back to the fling

Last year at the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show, they offered attendees an opportunity to participate in a contest at this year’s show. Entries in the 2015 Spring Fling, as it’s called, are required to utilize the square of fabric they handed out in 2014, fit the Spring Fling theme in some way, be started after 4/24/2014 and complete by 4/24/2015, be 60-100″ in perimeter, and be able to be hung on the wall easily. To me, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for an art quilt!

I imagine that most of the entries will quite different from the quilt I’m making, but I’m okay with that. They’ll be giving prizes for best use of color, best workmanship in piecing/applique, and best portrayal of the Spring Fling 2015 theme. I’m not particularly hot for a prize, just for the opportunity to participate in a public venue.

I’m still partway through making my current (larger) quilt WIP, but it’s getting to the point where it’s really big and difficult to spread out in the limited space we have, so it’s on a break right now. This project, though, is small and more manageable and I’ve been feeling itchy to be sewing again.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Unsurprisingly, my rough plan for this quilt came together pretty quickly, involves a Blythe-esque figure on a natural background, and has references to classical artwork and feminism. My theme/title for the quilt is Regeneration, since that is a major theme of the spring season in life as well as in art. I did my usual quick-and-dirty photo editing to make myself a general outline to follow, though of course as always I am changing the plan as I go.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

For some sections, I trace the outline to make myself pattern pieces and for others I just free-hand cut things out. I’m getting increasingly comfortable with free-handing things the more I do it.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

You can see that I changed from the original arms-up pose to having the figure holding a tray. My thought process was this: eggs are an ancient symbol of spring, so I’d like to include them somehow. However, making an egg clearly an egg and not a rock or something else similar is tricky, so maybe I could go about it a different way. This led me to thinking about deviled eggs and that led me to think of vintage recipe cards with lurid illustrations of things like deviled eggs, which led me to decide to have the figure holding a tray of deviled eggs (and possibly other things).

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I got this far over the weekend! Not bad for five or six hours of planning and working.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

The figure will be wearing a crown of butterflies, inspired by this painting. I was originally thinking a floral crown or wreath, because that’s another classical symbol of spring, but then I saw this painting and the butterfly idea grabbed me. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some time to work on the crown, the eggs, and some further elements I haven’t added in yet.

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WIP Wednesday: trees

I started in on the trees on my current art quilt WIP this week.

WIP #modernvenus #quilting #artquilt #wip
I picked out a grey fabric with a texture that reminded me a little bit of tree bark. These trees are inspired by Michigan’s White Pine trees, the bark of which often appears more grey than brown. I free-handed a paper pattern roughly the right shape and size and cut out a few trunks.

WIP #modernvenus #quilting #artquilt #wip
I also cut out a few freehand so that not every one was the same. I played with the placement a bit until I had a satisfactory spread of trees. As I will be adding some branches and foliage I didn’t want them too close together – but I do want to give the look of an overlapping forest, so I didn’t want too much space between, either. I chose to use seven trees as that number is commonly thought of as lucky and because an odd number pleases the eye.

WIP #modernvenus #quilting #artquilt #wip
I pinned all the tree pieces and then sewed each trunk down individually. I left a bit of room for the edges to fray a little and included the already frayed edge of the fabric at the base of each tree. I’m happy with how it looks so far – looking forward to adding the rest of the trees soon!

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WIP Wednesday: land, ho!

My ever-so-slow-but-steady progress on my current art quilt WIP continues.

WIP
There is land on the right side of the piece, where white pine trees will be growing. I selected some brown fabrics from my stash and decided on how wide the land section should be. Then I cut diagonals so I had lengthy triangular sections which I then alternated and pieced together to make a large-ish rectangular piece.

WIP
I cut the edge that juts out into the water and then pinned it down on the main background. Since the moon worked well without fusible interfacing, I did that again this time and it was just fine. I stitched all along the edge of the land piece and then went around it again another time for that sketch-ish look I also used on the moon.

WIP
I also stitched along some of the seam lines within the land piece so that the piece is attached to the background throughout. These seam line accents also add to the look of the land. I am currently debating doing some additional (non-seam-line) stitching in the land, but I haven’t decided what I want to do yet. Next come the trees!

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WIP Wednesday: getting to the art of this art quilt

I’m finally finished with the background of this project! Technically I do still have some earth to do on the right side, but the sea and sky are complete, which feels like a milestone.

WIP

I had completed the piecing of the moon awhile ago, and now I was finally able to put it together with the background.

WIP

On my last project, I used fusible interfacing to attach most of the pieces to the background before stitching them on. This time I decided to try it without interfacing to see how it works. I’m pleased that it worked just fine.

