Tag Archives: silk organza

Two Years of Mystery

Sometimes I conclude I should give up on a piece – it just isn’t coming together, an average first grader could do better, lots of effort only seems to make it worse, etc. I suspect you’ve been there.

“Blues” was my latest reason to throw in the rotary cutter. It began with lots of blue and blue/green fabrics, and included hand embroidered blocks. It ended in deep frustration and taught me there’s a reason why Paul Klee is considered an art master and I’m not.

My inspiration was Klee’s “It’s About Time.”

I mangled it to this.

Dated 10/17

Feeling utterly defeated, I hung it on a hanger, shoved it to one side of the fabric closet, and ignored it. I made other pieces since 2017, but this one kept bugging me. Damn it, I had put too much time in it to abandon ship. I cogitated and remembered another Klee painting. If he got me into this mess, surely he could get me out.

The possible solution I saw was to use transparent colored organza and narrow strips to give my poor “Blues” coherency. At first I played with tissue paper and overlays.

Then, I painted a lot of silk organza, cut it into strips, and backed it with Misty Fuse. I was so glad I had a 5 pack of Teflon sheets. Then I began playing.

I added thin bias strips, many of which I made myself (insert pat on back here.)

It didn’t seem like enough, so I added already fused spheres from an earlier project to echo all the circles in the original fabrics. By now I had certainly strayed from the original inspiration.

I added a few more spheres and will sew them down, along with the thin strips. Once that’s done I can quilt it after I cut off about 3 inches from the left side.

Oh no, more decisions. At least I have a title – “Let The Mystery Be.” Thanks to Iris DeMent for a great song. I’ve linked to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Yet Another Finish

August has seen one finish after another, and when I say finish I mean I’ve even sewn down the facings. Here’s “Mean Streets” (33 by 22.5 inches) which I began as one of the last assignments of my Elizabeth Barton master class.

I used a grab bag of fabric – eco-dyed linen and silk organza, painted silk organza, coarse weave linen, netting, and a fabric softener sheet. There’s non-woven interfacing under the top to help stabilize the varied assortment of fabric.

The inspiration for all the shadows was a photo of a rough town on the Mexican border. A harsh light filters through a grill to cast stripes of light onto the buildings and street. Away from that light the scene dissolves into shadows.

I really did a lot of free motion quilting on this. In fact, it’s so stiff I think it can stand up on its own.

I made the graffiti with a freezer paper stencil and fabric paint.

I used black netting to give shadows to the side of the building.

Electric wires are strung haphazardly across the buildings.

This piece won’t hang in my house, if my husband has anything to do with it, though I’m proud I managed to realize my initial idea of danger and menace.


Filed under Completed Projects

Sunshine for Gray Days

November in northeast Ohio finally got the memo about gray skies and cold temps, so I was happy to work with yellow and other cheerful colors as I finished up “Unfolding.” It was the transparency  assignment for my master class, made with painted silk organza.


I sewed down the tear drop shaped organza pieces with a machine blanket stitch, and quilted large leaves on top of those shapes with rayon and cotton thread. The edges are faced and the completed piece measures about 25 inches square. The pale yellow background doesn’t photograph well under gray skies, but the version under artificial light came out way off.

I’ll return to my November assignment soon, but thought we could all use some sunshine.



Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Sheer Layers, Sheer Fun

My May master class assignment is layers, which is right in my wheelhouse. You may recall my rhapsodies over my Empty Spools translucent fabric class. I haven’t worked with transparency since I finished The Big Bang. My first step will be to paint yards of silk organza.


Below is what I sent Elizabeth and her response:

For this assignment I went wild with tissue paper collage, but I did convert my photos to black and white. I plan to use painted silk organza for my piece. I’ve used it before for transparency work and find it works well fused or stitched.

 As to examples of painters and quilters that use layering effects, here are a few:

http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/Lady_Agnew.htm (look at the sleeves)

I’ve been collecting examples of transparency on a Pinterest board for some time.

I used a candle flame shape (seems to be a popular choice in this class) in three sizes, and did trace the shapes for part 3 of our assignment.  My sketch 1 layers the basic shapes over each other in a mirrored effect. Sketch 2 layers a full view with detail. I considered putting something in the center-ish opening, but decided to leave it alone for now. Sketch 3 combines two different sketches. In this one, I erased extraneous lines and shaded in what would be color overlays. I tried several crops, but decided to send the most inclusive version. I think it may be too busy unless I go really big.

I like the ideas and the shapes – great thought to use tissue paper to work out designs.  I find the one above just a little too symmetrical to be really interesting….though the surprise of the very transparent layer is rather nice…
However the one below is very good I think and it works well…there’s a nice flow of movement around the shape…
I do keep wondering if it should be rotated 90 degrees to the left as you have a lot of weight on the left hand side…
I do like the way the negative space reflects the positive shapes – good one!
also the little unexpected shapes as one works one’s way around…can’t see any adjustments, I’d make at this stage.


