Category Archives: Art quilts

Spiraling In Control

After a review of videos on machine quilting spirals I sat down with my walking foot and quilted circles all over S.O.S. Doing the inner circles was easier than the videos led me to believe. The hardest part was filling in the gaps between spirals.

S.O.S. 32″ high by 35.5″ wide

I used variegated and rayon thread for quilting, and relied on the edge of my walking foot for most of the spacing. The rest was done by eye, as sometimes little cheats are needed to even things out. I used the appliqued circles as the center of all but one of the four spirals.

Because I have little yardage left in my stash, most of my backs use pieced bits of whatever will fit. S.O.S. is no exception. The batting is Quilters Dream poly. I used 505 temporary adhesive spray to hold the front to the batting. Since the poly batting clings to cotton, I simply ironed the back to the batting. In between quilting the circles I ironed the sandwich to make sure all the layers were still in contact with each other. They got smooshed and a bit separated as I turned everything through my machine’s harp to make the spirals. That tip comes from Jacquie Gering.

I’ve owned both pieces of fabric since around 2010, so I thought it was time to use them up.

Binding is single fold, stitched to the back and folded to the front, with zigzag stitching to hold it down. I decided I don’t like it sewn on the front, so next time I’ll stitch it to the front and then hold down the back with ditch stitching on the front.

I have just one more top awaiting quilting, so I have given myself permission to create more tops. First, though, I’ll do a monoprint course and play around with wonky free motion quilting a la Paula Kovarik. But you know what they say about the best laid plans.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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In The Ruins

Infrastructure has been in the news lately, with the ongoing federal efforts to fund overdue repairs. I certainly want safe roads, dams, bridges, etc., but I confess to a tendency toward ruin porn. I find a strange beauty in dilapidated, rusted structures. I even enjoy an Instagram account that features photos of peeling, beaten up, scrawled over walls (@revenantreclaimer.)

This attraction is manifest in several of my works, including “Urban Decay.” I wrote about the piece earlier, but I’ve now finished it. Because the matte medium I used further stiffens the already painted fabric, I didn’t use batting but sewed the pieces directly onto the fabric backing. I also added tangles of thread ends and ribbon.

“Urban Decay” after stitching
“Urban Decay” detail of thread tangle
“Urban Decay” detail of ribbon and stitching

The fabric layers give additional texture, not unlike the buildup of paint layers on a wall. The different thicknesses of the fabrics I used (denim, damask, cotton, netting, hopsacking, interfacing) also contribute to the bumpy look. The edges are finished with yarn, and the back is covered with black felt.

Here are a few other works in my ruin porn series.

“Mean Streets”
“Rust Never Sleeps”
“Beneath The Overpass”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, collage

Sending Out An SOS

Last week I noted in passing that I was working on an improv quilt. This week I’m surprised to report that I’ve finished the design part of said quilt. The lengths I’ll go to avoid difficult projects never cease to amaze me.

As I’ve written before, I have lots of scraps. My latest improv work made me confront the extent of my scrap collections. Of course I have cotton scraps arranged by color, with separate piles for strips. But I also have scrap collections of silks, organzas, and fused fabrics. Then there are the bits and bobs I have been subjecting to surface design experiments. Oh, and the shiny costume bits, but they don’t count because they were given to me.

Since my hot off the design wall piece contains scraps from three of my collections (cotton, organza, fused) plus surface design experiments, I am calling it “SOS” for Save Our Scraps.

SOS, about 35″ high by 32″ wide

The common theme is circles: polka dot fabric, inset circles, circles on fabric, and appliqued circles. I hadn’t planned to add the appliqued circles, but I felt something more was needed once all the pieces got sewn (with partial seams no less.) It all began with a scrap fabric pull, as my usual way to begin improv quilts is with a color palette. After I embraced the circle theme of the print turquoise fabric, I framed two feather prints and turquoise painted white on white fabric using the 6 minute circle technique.

Once I decided on appliqued circles I pulled out my high tech templates and my fused scraps and got to work.

Good thing I stopped at three sizes

The backing is pieced and the batting cut. Now all I need is a quilting design. I’m thinking about overlapping circles or maybe one big one.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

My Sky Is Fenced In

A few weeks ago I showed my progress on a fabric collage of a cloudy sky. At that point I had quilted the sky in place and overlaid a fence on it. The fence is now sewn down and shaded, and the facing and hanging sleeve are on. In fact, “Dreams of Freedom” is completely done.

“Dreams of Freedom” 20.5″ high by 29″ wide
I used Neocolor II water soluble oil pastels to shade the fence.
The raw edges of the sky fabrics make me think of the wisps at cloud edges.

I am almost completely caught up with my fabric work. The boring details of “Urban Decay” will get finished today, and my queue has just my family photos series and an improv bit I slapped on the design wall yesterday. It’s an unusual situation for me, and a bit intimidating. Now I can’t use unfinished work as an excuse not to design new work. Though I have an idea for a sailboat…

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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The Sky’s The Limit

After I finished “Shattered” I realized that I had finished everything I was working on except my unknown family photo piece. Since I abhor a vacuum in my production line I had to line up new work. I browsed my large file of inspiration photos and came up with two possibilities. Curiously enough both involve a lot of sky.

After pulling fabric for both, I decided to begin with a photo of the sky from the top of Bowman’s Hill tower in eastern Pennsylvania south of New Hope. I love the abstract lines of the safety fencing against the cloud filled sky.

First, I lightened the image to make the fencing seem to float. Then, I developed a template for the fencing out of newsprint.

Next came the fun part- creating a sky. I began with a stack of possible blues, blue-grays, grays, and purple blues. I mixed up hand dyes, bits of damask and denim, plus odd bits I had colored over the years with printing and painting.

These were stuck down on a piece of canvas with fusible and glue after much cutting and rearranging. It was really fabric collage work.

After some blending with oil pastels I layered the sky over batting and backing, and quilted it. Then it was time to cut out my template and see how it fit.
I played with the height a bit and then went to work on my fencing fabrics.

Because I didn’t want the ridges from the quilting to show through the fencing fabric I lined it with a fusible interfacing. I plan to sew down the fence edges with a zigzag stitch, but won’t fuse that fabric to the sky. At first I tried dark fabrics for the fence.

I decided my original choices overpowered the sky, so I switched out many of the darkest fabrics for lighter ones.

Dark fabrics
Lighter fabrics with a light highlight on the horizontal bars. I may (probably will) play with the vertical bar placement.

My next steps are mostly mechanical: hand baste the vertical pieces to the sky and zigzag them down, refine the bottom edges of the horizontal pieces to make it seem the pipes go through them, hand baste and then zigzag them down. After that I’ll see if any further coloring work is in order.

For once I don’t have a working title. I’ve thought of “Dreams of Freedom” or “From The Tower,” but I’m waiting for the bolt of inspiration.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

Slow Motion Finish

Finally it’s done, I thought as I sewed the hanging sleeve on “Shattered” yesterday. Unlike most of my work, this piece has been a multi-year effort. I wrote about its genesis from a photo of a broken mirror earlier (here and here.) To recap, I had Spoonflower print fabric from my photo in 2019, did the initial composition in 2020, solidified the design in early 2021, and quilted the piece in June and July of 2021.

Usually it wouldn’t take me four weeks to quilt a small (roughly 2 by 3 feet) piece, but problems with my neck have limited my sewing machine time. Like Nora Ephron “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” In my case though the bad feeling is from pain, not vanity.

“Shattered” 22 inches by 38.5 inches

The materials I used besides the printed photo include hand dyed cotton and damask, silver lame, and novelty yarn.

You’d think I would choose to go light on the quilting. Hah!

Back

I did walking foot and free motion quilting using six different threads, including metallic, which was a pain as usual. The edges are faced, but I tried sewing 1/8 inch grosgrain ribbon along the raw edges before adding the facings. It’s a technique for stabilizing edges I read about in a Jean Wells’ book. It seems to reduce waviness, but the true test will be on a larger quilt.

Detail
Detail

I’m relieved to have it done and be able to move on to a new project. At this point I can’t tell how I feel about it beyond relief since I’ve been so close to it for four weeks. I should reach a better assessment after I’ve ignored it for a few months.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Fabric Printing

Quilts On The Wall

Recently I’ve been trying out some apps that show how my work would look actually hanging in a room. It’s in aid of ways to display my work online if I decide to offer my work for sale. The two I’ve tried so far are WallApp by OhMyPrints and PhotoFunia. Both are free for basic versions. Many more fee based similar apps are out there, as well.

At first I thought Wall App was the answer to my needs. It’s easy to use and offers the option to upload a photo of your own room. You can download the mockup you create to your computer. Downsides are the company watermark on the lower left and the inability to accurately scale your work to the room and furniture dimensions. I guesstimated using the app’s built in resizer.

“Phosphenes” hung above a desk.
“Arches”

Then, I ran into a problem. As I saved more mockups, the saved copies had big black bands across them, like a shutter being lowered. I tried on another computer and had the same issue. I have no idea what the cause is. At first I thought maybe a user gets only a few free downloads, but the app makes no mention of a fee based option, which shot down that theory. I’ve searched online for mention of this problem but have had no luck. Any ideas or solutions are welcome.

PhotoFunia is designed to add many special effects to your photos, but only a few options actually put your work on a wall. Some of those options add filters to your work. They get in the way of showing my stuff as it is. Again, your photos are scaled to fit the frames, so true sizes of work can’t be shown.

“A Hazy Shade of Winter” in triplicate. Photo Gallery option
“Kansas” in a fancy frame. Painting Snap option. Note how the work is also shown on the phone.
“Identical Opposites” side by side. Photo Exhibition option.
“Heart In Gold” in a gold frame. Painting Snap option.

I think that showing any art work in situ helps a buyer get a better idea of how the piece might look in a room. Certainly, serious art sellers are using these options more and more as more art commerce goes online. For now, I think I’ll stick with the free apps. If I get serious about selling my work I’ll revisit my decision.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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The Paths Often Taken

Desire lines are paths “created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal foot traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination. … Desire paths emerge as shortcuts where constructed paths take a circuitous route, have gaps, or are non-existent.” (Wikipedia) If you have been on a campus or a street with no paved walks you have most likely seen informal desire lines worn down to dirt.

Such paths weren’t on my mind when I began my quilt “Desire Lines” but once I began the quilting the subject snapped into focus. Much of the fabric and quilting structure is rectangular, yet the white lines in the dark purple/blue fabric suggested parts of paths to me that needed to connect irrespective of a grid.

“Desire Lines” 24 by 34 inches

To emphasize the informal paths I hand stitched two curving paths in red, orange, and yellow.

“Desire Lines” detail

I finished the edges with fused strips of dyed Pimatex using Frieda Anderson’s method and added a line of orange stitching to make sure the strips stay put.

It’s always interesting to see how a piece can find its way, no matter how nebulous its starting point.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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I Was Serious About The Glue

In my last post I stated that less of my future work would actually be sewn, and I am making good on that. The piece I’m now quilting is made of fabric fused to felt, with edges left raw. I composed the piece on my design wall, then transferred it to the felt (already covered with fusible) and ironed the fabric down.

I found a wool throw blanket made a good ironing surface.

It was certainly easier than sewing seams, though I had to stop myself from automatically leaving seam allowances as I cut the fabric pieces. At least half the fabric used was printed/painted/dyed by me.

Once the ironing was done, here’s what I had.

It seemed a bit empty in the middle, so I added snippets of colorful felt.
I’m trying a vertical orientation to see how that looks.

So far I’ve quilted zigzag white lines that connect the lines in the outer sections, and I plan to use variegated thread in a rectangular spiral (I hope you understand that) for the central area. The rest of the quilting is to be announced.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

The Less Glamorous Side of Quilting

After the thrill of designing a new piece is gone you’re left with the more mundane tasks of quilting and edge finishing. I know some people stitch together two or three chunks of fabric and then revel in quilting them, but that’s not me. I enjoy the texture quilting adds to a piece, but usually I don’t go out of my way to do difficult quilting. Two recent finishes are perfect examples of my lax attitude.

For “Cobalt” I quilting curved vertical lines and then accentuated some of them with a Posca marker. Probably I could have couched yarn for a similar effect, but the marker was much easier.
For “Corrugated” I used the serpentine stitch on my portable Pfaff to echo the wiggly lines in the fabric. I learned the Integrated Dual Feed doesn’t do as good a job as the walking foot on my Janome, but that machine is in the shop. Despite lots of ironing and pinning, the foot kept pushing the fabric forward. I need to block this one to eliminate the wonkiness.
“Corrugated” detail

For both quilts I sewed on narrow single fold bindings for a pop of color at the edges, although mostly I face my edges. Again, I find facings easier than bindings.

To continue with my corner cutting theme, I also took short cuts with the two latest fabric bowls I made. Instead of satin stitching over the seams or disguising the seams, I used fabric strips over the seams as decorative elements. I fused on more decorative bits and edges, and called them done.

The inner and outer fabrics are reversed, so the Paula Nadelstern fabric inside the bowl on the left is outside the bowl on the right.

At the rate I’m going, in 2 or 3 years I will simply glue everything together, and know it will last my lifetime.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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