WIP

I pinned it and then stitched around, removing the pins as I went, and I didn’t have any problems with the moon piece shifting.

WIP

I wanted it to come out with a sketch-ish look, so I stitched around a few times, purposely overlapping and varying where the line of stitching fell.

WIP

Next I started cutting out pieces for the main figure at the center of the landscape.

WIP

I started out with my computer sketch, which I made from a photograph I took of one of my dolls. Of course, though, the doll doesn’t have the physique I’d like to portray, so I used it as a basis for making a pencil outline that I then used as a pattern piece to cut out the figure. I also cut separate pieces for the figure’s arms so that they will show as a distinct layer above the body. Much of the body will end up covered anyway, but I still like to have the physical shape represented there.

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like sands through the hour glass…

…so are the days of my quilting. Time always rushes by when I’m sewing and I can never seem to make enough of it.

I’m continuing to work on the Modern Venus quilt, specifically the hourglass quilt blocks for the sky.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I cut the squares using a rotary cutter and included room for seam allowances. Then, for one hourglass block, I selected two fabrics. It helped me at first to press one of the blocks diagonally so I could really see the line. After making a bunch of them, though, I found I didn’t need to press anymore. After cutting and pressing, I placed the squares right sides together and made sure the corners were matched up neatly.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I sewed 1/4″ on either side of the pressed diagonal line. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the other.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So I ended up with a piece that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I then used the rotary cutter to slice down the center, on the pressed diagonal line, cutting the block into two equal (identical) pieces.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I pressed each of these two pieces open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

After that, I matched up my new two blocks so that the contrasting fabrics were facing each other, right sides together. I made sure to align the center seams very precisely to ensure a neat result.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I repeated the process of sewing 1/4″ to either side of the diagonal. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the second side.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So then I had a block that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I sliced it in half with the rotary cutter and pressed the block open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

The back of the block looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

And the front of the block looks like this! An hourglass pattern, as you can see, very precise and with a crisp spot where all four points meet in the middle.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I need to make approximately 300 of these for the sky, and I’m almost done with that process. After that, I’ll make a final decision about what quilt block I want to use for the sea and select my fabrics for that section. I know I’d like a fairly simple block pattern since I’ll be making a lot of them, but I’m not sure exactly what it should be yet.

Have you ever used a particular technique to make a specific quilt block? I’d love to know what your favorites are!

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Figure and Flock – complete!

It’s done! It’s done! Hoorah and huzzah!

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m so happy that I finally finished it! I had so much fun and learned so much while putting this project together and I’m anxious to move on to the next one. Figure and Flock turned out to be 32×43.5″.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

Learning how to use the free motion quilting foot was quite fun and I know I’ll use it a lot in the future. I’m so pleased with the texture of her hair. I also love the dragonfly-inspired fabric I used for her eyes.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I love the way these thread-painted birds came out. The look of thread painting is so pleasing, especially on a bird where it can mimic the texture of feathers. I wanted the birds to appear to be disturbing the air around them, so I did some free motion quilting around each one. My goal was also to have the birds appear slightly menacing and I think that the button and bead combination I used for their eyes helped this come through. Birds have often been used as symbols in paintings and other works of art, and I drew on that here. Sparrows are sometimes used to represent the souls of the deceased and robins symbolize change and new growth, both of which I was thinking of here.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m quite pleased with the way the quilting worked out, too. I did free-hand grass-esque shapes in the grass and radiating curved lines in the sky. To me it feels effective in conveying the difference between the two areas.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

In the interest of adding more dimension to the piece, I also added some thread-painted birds that I sewed separately and then fussy-cut. They’re a little rougher around the edges, purposely, to carry on that subtle sense that all is not quite right with them.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m still very pleased with my Dresden Plate-inspired dress, too. The sections radiate out from the figure’s heart, where a bird also lives. In designing this figure, I was inspired by Blythe and I feel like my interpretation of her came out effectively. You can tell (if you’re familiar with Blythe) that it’s her, but it’s not so literal as to scream, “I’m a doll!”

