Woodwardia Ferns Done

Ahh, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of a completed project and since this one is done before deadline I’m feeling an extra measure of satisfaction.

“Woodwardia Ferns” measures 49″ x 65 1/4″ and is the largest art quilt I’ve made to date. The three heliographic prints were begun in the early summer. These fabulous fronds come from a plant growing in the backyard of my friend Jennifer, a green-thumb pal who, like most avid gardeners, is very generous with her plants.

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Back in July I was Riffing on 3. You know, 3 ferns, 3 rows of checks — my third riff isn’t quite as obvious. It’s the quilting design: the surface is divided into 3 sections. The first section is five 45-degree-angle areas, each 5″ wide, defined by 1/4″ lines of unquilted space. The 5 sections span the width of the quilt, starting at the bottom left side and ending at the top right side. The remaining 2 sections of the surface are divided into the same 5″-wide sections, but these are marked at 60-degree angles off of the 45-degree lines of the middle section.  This subtle layer of design is not apparent until you are close to the quilt. Several of the detail photos in the slideshow reveal it. Sunset gold Lumiere paint  accents the 3 stems and helps to unify the piece.

“Woodwardia Ferns” will be the centerpiece of my solo exhibit Borrowed From Nature at Creative Framing & Gallery in Oakland beginning this Saturday, October 1 and running through the end of the month. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll make a point of stopping by. The artist reception is Saturday, October 22, 6 – 8 pm.

Textiles and Tomatoes

The moment we stepped outside for our morning walk with the boys I could tell it was going to be a real summer day — you know, the kind of tomato-ripening weather you usually have in July and August. Well, that kind of heat eluded us all summer. But it’s here today and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I approached the vines, basket in hand and picked Sweet 100s and Sun Gold tomatoes.Yum!

After rinsing the tomatoes I headed to the studio.

I emptied another spool of thread and completed the quilting on the Woodwardia Fern piece. This was my third spool-tossing event with this quilt — another reminder of just how big this one is. Because I usually work with many threads and on smaller pieces, I often work for many months without emptying a spool of thread. That plunk in the trash feels like I’ve completed a major chapter in a project — and so I have. Here it is pinned and wet with steam from blocking.

I’m pleased that the unquilted 1/4″ lines show so nicely. During the quilting process I was becoming concerned that they might not be obvious due to the larger-than-normal quilting shapes I used.

I’ll be able to bind it tomorrow and once I have it on my design wall, consider the possibility of additional work. Beads? Paint? or ????  Stay tuned.

Quilting the ferns

I’m back working on the Woodwardia fern quilt and am reminded once more how much I truly enjoy each step in the process of creating an art quilt. Right down to the final hand stitching of the binding, I’m enjoying the work.

Having just completed smaller pieces with much smaller quilting patterns, this takes focus, focus, focus to be sure I am stitching an appropriate size for this large quilt. After thirty minutes or so the new size will be in my body and I’ll be in a more zen mode — a happy state to be in. I’m satisfied with the pace of my progress. Don’t fret about the blue lines — those are made with a water-soluble pen and will disappear easily when I block the quilt. I have another pen that creates white marks to show easily on dark fabric and those marks are removed with heat. Perfect tools for the task.

I’ll be at the artist reception for Textiles and Tastings 2011 at the Shenandoah Gallery in Plymouth tomorrow afternoon. I hope to see you there!

Collaboration Complete

It doesn’t get better than this: The quilt it done and we have a day to spare. Both Heather and I enjoyed the process enormously, learned a lot from each other and will enjoy showing this shared vision at the “Collaborative Exhibit” at Creative Framing & Gallery during September.  (See “Exhibitions of my work” in the right column.)

Here is Heather putting the final dabs of paint on.

And here’s Kollaborative Klimt-esque Landscape completed. It measures 51″ x 39 1/4″.

A couple detail shots are in order so you can see some of the paint, beading and crystals.

It may not be clear here, but that’s a yellow crystal for the bird’s eye; more tiny clear crystals are centered on bronze-painted squares in the hill below.

I’ll attach the label on the back tonight. Tomorrow I return to the large fern piece that needs quilting.

Getting the edge right

Getting the edge of a quilt right is important. For me that means the edge will be easy to handle as I stitch the binding on, both by machine and by hand, and the quilt will lay flat — no ripples. There are two things I do to achieve this. First, I stitch the edge of the trimmed quilt with a multi-stitch serpentine pattern. I narrow the stitch to a width that ensures it will be hidden by the binding and, using a walking foot, I stitch as close to the edge as I can. Don’t use a zigzag stitch, that will bunch up the edge and create a mess. The multi-stitch pattern moves in tiny increments from left to right and flattens the edge.

