Posts Tagged ‘quilts’

A while back, I received an e-mail from a prospective client asking if I’d be interested in creating a wall quilt from a logo she had already commissioned from a graphic designer. She was building a mountain home – a dream home, really – and was celebrating this event with artwork. I don’t usually create art quilts from other people’s designs, but I met with her, liked the design and the client, and took the job.

Lesson 1: When a door opens, you don’t have to go through it. But it’s a good idea to look through the open door to check out the opportunity.

Logo DesignThe logo artwork was a line drawing with a basic color palette. The client wanted the resulting quilt to be prominent in her new home. She wanted it to be big – 9 feet by 9 feet big. I work in a small studio with no room for a quilt that size to hang during construction. We settled on 6 feet square, which still felt like a monster size. In fact, I needed to construct a portable design wall to accommodate the project, but it was doable.

Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Negotiation isn’t a dirty word and it doesn’t always mean that someone’s trying to take advantage. This negotiation helped me set limits and contributed to the overall success of the project.

Working within the color palette, I gathered fabrics. Too many fabrics, really, but it was good to have choices. I spent a lot of time collecting, auditioning, and selecting fabrics from a wide array of sources. I used commercial cotton, batiks, raw silk, and rusted fabric. In art quilt class yesterday, one of my students was talking about a recent quilt and said she had been a slave to one of the fabrics, changing every other fabric to try to make the piece work but clinging to this one special fabric. Finally, she realized she had to jettison that one problem child fabric and the piece came together. Her experience sounded familiar. The fabrics for the borders and corners of this piece – the browns and greens – gave me fits. I had one or two fabrics that I thought were perfect and I clung to them. In the end, I had to give them up and that helped break through my quilter’s block.

Quilt on the BerninaLesson 3: Make decisions but be open to changing your mind. Not all decisions are good ones, and you may not be as stuck as you think you are. Just because something looks great in one context doesn’t mean it will work well somewhere else.

This quilt was the hardest wall quilt I’ve ever made. I could go on about how the circle in the square layout gave me heartburn or how the miles of handmade bias binding took forever to make or how moving the piece from the design wall to the sewing machine caused the pinned pieces to shift, forcing me to hand baste every piece in place. All of these things are true, but every project brings challenges. So what made this piece so difficult? Fear. When I take on a project, it never occurs to me that I might not be able to successfully complete it…until I’m knee-deep in alligators. This piece was bigger than my typical work and that made the challenges seem insurmountably bigger. I was in an almost constant state of fear that I would not be able to complete this art quilt as I had envisioned it. If you know me, you know that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Usually, that works for me, but not for this project.

Lesson 4: Work hard and trust your instincts. If you’ve honed skills over decades of education and experience, trust that you have the tools to identify problems and that you will find a way to resolve any issues. Get out of your own way and do the work. It really will all work out.

Quilt in placeWhen the quilt was completed, my husband and I took it to the client’s newly completed mountain home and installed it. Through the entire ride to the client’s house, I worried. Would she like it? Would it be good enough? Would it hang flat enough? Would the rod I chose fit with the rest of the house? Would, could, should. When it was time, I unrolled the quilt on the floor and held my breath while my client took her first look at her new art quilt. I needn’t have worried. She was happy, I was happy, and I felt myself release more tension than I knew I had been carrying. We crouched around the quilt as I pointed out special fabric choices and showed her where I had made quilting decisions to commemorate aspects of her house and its construction. She was interested in as much information as I could give her and I was bursting at the seams to share every detail.

Lesson 5: Outcomes are often much worse in your imagination than in reality. I had imagined the worst. What if she hated it? What if she didn’t love the colors I used? What if, what if, what if? In reality, she loved it. We artists are a fragile bunch, at once proud of our work and fearful that no one will like it and, by extension, us. I’m not sure how to change that in myself, but I hope my awareness will help boost my confidence.

I’m working on a new commission now for a different client. When it’s completed, I’ll post about this art quilt of three generations of wedding gowns. For now, let me say that I’m keeping an open mind through the process, trusting my instincts, and trying not to worry about how the client will react. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.


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If your quilt is ever going to hang in a show with pipe-and-drape construction, then your quilt needs a proper sleeve. This sleeve needs to be a 4″ tube, finished on both ends, roomy enough for the show pipes, and sturdy enough to hold up under the wear and tear of quilt show life. Here’s how to make it.

1. Cut the Fabric

From a sturdy woven fabric, cut a strip 10” wide by the one inch less than the width of your finished quilt. If your quilt is 18” wide, then you would cut a 10” x 17” strip of fabric.

Step 1: Cut

2. Finish the Ends

Hem the 10” ends of the unsewn sleeve by turning under ¼” hem, pressing, turning under another ¼” hem, and pressing again. Then, stitch in place. This covers the raw edges and creates a strong end for the sleeve. In case you care about thread color, this is the stitching that will show on your sleeve. Choose accordingly. The contrasting thread in the picture is for you, dear reader.

Step 2: Finish the Ends

3. Construct the Tube

Fold the strip WRONG sides together so that the hems are at each end and the tube is now 5” wide. I press at this stage to make things easier. Stitch along the raw edge side, taking a ½” seam allowance. Then, BASTE along the fold ½” from the edge. Yes, it sounds weird, but it’s important to do this.

Step 3: Construct the Sleeve

4. Finish the Sleeve

Press the sleeve so that the seam (raw edges) and the basting (folded edge) are nested together, one on top and one against the ironing board. I flip the seam allowance in one direction and the folded edge in the other direction. The task becomes more challenging for longer sleeves.

Step 4: Nest the Seams

Step 4: Finish the Sleeve

5. Attach the Sleeve to the Quilt Back

Pin the sleeve to the back of your quilt, centered left to right, about 1” below the top of the quilt. The raw edges should be toward the quilt and the basted fold should be away from the quilt. Do not take the shortcut of stitching the sleeve into the binding. Yes, it will save you time – unless you actually want to use the sleeve without it showing from the front. Resist the temptation.

Step 5: Attach the Sleeve

Now, hand stitch around all four sides of the sleeve, including the ends where the sleeve is open. If you don’t, the people who hang your quilt are likely to slip the pole between the sleeve and your quilt instead of inside the sleeve, leaving potential yucky residue on your artwork. When you stitch, try to catch the sleeve and the quilt backing only. If you go all the way through, your stitches will show on the front. If you catch too much batting, the quilt front could dimple a bit.

Step 5: Attach the End of the Sleeve

6. Finish the Sleeve

Now, rip out the basting that you stitched ½” away from the fold. This makes the outside of the sleeve a little longer than the side that’s against the quilt back, creating ease to go around the pole. If you don’t create this ease, the top of your quilt can appear rounded when the pole is in the sleeve. If you’ve seen this effect, you know why you want to avoid it.

Bonus Tip!

If you’ve decided not to bind the quilt, but use an escape hatch (or knife edge, pillow case construction, stitch and flip – whatever you want to call it) instead, cut the opening you use to “birth” or turn the quilt where the sleeve will go. The sleeve will cover the opening and your secret will be hidden. Laura Wasilowski calls this the trapdoor or encasement binding technique; check it out in her book Fusing Fun! Fast Fearless Art Quilts. Or click here to read Melody Johnson’s explanation of the escape hatch technique. I learned it from her at QSDS…but that’s a story for another post.

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Why do we wait until Thanksgiving to say thanks?  I guess we wait to be thankful for the same reason that we depend on the first of the year to awaken our resolve.  This has been an amazing year, and I have much for which I am thankful.

The Essential ThanksgivingI’m thankful for family that loves me.  And I’m thankful to be at peace with the family that doesn’t.  I am thankful for the family that is no longer here but whose spirits are with me always.

I am thankful for my husband, who continues to encourage me to pursue quilting full time and who cheers the loudest when good things happen. 

I’m thankful for the most supportive circle of friends anyone could want.  We celebrate accomplishments, recognize milestones, and share the passage of time.  We laugh together and we make stuff together.  And while I may choose to spend time alone, I never feel alone.  They are amazing people.

I am thankful for my clients, past and present.  They have trusted me to create art for them that merges their wishes with my vision.  I am thankful for the clients who are patient and who recognize that you cannot rush art.  And I am thankful for the clients who are happy enough with their finished quilts that they want to share them with the world. 

I am thankful for my students.  I treasure the time we spend together.  I am awed and inspired by their work and their energy. 

I am thankful for the people who hire me…to lecture, to teach, to present workshops, to write articles.  They make it possible for me to continue doing what I love.

This has been an amazing, wonderful year.  Last year at this time I would never have predicted that this year would have been so filled with opportunity and joy. 

Oh, and why this picture?  (My husband took this shot last year while preparing a message for his fantasy football league.)  I’m thankful for the tradition of Thanksgiving, for the reminder to say thanks. And I’m thankful for the football games that allow me time in the studio.

Last, I’m thankful that you took the time to read my blog.  I appreciate it.

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Too Much SoulI love Disney World.  It’s not just for kids, and I admit that I love going there.  But do you know where I really love to go?  Houston! 

Disney has Imagineers, fireworks, and rides that give you a wonderful feeling inside.  Houston…well, Houston has all that and quilts! 

Instead of Imagineers, Houston has Karey Bresenhan and her staff Phyxiusof talented and organized people.  They dream of what the show can be and *poof* the show appears.  Every year!  Do you think it’s a coincidence that quilt angels wear white gloves just like Mickey Mouse?

Instead of fireworks, Houston has vendors.  Every possible color combination and item is represented in the vendor booths.  If you can’t find it, you either haven’t looked or you don’t need it.  If you went, I hope you checked out Artistic Artifacts.  Judy Gula has some wonderful wares and amazing samples.  I used lots of her stuff in my Journal Quilt, Phyxius.

Instead of rides, well, they have quilts.  This year, Too Much Soul to Control hung in the IQA Judged Show in the Mixed TechKathy and her Quilt in Houstonnique category.  I loved seeing it hang, but I really enjoyed watching other people look at my work.  That’s right.  I admit that I stood a little down the aisle and watched people interact with my quilt.  It was way better than the Tower of Terror! 

I also got the thrill of watching my friend Kathy Lincoln see one of her quilts hang in Houston for the first time.  Voyages is made with amazing Burmese silks (more on them in a later post) and phototransfers of treasured family pictures.  To see a bigger picture of her quilt, visit www.KathyLincoln.com and check out her gallery.

The Journal Quilt exhibit was amazing.  I was excited to see my journal quilt, Lisa’s To Be ListPhyxius, in the show as well as Lisa Ellis‘s journal quilt, The To-Be List.  I really liked the bigger format for this year’s Journal Quilts.  There was more room for exploration, for development of an idea.  Smaller formats seem to pressure me to “use” all the space and I often think the result seems crowded or overworked.  I really liked having the extra space this year.  I also like how cohesive the exhibit looked with all the quilts using identical formats.  There’s a lesson there about pulling together disparate components into a cohesive whole.  Here’s hoping that the powers that be will decide to do another book.

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Have I mentioned that I love to teach?  Truly, I do.

Trees Workshop with the Richmond Quilt GuildHere’s a class picture from the workshop I taught this weekend for the Richmond Quilt Guild in Richmond, Virginia.  These ladies bravely wielded their rotary cutters without the aid of rulers to “draw” trees and then created their very own forests.  I am so proud of their work!

I created the original Trees quilt as a timed exercise.  TreesA very talented art quilt instructor, Judy House, challenged us to prepare the design and materials for a landscape quilt and then do the actual work in one hour.  Yes, one hour. 

 The trunks are pieced into the background, even though it looks as though it’s appliqued.  I believe this quilt is a perfect example of letting your fabric do the heavy lifting.  This design is more simplified than my original plan, but I also think it’s better. At the end of the hour, the center panel was pretty much done.

Trees hangs in my studio and reminds me to keep it simple.  In 2006, it brought home a second place ribbon from the New Jersey State Quilt Convention.   

To see more Trees workshop pictures, visit my website www.MoonlightingQuilts.com.  If your guild would like to learn to make their own Trees, contact me at Cyndi@MoonlightingQuilts.com

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