Nice sketch, symmetrical but not too much…lots of flow and opportunities for overlapping layers and shifts in hue and value..works very well in a square –
I like the way some of the leaves go right off the edge, but the circle always pulls us around…it should make up very well – don’t make it too small!!!  It will work as big as you can do!

As always, with the blocked out piece due on the 20th of the month, I don’t have time to get too elaborate. That means I will most likely make up sketch 2 and save sketch 3 for later.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

Leaving October

deck view

This is the view from my deck at 7:10 a.m. this morning. It’s why I put up with snowy roads to climb in the winter.

Leaves have been preoccupying me this past week. I’m trying out some mixed media supplies, mostly color sprays and ink pads for journaling and scrapbooking. More on that later, but I wanted to do some small practice pieces that featured autumn leaves.

I sorted through my silk organza scraps to find yellows, reds, and burnt siennas. Then I sandwiched the scraps between two layers of Solvy, traced a leaf onto the Solvy with a Sharpie, and free motion stitched the layers together. A dip in a bucket dissolved the Solvy, and I had some leaves.

leaf constructionleaves sewn with solvyMack_Joanna_leaves sewn and cutI think I’ve finally found something I like to free motion stitch.


Filed under In Process, Techniques

Cutting The Cord

Recently a commenter asked me how I knew a piece was done. I responded that for me it was intuitive, but on further reflection I’ve decided it’s like the advice Coco Chanel supposedly gave for accessorizing an outfit. Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”

Mlle. Chanel devoted far more thought to dressing than I ever have, but I think the principle’s the same: go a bit over the edge and then back off a touch. I try to add to a quilt until it’s just too much of a muchness (from Chanel to Alice in Wonderland in the same paragraph!) Then I stop and remove something. Usually that does the trick for me.

I also concur with painter Jamie Wyeth who said in his August 14, 2014, interview on Here and Now: “All the inadequacies jump out at me. … I don’t really finish a picture but it gets to the point of diminishing returns, and I just say, enough.”

I hope I’ve set the stage to debut The Big Bang, which I wrote about as my problem project.

The_Big_Bang_Joanna_MackI felt it needed more – more subtlety, more mystery, more depth. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I painted more silk organza and cheesecloth, but found layering them on top gave a monochromatic effect.

After I removed those layers I hit on using them selectively, in particular the cheesecloth. I recalled photos of galaxies where clouds of matter swirled about. That was the effect I sought.


Many hand stitches with metallic and silk threads later, I declare this piece finished.

detail 1detail 2detail 3Of course there are aspects I’d like to change. My bottom layer of fabric worked for the initial concept, but now doesn’t quite fit. I toyed with starting afresh with a dark fabric, but realized the transparency effect wouldn’t show as well. I wish the metallic thread sparkled more. It does in certain lights, but mostly when you hold the piece at an angle. I’d love to find a way to display it with a light behind it, but the mechanics are beyond my ability and that would constrain where I could display it.

However, I think it’s time I stop fussing with this one and declare it born.


Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

My Problem Project

A project I began at my Empty Spools workshop on translucent fabric is giving me fits. Once I finally settled on the arrangement of many circles of painted silk organza and got them all fused down, I decided it needed something more. What that something was was unclear. I just knew it needed more subtlety, a quality not often present in my work.

Bubbles fusedAs a temporizing measure I chose and cut out a backing fabric, cut out my batting, and decided to stiffen the piece with a crinoline layer. I machine quilted the edges of the organza pieces and added a few extra circle outlines. That done, I had to face the music. What now?

Maybe another organza layer? I painted a fat quarter of white silk organza with stripes of blue and green, which blended together nicely. I started draping the painted fabric over the piece. Maybe I could partially cover it with another organza layer, following the rays. Nothing too stripey, though. Here’s the pink and aqua layers pinned to the quilted top. It still needs some tweaking.

Overlayers pinnedI liked the uneven edge of paint and wanted that to show, but how to finish the edges? Maybe just fray the edges? A trial showed silk organza will fray nicely.

Painted edgeSo my plan right now is to to hand sew the top organza layer on with silk and metallic thread, following the rays. As for finishing the piece, I’m thinking I’ll do an envelope finish, the infamous “false back” that instantly disqualifies a quilt from many shows. But then I don’t see entering this piece in any show with such rules.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Translucent Fabrics Samples and Art

Rather than natter on to you about the different ways to use the transparent qualities of silk organza, let me show you Jeannette Meyer’s class samples. I checked and she is fine with such sharing.

Jeannette Meyer woven organza on organdyTwo curved sets of strips are woven together and sewn around the edges to cotton organdy. The trick to such weaving is to leave a half inch uncut at one edge of your fabric piece. In the sample above, those are the left and top sides.

Meyer organza with machine buttonholeA wonky log cabin block with edges sewn with a machine buttonhole stitch. Fun secondary shapes are made with the irregular seam allowances.

Meyer pujagiA log cabin block with hand sewn pojagi seams.

Meyer flat fell seam layered over silkscreenFlat fell seamed transparent fabric over silk screened fabric.

Meyer organza with machine buttonhole over tucked organdyMachine buttonhole stitched fabric pieces over tucked cotton organdy. You can use matching or contrasting thread to sew the tucks.

Meyer Mary Mashuta orgami foldOrigami folded cotton organdy blocks. Just don’t ask me how to make these. I missed that demo due to issues with my rented Bernina.

These are just a few samples of what we learned in class. It’s fun to play with the different effects you can get by changing which color of organza is on top. If you want to try this kind of seaming at home and are a perfectionist, try 100 weight kimono silk thread for hand sewing. I’m told that Superior Thread’s Tiara line of silk thread is good as well, though it’s a 50 weight.

What kind of art quilts can you make with these techniques? Here are three examples of Jeannette Meyer’s work she brought to class.

Meyer 4I think this piece is part of Meyer’s Storylines series.

Meyer 3 tapas clothThis piece uses tapa cloth with the wrong side up. Jeannette searches out “spoiled” pieces to use. All those dark lines are sewn in. I gather Jeannette’s sewing machine doesn’t like this material.

Meyer 2Crucible is even more spectacular in person.



Filed under Inspiration, Techniques

Translucent Fabrics Class

Five days seemed like a lot of time when I signed up for Jeannette Meyer’s Empty Spools class. It wasn’t.

Jeannette had organized the class well. We spent the first morning painting silk organza with solid colors after some explanation of types of acrylic and fabric paint that work.  To save time each student painted many squares of the same color. My color was terracotta. Some of the pieces had great texture due to the brushes and rollers used to apply the paint.Jeannette Meyer painted organza Then came a day and a half trying out the various techniques Jeannette demoed.  The techniques covered included hand and machine sewn seams for transparent fabrics (flat fell, French, pojagi, raw edge overlapped), ways to attach the organza to a base and to itself, ways to weave organza strips, and making tucks. I’ll show some examples in a later post. We could make a small book of our samples. Some of them (not mine) were exquisite. I don’t see a lot of hand sewn pojagi seams in my future. transparency book We took another day (or so) to design our response to the prompt “light.” We could use only 10 to 15 fabric pieces with 90 degree corners. I added to my piece when I got home so, as with remodeling costs, I’ve exceeded the original number. Windows light exercise With the remaining time we could begin an original project, enlarge on the class exercise, or develop variations on and expertise with the techniques. I chose to begin a design I’ve named “Not So Tiny Bubbles.” The background fabric called Intersections is part of Carolyn Friedlander’s Doe line. Print fabric can look amazing under silk organza. Some of my classmates brought sumptuous hand dyed fabric to use in their projects. Anyway, this design is changing daily, so what you see here isn’t the final layout.Bubbles start We closed our class with a group critique of one piece we had made –  our classmates’ reaction to the piece, what worked, what could be added/subtracted, and suggestions for further development. We could opt out of this process if we chose. I don’t think anyone did, and the comments were supportive and helpful. It was exciting to see how different everyone’s work was. Some pieces were based on our teacher’s samples, some were already conceived projects, and some (like mine) used an idea from a photo. As always, we learned from what each other created.

From what I could see, in about half the other classes students followed the teacher’s patterns. In some classes everyone bought the kit. Empty Spools seems to offer a wide variety of classes, many of which appeal to folks who enjoy traditional approaches to quilting. I mention this just so you don’t think it’s only about art quilts.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

It’s Getting Cloudy

Recently I’ve been trying to make clouds by painting silk organza. This is for a small piece that’s based on a photo of the sky reflected on skyscraper windows.


I pulled out my Dyna Flow paints, put some fabric under my organza to catch the excess paint, wet the organza, made up a grayish color from black, white and blue paint, and slapped it on.

My first effort worked great on the under cloth but was too pale on the organza.  Next, I tried some Tulip fabric paint in black and white and mixed up another gray.  This time I found that the Tulip paint didn’t flow like the Dyna Flow and I ended up with gray blobs.  It looked like an out of focus x-ray of a suspicious lung growth.

clouds on organza

Then I added more white with a Paintstik, to make the effect less thunderstorm of the year-ish. The result was more the effect I wanted.  The Paintstik was easier to blend in with the gray than any of the paint I tried.


I still have to figure out how to cut cloud shapes that aren’t cartoonish and attach them.  But one step at a time.


Filed under In Process, Techniques