Category Archives: Completed Projects

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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Mystery Photos

Thanks to my brother I have a digital archive of photos passed down from several family members. Many identify the people and places shown, but some are just plain mysteries. My cousins have tried and failed to name the people, an unfortunate byproduct of our departed older generation who didn’t write anything on the backs of those photos packed away in old stationery boxes.

I decided to create a multi-panel mixed media piece with some of the mystery photos, which I call the unknown family. Here are some of my candidates.

I’ve settled on three panels: children, women, and groups. I plan to construct each separately, sewing on paper copies of the photos, and then connecting them with some sort of old cloth/lace, etc., so they will hang together. So far I have old linens for a base and decorations. I’m trying out various backing materials for support, but don’t plan to use batting or quilt these.

For a dry run I made a piece that features ancestral houses and an old embroidery sampler.

Top center is relatives’ farmhouse in Telford, PA; top right is grandparent’s home in Germantown, PA; bottom right is grandfather’s family home in County Tyrone, northern Ireland; bottom left is grandmother’s family home in County Donegal, Ireland; and middle left is estate outside of Philadelphia, PA, where many of my grandmother’s family worked as servants. Oh, top left is a drawing of the John Brown house in Akron, OH. He is no relation whatsoever, but I wanted another color photo.

My test showed me the difficulties of using photos with different degrees of clarity and styles. I edited all but one to print in sepia, but still many details don’t show. I also used a lace doily of unknown origin and the decoration from a cotton lawn hanky that belonged to my mother. I added a few more embroidered flowers to try to blend the photos with the background. It’s backed with acrylic felt and a cotton print, both fused on.

I would love to see other pieces that attempt what I’m trying for, either ones you’re made or seen. Cautionary tales about what didn’t work are welcome as well.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Completed Projects, 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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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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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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When More Is Too Much

“Less is more” and “More is more” are common design mantras. Each has its adherents. A recent design experience took me way beyond “more is more” to deep in the weeds. I’m writing about my recent failure as a lesson that sometimes going for broke can break the piece.

After my Tansy Hargan From Sketchbook to Wall class I was eager to use the techniques taught, so I prepared a smallish (roughly 20 inches square) fused piece which I planned to gussy up with reverse applique, hand stitching, and pen and paint. It started out okay, if a bit pink.

Original

Then I added hand and machine applique, and a bit of embroidery.

Reverse applique and Xes

I thought more stuff would improve the piece, and utterly overshot the mark.

No, no, no

Finally, I cut off some of the hand work and lightened some of the applique with a white marker. The machine stitched bits are impossible to remove as there is a backing fused on.

Where it stands now. I can still remove a few more Xes.

My intention was to evoke the playing pieces used in children’s board games. I wish I hadn’t gone down the embellishment road as the original piece was much more pleasing than the monster I created. I could always cut it up….

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

Forever Home Found

I am always happy when I find new caregivers for my pieces, so I was especially happy last week when my dear brother asked if he could have two of my quilts. I was thrilled to have him visit me IN PERSON after over a year, and his request was icing on the cake. A look-see at my work is often on the agenda for his visits, and so I subjected him to an informal show.

The appeal of art is so subjective. You never know how others will react to your work. I found my brother was drawn to strong color and line. Here are the pieces he selected. Good thing he had plenty of room in his suitcase.

“Primary Directive” My brother liked the fabric with writing in this improv piece.
“There Are Strings Attached” (Sorry for the old crooked photo.) I based the design of this 2012 quilt on the work of Sandi Cummings.

Of course we did much more than look at my work. One of our jaunts took us to the Cleveland Museum of Art where I enjoyed exhibits of Panamanian molas, photos by Bruce Davidson, and woodcuts by Gustave Baumann.

Iguana Mola Panel, c. 1950-70, Republic of Panamá, Gunayala Comarca, Wissubwala, Guna people

I discovered a painting by northeast Ohio artist Julian Stanczak. The lines can’t be more than 1/8th of an inch wide, and I love the transparent effect.

“Filtered Yellow”

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Using My Diva Fabrics

Over the years I’ve built up a small stash of fabrics I call divas. Some fabrics are eager to be accommodating and show up in many of my quilts. They can seem cool or warm, light or dark, depending on their companions. Not divas. Their colors just don’t blend in, they demand your attention, and they certainly clash with each other. I have only myself to blame as I bought or created them.

However, I finally realized the divas can work with small, crafty projects like bowls when I came across Linda Johansen’s book.

I downloaded the free bowl project available at C&T Publishing, and requested the book from my library. I decided to start with the free project as the directions seemed less complex than the boxes or vases and I already had all the supplies needed.

I selected my diva fabrics and got to work cutting out circles of fabric, canvas, and WonderUnder.

Thickened dye printed fabrics made at a Sue Benner workshop.

I also had to make center circle sandwiches of the same types of materials. You are to put one circle each on the inside and outside of your bowl once you have adhered the fabric/canvas bowl disks to each other. I did this step wrong as I fused my inner circle parts together too soon. You’re supposed to adhere their layers on the bowl disks themselves. Oh well, I made it work.

A little finessing and the inner circles came out fine.

The next step was to cut curved darts to make the bowl concave.

The directions call for start and stop points to be marked with pins. I couldn’t force my pins through the thick sandwich so I used a Crayola washable marker to draw my cutting lines. (Thank you Vicki Welsh for that tip.) The key is to test your marker’s washability on a scrap of your good fabric.

The darts are formed by overlapping the cut lines and zigzagging along the top cut. Then, if that looks okay, you satin stitch over every cut line. It’s a lot of satin stitching.

The little clips came in handy at this step.

Finally, I trimmed the edge and satin stitched all around that.

Bowl inside.
Bowl outside.

I covered over gaps in the black stitching with my trusty black marker.

I was so happy to have put these fabrics to use and to have tried another way to make bowls. As I’ve written before, to date I’ve used Hilde Morin’s bowl creation method. Linda’s way results in a heavy bowl with a firm center. It involves much more stitching. I suppose you could add arty fabric bits like Hilde’s method suggests, but it is designed for single pieces of fabric.

For future bowls I may try a mashup of both methods, using Hilde’s for the construction and Linda’s for trimming out the darts. I have my diva fabrics picked out already.

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The Year That’s Been

I thought I hadn’t been much affected mentally by the pandemic. I had my health and my art, and my family was safe. I used the extra time in isolation to explore mixed media – collage, gelli printing, painting. Thank you internet. Much of my sewn work was either long overdue finishes or scrappy pieces. Then I came to grips with two serious pieces I created over the past year. It seems my unconscious was having quite a response to the year, whatever I thought.

“Shattered,” the first piece, was based on a photo of a broken mirror. I distorted and recolored it in Photoshop and had Spoonflower print the result.

I chopped up the fabric and inserted strips of dyed damask and novelty yarn, but I found the result lacked something.

“Shattered” first draft

Finally, after this attempt was banished to the closet for months, I realized it needed color contrast. Back on the design wall it went, and I added orange.

As it now stands, with thanks to Jane Dunnewold for the grid reminder.

Of course, I still have to figure out how to quilt it, but I think it captures our lives during the past year with the orange representing slivers of hope. Funny how that solution emerged after the Covid vaccines were developed.

The second piece, “Letting Go,” was based on a photo taken by my friend Penny. It also used an edited photo printed on fabric, along with hand dyed fabric and a smidge of commercial fabric.

The original photo of steps on a hiking trail.

I drew an outline based on the photo, and made freezer paper templates. I had planned to piece the steps but decided I could get the effect I wanted with paint and quilting.

Before quilting and applique

After I added a lot of shading with water soluble crayons (Neocolor II) and netting, I realized I wanted the piece to represent a lightening of my burdens as I climbed to a less dark place. I created rocks as stand-ins for burdens, and appliqued them to the lower steps.

“Letting Go” quilted, 24 by 34 inches

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I don’t make “message” quilts. Chalk up another change to the past year.

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