Category Archives: Project Ideas

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 It had long before been superseded by railroads, but was still used for transporting coal.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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Artistic Endeavors – Art Prof

Remember those matchbooks with the ads for the Famous Artists Course? Fast forward to 2017 and the creation of Art Prof, a website that offers free, accessible to anyone with an internet connection, online art instruction. Videos form the core of the program, with critiques and links to art supplies offered as well. How is it made possible? Initial funding came from a Kickstarter campaign, with continuing funding through Patreon donations.

Clara Lieu, an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and her staff of teaching assistants (many of whom are her former students from RISD) began by producing foundational videos on drawing, collage, mixed media, and painting. These videos are geared towards beginners, both in terms of skill, which is entry-level, and cost of materials.

The course lists cover both classes with videos and project ideas. The latter are prompts to create a project in a specific type of art. For example, in 30 minutes, use continuous lines to draw every figure that enters a public space.

I’m taken with the three printmaking course options – monochromatic monotypes, rubber stamps, and linoleum printmaking. Each course includes a video, a prompt, core ideas, and a supply list (with links to suppliers.) Oh, you also have the option of linking to Prof. Lieu’s Spotify playlist.

For me, critiques are the most intriguing part of this program. “For now, many of Art Prof’s critiques are presented as video, with several different options, including group critiques of a single work and portfolio critiques. Lieu said that while the video critiques are by invitation, anyone can submit an artwork for a one-minute audio crit online via Instagram. Either way, the works are discussed based on photos, and Lieu and her staff only see the works in person when they invite artists into Lieu’s home studio for what she calls Crit Chats.” (Hyperallergic, May 31, 2018)

I’m unclear how critiques of individual works are arranged, though you schedule and pay for portfolio critiques.  At any rate, you can learn a lot just by watching the critiques posted.

I decided to try out some of the courses. The monotype and rubber stamp videos are listed as upcoming, so I couldn’t test drive them. Instead, I looked at a short (about 15 minutes) video called Sensory Playground and a longer video on Drawing with Crayons. The Sensory Playground video gave me a lot of practical information about acrylic paints and painting brushes, and shared hints such as using coffee grounds to thicken paint. If I buy acrylics the video will keep me from choosing the wrong products (as always, you get what you pay for.) Drawing with Crayons uses the high priced art crayons, not Crayola, but the first part of the video has a wealth of information about composition and color that’s worth watching.

Art Prof is very much a work in progress, but I think it contains helpful art school 101 information about all the stuff that needs to happen before you worry about brush strokes, the stuff most Youtube videos don’t cover.

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Gift Buckets

Heaven forfend, I found my stash of small gifts on hand was depleted. This is not a good position to be in at this time of year. Luckily, I subscribe to Christine Cameli’s blog, where she gave me the perfect quick (and small) gift to make. She calls it a bucket though I think you could call it a basket.

Since Christine teaches free motion quilting she has scads of fat quarter size quilting samples that are perfect for her project. I have a few practice squares, but I also have upholstery samples. After a scrounge through my large scraps I matched up bucket exteriors and liners and went to work.

A video in Christine’s post shows how she makes her buckets. The post also has a link to her free pattern on Craftsy. If you know the size bucket you want, just watch the video. Christine’s pattern makes a bucket about 4.5 inches wide and tall. I think it’s a good size for gifting with some candy or sewing notions tucked inside, but if you want something larger adjust the size accordingly.

As you can see, I used the same fabric for the liners and cuffs, but a contrasting cuff would definitely be fun. The bucket and liner are made from 8.5 by 6.5 inch fabric pieces (2 each of both exterior and lining), and the cuff is 4.5 by 16.5 inches.

After you sew the exterior pieces (then the linings) together around 3 sides, you cut out a 2 inch square of fabric at each bottom corner. Then you match the seams and sew the cut edges together. I don’t know if that’s clear, so just watch the video.

The short ends of the cuff are sewn together and the cuff is pressed in half long ways, right side out.  You nestle the lining inside the exterior (wrong sides against each other), then pin the cuff inside everything, raw edges together. Once you sew around all the layers you can turn over the cuff and admire your bucket.

I think you could also use pre-quilted fabric for the exteriors. I thought of using some fancy silk scraps but stopped when I saw I’d have to interface the silk. I was in production mode, which meant done was better than fancy.

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Filed under Completed Projects, Project Ideas

Tracing Cloth Play

A chance discovery of Pellon 830, called Easy Pattern, led me to experiment with ways to use it. Pellon calls it an interfacing-tracing cloth. I bought a bolt of it to make a sample pattern for my silk vest (Why a bolt? It was a 60% off sale and the usual price was $2.48/yard. You do the math.) That went well as 830 sews nicely, but then I began to wonder about other uses.

Out came the paints, the watercolor pencils, the crayons, the stamps, and the brushes. First, I soaked pieces of 830 in containers filled with diluted fabric paint, which resulted in soft pastels. Then I began to stencil and stamp it.

I fused some of the colored 830 to Wonder Under, cut it up and ironed it to fabric. Then I quilted it. I found that it doesn’t fray and even three layers are quite thin.

On other experimental fronts, I traced stencils with markers and found the result to be crisper than on fabric.

Then, I traced a flower from a quilt photo (the 830 is translucent), colored it with watercolor pencils, and outlined it with a fine tip black marker. I think traced designs could be cut out and fused to fabric.

About the time I began my tracing cloth play, I found out that Betty Busby uses this stuff in her quilts. A friend took a class with her where students used this and Evolon. Busby has her students use a Silhouette Cameo machine to cut out original designs from these materials. Here are pieces Busby made that incorporate nonwovens.

“Buffalo Gourd’s” leaves are made of nonwoven material, and sewn onto hand painted silk.

Busby developed “Toupee The Turtle” to teach students how to use nonwoven material. It looks like the background is hand painted fabric.

There are numerous advantages of this material. It cuts easily, is washable, doesn’t fray, is fusible, can be sewn on, takes paint and marking tools well, and is translucent enough to trace designs onto it. You don’t get the drag of fabric when you use pencils or markers on it. Oh, did I mention it’s cheap?

I encountered a few disadvantages. The fabric paints I used didn’t dry to exceptionally intense colors but were more pastel. However, I diluted my paint, so full strength paint may give more color. I haven’t tried acrylic paint or dyes so I can’t speak to how well they do. Also, unless you can get opaque coverage from paint, any fabric used underneath 830 will show through a bit.

Busby’s work shows me I have lots more experimenting to do with this material. Lucky for me I have most of a bolt left.

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It Seemed Like A Good Idea

A few months ago I wrote about Wen Redmond’s book “Digital Fiber Art” and my confusion about how to proceed with her techniques. So I was glad to see steps to follow in her article in the latest Quilting Arts about how to transfer a photo to cloth. Of course I had to try out the technique.

I made my base fabric collage with scraps that included an old tee shirt mop up rag that had turned lovely pastel shades.

Then, I covered a black and white inkjet copy of a photo from my Around Here series with mat gel medium per the directions and rubbed it onto the fabric base.

Once that dried I moistened it and rubbed away the paper to (hopefully) leave the transfer print behind. At this point my results diverged from the instructions. Either too little or too much of the paper came off, so some of the edges were jaggedy. Maybe I didn’t apply enough gel medium. More important, the photo looked really dark.

I thought I could brighten it up with big stitches.

After three colors of perle cotton I decided it was still too dark, so I moved on to machine stitching. Then I got the bright idea to highlight the light areas with metallic paint.

That turned out way too garish, so I tried sanding the painted areas to tone them down. I found that gel medium stands up well to sanding with fine sandpaper. Unfortunately, it didn’t remove as much of the paint as I had hoped.

Right now my experiment resides in the drawer of shame. Lessons learned:

-choose a photo with a lot more light areas and just a few dark lines

-do a practice photo transfer before the one that counts

-remember that subtlety isn’t my strong point, and there’s a fine, but definite, line between subtle and dreary.

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Filed under In Process, Project Ideas, Techniques

Playing With Solids

The double whammy of the recent Circular Abstractions bulls eye quilt exhibit and a quilt group program on Nancy Crow’s design methods led me to pull out all my saved solid fabric strips and sew them together. I hope this link to Pinterest gives you an idea of the exercises students do in Nancy’s workshops. She offers several multi-day classes that range from beginner to expert.

My design wall became colonized by stripey units in various stages – just stripes, units cut from stripes, units with added cross stripes… As always, it’s fascinating to see which colors enhance each other and which just stick out their tongues at each other. So far I’ve worked only from scraps, though some of the scraps are about fat quarter size. If I want to make larger units I may have to break into stash.

For now I’ll set these assemblages aside to mellow a bit and wait for further inspiration. My fellow group members had fun playing with strips. Here are some of their efforts.

You begin Nancy’s workshop with lots of strip piecing, which you then build into units, and finally you do an overall composition. Since I made my units above before our group program I didn’t exactly follow Nancy’s dictates.

I learned that Nancy takes away everyone’s ruler after a few days; that she wants you to cut towards, rather than away, from you (I find that scary); and that she wants you to backstitch at the start and finish of seams.The ruler thing is amusing as Nancy once lent her name to an acrylic ruler.

I also learned she uses the same rotary cutter blade for a long time, even up to a year. Apparently she doesn’t sharpen it. We all wondered how that was possible, given the amount of cutting involved with her method.

All that cutting is the reason I won’t be adopting Nancy’s methods in a big way. Pressing down to get through multiple fabric layers and seams doesn’t do my shoulder any good. I plan to develop some of my starts further, but after that, who knows.

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Fabric Paper or Reverse Engineering

Traditionally, fine paper was made from cotton rags, hence rag paper. It’s more durable and far less acidic than paper made from wood pulp. So you could say that fabric and paper have a long history together. However, my conversion of fabric to paper began quite recently.

I was intrigued by Eileen Searcy’s article in the February/March 2017 issue of Quilting Arts magazine  about making a “faux torn paper” quilt. It was different, didn’t require quilting and, except for the dimensional paint, I already had the supplies. A grub through my interfacing drawer turned up some very lightweight non-fusible interfacing and I had a bolt of Wonder Under. Once I dashed into WalMart for the paint I was good to go.

To create the 2 by 22 inch fabric strips the directions called for I pulled out solid or mottled fabrics in a gray to green to blue range, with a few light beige neutrals thrown in. To speed up the strip process I cut my fabrics into 4 inch wide pieces and fused as many of them as I could fit onto my interfacing pieces. Then I cut them into 2 inch wide strips. If I had been thinking I would have cut them into 4 inch wide strips and separated them with the jagged edge cutting that simulates torn paper. Oh well.

Next, I dabbed the ragged cut edges with the dimensional paint. The idea is the white paint will give the effect of torn colored paper, which has a white core. This piece of real torn paper gives an idea of the look I was going for.

element_tornpaperI could have painted my strips faster, but I wanted to try different ways of applying the paint and different thicknesses of the paint. The magazine instructions turned out to be on the money – paint from the front to back of the fabric and hold the brush perpendicular to the fabric, though I decided to apply a lighter coat of paint. I can always go back and add more.

Rather than use batting I decided to fuse my foundation fabric to Decor Bond for extra stability. I’ll be sewing the fabric paper strips to this and the backing fabric at the same time. My “sandwich” will be my strips, the foundation fabric, Decor Bond, and backing fabric.

After the prep work I got to my design wall and began to play. I ended up with a design that reminds me of the Great Smoky Mountains, so I emphasized earth and sky components. Of course I took some artistic license.

great-smoky-mountains-national-park-lead

Here’s my version so far in black and white. I was checking my values range.

smokies-bw

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