Friday, February 27, 2009

Open mesh screen printing workshop with Janet Lasher

I spent today at a workshop on open mesh screen printing, taught by my friend, Janet Lasher, in her Charlotte studio. What a fun day!

Janet and all of the students today (me, Linda Stegall and P.J. Howard) are members of the Charlotte group Fiber Art Options. Janet is a wonderful teacher. She taught five classes at International Quilt Festival in Houston last year, and has been invited back to teach this fall.

Here is a print on fabric by Janet:

and a detail of the same print:

Linda’s print featured an elegant swirl and a sophisticated color palette:

P.J. thought her design came out looking like birch bark …

… or birch trees, when turned the other direction:

Here’s mine:

Janet had done a photo-emulsion screen of a paper cut, then used Caran D'Ache Neocolor Artists’ Crayons to fill in areas before printing:

P.J.’s Caran D’Ache print was interesting on striped fabric:

Here’s my Caran D’Ache print (left) hanging up to dry with P.J.’s birch print:

Janet’s cat Apollo supervised the print-making:

Janet had the BIG set of Caran D’Ache:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This I like! Crop-a-Dile

I’ve been searching for something to punch holes through heavy plastic for a project I’m working on, and after trying a Japanese screw punch (which was a great hand tool for cutting through multiple layers of paper, but not heavy plastic) and considering the purchase of a drill press, I found it … The Crop-A-Dile! It is made by We R Memory Keepers, and it punches through plastic with ease.

The Crop-A-Dile claims to be able to punch through paper, fabric, leather, plastic, chipboard, wood, acrylic, poly and more. From what I’ve tested so far, I don’t doubt it. It’s a bit expensive (I got mine for about $35) but it is very solidly built, and it does what it says.

See the two wing-like things near the handles? That’s where you can punch two hole sizes – 1/8" and 3/16". You can set the depth of the holes using the depth gauges on either side.

It also sets eyelets and snaps using the part at the end. There are two cubes on each side, and you rotate them to get the right combination. On one cube, you can set 3/16" standard and oversized eyelets, 1/8" round standard snaps, and 1/8" standard and oversized eyelets. There’s also a flat setter “for all other oversize, miscellaneous and square-shaped metal embellishments and snaps.”

On the other cube, you do the flares for eyelets and snaps. There’s even a cone-shaped flare for odd shapes. The cushioned handles make punching and setting very easy on the hands.

It’s a keeper!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Aurifil threads have arrived!

My much-awaited shipment of Aurifil threads (Cotton Mako 50 weight) arrived today … and they are absolutely luscious! I ordered these colors to use in “Lepidoptera.”

It’s funny how much I am crazy about thread these days. I must admit that when I just made traditional quilts, I barely thought about thread. Now that I am making art quilts, the threads I use are much more important, because they define and enrich the surface of my work. I am starting to have a thread stash, just as I have a fabric stash. When I go to quilt shows, the thread booths interest me now.

Aurifil threads are not carried by my local quilt shops, so I have not used them much until now. I got these threads to really test them out, and so far I am very impressed. I’m going to try to quilt all of “Lepidoptera” in the next few days, and then I'll post my opinions on the Aurifil threads with photos of the piece.

I have been busy with several other projects that I am not allowed to post yet (because I want to enter them in contests that make not publishing them beforehand a rule of the competition; and for other reasons I hope to be able to reveal soon!), and it’s driving me kind of crazy. Patience, patience …

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Raven Challenge

QuiltArt, an online art quilt group to which I belong, has unveiled the results of its “Raven Challenge,” designed to honor the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday. They are very cool! Check them out; you won’t believe the diversity of styles, materials and techniques.

Many of the artists have donated their cards to the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative or to Fiberart For A Cause’s Collage Mania (which raises money for the American Cancer Society).

Virginia Spiegel is the woman behind Collage Mania, which will be held May 6-7. Hundreds of fiber artworks will be available for a minimum $40 donation, and Virginia aims to raise $20,000 in those three days. She’s already raised more than $165,000. WOW!

The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative has raised $273,000 for Alzheimer’s research. Ami Simms, a fiber artist whose mother suffers from the Alzheimer’s started this initiative. “I think it is possible to make a difference, one quilt at a time,” she says.

Two women are behind the Raven Challenge: Lynda Thompson, online curator; and Linda T. Minton, group Collage Mania coordinator.

The Raven Challenge is named for “The Raven,” one of Poe’s most famous poems, with the well-known line, “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”

Working with Aurifil thread

I finished the dark blue threadwork on “Lepidoptera” today and started working on the other colors. I am waiting on my shipment of varigated Aurifil thread, but I did have one spool of their Cotton Mako 28 in a varigated pink. It is a bit heavier than what I ordered, but I am so eager to dig in that I decided to use it on some of the pink areas.

This is the first time I’ve used Aurifil thread for machine quilting. The first thing I noticed is how beautifully shiny it is. I almost thought it was polyester, and checked the spool twice. Yep, it’s cotton!

The varigation is very nice on this thread, going from a very pale, almost white pink, to dark pink. In the photo below, you can see how shiny the Aurifil thread is in comparison to the blue thread, which is a Mettler solid blue.

I have heard that Aurifil thread is very strong, and that it leaves very little lint in (and on) your machine. I have not used it enough to know if this is true for me … but I have a long way to go on this quilt. I’ll watch for this, and post about it later. So far, so good!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

“Lepidoptera” today

I did a demonstration today at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden as part of their “Art at the Garden,” which includes an exhibition of nature-related works by some members of the Charlotte Quilters Guild. It was wonderful to talk with visitors to the garden, and to show them what we do and how we do it.

As my demo was on thread painting and machine quilting, I took my current work, “Lepidopera” and worked on it as I talked to people. Some of those who came through were traditional quilters, some were artists, and some had never quilted before. Many of them were surprised to see the art quilts, having never viewed quilts as art before. The men were surprisingly fascinated, especially when they realized that I was making the sewing machine stitch in different directions, and not just in a straight line.

I have just started outlining my pencil lines that define the color areas with dark blue thread. I can’t wait to get started on all the colored areas, but I need to stabilize the entire thing first by doing the outlines. I always love this stage, where the quilting turns the fabric into a quilt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quilters Club of America offering my “December’s Diet” pattern to members

I’m pleased to announce that I am collaborating with the Quilters Club of America and providing my block-of-the-month pattern called “December’s Diet” exclusively to QCA members.

Quilters Club of America is designed to help quilters learn new skills and enjoy quilting more. The benefits to joining include discounts and freebies, including:

– Lots of downloadable patterns from designers like me

– Discounts at places like Jo-Ann Fabrics, Keepsake Quilting and Connecting Threads

– On-demand episodes of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting TV show via the internet

– Membership to, which offers many well-known quilting shows on demand via the internet

– Subscription to Fons & Porter’s Easy Quilts quarterly magazine

The cost to join is $39.95.

“Art at the Garden” begins this weekend

My quilt is featured in some of the advertisements for the exhibit!

I was at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden this morning to help members of the Charlotte Quilters Guild hang an exhibition called “The Art of Quilting.” It will run Feb. 14 through March 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Some of us will be demonstrating techniques and talking to visitors on Saturday, Feb. 14 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Wren Rooms of the Visitor Pavilion:

Nancy Cook – Create your own fabric using inks and PaintStiks
K. Grace Howes – Easy art quilts
Susan Dunne-Lederhaas – Embroidery as embellishment
Susan Brubaker Knapp – Free motion quilting and thread painting
Elizabeth Miller – Hand quilting

My friend Michele Sheets did a great job organizing this exhibit, which we hope will pique visitors’s interest in quilting. The quilts include very traditional pieced quilts as well as contemporary art quilts.

Michele’s daughter, Natalie, had fun playing with my quilted butterfly while we set up “The Art of Quilting” exhibition. She is a smart little cutie-pie, and never stops talking.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a spectacular garden located just west of Charlotte at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line in Belmont.

Michele (far left) works out details with the DSBG staff
in the gorgeous entrance to DSBG's Robert Lee Stowe Visitor Pavillion

The entrance to DSBG.

The Orchid Conservatory is spectacular inside and out.

Part of the “Art at the Garden” exhibition.

Nancy G. Cook’s Pelton’s Rose Gentian awaits hanging.

Guild members and other helpers position and hang the quilts.

If you are in the area, come and see me on Saturday!

Monday, February 9, 2009

How to make a quilt sleeve: PDF now available

Nearly all quilt shows require a 4" hanging sleeve for quilts exhibited, but a lot of beginning quilters struggle with this step. In July 2007, I posted directions for making a quilt sleeve on my blog, because my local guild was having its first quilt show, and many people asked me for directions.

I recently became aware that many quilters searching the internet for information on making a sleeve were coming to my blog. One woman even contacted me by phone today, asking if I had a printed version of my directions. So… I whipped up a PDF file with the directions, including photos. Feel free to print and distribute these directions, but leave my contact information on them, please!

To see my directions, click here and you will be directed to my blog post.

For a copy of my directions in a PDF format, click here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lepidoptera painting done

I have just finished the painting on “Lepidoptera.” It is pretty wild! Here are some shots of sections of the painted fabric. I do not think that I want to bind this in a traditional way. I think I am going to do a pillowcase turn, where I layer the top (the painted fabric), then batting, then the backing fabric, then sew the fabric layers together, and turn it right side out.

Then I'll start the quilting, first going along the blue lines to secure the areas to be more heavily quilted inside each band or section of color. I am going to use Aurifil thread, mostly varigated, on this piece. I love Aurifil thread for needleturn appliqué, but I’ve never used it for machine quilting.

I am very excited to begin!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beginning “Lepidoptera”

Here’s a sketch of a new work in progress. I’m calling it “Lepidoptera,” and it is based on a drawing I made from my photo of a Painted Lady butterfly. (Lepidoptera is the scientific order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. ) After painting in the colors, I scanned my drawing and then copied and rotated the wings until I was pleased with the composition.

After blowing up my drawing to full size (40" square), I used it to trace all the lines onto white cotton fabric. Now I am painting in the colors, using fabric dyes and paints. This may take some time, because I don’t have space in my studio for “wet work,” so I am working on a kitchen counter in between meal preparations. Argh.

I’ve never done a whole cloth, painted piece before, so this is a big experiment. I am also using this piece to wander a bit into abstraction. Most of my work tends to be fairly realistic. I thought it would be a good exercise to start from a photo of a real subject, and then try to make it more abstract, so the focus would be on line and color instead.

I’m hoping to thread-paint and quilt this piece in the next month.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Celtic Knot #1

I made this last night, when I needed some studio time (it had been a long day of paperwork and computer stuff). I used a drawing from a Dover book on Celtic knotwork, traced it, and then stitched the lines with green thread. Then I used fabric dye to color the knot, and spritzed it with water to make it bleed a bit. After it was dry, I added the dots with a Pigma pen. I would love to design some of these knots myself.

I spent a year of college in Scotland, and was always fascinated with these designs, especially the ornate ones (and spooky skulls and such) on the ancient tombstones in the graveyards there, and in illuminated manuscripts from Scotland, Ireland and England.

Note: The design for this piece comes from Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction (Lavishly illustrated with line drawings & photographs) by George Bain.