Thursday, April 25, 2013

“First Snow”

“First Snow” (2013) by Susan Brubaker Knapp

I completed “First Snow” in late March, but was not able to share it with you until now, because the exhibition curators – Leslie Tucker Jenison and Jamie Fingal of Dinner At Eight Artists – wanted to keep the theme and pieces a secret until the exhibition was decided  and announced. I love the theme of this exhibition. Leslie and Jamie explained it this way:

Consider the following: 
The unfurling of a flower. 
A hummingbird in flight.  
A magical moment shared with a lover or friend. 
The birth of a child. A personal milestone.  
The realization of a dream.  
A treasured memory.  
The sacred moments of the ordinary.  
These are the Exquisite Moments that make us who we are.

I’m lucky; I’ve have had a lot of Exquisite Moments in my life. It was hard to choose. But I’ve been wanting to make a piece that was about snow, and about my kids. We don’t get very much snow here in North Carolina (compared to my childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). I remembered all the times I played with my girls in the snow, and especially about the very first snows of the season, which are even more magical than the others. I went back and found these photos of them trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. I think this was about 2003 or 2004:

Working from these photos, I changed the positions of the bodies so that they fit better in the very tight vertical format (24" x 60") needed for the exhibition. I used my fusible applique method (described in my book, Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art) but fused everything down to stabilizer (Pellon 910 interfacing). I also changed the colors and simplified the jackets so that they were bright, solid colors:


Pencil marks on the faces (above and below) give me guidelines when I paint.

I painted the faces with acrylic paint (my favorite, ProFab Transparent Textile Paint by ProChemical & Dye), then cut out the figures. I worried a bit that the blush on their cheeks was too strong, but it really was that red in the photographs. They had been out in the cold, windy air for a while. 

Then I thread sketched the figures, adding details.

With the bodies completed, it was time to position them on the background. I had planned to use this darker blue fabric for the background, because the snowflakes would really show up on it. But it turned out to be too dark and vibrant a hue. It didnt look anything like a sky, especially a daytime, cloudy winter sky capable of producing snowflakes. And because the value was as strong as the red of the jacket, the figures didn’t stand out as much as I wanted.


I found a lighter, grayer blue background I liked better, then tested the position of the snowflakes by placing the snowflake sketches on top of the piece. My goal was to get a nice smooth swirl from the top left into the area near Julia’s mouth.

Once I had the snowflakes where I liked them, I put them behind the background fabric and traced them with a white chalk pencil, then put some stabilizer behind them and thread sketched the snowflakes. I used Aurifil Cotton Mako 50, a perfect weight to get these fine details. Of course, my cat Wicked had to take a nap on the piece when I left it to grab lunch one day. It wouldn’t be my work without a little cat hair on it!

After I had completed all the thread sketching on the snowflakes, I decided that they weren't standing out enough against the background. This is something I had worried about when I decided to use the lighter background. So I went back and added some metallic white/silver paint in some spots on them. 

The piece was coming together, but the swirl of snowflakes still wasn't standing out enough.
Lea’s jeans were also a problem. See how they completely blend in to the fabric in the lower right corner? I’d used the same blue fabric as the background when I was planning to use the darker fabric for the background.

I added lots of little dots of paint around the snowflakes. I thought it needed them to better define the swirl, and add a bit of sparkle and magic to the snow. I also darkened Lea’s jeans:

Now it was time to quilt! I layered the quilt top with backing and a batting I’ve never used before, Dream Wool by Quilters Dream Batting. I like using wool batting for large pieces I have to ship to exhibitions, because wool has more of a “memory” and bounces back after it has been folded better than cotton. I was very pleased with it, and found that it gave this piece a little more texture than some of my pieces I’ve done with cotton batting (request and select loft) by Quilters Dream.

Detail from “First Snow” (2013)  by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Detail from “First Snow” (2013)  by Susan Brubaker Knapp
The 33-piece exhibition “An Exquisite Moment” will be displayed at International Quilt Festival – Long Beach (Aug. 1-4; sponsored by Moore’s Sewing Centers) and International Quilt Festival – Houston (Oct. 31- Nov 3; sponsored by Havel’s Scissors).

Frances Holliday Alford; A Moment of Passion
Sue Bleiweiss; The Hummingbird
Deborah Boschert; Glimpse
Paula Chung; Ancient Jupiter
Gerrie Congdon; XXOO
Cindy Cooksey; Grocery Shopping with Sammy
Diane Doran; California Dreaming

Jamie Fingal
Sheila Frampton-Cooper; Ode to Lavandula
Diane Hock; Serenity
Stacy Hurt; Lift

Leslie Tucker Jenison
Lyric Kinard; Bach Suite
Susan King; The Visitor
Pamela Klebaum; Stitching, Interrupted
Sherry Kleinman; Waiting Expectantly
Susan Brubaker Knapp; First Snow
Jane LaFazio; Havana
Susie Monday; One, All One
Jeannie P. Moore; The Ring
Jayne Larson; Rainbow:  A Moment of Reflection
Rachel Parris:  Ordinary Day (pictured above)
Judy Coates Perez; Fear of Flying
Yvonne Porcella; The Power of Yellow
Wen Redmond; Birds Eye View
Karen Rips; Fiji
Carolyn Ryan; Shattered
Cheryl Sleboda; Geschwindigkeit (Speed)
Sarah Ann Smith; Listen to the Song in the Night
Virginia Spiegel; Golden World
Cynthia St. Charles; Winter Walk II
Terry Waldron; Water Dance
Kathy York; Balance


  1. I love your piece and the thought behind it, this is going to be an amazing show.


  2. I love it! What an absolute treasure! And I love reading about your processes and decisions.

  3. This is a fabulous piece (as all your work is). I really like your explanation of your process and your thoughts behind each step. I would love to see this display.

  4. Magnificent piece, as always! Thanks for sharing your work and explaining your process.

  5. Thank you SO much for sharing your process. The piece is amazing

  6. Thank you for sharing your process. It's a fabulous quilt!

  7. I liked how you explained the process you used to make this quilt..It is very stunning..Thanks for posting it..


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