Wednesday, August 31, 2016


“Wicked” (12x16") Copyright 2016 by Susan Brubaker Knapp. Wholecloth painted, free-motion machine threadsketched and quilted. White fabric, acrylic textile paint, cotton batting, cotton thread

This piece is a portrait of my cat, Wicked. It is based on a photo I took several years ago. I love how the green fabric (a duvet cover) picks up the same colors that are in her eyes. I will be demonstrating how I painted her eyes in a segment for an episode of “Quilting Arts TV,” the public television show I host. We shoot Series 1900 in a few weeks!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

“Resurrection” finished

“Resurrection” (41x72")
Copyright 2016 by Susan Brubaker Knapp

“Resurrection” is done! 

You can read about how I made this piece, and the inspiration behind it, here:

My cat, Wicked, was very interested in this piece. She was all over it, almost all the time.

After tacking down thousands of little pieces of fabric (mostly triangles) with glue to the fabric foundation, I stitched them down to a layer of fabric and cotton batting. And then I added another layer of batting (wool/polyester this time) and the backing fabric, and free-motion quilted around the flowers and leaves, and around the triangles in the blue background, to make the flowers and leaves more dimensional.

It’s a big piece, so it was a bear to quilt on my domestic machine, a Bernina 153QE. This photo gives you an idea of the scale. It was as big (lengthwise) as our king-size bed. (And again, Wicked is helping.)

Here’s how I photographed this piece. I laid out a big piece of vinyl tablecloth in a nearby parking lot, and smoothed the quilt out on top of it. Then I got up on the ladder, and shot down. I always try to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon to get the best lighting conditions. The shadows cast by the low rays of the sun create wonderful texture on the quilting. I eliminate the background in Photoshop. 

Making this piece was partly art therapy, partly an offering and a prayer for my husband’s recovery, and partly a way of keeping my eyes and my mind on the goodness and beauty that is all around, even when things get dark and scary.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent your good thoughts and prayers to my husband. He is doing well, but doctors are still not sure what’s causing the inflammation that brought on the seizure. The adventure continues…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Come soar at MISA

Madeline Island, Wisconsin: home of Madeline Island School of the Arts

“Maybe someday.”

I hear that a lot from people after they hear see images from one of my multi-day classes or retreats. Yes, it can be expensive. And yes, it requires travel. And yes, it is a long time to be away from your busy life at home. It is a sacrifice. But it’s worth it. I can guarantee you that if you talk to any of the students who have taken my multi-day classes, they will tell you that. Imagine… a week to yourself. To learn new techniques. To stretch yourself creatively. To boldly go where you have not gone before. (Yes, I just saw the latest Star Trek movie.) 

A one-day class is a nibble.
A five-day class is a feast
You will come away confident, renewed and enthusiastic. It might just change your life. I can say this because I’ve taken classes that have changed the trajectory of my career, and my artistic life. (Thanks, Bonnie McCaffery.) When I teach a multi-day class, my goal is to get everything I know about making fiber art out of my head and into yours. You have the time to absorb it, to test it out, and to have me there to walk you through step by step. Here’s what one of my students had to say:

“Your workshop was sensational…
Your artistic talent, as great as it is,
is second only to your enthusiasm and your spirit.
In your face, I can see the joy that is in your heart
when you talk about what you do, and it is contagious.
You are totally comfortable and
pleased with what you do
and that makes you willing to share it with others….
Today was a magnificent day;
I feel like I found something
that will be a part of me forever.
I am smitten!” 
– Sandy Clark

So here’s your chance:
I’m teaching at the Madeline Island School of Art (MISA) in Wisconsin Oct. 3-7, 2016. MISA is one of the top five art and craft schools in the country, and is known for its large studios, world-renowned instructors, and wonderful accommodations. Madeline Island is in northern Wisconsin in the Chequamegon Bay – approximately 90 miles east of Duluth, Minnesota, along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior. Madeline is the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands. To get there, you take a car ferry in Bayfield, WI. There is also an airport shuttle from Duluth.  

Now through Aug. 31, you can get $100 off your on-site lodging when you register for my five-day workshop Oct. 3-7 at Madeline Island School of the Arts! You’ll work from your own photos (or one of mine if you don’t have a photo you love) to create original painted and thread-sketched work. MISA is a spectacular venue on an island in LaPointe, Wisconsin, and we will be there at a wonderful time of year

 A 25% deposit is all that is needed to hold your place in my workshop.  To read more about my class and to register, click here, call MISA at 715.747.2054, or email
The fabulous studio at MISA. (Photo courtesy of MISA.)

I’ll be teaching Paint & Stitch: Create Original Work from Your Own Photos. If you’ve been wanting to learn about wholecloth painting and thread sketching, this is the workshop for you. In five days, you will get in-depth instruction in a spectacular setting. 

If you follow my work, you know that I work most of the time from photos like this one: 
… and then turn them into fiber art like this:

Intimidated? Please don’t be. My process involves working directly with the photo to trace lines, transfer them to fabric, and paint. When it comes down to it, it’s a lot like paint by numbers, except you learn how to mix colors and blend them, how to work with value to achieve depth, and how to stitch your piece to add extra interest and detail.
Here’s a piece in progress (that’s the actual photo at the top):

and here’s the finished piece:

My students – even those who have never painted before – get fabulous results with this technique. See for yourself in these blog posts:
… at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in California:

… at Road to California:

… at my Once in a Blue Moon Fiber Art Retreat in North Carolina:

Student accommodations at MISA
Here’s more information about my class:

Learn the basics of creating wholecloth painted and thread-sketched quilts based on your original photos. You will complete 2 or 3 projects, depending on size and complexity. Do not worry if you’ve never painted anything before… this may look complicated, but it isn’t once you learn a bit. Learn how to:
  • select the right photos for great results
  • choose paints and fabrics to use
  • trace key elements from your enlarged photo to produce a line drawing
  • use your line drawing as a pattern to create realistic images on fabric using acrylic textile paints
  • transfer the design to fabric
  • mix paints to get the right colors, shades and tints for your image
  • add detail, color and texture with thread to bring the piece alive
  • stabilize your piece to avoid draw-up
  • regulate your stitch for perfect tension
  • improve your control while stitching
The price for the five-day workshop is $670, plus a $40 materials fee (which includes paint, fabric, brushes) and lodging and meals.
Don’t keep putting off your chance to soar.

Please contact me if you have questions. I’d love to see you in Wisconsin in October!
“I was a high school teacher for almost 40 years and a college adjunct 8 years along with that. I've been an educator and student my whole life. I've been to Create, and Art & Soul retreat, plus too-many-to-list workshops, retreats, etc., over the years. I’ve had great teachers and perfectly awful ones. And I’ve taught numerous workshops as well. I think I have the experience to tell you that you rank as one of the truly truly BEST teachers I’ve ever had. Your easy style, simple approach to a well-defined and organized project, handouts, and your approachability all make your classes a truly memorable experience.” 
– Marlyn Foell

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Teaching at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops

The former Carriage House – now the studio – at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops.
I taught last week (Aug. 15-19) at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, New York (near Albany). This is the second time I’ve taught there; I really love having five days with students, because everyone is able to dig deep into their work and get a lot done under my supervision. The Greenville Arms is a grand old inn run by fiber artist Kim LaPolla and her husband Mark, a chef and chocolatier. During most of the year, they run artists’ workshops and retreats – oil, acrylic, watercolor, fiber arts and quilting – and bring in fabulous teachers. 

My room, with a quilt made by Kim!

You stay in the Inn, or in one of the other buildings with guest rooms, and have 24-hour access to a large, well-lit, well-equipped studio. You eat amazing gourmet meals and chocolate, and you hang out with fellow artists. It’s fabulous.

The Greenville Arms 1889 Inn

I covered wholecloth painting, fusible applique and thread sketching. Some students concentrated more on one than another, and some worked on large pieces, but all made substantial progress, and a few went home with a piece or two nearly completed. I thoroughly enjoyed this group!

My students did amazing work. Want to see? 

A quilt for Grace

Over the last ten years, I’ve made more art quilts than traditional quilts, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love making traditional quilts. (I just don’t have as much time to do it!) I actually have several in progress, and I just finished making this one – an extra-long twin size wonky log cabin – for my niece Grace, who graduated high school and is off to college this fall. She requested cool colors.

Congratulations, Grace! I hope this quilt keeps you toasty warm at college.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“Old Baldy”

“Old Baldy” (13-1/2" x 21") by Susan Brubaker Knapp. Copyright 2016.
White fabric, acrylic textile paint, cotton batting, cotton thread.
Wholecloth painted and free-motion machine quilted.

I just finished painting and stitching this piece, which is based on my brother’s photograph of “Old Baldy.” The lighthouse was first constructed in 1817 on Bald Head Island, one of North Carolina’s barrier islands that is at the mouth of the Fear River on Cape Fear. It is the oldest lighthouse still standing in NC. My extended family has vacationed on this amazing island – known for preservation of unique ecosystems including a maritime forest, marsh and prime nesting grounds for loggerhead sea turtles – for eleven years. It is near and dear to my heart.

To celebrate the lighthouse’s 200th birthday, Old Baldy Quilters is working with other community organizations on the island to hold several workshops on the island in May 2017.

I’ll be teaching students how to paint and quilt their own versions of this piece on May 11. I'm donating my teaching fee to the group working to preserve the lighthouse. I’ll share details as soon as they are available.

“Old Baldy” detail