The Challenge Of Hanging Irregular Shaped Quilts

October 1st, 2020

An art quilt maker FB friend recently asked for suggestions about how to display a 6ft diameter round work she had finished. That’s a large round piece right there.

Someone suggested putting several hanging sleeves containing slats or what Americans call cover strip (wood approx, 2.3cm x 0.5cm x width of work minus 2-3cm) between close to the top and down to the widest point of the circle, leaving the rest hanging – I’ve often seen this done, and to my ctitical eye it never ever sits properly – there’s always a combination of sagging and stretching, making it both impossible to get the textile sitting flat and also drawing attention to the multi-rod hanging system behind the quilt. And the hanging system should never distract the eye from the work itself.

Though I’ve never felt the need to make a round quilt, I have made plenty with serious shaping across the top, and two layers of cotton fabric with some standard batting in between will in time flop forward if it doesn’t have some support. Here is “Tropical Waters” that led to the Ebb&Flow series and became known as “Ebb&Flow 1”

I made this quilt to illustrate the article I was invited to write for Down Under Quilts, published in 2004. In the article I outlined how I reinforced the shapes that rise above the line your eye draws across from left to right at the lowest points in the wavy shape – behind which is a standard sleeve+hanging rod. Those shapes have some template plastic cut to fit up into during the construction phase, before quilting – and yes your sewing machine will stitch through the plastic inside. That plastic extends down below the level of the sleeve, and the diagrams and text go into that, so that on the wall it doen’t have anything flopping down.

Diagrams 4-8 detail use of reinforcing plastic as outlined in the text.
Presented with permission,

I think these diagrams from my article are self explanatory for someone who sews moderately well, but if you want further detail, the next images are scans of the text of the article:

Presented with permission,

And finally, intructions on how to make the quilt using the freehand improvisational construction, still not so well known back in 2000 as it is now. Sorry they’re just a little fuzzy, but contact me if you have any questions.,

Presented with permission,

But there’s another way to tackle serious shaping, too. You cut or have a carpenter jigsaw cut for you, a shaped board (just a bit smaller than the outer edge of your quilt, see black line of approximate shape) with several holes drilled into it for hanging on the wall; these match up with the nails or picture hooks you installd where you want to hang it. On the front side of the shaped board, you position and either glue or staple strips of Velcro just in from the edge.

Kimberley 1″ 70cmhx 100cmw, 1996. Photographed on black background.

To hang the quilt, first put the board in place. Then position the quilt so that the velcro strips stick together, and before you press into place firmly, check so that the whole work hangs straight down and flat against the wall.

The 3 pages scanned and included in this post were originally published as an article by myself, “Irregular Shapes” Down Under Quilts Magazine  #78,  pp 33-37.

Sky Fabrics For Tiny Landscapes

September 30th, 2020

As I commented recently, I use very litttle blue fabric, and so don’t have many bits in my scrap bags. As I auditioned the scrap bag contents for this project, it was clear that what I had wouldn’t be enough for the ~30 tiny landscapes I have in mind. Australian skies are bright and clear, though perhaps not as intensely blue as in the little landscapes on the right, all of made about 1996-7.

Most of my other blues were very pale or greyish, including a couple of pieces of light grey sashiko dyed fabric. Solution: spray paint them all! I watered down some ultramarine acrylic paint, put that in a small spray bottle, took them all out onto the back lawn and did just that.

I’m thrilled with the result that all the pieces are colour related but different; and I love those formerly light grey shibori pieces which remind me of approaching stormy skies. I need to do a couple of broody landscapes featuring them.

I love working this way, and there’s something very zen about sifting and selecting colours and textures, strip by strip, to compose a tiny landscape. The process is for every seam: select two, cut at the same time, sew, iron, repeat… my iron’s within reach, just beyond the RHS of the photo. At this scale it is certainly fiddly, but listening to an absorbing Harry Hole mystery (Jo Nesbo’s “Knife”) I really don’t notice the time passing.

Planning A New Small Work

September 26th, 2020

After a couple of great weeks doing 3D textile sculptures with Clarissa Callesen, and the next workshop by Vinny Stapley isn’t something I want to launch into just now. Though her textile art is lovely, I have downloaded the workbook, watched the video and put it aside for another time.

Right now I’m more interested in the 40cm x 60cm art quilt I will make to submit for SAQA Oceania regional exhibition for next year, themed Oceania: Distance And Diversity” That’s broad enough that I can produce a piece that both fits into that concept but which also belongs within my body of work. I’ve been thinking about how to convey in fabric and stitch something distinctive about our Australian continent nation. I have approached this many times, and it’s something I never tire of.

Top L-R: On the Edge Of The Golden Mile 1986, Distant Shores 1986, Outback Landscape 1987. Lower L-R: Pilbara 1996, Ticket To Munmalary 1997, Small Landscapes ~1998-9

Landscapes have either appeared literally in my works or underlain abstract expressions of it. Shapes and textures resulting from the geomorphological cycle or erosion/deposition translate to how I see landscape as a metaphor for life itself. I’ve been browsing pics of my own more recent works, plus things I’ve pinned to my own Pinterest boards, especially those titled lines and shapes, and contemporary hand stitch.

Detail views: Top L-R: Timetracks 16, 2009: Pandemic Pattern, 2020; Desert Tracks 5, 2007; Lower L-R Regeneration 2, 2020; Untitled 2020; Decay 2, 2008.

The words ‘…girt by sea…’, a phrase from our national anthem, are on my mind, so I’m feeling Australia’s natural landscape elements need to be surrounded by, edged or backgrounded by, blue representing the sea. I have some lovely hand woven blue cotton I’m considering using as background to the ‘landscape bits’. I’ve done ‘auditioning ‘samples from two angles –


Hand and/or machine sewn lines suggesting waves: L-R: Pearlescent, hand better than machine. Blue metallic – too dark. Large silver cone great by hand or machine. Smaller silver one – brighter, great by hand or machine. Glittery hologram thread – really fiddly, impossible by hand, needs too much tension adjustment which is not worth it considering I don’t have a full reel, anyway.


Glittery party fabric bonded to the blue cotton … interesting potential.

On our continent, there’s a huge variety of landscape colours and textures to consider using in my work on this theme. I’m thinking of either a series of little landscape collages, or strip assemblies – and at this time, it could go either way.

3D Inspirations 4

September 25th, 2020

This morning I ‘finished off’ this second group of sculpted fabric forms I’ve made in this second week of the Clarissa Callesen workshop. You can keep going until eternity with all this – its very calming and soothing to make unit after unit, and though my composition might actually do with a few more bits, I think I felt I’d reached the point where I had to stop some time. Then I embellished a number some of them with stitch, using french knots, stemmed french knots, running stitch, simple chain stitch and a simple irregular couching. Wandering with a needle is just how I normally stitch whatever I’m doing.

The daily Q&A sessions have been compiled into a video you can replay – which is like another instruction tutorial, so definitely enriching. This morning Clarissa answered a question from a student on what sort of notebooks and workbooks she keeps. This blog being essentially my own artist’s diary or workbook, I was really interested to hear her approach – ie she almost apologetically outlined how she doesn’t keep the classical artist’s notebook (which many artists and aspiring artists have come to believe as being almost as essential as doing the work itself) In her own words she isn’t a particularly good drawer, and rather than draw or sketch, she takes photos of things she likes. She prints photos or parts of them off, and places them around her studio. She has no particular way to organise samples she makes. This has a lot in common with my own system, and was quite interesting to hear.

Another part of the discussion was of armatures, structural supports for creations that are not flat, ranging from low relief up to completely 3D, or in the round as a few students have been doing. Down the years, virtually all my art has been 2D, with a few exceptions such as these works dating back many years:

3 Tetrahedrons (Morse, Fairy Bread, Wave) 15cm, 2016.
Fabric vessels, each ~25cm x 10cm 1994-6; Crows ~15cm 1996;
Golden Eagle Nugget ~25cm x 9cm x 3cm 1987

Forgotten But Not Gone, Apparently.

September 24th, 2020

It’s amazing, isn’t it, how you come across long forgotten things when you’re looking for something else. Today I was looking for a magazine article I wrote back in 2004 about improvisational piecing and irregular shaped outer edges. I found it, but in that search I came across this gem, dated 2008, but it feels earlier, so perhaps it was updated then. Note to self – perhaps I should put the date into the text of everything! Funnily enough, though, it’s the essence of a submission to present that I recently made to the organisers of next year’s SAQA conference in NZ. Fingers X – clearly I’ve been thinking about this longer than I thought.

Article – how my work has been influenced by the life I have led – the history and geography of a quiltmakers background! I have spent most of each of the last few years in Uruguay, where my husband’s mineral exploration activity is concentrated in the company he and another Australian founded to search for gold. This means of course that my career as a trailing spouse continues in another place where it is not possible to buy the fabrics which for so long I’ve been used to accessing easily and instantly. But this is not the hardship posting it might sound. 20+ years of Outback living around Australia have taught me to plan ahead, adapt or improvise, and to be patient if I have to order something up from the nearest capital city. Lately, (2008) it has given me the time and mental space to consider all that I have done in quiltmaking; and one thing I have realised is that much of my work can be read as modern or contemporary scrap quilts.

During a particularly cash strapped period, and feeling a little mortified at how my fabrics and scraps had accumulated, I determined not to buy any new fabric for a while; which is not too dificult to stick to if there’s none around.  Experience in Australian Outback living for many years made it easy for me to plan ahead and then be comfortable using what I’d brought across from Australia or down from USA (where the offsprings live). Certainly at first, fabrics were very carefully chosen for enough pre-planned projects to keep me going for as long as I planned to be here, and over this time bags of my scraps gradually relocated here. Every time I return to Australia or come back through the USA I bring a quantity of batting along with plenty of calico and plains to act as fillers, blending fabrics and backings.”

At the time of writing I was working mostly in quilters’ and other 100% cotton fabrics including lovely batiks and designer ranges on the American market, and really I still do, as they suit the way I love to cut and piece. Today, however, I also use a wider array of materials and techniques to make what are still layered ‘quilt’ constructions, ie art quilts, and by early 2005 I had started experimenting with appliqued leather in the surface design on the cotton fabric. Here’s one of my favourites from that time:

Desert Tracks 3, 2005 107cm x 137cm
Translate »