Workshops, Books, and Near Magic

On Workshops

I have one more workshop to teach of my three-part series on basic fabric art techniques.  The last one will be held at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland on 27 October and is on Organic Free Motion Quilting.  The class will quilt a prepared quilt sampler sandwich, and hopefully they will all leave with the same sense that one of my students said about the last class that “this has been a really good class and I feel so much more comfortable with my machine.”

Sew I have all the kits almost prepared, though I still have to put together six more sandwiches that are already cut, marked, and prepared, which should take me only about another hour.

So I have been asked by G Street to return for another round of these same classes next spring, and to add at least one more on ruler work.  I agreed to do that.

Drawing used to digitize the applique project.

On Books

While I was there, my friend and dealer talked me into finishing my 10 Skill-Building Projects for Bernina design V7 software book.  I had nearly finished it when Bernina came out with v8 and put it aside at that time, but I had shown it to her recently.  She said there are lots of people out there who are still using v7.  I decided she is right and maybe I won’t make much money with it, but someone may find it useful.  It does seem too bad to not publish it after all that work. She said then maybe I could maybe buy v8 at a sale price  and do another one for that software.  I’m considering that and think I probably will do that.

But I did open the file for the v7 book to see how much I have to do, and I think I can finish the manuscript in a matter of a few weeks. I only have one more chapter and I have to make one more stitch-out for photographs in addition to whatever I do for the last project.

Sew that made me look at the other book that covers the same fabric arts techniques presented in my three workshops only much more extensively, and that is not too far away from completion either.  And in fact, I even think I have nearly all the samples made that only needs photographing for the book.

I have a third book in the works also on surface design and embellishment…but it’s a ways away from completion.

I’ve been working on these three books off and on for years and it’s high time I get them finished and published.

On Near Magic

I know how frustrating computer software and computerized machines can be sometimes.  I also know that if they work, or if I actually figure out how they work, they can enormously enhane my ability to accomplish things, or accomplish them faster or better.  The more I learn the more I realize it’s nearly magical.  I also know that most of the problems I have with them is because I don’t really know how to use them right or don’t know all the cool things they will do that I can use.

I have been taking a class in Corel Painter this past couple of months and I have learned an enormous amount.  This will be a major help in my design work and it’s lots and lots of fun too.

For some unknown reason I am sometimes compelled to share what I have learned, which is why I am developing workshops, writing books, and sharing this blog.  I am going to add to those the making of videos.  My oldest son has outfitted me with all the equipment I need to do some simple videos and podcasts.  I have been practicing video making so those will happen sometime soon.

It may seem that I am getting in over my head, and am going to be overwhelmed, but while that may be, a lot of the work for quilts, books, workshops, and videos has multiple uses.  If I make samples and develop methods for a book, I can use the same thing in a workshop and video.  I can use my quilts or parts of them as some of the illustrations.  So it’s kind of like working on everything at once.  Magic, see?  Hahahaha

And I haven’t forgotten my show quilts.  Just today I worked on a pattern for one of my planned show quilts.  I won’t share this one until it is mostly done, but just think “trains”.

Sew happy everyone.  Share what you have learned with someone.  Happy new quilting season!

 

Fall Fabric Art Workshops

I am excited about my upcoming workshops I will be teaching at G Street Fabrics in Rockville this fall.  If you are in the area, please sign up and come.  I understand there are still a few spaces.  These three six hour workshops provide the basic techniques I use in building and quilting most of my wall art quilts.  There will only be eight students with each workshop, to give me time to be available for each student and answer questions.

September 22, 11am to 5pm.  Fabric Art Workshop 1: Applique Techniques to make a top ready for quilting.

Kits for the workshops are available for purchase that includes everything the students need for the projects that will enable everyone to complete or nearly complete each project.  For the applique workshop, the leaves, birds, and dog or cat are all precut with fusible on the back. The student gets to put it all together like he or she wants and different edge finishes are taught as well as how one might choose which finish is discussed.  Threads, needles, and other supplies are included as well as the handouts.

