Monthly Archives: August 2016

Coloring Inside The Lines, Or Not

I still recall the olfactory delight of a new box of Crayola crayons and the visual perfection of all 64 perfectly pointed tips. Then there were the color names – cerulean, wisteria, goldenrod. For some reason burnt sienna used to fascinate me. Wasn’t sienna the name of a town and why was it burned?

My childhood memories were awakened by a recent guild program on crayoning on fabric. We got to practice on a pumpkin outline using a box of just 24 crayons. Since I don’t hang out in hand embroidery circles I was unaware of the number of kits that combine crayons and stitching. It’s just like coloring books; you even outline the edges. If you’re interested, I suggest you look over this guide from Crabapple Hill Studio.

autumns-call-pattern Crabapple Hill Studio

Here’s what I’m doing with my pumpkin. One panel is fine, but I’m unlikely to do more in this vein. It’s way too pastel and cute.

pumpkin embroidery

I found this method of melting crayons and then rubbing the melted bit onto fabric. It seems a bit tedious.

However, I may try Jane Davies’ approach. Who cares about staying within the lines. Let’s make some lines. You can read about her use of crayons here and here. While she may use Crayolas on occasion, the oil pastels and artists’ crayons she recommends start at about $15 for 10 colors. They may be good items for my gift wish list.

Jane Davies study


Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

Blocked Letters

My August master class offering is a tribute to my old nickname. I made up two approaches but will continue with just one.

Here’s my submission:

I’m sending three variations of the letters design I developed. Two are very slight differences in the orientation of two of the four blocks. One is a different approach in different colors. They all use blocks I printed from a foam stamp. On some I also used oil paint sticks.

In the black and gold versions each block is slightly different. I’ve arranged them so the bottom blocks look like reflections of the top blocks. The setting is traditional, with a narrow edging of gold satin and a border of a dyed old pillow case. I tried many other on point type arrangements but they just didn’t work for me. I did the blocked 2 version because I thought the Js looked like 3s where they met. This version would finish at about 25 inches square.
August JMM blocked 1 resized August JMM blocked 2

In blocked 3 I played with different value intensities of the letters and tried to get a fade effect with the outer blocks. I developed the middle block as an inclusion to break up the horizontal line. The extra Js were added to extend the middle block. Blocked 3 would finish at about 28 inches long by 25 inches high.

August JMM blocked 3 resized

Elizabeth’s response:
I really like the idea of the fading stamp (blocked 1 and 2)….I suggest you make more units and put them together without the border though…the border encloses…and I think if you had, say, 16 of these blocks …and let the marks fade out even more…. as you go along, not in a hugely controlled way, but rather making sure that the boldest and crispest are in the area of importance – as you define it – usually people find somewhere in the center of their visual field is where things are clearest – having two more saturated ones on top  and two softer below… is a nice idea but it doesn’t really come off all that clearly.
I realise I’m totally stream of consciousness here!  will try to be more coherent.
I love the idea…but do more …let it really work for you
don’t box it in with borders…you don’t need them and they’re tight and enclosing…even though that border fabric is really intriguing….
but definitely keep working and let the stamp fade out completely in places – what that will do is force the viewer to “find” the shape for you.  That will keep them engaged with the piece…which is what you want.

And I see that you are experimenting with the fade out in this one (blocked 3)…which has a lovely airy feel.  I think it will work….add some more of  the “ocean” section so that we can envisage expansiveness…crop down the sky a little – which will raise the horizon line for you…also experiment with cutting and sliding some of the sections.
Both the black/gold and the blue/green are great color ways….one very rich, the other very evocative….keep working!!

So, back to the design wall for me. I won’t continue with the black and gold approach right now. I’d need to print a lot more blocks and I can barely get close to finishing less involved pieces each month.

I’ve been modifying the blue/green idea a bit, but don’t know if I’m satisfied with what I’ve done so far.  I doubt I’ll finish it by the end of the month.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Genesis Of Torii Traces

Thanks to my master class I’ve become better at front end quilt design, sketching out ideas, if only to reject them. However, I begin some quilts with absolutely no idea of what they’ll be. My Torii Traces is a good example.

Here’s the collection of fabrics I began with. Almost all of them were altered with dyeing, painting, stamping, etc.

Ginkgo leaf ideaIn fact, I labeled this photo Ginkgo Leaf Idea. I view it as an embryonic stage where it could easily have taken a totally different direction. Those scraps were up on my design wall for some months before I began to play with them.

Ginkyo startThe blurriness is caused by my lack of photographic skills, not your eyesight. However, you can see  I settled on the gold mottled circle and the bracketing half circles early on. The dragonflies were flitting around and I was determined to use organza I had stamped with leaves.

IMG_6417At this point I realized I wanted to make a torii and spent time looking at photos online. Once I sorted out a symmetrical structure I built the top section and began constructing the lower parts. I layered organza in shades of gold and turquoise.

IMG_6421I decided to curve the outer edges of the lower section and tried a dark purple bottom strip.

IMG_6424I discarded the purple bottom and began to develop a pieced/appliqued bottom with bits of organza laid over.

IMG_6427I decided I needed a heavier turquoise horizontal line at the bottom and foraged through scrap bins for enough of that fabric.

ToriiThe bottom is settled and the dragonflies have flown in. However, once I did the hand stitching I felt the bottom needed more weight to balance the top cross bar.

IMG_7325So, I added water colored fabric and sashiko waves stitching, and called it done.

I constructed the quilt in three sections, sewing false backs on all. I left the bottom of the top and the top of the bottom open so I could slide in the middle section and sew the sections together. All the hand stitching was done before I added the backs, which help conceal all the knots, etc.

This piece is entered in the Akron Art Prize exhibit, which will be on view from September 3 to October 1 at the Summit Art Space in downtown Akron.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

Quilts As Narrative

Before most of the population was literate visual art was used to tell stories. Think of the stained glass windows that illustrate the Bible in cathedrals, and the like. Quilts have been used to convey social messages for many years – family events, historical commemorations, and commentary on current events.

Ninety-seven quilts that tell stories of the African American experience in what became the United States are in the recently published book, And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations. Carolyn Mazloomi, who curated the commissioned quilts, also organized the exhibit sponsored by the Cincinnati, Ohio, Museum Center, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and the Women of Color Quilters Network.

The quilts in the book are arranged by chronological order of the events depicted. The first quilt commemorates the year, 1619, the first African slaves landed in Virginia. The last quilts depict two events from 2012 – the killing of Trayvon Martin and the enactment of voter ID laws in 11 states.

I’m interested in how well quilts can get across their message while being aesthetically appealing. Given that personal bias, the following quilts in the book were most appealing to me. I noticed it’s hard to integrate text and photos with patchwork. Some of the quilts reminded me of school bulletin board displays. But if it provides the viewer with new information then I’d say the quilt was successful.

Valerie Poitier "240 Million African Slaves Ago"

Valerie Poitier “240 Million African Slaves Ago”

Michael Cummings "Harriet Tubman"

Michael Cummings “Harriet Tubman”

April Thomas Shipp "An Open Book To Freedom"

April Thomas Shipp “An Open Book To Freedom” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)

Lauren Austin "We Hid In the Woods and Swamp"

Lauren Austin “We Hid In the Woods and Swamp” (Rosewood, Florida)

Linda Gray "Plessy v. Ferguson"

Linda Gray “Plessy v. Ferguson”

Helen Murrell "We Are All Warmed By The Same Sun"

Helen Murrell “We Are All Warmed By The Same Sun” (Tuskegee syphilis study)


Viola Burley Leak "Katrina Wreckage and Tears"

Viola Burley Leak “Katrina Wreckage and Tears”

The curves in the photos are due to the book pages, not the quilts.





Filed under Art quilts, Books, Quilt Shows

How Do You Make Do?

While I submitted “OK MAKE DO” as a sketch for my master class I know it’s not really good material for that class. It’s too clunky and down home with all the scraps. I’m making it as a quilt as you go, sewing the sections together with a zigzag stitch, to use up my batting scraps. Most of the backing is an old skirt. I’m using seat of your pants quilt construction. Of course, I don’t have a residency to make do, unlike Sherri Lynn Wood.

MAKE DO 2I decided to turn this into an interactive quilt. Elizabeth Barton had suggested I add lots of ways to make do. So, I want to ask people to write me how they make do.

If you have ways you make do you’d like to share, please send them to me. I’ll do my best to use them all, though I may have to shorten them a bit. They can pertain to sewing or other aspects of your life. If I get enough responses I plan to write them on bits of fabric and sew those bits to the quilt, possibly to the outer edges. Of course, no names will be given.

I’ll start you off with one example from my kitchen. I keep pens and pencils in an empty tin that used to contain tea bags. The tin is sturdy and colorful. Best of all, it’s getting a second life.

reused tinI look forward to hearing about how you make do.


Filed under In Process

August Master Class

I’m now in month eight of my year long master class with Elizabeth Barton and August’s theme is letters. To date I’ve completely finished about half my projects and am building up a backlog of items to quilt. Right now I’m quilting my rhythm piece, but the others are becoming increasingly restive as they importune me from the design wall.

But back to August and letters. Elizabeth warned us she was going to take off the kid gloves with her comments and she wasn’t kidding. I think her comments on my August sketches were the most critical to date.


I began this assignment by perusing the fonts available in Microsoft Word, but ended up making up my own for 2 of my 3 sketches. I’m sure my hand drawn letters were influenced by what I studied.

Sketch 1 takes part of Hillel’s famous quote, “If not now when?” and outlines the letters in black and red. I printed the letters from Word, though I can’t remember the font name. The letters would be filled in with french knots at varying densities, so the word “now” would be most densely embroidered. I would use an ombre fabric as the background. I thought of reversing the colors so the french knots would be white, but that got tricky to convey in a sketch.

August JMM sketch 1 resized

Sketches 2 and 2a take my old nickname, Jo, and arrange the letters as a square. I see doing this as prints on fabric, with some type of offset effect. One thought I had is to print several variations from the same printing plate (probably self stick foam or a monoprint) and sew them together. I might also overlay the letters in organza.

August JMM sketch 2 resized

August JMM sketch 2a resized

Sketch 3 is a bit of a cheat, as this is a project I just started for a reuse/recycling theme. The letters for the phrase, “OK make do,” are made of fused together selvedges cut into letters I hand drew. The other fabrics are bits from old projects and my husband’s shirts. I’ll be making this anyway, but I’d welcome your insights. I think the yellow block on the right side is too strong but I haven’t yet come up with a replacement.

August JMM sketch 3 resized

As the above indicates, I seem to need my letters to say something rather than just be.

Eliabeth’s response:

It’s a great quote…so one starts well by being attracted to the quotation.
However, how does the design relate to the quote?   It’s 3 horizontal lines, and if you just drew three horizontal line, the middle one with some texture, then it would look like a calm, peaceful design…
so I think the first step would be to figure out how to create the emotion visually….
.also, I’m puzzled, I don’t know the quotation – but without a comma, it doesn’t really read right… is that part of the quotation?
Should each word have equal weight?  You’ve given them each the same visual weight, but if you say it out loud, one doesn’t do that.
One possibility would be to use one of the techniques that we explored earlier in the year: layering…begin in the background, softly quietly low key with the IF, then slightly on top of that and a little more advanced the NOT, and again overlapping and advancing the NOW – each one getting bolder bigger more saturated…until the WHEN nearly knocks you over…..
or, did you want it to feel more resigned, more apathetic ?
Somethng to think about!
This one has a very nice Celtic feel to it!  you’ve got some interesting negative space…and I think if you had 4 repeats of it…and fairly large, it would be very beautiful.
always get the design right first, I think you really love the process of making !! and you get seduced into considering that before you’ve really worked out the design.  I know we all get tempted by that…
However, I do think this one is clear, simple elegant and would look great with more repeats. Also it would  be wonderful in black/grey and white!!

Re the one below… the yellow simply looks like it needs something in it but is otherwise fine…….the bit I’m not sure of with the blue with two triangles on the left side – it looks like a K – since the rest is text, then we are programmed to seek more text and I find a K!!
I like the idea of a recycling message using recycled materials…but again think of the impact of  the design first….I think you did that with the second one which works well…
I suggest you make the design a little simpler since the actual letters will be more varied, used garments and selvedges are great – they add a lot of interest, so keep the rest simple.  So I’d make lots of letters like this, all onto identically sized squares of recycled cloth….
Keep up the positive/negative flip flop – that’s nice and striking….and just get rid of all extraneous stuff..just the squares with the letters…and I’d use many different statements that stem from our childhoods when we were making do without knowing we were recycling!!

I’ve been working on sketch 3 and have indeed simplified it, though I don’t see how to incorporate the statements Elizabeth suggests. As to my other ideas, I’ll be working on a way to print sketch 2, and doing a series of prints sewn together.



Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Mixing Up My Media

Not only did I read a slew of books about making mixed media, I tried out some of the techniques. Despite the sometimes odd looking results, I had fun messing about with fabric, paper, paint, ink, stamps, rubbing plates, and who knows what else. None of the items below are meant as finished products, but as more bits for my “parts garage.”

