Creating Clouds in a Beaded Art Quilt

White sequined applique used to simulate a cloudNancy Smeltzer, MFA

I am always on the look-out for motifs to use for clouds in my beaded art quilts, as gardens are a favorite of mine, both the ones outdoors and in my art work. As a result, I have a varied collection of materials that I’ve used through out the years to simulate clouds. I’m usually going for the look of the big, white puffy cumulus ones. In the center of this shot is a tiered white sequined lace motif cut from a net background. I wish that I could have bought yards of the material, but it was quite expensive, so I only have a few pieces left. When choosing whether or not to buy yardage, I count the number of motifs in the fabric and figure out the cost/unit. For something like this elegant, sequined applique, I believe that the cost came out to be about $4 US, but I felt that the impact was worth it. I try and give each of my beaded art quilts something special, as if they were one of my own children.

White lace motifs for cloudsIn this shot, you can see another lace motif that has finger like edges peaking out from behind a dark green “bush” and also in the very upper middle of the photo. While it might be a stretch to envision clouds with parts that loop back on each other, I always claim artistic license when I create my work. After all, Picasso made a bull’s head out of a bicycle seat back in the early 40s. While I don’t begin to put myself in the same league as Picasso, I would like to think that I have as much fun as he did coming up with new uses for materials.

Gold swirl iron-on applique used for a cloudThis shot shows one of those special finds that come along once in a lifetime. They were gold colored iron-on appliques that I used to make swirls of clouds. You can see one at the bottom left of the photo and the edges of another one coming in at the middle of the left. I bought them from a “jobber” or a person who buys up large lots of things that didn’t sell and then resells them at a discount. I imagine that there were ones made that had the coil on the right and the tail pieces swirling to the left, but the place where I bought them only had ones facing as shown here. I bought all that they had, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get more later. Sigh! Now, they’re all gone, but I did give them good homes.

Costume jewelry pin used to simulate a cloudFinally, sometimes you luck out and find a piece of costume jewelry that is exactly what is needed. The sliver colored pin with the pearl center in the upper center of this photo was perfect for my needs to create the effect of a cloud in this marsh scene. Measuring about 2.5″ or 6.5 cm, I pinned it into place through all 3 layers of the quilt sandwich, and then sewed round and round the posts of both ends of the pin to make sure that it didn’t come off. In the past, I used to squash the fastener of the pin with a pair of pliers after the point of the pin had been locked into place, but I found that on some of the less expensive pieces of jewelry, the post would just break off.

Gathering the effects that you want on an art quilt can be challenging, but after you’ve done it for awhile, it becomes more like the thrill of the hunt. “What can I make out of this cool thing that I’ve found?”, I often ask myself. The choices that I make amuse myself, and  if making art isn’t about having fun, then what’s the point in doing it?

You can see other amazing art quilts at..

What are some of the more unusual things that you’ve repurposed in your art medium? I’d love to see some well-lit photos which maybe I could use in a future blog. Please send them to 

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