The two quilting classes also have kits of premarked sandwiches with everything one needs to plunge right in and start quilting.

October 6, 11 am to 5 pm:  This is the project for Fabric Arts Workshop II: Quilting with feed dogs up.  Kit has premarked sandwich, thread, a needle, and handouts.

The students will learn there are many interesting results that can be obtained with their feed dogs up.  Of course, a walking foot would always be helpful, but will not be required for this class.  It’s a small 20 x 20 sandwich.

 

October 20, 11am to 5pm, Fabric Arts Workshop III:  Free motion organic quilting.  The Kit for the free motion quilting project is a lightly marked sandwich, with a leaf applique ready to start the class.,  It also includes thread, a needle, and handouts.

Sew I don’t address how to square up and bind a quilt, but I do provide references as to where you can get that information.  There is another part of my work that is also not included and that is surface design and embellishment.  However, I started my art quilt career just using the techniques covered here, and learned how to bind off the internet.  I am considering how I might do a workshop in surface design and embellishment, but not sure I’ll do it yet.  I do provide a bit of information on how you can pull together a design for such projects in the course of the workshops.

Come join me.  There are 8 slots per class and some have already been filled, but if you hurry you might get in.  Contact G Street Fabrics  and ask for the Sewing machine department.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to making kits…LOL

 

 

Surface Design, Texture, and Embellishment

I love adding surface design, texture, beads, artistic thread work, yarns, and other types of embellishments to my wall quilts.  I think these things, when well done, can take them to a different dimension turning what may be an already nice pictorial/art piece that would be acceptable for someone’s wall to a treasure of a piece that makes the viewer want to stand and look at it for a long time or makes them happy every time they pass by it.

“Well-done” in this case by no means implies perfect, symmetrical, or formal, but it does mean interesting, the right amount, beautiful, technically  good, or just plain fun.  Sew this is what I strive for, although I suspect I will still be trying to make these things work as I see them in my mind’s eye to the last day of my quilting/fabric art life (which I plan on doing for the rest of my life).  But that’s one of the many things that makes playing in my studio so much fun.  Here are a few examples of such work.

detail from one of my deep space quilts with Angelina Fibers and hot fix crystals over a lightly painted background.

 

I learned early on that I needed to draw some guide lines for the direction of the stitching or I’d get them to be blowing around in different directions. Since the water in this quilt is going to look very calm and reflective, it didn’t make since to have the Spanish moss blowing around much. Here you see some of my marks. Also note that I had to break the stitching on several clumps so it looked like the limb is further toward the back from the viewer.

I painted these borders to go along with the vintage panel in the middle.

Sew this week I bought a needle punch attachment for use on my little Bernina 350.  I particularly like the way this little machine, which I purchased to have a machine to carry along with me to classes and other events needing a machine, is rapidly becoming an essential in my studio too.  It will be my “embellisher” now and I also have found it makes wonderful bobbin work with specialty thicker threadsm and makes perfect piecing possible.  I am kind of excited about this.  I plan on making interesting bits on some of my pictorial quilts, like steam clouds coming out of a steam locomotive, tree barks, fluffly little animals, and other interesting textural areas.  I just got a package of wool roving in a variety of natural colors to try it out with.  I also think I will get some other things that work this way…ribbons, sheer fabric pieces, ????

Sew happy everyone!  Try a little embellishing if you haven’t yet and if you send me photos I will post them if you don’t mind.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartistcom

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.

Threads

Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.

I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well.  So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle.  When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full,  and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff.  I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles.  I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent.  It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20).  I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.

The Spanish moss here is Aurifil’s Lana wool/acrylic 12 weight thread.

When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly.  I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right.  Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle.  I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle.  I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does.  I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread.  This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord.  It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears.  In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt.  I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it.  I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right.  I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.

