Monday, October 27, 2008

More Tyvek fun

I’ve spent much of the past week getting my lesson plans together in preparation for teaching a class called “Tyvek: Explorations for the Creative Stitcher” on It starts next Wednesday, Nov. 5. In doing so, I decided to create a new piece using melted pieces of Tyvek I had made a while back.

The working title of this piece is “Celtic Crown,” since the pieces are arranged on the background in a rough shape of a crown. I used a piece of fabric I had dyed in diluted Lumiere. It has a wonderful shimmer because of the metallic particles in the paint. After I had stitched down the Tyvek pieces and quilted the background, I added a little more darker blue Lumiere on some of the quilted areas, to add interest. I’ll add a photo of the whole piece once I finish it.

I also had fun making a necklace (below) using heavily melted Tyvek beads (they are the blue lumpy ones) with glass beads and some I made using Textiva (Angelina film) and then wrapping them in craft wire strung with glass seed beads.

Intrigued? Sign up for my class at Joggles, and join me… we are going to have lots of fun!

“Running Deep” (My Journal Quilt)

This is “Running Deep,” my entry for the Journal Quilt Project II: Elements – Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. It is one of two pieces I have exhibited at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this week. (The other is “Harbinger’s Hope,” which is in the Quilts: A World of Beauty exhibition.)

Several summers of drought where I live (near Charlotte, NC) got me thinking a lot about water… about how 45 percent to 75 percent of the human body is water … about how we are poisoning our creeks and lakes with pesticides … about battles fought between states and municipalities about who gets the water from our rivers and lakes, and how much … and about how essential clean water is to both people and animals.

Many of our native fish – like the beautiful Bear Lake cutthroat trout featured in my quilt – are threatened because of rising water temperatures, pollution and environmental degradation. Will we get our act together in time to save the trout … and ourselves?

I had two main challenges with this piece. The first was to capture the effect of light coming down through water, and the shimmer of water and scales. I chose the background fabric, which has highlights of yellow and green, because I thought it looked like sunshine falling through deep water.

I had used textile paints before, but never to such an extent as I did here. Using Jacquard and Stewart Gill paints, I painted the fish on white cotton fabric, then cut them out and hand appliqued them to the background fabric. The stones and the branches were cut from brown fabrics and appliqued down first, then painted with highlights and shadows to make them appear more three-dimensional.

The second challenge was to achieve a sense of depth. After the fish were appliqued, the two smaller fish (which were supposed to appear as if they were in the background) looked as if they were swimming with the large fish at the bottom of the piece. To solve this problem, I painted the two smaller fish a darker greenish-blue, and added a branch positioned behind the big fish and in front of the two smaller fish. I also quilted water currents over the background fish and the top part of the branch to make them appear to recede. The more detailed painting and quilted scales on the large fish also add to the impression that he is in the foreground.

Karey Bresenhan, president of Quilts, Inc. (which organizes the International Quilt Festival), created the Journal Quilt Project several years ago “to encourage growth and to help quilt artists break out of their comfort zone and try new things.” Karey has been a great supporter of art quilters, and has given us so much visibility through this project.

The two years that I went to Houston, I got to see the Journal Quilt Project and thought it was one of the best things about Quilt Festival. This year jurors chose 48 quilts from more than 150 entries. Linda Minton, G. Armour Van Horn and Judy Smith (owner or the QuiltArt List) have come together to give the quilts that were not accepted into the exhibit this year a chance to be viewed. And they are ALL fabulous! You can see them here at Braving the Elements.

If you are lucky enough to be going to Quilt Festival in Houston this week, I would love to hear what you thought about this year’s Journal Quilt Project!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nuno felting with Vickie Clontz

Today my friends DeLane, Michele and I took a class from Vickie Clontz of Annie's Keepsakes on Nuno felting. This is a process where wool fibers are embedded in a base fabric (usually silk or cotton) and then felted or "fulled" (Vickie says the latter is the correct term) so it scrunches and shrinks up. Here's how my scarf started out:

This is Michele's finished scarf:

This is DeLane's finished scarf:

And here I am in my scarf. I might add some small beads later.

This was really fun. Thanks, Vickie! And thanks to the nice ladies in Winston-Salem who invited us to join them today.

Friday, October 17, 2008


This is “Motherhood,” a group art quilt by the Pandoras. Last year, we decided to do a quilt as a group and chose the theme of motherhood. We designed the shape of the panels so that they would fit together, but could still stand independently. Each panel is 12" on its short end, 24" on its long end, and 36" long. Each has a sleeve at the top and bottom, so they can be displayed together, but are not sewn together.

The panels are by (from left:) Grace Howes, Lushorn Millsaps, Susan Brubaker Knapp, and DeLane Rosenau. Each of us chose a different aspect to motherhood that was important to us. We decided that we should all use some blue in our panels so that there would be some continuity, but other than that, were permitted to do what we wanted.

