Return to quilting

No one is more surprised than I at how much satisfaction and pleasure I’ve gotten from working on Nellie’s Nine Patch.   I ‘found’ myself as an artist when I discovered quilting in 1996.  I focused on art quilting, textile and fibre art for about the next 15 years.  I made my last quilt in 2012 for my bed ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’.  Then, I started going to a drawing class in 2013 and got into other media for a while.

Enter the Forest of Dreams, bed quilt, 2012.

Still, most people know me as an art quilter and often ask me how my textile work is going;   for the past five years I’ve been saying, ‘I used to make quilts and fibre art, but recently I’ve been painting and drawing and doing other stuff’.

Anyhow, I digress.  I’ve finished all of my repairs on Nellie’s Nine Patch and have decided to quilt the 161 squares which I had left blank back in 2002.

I quilted about a mile of straight lines criss-crossing through each one using my walking foot.  I do not have a long arm quilting machine.  I do have very strong hands and biceps though!

Then I lowered the feed dogs, put my free motion foot on my Bernina and am adding a four petal flower to each square.  I like figuring out the meandering pathway through a set of about 20 squares and ending up right where I began.

I’m also replacing the grade school photo of my mom which was so faded on the back side. I quilted the square (and over the old photo) first, then replaced the photo, so it would not have quilting lines going over her beautiful face.

Back of the quilted square, prior to replacing the photograph.

At first, I was going to use a photo printed onto sheer fabric.  I felt there was something romantic about the 15 year old faded photo being overlaid with a new one, but I had problems lining up the eyes exactly.  First one, then the other was too low.  I ironed on, then tore off the first two.  By the time I got to my third sheer attempt, there was so much fabric glue showing through that she appeared to have a skin disease.

In the end, I decided to print the photo onto Pima cotton.  I’ve also replaced the poem in a font that looks like old fashioned cursive writing.  My mom had great penmanship, which she probably learned as a little girl in the 1930’s.

Once I had zigzagged around the edges of the photograph and the poem with invisible thread to secure it, I re-stitched in the ditch around the nine patch squares from the front, leaving the photograph framed, secure and unstitched through.

The Durabright ink in my Epson Stylus printer is archival quality and is supposed to last for 100  years.  So the childhood image of my mom will be around for quite a long time.  Longer than it takes memories to fade anyhow.


The river journey continues . . . .

I’m having a great time working on my River of Dreams bed quilt.  It’s very physical work – big bunches of heavy fabric and I’m quiling it on my Bernina 1090.  No long arm quilting machine here!

The fabric is very sensuous and feels wonderful to my hands as I run it through the machine.   Moss-soft velvets, crisp taffeta & silk dupioni, heavy brocade and slippery satin.  I feel completely confident about figuring out the vagaries and anomalies of stitching together such a diversity of different fabric weights and textures.  Its a fun challenge.

The colours and solidity of the textiles I’m using remind me of many of my earlier, bright, hand-dyed and batik fabric art quilts.  I love my design which marries traditional patchwork of the forest floor and the free-flowing river.

Shaping the river banks

I put in eleven hours yesterday and nine hours today.  Steve’s away so I’ve taken over the kitchen, too.  Actually, I started in the kitchen on Monday and Steve just scootched over to one side.

Prepping the batting, prior to pinning up

Tonight’s dinner was leftover Pepper Steak a al Dukan w/ Mashed Celeraic & Low-Phat Philly, eaten at 10pm from an ironing board dinner table.

Artmaking dinner

So by 11pm, I got the River of Dreams quilted and cradled by the forest floor.  Time for me to dive in so’s I’ll be fresh tomorrow morning.  Sweet Dreams, everyone!

River of Dreams

Quilting Cleaved

Here’s the recalcitrant fibre artist finally getting around to writing about how I quilted Cleaved, our wedding quilt.

recalcitrant 1843, from Fr. récalcitrant, lit. “kicking back” (17c.-18c.), pp. of recalcitrare “to kick back,” from re- “back” (see re-) + L. calcitrare “to kick,” from calx (gen. calcis) “heel.” Verb recalcitrate “to kick out” is attested from 1620s; sense of “resist obstinately” is from 1759.

That’s pretty cool.  I grew up saying ‘K.B.’ (to kick back – Southern California surfer slang), but that it originated in 19th c. France gives it a certain cachet and je ne sais quoi.

So, the last time I wrote about Cleaved, I had made the backing fabric and pieced the front of it.  Next step – Tada . . . .  quilting!

Normally when I make art, I fly a little bit by the seat of my pants, maybe get into a corner and have to figure my way out if it.  Most often, this gives me a surprising, serendipitous result.  However, this is my wedding quilt that I’m making, to hang first at our wedding altar and then, over our marriage bed.  Serious stuff.  So I thought, ‘This time, I’ll have a plan when I get started’.  So I spent the best part of an afternoon researching Art Nouveau designs.  In the process, I stumbled upon the brilliant Textile Blog by Cornwall based John Hopper.  Some of the images that inspired me:

Zsolnay tile

Art Nouveau border from inspyretrash

I drew up this design:

and got out my (supposedly) super-washable markers.

I was very, very certain that I had used these same markers on some fabric in the past and it washed right out.  Anyhow, I marked out my carefully researched Art Nouveau design, started quilting it and decided to dab away some of the ‘superwashable’ ink.  Do recall that our wedding day was in about a fortnight.

To my horror, this ‘superwashable’ ink didn’t. .  .  .  . superwash.  I went into a downward spiral of doom and panic for about 5 minutes.   I thought about re-printing and re-appliqueing all of the rose petals.  Or having to postpone our wedding (remember, this quilt was going to hang at our altar).  Then I pulled myself together and took my still safety-pinned quilt to the bathtub, got out the Fairy Liquid and a nail brush and managed to scrub 99.3% of the ‘superwashable’ ink out.  OK.  Probem solved.   I hung my quilt up to dry, but was back to square one with my quilting design.

The next morning, I went for a walk with my friend Nicky and her little terrier Wilf on Dartmoor.  I said a little prayer for quilting inspiration.  Towards the end of the walk, I found a crow feather near a stream and realised that my motif needed to be about the river and feathers. After all, the river is where the slate came from and feathers have been an important motif in our courtship.

I went into my album of photos that I took of the river where I found the pieces of slate.

And I redid my sketch with some of the Art Nouveau shapes and textures, transformed into river ripples, stones and feathers.

I had to work the following day and Steve went into Exeter and got me a proper water erasable quilt marking pen.  So I was able to mark out the basics of my design worry-free.  And the quilting just flowed.  When I quilted the feathers, I was so happy with how well they came out in stitch, that I was floating myself for about a day.

By the way, these two fish arrived unannounced, but very welcome, during the quilting.

I often dialogue with my artwork to see where it would like to go.  As I said above, I don’t plan ahead very much and sometimes this ‘letting go’ can get a bit scary as I become immersed in a piece of work and lose myself in the journey.   It takes a big leap of faith in my talents and problem solving abilities.  And a big trust in the creative process.  That it is going where it needs to go and a remembrance that I, the artist, am the vehicle that it passes through.  This realisation humbles me every time.  Because ultimately, it’s the reminder and the realisation of the Divine presence who moves and flows through all of Creation and all that I create.

So I think that my quilt wanted to be of the river and forced me to baptise it and start anew in a different place than from my carefully researched and planned out design.


The Online Etymology Dictionary