Eclipse, deconstructed

This is the post where I reveal all my beauty secrets.  Kidding.

This is the post where I tell you how I made my Four-in-Art quilt, showing a technique   I’d read about this technique somewhere, but that crazed-woman-at-the-computer didn’t bookmark it or file it away neatly.  So I had to wing it, which is okay.

First, cut yourself a square of black fabric.  I used the wrong side of a fabric that I hoarded about 15 years ago, and I’m still trying to get rid of it.  (It’s a great fabric, really.)  Then get yourself some Steam-A-Seam II, the fusible applique stuff that will be sticky when you lift up the transfer paper, after you’ve ironed it on.

I did check to make sure that I adhered the non-release side of the Steam-A-Seam II, leaving the side that would release easily facing me.

Gather together some scraps in the colors you want to place on your background.  Since I was doing the eclipse, I basically had three: yellow, black, blue.  Throw in some related colors, just to keep it interesting.  For me, that meant some lighter blues, and orange.

Pile up your color, then randomly cut through the fabrics, and then do it again.  You need some bigger pieces (1-1/2″), but also lots of smaller pieces (1/2″).

I traced a circle on my paper, slightly off-center — because none of us saw that eclipse dead-center — and cut out a hole out of the paper backing.

I laid out my black scraps, making a loose circle. Then I tucked my yellow/orange sun flares behind the circle, pressing down with my fingers to make them adhere to that sticky surface.

Then I oopsed:

I went to the ironing board and ironed it all down.  WRONG.  While this seemed like a good idea, you know–to make sure all those pieces were not going to go anywhere — in reality it prevented me from lifting up the edges and tucking in more yellows,  and the blues.  So maybe if you can protect the edges of your design from the hot iron it might be a good idea?  Or just wait until the end?

Milky Way MJA

Star Fields, by Matthew Anselmo of MattsClicks

Then my son Matthew, who is an expert landscape photographer, put up pictures of the Milky Way on his Instagram, MattsClicks.  This gave me to freedom to really add in color to the heavens, so I pulled a greater variety of blues (and some with purples) and started scattering them around, trying to keep a “street” of lighter blues to represent the Milky Way. (Thanks, Matt!)

Eclipse_4inart_methods8Add in your bits and pieces, filling up the background in a random, organic way.

NOW go to the ironing board, lay your transfer paper over the design (the crackly sheet that came with your fusible), and press, lifting up and down, not sliding, until you think it’s adhered.

Eclipse_4inart_methods10

I used three different colors of thread, and just scribbled free-motion-quilted the pieces down.  I did a series of circles in black in the moon, the followed the shapes for the solar flares, then a random loopy design in the heavens.

Eclipse_4inart_methods9aThis is where I notice that the moon has two eyeballs staring right at me.  And this is where I go get some more scraps, use a regular old-school glue stick and paste more fabric scraps over the eyeballs (you don’t see it in the first one, do you?).  Quilt, again.  And then I thought that the moon looked more like a black lump of coal than the moon (even though it does have a mountain-y horizon…it’s not THAT bumpy).  More scraps glued on, more FMQ. I finished up by going in giant circle around the perimeter of the moon, to reinforce that Orb in the Sky thing.

Well.  Not quite.  But that’s what my work table looked like after I trimmed it up, bound it, and made the label.  I’m a total believer in a clean workspace at all times.  I’m a total believer in a clean workspace at least once every couple of weeks.  I mean, I’d like it to be all the time, but I create in small room, and I decided to adjust to the life I have.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Deconstruction Post for the Final Four-in-Art Quilt.  I probably won’t leave the art quilt in the dust, though, as it’s a quick way to make a quilt while trying out a new technique.  Given that it is often smaller (most of mine were 12″ square), you can crank one out in a day, or an afternoon, if your design is not too complicated.

Thank you for coming along on this five-year journey.

~Elizabeth, of OPQuilt.com

Rewards for WorkingCreatively

Congruence, Deconstructed

Congruence Owl quilt front 2

Our reveal for the fourth challenge quilt in our art group, Four-in-Art Quilters, was yesterday and today I’ll tell you how it came together.

I first started by looking a what seemed like billions of photos of owls.  I did a lot of this through Flickr, where I found this photo:

OWL ese

I wrote to Matt Smith, the person who posted it, and asked permission to use this photo and he gave it to me.  And then I sat on it for a couple of months, not knowing how to approach this.  Did I want to paper-piece it?  Not really.  Embroider it?  Pixelate it into little squares?  None seemed satisfying.  And then it was in the background reading that it came to me that I would fracture it, play with it a little and see where that went.

OWL ps desktop

I digitally chopped the owl picture into fourths and then chopped into fourths again, making sixteen parts.  And then I began to play with filters, one of the least used, but really fun parts of Photoshop.  I applied at least one, and sometimes multiple filters to each segment, approximating the sizes so I could get this bird back together again in the end.  You can see the mock-up on the lower right.  That was me, trying to reassure myself.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 1

Then I printed it off on paper, cut it apart, and still tried to reassure myself. I grabbed a previous art quilt off the wall (I knew it was 12″ square) to use as a template.  It seemed okay. But how to get it to fabric?  I usually iron freezer paper to the back of a piece of fabric, tape that to a piece of paper like I did in English Elizabeth, then run it through my Epson color printer. But I’d read in a blog about someone who simply ironed the fabric and freezer paper together, making sure it was a standard paper size, and then ran it through the printer.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 2

Don’t you love the ink smudges?  The next time, I made sure the freezer paper was really well-adhered to the fabric, then set the printings for thick matte paper on high quality and ran it through again, using a long thin tool to assist it through the last phases and so the fabric wouldn’t touch anything.  The closest thing I could grab was a nail file — but it worked.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 4

I peeled off the freezer paper carefully and cut apart my sixteen squares of Mr. Owl.

Congruence Owl quilt Layering up the backing

Layering the background — Kona Ash — with the backing and batting.  Kona Ash?  Light taupey gray?  Cindy of Live a Colorful Life is probably laughing her head off now because she knows how much I hate gray.  Really, I do.  In so many modern quilts it acts as a big hole in the composition, especially if it’s a medium gray.  I think if a quilter has to go gray in a quilt (and I’m not talking about those low-volume quilt compositions where it is intentional and where it works) they ought to go charcoal.  Or slate.  Ash is what I had on hand, as I don’t generally keep gray around (I bought it for a bee block I had to do).  But it worked for this as the picture, except for the owl’s eyes, is all in taupes and grays.  Yeah, low-volume.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 3

Using the paper mock-up as a guide, I start layering the cloth images onto the backing.

Congruence Owl quilt 2 layout

Congruence Owl quilt 1 layout

Moving things around, trimming down the pieces so some aren’t square, trying for balance.  Trying for that little artist’s lightbulb to go off in my head.  I got about a night-light’s worth of illumination, but from my writing in grad school, I knew that showing up wouldn’t get you anywhere–you have to keep trying.  To fully put this concept into action,  I went to dinner, then let it sit for a week while I went to our quilt retreat.

Congruence Owl 1

Then one morning it was simply time to tackle it again.  I couldn’t decide between satin-stitching a thicker line (close zig-zagging) or straight-stitching a narrow line of thread around each piece.  Narrow won.  I trimmed it up to 12 inches and then thought I’d like to try a faced binding (tutorial on how to do a faced binding coming in a couple of days).

Congruence Owl 2

I cut strips to match the backing, sewed them on.

Congruence Owl 3

When I ironed them to the back on a couple of sides, it became apparent that I needed that “frame” of the binding for this particular quilt.  Rip off the binding.

Congruence Owl quilt tiling

I kind of liked the way the binding corralled those tiled pieces.

Congruence Owl quilt label

I made the label, sewed it on, then went outside to photograph it.  I made an interesting discovery.

