Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Leap of Faith Pays Off

I’ve entered my work in several quilt shows, including one national show, but none have been juried shows. What’s that, you ask. For a juried show acceptance of your quilt is based on quality of design/workmanship rather than your name or reputation. You send in photos of your work, your entry fees, and hope for a positive response from the jurors.

On a lark, and because I’m from Philadelphia, I submitted a quilt to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XXII. I suspect they didn’t have the number of entries they hoped for, as they put out a last minute email about entries.

To my surprise my quilt, Canyon, was selected for the show, which will be held September 17-20 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA.


detail3_canyonLots of colored and otherwise tortured fabrics went into this one, based loosely on Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Wait til the judges get a load of the back of my free motion quilting.

Whatever the judges say, I’m chuffed that I’ve met the challenge set by a quilting friend to enter a juried show.


Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Bonus Exhibit in Athens, Ohio

In addition to taking in Quilt National 2015 on our recent jaunt to Athens, Ohio, my friend and I stopped by the Kennedy Museum of Art to view SAQA’s Earth Stories traveling exhibit. This is a small (24 quilts) but choice group of art quilts chosen for SAQA’s 25th anniversary.

After winding our way up a hill that overlooks the Hocking River we found the museum to be a large red brick Victorian mansion the Munsters would be happy to call home.

KennedyMuseum_OhioUnivEarth Stories is spread over two floors, but we took advantage of the elevator to save our breath for oohs and ahs as we studied the pieces.

Here are our favorites.

Source of Life In The Dead Sea20150812_103942_resizedGreat color and movement in this piece about extracting salt from the Dead Sea.

Cynthia St. Charles20150812_103314_resizedWe liked how the swirling quilting gave movement to those windmills.Cooking With The Sun Jennifer Day

20150812_10460020150812_104636While the composition of this one is somewhat pedestrian, the thread painting on the individual panels is amazing.

Upstream DownstreamWe were amused at the crocheted doilies used in the panel on the left.

AliciaMerrett_Habitat-Species++Alicia Merrett does maps brilliantly, as shown in Habitats: species.

EARTH-HawkinsP_ForestsEnigma_full_lgSince I just missed a forest fire at Glacier National Park, Patty Hawkins’ depiction of life returning to a burned out area (Enigma of Forest Fires) struck a chord with me.

Here’s a link to thumbnail photos of all 24 quilts. If you click on one you’ll be treated to a much larger photo. The exhibit will make the following stops after it leaves Athens on September 6:

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, November 6, 2015, through February 28, 2016
Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV June 25, 2016, through October 2, 2016
Erie Museum of Art, Erie, PA January 20, 2017, through June 11, 2017

Why see it in person when you can see it online? The photos cannot do justice to the subtleties of coloring and quilting. If you tour the exhibit with a friend you can have some lovely chats about what impresses you and how the artist achieved her effects.




Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Yet More Improv

And sometimes it’s comedy improv, especially when an errant breeze blows all the carefully arranged bits off my design wall.

What am I cobbling together this time? On our 4,700 mile car trip to Montana and back, I did big stitch embroidery on a wide variety of fabric pieces I had fused to interfacing. My notion was to sew them all together, unite them with connecting hand stitching, and turn out lovely small quilts. I was inspired by Linda McLaughlin’s weekly leaf series.

That didn’t happen. I found to my dismay that trying to achieve any sort of serendipitous harmony among wildly disparate fabrics is impossible. Linda’s leaves have a common theme and colors and her embroidery is way better than mine.

So I grouped my embroidered bits according to how well they seemed to play together.  So far I’ve come up with three possibilities. Two are well underway.

arcs in progressIn Arcs I’m trying to echo and extend the curves I embroidered on four small pieces. I couched on decorative yarns, and may add more. I’m also considering beading this one, and/or adding more color with paint or paintstiks. In person this piece doesn’t have as much value contrast as the photo shows.

In Grasses, made with the same fabric set, I couched on rat tail cord, and I plan to add more embroidery to give the impression of tall grasses. That line of French knots will be extended as well.

grasses in progressThe last group with any promise is made up of pieces of silk screened and stamped fabric I quartered and embroidered. I started playing with strips of that Radiant fabric I love. I may try for a jagged edge and either stencil or embroider larger snowflakes across the pieces.

snowflakes ideaMind you, none of this is fixed in stone. As always I reserve the right to change my mind. And that’s what I love about improv work.



Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Trending Now In Art Quilts

Since Quilt National is held every other year, each show gives me a better reading on techniques and approaches many art quilters are using than blog posts and monthly newsletters can. Sometimes a technique may be an ephemeral fad or a way to market a product.

Here are some recurring themes and approaches I noticed at the 2015 show.

Quilts made as separate panels. Some had two panels; others had up to five. On a practical level, this makes the mechanics of quilting easier, though it creates a lot more edges to finish. This exquisite work by Deidre Adams has many layers, including paper, that have been peeled off to make holes.


Lots of big stitch handwork done with thin thread, possibly silk, as in Jeanne Gray’s Season’s End. I immediately thought of locust tree seed pods.

Roundabout Ginny SmithHand dyed, altered, painted, etc., fabrics. I saw discharge, resist printing, painting and even spackling used. Here’s Bonnie Buckman’s gorgeous hand dyed Estuary.

Estuary Bonnie Buckman

Less digital imagery. A few quilts used digital photographs, and some featured thread painting of such photos. Liquid Sunset by Charlotte Ziebarth uses an altered digitally photo (second photo below) in a way that doesn’t scream digital photo.

Liquid Sunset Charlotte Ziebarth


Less elaborate free motion quilting. That said, one of my favorite pieces, Insomnia, His and Hers, by Paula Kovarick, consisted of nothing but free motion quilting. However, it was used as a drawing tool, not as a means to create dense texture. Here is one of the two parts of this entry.

Insomnia,+©+2015,+Paula+KovarikReuse of old fabrics. Jane Dunnewold used an old, torn, grandmother’s flower garden quilt as the starting point for Grandmother’s Flower Garden I. She also used spackling.


Raw edges used as a design feature. Elena Stokes didn’t finish the edges of Infinity, but just cut off the strips.

Elena StokesHere’s another piece that features raw edges, Kit Vincent’s Chaos 3, and a detail from it.

raw stripsDetail of above piece.

detailTiny piecing. Maria Shell sorted oodles of tiny scraps to make To Agnes Martin, With Color. I wish I had a ruler to show you how small these squares are.

Maria ShellMore organic shapes in quilt edges as in Ghost Trees #3 by Karen Tunnell.

Ghost Trees TunnellEvery viewer will have a different selection of quilts they would feature, but I wanted to give you some idea of the range of approaches possible with art quilts. It was eye opening to see how artists used different techniques to enhance their designs rather than be their designs.With one exception, I could find something to admire in each entry.

I realize that the jurors’ tastes affect each show’s selection. That said, I found the work in this show to be much stronger than that in the 2013 show.



Filed under Quilt Shows, Art quilts, Techniques

Settling In For The Long Haul

Somehow I always forget it’s not a good idea to quilt a large top when the weather’s hot. All that fabric and batting draped over one’s person doesn’t promote cooling. But, it’s pinned and I’ve begun. The working title is Bumblebee. I mentioned this project a while ago as one I actually followed a pattern on.

Bumblebee pinnedI’m fortunate to have a friend with a very large table and the generosity to share it for pin basting large projects. This top measures 60 inches by 80 inches, which is huge by my standards. I used to work on the floor, but my knees have let me know that’s no longer an option.

I began sewing my stabilizing quilting on a hot Saturday, and plan to peck at it a few lines at a time. My sketchy quilting plan is horizontal and vertical lines that will form a kind of plaid on top of the piecing. Here’s the thread colors I’ve chosen so far. Right now I’m quilting with a winter white thread, and may try a few black/very dark gray lines as well.

Bumblebee threadsThe batting I chose is Quilters Dream poly request loft (the thinnest.) For a lap quilt I like the lightness and suppleness of this batting and it’s very easy to sew on. I realize that I won’t get as much texture with the poly after washing, but the weight trumps appearance for me.

The backing consists of three large hunks of clearance fabric, sewn with the feather panels on the outside. I know the feathers fabric was designed by Lonni Rossi, but can’t recall who did the one with the bitty squares. While they don’t go with the black/white/yellow theme of the top, they do go with each other if you squint.

I have no deadline for this, so it will be my mindless sewing project when it’s cool enough to drape over my shoulder.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting

Cutting The Cord

Recently a commenter asked me how I knew a piece was done. I responded that for me it was intuitive, but on further reflection I’ve decided it’s like the advice Coco Chanel supposedly gave for accessorizing an outfit. Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”

Mlle. Chanel devoted far more thought to dressing than I ever have, but I think the principle’s the same: go a bit over the edge and then back off a touch. I try to add to a quilt until it’s just too much of a muchness (from Chanel to Alice in Wonderland in the same paragraph!) Then I stop and remove something. Usually that does the trick for me.

I also concur with painter Jamie Wyeth who said in his August 14, 2014, interview on Here and Now: “All the inadequacies jump out at me. … I don’t really finish a picture but it gets to the point of diminishing returns, and I just say, enough.”

I hope I’ve set the stage to debut The Big Bang, which I wrote about as my problem project.

The_Big_Bang_Joanna_MackI felt it needed more – more subtlety, more mystery, more depth. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I painted more silk organza and cheesecloth, but found layering them on top gave a monochromatic effect.

After I removed those layers I hit on using them selectively, in particular the cheesecloth. I recalled photos of galaxies where clouds of matter swirled about. That was the effect I sought.


Many hand stitches with metallic and silk threads later, I declare this piece finished.

detail 1detail 2detail 3Of course there are aspects I’d like to change. My bottom layer of fabric worked for the initial concept, but now doesn’t quite fit. I toyed with starting afresh with a dark fabric, but realized the transparency effect wouldn’t show as well. I wish the metallic thread sparkled more. It does in certain lights, but mostly when you hold the piece at an angle. I’d love to find a way to display it with a light behind it, but the mechanics are beyond my ability and that would constrain where I could display it.

However, I think it’s time I stop fussing with this one and declare it born.


Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

A 2015 Quilt National Prize Winner

It’s an odd numbered year so there’s a new Quilt National exhibit to see in Athens, Ohio. In case you don’t follow art quilt stuff, QN is the Big Kahuna of juried art quilt exhibits in the U.S. I’m headed there with a friend this week, but in the meantime I’ll ogle photos of the prize winners.

To return to the title of this post, first time participant Kathleen Probst was awarded the Kathy Rasmussen Emerging Artist award for her Blue Veil.

Probst_BlueVeil_53x55-300x288She’s been paring down her work over time, and this one is very Zen to me. I imagine the quilting lines as the marks left by a rake in a Zen garden. I gather she has been a  whitewater rafting guide, and has been basing some of her work on river rocks.  She dyes her own fabrics. But I’ll let her tell you about her QN experiences, in four parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

I’ll leave it to you to explore her other series. Here’s one of my favorites, Rhythm Section. I love the tilted shape at the bottom of the right column. And I notice I like that color scheme.



Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Inspiration, Quilt Shows

What Was I Thinking? Maybe I Wasn’t

This year I resolved to slow down my quilt production and concentrate more on thoughtful design. Certainly I’ve been doing OK on slowing down my process compared with other years. Then I got embroiled in My Brain On Xmas, which was taken over by my id.

Brain 2I throw together project starters from scraps when I just want something mindless to sew.  It’s my way of experimenting with color combinations. As I looked for pieced bits I could use for FMQ practice, I pulled out one that reminded me of Christmas, despite the Indonesian temple dog from fabric purchased in the 1970s.

Brain dogIt sat on my cutting table while I was sorting through my dyed fabric. Next thing I knew I jettisoned all that slow and thoughtful approach malarky, and sewed together fabric with sparkly little gold circles and a paintstik rubbing of a trivet, which reminded me of a brain. A few more bits and strips from my voluminous scrap bins and I was done.

Brain detailSince I needed a piece to do handwork on while I traveled this one was nominated. Into a bag went different balls of perle cotton and skeins of embroidery floss. I layered the top and batting, and embroidered that. Then I added a backing and did machine quilting.

Brain fabric detailAnd that wasn’t enough. Out came the floss again as I added more hand stitching. Then, a bit of decorative machine stitching because it still needed more. By this time I had most of the surface covered with thread of some kind. Why do I do this? Because it’s pure fun to work intuitively without a plan. And I did use it for FMQ practice.

The title? It’s how I feel about the holidays – way too much stuff.


Filed under Completed Projects

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programs

Enough of these nature photos. Where’s the quilting, you ask. Your wish is my command.

As any quilter knows, road trips have to involve a stop at a quilt store. I managed to abstain from fabric through Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota; but succumbed in Bozeman, Montana at the annual Crazy Days sale. That’s right, the magic word for me is sale.

Bozeman is an attractive town of about 40,000 people that’s home to Montana State University and close to good hiking. It boasts a downtown with a diverse array of shops and restaurants and the aforementioned Crazy Days. Almost all the stores put out tables on the sidewalks and offer goods at least 50% off the original prices. The Main Street Quilting Company offered four four shelf movable racks filled with fabric bolts at $5 a yard. They also offered thread and notions at 25% off.

I sent my husband off to a bookstore and got busy shopping. I hauled away seven yards of fabric, mostly the Stonehenge line, plus Aurifil thread and Valdani perle cotton. In addition, I was so taken with some fabric printed antique postcards of Glacier National Park I paid full price. I was told these are printed locally.

Glacier poster printsNext door to the quilt shop an import store was selling Thai silk purses for only $10. I bought one of those, too, obeying my policy that it’s always cheaper to buy a purse than to make one.

silk purse 1


Filed under Commentary

And Then There Were The Flowers

Not content with just clouds, I branched out into wildflowers. I was told they were still blooming due to a wet spring.

I can identify the sunflowers, but the rest I’m clueless about. That’s OK, I can enjoy them without knowing their names.


Filed under Commentary