Tag Archive for embellished quilts

Using Decorative Machine Stitching in Art Quilts

Decorative Machine Stitching 1Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

While I usually do most of the work on my art quilts with hand beading and quilting, there are times that I like to use the programmed stitches on my Bernina 1630 sewing machine to fill in areas with relatively quick textures. The two striped ribbons in the middle of the picture that were part of the foundation design had such a strong image, that I decided to mimic some of the designs with a pattern of alternating squares in pink thread that can be seen on the aqua background in this shot.

Decorative Machine Stitching 2Here’s another close-up shot of another part of the same quilt. In this section, at the top of the photo, is a horizontal stripe of fabric with piano keys. Beneath it, I put some black and white fabric in wider stripes to mimic the piano keys. The same stripe of squares that I used in machine stitching can also be seen here in red and pink thread. I also added some red and pink buttons that can be seen on either side to play off the thread colors in the patterned stitches.

Decorative Machine Stitching 3In this shot, you can see where I added translucent beads interspersed down the length of the same pink square machine embroidery pattern. I wanted them to add sparkle to emphasize the stripes made by the sewing machine stitches. You can also see where I did some hand quilting on the aqua background fabric, so that there is subtle difference in height with the machine embroidery stitches rising up further from the surface in this section of this art quilt.

Decorative Machine Stitching 4In this final photo of this same piece, you can see where the machine embroidered stitches go over the surface of some gold mesh fabric. I had to be very careful and stitch slowly in this area, so that the machine’s needle didn’t catch on the mesh, pull it, and distort it. I also added some bronze colored seed beads stitched in vertical rows that can be seen near the top of the photo. Another detail I added was some bronze colored chain that can be seen on the right of this shot that has squares in alternating directions to play off the theme of squares in the machine embroidery.

This art quilt is probably the most covered with machine embroidery that I’ve done. It really made for a richly textured surface treatment to have that many rows of stitching. However, I wish that I had made faint pencil lines to use as guidelines for the sewing so that the lines would have been straighter. I ended up having to make several lines on top of each other to try and make the crooked ones appear even. I certainly learned a lot of lessons doing this quilt.

 What are some of your experiences using machine stitching? What are some of the favorite ways you use embroidery or a similar technique in your own medium?

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 www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com 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.

Lavender Clouds – a Study of Texture in a Small Space

There is a lot of texture packed into this small, embellished art quilt, “Lavender Clouds”. While diminutive in size (9.25″ sq or 23.5cm sq), it’s filled with buttons and beads intended to draw the viewer’s attention down into the scene and interact with it. Many of my fans say that they could look forever at one of my larger pieces and see new things for hours, so I’d like to think that this work would allow you to “feel with your eyes” and not get overwhelmed with all of the details., yet still feel full of visual stimulation and excitement over the use of materials.

The piece began in a workshop to learn about how to use Stewart Gill fabric paints… http://www.stewartgill.com/ . The session was offered at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA http://www.artisticartifacts.com/ . (It’s one of the coolest stores for mixed media supplies and ephemera and a must see if you’re in the Washington, DC area.) These particular paints are rather expensive but are intense on the fabric unlike many of the dull, flat effects I’ve experienced with other brands of textile paints. We were to bring 10″ (25cm.5 cm) squares on which to try out different types of the paints and after a fun-filled afternoon of playing with paints, stencils, and stamping, I had a number of small decorated fabric squares with which to begin some small art quilts.

“Lavender Clouds” is the second to be finished. (The first was “Breathe, Just Breathe” – posted on 23 November, 2011) I did a little machine embroidery on this piece, but mostly placed the buttons and beads in response to the painted motifs. In the middle of the far left in this detail shot, you can see my signature hummingbird button that I include on all of my pieces now… http://www.fiberfantasies.com/artist2.php (more info about this button in my “Artist’s Statement on my web site.) Beneath it is one of my beloved glass buttons that are coming out of Czechoslovakia. The shiny dichroic foil in the interior of the button adds a lot of “pow” to the surface, and people always seem to respond positively to these buttons. In the upper middle of this same shot, you can see some of the plastic “bubble” buttons that I used to convey the impression of “clouds”. I also added a lot of white, pearlescent seed beads and clear, plastic bubble beads to give a frothy appearance. There are also a number of round aqua “miracle beads”, whose depth of shine, while flat in this photo, is sparkling in the actual piece.