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I chose a wood-grain-esque fabric for the binding (it’s not the same fabric as I used for her hair – you can tell the difference better up close), which I finished by invisible stitch on the back. I thought that the wood grain look seemed apropos to frame on a piece of art. I also added a channel so that it’s easy to display (that channel is in the same fabric as the quilt back, which is lilac with tiny white polka dots). I used only fabrics that were in my stash to make this quilt, with the exception of the bird fabric which I purposely selected and purchased with this intention. In case you wondered, I didn’t even make a dent in the stash! I probably need to do some really big projects in order to achieve that. 🙂

I haven’t figured out yet what my next project will be, but I think that I will rely more on piecing than on applique for that one (though of course I always change things around a lot during the process of making a project, so we shall see). Another art quilt is for sure on the docket, though I may opt for something smaller this time. Having made a lot of very-small-scale doll clothes, I’m interested in the applications for very-small-scale in quilting. In the future I’d also really like to make a useful quilt for our bedroom, though I will probably wait for that until we find our next house, so I can use the room as inspiration.

Now I need to find some quilt shows in which to enter Figure and Flock. I just missed the deadline for the big one happening in Grand Rapids later this year, which is a bummer, but I’m sure there are other shows out there.

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art quilt updaterino

Here, finally, is a long-overdue update on my first big art quilt project!

So, last I posted, I had finished the background and had added the main figure of the woman. I’ve had limited time for sewing over the last couple of months, due mostly to my efforts to get out and about and experience art and activities in the area. I don’t regret that, but I am hoping to balance things more evenly in the future. I’d like to make time for sewing at least once a week, ideally. Part of my issue, too, is that I end up fretting about work during a ridiculous portion of my free time, and I really need to stop doing that. It’s pretty unproductive and I feel like it’s stealing time from me. Here’s to striving for balance!

Art quilt WIP

Here’s where we left off. She’s on the background and I started the stitch work on her, notably using thread to bring more contrast/texture to her hair.

I was apparently really bad about taking photos through the next steps of making this quilt, so I offer my apologies for that.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

I wanted to add some birds around her head, so I found some bird fabric. Some of the birds were less active than others, and finding fabric that actually showed birds in flight (rather than perched on branches) was a more challenging task than I anticipated! I considered adding some bugs or bats or other flying things, but didn’t find any fabrics that I liked for this purpose, and in the end I’m glad I stuck with just the birds. I like the consistency of theme and color that resulted from that decision.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

For the birds, I fussy cut each one and then did a simple machine stitch around the edge to adhere it to the main quilt top.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

Then I took a big leap and did thread painting on top of each one! I used a free-motion foot and just freehanded the stitches back and forth, adding one color of thread at a time. As you can probably see, this caused some distortion of the background. I’ve since read that most folks will use a hoop when doing this kind of stitching, and maybe that would help avoid the base fabric from stretching. It may also be that because the background is made from squares sewn on the bias, it was more likely to get distorted? (any fabric experts know more about this?) SPOILER: a lot of the distortion is hidden by the quilting later on. All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with how these birds turned out. I haven’t quite finished them yet, but they’re close and the last part will be hand-stitched after everything is put together. I’m pleased, also, with how the thread colors I chose worked out. They’re not exactly the same as the fabric underneath but you really can’t tell. They work well with the overall color palette I chose for the quilt and I’m satisfied with the outcome.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

After the birds were complete, I assembled my quilt sandwich and basted it by hand. Then I machine quilted the areas surrounding the figure. I used freehand grass-esque shapes for the green land, and waves of freehand and regular stitching for the sky quilting.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

I seem not to have taken any photos yet of the piece after quilting the sky, so that will have to wait for my next post. I’m definitely at that point in the project where I’m feeling the tension of both wanting to make this project last (that whole thing of having fewer possibilities left than you’ve eliminated) and feeling antsy for the next one. As that’s normal for me in the home stretch, I’m taking it as a good sign.

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art quilt WIP: progress report

My first art quilt project is coming along!

Art quilt WIP

Last I posted, I had gotten the background mostly together. I then finished that up, so I had a nice full-size main quilt top to work with. (I didn’t choose the size based on the size of my craft table, but it worked out to my advantage, as you can see). I then took a couple of photographs of some of my dolls and manipulated them using photo-editing software so that I could get an outline to work from for the general shape of the woman who’ll be sitting in the foreground of the quilt. I also used some free online apps to blow up the images so that they would print on multiple sheets of paper, which I then taped together and traced. In the photo above you can see that the head in the upper right is the print out, which has a lot more detail than I wanted for the final pattern. The traced (and somewhat altered to suit my whim) version is in the center. I also cut out the pieces of the body separately at this point, so I could monkey with the perspective and how it was laid out, and so I could really see how her limbs fit together (so my monkeying didn’t make her look wonky).

Art quilt WIP

At the same time, I was working on a dress for the figure. I knew that I wanted to do a modified version of a Dresden Plate, so that there would be a variety of fabrics and so that the pieces could radiate out from the center of her torso.

Art quilt WIP

I sewed the pieces together and pressed the seams all in one direction to help it sit flat.

