Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two more teaching gigs

I am pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching at two more exciting venues in 2013! 

The first is North Carolina Quilt Symposium 2013 at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC from May 23-26. I taught at the 2010 symposium, and it was fabulous. (My only complaint was that I couldn't take any classes from their fabulous lineup of teachers, because I was busy teaching, too!) The 2013 Symposium is hosted by the Tarheel Quilters Guild of Fayetteville.

NC Quilt Symposium generally brings in 20-25 nationally known teachers, and students come from across the country (sometimes from around the world). So far, they have lined up Valerie Bothell, Hollis Chatelain, Augusta Cole, Aby Dolinger, Nancy Eha, Kaye England, Sandy Fitzpatrick, Harrit Hargrave, Leni Levenson Wiener, Mary Lou McDonald, Judith Baker Montano, Sue Nickels, Annette Ornelas, Linda Pool, Sharon Schamber, Anita Grossman Solomon, Jane Townswick, Janice Vaine, Beth Wheeler & Lori Marquette, and Amy Stewart Winsor.

And then from June 3-6, 2013, I have been invited to teach for Quilting Adventures at the Deep Woods Retreat in Smithville, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country. Those classes will focus on wholecloth painting and thread sketching. Quilting Adventures, founded in 2007, is now run by the mother-daughter team of Debby Walters and Kim Buchanan, who took over in 2011.

Quilting Adventures offers all-inclusive events of organized and creative instruction, with “comfortable accommodations, delicious food, evening entertainment, the camaraderie of friends and a heavy dose of Hill County hospitality.” 

Details about my classes will be available later this year.

Please make plans to join me in 2013!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Confession time

NOTE: This is a recap of my post yesterday on The Sketchbook Challenge

Okay, it’s confession time. Doodling does not come naturally to me. I have never done it. When I sit down at my sketchpad, I like to work in a pretty realistic way. Like the fish (a Blackbelly Rockfish, to be exact) above.

Or this Indian Scad:

Yes, I do have a bit of a fish obsession going right now. I’ll admit that, too. When this month’s theme was announced, I inwardly groaned. As a teenager in a boring class at school, I didn’t doodle. I focused on taking extremely detailed notes in beautiful printing, with perfect margins and bullet points. In different ink colors. Yes, I know … I am a freak.

I looked at the girls in my class who were drawing curlicues and hearts and (here’s another confession coming) I thought they were pretty silly.

And then I had an epiphany. I really am wound tight. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I need to loosen up a bit. Maybe working with such tight control all the time is not healthy. Maybe trying something new would be good. Maybe I would even like it. Maybe.

While I was pondering all this, I drew another fish. A Narrow-Barred Spanish Mackerel, to be exact. I sketched first in pencil, erasing lines, refining lines, until I got things right. Then I inked my drawing. 

And while I was working with such precision, I wondered if it would be a valuable exercise to work outside my normal style. Artists spend lots of time developing their “voice” or signature style or look. It is what allows us to identify a Picasso as a Picasso or a Monet as a Monet, even if we have never seen that particular piece of art before. We try to build “a body of work” that is consistent, that demonstrates our signature style. If you work hard to do this, and if you create a ton of art, it usually happens. Most artists work consistently during their lifetimes in this one style, rarely wandering off their path.

But is this a good thing? And since it is called The Sketchbook Challenge, didn’t I owe it to the group to accept the challenge, to take the dare? Maybe it would take me in a whole new wonderful direction! Yes, I decided. Yes!  So I sat down to doodle (you guessed it) a fish. Here he is:

And I kind of like him.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

“Purple Pansy” finished

Purple Pansy (7-5/8" x 9-3/4") by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Yesterday, I finished “Purple Pansy.” It is a small wholecloth painted piece. I finished it by first doing a pillowcase turn with the batting inside, and then quilting it. I used only three thread colors, a pinkish-purple on the petals, a gray on top of the yellow area at the flower center, and a green on the leaves. 

The advantages of finishing using a pillowcase turn are that it is very fast and easy, and that the piece looks more like art than like a quilt. The primary disadvantage is that it sometimes leaves slightly distorted edges that can’t be corrected the way you can do when you bind or face a piece. This distortion occurs when the quilting is heavier in some areas than others, causing the piece to draw up in some places. You can see that the finished piece is not completely squared up. On small pieces, I think this can be rather charming; I don’t obsess about it too much. But if you are more of a perfectionist, this technique is probably not for you!

If you are interested in learning how to finish a piece with a pillowcase turn, I have a free tutorial (a downloadable PDF) on my website here

Here is a detail shot showing some of the quilting stitches:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Painted Purple Pansy


Here is “Purple Pansy” with the painting done. It is ready for quilting, and I am getting excited. I love how the stitching makes the piece come alive, adding more color, detail and texture. I do not usually do thread sketching (stitching on the surface before I add the backing and batting) on small painted pieces like this. There is enough detail in the painting, and I try to use just enough thread to enhance, and not distract or cover what I have done with paint.

If you look at the original photo, you can see that I adapted the background somewhat. I did a blue sky at the top, because the stuff in the photo was too distracting. In the green leafy area at the bottom, I simplified the leaf shapes. I also used a little more lively green to set off the beautiful purples, blues and red-purples in the flower.

After I painted the leaves, the green color was too strong, so I used a wash of white paint mixed with “Base Extender.” The paints I am using a lot now, and loving, are PROfab Transparent Textile Paints by ProChemical & Dye. 
If you are new to painting on fabric, I suggest purchasing an inexpensive kit that includes small bottles, such as the PROfab Textile Paint Kit (SKU SINK1). It includes one-ounce bottles of red, yellow, blue, green, white and black, and a two-ounce bottle of base extender for $10.95 plus shipping/handling.

I have been trying lots of different brands of brushes, and will try to post in the future about my findings. It is a bit tricky to find the right brushes for painting on fabric. I like ones that are very stiff, and allow me to push the paint into the weave of the fabric, rather than brushing or flowing it on. 

Teaching in The Netherlands this spring

I’ve been asked to post information for the workshops I’m teaching in The Netherlands, so here it is:

I will be there from March 22 through April 6, and have workshops scheduled for March 24, 25, 31 and April 1 at a quilt shop called Cordi-atelier in Groningen. These filled up quickly, and they added two more, but I don’t know the dates yet. On April 2 and 3, I’m teaching in Bunschoten

If you live nearby and are interested in attending a workshop, please e-mail me at, and I can put you in touch with Lya, my fabulous Dutch host and organizer, who can answer more of your questions.

The classes I am teaching are Wholecloth Painting and Threadsketching: Dragonfly. Here are the class samples:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Purple Pansy in progress

Yesterday, I worked on a new, small (about 8x10") wholecloth painted piece – the pansy above. In late March through early April, I will be in The Netherlands to teach 8 workshops. I’m teaching my Wholecloth Painting class several times, and while my host and workshop organizer, Lya Geven, and I were talking, she suggested that I do one flower that was a little more familiar to European students. The ones I usually teach are these – croton leaf, hibiscus and sunflower:

Tulips immediately came to mind, but it was not tulip season. I considered buying a bouquet, but then realized that my local nursery was filled with pansies, and I’d have far more options there. I went there in the fall and shot about a hundred photos, and got one that I liked a lot:

Choosing just the right photo to work with is trickier than you might think. It needs to be well lit, with details well defined. It needs to have a strong focal point. I also try to keep the backgrounds simple and not distracting, but sometimes it is impossible to avoid. Too much stuff in the background can detract, but it can be eliminated when you paint.

When I teach, I have to make sure not to choose a subject that is too complex. Most students in my class take the entire six hours to complete the croton, hibiscus and sunflower (and this is just the painting, not the layering and quilting). These pieces are also about 8x10".

The photo below shows a printout of the photo (on the left), and the first bit of painting on the pansy (on the right). 

I usually trace my lines onto the fabric; this time I just positioned the fabric (a tightly-woven PFD fabric) on top of my traced line drawing. Tracing the lines onto the fabric is important if you want to do one base color and then paint darker colors on top, because you will still be able to see the pencil lines this way (but you would not be able to see the lines on the printout through the fabric and the base color paint).

My students often have questions about how many colors to mix, and how many tints and shades to prepare. It is tricky to get the right number of colors, and the right values to create depth. You can see my palette in this shot, and get an idea of how many I mixed for this piece so far:

Here is a shot showing a bit more painting done. You can see that I changed the overall color scheme of the pansy somewhat. I find that as long as you keep track of the values, you can do this without a problem. As with traditional quilting, value is far more important than color in the overall effectiveness of the piece. 

Here is another shot of how it looks now. I am going to add a few darker values to give the petals more dimension and depth. It’s good to think at this stage about what you are going to add when you free-motion quilt. The thread adds color and detail, too, so you may not need to paint everything. After that, I will move on to the background. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Start spreading the news!

Please help us share the news about Foto/Fiber 2012, Virginia Spiegel’s fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, with family, friends and associates. The person you reach may be the one who helps us meet our goal of $7,000 to add to the $215,000 Virginia’s fundraising efforts have already donated through Fiberart For A Cause. I’m participating in this fundraiser, and I would love it if you would help spread the word, and/or make a contribution when the event starts.

It’s easy. Just go to Virginia’s blog here to get logos, sample blog posts, signature lines, and more. Then let Virginia know where you have shared the news about Foto/Fiber 2012 and you will be entered to win one of several great prizes. Go here for more details.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Wow. I just found out that my piece, “Hope is the Thing,” is on the cover of the February/March 2012 issue of Quilting Arts magazine.

I started this piece the morning I found out that my mother had died, and it has come to represent the space between us now that she is gone. It was juried into The Space Between, an exhibition curated by Jamie Fingal and Leslie Tucker Jenison for Dinner at Eight Artists, and has already gone to International Quilt Festival – Long Beach, and International Quilt Festival – Houston in 2011. 

This issue of Quilting Arts also features the work of other amazing artists in The Space Between: Susan Fletcher King, Sherry Kleinman, Jayne Larson and Linda Teddle Minton.

In this past year, even as I have mourned my mother’s physical presence, I have felt her emotional presence very close to me in my darkest hours. This feels like another sign. Love you, Mom.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Felted pebble necklace

Ever since I saw Jane LaFazio wearing a fabulous felted pebble necklace at International Quilt Festival this fall, I’ve had a yen for one. I kind of have a thing for rocks. I have some that I collected in my childhood, and I always pick them up on my travels, and bring them home to display in glass jars. The smooth river rocks with bands of white – like the ones in Jane’s necklace – are favorites.

I found the Etsy artist (Delica) whom Jane bought hers from, and have drooled over her lovely things. She has beautiful felted pebbles, chocolate truffles, hearts, acorns, soaps, garlands, brooches, bowls, necklaces… and they are all very simple and elegant. I think her prices are very reasonable for these items, which are pretty time-intensive to create. 

Last night I decided to try my hand at making my own. I love how it turned out! And it is so lightweight, you barely know you have it around your neck.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New life for a stained textile

Yesterday, I stopped in an antique store that is closing in my hometown. Lots of things were 50% off, and I snatched up a wonderful crocheted lace tablecloth for $8. It was in pretty good shape except for a few places that were unraveling, and a fair number of stains. Even after bleaching, they were still somewhat visible. This morning, I cut it into panels and hung them as curtains in my laundry room. 

I love the airy, delicate feel they give this space. My laundry room used to be a side porch on my 1916 home; it was closed in before we purchased the house 15 years ago. That’s why the ceiling is bead board (wainscoting). I painted the walls the same cornflower blue as the kitchen, as the room is visible from the kitchen.

There are certain times of the day – early morning and late afternoon – when the slant of light is just right, and it pours in through these windows. That’s when I think I’ll enjoy looking at this lace the most. And it makes me feel good to recycle something so beautiful, something that someone put a lot of work and time into making.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My first post for The Sketchbook Challenge

I posted today for the first time as a “host artist” on the blog for The Sketchbook Challenge, an online project started last year by Sue Bleiweiss to encourage others to grow as artists by working in a sketchbook.

Other artists hosting this year are Jill K. Berry, Sue Bleiweiss, Pam Carriker, Laura Cater-Woods, Jane Davies, Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Lyric Kinard, Jane LaFazio, Kelli Perkins, Carol Sloan and Susan Sorrell. 

The theme this month is “Doodling.” Here’s my doodle:

and here’s how I interpreted it in fabric and thread:

You can read all the details on The Sketchbook Challenge blog. If you’ve ever wanted to work more consistently in your sketchbook – or if you’ve never worked in a sketchbook before – please consider joining us as we sketch our way through 2012! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I’m interviewed today on Virginia Spiegel’s blog

Virginia Spiegel has an interview with me on her blog today. It is publicity for her next big fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Virginia’s “Fiberart For a Cause” has already raised more than $215,000 for them, and in February, she is hoping to raise $7,000 for the ACS in just ten hours over two days through “Foto/Fiber.” I’m donating two handmade pieces of usable art as bonuses. I hope you’ll mark your calendar for Feb. 15 and 16, 2012, and consider making a donation to this worthy cause. 

Here is Virginia’s post about how this fundraiser works:

Foto/Fiber 2012
90 Photos AND 90 BONUS Fiber Surprises
Beauty and Mystery Unite to Fight Cancer

Gold Donor Day - February 15, 2012
Make a minimum donation of $100, choose a photo by Virginia A. Spiegel, and choose a BONUS Fiber Surprise by a specific artist from an amazing list of generous fiber artists.

Regular Foto/Fiber - February 16, 2012
Make a minimum donation of $50 and choose a photo by Virginia A. Spiegel. Your BONUS Fiber Surprise will be chosen at random  for you from the list of generous fiber artists.

Artists donating BONUS fiber surprises include:

Natalya Aikens,
Frances Holliday Alford

Pamela Allen
Liz Berg
Sue Bleiweiss
Nancy G. Cook
Jane Davila
Vivika DeNegre
Diane Rusin Doran
Jane Dunnewold
Jamie Fingal
Leonie Hartley Hoover
Leslie Tucker Jenison
Lyric Kinard
Susan Brubaker Knapp
Lynn Krawzcyk
Jane LaFazio
Susan Lenz
Jeanelle McCall
Linda Teddlie Minton

Karen Musgrave
Gail Myrhorodsky
Karen Stiehl Osborn

BJ Parady
Cate Coulacos Prato
Yvonne Porcella
Wen Redmond

Sue Reno
Lesley Riley
Susan Schrott
Cynthia St. Charles
Lura Schwarz Smith

Sarah Ann Smith
Terri Stegmiller

Drawings for Fiber Art throughout the event.
All patrons of Foto/Fiber 2012 will also have multiple chances throughout Foto/Fiber to win amazing fiber art donated by:   
Leonie Hartley Hoover
Lyric Kinard
Lynn Krawczyk
Yvonne Porcella
Mary Ann Van Soest

For updates on Foto/Fiber 2012, go here:

Want to help? Need to know more? Contact Virginia(at) for more information. That’s