Monthly Archives: October 2014

In Others’ Words

Sometimes (heck, many times) other bloggers say things so much better than I can. I want to highlight some posts, on a variety of subjects, that do just that.

First, a post about blogging itself, from The Altered Page. Thanks to elle in da coop for this link.

Next, a great humorous piece about that goody two shoes of quilting, Sunbonnet Sue, from Love Those “Hands At Home.”

Continuing with another post from Kerry, here’s her photo essay on autumn. I hope to use some of these images for a landscape quilt, and yes, I’ve asked her permission to do so.

Blue Mountain Daisy, from Australia, spins a wonderful story from her hexagons. For the sake of this tale I’ll put up with rabbits on fabric.

And I can’t leave out Textile Ranger’s explorations of ancient Cretan textiles.

Investigative reporting on a quilter’s blog. Why not? Melanie of Catbird Quilt Studio checks out the veracity of underground railroad quilt codes here and here. Unfortunately, this story is sometimes presented as fact in schools.

Oh right, you’re probably looking for a picture. Here’s a small quilt I made a few years ago called Autumn Whispers. It’s based on a workshop I did with Vikki Pignatelli.

Autumn Whispers


Filed under Commentary

A Classic

Most folks define a classic book as a great work of fiction. Think of books by Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Austen, or Balzac. Of course there are some nonfiction classics as well – Anne Frank’s diary, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Plato’s The Republic. It’s rare, though, to find a classic quilting or fiber related book.

I’d like to correct that oversight by nominating Mickey Lawler’s Skydyes, first published in 1999, as a classic for fiber artists. A friend lent me her copy and I’ve been immersed in this inspiring combination of eye candy and technique every since. I keep coming up with excuses to hold onto the book longer.

The book’s chapters take you through the process of painting landscape skies, water, and earth. It begins with supplies you’ll need, and goes on to how to mix different colors, how to apply the paint for different effects, and ways to enhance your painted fabric with sun printing and salt. Of course each step has copious photos to show just what’s being described.

There are lots of techniques books out there. Few combine airy art talk with down to earth instructions the way this one does. Of course there are many photos of how Mickey’s fabrics have been used in quilts, and it’s nice that Mickey talks about how the fabrics convey the artists’ intentions. Lest you think that art quilting is a recent thing, the quilts in this book date from the mid to late 1990s.

Here is a section of Mickey’s fabric. It’s described on her website as light sunset.

Mickey_Lawler_light_sunsetAnd here’s two quilts created by Jo Diggs using Mickey’s fabric for the sky and mountains.

jo_diggs3I understand Mickey has published a more recent book called Skyquilts that gets into ways to use her fabric in quilts, in addition to fabric painting techniques.

It’s official. I now have yet another way to mess around with fabric. I see another UPS shipment, loaded with more fabric paint, arriving on my doorstep.



Filed under Art quilts, Books, Fabric Printing

Winter, The Art Quilt

My art quilt entry in Amy’s Creative Side Bloggers’ Quilt Festival is the Winter piece of my four seasons quartet. Yup, just like Vivaldi, only without the music.

Please check out all the other wonderful entries in this online quilt show as well. Voting for favorites in each category runs from November 1 to 7, with winners announced on November 8.

winterWinter is a spare four patch design using Vicki Welsh’s hand dyed fabric, batiks, and a Lonni Rossi print. I quilted it with wandering curved lines using a walking foot. It measures 18.5 by 31 inches. To me it evokes snow drifts and cracked ice puddles, and echoes the subdued colors of winter.


Filed under Completed Projects, Quilt Shows

A Rainbow in Broken Glass

I decided to enter a quilt in the ROYGBIV category of this fall’s Bloggers Quilt Festival  sponsored by Amy’s Creative Side. For more information on this great online quilt show go here. Please check out all the other wonderful categories of entries as well. Voting for favorites in each category runs from November 1 to 7, with winners announced on November 8.

About a year and a half ago my husband and I took a road trip through southeast Ohio into West Virginia and back through Kentucky. One of our stops was the Blenko glass factory in Milton, West Virginia. My favorite sight was the huge outdoor containers heaped with pieces of shattered glass, sorted by color.

I found that mental image niggling at the back of my mind when I began randomly sewing small scraps together according to color groups. They evolved into Broken Glass.

Broken Glass

It measures 34 by 37 inches, is embellished with hand dyed seam binding, and was quilted by me with a walking foot.


Filed under Completed Projects, Quilt Shows

Child’s Play

With the frost on the pumpkins, this dyeing season has closed at my house. However, there are still ways to color fabric even with the dye buckets packed away. The easiest, hands down, is to use tissue paper.

You may remember this craft from grade school. With some fabric, some brightly colored tissue paper that will bleed (we used Spectra brand,) and some water you can watch boring white fabric become a rainbow of colors.

tissue_paper_tubHere the PFD fabric is draped over the cat litter tray (never used for that purpose), sprayed with water, and layered with tissue. A final spray encourages the paper to bleed.

tissue_paper_bleedingHere are stacks soaking on newspapers. There are plastic bags under each stack. After about an hour or so the tissue was mostly spent and was removed.

tissue_paper_greenstissue_paper_leavesBoth of the above were done on previously dyed/painted/stamped fabrics.

tissue_paper_organzaThis was done on silk organza to use as an overlay on a landscape.

tissue_paper_pinksNo, my camera wasn’t out of focus. The paper bled like that.

Here are some of the effects my friend got.

IMG_0063IMG_0064Looks like she’s already used some of her fabric.

The good points about this technique: easy, little mess; good to do with children; it can be used on silk; layered papers produce new colors. The bad points: the fabric can’t be washed without losing most of the color; the colors may fade with time; the effects are smudgy.

If you’re interested, we followed a tutorial at Dharma Trading, plus we checked out other online resources. We did add vinegar to the water spray and found it helped to spray the fabric before adding the paper.





Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing, Techniques

Left Brain, Right Brain

I know some quilters who focus on one major project at a time. They may mull over ideas for other new pieces, but the actual cutting, piecing, sewing, and quilting  are confined to just the one piece.

Then there’s yours truly. Without consciously deciding to work this way, I always seem to have at least two big projects actively going. They are often quite different kinds of pieces. It’s as if my brain needs to have both hemispheres stimulated.

Right now I’m finishing up the top for a paper pieced project that features four color gradients. I just need to buy more of the narrow rickrack as I want to place it differently than shown. The hand dyed border strips aren’t sewn in place yet, so that’s why they may seem off kilter, and the end of the day photo doesn’t help.

leaves_topMy inspiration was a Craftsy course on color taught by Joen Wolfrom. I’m only about halfway through the videos but I just had to do a color gradient or two. The leaf pattern was developed by Deb Karasik.

My other work in progress is also related to an online course. I mentioned earlier that I’m taking a landscape quilt class and am using photos of a salt marsh in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, for my inspiration.

Mack_marsh_pinnedThis piece needs a lot more work than the leaf one. Right now it’s tenuously pinned to a board. None of the edges are turned under. Because the pieces are cut oversize to make sure there’s enough fabric for complete coverage, they are larger than they will finish up. There’s been lots of trial and error and some creative adjustments based on the fabrics I had available. I’ll be fiddling with fabric choices for another day or so, and possibly longer.

Each of these pieces has called on a different skill set. For the leaf one, choosing the gradient fabrics was the most creative (and fun) part.

leaf fabrics

I paper pieced little bits of fabric together the same way 32 times. The biggest challenges were to make sure I covered all the edges with fabric and to remove the paper. I also did a lot of ironing and starching to get the blessed things to lie flat. I did fiddle with block arrangement. Once I sew on rickrack and the borders I think quilting will be straightforward work with my walking foot.

The landscape has required much more auditioning of fabric, and stepping back and squinting at the effect. I had to be ready to change the pattern shapes to accommodate the amount of fabric I had and the coloring of the fabric.

After I make final fabric choices I’ll have to iron under exposed edges for invisible applique or prepare the fabric for fusing. Some of the water pieces are so skinny that I think fusing will be the only way to go, and the grasses in the foreground will be fused. The quilting will be improvisational and free motion.

Both pieces satisfy different parts of my quilter’s brain. With the leaves I enjoy predictability; with the landscape I flirt with ambiguity. Now I need to keep focused on these pieces and not hare off to begin yet something else.



Filed under In Process

But Wait, There’s More!

Here’s a few more of the quilts I loved in Quilts: Masterpieces from the American Folk Art Museum. I photographed them from the book itself as I couldn’t find images online. Please bear with the sometimes strange curves that follow the book’s pages.

center_star_quiltCenter Star quilt, New England, 1815-1825, artist unidentified. The color variations in the background rust fabric (wool, I think) seem to have resulted from the use of different pieces of fabric (dye variations) or the effects of time.  Personally I love the variations as they give such subtlety and richness.

IMG_4931Orange Peel Variation quilt, Pennsylvania, 1860-1880, artist unidentified. The precision in this symmetrical quilt is incredible, given all those curves. I wonder if the maker was influenced by Pennsylvania German hex signs.

IMG_4937Stars and Pentagons, made 1880-1900, U.S., artist unidentified. What an interesting contrast between the irregularly sided shapes and the precise stars. Behind that apparent wonkiness is a strong pentagon structure. It looks like each block repeats the same irregular shapes.

IMG_4933Soldier’s Quilt, probably U.S., Canada or Great Britain, 1854-1890.  Could the attribution have been vaguer? This bravura quilt leaves no shape out. I think you could play Parcheesi on it. Look how the outer diamond border corners were “turned” with that club wedge.

detailEven though I neglected to get the attribution for this quilt and the book has been returned to the library, I wanted to show the detail, which leaves modern quilts in the shade. To me it has an African print fabric feel though it seems to be made up of tiny fabric scraps.

I can’t wait for the Folk Art Museum to host another quilt exhibit so these and other quilted treasures can be seen in person.


Filed under Books

Lessons From The Past

Sometimes I need to view great examples of old quilts to appreciate how constant the elements of a really good quilt are. It doesn’t matter whether a quilt is traditional, modern, art or folk. A library book has been reminding me of this.

Quilts: Masterworks From The American Folk Art Museum is a 2010 coffee table tome that deserves to be admired on paper, not on a small screen. I did find 60 of the quilts included on the museum’s website, so you can view some of the quilts in the book. Trust me, the photos look better on paper.

The main drawback to this book is that background information about each quilt is minimal – maker (if known,) where made, when made, size, material, and donor. I was eager for some link to whatever information was known about each one, but none is offered. I did find more about some of the quilts pictured on the museum’s website, but that leaves about 140 with very little information.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites. There are wonderfully quilted pieces in the book, but they just don’t show up well in a photo. And of course my taste runs to the graphic rather than exquisite applique. Where available, I’ve provided information about the quilts.

double_wedding_ringI love the blues and dusty purples set on a very dark (navy? black?) ground and enlivened with pinks, rose, greens, golds and white.  This double wedding ring quilt was made between 1930-1940 by Mrs. Andy Byler in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

crazy_quilt_fansThis controlled crazy quilt gains such structure from the fans surrounding the center star. It’s silk, made between 1880-1890, by Mary Ann Crocker Himnan in New York State.

crazy_quilt_Mifflin_PAAnother crazy quilt set in order by the sashing and those wonderful gold/cheddar squares surrounding each cornerstone.  It was made by Leah Zook Hartzler in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, out of wool and cotton, and is dated 1903.

hummingbirds_quilt.This cotton hummingbirds quilt  has such sparkle and the inner and outer border color choices are genius. It was made by an unidentified Amish woman between 1920-1930 in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Freedom_quiltThis quilt dated 1983 was made in Georgia by Jessie Telfair. According to the American Folk Art Museum, “[t]his is one of several freedom quilts that Jessie Telfair made as a response to losing her job after she attempted to register to vote.” It brought tears to my eyes.


Filed under Books

Spirit of Place

Recently I began an online course in making landscape quilts. While I think I could have figured out the process on my own, I wanted to get expert guidance to avoid dead ends.

Ever since I visited the Annapolis Royal Gardens in Nova Scotia I’ve wanted to make a quilt of the salt marshes in back of the gardens. Photos I took of a gate that led to the marshes became my inspiration. I loved the wildness just beyond the gate. It’s such a contrast to the beautiful constructs of the gardens.

Series marsh cropped

I combined elements of this photo with shots of the same scene taken from other angles, and developed two colored pencil sketches.



Academy of Quilting teacher Susan Brittingham has you develop a full scale pattern for your quilt based on a photo or drawing. First I made outline drawings of my photos, editing the scene as desired, and then I had the drawings enlarged to 3 and 4 times their original 9 by 12 inch size. I hadn’t realized how inexpensive this process was until I spent some time at my local FedEx Office store. For about $3 I got two black and white enlargements. It’s much more expensive to get color enlargements.

Next I’m supposed to do tracing paper copies of my enlargements to use as a guide for fabric placement. Then, I’m to trace the drawing outline onto a piece of muslin backing.

Lots of prep work before I put even one piece of fabric in place. Knowing me, I’ll most likely change my scenes as I work on them. I have a feeling I’m going to need more fabric before I’m done.


Filed under In Process

It’s Never Too Late (To Add More Quilting)

My last post featured a quilt that had too much going on. This post features one that seriously lacked quilting. Here’s a shot of the back right after I began adding more quilting. Talk about wide open spaces.

old_quilting_kaleidoscope_quiltIn my defense, I made this quilt about 2004.  It’s based on a quilt I had long admired in an old issue (May 1984) of Quilters Newsletter.


I laboriously worked out the number of blocks I needed and struggled with getting all those points to touch. The photo of the directions I developed proves that at one time I did plan stuff out. However, I guess I was tired of it when it came time to quilt it, or I didn’t understand the need for more quilting than I did.


Ten years later I pulled it out and went to work on it with my walking foot. I decided to trace the circles formed by the blocks and do what I could to stabilize the outer blocks. I would have done more quilting to emphasize the patterns formed by the blocks, but I was getting a lot of thread buildup where the quilting lines meet.



My husband was tickled to see a “geometric” (his word) quilt under my needle so I may try to hang this one after the painters are done.


Filed under Completed Projects