Visiting Susan Brubaker Knapp

Last weekend we had the opportunity to see some of the Orange County Artists Guild open studio tour. Our first stop was at the studio of Susan Brubaker Knapp, who makes really remarkable quilts. She also hosts a quilting art TV show, which is how most people know her.

Susan in her studio

Susan is a gracious hostess, and answered many questions for both me and the non-quilter friends who were with me. Her work is absolutely amazing!

One of Susan’s beautiful quilts

She discussed her methods, which you can read more about on her website. She also hosts Quilting Arts TV, so that’s another useful resource if you’re looking for information on how to make art quilts. A lot of her quilts are whole cloth works, painted with textile paint and then extensively quilted on one of her Bernina machines. The quilts are based on her own photographs, and she often begins by tracing a photo on white fabric.

The sheep quilt is amazing, and Susan loves chickens so she has them in a lot of quilts

The body on this butterfly is 3-dimensional

Here are more photos Susan allowed me to take during our visit. Please note, however, that she copyrights her designs.

I am in awe of Susan’s detailed work, and it was lovely to get to visit with her. You can find her teaching schedule on her website if you’re interested. When I expressed amazement at her free motion quilting, Susan pointed out that she has thousands of hours of experience with it! Nevertheless, her skill is amazing.

Poke weed is a native plant and is well represented in this quilt

This is my favorite! I’m happy to say that pitcher plants can grow in the yard here given the right conditions.

Here’s the back of one of the quilts so you can see Susan’s amazing free motion quilting

Of course every quilter needs a vintage machine on display in her studio

You can see much more extensive pictures of her studio on her website, here. Additionally, she has several tutorials on her techniques. You can also visit her blog and subscribe to keep up with what she’s doing. That’s how I learned about the tour. And if you have questions about her techniques, look at both the tutorials and the blog in detail.

A Village

I made a lot of little improvised houses and related blocks during COVID and decided to combine them into a quilt for our builder, since we love our house!

Here are a few of my favorite blocks from the quilt.

First, this is a watermelon canning factory. I told the builder it really needs to be re-purposed to make garage doors, since those are in short supply and nobody eats canned watermelon.

Really it’s just my idea of whimsy.

Then there are several little houses that came pre-made from some fabric I’ve had on hand for a long time. I enjoyed placing them in various locations.

My husband especially likes the stars in the sky on this block, not to mention the car pulled up to the house 😀

I made a number of wonky houses of my own.

And even one modern house.

 

Quilt Stats

Name: It Takes a Village to Build a House (because it really did)

Finished size: 45″ x 53″

Designed and made by me

Quilted by Linda

I still have a number of quilts to be bound and blogged, but there is progress!

 

Finish! A Really Old UFO

A number of years ago we had a guild program in which we made 3-dimensional fabric. I know I got this fabric wet and pushed it through a cake rack, but I don’t recall the details and can’t find instructions online. If you know how to do this, please tell me!

So this fabric (just the purple piece, with no beads yet), sat around for quite a while.

Then I layered it on batting and added all the rest of the stuff–beads, ribbon, side triangles, and quilting.

Then it sat around. OK, there was a lot going on in those years, but really, it just didn’t rise to the top of the “to-do” list.

Finally this week I got it out and applied binding.

Quilt Stats

Name: Shiny

Designed and made by: me

Quilted by: me

Finished size: 11″ x 11″

Whew! I’m guessing it took 5 years to make this quilt. Well, at least to get it finished 😀  What’s your oldest UFO?

Susan’s Ideas Explode

I took a class with Susan Cleveland at AQS-Paducah this year and it was excellent. Susan manages to be both pleasant and precise as a teacher and has many, many tricks for improving quilt making skills.

Thinking of Susan’s creativity and sense of humor, I decided to make my SAQA donation quilt a picture of ideas exploding out of her head.

Here’s the resulting piece:“Susan’s Head Explodes”, 12″ x 12″, a tribute to Susan Cleveland

Susan is known for (among other things) her binding techniques, prairie points, and Dresdens. All these involve her signature precision and attention to detail. I used some of her techniques in this little quilt and added several of my own. Here are some details.

First, the martini glass. Please note that I have no idea whether or not Susan drinks alcohol; I just couldn’t resist this use of a prairie point!

You can see my binding up close in this detail photo. I used a flange to accent the edge. The little spheres are wool balls cut in half, a technique I learned from Susan.

