Category Archives: In Process

Really Cheap Art Journals

A quick browse of Etsy for art journals will reveal a dizzying choice of journals that range in price from $15 to $150 plus. Some are so gorgeous that I would be afraid to even write my name in them for fear of sullying their loveliness.

For those of you who have yet to encounter the art journal, here’s a quick rundown. They are a way to express yourself visually in a blank book with no rules and no judgment. Some art journaling proponents claim that doing it will help you realize you’ve always been an artist. Whatever. Many descriptions of the process begin with the all important physical journal. It can be bought or hand made. There are many blogs and websites that will tell you how to make one and give you ideas for content.

Obviously the type of paper in one’s art journal depends on the medium you want to use. I decided to use collage simply because I have lots of papers thanks to all the less than stellar monoprints I’ve made and the papers I used to clean my brayer. My journal of choice? Used children’s board books.

I got the idea from Drew Steinbrecher who often features collaged board books on his Instagram feed.

One of Drew Steinbrecher’s Instagram pages.

I thought it was a great idea and scoured my local library’s book sale for such books. I bought six for a quarter each, and am now sorry I didn’t buy more. Some of my purchases looked brand new.

Yesterday my friend Penny and I began our collaged board books. Supplies were simple – board books, papers, matte medium, brushes, and some kind of nonstick paper to keep the finished pages apart. The process was simple, too. Design a layout and glue the pieces down. No prep needed. In an hour and a half I managed to create three full page spreads.

I’ll trim the edges once the book is full and everything is dry. That might take a while as the heavy board can absorb a lot of moisture.

Earlier in the week I dry collaged two more pieces made with papers coated with gloss gel medium. You can see the sheen from the medium in the first one.

I have no idea why the women are completely covered. It’s from a fashion magazine.
I even put a bit of text in this one.

I’ve have fun playing with glue and paper, but my excuse for not working on the quilt now on my design wall is gone. I just got the fabric I ordered for it. It even came early, drat it.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

So Close

Over the past week I have diligently quilted “Full Sail” so I’d have something to talk to you about. Well, it’s almost done, but I want to be sure I’ve done all the quilting I think it needs before I face the edges.

“Full Sail” approximately 18 by 26 inches

I chose to stick close to my source photo for the quilting lines rather than go off piste clever. KISS and all that. By my count I used eight different threads ranging from off white to steel gray. Most were 50 weight, though one was a 12 weight. For most of the stitching I used the basic machine stitch, though I changed up to a denim stitch for some of the ropes. For the blue sections I threw in some light blue rayon thread for variety, and changed the line spacing a bit.

My big should I/shouldn’t I question is whether to add more quilting to the sail on the right side. Right now it’s the least quilted section, and I like the way the sail seems to billow. I think it’s a good contrast to the more tethered center sail. Maybe I just need to add more to the dark section. Feel free to comment.

Sail on right side.

Here’s more detail shots.

The center sail
Changes in line spacing

In earlier posts I forgot to mention that much of the fabric I used was hand dyed by Vicki Welsh. I want to give credit where it’s due.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Full Sail

I am lucky to have a brother who travels around the world and takes lots of photos of the places he visits. His sailing trip around Greece led to a bumper crop of great photos, which I shared with you a few months ago. I used one of his photos to develop a quilt of a billowing sail.

Because I loved the curved lines so much I didn’t really change the image, but just translated it into fabric. I began with tracing the lines from a black and white print of the photo above. Then I took it to a copy shop to get an enlargement. I could have, and should have, used the old fashioned grid enlargement method, but I thought the shop would be easier and faster. Alas, I was wrong.

The shop was crowded with clueless people who needed the sole staff person’s help. When my turn came I gave the staff person the enlargement size I wanted – 24 by 36 inches – and she sent it to the oversize printer. She gave me my copy, I paid, and went home.

There I discovered that the enlargement was 18 by 24 inches, smaller than I had asked for. I had been so eager to leave the store I didn’t check the measurements. Yes, I could have returned to the store, but I gave it up as a lesson learned.

So, my top started as 18 by 24 inches, which is okay as I didn’t have as much of the hand dyed blue fabric as I thought. I used the enlargement to create freezer paper templates of the large pieces, which I ironed to my fabrics and cut out the pieces. You can see this process below. All the extra lines on the drawing are for the quilting.

Top: photo enlargement; right: black and white of original image; bottom: cut out pieces with templates attached

Matching some of the bits was fiddly, as it’s been a while since I’ve done precision piecing. The top is done and awaits quilting. I plan to use heavy threads for the ropes and lines in the sails, following the lines in my original drawing.

I’m hoping to get motivated for the quilting, but I continue to fuss with my lost family piece, as well as print off many ugly monoprints.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

File, Act, Toss

One of the few staff development seminars I recall was F.A.T, or file, act, toss. The idea was to clear your overflowing desk by going through all the paperwork on it and decide whether to keep it (file,) respond to it (act,) or throw it out (toss.) I used the process with my pile of surface design experiments when said pile fell to the closet floor. The pile is now smaller and neater.

Once I threw out experiments that were beyond help – too overworked, just not appealing, etc. – I chose two to act on. The first is a painting experiment with an empty toilet paper roll cut to flare out. You dip the flared out end in paint and dab it onto fabric. I used it for free motion practice, and gingered up the color with oil pastels. It may become a pillow cover.

Next, I finished quilting an ancient sampler from about 2005. It was made from scraps left from an Amish type wall hanging, and I had hand quilted about half of it. Knowing I would never finish the hand quilting, I completed it with machine quilting and bound it.

With some actions under my belt, next I turned to the file pile. I tend to have groups of experiments in similar colors or themes as they were done in one session. Here are a few of those groups.

Finally, I decided to keep pieces of dropcloths that could make good backgrounds and a screened linen piece that I just don’t know what to do with.

Both are old cotton sheets that have a lovely hand.
This suffers from fold lines that took the spray paint differently.

I didn’t photograph my discards, though some of you may think I still have plenty to toss. I have lots more in my pile, but those bits are cut into squares in anticipation of a future project.

Are you a hoarder of such experiments or are you more ruthless than I am?

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

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

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

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

Urban Grime

Ever since I took Tansy Hargan’s “From Sketchbook to Wall” course I have wanted to use painted fabric on a larger scale than 10 inches square, with a lot more glue, and maybe even forget about thread. In essence I wanted to move from a three layer quilt to fabric collage. Restrictions on the amount of time I can spend actually sewing spurred me to combine a photo printed on fabric with leftover hunks of cut up clothing already painted with acrylic. The painted hunks, ripped and rough with some curled edges, are stuck on a foundation with matte medium. The result is quite stiff and grungy.

My starting point was a fabric printed photo taken by Penny and a dye experiment leftover from a theatrical costume.

By the stage above I had covered the dye experiment with diluted india ink and started to audition my painted hunks. The sheer fabric is from an old curtain.

I sewed the dye experiment to the photo and backed it with iron-on nonwoven interfacing. Then I started to position the hunks, adding bits of painted heavy non-fusible interfacing from my experiments pile.

More pinning bought me to this stage.

Close to what I wanted, but not quite there.
I glopped a lot of matte medium under and over the pieces and added a few more flourishes. It’s now pin free.

I think I’ll add a bit of sewing to make sure the pieces stay in place, though how much I add will be a function of how difficult it is to sew over the stiff surface. I may also add bits of paint.

I want to thank Julie Fei-Fan Balzar and her blog for introducing me to Margo Hoff. That post has tons of photos of Hoff’s work, so I recommend you check there for a visual feast. Hoff painted canvas fabric with vivid solid colors and then cut it up to make multi layer collages on canvas. Color, curves, transparency – her work has everything I want to do.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process

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

My Spoonflower Addiction

As digital fabric printing becomes more prevalent, fabric users have even more choices for printing their own without resorting to the vagaries of their home printers. The latest SAQA Journal has a good comparison by the Pixeladies of fabric printing services. In the future I may try some of the services reviewed, but for now I’m sticking with Spoonflower as I know their interface and have been satisfied with their work. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve been running 20% off sales.

I’ve turned to photos printed on fabric as a way to continue creating now that intense piecing is literally painful for me. I aspire to create work like the one below, but I’ve a ways to go.

“Union Station” Jill Kerttula

Jill Kerttula uses fabric printed photographs as a starting point for her work. Her blog entry about “6 of Chaos”shows her process. You can see more of her work on her website.

From my latest fabric order I created “Corrugated,” which uses four fat quarters of Photoshop edited versions of a photo my friend Penny took. I’ve inset narrow strips of varying widths to spice up the palette.

“Corrugated” detail

I don’t know if I’ll add more embellishment or quilt it as is. Any opinions are welcome.

Inspiration for how to deal with another fabric from the same order has been slow in coming. This is another photo from Penny that I played with in Photoshop. I want to emphasize the gritty textures, and may add some of the fabric I painted for my Tansy Hargan class.

Just in case you wondered, I’ve never had any flower photos printed for me, though I’ve used photos of trees.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Everything Else, Fabric Printing, In Process