Monthly Archives: November 2015

Paper Fabric

Thanks to a online course I’ve fallen in love with the colors I get from ink dye sprays, specifically Ranger Dyelusions and Adirondack Color Wash. Such sprays are used to create scrapbooks and art journals. No matter that those little bottles are expensive, the spray is messy to apply, the tissue I spray on is fragile, and heaven knows how durable the results will be.

MackJoannaPaintedTissueI also spray the ink on medium weight nonfusible interfacing, which is transformed. I’ve been playing with stencils and stamps on the interfacing.

Mack_Joanna_interfacing_sprayed_over_stencilMackJoannaDarkTreesInterfacingleaf stamped interfacing

To return to the tissue paper, once it’s dry I fuse it to Wonder Under and coat it with matte gel medium to seal the surface.  I keep the paper attached until I decide what to fuse the tissue to – interfacing or cloth.

MackJoannaDilutedGelThe general idea is to quilt the sprayed interfacing to painted silk organza as a base layer. The treated tissue is cut to whatever shape you want that’s smaller than the base, sewn to the base and decorated with accents.

Here’s the instructor’s (Deborah Babin) sample piece.

Deborah Babin current look

MackJoannaRuinedChoirloftsOrganzaI’ve gotten as far as quilting the interfacing and organza, but I think I want to use the tissue paper as the base layer. Stay tuned.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques

Digital Learning

The “Mixing Up Media” class I’m taking made me reflect on how high speed internet has transformed quilting education. I’m talking about classes devoted to a technique or project rather than “how to” videos, though the latter make it so easy to get help. I managed to sew a few beads onto a quilt thanks to a video.

Over the past four years I’ve taken several online quilting related classes but the number of in person classes I’ve taken has decreased. In fact, I took all but one of the in person classes because I wanted to experience specific big name teacher-quilters.

Why is this happening? There are lots of reasons. One, as my skills increase I seek more difficult/obscure classes that aren’t often given in person, simply because they don’t attract enough students in my locale. Two, the price of online classes is usually less than in person classes. Three, online classes have a much more flexible, forgiving schedule, often with the option of watching a video of the class several times. Four, I dislike hauling all my equipment and supplies to another location. Five, I don’t have to deal with the possibility that one needy/unprepared student will hog all the teacher’s time.

Every day I discover new online class offerings. The latest to hit my inbox is iquilt, which appears to be sponsored by the American Quilters Society and Bernina sewing machines. Its classes feature the now standard videos and online Q&A with the instructor.

My own experiences are with Craftsy and Academy of Quilting. I know there are other sources of online quilting classes, such as Annie’s Catalog, QuiltEd Online, Creativebug, and CraftU. Some charge per class while others have a monthly subscription.

Craftsy is the heavyweight of online craft course suppliers, with oodles of courses besides quilting. Cake decorating, anyone? They claim to offer over 700 classes. The site map for Craftsy gives an idea of the range of offerings. Craftsy also offers tutorials, a blog, supplies and a quilt pattern marketplace. You can interact with the instructor and fellow students, post photos of your class work, and rewatch the videos indefinitely. If you’re interested in a Craftsy class I urge you to watch the free sample so you can get a feel for the instructor before you plunk down your class fee. The instructor of one class I took had a mannerism that drove me crazy, so I never finished the class.

I used to take classes from Quilt University, which was bought and turned into Academy of Quilting after its founder died. These classes are much more print based, though some instructors have added little videos. There is a forum to interact with the instructor and other students, but I’ve found it to be little used except for one class I took from Elizabeth Barton. Classes are available for only six to eight weeks, which means you can’t go back and review a class after it closes. I download instructions so I can return to them later, but I have no idea if that’s kosher. Please don’t rat me out.

Individual teachers such as Leah Day also have online classes which often feature more advanced subjects. Elizabeth Barton runs an online year long master class that’s popular enough to have a waiting list.

With so many tempting choices, is an online class right for you? That depends in part on how you learn. Some students learn best with an instructor by their side to guide them and answer questions right away. Others take to a video format and are comfortable with written questions and answers and working independently. It may be a function of one’s age or previous educational experiences. I took online courses when I got a masters degree so I was already familiar with that type of class.

If you’ve taken any online quilting related courses I’d love to hear about your experiences – both good and bad.  My experience has been positive, in the main, though I wouldn’t give all the classes five star reviews.




