I’m wrapping up 2021 with a throwback to tradition. What makes it neotraditional is the leaves, developed from a photo I edited and had printed by Spoonflower.
Each leaf is framed with solids from my stash, and hand dyed linen from the theater costume shop. The outer borders are Marcia Derse fabric. The binding is made from her fabric as well. Since I took the photos I’ve blocked the quilt to remove waviness.
I used three shades of red and a brownish gray to quilt swoopy curves meant to suggest wind blown leaves. The back is truly nontraditional, as I used hunks of very different fabrics that have spent far too long sitting in the drawer. I had planned to use the left stripe for binding, and it did finish the edges of a few quilts. Now, however, I mostly face the edges. The middle fabric could be used for measuring, in a pinch. The right fabric is by Paula Nadelstern and just shouted “look at me” too much for easy use.
For some reason I’ve been struggling to name this one. Possibilities I’ve considered include Sycamore, Found On The Path, and Ode to Autumn. There’s no hurry, as I won’t be entering it in any shows. My husband will be thankful there’s a quilt around the house he can “get.”
Apparently I was overly enthusiastic in coating magazine pages with gloss medium for ironed collages. I had lots of colorful pages left so I created a few more collages, using the technique I mentioned earlier from Gerald Brommer’s book, “Collage Techniques.” This time of year around the winter solstice I need all the brightness I can get.
And I still have a few bits left, though my inspiration will have quite a stretch to make anything coherent from them. I realize some of you may think I’ve already reached incoherence in the above work.
Why make these? I find them helpful exercises in composition as colors and some shapes are predetermined. They also help me learn to step away from the original photo subjects to create a new context. Finally, they scratch my scrap itch, only with paper.
As the sands in the hourglass that is 2021 run through to the bottom I want to finish a few pieces that have been in the fabric closet. So of course I began a new piece and finished it, jumping the queue on those pieces waiting so patiently. I promise to quilt one of them by December 31.
This early morning view from my kitchen window spoke to me, so I used it to give focus to my pink piece as the birds I originally thought to use weren’t working. I talk about it in the linked post.
That got translated into the following:
I quilted it with a walking foot and free motion. Here’s the back for you folks who like that sort of thing. My backs are not works of beauty. The best I’ll say about them is I bury the thread ends. I use whatever bobbin thread color helps the front.
I hope to have more finished (well, quilted) work by the end of the year. I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.
Some art quilters seem to spring fully formed from the head of Nancy Crow (this makes sense only if you know Greek mythology.) Others have inched their way to the art part of quilting. I am definitely in the latter group. I was reminded of this fact as I sorted through photos of my old, pre-2014 quilts. Almost all were based on patterns, though I recall only one that came with already chosen fabric.
Since I had the photos up I thought I’d give you a show of my work before I became an “artist.” Most of the quilts shown below have been given away, so I can’t take better pictures of those that weren’t well photographed. Thank heavens for photo editing software.
Since making a bed quilt is a rite of passage, here are two I made. Both spent time on my bed, though not at the same time.
I made a wall hanging to match the bed quilt above.
I will try to present the rest of this special virtual exhibit in order of creation, but sometimes there was quite a gap between piecing and quilting.
The total absence of hand turned applique reflects my aversion to it. It takes far too long. I skipped other quilting rites of passage as well – no sampler quilt, no hand quilting, no red work or other embroidery, no quilted vest, no pumpkin and Santa wall hangings, etc. I see my color palette has remained constant. So has my love of scrappy quilts. I also see baby steps towards doing my own thing, with tweaks to patterns and unusual (sometimes downright odd) color/pattern combinations.
in 2008 I designed and made a piece I called My First Art Quilt.
I continued to work in both traditional and nontraditional styles for a few more years, and still will not turn up my nose at a really good pattern, though I may take a few liberties.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To emphasize the informal paths I hand stitched two curving paths in red, orange, and yellow.
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.
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 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.
At the rate I’m going, in 2 or 3 years I will simply glue everything together, and know it will last my lifetime.