Art quilt WIP

I fussy-cut this bird from some fabric and then cut a larger outline piece from a similar but not-quite-the-same orange fabric. Then I sewed around the edges to hold it all together. Note: I did not make the very center of the purple circle perfect. I knew that I was going to be covering it anyway, so I didn’t bother to be mega exact with all the tiny edges of the wedges.

Art quilt WIP

I cut out the body in one piece and then laid the purple circle over it, and outlined where I needed to cut to make it dress-shaped. I’m really pleased with the look of the garment.

Art quilt WIP

I also did some accent stitching on the dress to defined and add a little more oomph to the patchwork of the garment. I wasn’t super fastidious about the spacing of this stitching, and I like the more organic feel that creates.

Art quilt WIP

Here we are working on her head again. When I made my outline for her face, I decided to create some dimension on her hair by using layers and sections of smaller pieces, as well as with stitching (more to come on that later). So you can see that there are more sections of hair on the real thing than on the outline. I prefer to create a basic pattern/shape to go from, but to change it up and embellish it as I’m working with the actual fabric.

Art quilt WIP

And here she is on her backdrop. Not finished yet!

Art quilt WIP

Here’s some of that stitching I mentioned earlier. I wanted to create more dimension in her hair, and I did so by using separate pieces of cloth (locks of hair, sort of) and by free motion stitching within the hair sections. I used two shades of thread to add more texture and contrast. I have been reading up on thread painting, decorative stitching, and free motion stitching, but I haven’t tried it before this. For my first try, I’m quite pleased with it! It has just the effect I was going for.

There’s still more to do on this quilt, as there are a few elements I haven’t even started on yet, as well as finishing the other details on the figure. Then will come the actual quilting when I put it all together. I’m really having fun creating this project, and I hope that I can make it one of a series of art quilt pieces.

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Lenore Crawford’s Fabric Art

One of the neatest places in Mount Pleasant is Art Reach. It’s a community arts organization that offers a gift shop, gallery space, outreach to schools, scholarships, and regular programs featuring visual art, poetry, music, and pretty much any kind of art you can think of. When we lived here before, they had a relatively small space in the church next to the library, but while we were gone they were able to move to retail and gallery space right downtown on Broadway.

I noticed that they were having an exhibition in the Morey Family Gallery this month called Fabric Art by a local(ish – she’s based in Midland) artist named Lenore Crawford. She combines quilting with fabric painting and a technique called thread painting (also known as thread drawing, according to the intarwebs) to create these beautiful art quilts.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Dogwood Blossoms II (31×40″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

You can see the very fine detail of her work. She uses a lot of applique technique to achieve the layered look that is reminiscent of the layers and texture you see in an oil painting.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

I noticed here that she is using a variety of sewing techniques or styles in any one quilt – here we have a great contrast between the straight or barely curved lined of the leaves and petals of the flower and the swirls of the background quilting. Of course the floral motif of this one appeals to the gardener in me.

 

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Grand Poppy (37×43″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

I love the combination of media Crawford used in this quilt, as well as the amazing color palette she utilized. The poppy itself is stunning, but the background behind the poppy really drew my attention. The colors range all over the place and yet never detract from the central focus of the main blossom. The variation of colors and stitches she used for the petals really capture the delicate, beautiful texture of a poppy blossom.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

These beads are lovely – their luster really doesn’t show up well in this photo. What a neat way to represent the anthers of a poppy flower. I also wanted to show another of the stitch techniques she’s used, this time a varied zigzag stitch.

 

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Winter Sky (29×23″)

This one drew my attention immediately. The stark silhouette of the tree combined with the so-familiar colors of a sunset in progress really rings true. Of course I managed not to get any other photos of the detail of this piece, but that doesn’t reflect how I responded to it (perhaps I neglected the camera because I was so engaged with the quilt).

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

The Garden Parasol, Frederick Frieseke (42.5×56.75″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

This was the first quilt I saw upon entering the gallery, and I noticed right away that there was a lot of painting within the quilting. It is based on a painting by an American impressionist painter who lived most of his life in France (impressionism and France are two of Crawford’s primary sources of inspiration). If you compare the two, you can see that the quilt is not just a direct copy/interpretation of the original painting, but adds some variation in shape and color choice as well as content. The background scene in the quilt is quite different from the painting (I think I prefer the quilt, actually), and the colors appear more vibrant and intense in the quilt.

I was so happy that I found out about this exhibit. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning. I also found out that the Art Reach shop takes submissions for consignment by local artists (by jury), so that’s something I may work toward in the future myself.

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