I made a fast and fun 12.5″ x 12.5″ quilt…only three days from the idea to the finish. The sketch was made of large simplified shapes. I chose a face, because I have a presentation next week on making art quilts with faces as the subject.
I traced my line drawing onto a piece of fabric in permanent fine line marker.
I gathered bold bright fabrics, digging through boxes of plaids and polka dots.
I worked flat, with my base fabric pinned to a piece of foamcore, glueing my cut fabric shapes to this base with tiny smears of glue in the center of each piece. I pinned together these layers: white tulle with glitter, the fabric collage, a thin batting, and a backing fabric.
I used only two colors of thread to quilt, peach and teal blue. Details were added as I sewed: eyebrows, creases in the hand, including a long life line, spirals in the cheeks (the symbol of life journey in some cultures). As I got to the nearly- finished stage of sewing on the binding, I composed a poem to explain the quilt’s story. Every quilt has a story.
Here’s the result:
It may sound a bit odd that I need recovery time after a retreat, but I do. I spend a lovely seven days in Portland, Maine. I went a bit early prior to Susan Carlson’s Monday through Friday class teaching her fabric collage technique. I am a bit sleep deprived. I got up early each morning because I did not want to miss a thing, but my hotel room faced a lively bar that had music thumping until 1:30 am every night. Yesterday I spent a really long travel day coming home. I missed and had to reschedule plane connections going to Maine and coming home, but eventually arrived safely each time!
This retreat has been eagerly anticipated. I had spent weeks refining two drawings, then a full day choosing fabrics to take. I was not sure which project option I would choose. I picked the one that I felt would allow me to learn the most: a head and shoulders view of a Toggenburg goat named Cindy.
I had read both of Susan’s books about fabric collage and I had been following her blog for a year, so nothing she presented was a great surprise. It was very useful to practice the technique with input from Susan. She urged me to use colors brighter than I would have otherwise chosen. It took days of practice until I began to select smaller bits of fabric from many sources rather than a larger piece from a single fabric. Generous fellow students helped by donating vivid fabrics that I never would have purchased. Here are photos taken on the first day and fifth day of the retreat. I will have to set the project aside until I finish things that have a June deadline, but I’m keeping this collage project propped up in my studio and will work on it a bit to keep my motivation up.
Cindy on Friday
Cindy on Monday
Teacher Susan Carlson
My art-making time is precious. It must be fiercely guarded against usurpation by perceived worthy endeavors like obligations to family, kindness to friends, and responsibilities to organizations with missions that I believe are important. “Not now” is a useful phrase. Everyday necessities like cooking, cleaning and laundry are insidious. They can be time-urgent, yet unimportant, in terms of reaching larger life goals.
Procrastination and fear are lurking threats to creativity.
I use two strategies against procrastination: making appointments on the calendar and actually writing down my goals with step-by-step plans to accomplish them. The solution to fear is to do something; just get going and begin work. I tell myself “Making art is not like brain surgery; no one dies if I mess up.” I have been forcing myself to do things which frighten me for over 50 years and recently I have realized that I am less afraid than many others I meet. Fear never goes away, and I don’t expect it ever will. If I take action, fear seems to hold less power.
I received a lovely gift on Sunday. A member of my art quilt group, who loves making 4” x 6” fabric postcards, gave two postcards to each person at the meeting. How generous. The signed one, I will send to a friend. An unsigned one I chose from the box had a nice teal and white print of a bird on a branch.
I could not stop myself when I got home. I took the print postcard apart and pieced it with fabrics that were meaningful to me and which coordinated in color: a hand-dye I had made, the waistband of a skirt and collar of a shirt that I had salvaged from my mother’s closet, some charm squares given to me as a gift. The bird image on the print was indistinct, so I searched my bird identification books for a species of appropriate body shape. A Northern Parula, the smallest warbler whose terrain includes Ohio, fit perfectly in both color and body shape.
I ironed fusible to the back of pale blue fabric, drew the perky little warbler with inktense pencils and a fine line Sharpie, and ironed him in place. My finished quiltlet, is 10 1/2” x 12 1/4”. Because it has a lot of hand-quilting, it was a four-day diversion from my backlog of unfinished projects. But making it was fun.
I’m not yet done with my quilt that I’m trying to finish before the end of December. I’ve finished quilting on it. This is the second day it has been drying, spread out on the living room floor. I rinsed it in the bathtub in cold water to wash out the blue marker and to dampen it for blocking. To block the quilt, I squeezed out excess water without wringing, laid the quilt on a clean sheet and stretched and scrunched it to be a more accurate rectangle. The stretching and scrunching were aimed to get each of three sets of measurements to be the same: three measurements side to side, two measurements top to bottom, and both diagonals. I directed a fan on the quilt to hasten drying. This process does occupy most of the center of the living room, so I’m grateful for spousal cooperation for this venture.
While the quilt was drying, I cut fabric for the binding and hanging sleeve. I also cleared my design wall so it can become my photo backdrop. This involved putting away several projects that were on the wall. This was useful to organize my workspace and update my current projects list. I’ve finished one project on my list, but added three more. There are now 24 on the list. My definition of a Current Project: A project that is named, has a sketch or actual-size cartoon, materials have been gathered, and some work has begun. Current Projects do not include ideas or unnamed sketches; they have their own files.
blocking the quilt
projects in bags and project list
I have a moderate-sized art quilt that I had assembled before deciding on the quilting design. I auditioned ideas for quilting by drawing with a dry erase marker on acetate laid on top of the quilt top…my usual method.
Because the batting and backing was already on the quilt, I could not do my usual next step — use the light table to trace markings from the acetate onto the front of the quilt.
After a bit of pondering, I decided to make a single-use paper stencil. I taped acetate, then newsprint paper, to the sliding glass door and traced the design onto the paper with pencil. I refined the stencil design, making bridges so the paper would not fall apart when I cut the shapes. I used an Olfa cutting blade and my largest rotary cutting mat to cut the stencil. I pinned the paper stencil to the top of the quilt and finally could use blue washout marker to mark the design.
Art-making is a problem solving activity. I added four steps to my process with this work-around, but it solved the dilemma. Yay.
quilting design with dry erase marker on acetate
tracing design in pencil on paper from acetate
cutting paper stencil
stencil pinned to quilt top
design on quilt with wash out marker