Making Decisions on a Beaded Art Quilt

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

In the past, I’ve showed you my works in progress, but they’re rather far along by the time that you see the photos. This time, I thought I’d let you in on some of the thought processes as I go along, and how I do what I do.

A few postings ago, I talked about the beginnings of “Sunflowers and Dragonflies” beaded art quilt. Here are some macro shots and my thoughts as I was going along. In the middle of the purple and black Harlequin ribbon running down the middle, I started by outlining the purple and black edges between each diamond. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the purple and black fabric to the left of the blue button with the black rim sticks out quite a bit. Ribbons make great lines on an art quilt’s surface, but it’s often hard to get them to lay flat. By beading, I’m quilting and sewing on the beads at the same time, and as a result the surface flattens by the time that I’m finished. I would like to fill in all of the purple diamonds with these seed beads (size 10), but there’s a lot of ribbon and not so many beads, so after outlining all of the purple diamonds, I may fill them in completely or at least some of them.

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

This next macro shot shows the use of the blue rondelles in the center part of the art quilt. You can see what the fabric looked like before I started filling in the lines between the rondelles with the same blue crystal beads used to fasten them in place. At first I wanted to fill in the oval blue shapes with the same blue, crystal beads. I also considered filling in the triangles between the rondelles with an aqua seed bead a little lighter than the ones already being used. I had set aside some paler, aqua beads for that purpose, (my stash of most of my beads is in storage, as I’m in the process of moving), but when I started sewing them on to the fabric, they were too gray looking. It’s really hard to tell exactly how a seed bead will look on fabric until it’s laying on top of it. I usually take a straight pin, thread a few beads on it and place it where I want it to go on the fabric. That’s why I rarely order seed beads on-line as the colors on the monitor can vary so much. If I decide to fill in those blue triangles more, I need a more teal colored blue bead, so I’ll have to wait until my studio and I are reunited.

Seed beading on sunflower petals

Seed beading on sunflower petals

This third macro shot is of one of the sunflower petals. I’ve used two colors, a flat yellow and a warm brown crystal bead. When working with seed beads, there are never enough colors to match the thousands that are found on fabrics, so I try as best as I can to match those on the fabric.  When I was setting aside yellow beads, I included a wide array, but at least for this section, only the two seemed to work for the petals. If you look to the left and the right of the two petals that have been beaded, you can see that I came pretty close to matching up the colors. However, sometimes, the beads are wider than the lines and shapes on the surface of the quilt. It’s then when I have to make artistic decisions to whether or not to cover up and cover an area with one color or the other. By looking at what is already there and squinting my eyes to get the overall effect, I make choices as to whether or not more of one color is needed than another based on what the original fabric had on it, or sometimes another color choice completely different that I feel adds to the look that I’m trying to acheive.

I’ve said before that using seed beads as intensively as what’s in the sunflower petals takes a long time. 1 sq in (2.5cm sq) takes one hour’s work, so this is not for those who want to make a quilt in a weekend. However, for me, there’s a Zen-like quality of beading like this, which gives me peace as I work.

What were some of the “take-aways” that you learned from reading this blog. I’m working on a series of inexpensive lessons on how I quilt and would love feedback on any thing that you liked, want further explained, or thought was totally useless.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

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.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

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