Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shelburne Museum barn quilt in progress

This is a photo I took of the beautiful round red barn at the entrance to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, where my family and I visited this summer. I loved this photo for its diagonal movement, rich textures, and the wonderful colors. It is a simple composition, yet these details make the image complex, and I find that my eye can linger on it for a long time and not be bored. I like the subtle curving of the barn, which is unexpected.

And this is a photo of the quilt I am making from the photo. I tried to replicate it as closely as possible, but brightened the colors a bit. It is about 14" x 19". This shot shows the quilt before any thread painting, which will add a lot of detail, highlights and shadows. All the pieces are fused down with Heat-n-Bond Lite, and it took me longer to make that stone wall out of fabric than I think it would have taken for me to make a real wall out of stone! Whew!

I find taking photos of my quilts while they are in progress a really good exercise. When you look at the piece smaller, from a distance, you see things you would miss looking at it from only a few feet away. For example, I can see now that I am going to need to add a lot of darker gray in the window to get the shadows right. I need to add darker shadows in the stone, as well. And some lighter highlights on the right side of the barn.

By the way, if you get a chance to visit the Shelburne Museum (about 20 minutes south of Burlington), go! It is fabulous in so many ways, great for kids, and they have excellent quilt exhibits, too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Great surface design books for art quilters

Just as a chef needs to have many techniques (roasting, sautéing, frying, baking, etc.) in his or her repertoire to keep things interesting when creating a new dish, art quilters (or those just tentatively stepping into this strange new world) benefit from learning new techniques and testing out new materials. It can keep your work fresh, it can keep your brain challenged, and it can make you more creative. All of which are good things, even if the materials and techniques never make it into your work. (But I bet after you try some of them, they will!) Perhaps the best reason for trying something new is that it is fun!

In the “Creative Surface Design” class I taught at Quilters Loft Company today, we tried out a lot of these techniques, and had a ball doing it. My students asked me to post a list of the books I brought to class. So here they are.

There are many wonderful books out there that can help you learn more about these techniques, and inspire you to try them out. Here are some of my favorites right now:

Between the Sheets with Angelina: A Workbook for Fusible Fibres, by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden in conjunction with Viv Arthur of Art Van Go (2003). Step-by-step instructions and photos show you how to fuse, melt, paint, emboss, and make vessels and wearables from Angelina fibers.

Creative Embellishments for Paper, Jewelry, Fabric and More by Sherrill Kahn (2007). Gosh, there is a lot in this book! Fabric and paper beads, air-dry clay, stuffed shapes, Angelina, metal, laminated accents, Tyvek, shrink plastic, sheet protector embellishments, fun-foam, wrapped chenille pipe cleaners, stenciling, and weaving paper and fabric. Tons of projects, beautiful photos.

Creative Quilts: Inspiration, Texture & Stitch by Sandra Meech (2006). You just can’t go wrong buying a book by Sandra Meech (and she has several others). Her work is so exquisite and so varied that this is almost a “coffee table” book. It is that visually interesting. But it is also a wonderful self-study guide with specific design class sections to help you boost your creativity while you learn more about design and composition, finding a theme, texture and dimension, and exploring stitch. Plus a very good section on sketch and stitch books, and why making them can make you a better artist.

The Painted Quilt: Paint and Print Techniques for Color on Quilts by Linda & Laura Kemshall (2007). This book was recently released. It is a wonderful combination of beautiful pieces that will inspire, and practical techniques for innovative ways to add color to quilts. Methods and techniques: painting, bleaching and discharging, pastels, dyes, image transfer, fusible web. I love this book!

Paintstiks on Fabric: Simple Techniques, Fantastic Results by Shelly Stokes (2005). Everything you need to know about Shiva Paintstiks: rubbings, masks, stencils, etc.

And here are a few photos from the class today. They sure look serious about what they are doing! We had a lot more fun than these photos show. Thanks to all my students. I always learn from you, even when I am the one teaching! And I could not have done this class without the assistance of my good friend and fellow art quilter and pattern designer, Grace Howes ( Thanks!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Glue resist batik

This is started out as a piece of plain white cotton fabric, which I painted with Elmer's "Washable School Glue No-Run Gel." It looks light blue in the bottle. This technique does not work with regular white Elmer's glue.

I allowed it to dry completely, which took about 4 hours. I put mine on top of the dryer while a load of laundry was tumbling, just to make sure it was really dry. It's hard to tell, because it is still a bit sticky even when it is dry.

Then I took Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow fabric dyes and painted them on. The spots where the color is most intense is straight dye. The pastel places are where the dye is watered down. I was a little bit surprised that it really worked; I had expected the dye to wet the glue enough that it would sneak into those areas, but the glue must really saturate the cotton fibers. Pretty cool.

I allowed it to dry, then heat set the dye by ironing it with several layers of paper towels on both sides (because of the glue). Some of the paper stuck to it, but that was okay, because after that, I thoroughly rinsed it in warm water to get all the glue out, peeled off the bits of paper towel that had stuck, and then dried and pressed it.

