Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Peek Into My Process -- Conversations

I'm delighted to share a new art quilt just finished! It's likely my last completion of 2018. (I'll be working on other things in December, but I don't think I'll finish them.)

Conversations, 40x40"

Would you like to see some photos of my process?

I started when I got a wild idea to make something new to enter in Quilt Con. I am a member of the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild and I think the MQG is doing lots of interesting and exciting things. I really love being a member even though I'm not sure what I create is *modern* I think there is some cross-over in what I do and what is typically thought of as the *modern* aesthetic.

I started by choosing these three fabrics as inspiration. (I didn't end up using the leaf print.)

Plus, this photo of the tree at the end of my alley. I see it every day but have only begun to appreciate its beauty. This image is cropped and edited to highlight that wonderful silhouette.

At QuiltCon, all quilts less than 36" on any side go in one big "small quilts" category. I didn't want to be lumped into a category that could have tons of variety. I wanted to enter the applique category, so that meant the quilt had to be bigger than 36 inches. I opted to make a 40x40 inch square.

That helped me plan the size of the tree which I blew up using the excellent online application Rasterbator.

I printed out the pages and taped them together.

Then traced the tree onto parchment paper with a pencil.

Then transferred the drawing to pre-fused brown fabric.

Then I cut it out with tiny scissors. Tedious. Someone on Instagram asked if I used a digital cutter. Nope -- just good old scissors. I don't think a digital cutter could cut a tree this big anyway. Actually, I made it even more tedious by preserving the negative cut-out which I could use in another quilt.

Then I spent a few days at the design wall trying different compositions and fabrics. That low volume background is a nod to the modern aesthetic, but it's still me.

I settled on the blackish batik for the top arch, but that meant the bottom gray panel would need to be much lighter. I didn't have any light gray, so I had to make a trip to the fabric store. You can see I had a slightly lighter gray as pictured here, but not light enough.

Aha. Better. I filled that light gray panel with handwriting. (Actually, I'd already filled the darker gray panel with handwriting, so that's now in my stash for another project.)

Here's everything all flat and fused the batting. You probably wouldn't even notice, but I felt like the tree was a tiny bit unbalanced on the left, so I added one extra sprig. You may be able to see the difference if you scroll up to the earlier versions.

I knew I wanted to add a hand embroidered outline of a chair. I was originally planning just one chair. All my chair quilts are just single chairs. But obviously, this strongly symmetrical composition could accommodate two chairs.

I chose two Ikea chairs and fiddled with the size to make them fit under the tree. It was important to choose different -- and yet similar -- chairs.

Those chairs got traced onto freezer paper and ironed onto the quilt to act as a pattern to stitch around. This method is safer than using some kind of transfer pen.

I also added some scattered embroidered stars at the top.

Then I thought about adding more embroidery. My beloved Y stitches? Ultimately, I decided it didn't need anything else. Modern quilts are often minimalist. But then I needed to decide how to quilt it. That was really hard. I sketched some ideas. I rejected all of them.

Eventually, I decided I should start by quilting the branches of the tree. That meant I had to sketch them. Not my favorite task or a skill I feel particularly good about. I worked and re-worked the sketch using parchment paper so I could see all the little spaces I'd want the branches to fill.

Then I pinned the parchment paper to the quilt and free motion quilted following the lines. Then peeled off the parchment paper. (Another tedious task.)

Then I struggled with how to quilt the rest of the quilt. I decided on parallel lines following the arch. This kind of linear quilting is often seen in modern quilts. It was also tedious because I chose to start and stop at each little cluster of stars. Generally, I don't like machine quilting to cross over hand embroidery.

I considered more linear quilting for the bottom half of the quilt but decided on my favorite leafy motif instead. I especially like how these leafy vines nestle around the chairs.

Ta Da! Mostly done... but wait, still needs a binding. I did a fused binding, mostly matching the body of the quilt. Here's that overall shot again.

I sent off my entry today. From start to finish it took about 12 days. Not full-time days, but several hours. I really enjoyed the whole process and I'm delighted by the results. Here's the statement I included with my entry.

This silhouette is based on a tree at the end of my alley. I set it in a neutral composition and thought about conversations that might occur while sitting under it. The handwriting on the bottom panel represents all the stories and ideas we need to share with each other. It’s intended to be illegible so viewers can envision their own narratives. The combination of a variety of fabrics, frayed edges, irregular shapes, and scattered stitches reminds me of the complicated conversations that may happen between night and day, dark and light, or beginnings and endings.


Read more about the process of developing your own creative voice and creating art that is distinctly *you* even while considering other aesthetic styles in my workbook Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice. 

Monday, September 03, 2018


As I was preparing for my five-day workshop at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops, I thought it would be fun to create some kind of "marker" for each day. I love check lists, passport stamps, and gold stars so I decided to make a sticker to give the attendees each day.

I started by creating five small art quilt collages that could be nicely cropped into circles. I used a 4" circle cut from a piece of paper to help me visualize the size and shape as I worked. We'd be talking a lot about personal symbols during the workshops, so each design includes one of the symbols I use regularly in my work.

Here are the five finished collages.

Next, I took photos of each and imported them into Canva, a free online graphic design platform. That allowed me to crop them into circles and add some text. I was sort of planning to include text, so I had left some space in each collage where I could drop the text. Some ended up more easily accommodating the text than others.

Finding the quotes was tricky. They needed to be short. They needed to fit the meaning of the symbol. I didn't want them all to be quotes from white dudes. During the week before my workshop when I had a lot of planning and packing to do, I probably spent too much time searching for just the right quotes. (It was worth it.)

Monday's quote reminded us to explore every possibility during the week.

Tuesday's quote is one of my favorites -- and reminds us to celebrate complexities... in the creative process and in ourselves.

For Wednesday, I chose a quote that would encourage us to keep going!

On Thursday, the quote suggests that taking a moment to reflect is important.

On Friday, we began to think about returning to our homes and the places in a creative life where we are most fulfilled.

These Canva images were also perfect for posting on Instagram, which I did each day of the workshop.

I picked up a pack of Avery sticker labels to print on my home printer. These are the ones I used.

The Avery website provides downloadable templates for all their labels, making it easy to import the image and get it sized and placed just right to fit on the sticker page. Finished stickers.

We kept all our exercises, handouts and worksheets in a plastic binder through the week. Here's my binder on Friday.

This was such a fun project! The students seemed to get a kick out of them too. I hope to have more opportunities to teach multi-day workshops and will definitely print up more stickers for the occasion!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Iceland Highlights and Recommendations

We had a fabulous trip to Iceland. I really could go on and on, but several people have asked for recommendations, so I'll share the highlights in this brief post. Maybe I'll share more inspirations and details in another post later.


Read the many recommendations and blog posts on I Heart Reykjavik. I got lots of great info there including restaurant recommendations.

Take the I Heart Reykjavik Walking Tour. Our tour guide was charming and offered us a great mix of history, art, architecture, pop culture, recommendations and personal stories. Pricey, but worth it. This blog post about why you should book her tours sold me. Here we are with our guide.

Get a cinnamon roll at Braud and Co. They have lots of other pastries too. Try those if you want but don't miss the cinnamon roll.

See the three highlights on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir. Decide whether you're going to rent a car and drive it yourself or take a tour. Pros and cons for both. We drove ourselves. Here we are overlooking Gullfoss.

If you drive yourself, plan to have lunch at Fridheimar Tomato Farm. This was super unique, delicious and fun. If you decide to take a tour consider one that has a stop here.

If you want an additional stop on your Golden Circle tour, Kerid Crater is really cool.

Splurge and go to the Blue Lagoon. Everyone seems to love it. We did this last time we were in Iceland (17 years ago) and the price has risen dramatically.

Or get the geo-thermal spa and water experience at Fontana instead. (Or another pool or spa, there's several.) That's what we did. It was cheaper, already on the way to something else we were going to see and less crowded than the Blue Lagoon. But there is no silica mud mask. I'd say both are in stunning locations. Blue Lagoon in the middle of a lava field and Fontana on the shore of a lake. See the lake behind us here? You could soak in the naturally-heated pools, then walk right out into the naturally-COLD lake. (I didn't, but Jeff and Claire did.)

Walk along the shore from Harpa to Sun Voyager.

We didn't have time for many museum stops, but Tales from Iceland was pretty fun. It exceeded our expectations.

We really enjoyed the live theater production of Icelandic Sagas.

Walk around the old harbor area near the Maritime Museum -- I believe the area is called Grandi. It's trendy and nice. We ate at Lamb, Flatey and Valdi's. I wish we could have taken the tour at Omnom chocolate.

Obviously, there's lots more to do. Of the things we enjoyed, these were the highlights. Let me know if you use any of our tips.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Art Quilt Collages with Florabunda!

RJR Fabrics, Quilty Box and Melanie Testa are hosting an Instagram Florabunda! introduction and fabric GIVEAWAY and Blog Hop running June 7 through 16.

I was delighted to create a series of small art quilt collages with Melanie Testa's beautiful new fabric line, Florabunda! RJR sent me this selection of fat quarters. So inspiring, right?

I started by fusing everything then cutting, slicing, tearing, combining, mixing and layering these beautiful prints with a few other fabrics from my collection including some of Leslie Tucker Jenison's Urban Garden line. I added a few lines of handwriting for visual texture and interest -- and because it's one of my go-to details for my creative style and voice.

Then I had this wrinkly collection waiting to be fused.

Fun, right? I was really excited to add stitching both by hand and by machine. The stitching always elevates the work and adds interest and texture.

Here's one of the pieces all flat and fused... waiting for stitching.

And here are the finished pieces. They are all 5x7 inches and finished with a tiny line of stitching and a painted edge. You can barely see that bit of color, but I love it as a finishing method. (It's described in my book, Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.)

See!? The stitching brings it all together.
Spring Sprout

This one is probably my favorite. I love the messy French knots I nestled in amongst the leaves.
Graceful Greens

A fussy cut leaf and a stitched leaf!
Floral Fusion

This charming bud is perfect for a focal element.
Blushing Bud

These last two I actually mounted and framed. Don't they look great?

I'm loving this pink and black color combo.
Rising Rose

Here's a little closer look at the frame...

And the title notation on the mat.

I loved fussy cutting those pink shapes and turning them into flowers. (They could be birds too!)
Floral Flutter

Florabunda is such an inspiring collection for art quilt collage. Every print and colorway talks to each other in interesting ways. It's perfect for fussy cutting, layering and mixing with other tone-on-tone prints or original surface design patterns. As an artist, I love using botanical shapes in my work and the leaves, flowers, vines and patterns in this collection are beautifully realistic but have a true hand-designed quality about them. You can see the movement of the dye and paint Melly must have used in the original designs. The subtle chevron print may be my new favorite fabric. It's perfect to ground a design and the colors are familiar but slightly unexpected. You'll definitely see bits of Florabunda pop up in my work in the future!

Blog Hop Details and Chances to Win!
Visit and like all Florabunda! blog hoppers on Instagram, including @RJRFabrics @QuiltyBox @MellyTesta to increase your chances to win swag! RJR Fabrics will post chances to win Florabunda! Swag daily June 11 through 16. 

You can also check out Melanie Testa’s blog each day. She'll be posting highlights and interesting knowledge nuggets about each participant! With pictures! (I wonder what she'll write about me?!)

June 8: Deborah Boschert
June 11: Kathy York
June 11: Teri Lucas
June 12: Leslie Tucker Jenison
June 12: Heidi Kelly
June 14: Debby Brown
June 14: Susan Brusker Knapp
June 15: RJR Fabrics Social Media Event
June 16: Melanie Testa