Wednesday, May 12, 2021

“Christmas Fern”


“Christmas Fern”
Copyright 2021 by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Wholecloth painted and stenciled, free-motion machine quilted.

“Christmas Fern” is my donation to the 2021 SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) benefit auction. The donated 12 x 12-inch art quilts support exhibition and outreach programs. This year’s auction will take place online from September 10 through October 3, 2021. 

Christmas Ferns are native throughout much of the eastern U.S. and are so named because they are evergreen, and because the pinnae are shaped a bit like Christmas stockings.


I’m hoping to participate in the Orange County Artist’s Guild Open Studio Tour this fall (Nov. 6-7 and 13-14) and I've been thinking about creating some new pieces and some other products (notecards, bookmarks, etc.) that I can sell at a lower price point than my larger, more complex work. 

These ravens are an experiment. I drew the raven first, and then scanned it in and sent it off to Spoonflower to have it printed on fabric. Then I painted the entire surface, then free-motion quilted them. I’ve made three so far. They are 11" square. It’s been fun to play with different color combinations on the feathers. 

“The Art of Science + Hope” in Chapel Hill

I’m excited to have a piece in this public art exhibition in Chapel Hill, NC – The Art of Science + Hope. This is a painted 3x4’ piece of plywood, and it’s one of more than 80 pieces of art installed along Franklin Street about a week ago to create mile-long Pop-Up Art Walk, celebrating science and hope. Community members designed this special outdoor event to thank scientists, healthcare workers, teachers, and local business owners - everyone whose leadership and innovation helped the community and the country make it through the past year. 

My piece is in front of Epilogue Books, a great little bookstore. 

You can read more about this exhibition on Instagram here: 

Local peeps: 
VOTE on your favorite art and win gift certificates from Downtown Chapel Hill businesses! TAG @ on Facebook and Instagram for more prize drawings. Learn more: #linkinbio 

HURRY!  The art walk will be up through the end of May. Bring your friends/family downtown for a fun walk in downtown Chapel Hill and stay for dinner. 

DON'T MISS special tribute art dedicated to: 
NCDHHS Director Mandy Cohen, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)'s Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, and Orange County Health Director, Quintana Stewart. Thank you! 

“Sea Glass” on the cover of "Genetics in Medicine"

My work was featured on the cover of the February 2021 issue of "Genetics in Medicine" – the official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics!

Sea Glass
10" x 16.5" (Copyright 2020 by Susan Brubaker Knapp)
White cotton fabric, acrylic textile paint, Lutradur, cotton threads, cotton batting. Painted, free-motion quilted.

Friday, October 23, 2020

"Bittersweet Autumn"

“Bittersweet Autumn” 
by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Copyright 2020 
White cotton fabric, acrylic textile paint, cotton thread, cotton batting, cotton backing fabric. Wholecloth painted, free-motion machine quilted. 

This piece is based on an ink drawing, which in turn was based on a photo I took in October 2015. My goal was to create a piece that looked a bit more graphic, and with a sense of drama that captures my feelings about Halloween. 

The title references both the vine (bittersweet) and my emotions about this particular autumn, when so much hangs in the balance. Here are some detail shots: 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Pink Coleus

Pink Coleus 
35"x35" Copyright 2020 by Susan Brubaker Knapp
White fabric, acrylic textile paint, cotton backing fabric, cotton batting, cotton thread. 
Wholecloth painted, free-motion quilted.

My latest piece, “Pink Coleus,” is based on a photo I took (below) of a neighbor’s coleus, a hot pink/orange variety. 



Thursday, July 16, 2020

I'll Fly Away

“I’ll Fly Away”
40"x42" Copyright 2020 by Susan Brubaker Knapp
White cotton fabric, acrylic textile paint, cotton thread, cotton batting, cotton backing fabric
Free-motion machine quilted

This piece is my tribute to the countless African Americans and people of color who have been killed in incidents of racial violence and injustice, including recent ones: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. 

The type on the birds, which was applied with a stencil, is illegible, but is intended to suggest overlapping names of thousands of victims. 

This piece honors the resiliency and courage of black people in America, who have faced violence, oppression, injustice, generational poverty and racism for more than 400 years in this country of “liberty and justice for all.” The bird imagery suggests their dream of “flying away” – of escaping all of this and going to a better place (whether on earth or in heaven). 

When I was a senior in college, I was required to write an undergraduate senior thesis or “comprehensive,” and I chose to focus on the writings of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, two of my favorite writers. 

One of Morrison’s novels, “Song of Solomon” includes a lot of flight imagery, and when researching it, I learned about the folktale of “flying Africans” that was passed along by Africans held in slavery in the United States. The story says that slaves who possessed ancient magic words could fly away to freedom. (To read the original folk tales, I recommend the book “The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales,” by Virginia Hamilton, 1993.) 
“They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic. And they would walk up on the air like climbin' up on a gate. And they flew like blackbirds over the fields.” – Costanza Knight,
The name of the piece references the hymn written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley and published in 1932 by the Hartford Music company. It was influenced by the 1924 secular ballad, “The Prisoner’s Song.” It is a gospel song that has been recorded many times, and is often used in worship services. These are the lyrics (although many versions use slightly different words):
Some glad morning when this life is o'er, 
I'll fly away; 
To a home on God's celestial shore, 
I'll fly away (I'll fly away). 

I'll fly away, Oh Glory 
I'll fly away; (in the morning) 
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, 
I'll fly away (I'll fly away). 

When the shadows of this life have gone, 
I'll fly away; 
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, 
I'll fly away (I'll fly away) 


Just a few more weary days and then, 
I'll fly away; 
To a land where joy shall never end, 
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)

I later added most of the list compiled by Renée Ater to the back of the quilt. She has researched and compiled a list of unarmed people of color killed by police in the last few decades.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

“Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower”

“Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower” (24x19")
Copyright 2019 by Susan Brubaker Knapp
This is my latest: “Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower” at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is approximately 24" x 19". (I don’t have the facing on yet, so I don’t know the exact size.) I took the photo on which this piece is based several years ago. I attended UNC-CH in the late 1980s, and earned my master's degree in journalism there. Both my daughters go there now, with one graduating in a week. The bell tower is perhaps my favorite structure on campus. I love the Carolina blue tile ceiling, with its reflective tiles that make you feel like you are looking up to the sky. The base is airy and open and joyful. 

This is a wholecloth painted piece; it started out as white fabric, and I painted the design first, then quilted the piece, spending most of my time going around every single tile and brick with thread. Here are some detail shots:

More daffodils

“Praise Be” (8-1/4" square)
Copyright 2019 by Susan Brubaker Knapp
These are two more pieces in what has become a daffodil series. Both are based on a drawing I made about three years ago of daffodils in my garden. They are my favorite flowers, bright and cheerful and joyful.  

“Praise Be” is a donation to “Seeds of Peace,” a fundraiser for the Georgia Conflict Center, which works in Athens-area schools, jails, churches and community groups to teach ways of reducing conflict and violence. 

“For Danielle,” the piece below, is based on the same drawing, but I added a little pink hand-dyed linen frame. It’s a thank you for a very special friend who used to be a neighbor. 

“For Danielle”
Copyright 2019 by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Monday, February 11, 2019

“Daffodils” and “Blue Crab, Green Water”

12" x 17" (Copyright 2019) White cotton fabric, acrylic textile paint, ink, cotton threads, wool batting. Based on an original drawing. Wholecloth painted, free-motion quilted

For these two new pieces, I worked in a slightly different way. First, I traced two of my drawings onto white PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric, and layered it with batting and backing fabric. I stitched over the pencil lines with black thread. Then I painted, using PRO Chemical & Dye's transparent textile paints, base extender and water. My goal was to get a water color look and to avoid letting the colors bleed. I also used a black Micron Pima pen for cross hatching in the background, and some dots for shading. I liked this technique and will be trying it again.

“Blue Crab, Green Water” 19" x 19" (Copyright 2019) White cotton fabric; acrylic textile paint, commercial cotton fabric backing, cotton thread, wool batting. Wholecloth painted, free-motion quilted.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hand Sewing Magic

My friend Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio has a great new book out. I got it more than a month ago, and have been reading and absorbing it since then. It’s called “Hand Sewing Magic,” (Quarto Publishing, 144 pages, $24.99) and it includes instructions – and fabulously detailed directions and photos– for 35 stitches and many variations. There are also tips from nine “pro stitchers” (I’m one of them!) and small projects to make to practice the stitches.

Lynn on the set of “Quilting Arts TV” a few years ago.
The book starts off with key information about materials and tools (needles, threads, fabric, etc.) and techniques (how to use an embroidery hoop, tips and tricks for working with thread).

I learned how wrapping the inner hoop with bias tape can help decrease fabric distortion; I never knew this! I also love Lynn's cute trick of storing threads and flosses on wooden clothespins for storage.

This book would make a great gift for a young person or a new stitcher who needs a book that offers basic information with a healthy dose of inspiration. It’s also a terrific resource for people like me, who need a reference book every now and then, or need ideas for different ways to use a stitch they already know. 

Here’s an example of one of the stitch pages. Lynn carefully describes the stitch in words, and also includes step-by-step instructional photos. At the bottom, she shows some different ways to use the stitches.

Lynn also includes some fun projects, like this Boro Sketchbook Cover, to show how you can use basic embroidery stitches to make items you’ll use and love.

There are great detailed instructions for every stitch and every project:

Here’s the page with my stitched jacket, which uses a simple overall “chicken scratch stitch.”

You can order a copy of “Hand Sewing Magic” on Amazon here.

For links to purchase the book online outside the U.S., go here:

Lynn is also the author of The Hand-Stitched Surface: Slow Stitching and Mixed-Media Techniques for Fabric and Paper (2017) and Intentional Printing: Simple Techniques for Inspired Fabric Art (2014). She also has a Quilting Arts Workshop, “Print, Design, Compose: From Surface Design to Fabric Art,” DVD. All are available on


Thursday, November 15, 2018

“Start Your Art”... and a give-away!

My friend Lyric Kinard has a new product out called Start Your Art: 48 Warm Up Exercises to Jumpstart Your Art. It’s a beautiful pack of cards with fun exercises designed to get your creativity revved up. You can choose a card and do the exercise yourself, or you can do it with a friend, or a big group. 

Lyric encourages us to “make bad art” (by that, she means art thrown together quickly, without the pressure of perfection, that is about “exploring, playing and learning.” ) The directions include suggestions on playing with a group, and on your own. 

I chose this card, “Click and Cut” because I love to take photos, and I love texture and pattern. But I really don’t love black and white, and I don’t love collage. (I’m more about bright, saturated color, precision and things that are tedious and take a very long time to do.) So I figured this would take me out of my comfort zone. 

I started by taking digital photos (on my iPhone) of things around my house that had a lot of texture or pattern. It was raining, so I didn't go outside, except for the cabbage/kale photo. Here are just a few of them:

Basket made from electrical wire from South Africa
Birch bark trash basket
Decorative cabbage/kale 
Plastic lobster
Decorative balls made from paper
Sea urchin

I pulled them all into my computer, then into Photoshop, and converted them to black and white, and changed the brightness and contrast to make them more interesting. In some cases, I zoomed in on parts of the photos to change the scale. Then I printed them out and started cutting. My idea was to make a piece with a beetle theme. 

I forced myself to cut pieces freehand, with out a pattern, and to work quickly. 

I mixed up some Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue with a bit of water, and brushed the pieces down onto white paper with this glue mixture. 

Here’s my final composition. I was surprised that it came out as well as it did! 

Here’s what I learned:

1. It’s fun, and healthy, to try something new.
2. Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn't have to be painful. 
3. Using a different technique can inform your primary technique, helping you to think about things in a slightly different way. 
4. I still love color. I’m going to try adding color on top, either with transparent water color, or with tissue paper, or colored pencils. 
5. I still love my primary medium (fabric). The whole time I was doing this, I kept thinking, “Oh, I wish these pieces were fabric!” It would be fun to take this to the next level, and do it in fabric while attempting to replicate the look of this collaged piece. 

You can get your own pack of Start Your Art cards here: 

Why not give this Start Your Art exercise a try? If you do, please share your results on this Facebook page:

Here’s a chance to win Start Your Art for yourself and for an art teacher! Lyric is donating a digital deck to the winner, and physical pack of cards to the art teacher of your choice. How cool is that? Leave a comment on this post and tell me why you’d like to win. Please note that all comments are moderated to filter out spam and links to porn and other unpleasantness, so they won’t show up right away. I'll pull one name at random on Nov. 22 (after I finish baking my pies for Thanksgiving). Make sure you include a way to get in touch, or that you check back on Nov. 23 to see if you’ve won! 

UPDATE: We have a winner! Ma Rhoby has won a pack of cards and a pack for the art teacher of her choice.