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
Everything I Need
I thought I had Everything I Need ready to be mailed off to her debut showing. But, she was very slightly askew. Being a perfectionist, I want the quilt to hang perfectly straight. So I decided to block the quilt again. I put it in cool water in the bathtub, allowing it to rest submerged to absorb the water throughout all the layers. I drained the tub, folded and squeezed the quilt to get out excess water. I pinned the quilt to the freshly vacuumed rug in the living room with long quilter’s pins. I pulled and patted, using a carpenter’s square to assure all four corners were at 90 degrees. I aimed the overhead fan and a portable fan at the quilt and set them on high speed. Now I wait.
I will record a statement about the symbolism in this quilt for the audio tour of the show. I have the ship date on my calendar. I’ve bought pool noodles and investigated three possible shipping methods. If you want to see this quilt in person, she will be at the Sacred Threads Exhibition at the Floris United Methodist Church, 13600 Frying Pan Road, Herndon, VA 20171 from July 7th through July 23rd, 2017. (sacredthreadsquilts.com for details) She will also travel to other locations, but I’ll post more about that later.
I am preparing for a 5-day retreat. The teacher requested that participants have two possible designs for work in class. The designs are drawn with fine line Sharpie markers on unbleached muslin, which will be the base over which bits of fabric will be overlaid for a colorful fabric collage. I’ve spent a couple of weeks deciding what I might like to work on.
The first sketch was pretty straightforward, an analysis of the dark/light patterns in a photograph of a Toggenburg goat. I drew it in a 8.5″ x 11″ format, then made it four times larger than the original. Yikes…it gets creepy when you make an image so much larger than life! A three times enlargement was better.
The second possibility took me longer, about four re-drawings using multiple reference sources. I’m illustrating a delightful poem: A codfish lays 10,000 eggs, a barnyard hen lays one. The Codfish never cackles to tell you what she’s done. So we scorn the codfish and the boastful hen we prize, which only goes to show you IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE.
I’ve settled on the central image, but still have two possible options for including the text of the poem with the drawing. Here are my two drawings:
It Pays to Advertise
If you make quilts, you want them to be the size and shape that you planned,
and to hang straight if you exhibit them. Here is a checklist that may help:
1. Study diagrams and directions on a pattern to confirm the logic and measurements. To err is human; the pattern designer sometimes makes an error.
2. Cut accurately. The mantra is “measure twice, cut once”.
3. Piece accurately by marking seam allowances, pinning precisely, nesting seams, and confirming that your machine is sewing exactly the width of seam that you want.
4. Press accurately. Finger press seams first. Then press with your iron in a patting, up/down movement instead of sliding your iron, especially when a seam is on the bias of the fabric.
5. Measure each block of pieced work again after pressing. Correct if needed before joining to other blocks. You can rip out, trim, or mark seam allowances that are wider or more narrow than usual, then re-sew to compensate for imprecise blocks.
6. Cut outer borders with their length on grain whenever possible. Use borders that are exactly the size specified in your quilt diagram. Ease pieced blocks to fit the accurately-measured border, instead of sewing a long strip of border fabric to the pieced blocks then trimming the border fabric to fit.
7. Quilt with about the same density of stitching throughout the quilt.
8. Trim the quilt to exact size before binding. A carpenter’s square or triangular ruler are useful to check that corners are 90 degree angles.
9. Block the quilt after quilting. Wet it in sink or tub and squeeze out excess water. Lay the quilt on a clean surface, then stretch, scrunch, and pat until you come as close as possible to having equal measurements of (a) width at both edges and center, (b) height at both edges and center, and (c) both diagonals. I tape together yardsticks or use a metal tape measure that can be locked at any specific length. I’ve read about making a blocking board from a sheet of styrofoam insulation marked with a grid of squares, but I just use a sheet on my living room floor.
10. Store the quilt rolled up instead of folded if possible. Scrunching and stuffing the quilt in a pillowcase or fabric bag is better than folding it. Folding creates creases.
I have a finished quilt that I am preparing to send off to an exhibit. I do not like the way it hangs because I did not follow suggestion number 7 listed above. The interior is quilted more densely than the border, so it “waffles” a bit at the edges. I have one more trick to try. I am hand-sewing a long, strong gathering thread in the ditch at the inner and outer edges of the borders. I’ll let you know how it works.
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.
Another Wednesday painting result: I made a drawing on watercolor paper of the same view from my window that I did last week. This time I simplified and abstracted the scene. I spent my Wednesday painting time applying color with my Derwent Inktense pencils. Working with one small segment at a time, I applied washes using color pulled from the pencil tip with a wet paintbrush. With the wash still damp, I added textured using either the brush or the tip of the pencil. I am really enjoying the easy portability of this medium and the versatility. Here is Neighbors, Abstracted and the photo of the source scene.