Grace's panel deals with issues surrounding motherhood in Africa: maternal and infant mortality, war, rape, and famine. It shows a woman holding the continent of Africa on her pregnant belly, and is embroidered with tears done in a metallic thread:

Lushorn's panel is about generations of women, and is done in a family tree. Images of a baby, an infant, a young mother and an old woman are embroidered into the tree trunk. This was Lushorn's first experience free-motion threadpainting and quilting!

My panel is about nursing, one of the great joys of the early years of my motherhood. It shows a breast-feeding infant, and has the word “communion” threadpainted in the arch. I tried to replicate the sleepy, drunken, satiated look of the baby that I so loved seeing when nursing my two daughters. Nursing truly was a kind of communion for me, a holy connection between mother and child.

DeLane's panel deals with the issue of infertility. A woman stretches her arms up to heaven begging for a child, while a trail of beads connects her heart to her womb. DeLane also quilted some important words into her piece.

I am so proud of the work our group is doing! Each one of us is pushing ourselves to try new things, and getting better with each project.

Another lover of the Glasgow Rose

Yesterday, I got a really nice e-mail from a woman named Kelly, who had just ordered a pattern for my "Glasgow Rose" quilt (see photo above). She wrote, “I want to tell you HOW excited I am to find this. I grew up in East Aurora, NY where the Roycrofters are. I have always loved their rose so much. Even from such a young age. When I decided to get a tattoo that is what I got. [See her photo below.] To honor my home town which I miss dearly. I cannot WAIT to get started on my very own quilt.”

I wrote back to tell Kelly that I am a huge Roycrofters fan, and a fervent admirer of the Arts and Crafts movement. About 15 years ago, a wonderful Roycrofters exhibit came to the Virginia Museum of Art and my husband and I, who were living in Charlottesville, VA, at the time, went and enjoyed it very much. We have some reproduction and some antique Craftsman furniture, and I actually made this quilt to compliment my living room furniture.

The Roycrofters were a handicraft community founded in East Aurora, NY in the 1890s. It became a well-known center of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States.

Kelly included some websites of things to do and see having to do with the Roycrofters:
The Roycrofters at Large Association and the Roycroft Festival

Roycroft Shops, which carry Roycroft china

The Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, furnished with original and reproduction Roycroft furnishings

Roycroft Pottery, which carries gorgeous one-of-a-kind hand-thrown pottern in the Arts and Crafts style by Janice McDuffie

Here's the story behind Kelly's tattoo, in her own words:
“I wanted something to really show who I am. Not to mention it is permanent so I MUST love it. Not an option otherwise. I had a very hard time finding anything I wanted and the couple tattoo artists I went to just couldn’t grasp what I was looking for. I happened to work with someone who dabbled in painting and art. So I told him what I wanted. Something girlie, Celtic hearts and has to have THIS rose.(The Roycroft/Glasgow Rose) So this is what he came up with.

“I am of Celtic descent on my dad’s side. It is just uncertain to whether we were Irish or Scottish. (I have red hair, fair skin and blue/grey eyes), but I have always been drawn to the Celts. For me it represents my heritage.

“The heart to represent my love for most everything. Family, friends, animals, nature, etc. The Rose wasn’t an option. I always LOVED that rose from my days growing up. For me it represents home.

“Being my birthday is 6-26-76 and my mom always called me her demon child (too many 6’s she said. LOL ..) my friend decided to put in 7 hearts to give me a little added luck. The little heart above the rose originally was a swirl pattern. But it was too tight for the tattoo artist to do. So we changed it to another heart. Never can have enough.”

Here's a little history about the Glasgow Rose:

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was part of "The Four" — a group of artists including Mackintosh, Herbert MacNair, and Margaret and Frances MacDonald — that grew out of the The Scottish Movement at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland in the late 1880s and 90s. They are credited with popularizing the Glasgow Rose, which became one of the most famous motifs of the Arts and Crafts movement. It was adapted from Aubrey Beardsley, and used on furniture, pottery, stained glass, metalwork and other decorative arts. For more information, go to the website for the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Follow me!

I just added a new feature to my blog called “Following.” If you look on the right-hand side of my blog, right at the top, you'll see it. It says, “Followers,” and then “Follow this blog.” If you click on those words, you can sign up to subscribe to my blog, and you'll be notified whenever I post something. It's one more way of building a little community online, which is what I love most about blogging.

I'd love for you to follow me! – Susan

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fabric bead necklaces

The Pandoras and a few friends had great fun this morning making these funky bead necklaces. Lushorn organized this project. We took 20mm wooden beads, wrapped them in fabric (smeared with a glue stick on one side) and stuffed the excess into the holes using knitting needles. Then we strung them on ribbon and added toggle clasps. Cute, no?

What a great way to use up some of your little fabric scraps! (Each bead uses a 1-1/2" x 3" strip.)

Here's Rhondi, wearing her first necklace and starting on a second:

and Grace:

and Lushorn:

And Liz (concentrating VERY hard):

and Alisan:

and DeLane:

I didn't get a photo of Michele or her beads because she had to skip out early.

The “Four Pieces Project:” Grace and DeLane

The Pandoras met this morning, and turned in the “Four Pieces Project” for Grace (above). The artists are (clockwise from upper right:) Susan, Grace and DeLane.

