Category Archives: Project Ideas

Glimpses of Spain

While I had intended to have a newly sewn lap quilt top to show you, the universe had other plans. A few days after my husband and I returned from Spain we both came down with something flu-like. It wasn’t Covid, if the multiple negative test results were to be believed. Instead, I’ll share what came to be my photo obsession of our trip – portals.

A passageway near our Madrid hotel. The gates are locked at 9 p.m. every night.

The magnificent Alhambra in Granada.
A drug store in Seville with the beautiful tile work the city is famous for. All drug stores seem to feature neon green crosses for easy identification.

The British Institute, a language school in Seville.

A glimpse into a residential courtyard in Seville.

Courtyard of a former textile factory in Barcelona, done in the Modernismo style by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (and that’s what Catalan looks like.) It’s now a cultural and social center, CaixaForum.

Any or all of these may inspire future art.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Commentary, Project Ideas

Paper Work

While I’m resting up my arms and shoulders from a quilt wrestling project (why did I choose a circular quilting design?) I’ve been playing with paper. Some efforts I’ve framed, and some I’ve created as part of Willa Wanders‘ free Fodder Challenge lessons.

After living with so-so framed art for many years I decided new art in the frames would be nice. One is a collage, two are gel plate monoprints, and one is a weaving of collaged strips sewn onto paper. I had forgotten what a pain it is to frame stuff.

In between faulty measurements, I watched several Fodder Challenge lessons. Many were too cute for me. I cannot collage inspirational sayings with a straight face. However, I tackled three projects in my own way.

First I used Drew Steinbrecher‘s collage methods for gel plate printed papers, where you create one large collage and then cut it into several smaller collages, which you work on individually. The last work was done in a board book, and uses illegible words stenciled with modeling paste on tissue paper.

Next I tackled paper strip weaving with Rebecca Sower, an easy way to use collaged papers. Besides the framed weaving shown above, I wove another with strips leftover from that one, and yet one more that used a quilt calendar photo as the base. Some challenge participants wove cool diagonal versions.

My last challenge project involved Jane Chipp‘s button collage with printed tissue paper. The instructor used vintage photos printed on tissue with a home printer, and her results were charming. However, I found that my glue would smear the ink from my printer, so I used a sheet of deli paper I had brayered off on and then drawn and stenciled on. You need large, flat-back buttons, printed tissue, gesso, and matte medium (plus patience) to do this.

Finally, since I had all my collage supplies out, I made two more mixed media pieces from previous starts. My goal was to see how far I could go before the piece was overworked. I toned down some of the black on the left hand piece, which helped pull it back a bit from the overworked edge. The right hand piece began with gold blobs and ink lines on watercolor paper, got some paper glued on and cording sewed on, and ended with Posca pens and acrylic ink.

Now that I have gotten almost all the matte medium off my fingers, I hope to return to quilting in the round. Maybe next week I’ll have a finished quilt to show you.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under collage, In Process, mixed media, Project Ideas

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.


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.


Filed under collage, Completed Projects, In Process, Project Ideas


Since I can quilt only 30 minutes a day right now because I’m trying to fix a pinched nerve in my neck (the massage is the best part of physical therapy) and my output is minimal, I’ll give you inspiration from Greece. More specifically, some of my brother’s photos taken on his recent sailing trip there. I’ve opted for scenes I think would inspire an art quilt, so historically important sites are mostly missing.

I hope to return to sewing next week.


Filed under Project Ideas

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.


Filed under Completed Projects, Project Ideas

More Painted Textile Pieces

Since last week I’ve continued to work on my small (about 10 inch square) pieces for my From Sketchbook to Wall class, and have five done (mostly.) I’ve learned that it’s hard to hand sew through fabric covered with acrylic paint, and that I want to hold onto some resemblance to my inspiration landscape. That surprised me as I think I’ve reached a fairly high comfort level with abstraction.

Original photo of riprap along towpath with the Cuyahoga River at the top
My interpretation of photo. I used offcuts from a photo I had printed on fabric for the tree groups.
A fading bouquet left on a bench by the scenic railroad stop. I’ve seen flowers left on the bench several times, so I think it must be a memorial tribute to someone.
Hmm, I think it looks like there’s a hint of the railroad tracks in it as well as the bench slats.
Fuzzy photo of first new growth
I decided to hurry along the greening up, and also added needle felted leaves. I don’t like my stitching on them as it’s too folk arty.
I did like that riprap.
I may still go over the white lines with stitching.
I loved the textures and acid yellow green stuff.
I kept the yellow green but decided to think pink. The base is a mended patch from an old tablecloth.

While I love the texture hand stitching gives, in the future I think I’ll use paint and its cousins more to transform the base fabrics. I have lots of painted fabric left for more such textile works, though I think I want to try to create fantasy landscapes next time.

Leftover fabrics fused to base

I have lots of photos for inspiration, but I want to use them mostly as inspiration for textures. I like the rough arrangements I did of my painted fabrics better than my deliberately composed ones.

If you’re on Instagram and want to see other people’s work from this class, search #tansyhargantextilecourse.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

The End of the Line, Part 1

Challenges are always more fun with company, and my friend Penny joined me in playing with line. She has been working with collage and gel printing recently, and her responses to the prompts reflect that. I asked her to be a guest blogger. She chose some of her work to feature here, and wrote a bit about what she did and why. Take it away Penny.

Thick and thin lines with contrast   We started this challenge by coming up with some “prompts” for line making.  Thick and thin seemed like a good place to start.  I thought about weaving lines together and thought it would be fun to make it look like it was unraveling.  Black India ink with a brush was used for lines; contrast and line variety were added with white and turquoise oil pastels on a brown paper bag.  It could be a theme to further explore using various media.

Using line to depict fashion figures  After viewing the work of textile artist Lucienne Day (shared by Joanna), and viewing Day’s small abstracted figures; I decided to use directional line to doodle these little fashionistas.  I think they would be fun over a sheer watercolor background or a collaged tissue base in very light colors.  They are very minimalist, but they have a certain “je ne sais quoi.”

Lines and mark making with unconventional tools   I think this was a mutually agreed upon line prompt.  I used deli paper, India ink, and items such as a pencil eraser end and silicon basting brush.  I did another sheet which I was unable to locate in my burgeoning stash which used a haircolor brush applicator and the edge of a credit card.  These techniques could be utilized on a gelli plate as well.

Cheesecloth line gel print with tracing paper collage overlay   I decided to try this after exploring adding cheesecloth to some of my gelli prints.  I wanted to see how clearly the threads of the cloth would show up when used with fluid acrylic paint.  I also explored the value changes made by layering pieces and/or folding the cheesecloth randomly on the plate before pulling the prints.  I used tracing paper for the overlay with china marker and Posca pens.  It was a fun and delightfully unpredictable way to explore line and value.

Acrylic string printing on wallpaper sample   I had done numerous string printed pieces on various “regular” papers, but never on wallpaper.  I decided to print multiple layer string prints using the wallpaper pressed directly onto the plate.  I enjoy the way the texture of the wallpaper subtly breaks up the printed lines, making me think of some kind of abstracted Renaissance textile from a royal’s wardrobe.  If nothing else, interesting collage fodder!

Using torn paper edges as line, using a variety of found papers, photocopied image, wallpaper samples, and found object junk mail in a collage   I was quite disturbed by the Capitol Insurrection, and thought that torn edges would help to show the attempted “tearing down” of the democratic process.  Rioters were depicted as surreal reptilian-like creatures, letting the linear pattern of blacks, whites, and grays show up against the photocopied image of the Capitol.  The strong colors of magazine collage bits emphasize their rage.  The diagonal lines in the wallpaper background helped to lead my eye into the Capitol interior, as well as the directional lines on the other wallpapers.  I really enjoyed creating this, despite the gravity of the subject matter.

Using pinked edge masks, edge of cardboard, and high flow acrylic to explore a particular line pattern   I mistakenly received a big bottle of high flow acrylic in an art supply order, so I decided to try gel printing with it.  I had already made the pinked mask shapes, so it started out just as white masked shapes on a pink ground.  It definitely needed something, so I decided to echo the zigzag edges of the masks with black Posca pen.  I used white Posca for the dots so it wouldn’t be totally zigzaggy, and then printed with corrugated cardboard edges in black acrylic to add another type of line quality.  This was a late night experiment that made me think of Good N Plenty candy (which I don’t even like).   Could be a fun starting point for surface design.

Using tinted cheesecloth and machine stitching as line in a grid format   Joanna told me about a class she was taking with David Owen Hastings that uses pieces of cut collage elements in a grid which are then machine stitched.  I chose pages from a calendar as well as some subtly textured wallpaper.  After stitching it down, I decided to layer it with collaged white tissue and painted cheesecloth to suggest a partially frozen creek bed.  I added undulating stitching to give it a watery look and continue the linear feel.  I’m still pondering how to create slightly raised “stepping stones” using layered collage elements for the rocks.  This piece really got me excited about using cheesecloth as a collage element.