The red exclamation mark is made with Kraft-Tex to avoid any risk of fraying on such a small element.The flamingo is a plastic button! Following a suggestion from a reader (Elizabeth, in response to my Habitat House), I removed the shank and glued the button to the quilt.

For one of the prairie points, I put a clear spherical button inside to hold it open a little. This button was one of my happy finds in Paducah, so it deserves to be in the piece!

The wool blend felt used for batting was a suggestion in a recent book by Sue Bleiweiss. It worked quite well in terms of being stable and easy to use.

Quilt Stats:

Name: Susan’s Head Explodes!

Designed and made by: me, with inspiration from Susan Cleveland

Finished size: 12″ x 12″

Materials include: Commercial cotton fabric, hand dyed fabric (Cherrywood), hand dyed embroidery thread (Artfabrik, Laura Wasilowski), Kraft-Tex (C&T), plastic buttons, commercial rick rack, wool felt balls, a polymer clay button, wool blend felt for batting, and various commercial threads.

Note: As always, the links in this post are for your convenience. They are not affiliate links.

AQS Paducah 2022

After a 2 year wait due to you-know-what, 3 quilty friends and I finally met up in Paducah for AQS Quilt Week.

Paducah is an interesting town to walk around. There are lots of old houses as well as some interesting new ones. These two were next door to each other!

Then there is the gigantic Hancock’s of Paducah, a must-visit for fabric collectors. I saw a woman there wearing a shirt that declared, “Quilting and Fabric Collecting are Two Different Hobbies”. Apparently I agree 😀

There used to be a number of other fabric shops, including Eleanor Burns’ Quilt In A Day, but they have closed due to COVID. We did find an interesting shop, though.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

Tuscan Rose is a wonderful shop selling clothing, apparently collected from thrift shops and then overdyed. Of course I bought a shirt, and so did one of my friends. Tuscan Rose also had such beautiful hand dyed yarn that I was tempted to resume knitting. (As a favor to the beautiful yarn, I left it to be bought by someone who actually knits well!)

The quilt show itself was something of a disappointment. There were hundreds of beautiful quilts, but before long it was overwhelming. The workmanship was exceptional and I think I would have enjoyed seeing a few of them, but after a couple of dozen my head was spinning.

Modern quilts were rare. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Kandinsky’s Sewing Circle by Holly Hull

Morning Fog by Sarah Lykins Entsminger

I also liked this one, but I can only assume that nobody at AQS understood what “one in every four” referred to, based on the AQS history of avoiding even a hint of controversy.

One in Every Four by Carolina Oneto

I didn’t hear that any of you were going to Paducah. What is your experience with AQS shows?

Atomic Sunflower

This started as an experiment with some leftover fabric, then sort of wandered off into an art quilt for the International Quilt Museum’s “Modern Meets Modern” challenge.

The fabrics are scraps of Michael Miller Cotton Couture left from another project. I saved them as a group because I particularly like the color combination. I started cutting the wedges freehand while working on a Cindy Grisdela-inspired project. When I decided to make them into a circle, I found a large platter in my kitchen and traced it because the rim was irregular. I then used reverse applique to set the circle in its background.

My friend Chela helped with input regarding the center design.

When I saw the Modern Meets Modern Challenge, I thought this piece would be a good fit, so I finished it up after Christmas, just in time to submit it. You can see the contest and the entries here.

Mine was not judged a winner, but here’s the good news: I agree the winners are better.

In looking at the entries, it’s clear that the better designs go all the way to the edge of the quilt, while mine is isolated in the middle. I’ve noticed this element of design several times over many years. In good modern designs, the design extends to the edge, often with the implication that it goes past the edge. But this time I got so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn’t think “outside the circle”. 😀

As Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” So, on to the next quilt!

Can This Quilt Be Saved?

Ha! Many, many years ago there was a column in a women’s magazine called, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” I have no memory of reading the content, but somehow the overly-dramatic title has stuck with me. (I just asked Ms. Google, and I’m not the only one who remembers this: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/can-this-marriage-be-saved_b_58404189e4b0b93e10f8dfdf)

Anyway, in moving I have come across some experimental pieces that I’ve kept. I learned something from each of them, but sometimes what I learned was that a particular piece was not especially attractive!

Well, this didn’t work

The above piece was an experiment after reading a book by Freddy Moran. It’s well made but not especially attractive. For me, the colors don’t “gel” and the prairie points are entirely too regular in their arrangement.

This unquilted piece, approximately 42″ square, is the THIRD attempt to make something with these dotted fabrics! The other versions were no better, but I’ve saved some of the fabric by cutting out circles and using them as applique.

Rescued Dots

I think the “rescue” was pretty successful, and I’ll probably do something similar with the rest of this fabric. So I guess that’s 4 iterations of a design with those dots before finding something successful! 

And then there’s the Stuffed Olive Block. Never mind why I designed it in the first place. I made it into a pillow, but really, we have more than enough pillows. I think it just has to go!

I’m a firm believer that no experience is wasted, so we’ll call it good even if some of these just go out with the trash.

Of course that’s nowhere near all the experimental pieces I came across, but that’s all for now 😀

P.S.: I enjoy seeing “barn quilt” blocks as we travel, but this one struck me as unlikely:

 

 

Woo! The Book I’ve Been Waiting For!

I’m a fan of Cindy Grisdela’s work and have gone through the exercises in her previous book, so I was thrilled when C&T sent me Cindy’s new book for review. Adventures in Improv Quilts covers the basics of design and color, but includes some more complex quilts than her previous book. Some of them remind me of Maria Shell, whose book I also love.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy’s colors are bright and interesting. She often combines colors I wouldn’t have thought to use together, which causes me to look twice at the design. That’s a plus!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes plenty of detail on technique. I was especially amused (and gratified) to learn that part of Cindy’s design process is to outline the size for the quilt with blue tape on her design wall. I’ve done that for years and find it a very effective way to think about filling the space as I design. Validation is always nice!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes a chapter on color choices, which will be welcomed by numerous quilters who worry endlessly about the “right” colors. I choose my palettes intuitively, with better results some times than others, so maybe I should pay more attention? I love the color examples in the book, starting with basic palettes and progressing to the addition of other colors or values to give the project variety.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy then goes on to cover the basic principles of design. These won’t be news to most quilters, but her examples shine. I think I will go back to the “bits” left from working through her previous book and see if I can enhance them by using some of her examples from this book.

Photo courtesy of C&T

My favorite advice in the book: “Don’t fear wasting fabric”! That’s a liberating thought!

My second favorite is one of her tips for free-motion quilting, but I think it could apply to most any part of the process: “If you feel like you’ve made a mistake, keep going. Either ignore it or do it again so it becomes a design element.” I love that! I love this book!

The book is available here, but this is not an affiliate link. C&T sends me books for review, and I tell you about my very favorites among them.

 

Wonky

I’m currently on a program of finishing 2 UFOs (unfinished objects) before starting each new project. I caught up quite a bit last year, but there are a few things still to be done.

Most recently I pulled out these swap blocks from a long time ago. They should finish 24″ square. Of course, since they are medallion style blocks, there’s plenty of opportunity for the size and shape to get “off” with each additional border.

There was one in the group that surely was not perfectly square. I put 4 of them together anyway, figuring this could be a picnic quilt and “fixing” the wonky block was way too fiddly.

This worried me a little, even in a picnic quilt. (OK, like most quilters, I’m more than a little O.C.)

Then my daughter came along and said, “It’s not wonky, it’s organic in design!” Ha! So there! Art-speak is frequently useful!

Eight Years

I’ve now been blogging weekly for 8 years. One of the best things about it is “meeting” people from all over the world and reading about what they are doing. Some of them have been at it even longer than I have, though many of the bloggers I’ve “met” have since quit writing.

Here are my current favorite quilts from each of the years I’ve been blogging.

Rising star art quilt

Rising Star, made for the Quilt Alliance TWENTY contest in 2013

quilt photo

My Zippy Star Quilt and Pillow as shown in Modern Quilts Unlimited, Summer 2014

modern quilt

Happy Squares, designed and made by me, 2015

improvisational quilt

Cherrywood Toss, 2016.

scrap quilt

Scrap quilt made with strips that finish 1″ wide, 2017

Equilateral Triangles, 2018

My “Little Green Man” quilt, June 2019

“Clamshells? Really?” 2020

I’m going to delete many of the older posts since I doubt they are serving any purpose at this time. I have had a book made for each year, as suggested by my friend Linda, so I can always look back at them if I want.