Monday, May 16, 2011

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.


  1. Love this piece, really captures the cars. I have been practicing with basic sewing using fusible and machine quilting, so a little bit at a time.


  2. Hi Susan,
    What a lovely quilt! I hope to meet you one day as I believe we'll have lots to talk about. I also love rust and decay and peeling paint. One of the projects I am hoping to work on soon is of the front of an old car from a photo taken in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. They have tons of old cars! Also, your photo reminded me of some I took of an old car in a field not too far from where I live. I found it one day after they paved the road and built some new houses. I was looking at the new houses and there it was, right on the corner of a lot, among the trees ... falling apart, half covered by the snow.
    Anyway, congratulations on your new book. Can't wait until it's out and available.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very cool Chevy quilt! Quite amazing thread work on it.

  4. Your book will be exciting, if this is any example! I, too, love the character of the old cars and their rust. Things with rust always seem to have character and at least one...if not more...tale to be told. Seeing your beautiful quilt makes me think of the open road and Route 66 in it's heydays! I love the thread painting and thoughtful details you've put into your quilt too.

  5. Great piece, would be super for the hunk in our lives. At least my DH lots old autos. Nancy

  6. I can't believe I missed this one.. This piece is really really really phenomenal. I can't say it is my favorite since I love all of them. The detail you captured is perfect.

  7. Wow, what an awesome piece. Thanks for sharing the close up photos that really show your stitching. Just beautiful.


I love it when you leave comments… Otherwise I feel like I'm just talking to myself! If you have time to write, please let me know what you think.