For this project, we each chose a photo, enlarged it to 16x24" and cut it into four fairly equal pieces. Then each person got one section, and had to make that part. For each, we were supposed to try a new technique, or stretch ourselves in some way. It has been very interesting.

DeLane’s project is shown below (clockwise from right:) Susan, Grace and DeLane. Lushorn is still working on her pieces. We will finish up this project next month, when Lushorn’s project pieces are due. She used a photo of a lighthouse, and I got the long horizontal section at the bottom, which is water, rocks and lots of seafoam and froth. Should be fun.

And here's my project, which I blogged about before, just in case you missed it. (from left: Lushorn, DeLane, Susan, Grace).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bohemian Bouquet is done!

Bohemian Bouquet is done! (Well appliqued and pieced, at least!) I know that the last two blocks are technically supposed to be a mystery, but since I exhibited this at Barnful of Quilts yesterday and about a thousand people saw it, is seems only fair that everyone who is stitching it right now gets to see it.

This is my “mystery block-of-the-month quilt” that started in January. Each month, I’ve finished and shown a new block. The October block is the one with the blue flower and vine at the center of the top and bottom. The November block has a red flower with a vine; it’s at the middle of the left and right sides.

After I had sewn all the blocks together, I decided to add a small black border to give the designs a little “breathing room.” I think I'm going to bind it in red (right now I just PhotoShopped it in so I could see how it would look). But first, I’m going to hand quilt it using red thread. I am so excited, because it has been waaaaaaay too long since I hand quilted. I think I’m going to quilt around all the applique, and then do an overall grid pattern in the back, maybe 1" apart.

I have decided that although I do machine thread-painting and quilting on my contemporary art quilts, I really love hand quilting on the quilts where I have done a lot of hand work, especially the ones that look old fashioned. Yes, it is going to take a lot longer.

At Barnful of Quilts I had several interesting discussions with people who came into my stall, looked around and asked me, “Who quilts your work?” “I do!” was my answer. “Really? All of them? Even the king-sized ones?” “Yep. And I do them on my home sewing machine... I don’t have a long arm.” I’ve never sent a quilt out (even though I know several marvelous long-arm quilters and love their work) because #1) I’m too cheap. #2) I like to do it myself, and I prefer the look of free-motion motifs. #3) Quilting is the part of the process where the quilt comes alive for me, and I’d hate to miss that wonderful experience. #4) It would feel like cheating to me... like sending my kids to boarding school!

Still, I’m not going to say I’ll NEVER have someone else quilt my quilts. I’ve learned enough to never say never! But for now, I’m very happy to be quilting them myself.

And so, now, I’m off to baste and quilt!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barnful of Quilts

The rain stayed away, and the 2008 Barnful of Quilts was wonderful! Here are some of the photos I took today.

Quilts – many of them for sale — hang on the fence outside the barn:

The barn is really amazing:

Ellen Guerrant was this year’s featured contemporary artist. Ellen is a very talented quilter, artist, teacher, photographer and blogger. And a warm, caring person to boot!

Aimee Griffin is a big supporter of the Charlotte-area quilting community. She has a darling quilt shop called Overall Quilter in Indian Trail:

Karen Wilson McWhorter and other UCo Quilters (Jane Beamer, Rose Giacchetta, Judy Jewell and Joyce Walker) made this sophisticated quilt to raffle at this year’s Barnful of Quilts. I bought $5 worth of tickets… and WON!!! Isn’t it beautiful? I was really thrilled. I am sure that I have bought hundreds of quilt raffle tickets over the years, and I have never won a quilt… until today!

These llamas were a big hit with the crowd. Check out those eyelashes!

Sara Furr offers “fine fibers for your projects, therapy for your soul” at Cottage Yarn:

Alisa Deshields (below) of The Prim Merchant makes wonderful primitive dolls and holiday decorations. She has an Etsy shop that is empty right now, but she told me she'd be restocking soon. I bought the cute angels she is holding.

Catherine Hawley crafts ”“artful, functional carry-alls” from recycled billboards for The Things She Carried shop on

Pam Wittfeld of Constructive Designs creates wonderful contemporary silver jewelry that had me drooling:

Stephanie Quattrini’s business card says she is the “Resident Guru” at The Fibre Studio at Yarns to Dye For. And they were. Check out the beautiful collar she is wearng:

Fuliva Luciano was in the stall next to me. She creates spectacular fiber art that is painted, printed and stitched. She also spins and hand-dyes yarn and creates fluffy batts that look like cotton candy. Here’s one of Fulvia’s pieces, “Which Way to Rock Hill,” which is for sale on her website:

I bid on (and won) a shawl at last year’s silent auction made by Susan at Cowan Welch, and was glad to see her again. Her she is with some of her elegant woven wraps:

Willa McNeill makes one-of-a-kind purses, totes, quilted journal covers. Here she demonstrates using Shiva Paint Stiks:

A beautiful quilted jacket by Willa: