Category Archives: Art quilts

The Thread From H-E-Double-L

My nemesis was lurking in my threads box waiting for the day I would need a glittery silver thread.  That day arrived when I chose a galaxy for a Chinese Year of the Dog quilt challenge. I’ve never owned a dog so I don’t have a burning desire to capture my fur person in fabric. I’m OK with dogs, but don’t turn to mush over them.

Instead, I decided to do an outline of the Canus Major constellation, which contains Sirius, the dog star.  I FMQed glittery synthetic black organza to a piece of navy cotton, and then outlined the constellation using my mother’s tracing wheel and paper.

The constellation of Canis Major and nearby open clusters and nebulas.

My problems began at this point. I wanted to use a silver metallic thread over the outline, but had only a Sulky thread called Holoshimmer in the right color. Since I didn’t see this challenge piece as a work of art I had no intention of buying additional supplies. Holoshimmer it was.

Even after following the helpful hints on the Sulky website I had issues with the thread. I was using a jeans stitch to outline the constellation and that went OK except for one thread wrap-around that broke the thread. The real issues started with the zigzag edge stitching. Despite the vertical thread stand, stitching slowly, and 50 weight bobbin thread; the Holoshimmer insisted on wrapping itself around all the openings on my machine, causing the thread to break many times. I finally ended up hand feeding it through my tension discs to remove tangles. Never have I been so glad to see the starting point of a stitch line. The spool of thread is now in the trash.

Everything after that was anticlimactic. I sorted through my Swarovski crystals to find appropriate colors and sizes. and glued them on for the stars in Canus Major. Because the piece is so small I made a backing for it out of a painting experiment. I found that my Decor bond had lost most of its adhesiveness. I didn’t think it was that old. My mother’s tracing paper from the 1960s held up much better.

Finally, I stitched the black part to the backing at the corners. My plan to sew on some fabric stars was thwarted when I couldn’t find them. I know they’re in my sewing room … somewhere.

At this point I declared “Siriusly” done.

 

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects

First Finishes of 2018

Frigid temperatures have discouraged me from gadding about, so I’ve been busy in my work room and have two finishes to show for it. You’ve seen them before in their unfinished states, but I trust they are now done, or done enough to suit me.

“Not Quite Nancy” is the last of my Nancy series. It took a lot of time to quilt as I decided to do crossed curving lines a half inch apart. Never again.

I decided I like it best with a horizontal orientation. It’s not my favorite of the series even though its boldness is in my wheelhouse.

Another series carryover from 2017 is “Bloodshot Bullseyes,” one of my three responses to an Ohio SAQA challenge. I created eight curved piecing quarter squares with scraps and sewed them to felt.

The ribbon on the sides has been lurking in my trims box for a few years, so I was delighted to put it to work. I also did a bit of beading in the bullseye centers. Beading is right up there with dainty embroidery in my most disliked embellishments list. That is, I dislike doing them. When other people do them well they’re lovely.

I have at least two more tops to quilt (more of the bullseye series) before I can really dig into new work. In the meantime I’ll be working to improve my photography skills or at least my equipment. I’m waiting on the lights now.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Modern Quilting

Target Practice

The Ohio chapter of SAQA was inspired by the exhibit, “Circular Abstractions,” to start a bullseye quilt challenge.  I poked around to see if I could find anything about the history of the bullseye block, but have come up empty.

See the source image

Not to worry. I think you’ll get the idea without any words.

The chapter is holding online meetings to discuss approaches and even an in-person sewing afternoon to work on our projects.

I decided to build some bulleyes first and worry about their placement later. A rummage through my scraps piles gave me enough material for two different approaches.

One is based on Jane LaFazio’s Recycled Circles, a method featured in “Cloth Paper Scissors” magazine [March 2009 issue].

With this technique you machine quilt a 12 inch quilt sandwich, cut it in quarters, and then fuse on scrappy curves. The idea is to make each quarter unique. You machine or hand stitch the fused curves down, and add as many embellishments as you like. You can zigzag sew the quarters together or treat them however you like. I chose to keep spaces between the quarters.

The machined stitched part of Bloodshot Bullseyes is done and I’m starting a lot of hand stitching. The quarter squares are zigzag stitched to red felt, and each fabric arc is sewn down with decorative machine stitches.

For my second approach I constructed crazy pieced pentagons with light and dark rings. Most feature blue and blue/green fabrics as I seem to have lots of those colors in my scraps. The shapes are angular rather than rounded, but I think they convey the idea of a bullseye.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I had enough pentagons (and a few hexagons) to create two pieces. My attempts to put them all into one looked  too cluttered. Rather than piece the pentagons to the background, I decided to machine sew each down to  the background fabric. I’ll cut out the fabric behind them to reduce bulk. That’s happened already with the composition below.

My second crazy bulleye is still in flux.

I predict the final version will look different than this. Already I’m contemplating sheer overlays and playing with shape placement. I’m thinking of quilting pentagons with heavy thread to continue the theme.  Unless I radically change my plan, each pentagon piece should finish around 30 by 36 inches.

Both approaches have given me lots of quality time with my scraps collection, and a chance to feel virtuous as I use some of it up.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Light As A Feather?

One of my art quilt groups is fond of challenges. The latest was to make something to do with the word feather. My immediate thought was, no birds. After a string of free association – feathering oar strokes, the feather embroidery stitch, Featherweight, feather in one’s cap, etc. – I settled on feathering my nest. I guess that’s sort of birdlike, though I separated the feathers from the bird. I guess it ended up on the table for Thanksgiving.

Once I chose my theme I decided to make my feathers from a feather. First, I used Ranger ink spray to color sheets of that Pellon 830 I’m fond of. Then, I rolled fabric printing ink and paint on an actual feather, and made several impressions with it. The printed sheets were fused to Wonder Under.

Next came nest creation. I colored a sheet of dampened Pellon 830, this time with Derwent Inktense blocks. After I fused the sheet to Wonder Under, I sliced it up to make a nest.

As you can see, I had already layered and quilted my background (after much fabric choice trial and error.) The last, and most fun, step was to play around with feather placement.

Because the 830 doesn’t ravel, I did no more quilting. I finished the edges with a fused down binding, a la Frieda Anderson.

The other morning my husband told me he liked my “falling leaves.” After I told him they were feathers he replied, “They look like leaves to me.” After all that work printing with the feather!

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Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing

My Nancy Series

I just can’t seem to get serious about quilt series. Usually I lose steam about the third or fourth iteration, and my current series is no exception.

As is often the case, my Nancy series began by accident. I attended a presentation on Nancy Crow’s way to create quilts, and we attendees played around with slicing and dicing solids using her methods. I sewed together most of the solids scraps I owned to create several starts of what I’ll call pieced cloth.

The first completed top was “Not Quite Nancy,” in which I included prints and circles. Many of you commented on this one while it was in process, and it is the better for those comments. The tag at the top is the dimensions.

Next, I finished off a smaller piece I named “Nearly Nancy” as it was made totally with solids. Oops, there’s one bit of almost solid fabric. I think the binding color sets off the other colors nicely. It’s actually quilted.

Then, I went Anni Albers with “Nod To Nancy,” which is more regularly pieced, though still asymmetrical. It’s quilted but the edges need to be finished. The waviness is in my piecing, not your screen.

Finally I devised “So Not Nancy,” which features two densely pieced blocks surrounded by shades of red and a bit of blue fabric I dyed. The large unpieced blocks run counter to the Crow method of dense piecing.

Right now I have just a few pieced fabric starts left. They’re in my parts department so they may show up in future work. Of course, I have yet to quilt two of the above tops, so it’s not like I have nothing to do. I expect you noticed I quilted the smaller ones first.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, In Process

In The Weeds

Sometimes I quilt a piece I’m not so enamored of to avoid dealing with a piece I haven’t a clue about and don’t want to screw up. Yet again I’ve sidestepped a larger (around 45 by 50 inches) piece by tackling a smaller one that I’m not heavily invested in emotionally.

In keeping with my recent efforts to use fabrics I created, I combined tissue paper and stamped fabrics with orphan blocks to make “In The Weeds.”

I kept cutting off bits and then adding strips, and finished up with a thermofax print; so the piece is a hodgepodge of surface design techniques. I decided it looked like a patch of weeds so I called it “In The Weeds.” I recalled that term being used by restaurant workers so I looked it up and came across this post at The Word Detective.

I decided the following sums up my methodology:

. . . as Mark Liberman points out, the use of “into the weeds” to mean “delving deep into the details” doesn’t carry the same sense of painful confusion as the restaurant use, and such “weed wandering” is actually the sort of thing true policy wonks enjoy. As he says in his Language Log post, “The metaphor here seems to be that when you wander off the beaten path, you can explore arbitrary amounts of not-very-valuable intellectual foliage (“weeds”) without getting closer to your conceptual destination.”

In other words, I’m on a side spur just detouring around that larger, more serious piece. Because I didn’t really care whether or not the piece was ruined I ran roughshod over it with free motion quilting. That was fun but resulted in quilting that would elicit “strive to maintain consistency in stitch length” from a show judge. I also learned that tissue paper fabric needs a longer length stitch than I used.

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October 20, 2017 · 5:11 am

Finishes in September

Amid a lot of local travel I managed to finish three serious quilts, including hanging sleeves. I don’t count pillows, table runners and the like as serious work, though they can take more time than I expect.

In order of completion, “Wayside Weeds” and “Nebula” preceded “Redlined.” I had to laugh at how different these three pieces are from each other. So much for developing a coherent voice. I’ll show them so you can see what I mean.

“Wayside Weeds” is based on prints I made using Thermofax screens. I constructed dividers with tubes of handpainted fabric attached to other painted/dyed fabric plus the last bit of McKenna Ryan fabric I had, and sewed the dividers between the printed sections. I had fun playing with different lengths.

“Redlined” is an abstract design I made based on a photograph of a sideboard. After I added the red fabric I decided it reminded me of a real estate map that showed redlined areas, the poorer neighborhoods where mortgages are considered risky and are difficult to obtain. I also used red thread in the quilting. It’s made with commercial fabric and finished with a single fold binding.

“Nebula” is a mashup of an art quilt group UFO challenge and scraps left over from theatrical costumes. I used photos of several nebula as inspiration. Thank you NASA. The black mottled background is from the challenge. Most of the sheer and sparkly bits are from costumes. I added some black sheers from my stash. All the fabric piece edges are raw. Many of the pieces are held in place with Misty Fuse with stitching on top. I sewed on a skewed border and faced it. In the right light it twinkles.

As for those other projects, I made a table runner from old left over blocks as a hostess gift for my husband to give to his landlady in Mexico. He’s in Puebla doing an intensive Spanish course. Luckily, the recent earthquake didn’t affect him.

While I still have tops to quilt, I’ve cleared out many of my incomplete projects. I anticipate a dearth of finishes for a few months as I work on a large (for me) piece that will use many of my blue and blue/green fabrics

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects