Tag Archive for art quilt techniques

Piecing is not myThing!

Pieced square patch quilting samplesOn the left are two samples of pieced square patch quilting I made back in the 70s, soon after I made my first quilt. I enjoyed looking at the complexity that could be made by sewing together little tiny geometric shapes to make bigger ones in my first quilting attempt, and I picked out another pattern to try another pieced quilt. I quickly became frustrated at how precise you need to be with the cutting and the sewing. This care is especially true if you’re combining triangles, as at least one edge will be on the bias, or the diagonal of the fabric. That’s the stretchest direction on woven fabric, and while the warp (vertical) and the weft (horizontal) threads on a piece may fit together easily when sewn together, the bias can crawl all over the place under the sewing machine needle no matter how well it’s been pinned or basted.

In the above samples, the one on the right is 34.5″ T x 12″ W, or 87.5cm T x 30.5cm W. The piece on the left, made of the exact same fabrics and sized pieces, measures 2″ or 5 cm shorter and 1/2″ or 1.5 cm less wide. As you sew together the little squares and rectangles, 1/8″ or 4mm off in the stitching together of the sides quickly becomes more and more off as you continue sewing more and more pieces together. The above two sections could have been sewn together by putting a running stitch along the edge of the wider piece and “easing” or taking up very small “pleats” in the larger side so that they didn’t really show up. Then, with heavy quilting on the larger piece, the ripples created by easing could be flattened and not show up as much. I decided that would have been too much work and quickly abandoned the project, setting aside the samples until I was cleaning out my studio.

Sample of machine piecing and applique for a quilted topWhile I’m not sloppy when it comes to my sewing, the confines of sitting at a sewing machine felt constricting early on in my art quilting career. Here is a sample made some time in the 90s when I got my new Bernina 1630 and I was trying out some of the programmed computer stitches built into the machine. At the time, that machine was top of the line, and still has a motor that keeps on going. I was piecing together strips of ribbon and fabric and you can see how quickly the strips became distorted as I moved from left to right. Besides the differences in “give” in the different fabrics I was using, I was also employing different stitches to fasten the strips together. The two varying factors of fabric content and stitch scrunching contributed to a lot of discrepancies in the length (17″ or 43.25cm) at the longest side to 9.75″ or 24.75cm at the widest part of the sample. They were supposed to be the same length!

In 1979, Maria da Conceicao’s innovative book, WEARABLE ART, came out and i was mesmerized by her use of various strips of fabric with folds and other manipulations interspersed with luxurious fabrics. One of the things that I remember from the book was that she often used lace and other fabric motifs over some of her strips of fabric to cover up “mistakes”. I thought I would employ that method and so I also used motifs deliberately placed to balance out for the eye some of the other motifs that had been used. This sample was one of my early attempts at overlaying fabrics.

I greatly admire the skill that goes into piecing some of the intricate art quilts that I’ve seen, especially those that have curved seams. However, applique, for me is so much more forgiving, and quickly became the technique that I employ the most in constructing my art quilt tops. I have just too good of an eye not to see seams that are 1/8″ or 4mm off and I HATE to rip anything out.

Why have you chosen your favorite art medium? What others did you try and why did you abandon them?

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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it) and can find me on Google + , Facebook,  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.

Thread Effects on Art Quilts – Hand Sewing

Ribbon embroidery in a detail of an art quilt "Dreams of Pinot Noir"Early in my art quilting career, I became fascinated with ribbon work and serious hand embroidery. I took a class in ribbon flowers and cockades with Candace Kling and quickly began making enchanted with the delicacies of ribbon flowers. I collected a number of choice ribbons with which to construct my creations and in this detail shot of “Dreams of Pinot Noir“, you can see a lavender flower off to the left, a ribbon rose to the right of the middle, and a loopy burgundy flower draped around a button center.

At the same time, I became enthralled with Judith Montano’s delightful books on embroidery, especially those on ribbon work. I spent hours pouring over the detailed examples in her books. There were also a number of wonderful narrow silk ribbons that were coming out on the market at the time, so there was a wide range of colors from which to choose. The cluster of grapes to the middle left of the photo above were done in that technique. By using silk ribbons, I was able to lay down an area of color much more quickly than if I had used traditional floss.

Gold embroidery edging a ribbon in the art quilt - "Elements -Fire"Here’s another example of how hand embroidery can be used to enhance an art quilt. The feather stitches here on the sides and middle of a peach and red striped ribbon add to the flame effect in this small piece – “Elements –  Fire“. The points of the stitches were angled upwards to give the effect of small flames rising from some embers. Gold plastic buttons to suggest areas of less intense heat were added for their textural effect. Clear glass beads were strung in lines nearby to add to the flame effect.

Detail of hand embroidery on art quilt - "Undersea Garden - Blue"In this detail shot of “Undersea Garden – Blue“, tiny blue branched stitches were made with embroidery floss to suggest a type of blue-green sea weed. There were clear aqua glass drup bead with a pink insert that were used to create the illusion of the air filled bladders that keep sea weed floating upwards in the water towards the sun. White and medium blue long stitches were used to secure clear plastic rounds to suggest sea urchins.

Detail of hand embroidery on art quilt - "Undersea Garden - Green"In this companion art quilt, “Undersea Garden – Green“, medium green floss was stitched on the left of this detail shot. The short branches suggest one species of sea weed,while the yellow green floss in the middle of the photo simulate another kind. In between the two, a black and pale green twisted yarn was couched to the surface and is seen in the upper middle to portray a third kind of sea weed. I love the twisted wealth of undersea foliage swaying in the waves that were created with just a few stitches of hand embroidery. Throw in some shiny glass buttons and beads to suggest other plants and an undersea garden appeared.

Terrific effects in embellishing art quilts can be achieved with just a few simple stitches. By saving the scraps of yarn and floss left over from other projects, these snippets can also be couched down and employed to enrich the surfaces. The result is that the viewer is rewarded by closely inspecting your work, and as a result, they spend more time examining them. That’s not a bad idea if you’re trying to communicate with your audience on a more intimate level than big bold statements. I feel that the message I want to get across is to pause awhile and spend some time in examining all of the details that I’ve laid out for you.

Have you used hand embroidery to embellish your work. What are some of your favorite techniques or materials? 

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form 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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

Going Around in Circles – One More Time

Purple dotted fabric before beads are addedSince circles are such an important design element in my work (I guess it’s that button thing!), I decided to write another blog about them. So stop the jokes about me going around in circles and check out this story.

To the left is the kind of fabric motif that I like to bead on. It’s got strongly defined elements that stand out from the background. While I love diffuse , ephemeral prints, especially some of the new batiks coming out, I fond them hard to bead on as there are no separate areas of color.

Purple dot fabric covered with beadsHere is the same fabric as above, but with size 8 seed beads added onto the background areas. I decided to leave the center dots in the circular motifs visible as their little dots already looked like beads. I did try beading on a few of those dots, but you really couldn’t see them when they were done in the same color as the fabric, and I don’t like to put beads where they won’t show as that seems like wasted effort and materials to me.

Front of fabric with a sea urchin motifBack of fabric with a sea urchin motifOn the left is a fabric that I’ve used a number of ways. The motif is of a sea urchin, but when it’s flipped on the back, as in the photo on the right, the design is not so sharply delineated. That back of the fabirc side I’ve used as meteors plunging through the Universe. As a sea urchin, I’ve used the design as shown from the fornt of the fabirc here in this detail below from the art quilt, “Undersea Garden – Blue“.

Sea urchin motif used in a small art quilt - "Underwater - Blue"This small art quilt, about 12″ x 12″, or 30.5cm x 30.5cm, had to get a lot of impact in a small space. I feel that the sea urchins helped to suggest those creatures or perhaps the presence of a small coral reef. I also like the way that the raised, navy edge of the lace motif above picks up the same colors as in the sea urchins, but in reverse. Two types of navy buttons with a pearlescent finish sewn nearby help to create the illusion of a shallow sea floor where sunlight can still reach.

Fabric with teal colored dots on a black backgroundThis teal colored dots on a black background fabric was used at the top of the same quilt, “Undersea Gardens – Blue”. Since the fabric already had dots on it, it was easy just to cut a big circle from the thin, dress-weight fabric. I have a number of circles cut out of sheets of plastic that are thin enough to cut with strong scissors,  but strong enough to stand up to repeated tracings. In my early work, which I’ve yet to photograph digitally, I used a number of geometric shapes to hand applique on to my quilt tops.

Teal dotted fabric with black background used on an art quilt, "Undersea Garden - Blue"Here is that same fabric cut out and used in the sea scene described above.  As a shape, its dark outline stood out starkly against the lighter colored background, so by layering different materials over it, I could soften it and have the shape blend more into the background. The clear white plastic beads have a jellyfish like quality to them with the white thread coming out form the centers in staggered lengths. Another effect was created with a pale blue button at the very bottom of this pic, by having aqua colored floss splaying outwards in a similar fashion. You can also see my signature humming bird button in the center of this photo that now appears in all of my art quilts.

Sometimes, an artist has the perfect materials on hand to create a desired effect. Often, however, that’s not true. For me, I will have either used up a favorite embellishment that can’t be replaced, or I need a small number more of what I have already used in a piece. It’s those times that all of the problem solving experiences that making art instills in those who practice it for awhile come into play, and you have to get creative with what you have on hand. Sometimes, I delight in what I’ve come up for as a “solution”, when in reality, what I end up using may have been the second or third choice to “fill in” for some part of what I’m creating. May you have many of what I call those “happy puppy wiggles” of satisfaction over your own creative wonderfulness!

How have you ever used a material in a different way?

Did you go through a specific series of steps or did your aha moment of discovery just come to you?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form 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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

A Fan of Fans

Fans from my collectionWhen I was in high school I learned how to carry and flirt with a fan. This was in the late 60s in the southern USA, and while they certainly had been put to good use before the days of air conditioning, when I was growing up, they were rarely seen. However, as part of Miss Libby’s Charm School, where I learned “table hands”, so I could look alluring across the table from a guy; how a lady lights her own cigarette (I’ve never smoked in my life); and just in case the need should arise, how to carry a fan. The photo on the left shows two from ones that I’ve collected when I traveled, and the top,black one, I actually have used at a gala. I put a ribbon loop with the lavender flower on it to go around my middle finger to go with an evening dress in the 80s. Such pretentious days!

Detail of an indigo fabric with fans from JapanSo as I became a quilt artist, I was naturally drawn to fan-like shapes. Here is a motif from a piece of indigo fabric from Japan. I imagine that the image is a stylized flower, but to me they look for all the world like fans. I wish I had bought more at the time, as I have only a little left, but I’ve used the shape in several of my art quilts.( I’ve yet to figure out a way to utilize the terrific geometric lines in between the fan shapes yet, so those pieces get thrown away. There’s only so much room in my studio….sigh!

Detail of a beaded version of the fan from the Japanese fabricHere is a detail from the piece “Japanese Irises” that utilizes the fan shape from the fabric shown above. It’s not as elegantly curved as the actual fabric design, as the size 10 seed beads are larger than some of the printed curved ends in the fabric motif. Another problem is finding beads that are close in color to the original fabric. Color is a very important design element for me, and the pieces are first composed using the balance of colors and shapes in the original fabrics. Then part of the fun for me is finding buttons and beads that complement the fabric choices that I’ve made to give me the effect that I want. It’s not always possible to find the exact colors of beads to match the colors in the fabric, so compromises sometimes need to be made.

A batik fabric from AfricaThis is an example of some of the “batik” fabric coming out of Africa these days. While the images and techniques are not traditional, they have big, bold prints that are a lot of fun. The fabrics however, have a lot of sizing in them, so the “hand” or how it drapes, is pretty stiff. That can make it harder on your own hands if you plan to do a lot of beading on the piece, as pushing needles in and out of stiff fabric thousands of times can wear on your fingers. The fans from this fabric that are utilized in the next photo are the ones that are shown vertically on the left, although I have used the gold ones that are show horizontally a number of times, too.

Detail of an art quilt with a beaded fan motif.Angels of Darkness, Angels of Light” , is the art quilt from which this detail shot is taken. I blogged about this art quilt earlier, so if you click on the above link, you can read more about the story behind it. Here in this blog, I’m focusing on the blue fans in the lower left and middle bottom. I used blue bugles in the outer semi-circles, and then scattered plastic blue crow beads nearby to carry the color out into the rest of the nearby surface. In Japanese landscaping, that would be called “borrowing the view”, where a large feature, such as a nearby mountain is framed by a circle cut into a fence, and then a much smaller version would be built in the garden to suggest a mountain. I use the same concept in spreading out colors and shapes in my art quilts.

Semi-circular shapes tend to lead your eye around the outer edge, which suggests some movement and then grounds your eye back nearby as it lands at the end of the curved edge. I feel that the result is that movement can  be suggested in a small area. There are a number of fabrics on the markets these days with large circles on them. Cutting them in half allows for two shapes from the same piece. I encourage you to try them out in your own work, and see what  excitement you can create for yourself.

What shapes do you tend to repeat in your work? Why does that shape speak to you?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form 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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

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.

I am Beading Away – Beading Above and Beyond on an Art Quilt

Detail of background fabric from a section of an art quilt
My fascination with extensive beading on my art quilts all began with an article in “Threads” magazine in the Feb/Mar issue in 1995. The piece entitled “Bedazzle a Vest with Beads’, by Sally Gazzard, showed examples of beading on fabrics that had clearly outlined motifs. One of the quotes in the article was “This bead-by-number approach eliminates the need to create a design or transfer one onto plain fabric. The design is on the fabric itself.” Cool concept!
As a child, I was fortunate in that my mother would supply me with lots of art supplies. Some of my favorites were those “paint by numbers” canvases. There was something comforting about focusing on those little tiny areas that were meant to be filled in with a given color. I was always amazed when I would hold up the piece at arm’s length and see the composition as a whole. I think that that focus on the small details in those paintings was what got me hooked on my attention to the smallest details in my art quilts, no matter what the size.
Same fabric, embellished with buttons and beads

Here you can see the same fabric as shown above as it appeared in an art quilt, heavily embellished with buttons and beads. The subtle actual details on the the fabric have been totally covered over. However, since most dress weight fabrics are only light fast for ten hours exposure, the original fabric’s colors might have faded away. The colors in the glass beads are more light fast, so they have a better chance of outliving me… and I’m planning for staying around for quite awhile!

 

Background fabric for art quilt -“Circles of Black, Circles of White 7”

This is the background fabric for the piece that I’ve been writing about as it progresses – “Circles of Black, Circles of White 7”. If you click on the “Categories” section to the right of this posting, you’ll see that other posts that I’ve written about this piece as it progresses and you can refer back to the beginnings of that art quilt. When I chose this particular fabric to be the background, I had intended this piece to be mostly about yellow. Well, I keep talking about how artwork has a mind of its own, and I’m not kidding. I can fight with the piece and impose my will upon it (and not be happy with it), or slip into the “Flow of Creativity” and let the piece tell me what it wants to look like. Upon deciding what colors of seed beads to use for the outline of the irregular shapes in the pattern, all of the ones that were close to the actual color were too washed out for me. This piece had some opinions of its own with regard as to how it wanted to proceed.

Detail of same fabric, with button and bead embellishments

The photo on the left shows the irregular shapes at about the actual size that they are on the quilt’s surface. I outlined some of the blocks with a dark, orange/red color size 10 seed bead and filled in the shape with a bright glowing yellow one. Some of the blocks, I just outlined in the dark color, some I filled in totally with a peach color, and some I left totally blank so that the original fabric could shown through. As a result, the entire piece became more orange, but then, there’s that need of the quilt to have its own voice that I keep writing about. You can also see, on the far left, some of the flat yellow discs stitched on with red embroidery floss that were also used in the background.

What surprises have you come across as you’ve created a piece of art work. Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this piece or how it fits in with your own work. Please take a minute, fill it out the form, 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!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

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.