Filed under Commentary

Getting Mixed Up

I’ve taken up mixed media to help expand my repertoire of ways to work with fabric. In this instance I’m coloring tissue papers with ink dyes, sealing them with matte gel medium, fusing them to interfacing or fabric, and using the resulting product as fabric.  It’s part of an online course I’m taking. Here’s an example of a piece that’s ready to use.


Along the way I began applying the colored tissue directly to fabric with gel medium or Yes Paste. A while back I colored fabric with bleeding tissue paper so I had a stock of those papers. I tore up strips and glued them onto drill cloth with the following results.

MackJoannaBleedingTissuePastedSince I had made more organza leaves I decided to sew them onto my collaged fabric, along with some ribbon. I also sandwiched the top with a piece of felt and fabric backing and did some rudimentary quilting.

MackJoannaAllFallDownWell, the instructor didn’t much like this (the ribbon looked like ribbon, the tissue paper looked like tissue paper, etc.) so I began to paint over areas. I also glued on more tissue that I had spray painted. At present the piece looks like this.

MackJoannaAllFallDownFinalI haven’t done any painting (besides walls) since before many of you were born. It’s been fun to get back to it, even if the results aren’t what I had hoped.



Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

It’s Show Time

I love viewing quilt exhibits on line, especially those held at locations I have no chance of traveling to. Here are links to some recent shows I’ve viewed.

The Open European Quilt Championship in Maastricht, Netherlands

Dineke Ugen

The Sisters (Oregon) Outdoor Quilt Show teachers tent

Shirley's Stars Sisters Quilt Show

All the quilts in the modern quilt showcase at the 2015 Houston International Quilt Festival

Deise and GoodwinI have mixed feelings about the quilts shown in the above photo. The one on the right seems very modern, yet the one on the left seems traditional. In fact, the only modern aspects of that one are the color changes in the half square triangles and flying geese.  I hope it’s the photo that makes the diagonal lines that go from corner to corner look curved. And you can see a piecing error in the upper right corner. Or maybe that was intentional.  My point is, I’ve seen very similar quilts in books of historic quilts where the maker ran out of a fabric and had to substitute others.


Filed under Inspiration, Quilt Shows

Lots of Wow For Little Effort

I just love to paint on fabric. It’s way less messy than dyeing, not too costly, and versatile. Spectacular results are possible when you paint on silk. Oh, you can get fancy with gutta resist, but I’m talking about free form application of paint (either Pebeo Setacolor or Setasilk) to dampened silk.

One of my art quilt groups held a silk scarf painting workshop recently. Actually, some of us painted rayon and cotton. I used a scarf and a silk pillow case. Many of us folded or scrunched the silk before paint application. A popular fold was the Princess Leia. I used that for my scarf. Here it is air drying for a few days.

painted silk scarfI used pleats for my pillow case.

painted silk pillow caseOnce my pieces dried, I rinsed them in water until the paint stopped bleeding out of them.

painted scarf rinsedAfter a wash with Blue Dawn dish detergent, I hung them to dry. That whirlpool tub is good for something.

painted scarf dryingHere’s the results.

painted silk pillowI thought the pillow would be more orange, and it does look orange in artificial light.

painted silk scarfThe scarf turned out lighter than I expected. I’m thinking of using it in a winter landscape I’m planning. Normally I wouldn’t use a scarf for fabric as you pay for the hemming, but I’ve had the blank scarf for years so I feel no guilt in cutting it up.

We got our supplies from Dharma Trading Company, which has a nice selection of scarves and tutorials on different ways to paint silk.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

A Show That’s Just The Right Size

I will happily go to any exhibit of quilts, any size, any style. I’m fortunate to be friends with other quilters who share this passion. Our latest exhibit road trip was to take in the SAQA Piecing Together A Changing Planet traveling exhibit.

The 26 art quilts in the exhibit shared a common size and theme – the effects of human activity on our national parks.  Beyond that, they diverged wildly. Because the artists packed so much detail into their quilts my friends and I spent considerable time with each quilt, examining techniques and making guesses about how certain effects were achieved. The Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center, which hosted the exhibit, considerately made white gloves available so we could check out the back sides as well.

It’s a good thing there were only 26 quilts. Otherwise, we would have had to take a sitdown break every so often. And our brains would have popped trying to take in any more quilts.

I’m going to present photos (which were allowed) of details only. Click on any one for a slide show. The height at which the quilts were hung made each one look narrower at the top than the bottom in my photos. I thought it threw off the visual effect.


Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

In The Eye Of The Beholder

Avoidance of difficult projects spurs me to finish older tops. I can’t figure out how to quilt Torii so I got Phosphenes quilted. The process went much faster than I had anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise. I think once I made peace with the decision to use a walking foot rather than free motion quilting my anxiety level plummeted.

PhosphenesAs I wrote earlier, I had an oddball notion to make a quilt of what you see when you rub your eyes hard. Those shooting bits of color and sparks are called phosphenes, so why should I avoid the obvious title.

I pieced scraps for the diagonal color strips and book-ended a navy ombre fabric for the fade out effect. The random hand stitches were done with Valdani 12 weight perle cotton. I don’t care that it’s expensive; it’s great stuff. After I fused fleece in strips on the back of the navy fabric for extra puffiness I did the hand stitching, then I layered the batting and backing.

I used Superior smoke colored invisible thread for much of the machine quilting, and Sulky metallic thread for zing. First I tried some Wonderfil metallic thread I had, but it continued to give me grief – breakages, catching in the tension discs – despite various adjustments. Unfortunately, I bought a four pack of the miserable stuff. I’ve found Madeira and Sulky metallic thread to be much easier to work with.

Phosphenes detail 1I decided to use a facing for the edge finish.  Now I’m toying with some beading to add pops of sparkle in the hand stitched areas.  I’ll try beads from my limited supply and see if any will add enough to this quilt to be worth the hassle of sewing them on.

Phosphenes back



Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Fraternal Twins Completed

A bit ago I wrote about a small quilt called Arcs, specifically how I chopped it up twice. The first piece to calve (think icebergs) from it became another small quilt I called Grasses.  Both developed from the chunks of fabric below.

Arches beginning

Now Grasses is done. I continued to use big stitch embroidery – I got into french knots – and couched cord, but added some decorative machine stitching.

GrassesHere are some closeups.

Grasses detail 1 Grasses detail 2The edges are finished with a single fold binding. For decorative pieces I see no need to use a double fold binding. In fact, I’m rather tired of bindings all together, and want to try alternatives. Jamie Fingal uses a wool blend felt backing that she trims to 1/8 inch beyond the edge all around. I could get into that. She uses felt as batting and backing, as shown in this post.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Everything Else

Leaving October

deck view

This is the view from my deck at 7:10 a.m. this morning. It’s why I put up with snowy roads to climb in the winter.

Leaves have been preoccupying me this past week. I’m trying out some mixed media supplies, mostly color sprays and ink pads for journaling and scrapbooking. More on that later, but I wanted to do some small practice pieces that featured autumn leaves.

I sorted through my silk organza scraps to find yellows, reds, and burnt siennas. Then I sandwiched the scraps between two layers of Solvy, traced a leaf onto the Solvy with a Sharpie, and free motion stitched the layers together. A dip in a bucket dissolved the Solvy, and I had some leaves.

leaf constructionleaves sewn with solvyMack_Joanna_leaves sewn and cutI think I’ve finally found something I like to free motion stitch.


Filed under In Process, Techniques

Small, But With A Multiplier Effect

I used an art quilt group challenge to avoid my looming quilting duties. This time the inspiration was some Sulky 12 weight cotton thread in a muted mulberry color. A group member who had lots of spools of this color donated some to each of us.

Challenge threadI pulled out my scraps boxes and set aside any bits that seemed to go with that color. I ended up with lots of pastels and pre-made fabric. The largest piece I selected was some white on white printed fabric that I had painted with Setacolor transparent paint.

IMG_6412I came up with a design that I call Dissolving Diamonds, as one of the four sections features a sharp diamond in a square, one has an empty diamond, and the other two have diamonds that are coming apart. I used the challenge thread for some heavy straight machine sewn lines and a bit of hand running stitch. You can see some of the detail below. I think the machine stitch was a jeans stitch. The 12 weight thread worked on the top of my machine, though it broke once.

Dissolving Diamonds detail 2

While I had my scraps sorted I found another color scheme – light purple, blue, and apple green – that demanded to be combined. I even added five (count them) beads to a pinwheel in Spring Sky.

Spring Sky 2A final spin off of that 12 weight thread was some decorative machine stitching on a work in progress that I’ve been hand stitching. I’ve gotten much faster at making French knots. The thread was in my machine, so why not. I’m always amazed that so few sewers use the decorative stitches on their machines.

Grasses detail 1


Filed under Art quilts, In Process