Monthly Archives: March 2015

Nothing New Under The Sun

I love to dye cloth, but it can be seriously messy. So I’ve been exploring different ways to paint cloth. My search for ideas led me to an old (published in 2004) book, “Off-The-Shelf Fabric Painting: 30 Simple Recipes for Gourmet Results” by Sue Beevers. I was drawn to two concepts apparent in the title – cheap and easy.

Beevers gives an easy to understand introduction to different types of fabric paint and color theory. She covers the best fabric to use (a fairly dense white rather than natural or off-white cotton) and suggests equipment that you probably already have or can buy at a dollar store.

I found I already had everything recommended except brushes. Besides cheap foam brushes, Beevers uses three: a #3 outliner, a 1 inch mop brush, and a 1/2 inch flat watercolor brush. I spent a lot of time trying to decipher all the different brushes at the local craft store and finally found a mop brush. (Exactly what do you use a filbert brush for, anyway?) It’s amazing to see the price range though I was clueless as to which quality would be sufficient for fabric painting. The mantra usually says to buy the best possible tools you can afford, but I didn’t know if I cared to apply that to a choice between a $3 and a $30 brush.

Beevers covers free form techniques that require virtually no prior experience with fabric painting; background textures like sun printing; print techniques like stamping and stenciling; and resists like folding, sewing and gutta.

I hope to try some of these techniques at a fabric retreat in June. Here are some likely candidates.


Beevers2 As you can see, for each technique there’s a supply list and a tip to make the technique work better. Yes, I realize it’s only sensible to use fresh leaves that aren’t dried up, but I can see me cutting leaves the day before and then wondering why the print isn’t successful.


Some techniques are also used in dyeing, especially the resists. All are useful for what I’ll call background fabric that will be cut up or printed, drawn on, painted more.

Beevers’ book doesn’t break new ground, but it presents many painting techniques in one place. Rather than try to remember which issue of Quilting Arts had the article about making thin lines I can just go to this book.




Filed under Books

Project Progress

Despite the continuing cold weather that belies the calendar, March will end soon. My quilting endeavors have focused on getting projects done, though a small new project assembled itself on my design wall.

The quilting on Curves Ahead is done, and I’m dithering about the binding fabric.


Curves_Ahead_detail1You can see the seersucker effect the serpentine stitched rows give. I can’t wait to wash this one and get it crinkly.

Then, since my sewing machine was freed up from serpentine stitch tyranny, I had to start playing with a jelly roll of Caryl Bryer Fallert’s gradations fabric. My original idea was to run two different gradations in opposite directions. It may have been the colors I chose, but that effect looked awful. Since I had a bunch of 2.5 inch squares cut I started playing and came up with this.

Electric_BlueI think it has a passing resemblance to the work of Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Macintosh.


I might adapt one of his designs for the quilting, using curves to offset all those straight lines.


I mounted the silk organza class exercise on a larger quilted base and framed it with yarn made with silk sari material. Finally, I finished the edge with three rounds of zigzag. It’s strange that the transparency doesn’t show well in photos.





Filed under Completed Projects, In Process

Class Work

This will be the last post about my Empty Spools class, I promise. As I noted earlier, everyone in my translucent fabrics class did unique work. Here are details of some of their products.  I asked, and received, permission to take photos.

Meyer Kathleen (2) The tiny squares connected with hand sewn dark thread give this piece such rhythm. Little buttons and charms are caught in organza pockets.

Meyer Laura (2)Strong colors and jagged diagonal lines make for a dramatic piece. Although a primary color scheme is used, the muted reds and blues give depth.

Meyer Allison (2)The dramatic center is highlighted by those fringed raw edges, and the “flaw” in the one piece of blue fabric under the yellow square helps center your eye.

Meyer Kathy (2)Ice dyed cotton and silk organza brought to class make for mysterious effects. The crosses are used sporadically throughout.


Finally, here’s where my “bubbles” piece is as of mid March. I began this at Empty Spools and continued working on it at home. It will be mostly fused, and probably hand and machine quilted. I’m finding the silk organza to be a bit frisky to work with.



Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

Airport Art . . .

Sounds like an oxymoron, but San Francisco airport has made quite an effort to mix art in with the sushi bars, taco stands, and yoga meditation centers offered in its terminals.

Spirogyrate caught my eye as I reached my gate, and since I had time to kill, I checked it out.

SF airport art

The piece takes up part of a wall and floor. As you approach it, the circle closest to you lights up and rotates. When you move towards other circles they also go into their act. Only one other traveler showed any interest in this piece. The rest were as one with their electronic devices.

SF Spirogyrate 1

SF Spirogyrate 2

SF airport Spirogyrate 5

SF airport Spirogyrate 3

I thought the designs were appropriate, given that I had just come from a quilting seminar. They remind me of the Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs I loved to make as a child.

hex sign



Filed under Commentary

QuiltCon Aftermath

The second annual QuiltCon wrapped up at the end of February, and I’ve been looking at photos of the modern quilts exhibited there. Hmmm, I can see certain tropes being codified as “modern.” Plus and multiplication sign quilts, anyone?

Look over some of these links to photos of quilts exhibited, and make up your own mind. Here are photos of the winning quilts.

i Quilt by Kathy York won Best in Show. I think it’s a cute idea, but nothing technically challenging. At first I thought the i’s were birthday cake candles.


The Plaid Portico blog is performing a great service by showing lots of the quilts, especially the details. Here’s a post of some of the charity quilts exhibited. And here’s the second post on the charity quilts. Yet another post features quilts in the modern traditionalism category. The latest posts feature the quilts in the improvisation category(part 1) and (part 2.) I believe there’s more photos to come.

In the quilts assigned by the judges to the modern traditionalism category I saw great reworkings of blocks such as kaleidoscope, LeMoyne Star, flying geese, and pineapple. However, I’m mystified by the judge’s ribbon choices, especially the first place quilt. I find it a jumble with no focal point and no fabulous quilting.

I’ve spent some time with the improvisation quilt photos.  I like Sunburst Quilt by Tara Faughnan, Fade Into Gray by Stephanie Ruyle, and Lite Brite by Maria Shell, but I confess I’m a bit tired of the usual modern palette. Marianne Haak’s Shifting Impressions uses ombre fabrics so it’s a welcome exception. I’m taken with the quilting on Neva Asinari’s Intersection, and I give Face #1 by Melissa Averinos full props for being something completely different. Again, I find the choices of ribbon winners mystifying, though I admire the use of thread color and stitch types in the first place winner, The Rabbit Hole by Serena Brooks.


Let me take a minute to talk about the workmanship of some of the quilts exhibited. A friend who attended came back appalled at the waviness of many of the quilts. She said they buckled and billowed. Another blogger talked about the quilting birds nests on the back of the best in show quilt.

Why am I being so picky? Because this was a national juried show. Many quilters had their work rejected. (I didn’t enter so this isn’t sour grapes.) I realize you can’t judge workmanship well from photos, but closeups should reveal glaring issues. Of course, I haven’t seen the judges’ criteria, but surely they can’t be too different from those used for traditional quilts.

I recall seeing some of these problems in a modern quilt exhibit at the 2013 International Quilt Festival. My thought at the time was that experience would smooth out such issues. I guess not. Or maybe the early modern quilters have learned, but relative newcomers are still learning.

In the photos of the different guild charity quilts I noticed that many had complex free motion quilting designs. Some just didn’t suit the quilt or were somewhat clunky. I applaud the willingness of modern quilters to jump into free motion quilting, a no go area for many traditional quilters, but I think it wise to keep it simple and looking good. Of course, the underlying thought may have been “it’s for charity so why not experiment.”

If you attended QuiltCon or have spent time looking at photos of the quilts let me know your thoughts. Am I off base here?



Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows

Better Than Watching Paint Dry

That’s my assessment of the quilting I’m doing on Curves Ahead, my modern drunkards path project you all helped me with. I did go with the random layout.

random 1 layout

I decided to sew a serpentine stitch with my walking foot, as I felt the curves of the stitch echoed the curves in the quilt’s design. When I get this done I think the result will be effective.  The catch is getting it done.

For some, sewing is meditative. For me, unless I pay attention my mind and my stitching drift off course. My mental game is to tally the number of rows of stitching I still need to sew. The quilt is 10 blocks wide. I’m sewing about nine rows of stitching per block. That means I need to sew about 90 rows of stitching. So far I’ve done 18 rows, which leaves 72 rows to go. I also count down as I sew. Each line of stitching is 13 blocks long. Four blocks is about one third done, six and a half blocks is one half, etc.

As an aside, I don’t like the serpentine stitch on my Janome 6500. It takes very small stitches at the top of the curve, and I can’t elongate it. I hope I don’t have to rip it out. But it’s what I have, so it will have to do.

Cuves Ahead quilting

Are there tricks you use to help keep you focused while you quilt? I need all the tricks I can get. This baby is barely one fifth quilted.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting

Translucent Fabrics Samples and Art

Rather than natter on to you about the different ways to use the transparent qualities of silk organza, let me show you Jeannette Meyer’s class samples. I checked and she is fine with such sharing.

Jeannette Meyer woven organza on organdyTwo curved sets of strips are woven together and sewn around the edges to cotton organdy. The trick to such weaving is to leave a half inch uncut at one edge of your fabric piece. In the sample above, those are the left and top sides.

Meyer organza with machine buttonholeA wonky log cabin block with edges sewn with a machine buttonhole stitch. Fun secondary shapes are made with the irregular seam allowances.

Meyer pujagiA log cabin block with hand sewn pojagi seams.

Meyer flat fell seam layered over silkscreenFlat fell seamed transparent fabric over silk screened fabric.

Meyer organza with machine buttonhole over tucked organdyMachine buttonhole stitched fabric pieces over tucked cotton organdy. You can use matching or contrasting thread to sew the tucks.

Meyer Mary Mashuta orgami foldOrigami folded cotton organdy blocks. Just don’t ask me how to make these. I missed that demo due to issues with my rented Bernina.

These are just a few samples of what we learned in class. It’s fun to play with the different effects you can get by changing which color of organza is on top. If you want to try this kind of seaming at home and are a perfectionist, try 100 weight kimono silk thread for hand sewing. I’m told that Superior Thread’s Tiara line of silk thread is good as well, though it’s a 50 weight.

What kind of art quilts can you make with these techniques? Here are three examples of Jeannette Meyer’s work she brought to class.

Meyer 4I think this piece is part of Meyer’s Storylines series.

Meyer 3 tapas clothThis piece uses tapa cloth with the wrong side up. Jeannette searches out “spoiled” pieces to use. All those dark lines are sewn in. I gather Jeannette’s sewing machine doesn’t like this material.

Meyer 2Crucible is even more spectacular in person.



Filed under Inspiration, Techniques

Realm of the Bizarre

Sunday night I had an unsettling experience. In preparation for a trip I was researching quilt related activities. Wouldn’t it be fun to visit quilt museums, I thought. A search found a few possibilities. I clicked on the link for the Wisconsin quilt museum outside of Milwaukee and was greeted with a deaths head, Arabic script and a message in English saying the site had been hacked by ISIS. There was music, too.

Really? Terrorists are hacking a quilt museum website? Are they upset they’re not getting charity quilts?

Update: News outlets are saying this is a possible hoax, and not really the work of ISIS.


Filed under Commentary, Everything Else

Translucent Fabrics Class

Five days seemed like a lot of time when I signed up for Jeannette Meyer’s Empty Spools class. It wasn’t.

Jeannette had organized the class well. We spent the first morning painting silk organza with solid colors after some explanation of types of acrylic and fabric paint that work.  To save time each student painted many squares of the same color. My color was terracotta. Some of the pieces had great texture due to the brushes and rollers used to apply the paint.Jeannette Meyer painted organza Then came a day and a half trying out the various techniques Jeannette demoed.  The techniques covered included hand and machine sewn seams for transparent fabrics (flat fell, French, pojagi, raw edge overlapped), ways to attach the organza to a base and to itself, ways to weave organza strips, and making tucks. I’ll show some examples in a later post. We could make a small book of our samples. Some of them (not mine) were exquisite. I don’t see a lot of hand sewn pojagi seams in my future. transparency book We took another day (or so) to design our response to the prompt “light.” We could use only 10 to 15 fabric pieces with 90 degree corners. I added to my piece when I got home so, as with remodeling costs, I’ve exceeded the original number. Windows light exercise With the remaining time we could begin an original project, enlarge on the class exercise, or develop variations on and expertise with the techniques. I chose to begin a design I’ve named “Not So Tiny Bubbles.” The background fabric called Intersections is part of Carolyn Friedlander’s Doe line. Print fabric can look amazing under silk organza. Some of my classmates brought sumptuous hand dyed fabric to use in their projects. Anyway, this design is changing daily, so what you see here isn’t the final layout.Bubbles start We closed our class with a group critique of one piece we had made –  our classmates’ reaction to the piece, what worked, what could be added/subtracted, and suggestions for further development. We could opt out of this process if we chose. I don’t think anyone did, and the comments were supportive and helpful. It was exciting to see how different everyone’s work was. Some pieces were based on our teacher’s samples, some were already conceived projects, and some (like mine) used an idea from a photo. As always, we learned from what each other created.

From what I could see, in about half the other classes students followed the teacher’s patterns. In some classes everyone bought the kit. Empty Spools seems to offer a wide variety of classes, many of which appeal to folks who enjoy traditional approaches to quilting. I mention this just so you don’t think it’s only about art quilts.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

Nature’s Marks

Rather than share the usual photos of the gorgeous Monterey shore I want to show you what captivated me – the marks nature left behind on the beach.


Filed under Inspiration