Congruence Owl quilt 5 textures

This lower section of the feathered wing imitated the gnarly bark of my silk oak tree in my backyard.  Maybe because I’d dampened the literal image of feathers with Photoshop filters?  I don’t know, but I liked the effect.

Congruence Owl quilt front tilted

So, all the incongruent small pieces — the images, the tiling, the layering, the stitching — all merged into a lovely congruence of an owl, just like the metaphoric meanings discussed yesterday.  All combine into that creature that captures our imagination while mystifying us as well.

And now I leave you with a poem by Mary Oliver, that I think captures this idea:

“Praise,” by Mary Oliver

Knee-deep
in the ferns
springing up
at the edge of the whistling swamp,

I watch the owl
with its satisfied,
heart-shaped face
as it flies over the water–

back and forth–
as it flutters down
like a hellish moth
wherever the reeds twitch–

whenever, in the muddy cover,
some little life sighs
before it slides into moonlight
and becomes a shadow.

In the distance,
awful and infallible,
the old swamp belches.
Of course

It stabs my heart
whenever something cries out
like a teardrop.
But isn’t it wonderful,

What is happening
in the branches of the pines:
the owl’s young,
dressed in snowflakes,

are starting to fatten–
they beat their muscular wings,
they dream of flying
for another million years

over the water,
over the ferns,
over the world’s roughage
as it bleeds and deepens.

from House of Light, 1990

Doleket, deconstructed

Doleket Art Quilt-front

When the theme of fire was announced for our Four-in-Art group, I immediately thought of all those days spent roasting marshmallows over campfires, just like Betty did.  And then afterward, when people would gather back and just sit and watch the flames, as they moved and shifted.  It was that movement I was trying for.  I had thought about taking a lot of pictures of fire and scanning them onto fabric.  What was I going to do, light a bunch of bonfires and take photos?  Nyet.  Then it was patch together a lot of squares, and “color” them by doing rubbings of a textile crayon onto the surface.  Because I couldn’t come to a vision of that one, it faded, too.  So one day in a church meeting, I sketched the bit on the left:

Doleket Sketch Two

I dropped the notebook and when I picked it up, I noticed I liked it better the other way (the version on the right).  With the triangles pointed upwards, it also had a birthday candle effect.

Gathering Fabrics Doleket

I dutifully drafted and cut out a bunch of orange and yellow-gold miniature triangles, and pulled red, ochre, rust, magenta fabrics from the stash.

Doleket beginning

I chose whatever colors I had in my stash that had that “fire” color to them.

Laying out strips

Because I wanted that idea of movement, I pieced up the strips with two colors.  It’s about this stage in the process that I begin to talk about it to my husband.  I told him I’d been reading in a book, Why Faith Matters, by David J. Wolpe, and although I hadn’t gotten very far, I had read the section about Abraham and the idea of doleket, and how the duality of fire was presented in that passage.  I began to research this idea, and to think about it as I worked.

Sewing strips

If this was to be a consuming fire, then wouldn’t there be fallen timbers?  I took a few of the strips, laid them across the upright timbers, stitched down on edge, then folded them over.  I figured I didn’t need to really nail these appliqued pieces to the cloth, for it was in a place of construction/destruction.  I may sound like I’m spouting malarky, but how do you explain where the brain wanders?

first draft Doleket

First draft Doleket.  This measured way over our constraints of 12″ per side.

Doleket too tidy

So I laid two pieces of cloth over the top and bottom, trying to figure out where the trim line would be.  Whoa!  Tidying up that jagged line really bothered me.  I’m usually one who likes her quilts — and edges — all tidy and pristine, but this wasn’t where this quilt was going.  Construction, or creativity, and destruction by fire happen in a random, haphazard manner.

second draft Doleket

So from the back, I raggedly hacked at the edges, purposely making them uneven and slightly unkempt.

Piecing Batting

Our group is keeping to the idea of a quilt sandwich and I knew I wanted the batting to be organic–cotton, rather than my usual.  But I needed to piece some scraps. I auditioned several pieces for the background of the burnt timbers, but ended up going with a text written in a vintage style.  I was thinking about words, how they also are permanent, yet ephemeral.

Doleket side view

Now to quilt.  I just started stitching along the strips, quilting right over the crosswise strips.  I’d done a few, and really liked the hanging threads — they reminded me a prayer shawl (seen mostly in the movies, to be quite frank), and I liked them.

Doleket on yellow ground

I took it outside on a bright sunny day, laid it on this yellow cloth and took a photo, but realized that the small details of the threads couldn’t be seen.  I also had a hard time photographing this because the reds would freak out the camera sensors.  I think this version is the best representation of the color.

Three in a Row

Betty had started making labels for her pieces, and I wanted to follow suit.  So here are the three we’ve finished so far.  Our next theme is “owl.”  I’ve known lots of owl collectors (of trinkets, mostly) in this world and I’ve never been one.  But it’s really in nod to wisdom, so Betty says, so I’ll have to think about that.  Our next reveal is August 1st–right after Rachel delivers her baby.

We’ve settled into a comfortable groove now, and while sometimes it’s been interesting to bring the discipline to get these done on time (we did move one deadline), I’ve appreciate how the process, and the product, has been gratifying.  I was curious to see if I could make “art.”  And with this last piece, I think I can say I’m approaching it, if only in my small way.

I’ll end with a few thoughts from a recent obituary for Eudorah Moore in the LATimes, describing her as someone who “blurred the boundaries between art, design and craft.”  She championed “mixed-media inclusivenss,” working for years as curator at the Pasadena Art Museum, which later became the Norton Simon Museum.  In 1973, she wrote:

“We’re going to put down the 19th-century idea that unless you are an easel painter you aren’t an artist.  We’re going to accept that an artist is a person who has a definite statement to make, and can make it in any material.”

Now onward to wisdom, and owls!

One Black Leaf, deconstructed

One Black Leaf art quilt1

Inspired by Betty’s photos, I took One Black Leaf outside to be photographed by her sister trees, because of course, with those curves, it’s evident this quilt is feminine.

OneBlackLeaf back

And just like Betty and Rachel’s quilts share a commonality, this one too shares something with Betty’s–we both used the Martha Negley slices of wood print; Betty’s was in the blue colorway and on the front, and mine’s the green on the back.  The binding is from that half-yard of Marimekko I purchased while in New York City last summer with my husband.  So far it’s been in two projects and I still have a scrap or two more.  This post is picture heavy, as I’m talking about the approach I took to creating One Black Leaf, including technical aspects, false starts and home runs.

One Black Leaf 1

So the poem is ringing in my head: one black leaf, one black leaf so I know it has to be a tree with bare branches.  I start by ripping off a piece of paper from the roll of doctor’s examining room paper I got a while back.  It’s great paper — it holds up to erasing, and is thin, flexible and cheap.  Try a medical supply house for yours.  I draw a 12-inch square because that’s one of our group’s parameters, and like what we did in high school art class, I draw a grid both on my square and on the illustration I found that I want to mimic.

One Black Leaf 2

I draw as best I can (not my strong suit), using the grid to guide me, yet I kept thinking of the espaliered tree I’d seen on the web (last post) and even though death comes around for us all, at the heart of it, I know that love survives even mortality.  I color it in with black marker.  Because I’m working on thin paper, I protect my cutting mat with scrap pieces of white paper so no bleed-through. I flip it over and color it in on the back, too, because I want to fuse this onto my fabric and know it has to be backwards.

One Black Leaf 3

I lay the Steam A Seam down, figuring out which of the papers should be taken off first completely ignoring their instructions to determine which is the pressing paper and which paper is to come off first.  I got lucky.  Reminder to fuse the whole design down onto the black fabric before you start cutting.  (Of course I did that.  Not.)  Sigh.  I fused the design to the Steam A Seam, then started cutting it, before I remembered you aren’t supposed to do that.  So I stopped, laid out the traced design on the Steam A Seam onto the black fabric, THEN cut it out.

One Black Leaf 4 fail

I had some problems.  Turns out (after a quick search on the web) that Steam A Seam “wears out” or loses its ability to adhere after it has been in your drawer for a while.  Since I know this batch is at least 10 years old, I’m in a world of hurt.  Who wants to cut out those teensy branches again?  So I call the Quilt Rescue squad. . .

One Black Leaf 5 rescue

. . . and first try placing the paper release sheet from the other part of the Steam a Seam and pressing it lightly to make it stick back on the teensy branches.  Worked okay, but there were still some spots that needed some help.  Then I remembered that once, in a class with Elinor Peace Bailey, she used a plain old glue stick to put things in place, giving it a press to disperse the glue.  I did this.  I had a few problems getting the tree back into place, so I laid my white fabric down onto my design, and arranged the branches until they matched the original design.  And by the way, it took me longer to describe all of this than it did to do it.

Your takeaways from this section:

1. Read the directions.
2. If your Steam A Seam is older, first fuse it back onto their release paper with a warm iron and light touch. And from now on, store it in a plastic bag.
3. Use your design paper to help you get the arrangement into place.
4. Use a glue stick if you still need some sticking down.  Press with a warm iron to disperse the glue.

I decided the block needed a bit more stability, so I ironed on some lightweight interfacing on the back of the entire piece (I did this also for the last art quilt I made, as I had seen it mentioned time and again in the Twelve by Twelve book. If you don’t have this book, you should.)  Then I set my zig-zag stitch for a narrow satin stitch, then went all around my tree in black thread.  I referred to my Jane Sassaman book where she talks about if you have it really close, it frames it, and if you have the zig-zags slightly loose, it blends more.  I was somewhere in the middle.

IMG_6211

She also cautioned the quilter to “take it slowly” and to take our time when doing stitching.  I need to have that tattooed on my forehead. I think if my Steam A Seam had been fresh, and I had been more careful about getting it to stick, I may have averted some of those sticky-outy bits of fiber from the edges.  But because this tree is going every which way, I think some was inevitable.  Small scissors took off most of them.

IMG_6213

Jane Sassaman also outlines her pieces with heavy thread.  I decided to use green for the inside curves and pink for the outside curves. Here’s the pink.   There was a ton of tying off on the back (as I pulled all threads to the back, tied and buried them), but I like how it gave a little pop to the quilt. I used pinkish King Tut (from Superior Threads) and their Poly-Quilter in green, which I understand is being discontinued (but I still love it).  Use a size 16 topstitch needle which has a larger eye, go slowly and you should be fine.  I use their Bottom Line in my bobbin — it’s my personal recipe for quilting success — and used what was close in color as I occasionally I like to use what I have.

OneBlackLeaf detail1

(Another view, after the quilting was finished)

One Black Leaf 6

I had used some white fabric from one of my trips to Germany.  It has a heavy damask woven design of flowers and I didn’t want to completely obliterate it with the quilting.  I laid some wax deli sheets over the tree and using a Flair pen (it won’t go through the paper with its soft tip), I auditioned some quilting ideas.  I’m not a really fabulous FMQ (free motion quilter) but I can do some.  I decided on leaves.

One Black Leaf 7 stitch

I liked the idea that while the black leaves on the tree are for us, there are others that have gone before who are still around us.  I can’t bear the thought that we all just go “poof” at the end of life, and judging from the memorial quilts I see, others feel the same.  Of course, a lot of these ideas are informed by my personal spiritual/religious beliefs as well.  I went at the quilting–doesn’t take long if you are doing a small quilt (another reason why I like this size) and in no time I was done.  And yes, it kind of obliterated the design in the fabric.

One Black Leaf 8 trim

Next big hurdle, which you wouldn’t think would be a big deal, is to trim.  It’s really a decision on how to frame it.  That blotch in the lower right-hand corner of the untrimmed piece?  Where I tried out my zig-zag stitches and also left a burn mark with my iron.  Luckily it was cut off.

One Black Leaf 9 corners

I have a method for hanging these small quilts which involves a dowel (photo at the end) but I have to put in corners to hold the dowel.  That square is about 2 1/2″ in dimension; fold it in half and pin it to the upper right and left corners.

One Black Leaf 10 binding1

My standard small-quilt binding: 2″ strips, folded in half, sewn to the upper and lower edges.  Trim even with the edges and press out away from the quilt.

One Black Leaf 11 binding 2

Repeat with sides, but be careful as you trim even with those sides. Press away from quilt.

One Black Leaf 12 trim

You’ll need to remove any bulk you can in a binding this tiny, so trim off a little of the corner and the bits of seam allowance as shown.  When I say not to cut anything off the binding strips, I mean the business part of the strips–the stuff you’ll need to fold over.  Just follow the diagram as I think my written description is confusing.

One Black Leaf 13 binding3

Then since my assistant left for the day, I had to use pins to hold things in place.  Fold in the sides (1), give a little push to the upper edge to fold in the bulk (2), then fold down the remaining strip (3).  If you go in this order, you’ll always enclose your raw edges.  If your raw edges are still showing after the folds, you’ve reversed it and folded in the top/bottom first.  You’re smart.  You’ll figure it out.

One Black Leaf 14

My friend Tracy taught me ages and ages ago that I didn’t need to pin or clip around the whole quilt, that I could just do the corners and fold in the rest as I stitch down the binding.  I do that even on my larger quilts.

dowel hanging device for art quilt

Cut a dowel the size of the back, minus a scoonch of room, then sand the cut edges.  Slip into place.  It will balance on a push pin nicely.

OneBlackLeaf quilting

OneBlackLeaf

Selfportrait OneBlackLeaf

Self-portrait
February 1, 2013

One Black Leaf

 

4-in-art_3

FourArt2_Full

This is our second round of our art group, self-titled Four-in-Art.  Our theme was “tree” or “trees,” however the artist wanted to think about it.  I call this “One Black Leaf.”  And as is my usual, I’ll save the craft and construction details  for the next post.

The other artists in our group are listed below, and are also revealing their quilts today, too.  I’d encourage a visit to see how they interpreted the theme.

Four-in-Art Trees

Leanne, of She Can Quilt
Rachel, of Life of Riley
Betty, who reveals hers on Flickr

When I was musing about this theme of trees a couple of weeks ago, I noted that I seemed to be surrounded by, and touched by, the idea of the end of life, of death.  I may have become more aware of this because of my tiny experience with cancer, or perhaps it is because I have two brothers-in-law who are fighting cancer.  Or because when we drove away from my mother after visiting for Christmas, it was nearly unbearable, knowing that life, and our time together, is finite.  In Albert Goldbarth’s poem “Won’t Let Go,” he notes that at the end of the of it all, no matter what your age or life or experience, there is always “one black leaf for everybody.”

I remember talking with an arborist in Washington DC once, about how dead trees looked in winter–nothing blossoming, nothing growing, the bare branches stretched to the sky.  She smiled as I went on and on, then said “Oh, they’re full of life, all right.  You just can’t see it.”  I thought of her remark often as I walked the National Mall that winter, admiring the trees’ scaffolding revealed by fallen leaves, those graceful branches stretched out above the cold ground.

HeartTree

So I chose to combine a photo I saw of an espaliered tree–a tree that was trained into an arranged shape by the hand of man and which had a heart at the center of it–with a drawing of a tree that looked to me like it was in motion, was half-tree/half-vine.  I liked the look of the drawing, how it wasn’t static, wasn’t near death, even though it had plenty of black leaves on it.  Since I am not a trained artist, I have to start from a reference point.

And sometimes that reference point is an idea, a range of experiences, a poem about one black leaf.