Fabric paper paintI combined several techniques from Sherrill Kahn’s book in the piece above – masking tape resist, stamping, rubbing, painted tissue paper, and paint washes.

printed feather ghost printI coated a feather with paint, pressed it between two pieces of fabric with a brayer, and got this print.

painted cheeseclothI wrapped lengths of cheesecloth around some PVC pipe and painted them. I layered the painted cheesecloth over the piece below.

fused scraps with cheesecloth

Using Jane Davies’ technique, I fused lots of small fabric scraps to a base, sprinkled on some threads, and covered it all with net. I’ve quilted the whole thing to hold the top layer in place. Now I need to figure out how to use it as a background.

mop ragMy mop rag got promoted to the “parts garage” after faithful service. It began life as a bit of damask table cloth.

Other attempts are mere beginnings. Who knows if they’ll end up in a quilt or the trash. Then, some previous beginnings ended up in finished pieces. I made two small mixed media pieces with bits I had in stock.

Minty FreshMinty Fresh was a way to use an old silk screen, and Open Ended was the latest work for my local art quilt group. In both I simply stitched the fabric pieces down and didn’t bother about piecing.

Open Ended


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

Pillow Talk

Recently some visitors commented on the pillows in my living room. I realized that I’ve made a lot of them.

And these are just the ones I’ve blogged about.

Here’s a few more.

30 square for 30 years30 Squares for 30 Years was my response to a guild challenge in celebration of our guild’s 30th year.

modern pillow Japanese fabricI believe my Japanese fabric pillow is made from a tutorial by Alexandra Ledgerwood.

Why so many pillows? My upholstered furniture is covered in neutral fabric so pops of color are welcome, and pillows are practical ways to use practice blocks and pieces.  When a pillow becomes too shabby for display I often make a new cover and reuse the pillow form. Pillows as thank you gifts make a change from wall hangings. After all, most people can add a throw pillow to their decor more easily than a wall hanging.



Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

Mixed Media Roundup, Part 3

I don’t want to keep you in suspense, so I’ll say right now this is the last installment of my mixed media book reviews. I saved techniques books written by Jane Davies and Sherrill Kahn for last. Why? Mostly because I’ve been dipping into their techniques and needed the time for paint to dry.

Though her book Adventures in Mixed Media (2011) focuses on small scale and 3D work, most of the work Davies shows on her website is larger and painted. I concentrated on the fabric chapters – fusion fabric and fiber and paper quilts and cloth collage, and skipped chapters on making books and boxes, ornaments and shrines, and even dolls.

Given the sincerely earnest messages of some mixed media pieces, I appreciated the lightheartedness of the projects shown below. I hope you can read the text on these pages.

Cleavage purse Jane Davies

Jimmy's Closet Jane Davies

But let me feature the technique I’ve been trying out – fabric paper. I’ll show you my attempts in a future post.

Adventures in Mixed Media Jane Davies

Sherrill Kahn spent many years teaching art in schools, and the techniques she presents in Mixed-Media Master Class (2013) reflect that. Most are easy to master and use low cost, often creatively reused materials. Here are some of the items I’ve used to print on fabric based on Kahn’s suggestions.

printing tools

Like Davies, Kahn works on paper as well as fabric, and some of her techniques wouldn’t work well with fabric. She presents lots of ideas, so if you don’t like one, flip forward a few pages and you’re likely to find another that suits. After all, the book’s subtitle is “50+ Surface-Design Techniques for Fabric &  Paper.” Be aware that she uses paint washes a lot to tie together her printing, so you shouldn’t be surprised if your efforts need that touch to make them look good.

Unlike Davies’ book, Kahn’s is organized by types of techniques: resists, textures, rubbings and printmaking.  The descriptions of materials you can use to create surfaces is better than the usual and the most expensive material is probably matte gel medium.

Here’s a sample set of pages.

Kahn sampleHere’s one of the sample fabric projects from Kahn’s book. The techniques used are listed at the lower left. Many of the projects done on paper are more luminous.

Kahn sample project

I’ve tried the following techniques: making fabric cord, Inktense pencils on fabric, crayon resist, masking tape resist, stenciling with oil pastels, wet into wet paint on pole wrapped fabric, rubbings with assorted objects, fun foam prints, rubber band prints, styrofoam plate prints, and hair gel thickened paint. Some of my experiments were better than others, but I may have to buy a copy of this book.

One footnote. I have no idea why the term “mixed media” is hyphenated in one book and not the other. I assume it’s due to the editorial practices of different publishers.



Filed under Art quilts, Books, Fabric Printing, Inspiration, Project Ideas, Techniques