Posts Tagged ‘colour memories’

Freehand Or Improvisational Piecing – The Basics

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

 

detail, Ebb and Flow 2

I’m quite often asked how to go about improvisational or freehand (template free) cutting and piecing which has become very widespread  among quilt makers in the past 25 years- a modern tradition really.  Widely used by art quilt makers who piece their designs, and seen in quite a number of Modern Quilts, it’s all rotary cut and machine pieced.   The following basic instructions contain all you need to know to begin, as I only learned it from watching a short demonstration by Nancy Crow at the start of a several day long workshop, and then plunging in to using it straight away. It enabled us to rapidly get through heaps of exercises in her class on design and colour.  I’ve been enjoying this way of piecing ever since.

basics of improv

 

Hand piecers could use this just once,  perhaps, to make some wayy lines in the one direction  but it really is a machine technique,  even if you’re pretty speedy, as hand sewing won’t allow for more complex cutting, re-arranging, inserting slivers and so on.

Freehand or ‘improvisational piecing’ has become a modern convention – and once you recognize it, you’ll see it wherever there are pieced art and non-traditional quilts.   Elsewhere on this website are two galleries of my original quilts made between about 1990 and the present –  the Color Memories gallery followed chronologically by the Ebb& Flow gallery.  Keep in mind that have been piecing this way for over 20 years, but I too began with these simple instructions way back then.   With practice, you too will be able to achieve more complex constructions if you wish.

Basics of improv blog image

The main things to remember are:

  • to place both fabrics right side up
  • without built-in seam allowances, as you cut and sew each fabric shape its area showing on front becomes progressively smaller – so start out larger in anticipation. Experience will tell you how much to allow, but, if you run short somewhere on a side you can always add another piece as quilters traditionally have !
  • in addition to getting smaller, so, too, the edges become progressively more irregular. Resist your trimming urges until you have finished ALL the piecing.   When you do get round to trimming, discard tiny pieces but keep anything useful – small bits also piece up into lovely freeform mosaics you could use for appliqued or printed designs – see Judith Trager’s work among others for some good examples.

Alicia Merrett ‘s YouTube videos, are good in a very precise, controlled way –but, they were pitched to careful traditional quilters, but even so, you might find them helpful.    In the Nancy Crow class where I learned this piecing, we had a lot of colour and design work to get through in the time, and Nancy showed us these basics that enabled rapid working.  We put all rulers away and did no pinning, just putting edge to edge and sewed.  Some managed this better than others in the workshop; and at home I found my own way of working which includes periodic dots along the cut edges with permanent marker or other pen/pencil/chalk – and even more of these in tight curves.    I usually pin every few inches, more in tight curves –  but it all depends…. there are no right ways to do this, and only one correct result – a flat one.  Once you have learned the basics, experience will teach you whatever you want to know next – think it, try it.  And, if you ever need my advice or help, feel free to contact me through this website.

 

An Update on Motivations

Friday, July 17th, 2015

In the past day or so I followed another quiltmaker’s link to her blog about what she has been making recently – a site I’ve been to a number of times, and left a comment to the effect “I see what you’ve done, but what’s your motivation?”   Her response was that she didn’t think people would want to read about why she uses the materials and subject matter she does.  I really differ, and though I thought  her response a bit vague, with a principal rationale she gave as it being play, I appreciated her answering.  Yes,  I do like to read about what motivates people; after all, we all have different reasons for doing what we do, and, we could use other ways to express ourselves – painting, ceramics, writing a book or making movies, whatever. The artist in each of us is responding to a unique vision of the world around us.  Well that’s my view anyway – and I wrote back to her, in part –

The making, the sewing and assembling, is different for each of us, and leads to distinctive styles – but that is still different from the why behind it.  …. For myself, a lot of my work, including my Ebb & Flow quilts, or the works in my Tracks series (galleries on my website)  expresses what I see as a major theme in the world about me – that everything is in a process of change as long as your time scale is long enough – and that change over time brings people into and takes them out of our lives; change can affect health, wealth, geographical location, and of course we ourselves change through age and may even change emotionally as we move through time.  My vision is explored via abstract arrangements of lines, shapes and textures in fabric and thread; I don’t do anything pictorial/representational. Well my current series is as representational is it might get ….

Then I checked my own blog, and found it is a long time since I wrote about my own motivations!…. and if the above artist or any new reader was checking they might be wondering – so let me say a few words in general about all the textile art I have done –

For more than 30 years my original works have been inspired by landscape structures, processes and resulting patterning of textures.  Since childhood I have been fascinated by natural forces and the roles they play in shaping the landscape.  I studied geography and geomorphology at university. Since marrying a geologist in the late ’60’s, I’ve found myself living in a variety of different landscapes: coastal and Outback Australia, central western USA, littoral and urban Uruguay, all of which have influenced my work.   Regarding Landscape as a metaphor for Life is taking me in new directions.

I am currently exploring a landscape known as The Bungle Bungles or as the Aboriginal people have always called it, Purnululu.  It’s a large, deeply eroded sandstone and karst range in the Kimberley region of NW Australia.  In almost 20 years of Outback living, much of it up north, I still have not yet been there – but it is one of those iconic places Australians want to go, and I hope to one day. Iconic it may be, but it is also mysterious, and I wanted to use it as the subject of an art quilt competition I was entering at the time. I have become further intrigued with it and there are still several more ways I want to explore how I feel about this huge mass of rocks that stand arising out of plains like a group of sentinels.

While reading of the WA Government’s application document for the Bungle Bungles / Purnululu to go on the World Heritage List, I came across this comment by the writers –

“Religious beliefs, places of spiritual significance, stories and paintings
associating ancestral beings with the landscape, kinship connections and language
identification are all essential to the connection between people and place in Purnululu,
providing traditional owners then, as now, with a guide to living and being.”

This rather convoluted long sentence,  and other reading, have really focused my mind on this place, and at the moment I feel it could take me until the end of the year or beyond to exhaust the topic – a bit like a series of paintings on haystacks or waterlily ponds,  I guess.  While racking my brains for a suitable title, as I normally do I compiled a list of words I associate with my subject, and it includes these :-  age-old, timeworn, massif, massive,  keeper, emblematic, timeless, seasonal sculpture, silent, presence, overwhelming, mysterious …   And some titles I considered were/are Dreamtracks, Sentinels,  Ancient Keepers, Guardians.  The entry into the art competition that started all this I called ‘Dreamtracks’, and I may continue naming the series this with the addition of 2,3 etc., but I’m not sure if the one I am working on now will really be suited by this title, or not – I’ll wait and see when the quilting’s done.

BungleBungles 6

 

The Bungle Bungles of Australia’s Kimberley

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Known as “Purnululu” to the indigenous people of the region, and later known by Europeans as  “The Bungle Bungles”, these ancient landforms are located in a remote region of Australia’s north west known as The Kimberley.    It’s hard to get to, distances are long and rugged travelling, and though very expensive, flying over it is a very popular way for some to experience it.  I haven’t been there yet though I have travelled over a lot of the Kimberley region, including all the towns mentioned on this location map.

The Kimberley map

The Bungle Bungles have long been depicted in Aboriginal art from the area, and the formation has become a familiar motif in collectable art  in formats ranging  from paintings to Tshirts, graphic logos and 3d sculptures.

I’ve been inspired myself.   Back in 1993 I finished a quilt called Nightfall In The Bungle Bungles  155cm x 148cm part of which is shown here on the left. When finishing off this quilt, I went to a workshop by Nancy Crow at which I learned the basics of improvisational piecing which changed the whole way I piece fabric.  If I’d left making  NITBB until a month later, it would not have looked like a row of Egyptian pyramids 😉

BBungles Kimberley 2 collage blog The idea stayed with me and in 2002 I had another go, and the result, above right, was Kimberley 2, 70cm x 110cm.  

 

Wherever you go in this area it is impossible not be be impressed with distance, remoteness and dramatic scenery including waterfalls gracefully falling over over towering cliffs into the clear refreshing pools at their base.  Such cliffs inspired Kimberley 2, 1996,  110cm h x  70cm w, an irregular shaped peice photographed against a black background.

kimblerley

 

This morning I came across a call for entries for a textile art competition to be called ‘Kimberley Dreaming’ to be shown in Australia later in the year.  The required format is 30cm x 30cm.  I have some ideas gelling and enough time to put one or two into effect before the closing deadline – so I’m off to dig through my scrap bag for suitable fabrics to begin putting something together.

 

 

 

Love Affair With a Special Fabric

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

A very special fabric and I were first introduced in 1990, and I’m still in love with it.  Its a cotton,  printed black with irregular tan coin spots, designed by and American designer, Jennifer Sampou for P&B Textiles in the early ’90’s.

 

I was living in the US when it was released, loved it at first sight and bought some on the spot realising it was the perfect border and sashing for this quilt, below, I was making at the time. “Through The Windows of My Mind” 1990, 256cm sq. became one of the earliest  Colour Memories quilts, inspired by the vegetation colours and landscape features of the remote tent camps we lived in for a couple of field seasons in the Northern Territory. This time, 1975-6, I now refer to as our Tent Period, and to me this quilt says it all.

Through The Windows of My Mind blog cropped-1

Several years later, I saw this fabric remaindered somewhere in the USA at $3/yd, so naturally I bought the remaining half bolt.  Although this fabric design was released in several colourways, the tan/black certainly is evocative of Australia’s sunburnt landscape and our national sense of colour; plus clearly in the minds of some it also referenced the dot paintings of some of our indigenous artists.  As Jennifer and her range were clearly American I am sure this is happy coincidence, and I think the black/tan colourway was actually too hard for American quiltmakers to use with their totally different ‘national colour palette’ – no wonder it was remaindered, imho.  Having about 9m of this fabric now, I began work on this 2m sq work, “Desert Wind” 1995, and I wish I had $1 for every time someone said something like “Oooh, so you do Aboriginal quilts, too !!”

Desert Wind copy blog

I understand the comment of course, but it’s never been said about this next one though, which to my mind might be more deserving.  Its title “Kimberley 2” 2002  90cm x 110cm refers to the Bungle Bungles rock formation located in the Purnululu National Park  up in the Kimberley region of Australia.

 

Kimberley 2 blog

 

I also used it as a background fabric to the blocks in this next quilt, “New Directions” 2002  96cm x 84cm    in which the lines and arrows represent people coming to our ancient continent from all directions over its entire  human history: the black/tan of course here signifies the original immigrants, our indigenous people who crossed the land bridges from Asia  perhaps at least 60,000 years ago.

New Directions blog


I still have about a metre of the fabric and eke it out,  and there are plenty of small bits in my scrap bag so pretty well every Ebb&Flow quilt has a little in it somewhere.  Some of it went into a bed quilt for our daughter a few years back, and there’s some on our bed, too.  I kick myself when I think of the 4 metres I used on the (never seen) back of “Desert Wind” .   I guess I naively assumed at the time that such a marvellous fabric would always be available … well of course, I now know that’s not true !   But what is true is that every now and then a fantastic fabric will come into my orbit;  I will instantly emotionally bond with it and recognising it as special, will buy as much as I can, at least 3 metres if possible.  I always make sure I have a credit card or some cash on me when I’m out and about in likely places.  Most important of all, I know I will use it because I love it.

 

A Journey Through Landscape

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

An article has just been published about my work on the Quilt National Artists website here: http://quiltnationalartists.com/journey-landscape-alison-schwabe/.  To compose it I looked back through the 4 works I’ve had selected into Quilt National down the years, and while putting them into their context, the title emerged.  Each has to do with landscape as the surface on which change is recorded, and marks are left.  It took me years to see a link between a landscape and a life.  You can read about it and see the pics of the 4 quilts in chronological order down the page, starting with “Ora Banda”, just a little special because it was my first successful entry.

Ora Banda copy blog

“Ora Banda”  1992      127cm h x 150cm w

I pieced it before leaving Denver to accompany my husband to South America on a business trip, and did all the hand quilting while in Montevideo and Mendoza, Argentina.   I never look at it without remembering the beautiful plaza in front of our hotel there, and how I sat out in the early autumn sun for a couple of hours every afternoon to quilt during the hours of siesta.  Autumn leaves were falling.  Occasionally people would stop and ask what I was doing and comment – goodness knows what they made of whatever I said, as I knew very little Spanish then!

 

Translate »
%d bloggers like this: