Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

My ‘Posted Stitches’ Protest Quilt Is Finally Done

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Hi Bev.

It’s been too long since my last art quilt and it feels really good to finally finish this one. At first I struggled to decide what to protest. There are so many injustices and and conflicts in the world that it was difficult to choose one. In the end, I went with one of my biggest concerns: war.

Obviously, I decided to protest with a sense of humor, substituting “aprons” for “love” in the old “Make love, not war” protest.

Intellectually, I understand the reasons why wars are waged and support the Americans fighting overseas right now even thought I don’t agree with the circumstances under which the war started. I just don’t believe war is the best, most logical way to settle disputes. So, I decided to suggest one protest alternative that I haven’t heard before.

I know wars won’t end with peaceful craft sessions anytime soon, but wouldn’t it be great?

To make this quilt, I sketched out the design, then made my applique using a paper piecing method. To give the quilt some dimension, I decided to stuff the bust of the the woman’s T-shirt and make her apron hang off the quilt like a real apron.

I scrapped the first shirt I started embroidering because I changed my mind on the text. Before I settled on the war protest theme, I started stitching “Save the aprons” on the shirt. When I changed my mind, I had to cut a new shirt and start over. I’m glad I did.

So there you have it. Now it’s time to move on to our next project.



Wild man of the green

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

It’s the middle of the afternoon here in Melbourne, and nearly midnight in the Eastern U.S. I’m glued to the computer to keep tabs on your election results. I keep hitting that ‘refresh’ button on the BBC’s vote counter to see how things are stacking up. As a journalist, this must be a wild and woolly week, elections being what they are. I hope you get some stitching time soon.

Myth in the dark

A few nights ago I sat down late – it was almost midnight here – to paint a Green Man. It was a wild a windy night; perfect for an elemental spirit, and when I went to hang the dripping wet square out on the line in the dark, it glowed.

I’m still stitching on leaves and bark, bugs and buds, but I wanted to let you know that my Jack o’ the Green is on the way, soon to be revealed.


The mystery….

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Felted vest

Hi there,

Okay, so I know we’re both almost almost neeeearly finished the latest of the art quilts. As for me, my fingers are stiff tonight from sewing on about twenty zillion little beads onto my image. It doesn’t help that I’m sitting on the sofa and every once in a while I hear a little ‘ping!’ tinkle-tinkle-tinkle as another bead escapes and skitters across the floorboards.

I can’t wait to reveal this month’s quilt!

As if we didn’t have challenges enough, my personal skill-testing technique this month is stenciling, and to do this, I am participating in a challenge issued by a very fun blog here in Australia. Head on over to Hoppo Bumpo‘s blog to see her excellent Stencil-Along research and testing. This girl is taking the challenge seriously, and like all good girl guide leaders of our little troupe of sewer-stencilers, she’s doing prep beforehand (“Here’s one I made earlier…”) You can find the original post about the Stencil-along here.

Let’s just say that my quilt isn’t going to lead on the technical accomplishment sideFelted vest, but the graphic turned out just fine.

So, Jennifer, let me guess… I bet you a pack of beads that the wonder product you’re raving about is a tip from the workshop you went to with Sharon Schamber. Her art looks amazing, and if you are sharing any techniques, bring out the goods! We want to know!

There’s more to talk about, including the Fibre Forum, of which I’m including just a couple of photos as a teaser. The photos above and to the side are of stitched, felted and embellished vests made by the ladies in one of the week-long workshops. You can see more photos and my post about going to the Forum here on my blog.

It’s late here in Australia and this bead-sewing quilty chick is off to bed. (P.S: don’t believe the time stamp on this post: it thinks I’m in America).


On deadline…

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

Wow, you really are moving things along there! I can see that there are some fantastic colour combinations in your quilt, and you’ve clearly done some interesting cutting into the fabrics I sent you. Isn’t that just the best part of this challenge? Making something unexpected from what you’re sent?

Red paint

(All I’m revealing at this point is that this month I’m playing with paint!)

I have had a few hurdles on the project, and times when it has stalled. As usual, I have to fall out of love with it in order to fall back into love with it again. Perhaps it’s a process of letting go of the perfect image in my head and learning to work with what I have created. The challenge is increased by my personal desire to learn a new technique with every month’s quilt. Do you find that you are – consciously or unconsciously – using these quilts as testing grounds for new methods and materials?

Here’s a picture of the parcel I have been working with: you sent me a wonderfully bead-y selection of oranges and blues for this month’s theme. Those big tubes of beads – oh boy!

Fabric pack September

Maybe we’re both the kind who need deadlines to get over the final hurdle. I can’t wait to see what you have made! It’s like Christmas and a birthday coming soon, and all the anticipation….

I’m allowed to work on the quilt again tonight, AFTER I finish my job application that’s due tomorrow. Carrots first, then dessert.


P.S. I sat and watched that video while I had coffee this morning. I’m sure I’ve seen it before – perhaps in a film of award-wining shorts. I find it eerie, and sad, and a bit depressing, particularly the numbers on their backs, and the way it ends. Maybe I’d rather not live my life in that kind of careful balance! (She laughs)

Here’s how I made the spinner…

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

The spinner was the hardest part of the quilt, but it’s a challenge I set myself, and now I know how to do it! There was a lot of trial and error, so here are the detailed steps showing how I did it, and the problems I faced.

Detail of the spinner

The main problems with getting a spinner to work are the flexibility and friction of fabric. Flexibility means that the arrow points might touch and bend, dragging on the quilt, and friction means that the spinning piece would drag on the fabric if it touched it in any way.  So, this is what I did:

The front of the quilt was complete and sewn down to stiff piece of 10″x10″ Timtex interfacing to hold it flat. I also cut the same size of Timtex on which I was going to build the back.

To build the spinner, first I cut some circles out of washed yogourt tubs from the deli/market. (I’m a bit of a yogourt fiend, so I had lots of tubs lying around.) The idea was to sandwich the spinning works in between two shiny circles of plastic so that they would turn without catching on the fabric (the friction problem).

Cutting the first disk

Cutting the disk of plastic.

I bought some split-pins or paper fasteners at the local stationery store, and I checked that they would fit through the centre of the grommets I had. I did a few practise grommets just in case.

I took one of the plastic circles I’d cut, and with an Exacto knife, I cut a little hole in the centre to snap the grommet through. I made sure it would fit tightly.

Inserting the grommet into the spinner

Cutting the hole to fit a grommet.

Once I was happy with that, the scary part was cutting a hole through the centre of my quilt. The hole is very slightly off-centre because the four-patch meets in the centre, and I didn’t want to have the entire bulk of four pieced seams inside the grommet. You didn’t notice, right?

Cutting the quilt - eek

Carefully cutting a tiny hole, slightly off-centre, and inserting the grommet through the layers.

At this point, I took a deep breath and closed the grommet through the quilt front and the plastic disk. Then I tried fitting the paper pin through it all. It didn’t spin as freely as I’d wanted, so my husband suggested that we file down and compress the flat edges of the pin to make them more round. That should, we thought, make it spin better, and it did!

Here’s the first of the dials in place:

The front half of the spinner completed

Spinner inserted – the front half of the quilt is now complete.

After this, I started making the arrows. I wasn’t entirely sure of the best shape and size, but I was looking for:

- A shape that looked good – not too big, not too small.

- A shape that would balance on top of the pin – because if it was heavier at one end than the other, it would bend and flop and drag on the front of the quilt. So it needed to be equally balanced as well as stiffened.

So I cut several possibilities out of fusible interfacing and I tried them out.

Making a few arrows

When I had a shape I liked, I zig-zag stitched around the edges to hold it to the fabric, and then carefully cut it out (taking care not to cut the threads of the zig-zag). Then, I hand sewed in a little ‘hourglass’ of metal underneath (it came off a new pack of socks I bought!), and that held the pointy ends up off the quilt when I balanced it on the pin.

Finally, I cut another piece of stiff Timtex to the same size and shape of the arrow. I sewed it to one side to hold it tight, and then I checked and marked exactly at the balance point, which is where I cut a tiny ‘keyhole’ slit.

This meant that I was able to slip the ‘keyhole’ over the round head of the pin, checking that it grabbed snugly. I took it off and sewed the rest of the way around the arrow with zig-zag stitch, then popped it back on. A few tiny hand stitches to keep it closed, and the grip of the keyhole keeps the arrow locked to the pin. No glue needed!

This was good, because I had been worrying about glue coming through the fabric or about it actually sticking hard enough to enable the arrow to spin without popping off!

That’s it for the front half of the spinner – compared to this, the back was easy!

I assembled the owls and their tree (fusible raw-edged applique)

Arranging the  applique on the back

Arranging the applique for ironing.

When it was done, I basted the edges tightly around the second 10″x10″ piece of Timtex, because I was planning to slip-stitch the front to the back (no binding strips).

The completed back - before quilting

The completed back, before quilting.

Then, adding the wadding: this is where I had to take into account the question of friction again. I didn’t want the pin to show through to the back, but if it was touching the wadding, it would snag and possibly rip the wadding. So I cut a hole in the wadding to fit the second circle, punched holes around the outside of the second disk, and sewed it down in three places so it wouldn’t slip.

The wadding, some quilting and the big hole

The hole in the middle of the back.

Detail of the hole and the plastic disk sewn in

Detail of the second disk sewn to the inside of the back half of the quilt.

Et voila! The two halves were carefully matched up and slip-stitched around the edges.

One finished quilt, with working spinner and hidden mechanism.


How the dreams came to life

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

little detail

So, now that I accept that we’ve finished those August quilts, I have to let you in on some of the trials and tribulations I had when it was all coming together.

I knew from pretty much the beginning that the quilt would be a “spinner selector” for the dreams you have when you go to sleep. Some nights, around here, we badly need a good night’s kip and then nightmares come along – you just never know what you’re going to get when you toddle off to sleep-land.

But the very start was to jot down and think in broad terms about all the different kinds of dreams you can have and anything related to dreaming. Here’s what happened: (click on the image for a bigger picture that you can read)

Dreams sketches

I jotted down every word and phrase that related to the concept of ‘Dreams’ and let myself scribble whatever came to mind. Here’s a photo of that page from my sketchbook.

The big 2-columned list in the middle reads:


  • Daydreams
  • Aspirations – wishes and hopes – plans [sketch of star]
  • Night Dreams – do you dream in colour?
  • Bizarre/incomprehensible
  • Nightmares
  • Recurring dreams
  • Subconscious revelations
  • Hidden meanings
  • Jung… interpretation
  • … auras/afterlife
  • Monster under the bed! [a little sketch - that was my first possibility]
  • What do animals dream of?
  • Out-of-body
  • Counting sheep
  • Insomnia
  • Fever/illness – hallucinations!

Rough ideas and word association

The fabric with the pink, orange and green shapes and dashes on it immediately asked to be drawn on, so I played with that idea and then dived in with pens blazing. This is what happened..

The sweet dreams scrap:

Sweet dreaming

The bad dreams fabric strip:

Bad dreams

(Gosh, those blobs did remind me of jellyfish, didn’t they?)

Unfortunately, some of my favourites got cut off when I made the final piece – eg the little alien under the word “Odd” in the bottom right – I rather liked him! (I’ve kept the scrap).

What happened next?

I cut a 10×10 piece of Timtex. Then I stitched together four squares of the “WoobWoobWoob” fabric to make a 4-patch, which I sewed into the centre of the Timtex square. These crazy words are – as a friend suggested – meant to represent the words and images floating in your head as you try to get off to sleep.

I made the circle and fused it to the polka-dot fabric, but I didn’t iron it to the main piece yet. (You can see the post I did about the circles here).

The main thing next was to audition the layout for the rest of the piece. You had sent me a scrap of purple fabric, which looked great but wasn’t quite enough, so I went to my stash and matched it as closely as I could with a piece out of an old shirt. Perfect! Here were some attempts at a layout:

layout one

Layout one with the scrap of purple: nice.

layout two

Layout two with ribbon: a bit bright?

layout three

Layout three: oh, look, there’s exactly the right amount of ric-rac left over from last month’s parcel. Hmmm….

Laying out the purple

The purple strips were added, trimmed, and ironed.Then the rest of the base was built, out to the corners, which was where I used the wild flamingo fabric. Slow and careful sewing the ric-rak around the outside of the fusible polka-dot circle, and then the whole thing was ironed to make sure it was all flat and tight.

Dreams - the base of the front is done!

Next post: inserting the spinner!


Quilting with technical difficulties

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

I know I’ve gone quiet on you. I’ve run into a few unforeseen technical difficulties with this month’s quilt. I thought it was almost finished…. ready to zip up and show to the world, but then I ran into a few technical hitches.

Yes, it\'s a hole

Yes, that’s a large hole in the middle of the wadding. That was on purpose, just not quite foreseen.

And, more prosaically, printing onto fabric. My first technique didn’t work. My second technique involved a special trip to the craft supply store, and they didn’t have what I needed. So I opted for good old-fashioned tracing.

Tracing on the window

Ready to reveal tomorrow?


Dreaming of spring

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

Spring has arrived in Melbourne! For the first time today, it’s warm enough to have the doors and windows open, and it’s lovely to be in and out of the house into the yard.

Our house feels so small during the winter, because it’s like we’ve lost an extra living room, the yard, with its green walls of tomato plants, lemon and orange trees, and the breeze and the big tree over it all.

I’m pleased with the progress on ‘Dreams’ – maybe the sunshine is affecting my mood! – but this feels like a spring, energetic quilt already.

It’s weird, and I think, quite pretty. Now, this is a nice new sensation for me, because with the previous two quilts I had a crisis of faith at about this time. I didn’t like them that much, but I knew I was going to have to keep going until I loved them. And then they’re done.

Will I finish tonight? I hope so! I have booked the assistance of my mechanically-minded other half to help with the workings (ooh, what could that be?)

Let’s see how it turns out.

That is, if I don’t go to sleep in the sunshine instead…


Stitchin’ Up A Dream

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Hi Bev.

It looks like you’re making some nice progress on your quilt and even finding time for illicit stitching, too. Good for you!

I skipped my usual pre-planning and child-like sketching this time around and decided to design my quilt by moving the fabric around and let it tell me where it wanted to go. I’m finding this is actually a more freeing approach for me because I’m no longer restricted by my inability to sketch the images I see in my head. I just cut shapes and move them around until something it looks right. I know this is a pretty random method, but it seems to work for me, so I’ll likely stick with it.

My first two quilts involved appliques with finished edges. This time I decided to include some embellishments with unfinished edges to achieve a different look I’m actually considering the possibility of not binding this quilt, but even as I type this sentence, I realize I’d never be able to consider the quilt completed if it didn’t have a binding. So, this quilt will very well end up with a binding when it’s all said and done.

I’m surprised at where this quilt has led me. I originally was planning to make a quilt based on a dream, as in the that R.E.M. state people experience while sleeping. But then, when I opened the parcel of fabric you sent I decided to go in a completely new direction. And I like this direction much better. This underscores once again the challenge and benefit of creating art with supplies selected by someone else. I have incorporated bits of fabric from my stash, but I think I will use at least a bit of all the fabrics this month.

And I have to tell you that I’m having a great time working the beads into the piece. A few of the beads you sent will have a very prominent role in this months quilt. What a kick it is to spread out all the materials and see where each element fits. But it’s challenging, too, like putting together a puzzle without the picture of how it’s supposed to look.
I’ve made more progress than what I’m revealing here, but I don’t want to give it all away before the big reveal. It will come as no surprise to you that I’m also working on what I thought was going to be the back of this quilt. However, I think I might have to let it stand alone. I can’t really decide on that yet. I’m just going to keep stitching and see what happens.

I think I’ll be happy with this month’s quilt, but for now I’m just enjoying the creative journey. Thanks again for agreeing to share in this experience.

Happy stitching!


Making progress

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

It’s a construction zone around here! I’ve finally moved off the stage of drawing and thinking and looking (and worrying) – and I’ve started to build. Late in the month, as usual!

Ready to start

Here’s all the fabric on my desk, ready to get started! There’s even tea – creative juice – in my new and lovely Moomin mug. (I love that Moomin mug!)

Today’s construction started with a foundation of a stiff interface, Timtex, which I ironed nice and flat then cut to the 10×10″ size of the anticipated finished quilt. I’ve also roughed out a circle – or a ring, actually – which will be a main part of the design.

Drawing the ring

I knew the pudding basin my Mom gave me was more than just decorative!

After drawing the ring in pencil into very fine fusible interfacing, I folded the interfacing in quarters and pinched the corners between my fingers. I also folded the base in quarters and pinched the corners too, which makes little crease marks that I can follow to line things up. If I’m going to have a ring in the middle of the quilt, it should be centred!

a ring of interfacing

I’d be the first to say that this doesn’t look like much yet, but given the wacky and wonderful selection of fabrics you sent me, I don’t think ‘subtle’, ‘refined’ or ‘understated’ are going to get a look-in on the final piece. Watch out for the wildness, it’s just about to be unleashed…..