Category Archives: Art quilts

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 textileartist.org, 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.

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media

My Fantasy Town

As the weather reports become dire and more and more local closings are announced in anticipation of cold, snowy conditions, I sit in front of my sewing machine and sew a warm, sunny, colorful village.

Some years ago my husband traveled to Mexico and brought back a book that included pictures of the city of Guanajuato. I loved the hillside jumble of colorful buildings and always meant to make a quilt of it.

Years passed until I was cleaning out my silk scraps at the start of this month and thought of that town. The days were growing shorter, the temperatures were dropping, and I was ready for a fantasy happy place.

First, I drew a rough sketch of my town.

Then I pretty much ignored it. I just had to play with building outlines and the level of detail I wanted. My silk scraps are fused to a backing, so they are bulky and not good for fine detail.

I prepared a foundation of canvas and fusible fleece and laid my raw edge bits directly on that after I sewed on some doors and windows. I played with arrangements a bit on my design wall and then began to sew the pieces down with a short zigzag stitch.

Right now about two-thirds of the pieces are sewn. Once all of them are secured I will go back and add more detail with stitching. None of this is fine workmanship. It’s slapdash with fraying silk and crooked buildings. It certainly wouldn’t pass a building code inspection. And I don’t care. I can feel the sun on my face and think of buying a gelato at a little store.

About 25 inches wide by 21 inches high

For lovely, textured quilts of buildings and towns check out Hilde Morin’s work. For a book about an Italian town I had in the back of my mind as I developed my quilt, read Jess Walter’s “Beautiful Ruins.”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

It Began As A Quilt

My last big project of 2022 has been finishing a quilt I called “Happy Accidents” because it was inspired by a piece of woven paper my Roomba had chewed up. You can read about it here and here.

I thought it was done, and started the quilting. I managed to quilt most of what I wanted with a walking foot, and planned to do details with hand stitching. Like many plans, that didn’t go as expected. I found that working needle and thread through four, sometimes five, layers of cloth was challenging. After doing a bit of backstitching, my aching hands told me to give that up.

So, there I was with a partially realized quilt that was probably fine as is, but I wanted more. At this point I left the domain of fabric and thread and entered the painting zone. I ruled out acrylic and fabric paint as too runny for a quilted piece. I considered Inktense briefly, but decided I wanted the flexibility of fuzziness that Neocolor II crayons give.

Of course when you make one change everything is affected, and more changes ensue. That’s why I have expanded the name of this piece to “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory.” I also think parts of it look chaotic.

Here’s how it looks after several applications of Neocolor II to change the brightness or color of a part, and to emphasize lines that were formerly implicit.

The clipped on black and navy edge strips were to audition binding color. I chose the navy.
The top before quilting and painting.

I managed to spin the quilt many, many times as I quilted the circles and curves.

Finished size is 29 inches wide by 44 inches high. I have only to add binding and hanging sleeve, and I can call it done. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. Maybe someone will hold a chaos theory art exhibit. If so, I have the perfect entry.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing, Techniques

The Gift of Art

Today is Black Friday in the shopping world, and I am being inundated with sales pitches. I understand that many crave the latest tech gadget, but consider a piece of art as a different kind of gift this holiday season. There are in person craft and gift fairs in many places, and numerous artists have special online offers.

As it’s been a while since I featured my work that’s for sale, here’s a reminder that I am offering several of my pieces on my blog. They range in size from small to medium large, with corresponding prices. For a limited time I am offering free domestic ground shipping. Below are a few examples of what’s on offer.

“Looking At My Garden Without My Glasses” 37.5″ wide by 31″ high

“Crazy Bullseyes” 36″ wide by 26″ tall

“Winter’s Closing In” 14″ wide by 17″ high

“Sur La Table” 40″ square

“Still Standing” 14″ wide by 17.5″ high

Please email me at snarkyquilter@gmail.com if you have questions or would like further information.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

The Wrestling Match Begins

I have one more piece left to quilt, and it’s a doozy quilting-wise. I am enamored of circles and can get carried away when I put them on quilts, not remembering that I will have to quilt them. Of course, that’s not a problem if I take the easy path of straight line quilting.

For “Happy Accidents” I decided to feature circles in the quilting, so easy isn’t likely. It measures 29 by 45 inches,which sounds quite doable until you shove the quilt around 360 degrees a few times. And I plan to emphasize some curves with heavy threads.

Here’s the top after some refinements with Neocolor II pastels.

Color isn’t true.

The copy is pink because my printer’s cyan ink jets were clogged.

Another issue I face is the difficulty of marking the quilting pattern with eraseable markers or pens. Some of the fabric won’t take marks well and the paper resists everything. I may need to make quilting templates with freezer paper and iron them on.

I’ve chosen several threads in different weights so I will be changing colors frequently.

That leads to the last issue (I hope.) I have matched my quilting thread so well I can’t see the previous stitching in the paper areas, where I need to eyeball the new lines from the previous ones, as I can’t mark the paper. Whee!

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

I’m Back to Sewing, Finally

I’m still coughing my head off, but I am now able to follow a train of thought for more than five minutes. That means I am becoming reacquainted with my sewing machine. Since I have had no artistic breakthroughs for new work I am quilting the pieces gathering dust in the fabric closet.

Under the needle this week is “The Left Coast.” I wrote about designing it, but now I am trying to add texture with quilting. I gathered about 15 spools of thread to use and began with walking foot quilting. The past two days have been all FMQ. To make the process simpler I am using Superior Thread monopoly pre-wound bobbins. It’s wonderful not to have to change bobbins when I change thread color, but the stuff is hard to see and a pain to rip out.

I have added a bit of red to the sky and water to give a sunset effect, and some white for waves. I haven’t yet sewed on the islands as it’s hard to sew around them. If I add them it will be after the rest of the quilting is done.

Quilted but without islands.

Two different arrangements of islands.

Detail of water

Detail of cliffs in foreground.

I’m still uncertain about the islands, but prefer the second arrangement above to the first. If I use them I will need to add some whitewater around their edges. Time on the wall may benefit my decision making process. In the meantime, I have pressed a variety of leaves to use with my gel plate.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Tweaking The Wall

My version of tweaking involves my design wall, not meth, just so you know. Since last week I have been futzing with minor revisions to “The Left Coast” and a shaggy improv piece inspired by fabric designed by Katie Pasquini Masopust. Both works have spent time on the design wall, as I drop by to squint at them, add/subtract bits of fabric, and take a photo. This process was repeated several times each day. My husband calls it “staring at the wall.”

First, thanks for all the comments on “The Left Coast.” I really wasn’t trolling for compliments, but I appreciate all your kind words. I also appreciate the thoughtful comments as to how it could be made even better. Since I don’t want to disassemble the piece I will leave some ideas to apply to any other version I make. I’ve been playing with other ideas, especially the notion of adding something to the upper right hand side, the sky/water area. Since there are many rock formations off of Big Sur I decided to add some to my work. You’d think it would be a simple thing, but I’ve tried several permutations of color, shape, number and position.

“The Left Coast” with rocks

“The Left Coast” original

I know there are color variations between the above photos. Time of day makes a big difference in how this piece photographs, which is actually an unintentional reflection of the Big Sur itself. I’d love to get your reactions to the rock additions as I’ve looked at it so long I can’t tell whether it’s better or not.

The improv piece has two starting points; the fabric and the backside of a failed mixed media piece.

“Square Dance” fabric

The mixed media piece featured hand painted and printed fabric, but it was awkward and just didn’t work. As I balled it up to throw in the trash I looked at the backside and decided I liked it better than the front. Between the lively fabric and the backside of failure I decided to make a wrong side out piece, where the seam allowances would be on top. Further, I decided to sew raw edge fabric bits onto the whole thing. Since my blog is about the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’ll show you what resulted.

Part of my tweaking has involved pulling off fabric bits as I went overboard with them. After I reached the stage above I decided that major surgery was needed.

The above photo cropped to eliminate the right side.

I think I crammed too much into the space so it comes across as Fibber Magee’s closet. I’m not so old I remember the show, but my father used to tell me about it. Instead I’ll create two quilts. The right hand side will become a table runner with fabrics added to the ends. The left hand side will become an experiment with decorative stitching and any embellishments I can scrounge. It’s already a mess, so what the heck.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Marching To My Own Drummer

I would love to find discussions that address my current artistic quandary: at what point do you want to/should you defer to the opinions of others when they have a very different take on your work than your own? I refer specifically to work you feel much more positively about than others do. And you respect the opinions of these others.

Case in point, my current piece that I’ve named “The Left Coast.” It is based on my memories of Big Sur in California, though it’s meant to be evocative rather than representative. I chose to focus on the cliffs rather than the ocean.

“The Left Coast”

I began with a drawing that I turned into templates after enlarging it with the old fashioned grid method. Then I went through my stock of hand dyed fabric.

You can see my high level math as I worked out the grid.

I had a subtle set of gray/purples from Vicki Welsh (she calls it thistle) that I thought would work well. Other gradients dyed by her and batiks completed my choices for the cliffs. The sky/water was more vexing. I tried three different blue and purple gradients, all of which overpowered the cliffs. I resorted to a pastel batik (no idea where I got it, maybe Lunn Fabrics?) that I spent a lot of time recoloring with Neocolor II pastel crayons. At one point I decided the piece was turning into a painting.

Original fabric.

The piece is now sandwiched for quilting. I am using a pieced top I could never get to work right for the backing. It’s part of my use it up campaign.

I have made at least three attempts to redeem it, but lack the energy to try again.

I suspect time will be the ultimate arbiter of whether “The Left Coast” is good art or variations on a bruise. It may be my opinion is like loving a man that all your friends say is bad news. When hindsight shows he was a jerk and it’s a good thing you didn’t marry him, your friends were right. Luckily, the quilt is just fabric and the consequences of misjudging its worth are minimal.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration

The Bloomin’ Quilting Is Done

Bloomin’ is defined as “just a casual swear word” by The Urban Dictionary, and I used a few while quilting Rhody. As I recounted in an earlier post, I have been developing an impressionistic floral piece made with fabrics I had dyed, painted, and printed.

My original plan called for an undulating circular walking foot quilting design in several thread colors. Then, I decided to create the illusion of leaves around the edges. I had already reached the limits of walking foot quilting on the circular part, so I knew FMQ was the only way I could do leaves.

It turned out there was a lot more edge area to quilt than I had thought, so the FMQ went on for a few days, to allow my shoulders and temper time to recover. I tried several thread colors and weights to emphasize the leaves more, but I declared it was good enough when I found myself quilting the same leaves more than twice. Of course I managed to catch a bit of the excess backing fabric in the quilting, but the facing will cover that up. Only you and I will know about it.

I used seed stitch and french knots to give the flower center texture. It was backed with fusible fleece and satin stitched to the already quilted top.

“Rhody” about 33″ wide by 37″ high

Here are detail shots, plus a view of the back. As always, the back was made with whatever fabrics I had that were large enough. I pay attention to nice backs for working quilts, but not for wall art.

Of course the really boring chores – facing and hanging sleeve – remain. The fabrics are measured and cut, but sewing them on will await a time when I get stuck on my next new project and need thinking time.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process

Beyond Four Corners

My latest finish, “The Eyes Have It,” has two square corners out of ten. If that sounds like a lot of corners, it’s because I joined several already quilted pieces into a larger composition and rounded almost all the corners. Since the pieces are zigzagged together, it was easy to develop a nontraditional shape. In fact, it was a lot like collaging.

“The Eyes Have It” 24″ wide by 47″ high
Shown hanging in morning light. It looks different in the afternoon.

A little background – I save quilted bits I trim, plus I cut up finished quilts I decide I don’t like. I also create free motion quilting practice pieces, most recently inspired by Paula Kovarik’s “At Play in the Garden of Stitch.” Enough white/ecru/black pieces had accumulated I decided to combine them. I filled in gaps with newly quilted pieces, mostly from Maria Derse fabrics.

Here are the stages.

Draft 1, auditioning the pieces to be used.

Draft 2, beginning to be irregular.

Draft 3, before rounding corners and placing large circle.

Looking back, I can see I am drawn to irregularly shaped quilts, despite the headaches of finishing the edges, and dealing with quilt show criteria.

“Wayside Weeds”

“Torii Traces”

“Roundabout” detail

All of the above have “false backs,” a pejorative term used by quilt show judges when they disqualify a work from judging because they can’t see the back of the quilting. I once had a lively discussion about this issue with quilt judges, but the show’s special definition of an art quilt prevailed. Wouldn’t the term “faced back” be more accurate?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects