New Work: Now Quilting

December 3rd, 2021

Much of my fibre art builds on interpretations of traditional repeat patchwork patterns – those basic geometric shapes arranged into blocks set in grids. In the late 80s we moved to Denver for a time. Always a keen stitcher, and not having a work permit, in addition to joining the Embroiderers’ Guild of America Colorado Chapter, I began learning about making patchwork quilts – that very American of textile arts. I also joined a book discussion group to focus on reading and discussing American literature – I was all in for the cultural experiences ­čÖé A new neighbour introduced me to the Arapahoe County Quilt Guild in SE Denver. I took what turned out to be some really useful classes at a Quilt The Rockies Symposium – Seminole patchwork, Flying Geese Quilts, and one on the simple math in drafting patchwork to any size you wanted. I joined a quilting bee for the cultural experience, in what turned out to be a stellar group. It was a wonderful time in my life. Retaining my bee and guild involvements, I also joined an experimental art quilt group and began making my own original designs. From the very first I had success in some prestigious juried art quilt exhibitions, and also exhibited solo. The Front Range Contemporary Quiltmakers group formed while we lived there. It was amazing how many highly creative, innovative textile artists were (and are still) in that state.

I have frequently used simple shapes, particularly squares, as units of design in grids:

Divided squares using freehand cut strip inserts.

The traditional Nine Patch block, formed solely of squares, is one of my favourite blocks, though interestingly I have never made any kind of quilt using that design. In my previous post I wrote of how I’ve been following the small squares surrounded by stitch that so excited me during the recent challenge I took part in. Here is the whole piece, showing the design loosely inspired by the Nine Patch block, featuring 432 hand appliqued fused silk organza squares:

432 x 1.5cm silk squares fused and stitched down.

Besides showing in detail how the squares have a lovely texture, this also shows the first quilting, in which I’m really still auditioning the yellowy-green neon thread. What I mean here is that I’m prepared to pull out these early rows if the effect isn’t what I envisage, but I need more rows and some crossing them, too, before I finally decide.

Detail of stitched squares; the first yellowy/green quilting in the sashing area.

While the jury’s still out on that, I’ve started quilting in and around the groups of 9 squares, and absolutely love the way it enhances the little squares’ texture – they really pop up from the surface. This is due to the heavy nylon thread which doesn’t flatten down even when ironed.

Orange quilting around and between the 9 squares of each group.

Of course the whole thing would have been quicker if I’d stencilled the shapes ­čÖé but that’s something to think of for the next one. This tapice, wall hanging, wall quilt is not large, and will probably be about 30″ x 40″ when finished. One of my Stitch Club friends asked the other day about how I was going to finish the edge – my answer was that I have a lot of time to think about that, too!

Silk Organza Squares, Continued

November 22nd, 2021

Moving along with the grid structured, raw edge appliqued squares design I showed in the previous post, after finishing nearly half the rows (29/64 ) I decided that I needed to make more of the pattern of nine squares in each ‘block’ or unit; the 9 Patch block being one of my favourite traditional blocks, and it’s permeating my thinking about how the work might be titled. Knowing the extra work that would be involved, a few days ago, with a heavy heart I decided I simply must remove half the little squares in every finished unit and replace them with a different colour before continuing on with the next 35 units in two colours.

Note how bright the additional orange is. I also added a burgundy and another light yellow.

To increase the complexity a little, I added 3 more colours to the palette, including a fairly strong orange silk organza which positively glows under the neon orange thread. I’m now fully caught up and moving ahead from the halfway point.

This final photo is of a section of the back of the base fabric onto which I’m applying the little ~1-25cm squares. Each square is fused into position, surrounded by two straight stitches per side and an X in the centre. Each group of 9 sits comfortably within the spring loaded hoop that holds the fabric firmly in place while I sew with stab stich motions.

My stitching ‘pattern’ on the back!

Each square looks the same on the front given the sort of free form imprecise, organic, nature of my stitches, but interestingly, on the back there’s clearly no fixed pattern of which corner my needle goes to next. It might be interesting some time to sew a border or even a filling on the front, working it from the back, for example.

After The 100 Day Thing

November 13th, 2021

It ended on Wednesday 10th, though I had made and posted my final 3 samples the weekend before, so essentially, by the monday I was free and keen to start something new. This photo shows the whole collection of 100 mis-matched ‘drink coasters’ ­čÖé

The whole 100 drink coasters collection – stored in great recycled food boxes.

I have quite a bit of sheer fabric that has always lured me to experiment, but I’ve made only a handful of sheer/transparent works. My stash of sheers is mostly black, white, cream and taupe nylon organzas, but there are some coloured silk organzas, too, left over from a Chungie Lee workshop I took at Fibreswest years ago.

Many modern watercolour paintings (eg Laura Crane) have struck me with their likeness to layered organza, so I fused a few bits of nylon organza, fiddling with that concept, and I like the idea of thread trapped under or between layers of sheer fabrics. I’ll play more with that sometime, but it didn’t all gel enough to take me into a new work using it, not just yet, anyway.

A bit grainy, but fiddling with layering sheer fabric and some thread trapped under it.
A few of my personal favourites

Sifting through my sample collection just decidng where to focus, I realised that the little square surrounded by stitch with a cross stitch in the middle was something that made quite a few appearances in the last couple of weeks of the challenge. I have always had a thing for grids, rigid or more informal; and repeat motifs laid out in grids are the stuff of traditional patchwork. I carry them forward in the way that every artist is influenced by everything they’re seen, done and made before. I only had a short time in the world of traditional quilt making, but that influence is very strong to me. The little repeated square made less plain with added stitched borders and a cross in the middle has become something of a personal motif, and it was telling me ‘do something with it, so I began this new work yesterday.

Detail of new work in progress – fused silk on cream cotton, polyester thread.

These squares are rhythmic and fairly quick to do, and I’m sure I won’t run out of the thread I’m using, as there must still be at least 1400+m on the cone. They’re about ~1.5cm, and at this scale on cream, the metallic thread I thought I’d use just wasn’t powerful enough. I auditioned all my neon threads, and I’m happy with this orange, which is adding a gorgeous cast where I’ve sewn, and that will increase when I get into the quilting. I’m liking how it adds texture that doesn’t flatten down even when ironed – it’s a thick thread, of the kind of gauge used for heavy duty outdoor upholstery, back packs and luggage – and being polyester it’s quite springy. Of course, I bought it for being neon orange.

When I’m further along, I’ll show some detail of what I plan to go with these groups of squares. I never show full views of works in progress, nor of finished ones, either, until they’ve been exhibited and/or sold. I’m feeling very excited about this new direction – an interesting development from the last 3+ months spent in exploring through sample making.

My Favourite Landscape Block

November 8th, 2021

I go back to this little basic block time and time again. I was a geography major, and much of what I had to present 55 years ago was in basic diagram form, and this is a really basic, diagrammatic way of saying ‘landscape’. Today a student would most likely illustrate a paper with digital photos.

Gold lame segments ~4″ sq., metallic machine stitched between nylon organza .

I have used this little abstract landscape block many times down the years, and though I last published this little sample in 2014, from various ‘clues’ in it the photo, I’m sure I actually put this one together several years before that.

In 2006 I made Timetracks1 with hand appliqued gold leather segments (Quilt National 2007)… and there are several others, plus many more with curvy lines that also say ‘landscape’.

“Timetracks 1”, 2006, detail. Grid squares ~4inches..

I put coloured segments of organza between layers of cream organza and, in the immediate aftermath of a workshop with Chungie Lee on the Korean wrapping cloths, Pojagi, that’s how I constructed these blocks, oversewn with gold machine stitching. Sorry the pic’s a bit grainy.

I’ve gone down this memory lane this morning because, as quite often happens, I came across that little sample while looking for something else. Today I’ve got a bit of time, and in my stash have a couple of metres of gold lame, many metres of black, light grey and cream nylon organza, and several miles of lame thread…

Very Small Pieces, 14

November 7th, 2021

I expect this will be the last post on this little series, as I’ve now finished and posted the last few samples of the 100day challenge that ends in three days’ time, on Nov. 10th. I made them all the same size, mounted most of them over 3.25sq.in squares of foam core, lacing them as shown in this photo –

Two 3.25sq.in samples, one showing mounted fabric laced at the back.

There are a few set in or on heavy duty clear plastic, so l now have what might be described as a set of 100 mis-matched drink coasters. However, they sit nicely in several re-purposed handy see-through plastic containers which contained certain foods from our supermarket.

Stencilled squares, cretan stitch. 3.25sq.in
Leather arcs, hand appliqued in orange neon thread. 3.25sq.in
Fused silk organza, hand stitched with gold metallic thread. 3.25sq.in
Stencilled squares, hand stitched with gold metallic thread. 3.25sq.in

Most of the other participants in the challenge are nearing the end of a quilt or other project they’ve been making in this time; several have made a few small projects, one or two have approached and practiced fabric dyeing methods, and there are a few who’ve used their time to sharpen up drawing and photography skills. Several times in the last 3 months I’ve been asked by someone what I am going to make out of all these little pieces? Each time, I’ve answered that in effect I’m not making any ‘thing’, explaining that I always intended these little pieces to be a set of exploratory samples of materials and techniques, a more orderly approach than I have had to sample making in the past. (and which it would be a good idea to maintain, too) I found as time went on that they also reflected my developing interest in several design motifs for textures and larger features of a couple of new works I now feel very keen to start. This combination learning and planning project may in time have an additional bonus – if I ever have another in person workshop teaching opportunity, at least some of them will be handy to take along for reference and inspiration.

I’ve been excited by some of the results, and others have shown that they are, at least for the moment, not something I want to pursue further. Because these samples are not meant to go together, I won’t even try to take a photo of all 100 of them; but if you’d like to see more of them, go to my Instagram page

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