The gold Celtic border was outlined first with gold thread, then painted with gold paint, but it had no over and under view until after it was quilted with Monopoly thread. I will be using this technique again.

Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small.  Still it is exciting to work with.  My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees.  I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs.  It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character.  acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills.  I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later.  I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work.  She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there]  and her blogs.

For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight.  This thread seems to call for a small needle also.  I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through.  I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12  topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas.  This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low.  I  am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.

Sttitching on the space dust on one of my deep space quilts using 40 weight variegated Fantastico by Superier.  The background stitching you see here was done with 100 weight Kimono silk.

Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using.   Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle.  My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut.  King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle.   I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason.  I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.

Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.

Sew happy everyone!  Try out all those wonderful types of threads.  Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you.  Then make a sampler.

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Two: Making a Tree

One of the most fun I have when making a pictorial quilt is making trees, mountains, rocks and water scenes.  Making these wonderful natural landscape items do not require perfect lines and matched points.  So each kind and size of trees I need to “grow” on a quilt may require a different technique and plan.  I have to consider the distance, the species, where the light is coming from, and then decide how to make them.  Here are a few examples:

Here the trees surround the house. For these trees, I digitized them on my Bernina Software (even the tiny trees have little leaf shaped leaves, though I think that is lost a bit to the viewer because of the size). I then stitched them out on black nylon veiling with wash-away stabilizer and free motion appliqued them onto the quilt top with matching thread.

 

This small tree is the stitch out from an olive tree I digitized in my Bernina software on wash-away stabilizer. I placed a tree photo in the art side and traced it by hand digitizing it in the embroidery side of the software. The same could be done by drawing it onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer with Crayola washable marker and free motion embroidering it. In this case I would advise using a layer of black nylon veiling to hold everything together.  The advantage of black nylon veiling is that it can be cut very close to the embroidery (without cutting through the stitching) and the little bits left tend to disappear when you applique it on…often covered with applique stitching. Note that when you soak away the stabilizer, the Crayola marker goes away also.  This happens to be laying on a paper towel, in case you are wondering.

 

Here you see the trunks of some big Cyprus trees in my current ongoing project. I cut the applique shape from different types of commercial woody type fabrics. So then I did highlighting and lowlighting with Shiva oil paint sticks and a stiff brush, then heat setting with my iron (covering it with a paper towel to absorb excess oil paint. I plan on adding a layer of wool batting behind the trees to give them a little more depth because the trees require considerable stitching to make the base look like the Cyprus, but this is how I started these trees.

So the Cyprus trees appear to have windy limbs that seem smaller than such a massive tree trunk would have.  I decided to couch the limbs on with wool yarns and then free motion embroider the Spanish moss.  Here are two pictures of the progress so far:

Here you see some of the limbs on the different trees with some Spanish moss.  I did a lot of looking at Spanish moss photos before I did these so I could figure how they should look. These seem to me to be coming out ok.

 

I learned early on that I needed to draw some guide lines for the direction of the stitching or I’d get them to be blowing around in different directions. Since the water in this quilt is going to look calm and reflective, it didn’t make since to have the Spanish moss blowing around much, though they don’t have to be exactly the same, but close. Here you see some of my marks for future stitching. Also note that I had to break the stitching on several clumps so it looked like the limb is further toward the back from the viewer.  I need to keep it pretty close to the same proportions as the top part, so drawing lines is helpful.

Sew I’ll show you the whole trees when they are done.  That will be a while now because they need to be quilted, and maybe a little more highlighting, to get the full impression.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you decide to put some trees on your quilts and relax…they are fun to make.

My Uncle and What’s Happening in My Studio

I’ve taken too long to write a new post.  This past month has had its lows and highs.

My uncle Betterton passed a week and a half ago.  He was 91 and was two years younger than my mom.  I had five aunts and six uncles on my mom’s side and one aunt on my Dad’s side and all are gone now, as well as my parents.   Uncle Betterton was one of my favorite uncles.  He was always close with my mom and someone everyone could rely on for help.  He had various tough illnesses the last several years, mild dementia, and is now no longer suffering.  He was a strong Christian.  Like my father, he was a civil engineer, both served in WWII, and he and Dad enjoyed a strong friendship.  My memories of him are sweet and dear and the pain of losing him is softened by his wonderful long giving life and his final release from the difficulties of his last few years.

Sew what’s going on in my studio these days?  My “apprentice” Anita and I finished the church banner celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  The church members apparently love it, and I was really pleased with how it looks.  I have still not gotten a good photo of it, but I will share as soon as I do.  The big community celebration is next Sunday.  I guess this tells you that I attend a Lutheran church.  I do.  It’s five minutes drive from my house and the it’s a lovely church with services not far in liturgical style from the Episcopal church.  I grew up an Episcopalian.  For many years I drove down to Georgetown to go to the historic St John’s Episcopal in Georgetown where Marvin and I both were very active and sang in the choir.  After Marvin passed, I moved to Ashburn, Virginia, and the drive to Georgetown got even longer, so I looked for somewhere closer.  Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church is in my neighborhood…now that’s a luxury I had not had for decades.

I have gotten a start on my next show quilt.  I’m not sure I would call them “show quilts” any longer, except that’s a term many understand.  I like to show them, but my primary goal for these quilts is to make wonderful art, and hopefully sell most of them in the long run.  Everything I make I hope to meet show quilt level, but sometimes show judges don’t seem to understand why the techniques I choose are done the way they are, or how difficult they really are.  Sometimes they seem to see things and remark on them that I simply cannot see, and sometimes I think they don’t see something about my quilts that I think is especially unique and interesting.  Maybe I need new glasses, a flashlight, and a better magnifying glass.  Or maybe I need a microscope.  LOL  So I have found a lot of freedom in reaching for creating beautiful art the best way I can make it and not worrying too much about what a judge might see or not see.  Competition can be rough on one’s ego.  He-he-he

Anyway, back to my latest project.  It’s based on the art piece I bought the rights for one art quilt from the Disney artist Joel Christopher Payne.  It’s set in the Bayou and has interesting trees, and two rather rundown homes with light peaking out through the cracks in the boards.  One is a houseboat, and the other is a shack built on stilts on a platform.  The scene is at night and there is a little pale light filtering through the trees in a way that suggests a heart shape, and there are fireflies.  This is a huge challenge for me, but really, I am enjoying myself so far.

I have the houseboat “built” and the shack about half done.  Yesterday I did a little low and high lighting with Neocolor II pigment crayons.  When you use them with fabric, you can just color it on and then brush it with water to blend it onto the fabric and then heat set it for a permanent color.  Sometimes when I heat set it, it gets lighter so I have to go back and add more color, but it’s a wonderful way to over color an existing fabric pattern to add shadows and lights where you need them or “correct” colors.  In this case, I have three different wood print fabrics that I have backed with Steam-a-Seam II light and cut into board shapes.  I am using these to “build” the shack and the houseboat.

The picture has really big trees that also have some Spanish moss hanging from them.  I have five different tree bark prints that I will use to make the tree appliqués.  They, too will need to be overpainted to get the right look and color,  I am planning on thread painting the Spanish moss on, and probably it will be more than Joel put in his picture because this is a fabric and threads interpretation of his wonderful art piece.

I have obtained some glow in the dark paints and threads to make the fireflies with, and the paint has some additional pigment so it will look good in light too.  I may add crystals to the fireflies for added dimension.

The biggest challenge as I see it is the light that is getting the back light that is coming through the trees and reflecting across the water right.  I am thinking this will have to be done with paint, but I’m still thinking about it.

Sew I hope you all have a wonderful week.  Try something new and push to get it as well done as possible.  I have a lot going on in my studio besides this new quilt, so I hope I will get back to my weekly blogs for a while.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two New Digital Quilt Projects

Believe it or not, I have completed all my projects I had going.  Now that the workshop at G Street Fabrics is over (I will be repeating it in the fall), I am going to make two quilts centered around two digital printouts.  I’m hoping to get one of them done by mid July for part two of my Exhibit at G Street Fabrics.