This would be a really fun way to make quilt blocks for a kid's quilt. Or for one of those kindergarten quilts (you know, where the teacher finds out you are a quilter and suddenly you are in charge of helping 25 kids make a quilt?)

I wonder how it would work on a t-shirt...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Painted fusible web

I learned this technique from the fabulous new book by Linda and Laura Kemshall, The Painted Quilt: Paint and Print Techniques for Color on Quilts (2007). By the way, I highly recommend this book if you want to try out some wonderful surface design techniques. It has clear instructions, great lists of what you need, and step-by-step photos of everything.

If you want to try this, take a double-sided fusible product (I used Pellon's Wonder Under here) and paint very watery acrylic paint (I used Lumiere, but you can use regular acrylic paint diluted with water) onto the bumpy fusible side. You want enough water that the paint will run and create wonderful ripples, like this:

If you don't use enough water, your paint is too solid, it will be opaque, and none of your fabric will show through.

Let it dry completely. Then cut it in any shape you wish. Place the pieces painted side down (paper side up) on your fabric. I used black for drama. Place a piece of baking parchment paper on top to protect your iron, then iron it down. Allow it to cool, then peel off the paper. So fun!

This surface is fragile, and only works for art quilts and not anything that will be washed. And you can't iron it afterward, or your iron will stick to the fusible surface.

I tried this earlier with Heat-n-Bond Lite, and it leaves more of a plastic-y surface over the paint. It looked as if it had been laminated. Other fusible products may yield different results. I wonder what would happen if I sprinkled some bits of Angelina in when the paint was wet? Would the fusible web bond it to the fabric surface, too? Maybe I'll try that later...

What am I going to do with this now? I have an idea in my head, but need time to execute it. Come back later and find out!

Here's a detail shot, showing the fusible web on the fabric after I removed the paper backing:

UPDATE: Here's some of the quilting I have started today (Jan. 25):

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Needleturn appliqué tip #1

If you are doing needleturn appliqué, and have a shape with an area that is cut out inside it, do not cut this area out when you are cutting out the piece initially. Wait until you have completely sewn down the outside edge before you cut it out. Then cut out a little bit (maybe one or two inches) at a time. This keeps the piece from wiggling around and going all "wonky" on you when you are sewing it down. You can see from the photo that trying to pin down this leaf – if I had cut out the center – would have been like wrestling a little snake!

When you do this, you do need to be extra careful that you do not cut through the background fabric when you are cutting out the inside shape. I did this only once (and decided that the piece really needed a little berry right over that spot!) Use very sharp, small appliqué scissors and you will not have a problem if you are careful.

In the photo above, you can see that I have completely sewn down the outside edge, and I'm ready to start on the inside edge.

This is a leaf from block 5 of “Bohemian Bouquet,” my Mystery Block of the Month pattern. I will be posting more of my tips for needleturn appliqué with each block I release this year.

For more information on “Bohemian Bouquet,” see my Nov. 19, 2007 blog post, or go to my website,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tyvek again

The first photo shows a piece of Tyvek painted with Dye-Na-Flow paint and some Lumiere after it was melted; the "before" shot is second (I folded the strip and punched holes in it.) The third shot shows a piece that was folded accordian style and then slashed with scissor cuts before melting. I tried the heat gun tonight on sheets of Tyvek, but didn't like how it moved around and buckled up. I like working on sheets between my Teflon pressing sheet, with an iron. The last piece reminds me of a molted snake skin.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today I am celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. with some great quotations by him:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

“I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.”

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

Tyvek Beads

I tried my hand at making beads out of Tyvek today. First, I painted Lumiere on a rectangle of Tyvek (a recycled U.S. Priority Mail mailer) and cut it into triangles about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. I coated the back with a glue stick, then rolled the triangles around a wooden bamboo skewer. (See second photo.) I used a heat gun to melt them until they fused.

I think I'm going to try making them a bit fatter next time, and perhaps melting them a bit longer. They are still a bit "papery" on the ends. I'm also going to try allowing the Lumiere to dry longer, and lusing less of the glue stick.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Magic Sizing vs. Spray Starch

I have been experimenting with using Magic Sizing (Extra Crisp) instead of spray starch when I make circles to appliqué using Perfect Circles. (See my blog post of Dec. 5 for a description of how to do this.) And it works beautifully. Now I don't have to worry about moths and silverfish eating holes in my heirloom quilts! I'm a convert.

You may have to look around a bit for this product. I found it in an upscale grocery store, with the laundry products. I had tried several other discount and regular grocery stores before I found it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Dozen Hearts

Here’s a new design, a table runner with raw-edge appliquéd hearts. It’s easy enough that you can whip one up in time for Valentine’s Day. I'll try to get the pattern up on my website in the next 24 hours. It is 14" x 42", but you can make it any length or width that is a multiple of seven by simply adding blocks vertically or horizontally.

This little quilt also looks adorable hanging on a door.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Brag Book

Here’s another little book cover, made today. This one is pieced with hand-dyed scraps, then quilted and painted with Lumiere fabric paints. The closure is one of my daughters’ elastic hair bands and a button. This one is a small photo album ”brag book;" I’m going to put photos of some of my art quilts in it.