Friday, May 27, 2011

Joplin, Missouri quilt guild needs our help

Deb McConaghy, one of my friends from the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild, contacted me today to ask me to publicize this. She had been looking at photos of the devastation caused by this week’s tornado in Joplin, Missouri. The list of the dead topped 130 today, and she started wondering if Joplin had a quilt guild. Turns out that they have two. She was able to get in touch with one member of Joplin’s Town and Country Quilters Guild, who reported that 4 of their 70 members have lost their homes. 

Photo courtesy KOMU News
According to Gloria Park, the contact for the Joplin Town and Country Quilt Guild, the guild provides lots of quilts for the needy, but one of the houses lost in the tornado held all their supplies for making these charity quilts. Gone were rotary cutters, cutting mats, batting, fabric, irons, everything. 

Can you help? If so, please ship materials to:

Gloria Park
2921 N. Hickory
Joplin, Missouri 64801 

They have storage provided free by U-haul so they can store items there. If you ship things to Gloria, she will make sure that they get to the guild. The need is now greater than ever, and as you know, quilters will pitch in whenever there is a need or a crisis.

Gloria says that they would welcome checks made out to “Bed Bath & Beyond” or “Block by  Block Quilt Shop” where they could purchase the bigger items that would not make sense to ship. Finished quilts and quilt tops would also be welcome, and will go to those affected by the tornado.

Since my mother died in January, I have been wondering where to donate some of my mom’s quilting supplies that are duplicates of my own. Now I know. I’ll be packing up a box to send next week. I hope you will join me. 

UPDATE (June 13): The Joplin guild reports that it has been absolutely buried in fabric and supplies, to the point that they can’t accept any more right now. If you have already donated supplies, thank you SO much for your generosity. If you have not donated yet, but would still like to help, please consider a monetary donation to the American Red Cross earmarked for the Joplin tornado relief fund. All my thanks to my generous, kind, wonderful blog readers! – Susan

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Got a dog? Stitch a dog bed!


This is my dog, Sophie (above), resting on a dog bed I made for her. The project is featured in 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts, a special publication by the publishers of Quilting Arts magazine. There are directions for a bed for a medium-sized dog (40-50 pounds), and one for a smaller dog or cat. It is very easy to make. I call it “Dogbed of Roses,” because of the big roses that are raw-edge appliqued on top. All the fabrics are from Bari J’s “Country Lane” line for Windham. 
Here is the project in the magazine:

Sophie loves her bed, and it is nice and comfy. I bought a cheap-o dog bed at a pet store and used it for the insert. The smaller bed has a gusseted standard queen bed pillow inside.

The hefty 196-page magazine ($19.99) is available on newsstands (such as Barnes & Noble) or on the Interweave website Think that nearly $20 seems like a lot to pay for a magazine? Once you flip through it, you won’t feel that way. There are a ton more projects than you’d find in most quilting books that cost a lot more. There are at least 10 projects in this magazine that I absolutely have to make. 
Oh, and my business card case project is featured, too! 


Friday, May 20, 2011

Indian Corn 2

“Indian Corn 2” by Susan Brubaker Knapp – 15" x 20" (2010)

This is Indian Corn 2, a piece featured in my upcoming book, Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art. It is scheduled for release in mid July.

The photo on which this piece is based (below) is my mail basket (an old oyster basket I bought years ago) with some Indian corn in it. I love the juxtaposition of the man-made pattern of the basket with the organic pattern of the corn kernels. I bought this Indian corn at my favorite local farm stand, Carrigan Farms in Mooresville. They always have the most gorgeous Indian corn, and I love going there every fall to take photos and pick out my pumpkins and gourds. 
Original photo by Susan Brubaker Knapp
I am often asked how I decide what to thread sketch and what to quilt. The thread sketching takes place on the top layer (the quilt top) and goes through this layer and the interfacing (usually Pellon 910) only. The quilting takes place later, and goes through all the layers (quilt top, interfacing, batting and backing fabric). This piece is a good example of why I do what, and when.

In this case, I wanted to add the strands of corn silk, and I wanted lots of detail and color on the kernels. I did this at the thread sketching stage, because if I had quilted it, those areas would have receded, and they needed to come forward. I quilted the lines defining the kernels, because those areas needed to recede. Make sense now?
Detail of Indian Corn 2

If you would like to get more information about when my book is available, just e-mail me at and let me know. I’ll add you to my mailing list and let you know when you can order it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fall Farm Stand, Part 5

Detail shot of quilting, just started
I’m just about to call it a day, so here’s a progress report on Fall Farm Stand. Today I painted and melted Tyvek pieces and added them to the orange pumpkins. I hand appliqued all the gourds and pumpkins to the black background. I painted a few areas on the background (and may do more after I do some stitching). 

I did some threadsketching on the orange pumpkins, while I was stitching down the Tyvek pieces. But I didn't do too much; I want the bumps on these pumpkins to be very dimensional, so I’m going to do most of this detail work in the quilting stage. 

After cutting batting pieces to go under the three gourds in the foreground (the big orange one, the gray one and the speckled black/reddish one), I pinned these pieces to the back of the quilt top. I am hoping that this extra layer of batting will make them come forward from the background a bit more. Then I placed the quilt top on top of the batting and backing fabric and basted it with quilters’ safety pins. 

Then – finally! – I got to do some free-motion machine quilting. This is always an exciting part of each piece I do, because it is when it starts to come alive with the detail and dimension that the thread adds. 

I also don’t think I mentioned the size of this piece. It is about 24" x 36", which is bigger than a lot of the pieces I’ve done lately.

Time spent today: 6.5 hours. Total hours: 18.75

Fall Farm Stand, Part 4

Here’s what my latest piece, Fall Farm Stand, looked like before I went to bed last night. I cut out all the pumpkins and gourds from the white fabric on which I painted them, and positioned them on the background fabric. The white around each one will be turned under when I hand applique them to the background. The piece is based on this photo:

I am going to do some painting on the background, and add some melted Tyvek pieces to the  bright orange pumpkins today. Then I’ll do the applique and some thread sketching before I quilt everything with the batting and backing fabric. 

Time spent today: 4 hours. Total hours: 12.25

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Donna’s wholecloth painting project

Donna Ramsey, a woman who took my Wholecloth Painting class earlier this month, e-mailed me a few days ago to show me what she’d done with her piece. Look at this darling little bag she made!

“It was such a pleasure to take the class with you last Friday,” she wrote. “I was not good at paint by number either,” she wrote (I had told my students that my process was a lot like painting-by-numbers, so there was nothing to fear!). “However,” she continued, “I love my finished product. One of the best things about a project is the enjoyment in doing it, and the pleasure of calling it done. I made my block into a bag and love it.”

Thanks, Donna!

C&T’s latest catalog

C&T Publishing chose to put my work, “Rusty Chevys,” on the front of its Fall 2011 catalog! What fun!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fall Farm Stand, Part 3

Okay, folks. I am moving along nicely this week on Fall Farm Stand. I painted two more of the gourds today: this orange one (above) is at the bottom in the photo below. I’m going to be adding some melted Tyvek pieces to it, and will probably do some more painting on it before the piece is finished. It looks a little too yellow to me right now. I’m also going to do a lot of thread work on it to make it bumpier. 

The other gourd I painted today is the one on the far right. There is a similar green gourd right behind it, which I am going to paint on the background.
I only have one more gourd to paint (the orange one at bottom left). After that, I'll add the Tyvek to the big orange gourd, and then position them all on the background. I may add some extra batting behind the gourds in the foreground, to make them stand up from the surface a bit. 

Time spent today: 2.25 hours. Total time spent so far: 8.25 hours. 

I’ll be on Mark Lipinski’s radio show June 8

I just got off the phone with Mark Lipinski… he’s asked me to be his guest on Creative Mojo, his live internet radio show, on Wednesday, June 8! The show “encourages listeners to harness their own creative spirit by living creatively everyday.” I’m thrilled to have been asked to participate; Mark is a fun-loving, funny, genuine guy, and the show should be interesting and meaty. I’ll have more details about the show as we get closer to the date.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fall Farm Stand, Part 2

After some delays, I‘m back to work on a piece based on a photo of gourds I took last fall. I’m calling it Fall Farm Stand. It is for a nice couple who traded me a piano for my daughter to play. 

The gourd I painted today is the one in the upper right hand corner of the photo below. It is dark orangish-red with dark gray sploches and a big yellow place where it was sitting on the ground while it grew.

I’ve decided that I should try to keep track of the hours I spend on some of my new pieces. Everyone always asks me “How much time did it take you to make this?” and I never know exactly what to say. I wonder whether these people place a monetary value on things that take a long time to make, or whether they are simply curious. Or do they think I just whip these things out, and that my prices are way too high? What is the appropriate hourly wage for an artist, anyway? Pricing is always a difficult issue for an artist.

After about two hours, here’s how the gourd looked, with the dark orange and yellow painted in:

Here’s how it looked after four hours, with the dark and light grays filled in, and some highlights and shadows added:

I will be adding the rest of the details with thread sketching and quilting. I’m doing all of the gourds on this piece separately. Some of the bumpier ones will have melted Tyvek pieces on them. Then they will all get needleturn appliqued down to the background before thread sketching. 

I spent about two hours working on the gray pumpkin earlier. You can read about it in my previous post. Total hours on this piece so far: approximately 6.

Rusty Chevys

“Rusty Chevys” by Susan Brubaker Knapp
20.5 x 15.25"

This is Rusty Chevys, one of the pieces in my new book, Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art, which comes out in mid July. I know it is kind of weird (to non-artists, at least), but I have a thing for rust, for old objects with the patina of time and survival. A few years ago, I was making a burger run to our our local What-a-Burger #11 when I discovered some great vintage 1950s Chevrolet cars sitting in a parking lot next to the drive-in. What-a-Burger is a local landmark in Mooresville, serving up burgers with a pickle tooth-picked to the top, fries and soft drinks, including the local favorites, Sun Drop and Cheerwine.

The old cars called to me with their curvy fenders, worn leather seats, and encrusted rust patterns. I ran back home, dropped off the burgers, and got my camera. I took more than a hundred photos; this is the one I chose to work with:

Original photo by Susan Brubaker Knapp
You can see that I eliminated most of the background (the drive-in) because it was distracting. Especially the zig-zag line of the drive-in carports, which hover right over the tops of the cars in the photo. I kept the grass-filled cracks in the cement, and the basic shape of the trees in the background, but added a field. This sets off the shapes and colors of the cars much better. Eliminating extraneous details helps draw attention to the focal point, those great cars.

This piece is made with fused layers of fabric, mostly hand-dyeds and batiks, which add a lot of subtle color changes. Then I thread sketched on top to add details, like the patches of reddish-brown rust:
Detail shot of “Rusty Chevys”
I quilted the windshield quite heavily so that it would recede a bit in the finished piece. The gray thread adds a haze over the steering wheel and seats inside, creating the impression of these things viewed through the glass windshield and windows.

Detail shot of “Rusty Chevys”
I added a lot of thread-sketching and quilting on both the concrete and grass to give them more color and texture.
Detail shot of “Rusty Chevys”
The pattern for this piece is in the book. If you would like to get more information about when my book is available, just e-mail me at and let me know. I’ll add you to my mailing list and let you know when you can pre-order it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


“Papillon” by Susan Brubaker Knapp – 20" x 13.75" (2010)

This is Papillon, a piece I made in early 2010 when I pitched my idea for a book to C&T Publishing. My concept was to teach art quilters about how to take better photos, drawing on the basic principles of design and composition, and then, how to turn them into beautiful pieces of art made with fabric and thread. I envisioned a book with lots of ideas for teaching yourself to be a better, more artistic photographer. And with lots of projects, including some with fused applique, some with non-traditional materials, and some that showed how to take realistic photos and interpret them in an abstract way.

That book, Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art, is coming out in July! So I thought I’d start sharing some of the projects you’ll find inside.

I took the photo on which this piece is based (below) at the butterfly garden at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga several years ago. When I started working on interpreting this photo in fabric, I spent hours searching for greenish-yellow butterflies online, hoping to find out the exact species. Eventually I went back and looked at other photos I’d taken that day, and I realized that the butterfly was actually just white and black, and that all the color was simply the colors in the leaves and foliage that was coming through the semi-transparent wings!
Original photo by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Most of my projects have a lot of thread sketching on them, and this piece is no exception:
Detail shot of Papillon
I used a web of light-colored thread, thread sketched in horizontal and vertical lines along the edges of the black spots on the wings, to make them a bit hazier, the way they appeared in the photo. 

If you look at the photo and then the finished piece, you can also see that I chose to take out the background foliage. I thought it distracted from the strong lines and colors in the butterfly, and that a deep blue sky would make the butterfly more of a focal point. I used to try to interpret every detail in a photo very literally. Now I understand that removing, adding or changing elements in a photo is part of my artistic process.

If you would like to get more information about when my book is available, just e-mail me at and let me know. I’ll add you to my mailing list and let you know when you can order it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Learn how to make great pet portraits with Faith Cleary

My friend Faith Cleary’s new DVD/digital download with Quilting Arts is now out! It’s called “Pet Picture Quilts Made Easy,” and on it, Faith teaches how to take a photo of your pet and recreate it as a piece of art. She shows how to add texture, dimension, and fun backgrounds using fabric, batting and thread. Faith spends time talking about how to choose the right photo, as well as the fabrics and threads that will make your piece look the most realistic. Then she shows how to add the eyes, nose, and fur, and demonstrates how to thread sketch to accent your pet’s features.

I think Faith’s work is so charming! Take a look at what she did here, starting with this cute kitty photo:

This is the finished piece based on that photo:

“Monte Hall” is set in an antique window frame
Obviously, Faith is a big animal lover! Here she is with her dog Barkley at a Blessing of the Animals at her church:

I asked Faith to share a little bit about herself and her art.
Q. I imagine that you must be a pet lover. Have animals always been a big part of your life? What animals share your home now? 
A.  I grew up with dogs and love them. Being the mom of two curious boys, I have had guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, hamsters and cats. Currently, I live with three labradors (Dash, Waggles and Tulip) and a french bulldog (Barkley). In fact, I wrote about Barkley in my pet column, “Paws and Effect” in the summer 2011 issue of Studios magazine. He is quite a clown! 

Q. Can you explain a little bit about your technique?  
A. I do thread sketched pet portraits. I use an appliqué technique for the animal's features and body. Then I thread sketch over the appliqué pieces to create realistic fur and facial expressions. It is a simple technique to learn with amazing results! 

Q. Do you teach or speak at guilds or shops? If so, where can people take your classes in person?  
A. Yes. I love teaching for guilds and quilt shops. It is great fun to hear stories about
people's pets and then to see the pet come to life with thread sketching is very gratifying! To contact me for teaching availability, please go to 

Q. The backgrounds on some of your portraits are so fun! Why do you add these? 
A. I like to think of backgrounds as the place to tell your pet's story. It is the place to be creative and have a blast. I also love showing people how to embellish, frame and finish their pieces. There are so many unique possibilities - for example, I framed a cat in an antique church window frame - it is one of my favorite pieces. 

Sexy Beast Cologne Model

Q. If you had to give your students one piece of advice about making a portrait of their pet, what would it be?  
A. When making a portrait of a pet, the eyes are the critical element that brings life to the animal. The eyes are simple to do, but it is imperative to get the highlights just right.

You can see a bit of Faith’s DVD here:

Donna Downey’s “Inspired Artist Workshop”

Donna Downey hams it up for the camera
I needed a little get-away today, so I went with some friends to Donna Downey’s “Inspired Artist Workshop” in Concord, near Charlotte, N.C.  Inspired is a four-day immersion in cross-genre art and crafting. Students get three full days of workshops. Featured artist instructors are Tracie Lampe, Lolly Chessie, Suzi Blu, Patriciaa Baldwin Seggebruch, Becky Nunn and Alisa Burke. My friend Susan Edmonson is teaching some workshops, too!

Donna’s display
I didn’t have time to attend the workshop; I just went to shop! Donna had some of the stuff she sells at her shop set up in a beautiful display. And at the Market Fair, there were eight more vendors offering a great variety of mixed media supplies.

Donna’s darling little purses
May 11-14
Embassy Suites
5400 John Q. Hammons Drive NW
Concord NC, North Carolina 28027

501 South Old Statesville Road
Huntersville, NC 28078


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Finishing an art quilt with a non-mitred facing

Front of the a quilt finished using a non-mitred facing
“Snow Shadows” by Susan Brubaker Knapp
I taught two workshops on Wholecloth Painting to members of the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild this week. Each time I teach a class on an art quilt method, I inevitably get questions about my finishing techniques. So I decided to get my act together and do a few more tutorials on the subject.

Over the past few years, I have started finishing most of my art quilts using one of three methods; a non-mitred facing, a mitred facing, or a pillowcase turn. I now have directions for each of these techniques in PDF format available on my blog. (Look in the column on the right-hand side, under the “Free Stuff” heading, then click on the PDF you want to download.) I have tried to provide clear, easy-t0-follow instructions, with lots of photos. 

To download a PDF now, click on the links below:

In this post, I’ll show you how to do a non-mitred facing. There are many methods for facing a quilt. This one is a combination of methods I have learned from others, and is the one that is the easiest facing technique for beginners. 

Non-mitred facing
1. Quilt your quilt, and then, as you would with a traditional quilt, trim through the top, batting and backing, squaring up the corners, so that the backing and batting are even with the edge of the quilt.

2. Measure the top of your quilt and cut two 2"-wide facing strips this length. Measure the side of your quilt, and cut two 2"-wide facing strips this length minus 2".  (For example, if your quilt is 15" wide by 20" long, cut two facing strips 2" x 15" and two facing strips 2" x 18".)

3. On one long edge of each of the four facing strips, turn under ¼" toward the wrong side of the fabric, and press. Pin the unfolded edge of the top strip to the raw edge of the top of the quilt, right sides together:

4. Put the walking foot on your machine. Starting at the top of the short end of the strip, and with a ¼" seam, stitch down to ¼" away from the corner, pivot, stitch the length of the side to ¼" away from the corner, pivot, and stitch up to the top of the other short side. Backstitch at the start and stop.

Clip corners close to stitched line:

5. Stitch the bottom strip on the opposite side of the quilt next, in the same manner:

6. Place one of the side strips along one side of the quilt, with the unfolded edge of the strip next to the raw edge of the quilt, right sides together. Center the strip along the edge, and pin: 

This strip should overlap the facing strips you have already sewn on, but should not extend all the way to the corners:

7. Stitch a ¼" seam the length of the strip, back-stitching at the start and end. Your seam should align with the seam for the top and bottom strips:

8. Fold back the two side facing strips and press. From the front side, stitch along the edges about 1/8" from the seam, through the facing and the seam allowance, and back-stitching at the start and end. This seam, often used in garment construction, will help the facing turn more easily to the back:

9. Fold back the top and bottom strips, and use a blunt-tipped tool to push out corners. From the front side, stitch along the edges about 1/8” from the seam, through the facing and the seam allowance. It is impossible to stitch around the corners; simply stitch up as far into the corners as you can.

10. Bring the facing strips around to the back and pin so that the side strips are tucked underneath the top and bottom facing strips, with their raw edges hidden. This usually requires heavy pinning:

 The facing strips should not show from the front; a small bit of the front of the quilt should show on the back of the piece:

11. Hand stitch the facing in place along the inner, folded edge of the facing strips on the back. You should only be stitching through the facing strips, backing fabric, and batting. Make sure not to stitch through the front of the quilt. 

12. This technique creates a nicely finished piece that looks more like a piece of art than a quilt: 

Back of the finished quilt
Front of the finished quilt
“Snow Shadows” by Susan Brubaker Knapp
The PDF with the instructions is free; feel free to print it out and use it, and it share it with others. I just ask that you keep my name, website and blog addresses on the directions when you do so. Thanks!