Monthly Archives: March 2023

What’s On My Design Wall

As of the beginning of the week, my design wall was a bit crowded.

I have two quilting projects ongoing, plus work from my Textural Style class, as well as photos to inspire new projects. Starting from the top right, there’s my two single color studies from class.

The blue one is done except for an edge treatment. The red one has become a two color study and has lots of big stitch embroidery. I have a section I want to embroider, but it’s mostly done. I have to figure out an edge treatment, but it won’t be bound. I may do a buttonhole stitch and then paint over that to seal the wonky edges.

Back of fantasy village that will be covered over

On the bottom right is my fantasy village that now has lots of machine quilting, though it doesn’t show up well in the photo. I found that black thread works best. White is anemic and even red thread doesn’t show up well. That will have a pillowcase finish as batting is already fused to the silk pieces.

Use your scraps projects in process

In the lower left are two pieces from the final day of my class. They began as one, but I couldn’t get the left and right sides to work together, so out came the rotary cutter. They are built on a dye mop up cloth and include rotted linen, silk organza scraps, handkerchief scraps, painted cheesecloth, and leftover fabric feathers. The scraps are roughly machine sewn down and I have begun hand embroidery. I’m thinking of mounting them on larger quilted pieces to give them more presence as they are less than 12 inches square.

Finally, there’s my problem child, the piece in the upper left. It’s not the piece itself, though I spent lots of time creating the sky. Rather, I am unable to get a response from the photographer on whose photo I based the piece. A friend sent me the photo which he found on Tumblr. I wanted to do the right thing and get the photographer’s permission. After I identified the photographer through an image reverse search, I found his website and wrote to the email address given there for permission to base my work on his. No reply. Then, I found his Instagram account and DMed him. Still nothing. So, I decided to go ahead and finish the piece, but I don’t think I can exhibit or sell it. Of course I will credit his photograph. At any rate, I will quilt it before I add the last bits of black bias tape.

Off my wall I have my 100 day project little collages, which total 38 as of today. They’ve proved to be great little arty snacks I can knock off each day. Limitations (4 by 4 inches, only paper scraps) really help clarify the mind and speed up a project. Another off my wall project is a sketchy inventory I did of my studio’s contents for insurance purposes. I am appalled to realize how much money I have spent on thread alone.

If I want to start more projects I better get the wall cleared off. I’m keeping a list of possibilities.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, mixed media, Stitch

Still Processing

This past Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I participated in a Zoom workshop on Textural Style with Natalya Khorover. We had a two hour Zoom session each day and then homework to do for the next day’s class. The class focused on using scraps of any type to create small machine and hand sewn collages. Natalya stresses materials reuse, especially plastics, in her work and teaching, though this workshop used fabrics more than plastics.

By Friday afternoon my studio looked like a fabric scrap cannon had been fired off, I had started four pieces, and my brain was exhausted. So, there was no Friday blog post.

I will be unpacking the lessons I learned for some time, and then merging them with what I already know to arrive at what works for me. Natalya loves working with small scraps (including old cashmere sweaters) and favors hand stitching. She often uses heavy Pellon interfacing as backing and skips batting. She doesn’t use glue but relies on pins and tulle to hold bits in place until they are sewn down.

Here’s an example of her work, which began with a piece of muslin used on her painting table.

The background is all little scraps sewn down with a running stitch. The fire escape is sewn with velvet thread, something new to me. The Pellon interfacing is easy to sew through yet allows for really long stitches.

Our first assignment was to create two one color small works, one machine stitched and one hand stitched. I finished the machine stitched one, but have miles to go on my hand stitched work.

Scraps from a current WIP.
The start of a glittery, in your face, piece. I hope to use lots of seed stitching to tone things down.

Next, we picked a work by our favorite artist and created a piece that interpreted it. Natalya showed us many examples of her interpretations of work by Matisse, Sargent, and others. I chose “Temple Gardens” by Paul Klee and lived to regret my choice. My first downfall was Klee’s palette which I strove mightily to match from my scraps. My second struggle was trying to interpret the watercolor without copying it.

“Temple Gardens” Paul Klee, 1920
I am now cutting out most of the tulle cover to brighten the colors, and plan to overlay some areas with more scraps for a better composition. Then I will throw this in the bottom of a drawer.

Finally, we were to choose a failed block, ugly dyed fabric, or the like to transform. One of Natalya’s examples was her piece shown at the start of this post. We had a good laugh at the choices made. Lots of dyeing goes wrong, apparently. I chose some cotton with yellow and red dye splotches that I had screen printed over with yucky results. I then started laying ripped up loosely woven old linen scraps on top followed by silk organza scraps. We are to work on this piece on our own.

Some of my scraps need to be smaller, and this will definitely require hand stitching.

Class wrapped up with a review of different ways to finish textile art work. Natalya does no binding and little facing. She often glues her smaller work to canvas with matte medium and then finishes the canvas sides with paint. This type of presentation, along with mounting in deep frames, elevates work from sewn together scraps.

Right now I have mixed feelings about the class. I appreciate the different ways I learned to create with scraps and take advantage of scrap qualities such as their “hairiness” (i.e., raveled edges.) The videos shown of Natalya creating work were informative. On the minus side, I had a hard time creating quickly with no advance directions as to subject and materials needed. For example, the course description could have said, you will create samples in single colorways, interpret a work by your favorite artist, etc. I need time to gather my thoughts and materials, and typically we were told what the next assignment was in the last half of each session. We began work during the Zoom session, but I barely had time to gather my thoughts and start grabbing materials. I asked for more advance notice, but received little guidance. I guess part of the class was about improvisation. I think this class would be better in person so students could interact with Natalya and fellow students as they worked.

Natalya is folding this class into her Innovative Repurposing Community, so it is no longer available as a stand alone course.

The upshot is I now have more hand stitching projects to work on, and a different perspective on what constitutes a scrap to save.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under collage, Commentary, Techniques

Unnatural Fabrics

I don’t know if that’s the proper term for fabrics that aren’t made from naturally derived materials such as cotton and linen. I don’t like the term man made, with its inherent bias, but fabrics developed from polyester often are called that. Here I’m talking about tyvek, evolon, lutrador, and the like. Why am I talking about them? A recent SAQA seminar on such fabrics reminded me of my own efforts to use such stuff.

Part of the seminar was a video conversation with Shannon Conley, an artist who cheerfully tackles all sorts of three dimensional challenges with unusual materials, often made of polyester. She encourages art quilters to explore the materials available in upholstery shops, like the spun poly material used under upholstered furniture. Here’s a sample of her work with painted, melted, and shaped polyester fabric.

“On Dahlias,” Shannon Conley

My efforts with such fabrics aren’t nearly as adventuresome. I have used evolon and Pellon polyester tracing cloth fabric in a few pieces, and have enjoyed their ability to take color from paints and markers and lack of raveling. I understand they’re great to use with cutting machines. Artists such as Betty Busby and Valerie Goodwin have done so.

My past experiments with pattern tracing cloth taught me that it can be colored with Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks, acrylic paint, and markers, though the colors are a bit dull. It also works for stenciling and gel printing. Advantages are its price (cheap,) and ease of use with fusibles. It is somewhat transparent so any layers under it will show a bit.

Moistened Derwent Inktense pencils on tracing
Stenciled gel prints on tracing cloth
I used stenciled tracing cloth over dye painted fabric in “Dark and Deep”

Evolon is a heavier poly fabric with a pleasing suede like finish. It is far more expensive than the tracing cloth, and is often sold in cut pieces rather than from a bolt. I experimented with several coloring methods on dry and damp evolon and found the colors to be brighter than on the tracing cloth. Any marks on dampened evolon spread a lot, as I found with my labels made with a micron pen.

The liquid paints haloed when brushed with water, and the Setasilk did so when applied to dry fabric.
On dampened evolon the micron pen bled a lot and the acrylic and Setasilk paints haloed.
A piece of evolon sprayed with Marabu fashion spray paint and then stenciled with acrylic paint.

I have also experimented with used color catcher sheets. In fact, the bottom part of “Wish I Was Here” is composed of two that I painted and sewed together.

“Wish I Was Here”

While I have no hesitation about using poly materials in art quilts, I don’t know if I’d put them in a quilt meant to be laundered. In their favor, they don’t stretch out of shape or ravel. Still, I don’t know how well stitching would hold up with repeated washings. Also, I have learned to be careful about ironing them. They can’t take high heat.

If you’re interested in exploring such materials, check out the work of Kim Thittichai, who offers online workshops about melting fabrics with a heat gun or soldering iron. If you’re a SAQA member, I suggest the last section of the Materials online seminar about unconventional materials.

I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with such materials – the good, bad, and ugly.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Techniques

Sixteen Days In

Finally, this year I’m doing the 100 day project. What’s that? You choose a creative project, do it every single day for 100 days, and share your process on social media. The organizers define creative widely, but I chose to make 4 by 4 inch collages from my paper scraps and stamps. Why? I already had all the materials needed, the size makes it doable, and it’s a chance for more composition practice.

Since February 22, the official start date, I have made 16 small collages. Sometimes I made two in a day as I had all the supplies out, and then skipped the next day. I tried to spend no more than 15 minutes on each, and I think my creating times average that. Some days it took 5 minutes. Other days I mucked about for 30 minutes.

The first five days my compositions were all over the place. Then, a friend said one looked like a landscape, so after that I confined my compositions to landscapes. Of course I may change the parameters again, but for now I am in a landscape groove.

Days 1 through 5
Days 6 through 9
Days 10 through 16

As I’ve settled into the project I’ve learned that some of my papers don’t take stamping ink well. I’ve expanded my definition of stamping to include stenciling, and am using found materials, such as bubble wrap and the edge of corrugated cardboard, for some stamps.

I see I use a lot of blues and aquas, and am fond of orange/blue combinations. Try as I might, subdued and neutral palettes just don’t happen. I end up throwing in a bright or two. For shapes, I seem to like circles, though that may reflect my determination to use a circle paper cutter I bought. Other shapes used depend on my paper scraps. I try not to change them too much. I had hoped to used more of the painted/printed tissue paper I have, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way.

I’m curious to see how the remaining 84 turn out, and what swerves the project may take. I must say that the limitations are freeing as they cut down on dithering. If you want to see what others are doing, check out #the100dayproject on Instagram.


Filed under collage, Commentary, In Process

What A Revoltin’ Development This Is

That was the catch phrase for a 1950s TV sitcom called “The Life of Riley.” It’s still relevant today for situations like the one I got into with a humble lap quilt. On the down low I’ve been making a bricks pattern quilt with an assortment of materials that range from hand dyed cottons to commercial prints, with thermofax prints and Spoonflower printed photographic fabric as well. Its chief purpose is to use up experiments and large scraps that I’ve had too long.

Construction was uneventful. I found a backing fabric, on sale of course, and handed it over to a local long arm quilter, Eva Birch, for edge to edge quilting. My quilt was ready in good time, and I decided to wash it to encourage crinkling before I bound it. I am sure you’ve seen it coming; that’s when the trouble began.

Two of the quilt fabrics were dyed by me, a lime green and a blue-violet. They were in the last batch of fabric I dyed before I swore off dyeing. I guess I didn’t rinse them thoroughly enough. I know it was a cool day and my back hurt from hauling around buckets of water. (I have no sink suitable for dyeing.) I did run them through the washing machine, but maybe two times through would have been better.

When I pulled my new quilt out of the dryer I noticed that the lime green had bled a bit. Quickly I looked up Vicki Welsh’s instructions for soaking out dye bleeds and filled up my whirlpool tub with hot-hot water and Dawn liquid. After an hour the water was really green. I drained the tub and set up another soak, this time for overnight. The next morning the water looked pretty clear, so I popped the quilt into the washer for a rinse, and then dried it. To my delight, almost all the green stains were gone. To my dismay, I found that the blue-violet had now bled a bit around the edges. Even worse, the backing, heretofore fine, was now stained.

I’ve circled some of the offending areas.

I wasn’t about to soak the quilt again, so I used a white Posca pen to touch up the worst of the areas on the top and ignored the problems on the back. Here’s “Linearity.”

Photographed in poor lighting by me. I am not hiring a pro photographer for a lap quilt that will never be in a show. 46″ by 64″

I am not the only quilter with such problems. Recently I read Timna Tarr’s account of her adventures with fabric bleeding. Her problems came from vintage red fabrics. While washing in hot water took out some of the staining, she opted to use applique patches to cover problem areas. It’s a good lesson in creative solutions.

Now the only problem I have left is the rest of the fabrics I dyed that last day. I threw out the remainder of the lime green, and rewashed the blue-violet gradient I had dyed. I think it will be okay as long as I don’t wash whatever I use it in. Fingers crossed.

Blue-violet gradient, minus a few steps.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Completed Projects, dyeing