Category Archives: Art quilts

Jumping Off Points

While we art quilters, or at least this one, would like to think all our work springs fresh from our creative minds, sometimes already made sources give us a head start. Like cheater cloth, fabric that mimics the look of patchwork but only needs quilting, I have used a tea towel and motifs from a bedsheet to do the heavy lifting for two of my current projects.

Because I follow Clare Youngs, a talented collagist and print maker, on Instagram, I learned she had designed a tea towel for Werkshoppe, a company that prints original artwork on products like puzzles and tea towels. Even though I find the company’s name painfully precious, I ordered a few towels and set about to translate one of Youngs’ motifs into a border.

This should finish at about 25″ wide by 30″ high

Youngs uses a flying geese type pattern a lot in her work, so I thought a wonky version would make a good border. To keep the long pieces straight I created a freezer paper piecing pattern and used my tutorial for construction. It’s a good thing I could refer to it as I had forgotten a few steps. I scrapped my original plan for a double border when it became apparent I didn’t have enough fabric bits. I always underestimate the amount of fabric triangular paper piecing takes.

For the back I dug out an old unfinished top that was partially disassembled and will add solid strips of orange fabric that’s been in my drawer for too long to bring it up to size. I am thinking of a traditional binding in black as I may use this on a table.

I never added the flying geese and have taken off the top and bottom rows.

My other assisted start project came about as an effort to use my fused fabric scraps. That’s right, yet another scrap collection. A friend had given me pieces of a sheet that was printed with stylized birds. I had attached fusible but never used them. I picked out any fused scraps that could represent leaves or flowers, found a blue piece of a tablecloth I used under painted fabric, and started composing with my scissors.

This should finish at 23″ wide by 19″ high, including the black border

Next, I got creative with Fabrico fabric markers (I have had them at least 9 years) to touch up stems, leaves, and petals. I plan to quilt it to the piece of black felt shown in the photo above and call it done. My working title is “Three Little Birds,” a tribute to the Bob Marley song. I mean, you can’t get more upbeat than that.

However, all quilting will have to wait for my injured left hand index finger to heal (I am a southpaw.) You should see me trying to type – slow and inaccurate.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques

The End of the Tunnel

While it seems like I’ve been quilting my sunset quilt for years, I realize it’s been only a few months in real time. Last week I finally saw the light at the end, and now I am out of the tunnel. As I wrote earlier, I have contacted the photographer whose photo I based my quilt on, but have never received a response. While I feel I can’t submit my quilt to a show or sell it, I see no reason not to show it here.

“Sunset Tangle” 26.5 inches wide by 40.5 inches high

The quilting took so long because of all the breaks in the sewing lines to skip over the “wires.” Because the quilt won’t be entered in shows, I felt free to ignore some niceties of tidy finishing. I decreased stitch length at the beginning and end of quilting lines rather than tying ends and burying knots, and I carried the bobbin thread over short skips rather than cut it.

About half the quilt is made of Vicki Welsh’s hand dyed fabric. The rest is hand painted commercial prints, curtain fabric, silk organza, and Evolon. The wires are made of Clover’s fusible bias tape. I used at least 12 thread colors in varying weights. It felt like the quilting was endless but I could certainly have done more.

Painted Evolon on lower left, hand dyed fabrics above. No idea why the colors are so different when the photos were taken a minute apart. The colors above are truer.
Detail of quilting thread colors

I spent time deciding between the more naturalistic wavy lines I used and a more stylized straight line approach that emphasized the wires. I even got my husband involved in the decision. Ultimately I decided that since I don’t plan to exhibit the quilt, a more naturalistic approach would fit in better in my house. The stylized alternative would have made the quilt more interesting for a show.

Rough sketches of quilting plans

Then, too, I would have redone the rippled quilting if this were destined for a show, but I have made my peace with it. With this one off my design wall I can return to other, long stalled projects. None should require as much quilting.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

“Photo Memory Quilts” Book Review

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a fiber art book here, partly because I haven’t found ones I thought were interesting enough and partly because there seem to be fewer craft books published these days. Thanks to my library I came upon Lesley Riley’s latest book, “Photo Memory Quilts,” which I really could have used a year ago when I was making my unknown family quilts.

The book combines discussion of why you would want to make a memory quilt, ways to get ideas for one, and nuts and bolts of constructing one. It has examples of quilts made by Lesley and others, so you’re presented with many different approaches.

Lesley begins with how to photograph old photos. She doesn’t assume you own all the photos you will use, but gives specific online resources for copyright free photos. Then she shows how to edit photos for printing on fabric and gives pros and cons of several printing methods. Of the methods she reviews, I have tried printing directly to prepared fabric sheets (Jacquard,) and on demand digital printing. I have used two other methods – cyanotype, and Solar Fast – though not with photo negatives. Lesley is so right that your editing before printing is important to get the look you want.

Two points of note here: Lesley is the developer of TAP artist transfer paper and she uses Apple products for editing, especially an iPhone. I haven’t used the paper, mostly because it costs about $3 per 8.5 by 11 inch sheet, so I can’t give any opinions there. I have an Android phone, but found the features available on my phone that I tried worked fine. I am looking forward to experimenting with suggested apps for sharpening blurry images and colorizing them.

Once your photos are on fabric and you have a design, Lesley walks you through some of her quilt construction methods, including edge finishes. Basically, it’s whatever works, including wood glue. She doesn’t treat the three layer quilt as sacred. Quilting is enough to hold the parts together, but isn’t dominant in the examples shown.

Would you to see some examples?

Each mini quilt was made separately and then tied together. I plan to use this idea.
Lesley notes that it can be important to have eyes look toward the center.
Hand dyed fabric, on demand printed photo, and machine embroidered fabric were combined.
Glued to a cradled board

If you’re interested in this kind of quilt I recommend you at least page through this book. It has lots of helpful advice and examples, without being a pattern book.


Filed under Art quilts, Books, Commentary, Completed Projects, Techniques

Matisse’s Boarding House

Recently I did a stint at the Summit County Historical Society’s booth at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in Akron, Ohio. Much of my time was spent explaining features of the Society’s antique and vintage quilts on display, but I carved out 10 minutes to race around the expo exhibits. I photographed only one quilt – Ben Hollingsworth’s “M. Matisse Chambres a Louer.”

Ben explains its origin story and years-long making process here. When I first laid eyes on it I didn’t know all that. All I knew was this quilt ticked several boxes for me. One, it was an homage to Matisse and his color sense. Two, it had a dollhouse feel to it and I love dollhouses. Three, it used an Attic Windows approach to organizing the rooms, but layered lots of applique to create unique rooms. Four, it was kind of traditional, but totally original. Five, it was charming.

Here are some closeups.

If you attend your local version of the expo I hope you take time to admire this quilt. It is traveling with the expo exhibits.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Exhibits, Quilt Shows

I Make A Village

In between work on the 100 day project and my Textural Styles class I wrapped up my fantasy village quilt. I had been quilting it in little bits for a few months, and decided it was quilted enough or maybe I was simply tired of working on it.

My Fantasy Village, 20″ high by 23.5″ wide

I used a pillowcase finish and spent lots of time steam pressing the thick edges. As the front is silk, I had to be careful about the iron’s temperature. It’s always an adventure to find the spot where the steam works and the iron isn’t too hot.

My inspiration for the village began with the work of Zoe Zenghelis, which I saw last year at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Her paintings were often for architecture projects so they tied into my interest in designing a village. I was also inspired by this photo of a Mexican town.

Guanajuata, Mexico

I chose to simplify and flatten the buildings for a primitive effect. It may not look like there’s much quilting, but the back tells another story. Most of the thread I used is black in two weights, as my experiments with white and red threads produced anemic results. The silk itself was sewn down raw edge with a zigzag stitch. A few of the tiny windows were glued down and then quilted over.

Of course my original vision called for a much larger village with more whimsical details, but reality intervened to narrow my focus to the possible. I still have more than enough silk to make three or four similar quilts. I’ll just have to see if that idea takes root.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

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

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

Wish I Was Here

I always have a list of quilts I want to make, but sometimes a rogue slips into the queue. Recently as I fossicked through my quilts and scrap parts I came across a 12 by 12 inch square sewn together scraps part that said beach to me.

I combined that square with scrap strips, an ancient fat quarter of unknown origin, painted color catchers, and organza scraps. I also used special leftover strips from a gift of painted fabric. My goal was to convey the feeling of hazy brightness I’ve experienced at the beach, not necessarily a beach landscape.

“Wish I Was Here” 16 by 20 inches

Here’s how I began.

I decided the painted fabric stabilizer was too blobby (that’s a word, right?)
Then I added organza and decided I needed more of it.

I finished the edges with a sparkly rat tail that hinted at sea glass to me. All the quilting and edging was done with 40 weight cotton thread.

The colors keep changing according to the light, just like the beach.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

It’s The Little Things

Not every piece of art has to be a blockbuster. Sometimes doing little projects can be satisfying, too. Over the past week I have been inspired to create mini bits by what turned up when I went hunting for a missing quilt. I am ashamed to say there’s no method to my quilt storage system other than compatibility between quilt size and storage container. A quilt may be rolled up, under my bed, in a tote, or in a big black trunk. So I looked through a lot of stuff before I found what I sought. Along the way I refolded and straightened quilts, looked at old quilts with new eyes, and came across unfinished bits.

The first bit I felt compelled to work with because I found it on February 12 was a paper pieced heart block. I think I made it before 2011. With the addition of batting, backing and binding (from stash!) it now can be used as a hanging, a trivet, or a potholder.

Next, two quilts I came across needed some revisions, so I did that. You can see the original versions here and here.

“If You Go Into The Woods Today” got warmer shading on the trees.
“Deep Purple” got a narrow green strip around part of the inner purple area.

Then, my bowl of thread snippets caught my eye. I had just read a blog post about thread bowls and I have a roll of Solvy. Some free motion stitching, organza scraps, and thread created a small bowl. It’s cute, but it sure won’t hold water.

To cap my week of minis, I decided on my 100 day project. My choice had to use materials on hand, be quick, be flexible enough to entertain me, and be easy. I plan to make a daily 4 by 4 inch collage featuring one of my printing stamps.

Just some of my collage paper scraps, cut up card stock, and a glue stick.
I have picked up stamps cheaply at art center sales to augment those I purchased at stores.

We’ll see how long I can keep this project going. I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, collage, Completed Projects

Recalibrating in 2022

Last year I began to poke my head over the parapet a bit and get out more. The landscape has changed as online teaching and get togethers become more permanent. I am so over Zoom meetings, though it can work for classes.

I used the extra home time to dive into non fabric art mediums such as collage and mixed media. Of course that meant new supplies were bought and a new learning curve was begun, which was a good thing. The basics of design and composition carried over from quilting, of course, but different mediums have different pros and cons.

It is so much easier, probably too easy, to make changes with paint and paper than with fabric. One new supply that gave me trouble was brushes – which type of brush to use and how to handle it. I found a world of difference between flat and round brushes, and was astounded at the difference a good brush makes for watercolor. This is where videos have an advantage over in person instruction as you can rewatch a teacher wielding a brush until the knack becomes clear.

While I made fewer quilts in 2022 I didn’t stop making them. I finished fourteen quilts, though some had been started before 2022. I consider “Homage to Escher,” “Rhody,” “The Left Coast,” and “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory” to be serious art quilts. Two are experiments that didn’t quite gel – “The Eyes Have It” and “Along Portage Path.” The rest are scrappy quilts that allowed me to play with color.

Except for “Homage to Escher” I enhanced these with paint, Neocolor II water soluble crayons specifically; and I used a Spoonflower printed fabric in “Homage.” I am learning that subtle gradations and blurring of color are more effectively done with paint than with fabric or stitch. It’s also much faster to do – a big factor for me.

In 2022 I entered my work in fewer shows. “Dreams of Freedom” was in the 2022 Sacred Threads show and “Shattered” was in Fiber Art Network’s Excellence in Quilts. Hmm, it seems I didn’t tell you about the Sacred Threads exhibit. I realized that if my work is accepted I can count on an overall outlay of about $100 for entry fees and shipping. That cost would be worthwhile if I were publicizing my teaching or felt my work would sell. Since neither applies, I now think long and hard before entering a show. Alas, there are few opportunities to enter local art shows. Summit Artspace in Akron offers a few juried shows open to all art mediums, and my “Still Standing” was included in their 2022 Fresh show. I did show “Calliope” at the non-juried Lake Farmpark show in northeast Ohio and won a blue ribbon for my category. However, I am over judges’ review of my workmanship, so I don’t plan to enter any more shows with that feature.

Of course learning never ends. I did no in person classes, but took a six hour Zoom workshop with Valerie Goodwin. It seemed to be a sped up version of a longer workshop, so I took in less than I had hoped. I really should have taken better notes. I also tried a free stitching workshop by Gwen Hedley from, but found the approach didn’t work for me. However, the website is full of stitching inspiration.

On the paper side I took an online gel printing class from Drew Steinbrecher, and a few freebies such as Drew’s collaged board books and that for Fodder Challenge. To gain more exposure to mixed media I signed up for the year long Wanderlust class series. I found the lessons to be hit or miss. I think I did about 50% of the classes. I did learn about materials and techniques new to me – gesso, modeling paste, watercolor painting, and portraiture. The organizers had developed a structure centered on materials such as gesso, acrylic paint, inks, modeling paste, watercolor, etc.; however, the instructors sometimes made just passing use of the materials for that unit and at least one totally ignored them. I thought some of the instructors’ samples were awful, but other students rhapsodized about how wonderful the lessons were. Students were encouraged to post their work. I was surprised to see how closely some followed the instructor’s sample. I concluded there are way too many butterflies used in mixed media works. All that said, some of the student work posted was wonderful.

I just reread my goals for 2022 (where I should have started the post,) and I’ve achieved about 75% of them. I completed one more panel of my unknown family series,with one more to come. All four scrap strip quilts are done and dusted. I have found new homes for many of my quilts, especially small ones, though I still have far too many. Hand stitching my wool squares to a background is my Florida vacation project.

My biggest art life disappointment in 2022 was the demise of an art quilt group I belonged to for many years. Granted it wasn’t in the best shape before 2020, but Covid put paid to it. The members didn’t want to try online meetings, and managed to meet only once after things opened up at a lunch hosted by a generous member. Radio silence ever since. Individual art friends have moved away so contact with them is now online rather than in person.

Overall, my 2022 was a year of pivoting to other art materials and trying for more deliberate creation of fiber art. I guess my improv urges moved over to paper, where for 2022 I had the excuse I was a beginner. I’ll lose that fig leaf in 2023. Time for the big girl pants.


Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media