Monthly Archives: April 2014

Gone Bowling

Generally I’m one of the last people to learn about the latest sewing fad.  I suspect this may be the case for microwavable fabric bowls.  Someone at a meeting I attended brought one, along with this tutorial from Tamarack Shack. I just finished making two of them.

fabric bowls

I’m always happy to come across a sewn object that could actually be useful.  I know all too well how hot bowls of soup, stew, etc., get in the microwave.  This handy, all cotton, cradle for your bowl has ears you can grasp to protect your fingers. Just place your bowl in its crater, microwave as usual, and lift out your bowl.  If spills occur, put the fabric bowl in your next load of wash.

fabric bowl with bowl

Yes, you can buy one of these on Etsy for $9-$10, but with 8 to 12 inch squares of fabric and cotton batting you can make your own with stuff already in your stash.  The tutorial at Tamarack Shack (link above) works just fine, even for craft-impaired me.  I’d suggest two additions: use a walking foot if you have one and lighten your presser foot tension, and mark your bottom of the bowl stitching lines on the right side of one “good” fabric with an erasable marker before you begin construction. Oops, that’s three additions.

fabric bowls top view

You can see the bottom stitching lines best on the peaches bowl on the right, above. They hold the two layers together, and could be fancier, if that’s your wish.

Maybe I can use them to hold spools of thread or buttons or whatever clutter I’m trying to corral.  I think they’d make good hostess gifts, too.



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Filed under Completed Projects, Project Ideas, Techniques

Silk Screening On A Budget

I never thought about silk screening  on fabric because it just seemed like too much special equipment and supplies.  Then I took a half day workshop on frameless silk screen printing.  Now I’ve made a printing pad, bought silk screen paint (Plaid), and cut some stencils.

Some friends, who also took the class, and I got together to try the technique on our own.  We used homemade stencils on synthetic organza as well as commercial stencils on screening.

The homemade ones use a paper backed adhesive vinyl available in rolls that you cut your design into using an Xacto knife.  Then you peel off the paper backing, stick the vinyl to synthetic organza, and iron the whole thing between layers of something nonstick like parchment paper.  Just don’t set the iron too high like I did. Vinyl meltdown will result.

The commercial stencils have much more fine detail (my knife wielding skills are rudimentary) as you can see from the dragons below.  Both types of stencils are reusable as long as you clean them after use in water and Dawn or Simple Green.

paintstik-paint stenciled dragonsilk screened dragon

My efforts were uneven as I either laid down too much or too little paint.  We did mix our paint with shaving cream and had good results with that. As you can see, we got into that metallic purple fabric paint.

silk screened vinesilk screened leavessilkscreened starburstsI plan to screen more on top of what I’ve done or experiment with Paintstiks and/or Inktense pencils.



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Filed under In Process

They Made Art Quilts In The 1990s?

King-of-Hearts-by-Diane-HerbortKing of Hearts by Diane Herbort

At a recent quilt book sale I snagged a copy of Art Quilts: Playing With A Full Deck for 25 cents. I had never heard of this book before. It was published in 1994 to accompany a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition of the same name.  Sue Pierce dreamed up the project and solicited pieces from art quilters to illustrate the 52 cards of the standard deck plus 2 jokers.  Each piece was to be 18 by 28 inches and have rounded corners, but other than that, the quilters could illustrate their assigned card ( 10 of clubs, 2 of hearts, etc.) any way they pleased.

Well, the contributors’ list reads like a who’s who of the art quilting pantheon – Caryl Bryer Fallert, Libby Lehman, Susan Shie, Patty Hawkins, Jeanne Williamson, and so forth. There are lots of artists I hadn’t heard of before as well.

Fulldeck1 Caryl Bryer FallertThree of Diamonds by Caryl Bryer Fallert

As you can see below, each card is unique.  The style of some artists like Susan Shie (fifth card from the left) is instantly recognizable. For others, like Libby Lehman, you get hints of what their style developed into. And every blessed card uses techniques that today’s art quilters seem to think they invented.


In fact, the major difference in technique I can see is that today’s art quilters quilt their pieces more intensely.  I know free motion quilting was used in 1994 but I don’t think the style then was for closely spaced quilting.  Libby Lehman’s quilt displays the thread painting for which she is now known, but that piece looks bare compared with her later work. The club is done in reverse applique.


Here’s some other cards that caught my eye.

Three_of_Clubs_Dee_Danley-BrownThree of Clubs by Dee Danley-Brown makes a pun on clubs as she has these identical men march off to their clubs.

Seven_of_Clubs_Linda_McDonaldThis card by Linda Macdonald representing the 7 of clubs seems so mysterious to me.  I gather airbrush painting with stencils was used.

Red_King_in_a_Black_Suit_Joyce_Marquess_CareyRed King in a Black Suit by Joyce Marquess Carey also uses wordplay, but in a more serious context.

In_the_Garden_Natasha_Kempers-CullenNatasha Kempers-Cullen’s In The Garden (7 of spades) is a whole cloth quilt that’s been decorated to a fare-thee-well with charms, stitching, embroidery, button, beads, etc.  Again, the artist used wordplay with those spades, which were custom cut for this piece.

As with many prominent modern quilting practitioners, several of the artists in this book have art/design training.  In fact, the forward and introduction to the book make the point that the softer, tactile medium of a quilt has become a recognized art form.

This collection was purchased by Warren and Nancy Brakensiek, who donated it to the San Diego Visions Art Museum in 2012.


Filed under Art quilts, Books

I’m So Square

The pieces for my Working in Series class at the online Academy of Quilting are turning into jigsaw puzzles.  I decided to base my first series on construction paper blocks I had made with different arrangements of squares.  My ulterior motive was to knock off a challenge for a local fiber arts group I belong to. Our colors are restricted to black, white, and two colors we drew out of a paper bag. Our piece can be no larger than 15 by 30 inches.

I’m not wild about the piece I made that fits the challenge criteria.  I’m fonder of a slightly larger attempt that uses only three of the challenge colors.  I could make it fit the challenge by using a black binding, but  I don’t think a binding will look good on it.

Square series cyan

To continue the series, I switched to red, gray, and lemon yellow (the same yellow that’s in the piece above.) I made up only three of the blocks I had designed.  Here are the results in various configurations.

squares 2.4

squares 2.3

sqaures 2.2 Maybe I could finish each block separately, attach them to a backing with velcro, and allow the viewers to rearrange the blocks “as desired.” That’s partly a joke, but not entirely.

My latest variation was to use different values of just one color plus light gray, with one block at 10 inches, with the rest at 5 inches.  I’m trying to keep to the 15, 20, 25, 30, etc., inch size.

Working in Series J. Mack aqua squares 2Working in Series J. Mack aqua squares 3Here are two possible settings with the 10 inch, 5 inch blocks. I think I’ll make another version of the 10 inch block and see what interactions that has with the smaller blocks.

 © Joanna Mack and The Snarky Quilter, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joanna Mack and The Snarky Quilter with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under In Process

Post Piracy Update

Apparently there’s no fury like a quilter robbed of content.  The offending website has been taken down, though it’s anybody’s guess as to how long it is before another variant pops up.  Here’s a link to Lily’s Quilts that gives more details of the aftermath.


Filed under Commentary

The Difference Between Art and Craft

The Textile Ranger’s Deep in the Heart of Textiles blog often takes a philosophical turn. A recent post addressed the difference between art and craft in a way that set off a light bulb for me.

The Ranger quotes from “Metaphysical Implications of Function, Material, and Technique in Craft,”  by Howard Risatti, not something that fits my definition of light reading.  It’s in a 1998 exhibition catalog, Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art.

“While physical needs do not change over the lifetime of an individual or over the course of centuries, psychic needs do change in reaction to altered social, political, and economic situations,  These changes are reflected in the fine arts.”  (p. 35)

“..the practitioners of the fine arts work to overcome the limitations of their materials, whereas those engaged in the applied arts work in concert with their materials.”  (p. 38, emphasis his)

“The fine artist is an ‘image’ maker, whereas the applied artist is an ‘object’ maker.” (p. 40)

So what, you say.  Does this matter?  Well, since I’m interested in art quilting, the distinction between an image and an object matters to me. Modern quilting has made functionality part of its definition, despite shows that feature some art for art’s sake quilts. Some quilts were made to be functional but also are art.  Gee’s Bend quilts are a prime example, though I suspect their makers were more concerned with functionality. The art world discovered them after a dealer arranged for a museum show.GeesBend quiltI’m thrilled when craft and art work together, but I notice this often increases the cost of functional items.  Some Target products are notable exceptions to this effect.  I have a battery operated alarm clock designed by Michael Graves that I love.  It’s super easy to change the time, has a “waist” so you can pick it up easily, and cost under $10.

Michael Graves clock frontMichael Graves clock back

Some designers move between the two worlds and excel in both. Viktor Schreckengost is famous nationally and in the Cleveland, Ohio, area for both his fine art and industrial designs. Toys too.

Viktor S. designs

And check out this light offered by Knoll.  I just love its functionality (you can focus the light upward), and it looks great, too.

So where do I place myself in all this?  I’ve been mulling that over since I began writing this post a few weeks ago, and have decided that I fit more under applied art than fine art.  If my work evolves to the point where viewers perceive it as an image first and not a quilt, then I’ll have made the transition.

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Filed under Commentary

New Fabric Source

A recent online search for Marcia Derse fabric led me to Delta Patchwork, an online fabric store that was previously unknown to me.  I’ve had good and bad experiences with shopping for fabric online, but I decided to try this outfit as my local quilt shops don’t carry Marcia’s fabric.  Shipping was free for orders over $40, prices were a bit lower than those in some other online stores, and there was a decent clearance section, so I went ahead.

To my amazement and delight, my order was shipped just a few hours after I placed it. I ordered on Monday and the fabric was on my doorstep on Thursday. Almost instant gratification! And that was with free shipping.

Oh yeah, here’s some of what I ordered.

new fabricThe three middle fabrics are by Marcia Derse.  All are for a landscape piece I’ve just started work on. I also ordered some solids.

Please don’t take this as an ad or paid endorsement of Delta Patchwork.  I never dealt with them before and received no incentives from them. However, I like to note when a fabric related business does something right.

© Joanna Mack and The Snarky Quilter, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joanna Mack and The Snarky Quilter with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Commentary

Post Piracy

I just learned that an unscrupulous website is publishing some of my posts without my knowledge, much less permission.  You can read about this at The Bitchy Stitcher. I’ve been contacted by some reputable bloggers to ask if they could use a post or a photo, and I’ve always said yes.  The offending website is obviously stealing the information content of others to give itself a specious air of respectability.

If you write a blog I suggest you visit the offending site and search for your blog name.  You may be unpleasantly surprised, as I was.

I haven’t yet figured out what to do about this for the SQ, but obviously I need some sort of copyright statement.  I’ll let you know of any further installments to this story.



Filed under Commentary

A Framed Finish

Thanks to this tutorial by Galloping Pony Studio I have achieved another finish for 2014, which so far has been a good year for starting projects and a bad one for finishing them.  Well, my machine was in the shop for a bit so I do have an excuse.

printed leaves

This method to finish quilt edges works best with smaller whole cloth pieces, though I think you could use it on any smaller piece with extra fabric on the edges.  You need a stretcher frame for canvas or a pre-stretched canvas available at most big box craft stores.  (I think you could also look in thrift stores for old canvases to use.  You’d probably need to paint over what’s on the canvas so color wouldn’t show through.) At any rate, I used a coupon to buy an inexpensive pre-stretched 16 by 20 inch canvas. If your piece is an unusual size you’ll need to use stretcher bars.  The pre-made canvases seem to be available only in units like 12 by 12 inches, 12 by 16, 16 by 16, etc.

Once you have a wooden frame to attach your piece to, trim your piece to the size of the frame plus 1/4 inch per side.  You’ll be sewing a 2.5 inch wide strip of fabric around the entire edge, so you need that 1/4 inch for a seam allowance. The next step is to cut a 2.5 inch wide strip of fabric long enough to go around the outer edges in one continuous strip.  I used part of an old sheet I had dyed in the same batch as my piece, so it coordinated well.  I think the main requirement for this strip is strength (you’ll be nailing/stapling through it.) You can go discreet or bold for color.

Once you get the fabric strip sewn on, recruit a helper for the stretching and attaching steps.  I used (well, my husband did) a staple gun, but small tacks might work, too.

fabric edgeI think this finishing method gives a nice, clean edge without the fuss of binding.


Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

Occasional Wednesday Salon

The Academy of Quilting class I’m taking from Elizabeth Barton has me looking at websites of artists who are new to me, and that’s a good thing.  One discovery has been Karin Franzen, whose work combines biology and art.

She’s a long time Alaska resident who has been doing art quilts since 2003. She began making art quilts as a result of a chance encounter with a book of Ruth McDowell’s work.

Most of her subjects are birds, including eagles and sandhill cranes.  As you can see below, her work is representational.  Apparently she hand dyes silk organza to use in her backgrounds and for shadow effects. I gather she creates overlays of fabric with that organza, rather than using batting and quilting.  I guess her work could more accurately be called hangings. You can learn more about her techniques here.

I love her work because, while it’s realistic, it’s also dynamic, breaking through the barrier of the borders in interesting ways.

Waiting Out Winter Karin FranzenWaiting Out Winter

SONY DSCPirouette

At Home In High Places Karin FranzenAt Home In High Places

ATimeToDance Karin FranzenA Time To Dance

Her website has stopped working so I can’t direct you there.  I suspect you’re surprised that Franzen’s work appeals to me.  I’d never do work like hers, but I’m astounded by her use of fabric to create works of art.  My first thought on seeing her work was most certainly not “what a great quilt,” but “what great art.”


Filed under Art quilts