The field of flowers is a photograph by Beth Tatum, my daughter-in-law:

Photo by Beth Tatum, printed on fabric 36″ x 26″

 

The pink flowers I painted in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed.

I painted this one digitally in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed 28″ x 38″.

They came out really wonderful, and I washed them in Synthrapol, rinsing until they ran clear.  There wasn’t much color in the first batch of water and I can’t see any color loss.  So now I can use them in a quilt I will soak when the quilting is complete, which makes marking things  and blocking a lot easier.  I’ll have some embellishments I will add after blocking.

I plan on just sandwiching and quilting the field of flowers photo with  a variety of threads for depth and interest and adding beadwork and some 3D embroidered butterflies.  I might face it instead of binding it.

I plan on adding a double border on the pink flowers.  The inner border will maybe be shaped and appliqued on.  I plan on shortening the flower panel at the top to bring the border down to the vine, and cutting out the top half of the leaves that would be hidden by the border to have them break into the border.  Then I will quilt it with some pictographic flowers, vines, and creatures, also quilting in the flower and leaf textures.  I also am working on designing two or three 3d stumpwork with wire of small birds in
Bernina V7 software to applique on. This is my bigger project, as you might imagine. If this turns out well, this might be a show quilt, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, I have broken down my housecleaning project into small manageable sections and am spreading them out across a couple of weeks.  I did pretty well with this so far.  My upper level is mostly clean, though I have a plan to go through my stash at some point, eliminating some things and slightly reorganizing the fabrics so they all fit back into my storage units.  I’ll do this later, after the mid-July deadline for the second part of my G Street Fabrics exhibit.  I’ll do the main level next week, and David will do his level too (he has a nice “flat” on the walkout lower level that includes his bedroom/office and a nice big living area with his own back deck.  There is a bathroom area that has the rough in plumbing, but I haven’t gotten it finished yet.  Maybe if he has a big hit book, he will do that himself.).

A word about digital fabric art:   It is NOT “cheating” as some quilters seem to think.  For example, it took me s lot of time to paint the pink flowers, and they are fully my own artwork.  Why would that be any less of a “legitimate” quilt than a whole cloth, for instance?  Neither would a photograph that is printed, sandwiched, and quilted as a whole cloth.  I do think there is slightly greater acceptance of the value of digitally printed fabrics than there used to be.  And that is good.  Indeed, am hopeful some of the heated rhetoric about just about everything these days will cool off.  Let’s appreciate one another and their work…traditional, contemporary, modern, and art quilters, white collar and blue collar workers, sharing their Mom’s house while writing wonderful stories for the world to enjoy, making art quilts, plumbing the kitchen, powerwashing your home, managing a business, Democrat, Republican, Independent…cool it everyone.  Life can be wonderful and full of peace and love if we stop the arrogance and heated rhetoric and take a step back to love and appreciation that we are not all-knowing.

Sew happy everyone!  Try your hand at making some digital fabric art if you haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll post more on these projects along the way. Also, I have decided to put the landscape project I tried to start as a kind of block of the month on the backburner.  It needs more definition, and everyone that responded said they were too busy.  I think I am too busy too…LOL.

 

Practicing Free Motion Backtracking

I think my backtracking…you know when you go back over a stitching line…needs a lot of practice.  So I had the brilliant idea of using a design from a coloring book page to practice.  I definitely need to practice on almost a daily basis to get (and stay) really good at quilting.  I got a new coloring book from Dover Publications in their “Keep Calm & Color” series of adult coloring books.  I got in touch with them and found that I can use up to four pages in a single project without further permission even though it is copyrighted.

So I scanned one of the pages into my computer and enlarged it.  Then I printed it out in Corel Draw, which tiles my pages for me.  Several drawing programs or even printer software will do that.  Before I got Corel Draw I used Excel spreadsheet, which also tiles your images for printing.   Anyway, I taped it together and traced it onto my fabric using a light box and Crayola washable markers (trust me, they come out of cotton when washed)., and sandwiched the fabric with batting and a backing.  I machine basted it using my Bernina Q 20’s basting mode BSR3.

 

Sew now I’m having fun stitching the design with repeated lines of stitching along the design, which gives me plenty of practice backtracking.  After I finish the initial design stitching, I will background quilt the rest of the little quilt and I think it will look great if I add lots of beads and other assorted embellishments after it is quilted, washed, and bound.  This might just come out being a nice enough small wall art quilt to add to display in the second part of my exhibit at G Street Fabrics, and I am getting in lots of practice.  We’ll see what I think when it is finished.  So far, I’ve only had to take out a few stitches where somehow it went awry.  I’ll show you a picture when it’s finished.

I think this is a very fun way to get in some quilting practice and encourage you to grab one of those Dover coloring books and give one a try.  They would make a nice present for someone or wall art in that small spot in your home.

By the way, how is your stylized landscape project coming from this blog post?  Have you finished your sun yet and gotten your background constructed or found a nice piece of fabric for the background?  I am planning on publishing part 2 the first week in May.  If you aren’t making one you can just bookmark the blog posts and make one later, or just watch the rest of us have fun with this.

Sew happy everyone!  Try using coloring book drawings for your quilting practice.

 

 

 

A Word About My Art Quilting and Some Early Quilts

                  Fandance by Moonlight. Hoffman Challenge

2008This is my very first show quilt and you can see the scotch tape on my photograph…LOL.  So you can see my professional side of show quilting has grown as well as my quilt making abilities.

As I prepare for my upcoming exhibit of my work at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, one of the things they wanted was for me to provide my Hoffman Challenge quilts, which, if you look at them carefully, you can see my progress as both an artist and a quilter from year to year.  Unlike some of my quilty friends who make a quilt, enter it, and win big, I have struggled, indeed still struggle, to move my art quilting to a truly professional level, but it has been fun along the way. I love making art in fabrics, threads, and paints.  I think my artist side has been a little slower in developing than my quilting techniques, but I’m working on it.

“Equipped to Stand” 2012
Even though I can now see many flaws in both the design and the quilting making techniques on this quilt, I still love it. I would never send this quilt out for show today, but we all learn. They let it into several shows and the judges were sweet about it and their remarks didn’t bash me down to the point I quit quilting.  Unlike this photo, it is square and relatively flat, though I had to undo a lot of it to get a wave out of it.  You can see it was not all that long ago.  I have come a looong ways from here.  If they had torn it apart, I might have quit.

To me, an art quilt needs to have a lot of elements come together to make it good and this is what I am always striving for. Starting with the basic design concept  I draw the concept while considering balance, value, color, placement, perspective, and simply artistic appeal.  I am constantly attempting to learn more about all this through practice, books (some left from art classes in college and some collected over the years), and, more recently, online training.  I’m still trying.

So here is my process for a complex show quilt (not for all of my quilts).

I try to capture the concept that is in my head or the inspirational photo by drawing the picture of the planned quilt on my computer, thereby providing me with a “pattern” .  Here is how I work through this.

  • I use Corel Draw to draw out some elements, like buildings or space ships, and saving them with a transparent background as a .png file, which will import into other packages without a background.
  • I use Corel Painter, a truly powerful digital painting software, to draw the main picture, importing the items from Corel Draw and placing them where they belong.  I size it here and save with iterative painter files and finally as a .jpg.
  • I may go back and forth between Corel Draw and Corel Painter several times because one program is better than another for various things.
  • If I am putting borders on the quilt I will then move to Electric Quilt and set it up with a single block sized properly for my .jpg.  Then I play with the borders until I like them.  This gives me the pattern for the borders.  I save this as a .jpg.
  • I move back to Corel Draw and start a new file (you can’t just open a .jpg in Corel Draw, but you can import one).  I import the design I saved in Electric Quilt into Corel Draw and size  the image to the size I want the quilt to finish.  Corel Draw has a wonderful way of tiling the picture into sizes that match the printer paper with symbols to mark where they join.  I usually print the pattern on a 11″x 17″ paper.  I print one pattern in color and one in gray scale.  I also print the border pattern from EQ7.
  • I tape the pattern together carefully.
  • Then I pin the colored print on my design wall, or tape it somewhere if that is occupied, and sit there looking at it every now and then, wondering how on Earth I am going to accomplish this quilt.  At this point, I take time off from this particular project if I have time.  This is why I usually have some ongoing simple quilt or clothing projects so I can go work on something else while the concept “marinates” in my mind and I talk to myself…sometimes exclaiming “Oh THAT’s what I can try!”  I’m glad my son’s flat is on the lower level, and is not in my studio to hear me, he might be looking for “a place for Mom”, although, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy writer so probably not.
  • I keep a notebook nearby to write down my ideas.

Once I’ve figured out more or less how I’m going to make the quilt, I just jump in.  I first shop my stash to see if I have what I need for this quilt and buy the rest, including fabrics, threads, paints, and other embellishments.  After all my years of sewing and quilting my stash is now such that often I am able to complete a quilt without buying anything, or buying only one item.  It generally takes me nearly half the time of total time making a quilt to get to this point.

  • I have to take one or two elements of the quilt at a time.
  • I make samples and try things until I find what works.
  • I have to figure what must come first…usually working from background forward.
  • I take photos along the way because for some reason I can see mistakes better in a photograph than directly looking at the project.  I think I get too close to it, as they say.
  • I unsew and go backwards when I need to, but try to limit this as much as possible.  Sometimes “mistakes” are actually result in a good new direction.

As I construct the quilt, I pay close attention to how flat and square the project is becoming along the way. It’s ok not to have a square quilt, but it has to be deliberately not square and obviously not intended to be square.  Construction techniques really still need to be right. This often involves my ripping things out for correction, and sometimes even just starting over. I have obtained a laser square and a laser cross-hair lamp to help me with this

I’m not a piecer, but sometimes I have to piece.  “Pendragon” had the main center block, and ten border and text block pieces that all HAD to be square and straight and the border had to be lined up so the designs were straight and in the right place.  This is one of the more challenging things for me, because, did I say it?  I’m not a piecer.  Piecing is much more challenging to me than it must be to traditional quilters, who seem to love it.  I piece when I have to in order to realize my design.  I sometimes use foundation paper piecing when I need a real quilt block, like I did for “Waiting…” and “Drawing Nigh”.  So I’m very happy to have these tools and techniques to help me piece.

Sew once I have completed the top, including any highlighting or lowlighting I do with fabric paints and inks, I sandwich my quilt mostly using basting adhesive and rulers to get the lines that need to be straight and square right and adding some quilting pins because I use a very light amount of adhesive spray on the batting only.  This is my least favorite thing of making a quilt and I find it physically taxing, especially if it has to be on the floor because of size, and I wear a mask and often have to do it over and over again until it is right.

Then I quilt it, bind it, add a pocket, a label, and block it.  My oldest son Ken photographs it at his home in my daughter-in-law’s wonderfully big studio where her longarm and her Bernina 880 resides.  Beth was, afterall, the one who pulled me into quilting after Marvin died because she was sure I would love it.  I’m not sure she expected me to love it as much as I do, and I know she didn’t expect me to move into the art quilt world.  Before this happened, I had made several pieces of fabric art, had sewn for most of my life, used to have my own fashion design and tailoring business, and made my own clothes and some of Marvin’s.  I found art quilting simply unleashed and pulled together all the sewing and art skills I had learned in my life, but I did need to learn a lot before it was any good.

And I’m still learning, experimenting, and moving through art quilting.  Maybe someday I’ll start winning the big ribbons (I have won a few ribbons, but no BOS).

Sew are any of you making our free design art quilt with me introduced in my last blog post?  How’s it coming?  I’m not rushing you.  It will probably be another couple of weeks or month before I get to the next step.  I’m preparing for my exhibit and I figure the first step is a big one.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Make a Stylized Landscape Quilt with Me: Step One

I am making a fun new design-as-you-go stylized landscape quilt with some kind of flying creature and I hope you will try one of these too. For as many steps as it takes (to be determined) I will be providing a blog post to take us through this quilt together.  This quilt is made without first drawing out and printing a full sized design and will be using techniques that I am sure you may wish to try or have tried already.  I am not providing a pattern, telling you what size it will be, or even tutorials for all the techniques needed.  This is a project for us to play together making some wall art.  I will tell you where you can find the techniques, providing the links, and for some parts I will give tutorials, but not all.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, with guidance as to where you can find help.  And if you have a question all you have to do is make a comment on the blog post and I will respond as soon as I can.

Let’s begin:

I am using some interesting techniques available online at Iquilt and Craftsy.  But you don’t have to take a class for this project, just follow along.  If you have Electric quilt 7 and know how to do foundation paper piecing you, or you already know how to make a compass block, you can do this without additional classes.

For this fun project there are several objects we will need to make and obtain.

  1. Challenge–Make The Sun:  This can be either a simple quarter of a large circle of fabric to applique on a sky or one quarter of a sun compass block or a smaller full stylized star block in your choice of sun colors for your imaginary world.  For my quilt I am using the star block that Karen K. Stone teaches in “English Paper Piecing by Machine” found on iquilt here.  It’s very similar to a regular compass block, but has some interesting differences.  If you watch the sales, you can almost certainly get this class on a very good sale.  But there are a lot of beautiful choices for a star to represent our own star, the sun.  Here are some I found on Electric Quilt 7 that would be great choices with some color changes.  The outside large piece, or the background pieces need to be made from the same fabric as your background sky piece (see below), or you can use the curve to applipiece or piecelique (whatever you call it…it’s just joining the two pieces in an applique manner) it directly into the background sky.  I will provide a little tutorial of this in my next blog related to this project.  So just hold off on attaching the star/sun to the background sky.
  2. These blocks were all found in Electric Quilt 7 and would work very nicely. You can change the colors, of course, however you want them.

    In addition you could draft your own compass rose. I found this fascinating method on The Quilt Show that uses a really neat drafting device available from  Renea Haddadin’s website here.  I don’t have this device, but it really looks useful far beyond the drafting of a compass rose.

  3. Put together the background:  For this you will need a full width of ombre gradiated fabric that will be one third of the length of your finished quilt, or just a plain piece of fabric that looks like a sky to you.  You can paint this, buy this, or construct this with strips of various pieces of fabric.   You just have to size the sun appropriately to fit in the upper left corner of the scene.  Two thirds of your quilt will be mountains and maybe water or grass somewhere in there.  If you want to make this easy, you can use a simple white or off white or even light brown or green for the lower two thirds of your quilt background, giving you a background to applique mountains and rivers and plants onto.  Remember, this is a design as you go quilt and is meant to be just for fun.
  4. Wait to applique the sun in the upper left corner of your background until my next blog when I will be discussing applique techniques.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Go forth and make a sun and gather the background pieces or even make the simple background.  The next part will deal with appli-piecing the sun into the sky, and making the mountains and other parts of the foreground.  Then there is a part for making plants, and finally we will make some kind of flying creature for our scene, which may take several parts.  I plan on following this with a series of blogs focusing on embellishing and quilting.  I am not calling this a “block of the month” or anything, but I am planning this to stretch across several months…not sure how many.

Sew happy everyone!  Do some thinking about this…join me in the adventure and make your own wall quilt just for fun and to stretch your design techniques a bit.