Monthly Archives: July 2013

Occasional Wednesday Salon – Marianne Burr

While I had “pinned” pictures of Marianne Burr’s stitch-centric quilts, I was really impressed with her work at Quilt National.  Her artistic statement begins, “My work is a joyful enterprise.”  She works with serious themes, such as the 2011 earthquake in Japan, but she’s not above stitching pompoms around the edge of a quilt, as in Cotton Candy.


She starts with china silk fabric and then paints, dyes, and applies resists; followed by hand applique of silks and hand stitching with silk and cotton threads.  I’m intrigued that she has advanced certificates of design and embroidery from the City and Guilds of London. This is a vocational training center (or centre) of a kind that seems hard to find in this country anymore.  I suspect that textiles and millinery training are more often found in fashion and design institutes in the U.S.

You can catch her work in a dual show with Denyse Schmidt at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, from October 1, 2013, to January 14, 2014.  The show is called Two Approaches: Now and the Future of Quilting.

Enough talk.  Let’s look at some pictures.

At-the-Circus-1At the Circus breaks up the straight outer edges in a natural way, and I love the bite out of the upper right side.

Eleven-3-ElevenEleven-3-Eleven commemorates the date of the Japanese earthquake.

Thru-the-Lens-detailThe detail of Thru The Lens shows the amount of hand stitching that goes into her work.  This is the piece juried into the 2013 Quilt National exhibit.

patchwork-profesionalprojectThis is a shot from a German magazine, Patchwork Professional.  No idea what it says as it’s written in German, but I’m fascinated at the glimpse of how Marianne builds her work.  Looks like she uses a Hera marker and small needles.

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Filed under Art quilts, Inspiration

Goodnight Moon

Partial Eclipse is finally done, after way too much time faffing around with metallic thread that refused to behave, no matter what remedy (new/different needle, looser tension, thread stand, slow stitching, etc.) I tried.  It may simply be the brand of thread didn’t get along with my machine.  When I switched from Wonderfil to Sulky, stitching went much smoother.

partial_eclipse_frontI spent a lot of time going in circles, using this tutorial.  The blue marking pen disappeared with a spritz of water.

partial_eclipse_detail1The spiral was manageable with a walking foot for this 36 inch square quilt, though a larger quilt could be a struggle to turn.

partial_eclipse_backI used up leftover half circles on the back, so I guess I could reverse this if I wanted.

To hold the binding down on the back I used Steam a Seam quarter inch tape I found at the back of a drawer.  I have no idea why I bought it or what I had planned to use it for, but I see using it to hold down bindings on little pieces done up as quickies.

quarter_inch_tapeI don’t know if I like this quilt, but I wanted to complete it before I made up my mind.  Now that it’s done, I still don’t know.  Are you supposed to say that on your blog?


Filed under Completed Projects

Discharged and Decorated

Inspired by the demo I attended on arashi shibori discharge, I dug out a bleach pen and a jar of Jacquard discharge paste I had bought some years ago.  I didn’t have any chemical to use as a bleach stop, so I relied on soap and water to rinse the bleach pen from my samples.  The discharge paste is used differently as it is activated by steam ironing.  Instructions say to wash the fabric to remove the product after ironing.

My fabric guinea pigs were a black cotton twill, hand dyed scraps, and cotton velveteen. My first experiment was discharge paste applied with a foam brush on the velveteen.

Discharged_velveteenDischargedvelveteen_sparkle_paintDischargedvelveteen_Inktense_pencilsThe first photo is of the whole piece of velveteen, with the middle section showing the discharge effect.  The second photo shows the Jacquard irridescent purple paint I tried out for the first time, while the third is a closeup of Inktense pencil treatment.  I’m really in love with cotton velveteen as it washes beautifully and stands up to abuse.

The photo below shows my attempt to stamp with the discharge paste.  Since you don’t see the results of the paste until you iron the fabric, it’s hard to gauge whether you’re applying enough paste for the effect you want. One surprise was the gold color that the twill turned when the black was discharged.

Stamped_discharge_pasteI made the spirals below with a bleach pen.  The top strip shows what happens when you use too much.  I dunked these in a bucket of water after about 15 minutes and then machine washed them.

Bleach_pen_dischargeFinally, I diluted the discharge paste with water and tried the stamp again.  I also swiped the scrap on the left with some of the leftover diluted paste.

Discharge_pasteConclusion – both the bleach pen and the discharge paste are thick, and the latter seems to be easier to use when it’s diluted a bit.  A downside to the discharge paste is the ammonia smell that is released when you iron the dry fabric. And it’s REALLY  important that you work in a well ventilated area with either product. My venue was a screen porch.  I found the bleach pen didn’t work at all on some all cotton fabric, which was too bad as it was really ugly fabric.  It’s important to prewash your fabric to remove any sizing that will block discharge.

If I use stamps again in this process I plan to experiment first with how the stamp prints before I apply my discharge agent. This experiment gave me a sense of how much product to apply and yet another way to mess around with fabric.


Filed under dyeing, In Process, Techniques

From Bad to ?

It’s always humbling when you think you know how to fix something and then it turns out that you don’t.  A month or so ago I wrote about a problem with a quilt I call Beaded Curtain.

beaded-curtain3It’s my interpretation of a Jacquie Gering design. I didn’t have enough of the blue solid colored background fabric and had to order more online after I failed to find a match at local quilt shops.

I thought it would be OK, but the new fabric was a titch lighter than the original stuff, as you can see in the photo above. I used the new fabric to make the corners of the “beads.”  Then, I assumed I could disguise the slight shade difference with quilting and variegated thread, and began quilting with a serpentine stitch and my walking foot.

Despite close lines of quilting that took almost a week to do (this kind of quilting is really boring to do so I tend not to work at it for long stretches) the color difference was still evident.  Unless I quilted every quarter inch I didn’t think more quilting would help.

After stewing about this for a few weeks and concluding the color difference really bothered me, I decided there was no hope for this quilt except painting the fabric to match.

No, she didn’t, you say.  Yes, I mixed my Jacquard fabric paints to create the closest match I could to the original fabric, thinned the result with water, and went to work.

The result?

Beadedcurtain_paint_detailBeadedcurtain_paint2Beadedcurtain_mostlyboundHow successful my rescue attempt was varies according to the angle of light on the quilt.  Light is reflected differently off the painted and unpainted fabric, so in certain lights (outside of a dark closet) the color correction doesn’t show while under other conditions it does. And I’ve discovered that my camera varies wildly as to how it photographs that blue.

I think the problem is a bit less noticeable, but still there.  Where I display this quilt is going to be tricky.  If light casts shadows on it, viewers will cast aspersions.


Filed under Completed Projects, In Process

The Barn Pilgrimage

In every odd numbered year The Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio, hosts Quilt National, one of the premier juried art quilt exhibits.  Athens isn’t near any place (except Ohio University), so you need to go a few hours out of your way to get there.  But let me tell you, there’s no substitute for seeing the quilts entered in person. Pictures don’t do justice to the surfaces, colors, and textures.  I hope you can see this show, but if not, maybe you can catch one of the three traveling exhibitions in St. Louis, Missouri; San Jose, California; or Moorhead, Minnesota.

Now, photography isn’t allowed and I understand that, as the organizers would like people to buy the catalogue.  However, I came across another blogger, Notes from Norma, who attended the show’s opening and did indeed take photos with her handy portable device.  Follow the link if you’d like to see her photos, which are mostly of the lovely details. And the angels are in the details.  You can also see the leaders for the People’s Choice award here.

This year 87 pieces are on offer, chosen from 851 entries based on photos of the works.  Some trends noted:

  • digital photos printed on fabric, sometimes manipulated before printing, and often stitched over/through, etc.  Even the Mona Lisa made an appearance.
  • lots of hand stitching work that’s not traditional hand quilting.  Marianne Burr’s piece is a great example.
  • use of transparent overlays, sometimes in conjunction with photos and sometimes with object/fabrics trapped between layers
  • interesting use of nontraditional material – barricade tape, plastic bags, crockery bits, coiled fabric

Theo’s Garden detail, by Marianne Burr (has another piece in show)

Deidre Adams detail

Deidre Adams detail from SAQA auction quilt, another of her pieces is in show


Elin Noble (another piece is in show)

SpringField by Brooke Atherton

SpringField by Brooke Atherton, Best of Show

 The Best of Show winner is 97 inches wide and is chock full of detail, including sewn on bits of crockery.  It reminds me of the panoramic birds eye views of towns that were made in the 19th century.  You really need to spend a lot of time taking in all the details in this piece.


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Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Sometimes You Subtract

My husband was puzzled when I told him I was headed out for an arashi shibori demonstration.  He was even more puzzled when I told him I was going to watch someone remove color from cloth using a pole, string and bleach. I suspect he thought I’d also enjoy watching paint dry.

So, for his and possibly your benefit, here’s what arashi shibori is about. Fine, overall patterns are created in cloth by wrapping it diagonally around a pole, winding a thread around it at measured intervals, compressing the cloth into tiny, tight folds, and dyeing it. (definition from Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada)

The demo I attended used bleach to remove color from wrapped cloth, rather than add color with dye. Local artist Kris Kapenekas shared her fabric discharge techniques at Summit ArtSpace, and her fabric samples were inspiring.  She was generous with advice and handouts.

kris discharge3

kris discharge2The background of this piece and the one above were discharged, then overdyed.  The leaves are made of cotton velveteen that was discharged.

kris discharge4Kris discharge1All the leaves are embellished with beads.

kris numbersdischargeEach of the numbers in “Homage to Robert Indiana” was made of discharged black fabric.  You can see the wide color variations that result from bleach discharging.

I did indeed go home and play around with discharge paste I picked up years ago at a quilt show.  The pole wrapping and bleach discharge await the purchase of more supplies.  Funny how I always need to buy more stuff.

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Filed under dyeing, Techniques

A Quilting Icon Is Gone

Last night I heard that Mary Ellen Hopkins has died.  She was a popularizer and teacher of quilting, probably best known for her “It’s OK If You Sit On My Quilt” book, though there were numerous subsequent books.  I never had the chance to take one of her workshops, but her personality came through loud and clear in her books.  Her author photo showed her perched on a motorcycle.

For me, she was the cheerleader for “it’s your quilt so make it to suit yourself, don’t worry about rules.” Her Personal Private Measurement (PPM) made a lot more sense to me than agonizing over quarter inch seams – as long as you were consistent. She publicized many quilt construction shortcuts that eliminated extra seams without compromising the design.

And her approach to quilt designs and layouts you designed yourself was liberating.  All you needed were graph paper and colored pencils. Here’s what Wanda Hanson did with the Kansas Dugout layout.

Kansas dugout 1Kansas_dugout_exuberant_color

Back in the 1990s much of the quilting world was stuck in country themes and dusty pink and blue prints.  Mary Ellen encouraged you to be your own designer and combine fabrics in unexpected ways.  Her books weren’t pattern books – you had to figure out your own yardages, numbers of triangles/squares, etc., to cut, and all the rest of the details – but they did start you on an adventure.  And you often found you could design your own quilts, as I did with Chex.

chexSparkling Stars, below, shows the clever way Mary Ellen made star points with “snowball” rectangles that span two stars at a time.


Purple Gold, below, uses triangles sewn on opposite sides of a square (like the Kansas Dugout above) to form the inner diamonds and the links between blocks.  Wow, I hadn’t looked at these quilts for a long time.  Thanks, Mary Ellen.purplegold


Filed under Commentary

Late to the Party

While every other quilter worth his/her modern cred has made a wonky log cabin quilt, I’m finally getting around to one.  I realize this style/technique has been around since, oh, 2008, with a major boost from the Gee’s Bend quilts.

Why so late?  My story is I was waiting for the right fabric, and it finally came along in a group of Dutch wax prints made for the African market.  The large scale print in the center of my wonkies features festive lampshades tilted at rakish angles.  Two coordinating (I use the word loosely) prints in duck weed green, brown, and cyan blue track around the lampshades, separated by an ecru solid and an oatmeal textured print.


I finished off the wonkies with a textured brown print, and plan to set them all in a natural colored Osnaburg cloth.  The exact setting is a work in progress, with inspiration from “Quilting Modern,” what else.


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Filed under In Process

Use Your Words

That’s the advice adults give to toddlers.  Quilters have taken this advice to heart and like to add words to their quilts.  Some, like Elizabeth Hartman, even break it down to just the letters.  And of course fabric printed with words is currently popular.

Even I caught the word fabric bug and bought a bit of Moda Noteworthy fabric.

Moda_Noteworthy_FabricI decided to combine it with “inspirational” words I had stenciled onto bits of old linen with Paintstiks.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not the kind of person who enjoys those plaques emblazoned with words like Enjoy!, Breathe!, and Live! I hope I’m not yet at the point where I need a reminder to breathe. Yet I have stencils that say imagine, create, and dream.  No idea where they came from.


Anyway, I combined the stenciled words with strips of green scraps and then cut curved strips of alternating Moda fabric and my custom fabric.  The resulting 16 inch square seemed destined for a pillow, so I didn’t fight it.  A quick review of this SewMamaSew tutorial on zipper installation helped me add a zipper with a snazzy flap.


I am worried, though, about the slippery slope to cuteness.  What’s next for me, angels?


Filed under Completed Projects

A To Z Critter Cavalcade

alligatorantdolphinsfrogshorselonghornmount ruffmoretoadturtlezebrasI was impressed by the diversity of creatures portrayed on quilts at the NQA show.  I also saw jellyfish, angel fish, and several cats.

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Filed under Quilt Shows