Category Archives: In Process

A Map Quest

Here and there I’ve alluded to my long term project that involves research and planning. It’s the opposite of improv. I think it’s far enough along now I can share it, or at least what I’ve done so far.

An art quilt group I belong to set a map quilt as this year’s challenge, inspired by Valerie Goodwin’s book, “Art Quilt Maps.” I reviewed her book a few years ago. Our quilts are to be no larger than 20 by 20 inches, and no smaller than 12 by 12 inches. I’ve already broken that guideline as my piece is shaping up to be about 20 by 28 inches.

My subject is the Ohio and Erie Canal through Summit County, Ohio. Why? Because the current Towpath Trail that I walk on every week follows the canal’s towpath. Here’s a subway map type rendering of the trail.

The canal was constructed in 1827. Canal building fever struck New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states in the early 1800s as a way to open up the region for trade. The Ohio and Erie Canal was part of a system of connected canals to link the Ohio River with Lake Erie ports. A disastrous flood in 1913 finished off the canal. It had long before been superseded by railroads, but was still used for transporting coal.

I began my project with a map of the towpath and Cuyahoga River, mottled green fabrics and a piece of crinoline. I sewed the green fabrics together for my base on the crinoline, and traced the towpath and river onto separate light green fabric. I dabbed green paint onto that fabric to make it look more like a topographic map. My plan is to embroider over the lines and possibly do some embroidery on the edges to integrate this large piece with the base.

Next, I searched out historic photos of the canal. Luckily the Summit Memory Project and the wonders of Google Images provided some.  As with many historic photos, some have damaged areas, and some were digitized at a very small size – about 1.5 by 3 inches. The photographic skill levels were casual, at best. I persevered and came up with some that showed the canal in operation, stores and businesses along the canal, and the 1913 flood. I also took photos of display maps at the Mustill Store in Akron, and explored the Cascade Locks.

Once I ran the photos through PhotoShop Elements to adjust size and clarity, I had to print them on fabric. I decided to go with black and white as almost all were that way to begin with. The hard part was choosing how to print them. I ended up buying silk organza sheets and inkjet transfer paper.  The organza printed well and will allow me to get a soft translucent quality. The transfer paper, which I chose because I didn’t want a white fabric background, printed well, but I had problems with the heat setting. The paper backing didn’t peel off smoothly and I had to reprint some transfers. Also, the finish is very plastic-y and will be ruined if you put an iron near it. Your iron won’t be in good shape, either. But, I got the natural linen background I wanted.

I played with layout possibilities for months, beginning with paper copies of my photos. I want to show the canal’s history, but don’t want a school poster board effect. The layout has changed since this mockup that combines fabric and paper photos.

I will work with overlapping fabrics, transparent effects, and embroidery to make it more arty. I plan to have the quilting be the current road network in the map area, and am considering outlining parts of the photos with stitching. After looking at Valerie Goodwin’s latest art quilt maps, I yearn for the ability to laser cut fabric.

 

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

A Landscape Experiment

Back in 2016 I used a phone to take this photo of a downtown Akron intersection, drew up a sketch from it, and then did nothing with it.

I resurrected the sketch when I saw an announcement for a juried local art show called Against The Sky. While I haven’t had luck getting into all media shows, I thought I’d make up my work and then decide whether to enter it.

Luckily I had bought the perfect piece of hand painted fabric for a sunset, which I combined with simplified outlines of the buildings in the photo. I adapted the technique Heather Dubreuil uses for her cityscapes. She outlines buildings and architectural details with black thread by drawing her design on a Sulky heat-away product. She uses the drawing to place fabrics underneath, fuses the fabrics, and then stitches the lines on the iron-away product over everything. She tears away the product after stitching.

Instead, I drew a line design, made freezer paper templates from the design to cut out fused fabric, fused the fabric on my background sky and pavement, and then traced the line design on the Sulky product (I had purchased a package at a quilt show) and stitched over it. Because my fabrics were dark, I used a dark gray thread.

Sketch as line drawing.

Freezer paper templates before cutting out.

Thread color trials. I went with the dark gray that’s on the bottom.

Start of stitching over Sulky product.

Despite the product instructions NOT to use a permanent marker, that’s what I ended up using as wash away markers wouldn’t leave a mark. I was able to tear away most of the plastic so there was little to remove with heat.

I may glue the quilted top to a pre-stretched canvas with black painted edges. Maybe that will make it more appealing to a juror.

Final (before edge finishing) on stretched canvas.

 

 

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques

It’s All About The Surface

Over the years I’ve accumulated a pile of fabrics I’ve created with paints, stencils, dyes, and other surface design techniques. Since I didn’t feel up to deep thought projects but wanted to make something after my surgery, I sorted that pile and cut up much of it into 5 inch squares. Then, I arranged the squares that seemed to go together into more or less traditional designs.

The resulting tops are totally about texture and color. I meant no discernible message. Each is about 41 inches square and has a border (gasp.)

“All Decked Out” is a trip around the world design made with fabric I designed or dyed, with one exception. The center is a paintstik rubbing of a glass salad plate, accented with embroidery. The surrounding squares are either Marcia Derse fabric (the darker fabric) or sun printed with a crocheted doily. The blue and white squares are from a silk screening class, while the multicolored squares suffered through four processes – dyeing, fabric collage, cheesecloth overlay, and stenciling. The dark and light rose squares are hand dyed, while the blue and white border fabric is from a photo of my deck I manipulated and printed through Spoonflower.

“Sur La Table” is made mostly from tablecloths I painted and dyed.  (Finally a use for high school French.) The yellow is damask that’s been printed with leaves, while the orange is a drop cloth I enhanced. The green strips are from a gradation and the outer border is linen I dyed. The diagonal strips are bias tape I made and some cording. The squares on the end of the green units are made from fabric I painted and stenciled. The thin green strip inside the border is Grunge fabric, the only fabric I didn’t mess around with.

I thought I’d do quick and dirty quilting on these, but already that isn’t going to plan. A group I belong to had lots of complicated ideas for quilting “All Decked Out.” Of course the ideas are much better than what I had envisioned, but also more work.

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Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

Getting My Curve On

So far this year my work has been squared off and rectilinear. I’m breaking with that in my latest WIP, which is all about curves.

I was inspired by a sketch left over from my 2016 master class and my hoard of silk fabrics.

I had developed several sketches using cut shapes of tissue paper.

Someday had arrived for the dupioni, sari and kimono silks, the broadcloths, and the silk-cotton combo fabrics I’ve collected. Because the silks were different weights, I stabilized them with either fusible nylon knit tricot or WonderUnder. The differing material characteristics (some were closely woven, some ravelled or shredded, etc.) led me to use raw edge applique instead of piecing. I used MistyFuse for any pieces not backed with WonderUnder.

There were translation issues between my sketch and the work. The sketch was designed for transparent fabrics, and was another take on overlapped pieces of silk organza, a technique I used in Unfolding.

Unfolding 25″ sq.

I didn’t have the color changes created by the fabric overlaps, so I had to come up with an opaque approach. Here’s my first version.

The “hat” had to go. It looked lovely with transparent layers, but not as a solid piece. I ended up with huge blooms that would fit into a jungle. All the sinuous curves give it an Art Nouveau feel, like the embroidered fabric below.

After I ironed down the pieces I straight stitched around all the edges. I tried out a buttonhole and a zigzag stitch, but found they frayed the edges and caused raveling. There is still a bit of fraying, but I’ll have to live with it.

I plan to have Rococo (tentative title) quilted by a local long arm quilter who is very good with curved designs. For once, I think it’s the right approach to accentuate the curves. It should finish about 36 by 30 inches.

 

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Filed under In Process

A Quilting I Will Go

The next piece in my quilting queue is Damask and Denim, a large work that features much recycled material. It’s pin basted and awaits a quilting design decision. Because you’ve helped me in the past, I’d like your opinions of the rough designs I’ve developed. Thanks in advance.

First, the quilt top itself.

Option 1 surrounds zigzags with straight horizontal and vertical lines.

Option 2 uses all zigzag lines.

Option 3 combines the above two with straight lines only on the top and bottom.

In all versions the diamond centers would be free motion quilted with a diamond spiral. Thread color is open at this point. I’m considering either blue or very pale yellow thread.

Any thoughts? Ideas?

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Filed under In Process

The Last Bit Seems To Take Forever

It used to be that I took forever to quilt my tops. I’ve gotten better at that, but now I face the hurdle of finishing the edges. Case in point, my Big Red quilt.

It began as an offshoot of Rayna Gillman’s casual suggestion in her latest book to alternate background fabrics slightly for an accordion fold effect. That appealed to me, so I sorted numerous red fabric strips into lighter and darker piles and sewed them on a diagonal to lighter and darker pieces of gray fabric. I spiced up the red with bits of blue and metallic gray fabric.

Originally each vertical strip was the same width, but I found that too static and cut off different sized bits from the left and right sides.

I’m glad I used a leftover piece of wool batting as it makes the straight line quilting stand out so well. The heavier red line at the top of the red quilting sections was done with a jeans stitch. I had planned to couch cording there, but decided I could get straighter lines with a heavy stitch line.

Two decisions remain. Should I do more quilting in the long diamond shapes and what edge finish should I use? I have two gray fabrics as possible bindings. One is the metallic gray I used in the red sections. I could also face the edges.

Let me know your thoughts. I’ve had it up on the design wall too long to be objective about it.

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Filed under In Process, Modern Quilting

The Denim (And Other Old Stuff) Challenge

One of the good (and bad) aspects of art quilt groups is their love of challenges. It’s good to have a starting point for a piece, but I find it can distract me from more long term work. If I have a choice between analyzing and fixing what went wrong on an existing piece and plunging into a new piece, guess which I pick.

At first I wasn’t going to join a recent challenge to use denim and/or old shirts in a piece. I had already used my husband’s shirts (with his permission) to make Shirtsleeves, and I didn’t have any all cotton old jeans.

Then, my husband asked if I could use a pair of his old jeans and a shirt. It was kismet, so I began my challenge piece under the influence of Rayna Gillman’s latest book, Create Your Own Improv Quilts.

I saw that I didn’t have enough denim, but did have damask tablecloths and napkins I had dyed shades of blue.  More kismet. I decided on 6 inch squares as my background, and fused lightweight interfacing to the damask before I cut it. If you don’t stabilize it, the damask will stretch out of shape.

I loved how the denim look changed depending on which side I put up.

Next, I began to slash the squares diagonally and sew strips onto the larger piece. At this point I decided to finish each square with the smaller piece I had cut off. I liked how it made the center small diamonds see-through.

Rayna’s version fills the centers with color, but I thought more color might be too distracting for mine as the background was already different colors. I think my version looks quite different, which shows how versatile some loose guidelines can be for improv work.

The top is done, named (Damask and Denim,) and just needs quilting inspiration.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration, Modern Quilting