting, but the back tells another story. Most of the thread I used is black in two weights, as my experiments with white and red threads produced anemic results. The silk itself was sewn down raw edge with a zigzag stitch. A few of the tiny windows were glued down and then quilted over.

Of course my original vision called for a much larger village with more whimsical details, but reality intervened to narrow my focus to the possible. I still have more than enough silk to make three or four similar quilts. I’ll just have to see if that idea takes root.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Halfway There!

As of yesterday I have made 50 4 by 4 inch collages in my effort to complete the 100 day project. I wrote about the beginning of my effort here, and am pretty darn proud to have made it halfway.

Here are the collages I’ve made since the first 16. They’ve continued in an abstract landscape vein; and mostly contain some stamping, stenciling, or printing.

You logical types will have noticed there are actually 36 collages shown. One is for today, and the other is because I numbered two collages as 38. Since I don’t much like one of them I can always toss it or rework it on another day.

The scraps in my working pile are getting smaller, so I see some creative challenges ahead. I hope to draw only from the scrap pile, but since that’s my rule I can be flexible. I have plenty of other paper scraps.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under collage, In Process

Just Because

Thanks to SAQA’s Material Matters seminar for its members, I’ve had a good time viewing videos and websites that feature innovative materials. I love the idea of wearable art, and the shows are certainly more entertaining than the usual art quilt show.

Somehow the women’s costumes seem to focus on hard to walk in and bondage type outfits, but there’s tons of inventive use of materials in this World of Wearable Art Show highlights video. Of course the outfits are probably best suited to Cirque du Soleil performers.

High couture by Iris van Herpen is modeled in a underwater ballet. Again, this is aspirational stuff, not suited to wear for school pickup runs.

And Tim Harding’s work seems a lovely counterpoint to wearable art and goes well with the underwater modeling. Enjoy his Refraction series with sheer organza overlays.

Tim Harding, “Gold Scribble” detail

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration, Techniques

What’s On My Design Wall

As of the beginning of the week, my design wall was a bit crowded.

I have two quilting projects ongoing, plus work from my Textural Style class, as well as photos to inspire new projects. Starting from the top right, there’s my two single color studies from class.

The blue one is done except for an edge treatment. The red one has become a two color study and has lots of big stitch embroidery. I have a section I want to embroider, but it’s mostly done. I have to figure out an edge treatment, but it won’t be bound. I may do a buttonhole stitch and then paint over that to seal the wonky edges.

Back of fantasy village that will be covered over

On the bottom right is my fantasy village that now has lots of machine quilting, though it doesn’t show up well in the photo. I found that black thread works best. White is anemic and even red thread doesn’t show up well. That will have a pillowcase finish as batting is already fused to the silk pieces.

Use your scraps projects in process

In the lower left are two pieces from the final day of my class. They began as one, but I couldn’t get the left and right sides to work together, so out came the rotary cutter. They are built on a dye mop up cloth and include rotted linen, silk organza scraps, handkerchief scraps, painted cheesecloth, and leftover fabric feathers. The scraps are roughly machine sewn down and I have begun hand embroidery. I’m thinking of mounting them on larger quilted pieces to give them more presence as they are less than 12 inches square.

Finally, there’s my problem child, the piece in the upper left. It’s not the piece itself, though I spent lots of time creating the sky. Rather, I am unable to get a response from the photographer on whose photo I based the piece. A friend sent me the photo which he found on Tumblr. I wanted to do the right thing and get the photographer’s permission. After I identified the photographer through an image reverse search, I found his website and wrote to the email address given there for permission to base my work on his. No reply. Then, I found his Instagram account and DMed him. Still nothing. So, I decided to go ahead and finish the piece, but I don’t think I can exhibit or sell it. Of course I will credit his photograph. At any rate, I will quilt it before I add the last bits of black bias tape.

Off my wall I have my 100 day project little collages, which total 38 as of today. They’ve proved to be great little arty snacks I can knock off each day. Limitations (4 by 4 inches, only paper scraps) really help clarify the mind and speed up a project. Another off my wall project is a sketchy inventory I did of my studio’s contents for insurance purposes. I am appalled to realize how much money I have spent on thread alone.

If I want to start more projects I better get the wall cleared off. I’m keeping a list of possibilities.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, mixed media, Stitch