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.
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.
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.
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?
Now that a few quilts have sold I’m adding some new items to my for sale page, with a focus on smaller works that may be just what’s needed for limited wall space. I think the new pieces are more abstract than others in the shop.
Both of the above small pieces are fused and machine stitched applique, mounted on a solid background, using a Lisa Walton technique.
Of course, other smaller pieces are also available.
The Artist as Quiltmaker show, held every two years at Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) in Oberlin, Ohio, was one of many casualties of the pandemic. It was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed until this year. I drove over to see it with a friend just before the show closed and was glad I didn’t miss seeing it in person. You can view the entries online, but as with any visual show, you can’t get a sense of scale unless you stand in front of the pieces. And size does make a difference as some of the pieces are large.
Many of this year’s entries don’t fit the “three layers held together with stitching” requirement typical of quilt shows. And some don’t have 90 degree corners. In fact, a few approach sculpture. I was glad to see a broadening of the concept of a quilt, but hope such pieces don’t languish in the quilt ghetto of the art world. They might have better luck being called something else.
Some of the pieces that intrigued me follow.
While not groundbreaking in form (it even has a binding) “Blue Ice” captures the majestic quiet of ice bound parts of our world. The artist has kept the quilting simple, but uses a few changes in thread color from black to blue effectively.
Modern quilting influence is evident in the piecing and lighthearted fabric choices, but the curved edges and trio of hanging drops are more arty. And, look ma, no four inch hanging sleeve.
Materials used include “reclaimed vintage quilt and army blankets, army suture cotton dated 1953, cotton, linen, wool, silk, satin, felt, buttons.” The curved red lines are hand chain stitched embroidery. I found it an intriguing meld of old with new to reimagine the original materials.
The online photo so doesn’t do this work justice. It’s by a quilter renowned for working with large scale templates and pieced curves. Recently she has switched to digitally edited photos printed on cloth. From what I could see, only the outer mitered border is pieced. I’ll quote the artist here: “In 2019 my husband photographed a 135’ dive by one of the cliff divers of Acapulco at four frames per second. He combined the twelve shots of the three-second dive into one time-lapse composite. Using my digital drawing program, I added traditional Storm at Sea blocks to the corners of the digital image and designed borders that extend the colors and patterns of the photo that fade to black. The center panel, borders, and binding fabric were digitally printed and pieced. I quilted the center very heavily with matching threads to enhance the textures of the rocks.” The quilting is exquisite.
Only one layer of cotton canvas dyed with plants and a few organza appliqued pieces are used. The subtleties of the images left by the plants are best seen in person. There is hand quilting on the appliqued parts, but a traditional quilt judge would throw this piece out of the judging.
Pieced and quilted, but the shape and uneven edges elevate it from a typical abstractly pieced quilt. It’s almost like dress pattern pieces were used to create it.
The artist applied a digital editing filter to a photo, had it printed on a cotton/linen blend, and then hand embroidered it. I don’t know if it has more than one layer. I was intrigued with the combination of digital manipulation and hand embroidery.
Here the blue/purple ribbons come free of the quilt’s surface and curl around themselves. The red glyphs give a pop of color. While the quilting isn’t up to the standards of other entries, I enjoy the 3D effect. I guess I have some quilt police DNA after all.
I hope I’ve given you a taste of the show’s diversity. Please take a few minutes to browse all the entries. The detail photos are great for closeups.
It’s so easy to get tangled up in choices when I design a piece. Since my starting point is usually rough, at best, many shape and color decisions still need to be made. And it’s easy to slip into not seeing the forest for the trees territory.
I finished quilting my four scrappy medallion log cabins so I rewarded myself with a new start, based on a Spoonflower printed photo of a dry stone wall that encloses a local landmark.
I pulled possible additional fabrics and painted pieces of an old shirt and sheet. Then I pinned them up.
After I looked at them for about two months I thought of an approach to that wall fabric – make several narrowly separated stacks. I used most of the fabric in the above photo. The Marcia Derse and some teal curtain fabric were dropped. I created bias strips of yellow/red/orange to break up the dark area. At this point the piece measures about 45 inches long by 19 inches high.
Now comes the point I’m stuck at. I want to use narrow strips of a gradient fabric by Vicki Welsh between each stack. Right now my plan is to angle the edges of each stack, and possibly have the stacks at slightly different heights. But, before I cut more fabric I need to decide which way to run the gradient – top to bottom or left to right. Then, I need to decide if I want solid strips across the top and bottom and, if so, what colors.
I’m hoping you’ll have some opinions that will prod my thinking. Some possibilities work for color, but don’t necessarily contribute to the story. The story here is the impression you get of this wall as you drive by it on the street that runs parallel to it.
I’ve thought of blue for sky but the blue fabric I have is too strong and draws attention away from the trees. Below are some options I’ve pinned up. Most show only a few of the stacks as the insert fabric won’t stretch across the whole piece and I don’t want to cut it up and then change my mind.
I can understood if you’re confused at this point. If nothing else let me know which options you think really don’t work. I’ve become like a toddler – just give me two options for my outfit. Otherwise I’ll dither forever.
One last point about this piece – the printed fabric photographs much less vividly than the other fabrics. IRL the colors are stronger. Maybe the type of printing process used caused this?
Mid-2021 I wrote down a rough list of possible projects: Sail – Greece, turquoise circles, unknown family, and pink prints. I finished the first two and began the third, which left the enigmatic pink prints. At some point during lockdown I played with coloring fabric and color catcher scraps with high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint. (Warning, it has the fluidity of milk and moves just as fast when spilled.) Some I stenciled with Payne’s grey paint. On others I printed birds from a thermofax screen. They joined my pile of experiments.
Rather than come to grips with the puzzle of how to combine photos and fabric for my unknown family pieces, I decided it was time to play with pink. I really wanted to use the birds, which were printed on synthetic satin. Up on the design wall went my bits. I decided to add warm browns for trees as the stencil was of tree branches.
From the base of pink and trees I added more scraps and came up with this. It seemed I had lots of tree trunks in my future.
I realized that fusing was the way to go for the number of trees I had in mind, so I sewed together a base with chunks joined by gentle curves. I also added more tree branch stenciling to the sky and combined two large scraps in the upper left.
To add variety I added three house shapes and a large sun. I can’t claim credit for that idea as I saw a treed landscape painting that was given focus by a large orb, and thought the same could work for me. I was still trying to fit those birds in.
Finally I had to face the reality that the birds weren’t suited to the piece as it developed, so they are back on the shelf.
Quilting has begun, and the pink prints have become “If You Go Into the Woods Today.”
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.
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.
Here’s more detail shots.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.