As with all quilts, whether they’re intended as art or for the bed, the edges usually are treated somehow to prevent unraveling. The usual method is to use a binding, but with these small pieces, I often go around the edges using a blanket stitch worked in embroidery floss. If you look back at the top photo, you can see that I also encircled the edge with the same style of white, yellow, and aqua buttons. I find that oftentimes, repeating the same design element unifies the composition. There are also two other kinds of beads that are worked in between the blanket stitches to give interest to what would otherwise be an interesting area, the edge of the quilt.

I just counted, and there are 77 buttons on the surface of this piece. (I would never attempt to count all of those on one of my larger pieces.) That’s not including the beads and paint. I put quite a lot of effort into each and every piece, no matter the size, so I hope that you enjoy hearing about the thought process for this piece and can maybe see my work in a different light.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this piece. The registration form is just to prevent spammers, not to collect any of your information.

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

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

Needlework Obsessive – So how Long Does it Take for you to do one of Your Pieces?

I once had a friend who described my work as “Needlework Obsessive” and since I thought the name was so funny, I’ve used it over the years to describe my work. Why settle for 400 beads when 4,000 will make a much bigger statement? After all, on the Home Page on my web site, I bill myself as the “Self-Proclaimed Button and Bead Queen of Maryland”.

When people closely examine one of my art quilts, they often comment on how much patience I have. Then, the question comes up of how much time does it take to make one of my quilts? One that is heavily beaded, such as the detail shot above, is 1hour/sq. inch or 2.5cm. These small beads, size 10s and 11s, are just about life size in the photo. (The larger the number, the smaller the bead.)They measure about 2 mm in diameter, and are easy to drop. The smaller size 15s are great for woven pieces as you can get a number of different shades into a small area, but the quilting thread that I like to use won’t fit through the eye of needles that are sturdy enough to go through the many layers of fabric of one of my quilts and still fit through size 15 beads. Besides, the needles that will go through 10s and 11s  are hard enough to see to thread as it is.

The photo detail on the left shows some of the richness that goes into the backgrounds of various works. This one has a lavender base fabric, but it just about covered with beading. In the top middle, you can see where I alternated rows of size 6 beads (really big ones),with the tiny size 10s to give  a nubby effect. There are tubular beads called bugles that have been sewn on vertically to give a contrast across the surface. I also like to sew on “crow beads” (about 5mm in diameter) on end with contrasting threads going through the visible hole as another way to give texture.

This detail pic shows some more of the variety of button and beads that I pour into a piece. These embellishments are slightly smaller than life size, so you can see how many different materials I squeeze into a finished piece. The petal of an iris that takes up most of the right side of this pic has over nine different kinds of beads, including Swarovski crystals to give it richness and shine. The larger crow beads that outline the edge of the petal have stripes on them that I wanted to repeat the stripes on that part of the flower. It’s subtle details like that touch that people admire when their eyes pour over one of my works.

You get your money’s worth when you buy one of my quilts if we’re talking about weight. Some of them weigh up to 25 pounds, or 12.5kg. I’ve never bothered to count the number of beads that I have on a quilt, but for the final piece for my MFA, I had to count the number of hours that I put into the work. (This was the late 70s and the head of the department was a jeweler and didn’t think that fiber artists put enough time into their work.) I was doing simple hand quilting and applique at that time, and the piece took 650 hours. I can only imagine how long these intricately beaded pieces take. The number for me doesn’t matter, as I am doing these as an act of love between myself and the medium.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this piece. The registration form is just to prevent spammers, not to collect any of your information.

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

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