Monthly Archives: November 2019

Back To Business

Now that I have my save the planet message out of my system I’ll return to my usual programming. Lately I’ve been playing with additions to old surface design pieces and using up scraps and pre-assembled bits.

Thanks to an inspiring collage workshop with Andrea Myers I came away with renewed interest in my old surface design pieces and some ideas for adding layers on top of already made quilts.

First, I stamped over painted/printed interfacing to add a third (maybe fourth?) layer. I have many other pieces that may benefit from similar treatment.

Then, I used the outline of the squiggle from my Rex Ray embroidery to cut out a piece of red felt and cover it with fused fabric scraps. I will sew it, plus a few additions, on top of leftover pieces from my Nancy Crow project. I’m calling it “Oops.”

My idea comes from Andrea’s work with industrial strapping that she showed us at the workshop. I think “Oops” has some family resemblance to a sculpture made of railroad track I saw on NYC’s High Line.

Finally, I pieced a “real” quilt top from scraps, inspired by a blog post from Christina Camelli. I pretty much followed her directions, and enjoyed the on-the-fly creation of scrappy strips. You can see the size pieces I began with. The largest size unit I cut up was a fat quarter.

“Sunset” 48 by 65 inches

I believe I’ve followed my own advice about using what I already have, and feel virtuous. Now I need to get to work and use more of my surface design experiments.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration, Modern Quilting

Unintended Consequences

The rush of emails advertising new fabric lines I received right around this year’s quilt market left me wondering whether we really need so much fabric. Yes, it’s lovely to fondle and admire bolts of new fabric designs, and it’s amusing to joke about the size of our stashes. However, it occurs to me that the glut of fabric is yet one more too-muchness that has bad consequences for our world.

Recent books have discussed the environmental and social consequences of fast fashions and fad tee shirts. Though it was published in 2007, this article in Environmental Health Perspectives provides a helpful summary. Since 2007 the pace of the fashion industry’s cycles has only increased. Recycling your clothes will help counter this problem, you say. In addition to the impact of the initial manufacturing process, recycling also has environmental impacts as there are so many clothes in that stream. In the U.S. alone more than half of our thrown away clothing is baled up, sold by the pound, and shipped off across the world for re-purposing. A short video about a northern Indian company that turns such clothes into thread gives a perspective altering view of our culture as seen by the workers.

I began by talking about bolts of fabric, mostly cotton, so I’ll focus on fabric for quilting, though the amount of waste with clothing appalls me. Melanie of Catbird Quilt Studio has written several posts about the production of cotton fabric. I think they’ll give you a sense of the industry’s size. Of course, not all that fabric is turned into quilting cotton.

Some companies offer organic cotton fabrics – Cloud9, Birch Fabrics, Paintbrush Studios – to name a few. A few online stores such as HoneyBeGood and Organic Fabric Company say they stock only organic and sustainable fabrics. It’s hard to tell from many of the descriptions just what the sellers mean by organic cotton. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton is considered the most restrictive standard for fabric. Some online stores note fabrics that meet the certification, but many simply say organic cotton.

What’s a quilter to do? The quilt at the beginning of this post sums up my approach. I’ve been trying to buy less fabric (sorry, fabric stores;) find ways to reuse items made for other purposes (clothing, curtains, linens;) and look for fabric at thrift stores. At the Salvation Army I’ve found five yards of quilting cotton for $4. If I don’t like fabrics I have, I try to dye/paint/print on them to make them suit me. I plan to try out those online stores that offer organic cotton.

I know my effort is a mere drop of water in the ocean, but I hope to spread the word. And I resolve to buy no more cheap, ill fitting tee shirts with the name of an organization/cause/cute saying on them. I know that millions depend on the clothing and fabric industries for their livelihoods, but there’s got to be better ways for people and our planet. Back to regularly scheduled quilting next time.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary


That title comes from a novel about a wealthy New York money guy whose wife gives a decorator carte blanche to do up their apartment. Apparently the wife’s style is midcench, according to the pricey decorator. It’s a style often associated with the work of Rex Ray, who features prominently in my recent quilting activities. While Rex Ray was influenced by mid-century modern style, he wasn’t born until 1956. I gather he was happy to gather inspiration wherever he could find it, and he produced both fine art and commercial work .

My interest in a puzzle designed by Rex Ray merged with an art quilt group Rex Ray challenge. I had already made my interpretation of the puzzle when the challenge was issued. I could have coasted with that, but I decided to take on another Rex Ray inspired piece.

First, the original puzzle, which features mixed elongated and wide teardrop shapes.

Next, my interpretation, “Not All Black and White,” which features lots of black and white fabrics separated with bias tape applique. I learned the bias tape technique from an online class with Latifah Saafir. Because of the face in the center I decided on a horizontal orientation for now.

When I decided to make another piece for my art group challenge I wanted something different. And what could be more different than an all stitch piece. I looked at many examples of Ray’s work, and decided to pull elements from these.

I used the polyp-like forms on the left and the wood grain on the right to design my big stitch embroidered piece I call “Ready To Split.” It’s done on old curtain material, which may be all cotton or a blend. First, I fused the material to fleece so the stitches wouldn’t cause puckers. After stitching I stapled it to an already stretched 14 inch canvas.

All four of the embroidery techniques I know are on display – running stitch, seed stitch, chain stitch, and back stitch. I can also manage a fly stitch, but that’s about my limit.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Completed Projects, Modern Quilting, Techniques

Button, Button, Do I Want Buttons?

A recent almost-finish has me flummoxed about what, if any, embellishments to add to it. As a mashup of ice dyed fabric, curved bias strips, and sashing it leans toward the arty side but pulls pack to traditional with that sashing.

I’ll level with you. The sashing is there only because I goofed with the placement of my bias strips and couldn’t get them to meet at the corners. I was certainly not going to rip out and realign the strips and I had no more of the ice dyed fabric, so desperate times called for desperate measures.

This poor thing doesn’t even have a name yet. Maybe “Buttoned Up” or “Unbuttoned,” depending on that embellishment decision I talked about above.

Here are the options I’ve tried so far.

The top two options feature buttons with a gingham pattern. The middle two use felt flowers. The bottom one has a silvery button. You can see how different the fabrics look under different lighting conditions.

I don’t know whether to go with a lively and possibly too cute look, or a plainer, Amish look, which would mean no buttons at all. I may be overthinking this.

I’m linking to Nina-Marie’s Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under In Process