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.

Landscape Quilting Books

I’ve been making landscape quilts for years and have collected several books on the subject. Since I’m going to be teaching landscape quilting again soon, I thought I’d list the books I am familiar with as a resource for anyone interested in the subject. This absolutely is not an exhaustive list of all the books available; it’s just brief reviews of the books in my own collection.

Create Landscape Quilts by Meri Henriques Vahl, C&T, 2021. This is by far the best of the bunch if you want to put people in your quilts. She covers all the basics but particularly excels at detailed directions for including realistic people. Since I have a “hang-up” about drawing people, this was especially helpful for me. Of course, she has a number of examples of art quilts that do not include people, as well. Her technique is basically collage with a tulle layer on top. Look at the amazing detail in this sample of her work!  Book available here.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier, 2nd Edition, The Quilted Lizard, 2014. This book presents step-by-step instructions for making a number of landscape quilts. It is easier to jump right in here because of the specific instructions, but some of the pieces she uses are tiny. I used tweezers. This is another collage technique with a tulle layer on top. Connecting Threads had it here for less than the used book site I generally go to.

I made this little landscape based on the ideas in Happy Villages

Mickey Lawler’s Skyquilts by Mickey Lawler, C&T, 2011This is a fabric painting book, entirely different from the previous two. It does address some basic principles, and if you enjoy fabric painting this is a good place to start. The author uses several different dyes and paints, which are explained in the book. I did not invest in most of them, but did enjoy using my Setacolor dyes and her ideas. I particularly like her suggestion to use tracing paper over your finished quilt to decide where/how to quilt it, since quilting lines can make all the difference in any type of quilt. It is available from C&T as an e-book here, or I found a good price on a used copy at Abe Books (use their search feature to find what is available).

This pine tree has green flannel for foliage and lots of free motion quilting for texture

I “painted” the sunset here with markers, and attached a little charm I found in my stash

Easy Batik Landscape Quilts by Patricia L. Brown, AQS Publishing, 2011. The technique here takes advantage of the natural variability in batik fabrics to make more realistic looking landscape quilts without having to apply paint or other media. Ms. Brown makes paper patterns and uses piecing and applique to assemble her quilts, so a tulle layer is not necessary. There are examples of both realistic and abstract designs with specific instructions for making a number of them. I have found that batiks are, indeed, excellent for landscape quilts, but I don’t have the patience to make paper patterns the way she does. (I made one landscape quilt using patterns I designed in a workshop with Georgia Bonesteel years ago, so I did try!) At the time of this writing, Connecting threads had a good price on it here.

The mountain in the background is made from a batik so did not need to be painted to have the right appearance. The commercial prints in the foreground were altered with markers.

Accidental Landscapes by Karen Eckmeier, The Quilted LIzard, 2008.This book has an excellent discussion of the elements and techniques that make a successful landscape quilt without resorting to technical language or going into too much detail. The sample projects she uses to teach techniques are easy and helpful. Her examples are much less elaborate than those in most of the other books, which is especially nice if you’re just getting started. The publisher sells it through Amazon.

Batiks and markers were used in this little quilt, and I put a UFO in the sky 🙂

Points of View by Valerie Hearder, Martingale, 2007. This book covers a variety of media that can be used in landscape quilts, from commercial prints to fabric crayons, paint sticks, and embroidery. She constructs the quilt on a muslin base, which I have found helpful. She shows how to use tulle and batiks as well. If you want just one book that covers a variety of techniques, this is a good one. I particularly like the way she plays with scale to add interest to some of her designs. This was available through Thrift Books at the time of this writing–use the search feature to find available copies.

This one was made with fused fabric, using techniques I learned several years ago from Laura Wasilowski

The Art of Landscape Quilting by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2007. I love Nancy Zieman’s practical approach to sewing and quilting, and this book starts with how to generate ideas and goes right through to finishing the quilt. There are no instructions for making specific quilts. Instead, the authors use many pictures of landscape quilts they have made to explain a variety of techniques for making your own designs. At the time of this writing, the book was unavailable through Thrift Books and available but not cheap at Abe Books. It was $71 on Amazon, so better check your library!

I think I made this one so I could use those round red buttons!

Landscape Quilts for Kids by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2004. This is a fun book that covers all the basics. I especially enjoyed her idea of cutting out people and animals and applying them broderie perse style to the quilts. She gives tips on how to print pictures of your own kids on fabric for use in landscape quilts. Amazon had one left at a reasonable price as of this writing, but Abe Books had a better price for a used copy; use the search boxes to see what they have available.

I found pre-printed fabrics for everything I needed to build my husband his ideal woodshop 🙂

There are many more landscape quilts waiting to be made from the pictures I’ve taken at beautiful places we have visited.

One of these days I’ll use this as inspiration for a landscape quilt

Please note: the links are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links for which I get paid. I do receive books from C&T for review, but I only review the ones I like!

 

Teaching Again!

Hooray! The pandemic is finally well enough controlled around here for Studio Stitch to start offering classes again!  We’ll still all wear masks, which means classes will be scheduled for half days so we won’t have to figure out lunch.  But it is SO encouraging to have the opportunity to be with other quilters again and feel a little bit normal.  Most of us have now been vaccinated, so it feels much safer, though we will continue to take care!

Here’s what I’ll be teaching in the next couple of months.

Better Binding Painlessly, May 11. This is a basic binding class that teaches techniques and answers common questions about how to bind a quilt without going crazy doing it.

Little Landscapes, June 1 in the afternoon and June 2 in the morning.  This is an introduction to landscape quilting.  We make little landscapes in class to learn the basics so you’ll be ready to make landscape quilts of any size on your own.

Plaidish, June 10 afternoon and June 11 morning. This is a free pattern available from Kitchen Table Quilting. It’s a great way to learn about color, value, and matching the corners on tiny pieces.There’s more information about all of these classes, plus many others, on the Studio Stitch website.  If you’re near Greensboro, I hope to see you 🙂

Bad*ss Women!

One of the fun books I’ve received from C&T recently contains transfers to be used for either embroidery or painting.  The title is Bad*ss Women and it includes a variety of prominent women both contemporary and historical.  Here are a few of them (photos courtesy of C&T).  You can click on each one to see it better.

A friend and her granddaughter are making a quilt from these transfers, painting the pictures with fabric pens. I love this idea and would be doing the same if I had a granddaughter.  I was very pleased to see Nancy Pelosi included.  I would have included Mother Theresa, but perhaps the author (or editor) thought calling her a Badass Woman would have been disrespectful.  Anyway, I just love the idea of traditionally female fiber arts celebrating prominent women.

C&T has similar books with transfers of pets (Domestic Divas) and plants (Urban Jungle) as well, but the Bad*ss Women are my favorite!