Then I block the quilt. I lay the quilt on a dressmaker’s cutting board — it is cardboard and has a grid printed on it. I line up one edge of the quilt and pin every 2 inches or so. Notice that the pins are aimed at the middle of the quilt with the heads angled away from the center. Next I pin the opposite edge, pulling and smoothing as necessary. Repeat this process for the remaining 2 sides. Now steam is applied. I fill the iron with water and set heat to cotton. The iron hovers closely over the top of the quilt while I give shots of steam to make sure the water is penetrating the quilt.  Note:  I often use marking pens on the surface of my quilts — water-soluble and heat-sensitive types. During the blocking process both kinds of marks disappear. I just love this multi-tasking.

We’re on schedule to make the deadline. Whew! Next week I’ll have photos of the finished quilt. I can guarantee some surprises.

Collaboration is a good thing.

Heather and I meet for dinner and a glass of wine, then it’s off to the studio to discuss details of our collaborative piece. A full stomach and a relaxed attitude makes for a very fluid discussion. We are making progress but there are many details to iron out. Right away we agree that a bird is needed and it should be in the tree, not in the sky. This black bird keeps me company while I work and he’s just the right size — life is good!

From the very beginning of this project I have been thinking “bling, Klimt style.” Here we consider the bling. The applique placement pattern is so handy for this. Just cut paper and attach.

The tree is done. With this accomplishment, the deadline of September 1 suddenly seems possible.

The black bird and some of the bling are next.

I found these sassy, sparkling fabrics on the shelf reserved for Christmas fabrics. Love the tail! And polished cotton was perfect for the bird.

The quilt top is done.

Now to quilting. More Klimt influence will creep in here too.

Back to the collaboration

The next pattern to be created was the tree. We knew we wanted something big and majestic. After browsing quite a few photos of trees on-line, we borrowed features from several trees and drew our pattern directly onto transparency film, transferring the pattern to freezer paper on the wall. (I love the technology of now but don’t ask me to give up my low-tech overhead projector.) Before the pattern comes down I trace a placement pattern. This is done on ultra light-weight interfacing. Using this interfacing will allow me to put the placement pattern on top of the background and place each tree pattern piece in the correct spot.

Before cutting out the pattern, individual pieces need to be numbered for stitching order.

Now it’s time to select fabrics for the tree. We found 2 in my stash and took those to the store to buy the last fabric.

Gotta stitch! Here’s the start…

September 1st is looming over me. I won’t be leaving my studio for anything other than basic necessities. I expect to share major progress next week.

Collaborative Work

Heather is a painter/print maker, I work with fabric. She hasn’t worked with a fiber artist to create a piece and I haven’t worked with a painter/printer. The process has been an exiting one. The exhibit we’re aiming for opens September 1 and we’re not close to being done yet. I’m feeling the pressure.

Our concept was simple:  rolling-hills background with a large tree foreground.  The first step was to create a pattern for the background. We drew the pattern on a transparency then put it on the overhead projector. We drew the pattern directly on freezer paper which would be cut up as the pattern.

Next, audition fabric…

Cut the pattern out and iron it to the fabric…

Here’s the last chance to check on our fabric choices before the stitching begins.

Ahh, we’re happy with it. The background is stitched together. Here, the painting has begun but Heather will have to come back to it in favor of progress on the tree.

Time for me to get back to the stitching. Stay tuned.

Benefit Auction

309 one-foot square art quilts have been donated for SAQA’s 2011 Benefit Auction. Check them out now and mark your calendar — the frenzy begins Monday, September 12 at 2 p.m. Eastern time and, believe me, they will go fast. I’m coveting several myself.

I did not donate this year but I have donated a quilt the past 3 years. Here’s the first 12-inch square quilt I contributed.

I’m smitten with the work of Leslie Carabas. Her design sense, especially thread work, defy description.  So imagine how thrilling it was to learn that I won the bid on her quilt in 2009. Here it is

Participating in this auction allows SAQA to continue spreading the good news about fiber art. It is also great way to build a fine collection of art at very affordable prices.

Textiles and Tastings 2011

I was invited to join eight other artists for the Textiles and Tastings 2011 exhibit opening September 1 at the Shenandoah Gallery in Plymouth, CA. This will be the first time my work has been exhibited at a winery and I’m quite excited about the potential. I will have 4 pieces in the exhibit.

One-Color Landscape is the smallest, just 4″ x 6″ it is a fabric postcard mounted on 8-ply archival rag mat and professionally framed with the perfect frame. I sell my postcards matted without frame, however, I felt that this venue called for framing.

Orange was completed as a challenge by a group I belong to called Fiber on the Wall. It measures 37 1/4″ x 20″, includes photographs I took of fuyu persimmons and is densely quilted.

Blackbirds, 17 1/4″ x 21 1/4″, was inspired by another challenge, this time through SAQA, the professional quilt organization I belong to.  Based upon the children’s game of “Telephone,” in this challenge the first person makes a quilt based on a photograph and sends the quilt to the next person in line. That person makes a quilt based on the quilt they received, and so on. Only the first person in the group sees the original photograph, while the other participants see only the quilt they receive. The idea is not to duplicate the quilt you receive but to be inspired by it and then create your own.  The August/September 2009 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine published “The Whisper Challenge: A New Take on an Old Game” and featured the original photograph and the 6 quilts created, including mine.

Sweet 100, 22″ x 17″, started with a sun print of Sweet 100 tomato leaves.

The Artist Reception will be September 10 from 1 – 4 p.m. If you are able, please stop by and say hello. The exhibit will be open to the public through January 5, 2012. I know there will be some wonderful art based on the artists exhibiting.

WIP – yes, on Friday too

Let’s face it, life is a work in progress and since I shared the news of my Buddha’s Hand on Wednesday — the ‘official’ Work In Progress day — here I am on Friday with an update on the fern project.

Lesson learned: Stitching a snug quilting line around a tone-on-tone color scheme is a killer. Why didn’t I already know that? Perhaps I did but chose to push it into the furthest reaches of my memory banks. Let me just say that I spent more time taking stitching out than it took me to complete the quilting on this single fern image.

Some of my marking lines are visible here but I’m not going to spoil the “how is she going to quilt this?” question yet. I won’t be ready to begin stitching the over-all quilting pattern until I’ve stitched around the remaining 2 fern images. The good news: contrast on the remaining images is high so the quilting will seem like a breeze! Whew. Back to FUN!

WIP — Riffing on 3

Goal:  Connect the 3 individual fern prints in a way that makes them a comfortable, natural threesome. Can we say Three Musketeers? All for one and one for all? 

The first idea came so easily it seemed like a gimme: Combine fabrics from the adjacent prints to fill the gaps in height. I like the simplicity of the check and the fusion it creates. The next challenge took a bit more.  I needed a fabric that would bridge each of the pairs of adjacent prints and I wanted a commercial fabric — no more painting for me. I found the first one in my stash. It’s a piece of Jane Sassaman-designed fabric that a friend gave me a quarter yard of. Lucky me. I cut two 2″ strips and pieced it in.

The second fabric was not in my studio but at the second store I went to.

And here is the completed top:

This is the 3rd quilt I will have created using the woodwardia fern — see the first 2 in my Art Quilt Gallery. This top measures 50″ x 67″ — my largest art quilt to date. It was not planned at all that the quilts would have 1, 2 and then 3 prints in them, it just happened that way. A bit of serendipity I’m enjoying. But I digress.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how I would quilt this piece. My riff on 3 will continue. Stay tuned.

WIP — Woodwardia Fern #3

I love the constant change that takes place as I work on a new piece. The very nature of construction forces me to live with it up close during stitching — then I put it on the wall and view it from across the room. This change of viewing keeps what I’m doing fresh and lively.

I have never been drawn to red or its shades, in fact I usually avoid them. But my choice of fucshia for this piece seemed right, that is, appropriate to work with the other colors chosen. So this is a challenge for me. Not a bad thing. Saving note: the variation of colors really do move from pink through purple.

And the appearance of texture achieved in the printing process is simply incredible. This particular frond is also the least perfect of the three I printed, giving it even more variety and interest. I’m actually warming to this the more I work on it.

The fronds have been threadpainted and the next decision will be where to trim each of them so they can be stitched together. This is where the adventure factor begins to rev up and I remind myself — out loud — Measure twice, cut once!

Stay tuned…

Mendelssohn – Creating an Art Quilt

People often ask how long it takes me to create an art quilt.  That is a very difficult question to answer: Each quilt has a unique inspiration and execution time. Some small pieces have taken a few hours or days. Others have been in the making for much longer. Mendelssohn is an example of the later timing.

In March 2009 I took Ruth McDowell’s  class “Designing From Nature” hosted by Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA.  Ruth teaches her method for creating a unique pattern from a photograph or drawing.  I needed this skill in order to make a quilt from a treasured photograph I had of my then 8-week old puppy, Mendelssohn (b. June 15, 2000).  My sister Christy took this photograph in August 2000.  The moment I saw it I knew I wanted to turn it into a quilt.

It took me the full 5 days with Ruth to complete the pattern.  When I got home I put it up on my design wall and admired it.  Then it was rolled up and set aside so that I could complete other work.

I unrolled the pattern March 18, 2010 (Yes, a year later, I know.  The truth is I was intimidated by the pattern and the process.  I hadn’t done this kind of work before and I had to muster courage.) and started working.  The first step was to create the freezer paper pattern that would be cut up and fused to the fabric.  Then — choose the fabric.  This process took a while.  I needed a lot of just-the-right whites.  I thought I would find everything I needed in my stash, but not so.  Shopping was in order.  I went to several stores, then I shopped several friends’ stashes.   By late May, I was finally getting somewhere…

This was a complicated pattern!  The solid yellow lines on the paper pattern indicate the sections.  The dashed lines are sections of pattern pieces that must be stitched together before they can be joined to the pieces next to them; solid pencil lines are individual pattern pieces.  Each freezer paper pattern piece was fused to fabric, then stitched to an adjoining pattern piece.  The freezer paper allows for stability of the fabric and very accurate piecing.  Quite an ingenious method actually.  There were 5 sections to create, then the sections were pieced together.  It was slow work.  I completed the 3rd section on June 3:

Five days later I had the fourth section in hand:

At this point, I remember thinking that I was having more of a success than a failure with this process.  I could actually imagine completing the quilt.  A big “Whew!” moment was savored.  I pressed on, now with a smile.

Almost there June 24:

The quilt top is completed June 28, 2010.

The celebration time was short. I wanted to enter “Mendelssohn” for an October exhibition in Mill Valley. I had to press on to quilt, bind and get it photographed. Once marked, the quilting was rather straightforward. I used metallic thread to bring out his eyes. Quilting was completed in August 2010. Having a goal with a firm deadline is always a good thing.

I am very pleased with this quilt. And “Mendelssohn” was featured in Art Quilts, A Group Show, juried by Jane Przybysz (then the Director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles) at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts the month of October.

So, from inspiration to completed art quilt a full ten years flew by. Thank goodness all my art quilt don’t take this long!


It’s Wednesday, so this must be a Work In Progress.  This is the second of three Woodwardia Fern fronds I am threadpainting for a new art quilt.  I get these fronds from my friend Jennifer, who has an incredible speciman in her back yard.  (Jennifer and I meet each Monday morning, alternating houses, to practice piano duets.  We laugh that we’ll never make it to Carnegie Hall but we’re having a great time and, in spite of ourselves, we are getting better.)  If a plant that has been printed on fabric can seem happy, that’s what I see here.  In fact, this ones seems to be dancing.

I love the imperfections of this frond and the wide variation in color that was achieved by the spotty layering of fucshia over teal.  Over the surface of this print gradations of pink to purple lurk.  Yum!

The fucshia print is next.  My head is spinning with ideas for how to put the three together. I can hardly wait to see what happens!

Thread Painting

I enjoy all the phases of creating my art quilts, but I particularly enjoy the very beginning of the thread painting.  This is the stage where shapes are becoming more clearly defined, taking on a new personality.  The process, always very meditative for me, is made more so by the patter of the rain I’m hearing on this late June day.  I’m using a DMC 50 wt. cotton. 

As the stitches are applied, a converation begins about the next layer of design.  At this close viewing, the effects of the rice and salt are more completely appreciated.  I want to enhance the primary design of the fern frond but I don’t want to lose the serendipitous secondary design achieved by the rice and salt treatment.  Ahh, the chat continues.

Work in Progress

I’m making heliographic prints again. I completely enjoy the whole process of creating these prints. With Setacolor Transparent paint by Pebeo, a Woodwardia fern cutting, a few simple supplies and a sunny day, I tranform white fabric into a one-of-a-kind piece of art. I’ve used a small amount of fuchsia over turquoise on this print.

The effects from rock salt and rice create a lovely texture. Just fuchsia here.

I made the fuchsia print larger so I would have some extra fabric. Here’s the last print:

The ferns are so dramatic all by themselves that it seems almost redundant to embellish them. But, embellish I will. I print so I can threadpaint — and that’s next.  Time to audition threads. Come visit again and I promise you’ll see some of that work in progress.

Foot-Square Fiber Art Auction

Studio Art Quilt Associates is having their annual benefit auction of foot-square quilts beginning in September. I have donated a quilt for the last three years. Here’s the piece I contributed for the 2009 auction.

You can view all the quilts that were auctioned in 2010, quilts donated for the 2011 auction and learn how the auction works here.  These little treasures go fast so mark your calendar now.