Painted damask with added lines and color  Found this piece of previously sponge painted damask in my stash and was looking for a quick way to add linear detail.  Used some of the pink high flow acrylic with a fine steel-tipped resist bottle for thin lines, then some fine line Posca pen detailing.  It makes me think of a sunny little Mediterranean village.

 Lines making Asemic or Symbolic writing   I did the orange and black piece after stumbling on a great Robyn McClendon video on symbolic writing.  I knew it would fit in as a line making prompt.  It combines a gel print with black ink, and uses a copier for a portion of it.  I don’t have the link, but if you look up her videos, you will see it.  The lower left piece is another cheesecloth print on Bristol with layered Posca asemic writing, which I find very therapeutic!  I like the complexity of the woven lines with the looseness and contrast of the “written” lines over it.  My son, who is a graphics guy, said he really likes this “grunge” approach.  I have also tried this writing in gel pen over wallpaper textured painted color tissue in a greeting card.

Acrylic string gel print with cheesecloth and linear collage elements   This subtle string print was made with some brand new Golden fluid acrylics which I mixed to get some subtle colors.  I decided to use layers of painted cheesecloth to give my orbs some form and shadowing.  Linear collage elements were cut from a trial print.  I like the subtlety of the string print colors and the contrast afforded by the cheesecloth shapes.  I think it has kind of a planetary or undersea feel to it, and I think I need to do more of these.

Thanks for your insights, Penny, and for walking us through your responses. Next time I’ll present the rest of my line work.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

From A Distance

Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” minus people

My husband and I are well stuck into our current isolation, and we’re glad our house is large enough to allow us to have our own spaces. Otherwise, we’d be tripping over each other. Of course one of my main spaces is my studio, where I spend at least a few hours each day.

If you think I’ve been sewing up a storm you’re wrong. I’ve been paper and fabric collaging, and finishing up two black and white pieces. Why collage? One of my studio clean up projects was to sort through pages ripped from magazines. That led to watching a few videos and then collaging on the blank sides of sketchbook pages. I also created more colored tissue paper to use up some almost empty bottles of Dylusions ink sprays. Some of the papers are lovely; others are a bit muddy.

Lessons learned:

Magazine pages really like to wrinkle when glued, despite smoothing with fingers and old credit card

I need to learn how to use acrylic paint better

Lay down a colored background before you start collaging as it’s hard to add after the fact

Already fused fabric is easy to collage and can be pried off with heat and moved around (something impossible with glue)

Here are my efforts to date.

My first effort using tissue paper, magazines and paint.
Second try with already fused fabric scraps and colored pencil.
Third try with all magazine paper-very wrinkled. Lower right needs design work.

I hope to improve my collage skills over the next few weeks, once I figure out the right glue(s) to use. Collages are good design exercises.

The black and white pieces I made with my mark making class output are also experiments. One is more successful than the other, but I learned from both.

Fire or Ice
Still Standing

Finally, I did make a few masks to have on hand for personal use. I’ve wavered about the whole homemade mask enterprise as I’m concerned many won’t be useable. Sewers respond generously to such requests, but there’s a lot of room for good intentions to go astray. Elastic doesn’t hold up well to commercial laundering. The proliferation of patterns is confusing to me. Some have a pocket for a filter. My local hospital prefers the masks be lined with flannel. Other hospitals want nose shaping wires sewn in.

I’ll see if requirements and need for masks change before I make more. As I usually do, I’m linking up with Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas, Techniques

New Year, New Start

It’s just past Epiphany and I have completed my first top of 2020, surely a record for me. Of course conception began quite a few months ago, and the “father,” Frank Lloyd Wright, has long since departed.

Many years ago I was captivated by stained glass windows designed by Wright, and resolved to translate them into a quilt.

Finally, in late 2019 I drew up a rough sketch to work towards my dream. I simplified Wright’s design and deleted the lines of leading.

My color inspiration came from vintage table napkins and sun prints I made from place mats. I added lots of hand dyed and other home manipulated fabrics to the mix, along with commercial solids.

“Calliope” 74 inches long

I tried out many variations on the lower right section, which I won’t bore you with, and had quite the time fitting all the pieces together. Good thing I know about partial seams.

Sad to say, “Calliope” has made a liar of me. I vowed to never make another large piece. This one is 74 inches high and has proved hard to photograph.


Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting, Project Ideas