An All-Over Background for Embellished Art Quilts – Yikes!

Art Quilt "Fiesta" showing background fabric before embellishing

Art Quilt “Fiesta” showing background fabric before embellishing

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

When I was leaving my home and studio in Maryland  1 1/2 years ago, I wanted to try some new ideas as I cut out 3 pieces to sew. I had no idea how long it would take to resettle and have access to my supplies again, so I basted the pieces together, sewed on the major ribbons, buttons,and large beads, and gathered up the small beads and other materials needed to finish these quilts. To make things a little more interesting, I decided to try some all-over patterned backgrounds as I love making embellished art quilts. Maybe I’ll re-think that idea of “all-over” next time.

I had found the perfect background fabric with gold and darker pumpkin stripes, which to me suggested streamers and suggested the theme, “Fiesta”. I had also found some iron-on appliques that matched the twisted nature of the background (see the red and purple fat streamer in the left of the above photo.) However, I’m never one to leave a blank area uncovered for long, so the few streamers of metal gold beads, as seen above, were just too bare. I know, when in doubt, add more beads!

Bigger gold beads used to portray laughter

Bigger gold beads used to portray laughter

I got tired of sewing on the same size gold beads, was running out of them, couldn’t find any locally, and an exhibition entry deadline was looming. (Ah, the pressures on an artist!) I then thought to simulate laughter at this fiesta I was creating by sewing on larger gold beads, which I had more of and which filled up the area quicker. I was really kicking myself for choosing this all-over background fabric at this point. I didn’t HAVE to embellish the whole thing, but being obsessive, well… and since I don’t bead/quilt on a frame, the fabric gets wrinkled unless it’s heavily beaded and quilted.

Background fabric entirely filled with yellow and gold beads.

Background fabric entirely filled with yellow and gold beads.

Here’s a photo of where I had beaded in a small section without too many of the insights that I spoke about above. The yellow stripes were embellished with a yellow bead that fortunately I had enough of to finish the entire top, as I won’t be able to replace it. That’s one of the problems of working with buttons and beads is that you fall in love with one, use it for a few years, and then it stops being made…sigh! When I truly get to become queen, such things won’t happen. I’ll have an endless supply of my favorite supplies.

What insights have you learned when working with the materials that you use in your media. Don’t make us start from scratch and re-invent the wheel!

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You can see more of my art work on my web site at (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

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