Friday, May 8, 2009

Process of Making a Quilt

Recently a local journalist suggested he write an article about my quilts (textile art, fiber art, wall hangings etc!)  - he  interviewed me and yesterday a photographer came to take a few pictures.  I’m promised a 6-8 page spread – that’s a lot of pictures!!  He wanted pictures at every stage of the making of a piece – this is even more scattered than I usually work!   so my brain is going in 4,000 different directions.   I think I’m making about 6 pieces at once – as well as reading/listening to 4 or 5 different books, and knitting at least 3 different sweaters, and trying to learn to paint watercolour – don’t even think about the kitchen floor (I don’t!).  I do hope all this activity is actually good for the little grey cells!

When the article is published (Athens Magazine, the June issue, I think), I’ll scan in some of the pictures so you can see what a professional photographer made of it, but for the moment here are my (very) amateur shots of the same steps:


this is the first stage, a lot of little sketches…what I’m thinking about here is the effect of very wide stitching…I’d have to do this by hand..but that will be perfect for my trip to Scotland (coming up soon, more info in a couple of days).  I like the way the stitches look when they pile up into a wiggly line.  I often use a yellow highlighter to indicate where (guess what!) the high lights will be.  I already like the idea that there will be a contrast between horizontal strokes and vertical ones.  But I’ll probably reverse the values across the “water”.  So this idea really came from the what if question of: what if the stitches were bigger….



Having got a sketch the next stage is to find (in the stash, see below) or make – the appropriate fabric.  I really enjoyed making Flora and Ferra and have another design sketched out which is similar, but different!! another variation – I love variations (one of my favorite recordings is the original Glenn Gould Goldberg variations, humming and grunts and all).

I used up all my “plant” fabric, so must print some more – the photographer got a lot of pictures of me in purple gloves!!  I already have the title for this piece: Plant Life.  Sometimes that happens, a title will create an idea.IMG_1298

Looking in the stash for fabric!  I knew I wanted to make a version of the Cement Works that was bigger, that used a lot of red, and also gave the sense of the height of those towering containers.  So here I am pulling out all the reds I can find…and I’m Not Allowed to tidy up until the piece is fully blocked out: a) I can’t see the stuff when it’s tucked into the shelving, and b) tidying away is So Much Easier than finding the right fabric, cutting it out and blocking it onto the wall that I would just tidy and tidy and tidy and think I’d achieved something!!!  It’s always easier to do the mindless thing…so that’s something to fight against! Eschew All Displacement Activity!

Every time I “try” a piece of fabric and it “doesn’t work” (usually because I stupidly ignored my own value sketch by the way!) I pin it on the wall next to the piece (you can see there are quite a few hunks now pinned up there!)….in case I want to revisit that possibility later.IMG_1297




First, I layer a background piece on the wall – and add plumb lines by the way – makes it easier to keep everything straight.  If possible and appropriate, I like the background fabric to reflect the dominant colour – in this case red.  Then I begin to block out the piece…things happen at this stage which can really change the character of the piece…I love the way the Cement works is beginning to take on a medieval castle feeling!!  I’ve still a looooong way to go on this – every piece could be changed…





Once a piece is blocked out to my satisfaction, I applique all the pieces down onto the background.  I’ve tried various ways of doing this.  Jeanne Williamson (before she went to whole cloth) used a zigzag in invisible thread – she must have a lot more patience than me!!!  I hate that stuff!!  it snaps and twists and curls and disappears only to reappear where you don’t want it!!  plus – why be invisible? what’s wrong with stitching? Of course it’s well known I don’t like f**ing!  so that’s not an option – too flat and gluey!!!  though I don’t mind if others do it – in the privacy of their studios, or under blankets!! (I had a great laugh when a student in a class did just that!  I came back into the workroom and there was somebody working away under a blanket!!!  Great fun, Sue!! I loved it).   I did use a straight stitch on the edge for a long time but after seeing Barbara Watler’s wonderful tree pieces with a tiny zigzag in a closely matching thread I decided that was the most elegant solution.  it takes a little longer but the finish is very nice, and being fairly narrow it’s not as egregiously obvious as the perfect satin stitch some folk do which is a bit too enclosing for me.

So, once the top is stitched together, it’s layered with batting and backing.  the piece above is in the process of being quilted – this is Cement Works #1, by the way.     I have a sewing machine in my sewing room upstairs (a Janome, as you can see) and another one set up in the basement room – it’s cooler down there in the summer – that’s a Bernina 930.  It doesn’t have the needle up/down feature, but it doesn’t balk at some of the threads I like to use, so each has its advantages.

So I have (at least) 4 pieces on the go!…I don’t think I’ll be quitting quiltmaking any time soon!!!
And if you have been, thanks for reading!


Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

Once again....thank you for sharing your "process". Have a great trip.

Anonymous said...

The only time I think about my kitchen floor is when I start sticking to it!
Great to see how you work through a project, especially as it is a different project at each step. I suspect that many of us work on many projects in a similar way.
Judy B

Rayna said...

Oh, ha ha - I have been spending days doing displacement activities: tidying, reorganizing supplies, and ironing. My friend Rachel says when she hears I am ironing, she knows I am in trouble. Next comes mindless sewing. Is that displacement, too?

Nina Marie said...

Its comforting to see that others will use displacement activities to avoid making a decision. Still my piece just hangs there on my studio wall, taunting me to actually come up with the right thing to do. Its a passive aggressive thing (on both sides I think LOL!) I'm amazed though, Elizabeth, that you can stay focused with so many creative avenues going. How do you prioritize them to get anything done?