Cabin Fever Quilt Show video

The bi-annual show for my quilt guild was held in September.  Chris Bates, husband of guild member Kathey Bates, put together a nice video of the show.  Here is the link:  .

Thanks, Chris, for doing such a great job!  More info about the guild can be found at the guild’s website: .

Fused Applique Portrait Quilts

I have just completed an on-demand video course on fused applique portrait quilts.  It is taught by Lea McComas (her website is    and is available through The Quilting Company .

Lea does an excellent job of explaining the process of creating portrait quilts.  After explaining how to select a suitable photo, she explains the process of cropping it, transforming it to grayscale, and then “posterizing” it to reduce the number of values in the portrait.

Lea also has fabric and threads available on her website that are already in the range of values she recommends.  To avoid having to spend hours in the car going from one quilt shop to another, I purchased these fabrics and threads directly from her.  The fabrics she supplies are solid Kona cottons.  They are nice fabrics but will result in a particular “look” to the finished product. Sort of like an old “poster” or  an Andy Warhol look.

I am quite happy with my first quilt following the process and plan to do a few more using these solid fabrics.  After some more experience using solids, I will switch to subtle prints for more texture and a different look.

First step was to select a photo.  I picked one that was a formal portrait and cropped it.

Photo of Shirley








Then I converted it to gray scale and “posterized” it to reduce the number of values (fabrics).

Shirley grayscale and posterized








I enlarged this using Microsoft Paint (page setup for printing allows you to specify how many pages you want the photo to print on).  I could have put the file on a thumb drive and taken it to my local print shop, but it was quicker to do it at home and tape the pages together.

Then I put the image on my light table and put freezer paper on top so I could trace a pattern for cutting out my fabrics:

Pattern for portrait












The little red arrows mean that an extra 1/4 inch or so of fabric should be allowed on that side of the pattern piece, so it can be layered underneath the neighboring piece.

These pieces are then carefully cut out and ironed onto the various fabrics.  A fusible such as Steam A Steam 2 Lite or Misty Fuse is then applied to the back of the fabric and the fused pieces cut out.  Starting with the lightest value, the fabrics are built up on a muslin backing until the result looks like this:

Shirley portrait fused but not stitched











Then a quilt sandwich is made with this quilt top, batting and a backing fabric.  Finally a layer of bridal tulle is placed on top to hold all those little pieces in place!  The layers are pinned together and then free motion stitched.  The face is stitched by just outlining the fabric pieces.  Extra stitching is done in the hair and the background to add some additional texture.

The final result, after quilting and adding a facing is below:

Shirley completed portrait quiltThis is an interesting process!  The cutting out and fusing down of the pieces is a little tedious, but overall it is a fairly quick process to create a portrait quilt.

If you are interested in trying this process, be sure to take Lea’s class.

Lea uses a fused quilt like this as a “base” for heavy thread painting.  That allows for a much more realistic look in the face, because the thread can be used to soften the color transitions.  Check out her website for examples of her spectacular quilts!

Coloring fabric with colored pencils

Last fall I took a Craftsy class from Lola Jenkins on making portrait quilts using colored pencils.  Lola has a wonderful relaxed approach to her art and it was a fun class.  I recommend it if you are interested in this subject.

I used an assortment of colored pencils for the project, mostly Prismacolor pencils but also some Crayola pencils, and occasionally a Derwent Inktense pencil (I have a limited range of colors in those but they have a lot of pigment so you can get a stronger color with them).

The process used is to print a line drawing on paper and then trace it onto fabric using a light table or a convenient window.  Lola likes to add interest to her portraits by adding shapes in front of the portrait.  For the class, I used her example, which is Vermier’s “Lady With A Pearl Earring”.

After the drawing is traced on the fabric, the fabric is fused to an interfacing.  The traced drawing is stitched with black thread.  Then the colored pencils are used to make the portrait.

In the image below, you can see the result.  Since this was a class project, I haven’t completed the background.  This allows you to see what the original fabric looked like.  I was impressed with how vibrant the colors were  and how little the fabric color showed through.

girl with pearl earring quiltAfter the pencil work was completed, the fabric is painted with textile medium to set the color.  This is supposed to make it permanent, although I haven’t conducted a test yet.

More recently I was working with a photo of a cute wild rabbit I took in the local park. where I was photographing flowers and he/she hopped by to look at me.

Here is the rabbit photo.

wild rabbit

And here is the small quilt I made based on the photo, again with colored pencils.  Remembering Lola’s approach, I added the daffodils in front and behind the rabbit to add some more interest.  I stitched the outlines of the rabbit and flowers, then quilted the background completely before coloring with pencils.

bunny rabbit quilt

I call this one “Daffy Bunny”.  I think it’s kind of cute — although it certainly isn’t my usual style!


Printing on fabric – update

My last post was about fabric I had purchased through Fabric On Demand by sending photo images to them and having them print the images on cotton fabric.  I have since tested the fabric for washability and sun fading.  Below are comparison images of two images.  The top image in each photo has not been washed or exposed to the sun.  The bottom image has.

Note that the elephant photos I chose to “torture” in these tests had been printed off the selvedge edge of the fabric.  The reference fabric was printed properly and not on the edge, so more of the sky shows in the reference fabric than the tested fabric.  This has nothing to do with the actual test.  If I had planned to use this fabric for anything other than a test, I would have asked Fabric On Demand to reprint it properly.  But since I only ordered and paid for three images printed on fabric once – and then received each image printed on fabric four times – I wasn’t going to complain.  As explained in my earlier post, there were some size issues also.  Again, had I been planning to use the printed fabric in a quilt where the size mattered, I am sure Fabric On Demand would have been happy to reprint my order.

The first photo shows the result from washing the fabric (delicate cycle with normal detergent).  The image has shrunk and has  slight fading.

Elephant photo wash test.

Elephant photo on fabric. Bottom image has been washed twice on delicate cycle with normal detergent.

The second sample shows the comparison for sun fading. The top fabric print has been kept inside and not washed. The bottom fabric print was placed outside in the sun for a month. Fading is considerable.

elephant photo sun exposure test

The top image has not been exposed to the sun. The bottom image was placed outside in the sun for a month.

Of course most of us aren’t going to put our photo quilts out in the sun, but it is good to know that long tern exposure to sunlight inside, such as on a sunlit wall, would not be good for this fabric – not that is ever a good idea for most any colored fabric!

Printing of photographs on fabric

There are several methods for doing this and lots of websites giving lots of advice on the subject. One very good website is Their focus is primarily on online sources where you can order fabric printed with your own images. Other sites will discuss methods for printing images on fabric at home with your inkjet printer.

Most of my fabric printing has been done at home using my inkjet printer with self-treated fabric using Bubble Jet Set (again, lots of info on the web about its use). This results in quite good images, although I would not want to subject the resulting fabric to a lot of washing or exposure to the sun. I have seen some quilts with photo images that have faded significantly, although I haven’t had the problem myself. Another disadvantage is that this process can result in a printer jam if you are not careful; printers are not really designed to feed the fabric through the rollers. Also, the size of the image is limited by the size of your printer.

A local art quilter recently had a large fabric print made of a photo on fabric. She used a service called Fabric On Demand ( Her large image (about 28 by 40 inches) looked very good. She selected this service because their process is known to produce better blacks than some other services such as Both services have a selection of fabrics available, including 100 percent cotton. Fabric on Demand has two different weights of cotton – 4 oz and 6 oz. The 6 oz is probably better for doing a large piece that will be framed; 4 oz is closer to the usual “quilters” weight of fabric.

I have used spoonflower and been pleased with the results, but I have only used them for a “repeating” design, not just printing a single large image. In my research I found that Fabric On Demand allowed me to order a single image printed on a “fat quarter” rather than forcing me to purchase one yard at a time. Also, the size of the image can be specified in the order.

So recently I placed an order with Fabric On Demand for three fat quarters, each with a different photo image. During my interaction with them, I specified that I wanted the longest dimension of the photo to print 9 inches long on the fabric, and I wanted the image centered on the fat quarter.

What I received, while good for my purposes (which was to test their service), wasn’t really what I ordered. I had a brief discussion with their staff about what I received. They were very willing to have the order re-done at no cost, but I chose not to do this since what I received was OK for the purposes of my test.

The actual printing of the photo on the fabric is very good; the image is clear and the colors very true to the original photos – at least for my purposes.

Here is what I was expecting – three fat quarters with a single image in each:

I received the order twice (not sure why), and each order looked like this – about 59 inches wide and 18 inches long:

So I actually received four copies of each image when I was expecting one. Two of the images (the elephants at the right end) were not usable because the image was printed over the selvedge. And as you can see, the 18 inch dimension is rather irregularly cut, and was not always a full 18 inches.

The sizing of the images was not completely consistent, and was not exactly the 9 inches I specified. The actual images varied from 8 ½ inches wide to 8 ¾ inches wide on the longest dimension. In addition, the images were not square. As you can see in the photos below, one of the orders I received was out of square about ½ inch and the other was out of square by about ¼ inch.








I cut off the elephant images on the ends that went over the selvedges to use for further testing. I have put one of them through the wash with my laundry, and I will be using the other one to test for sun fading. In the first and second wash process, the image shrank slightly more than 1/4 inch – not unexpected for cotton, of course. Over the next few weeks I will send that piece through the wash several more times and see if there is any noticeable fading of the colors (none so far), and if it shrinks any more. I have put the second elephant image outside in the sun and will wait a few weeks to see if there is any noticeable fading.

The shrinkage and the dimension problems, once known, can be anticipated and compensated for by cropping the image with some extra around the edges, to allow for squaring it up and getting an accurate final dimension (probably only necessary if making multiple images to use in quilt blocks where the size is important). If my original image had strong vertical lines (such as a flagpole or a building), I would need to be prepared to rotate and crop the image to get the vertical line truly vertical.

In summary, so far so good – but proceed with caution. The images look good, and the fabric is good. We have to be prepared for size issues resulting from the shrinkage, the out of square printing process, and the fact that the printing fabric did not have the exact size of image as originally specified. I will post again when I am finished with the washing test and the sun fading test.


Washout markers vs Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Markers

Recently I have seen some blog posts about using Crayola Washable Markers for marking quilts instead of the blue washout markers we quilters have been using for years.  In the same discussions the Frixion pens, where the marks can be “removed” with heat are sometimes also discussed.

I decided to run some tests comparing the markers.  Recently I have been using the Frixion pens more than any other marker.  I recently learned that the Frixion pens contain two kinds of ink.  One is heat-sensitive and the other is not.  The heat sensitive marks can be removed with an iron, but will come back if the fabric gets very cold. This is an indication that the chemicals from the ink are still in the quilt.  Pilot, who manufactures the pens, states that the pens were not designed for use on fabric.  Therefore they make no statements about the long term effects of the inks on fabric. And, as I have blogged earlier, a white mark will be left on a bright colored fabric after the dark lines are ironed away.  This is because the ink is still in the fabric.  The white marks can be removed with an ink remover but will not wash out.

So– with some reservations about the long term effects of Frixion pens and some unwanted short term effects (think of shipping the quilt and exposing it to cold temperatures that way) — I was interested to see if the Crayola Markers (NOT crayons!) would be a viable alternative.

My conclusion is that I will not use the Crayola markers, and that I will use the blue washout markers even though I am not in love with them either.  I would be interested to hear from any quilters who are successfully using the Crayola markers.  Perhaps there are ways to do it that work.

Here are my tests:

First, I marked some white fabric with the blue washout marker and with a blue Crayola marker.  The blue marker I used was the Dritz Mark-B-Gone, graciously given to me by Susan Travis of Creative Union Fabrics who was interested in my testing.   I don’t know if all blue markers will yield the same results, but I would expect something similar from other brands.

Dritz Mark B Gone on the left, Crayola on the right

Dritz Mark B Gone on the left, Crayola on the right

Then I spritzed both sets of marks with a generous spray of cold water. As you can see, the blue washout marks disappeared.  The Crayola marks just bled and made a mess.

Mark B Gone disappears, Crayola bleeds out.

Mark B Gone disappears, Crayola bleeds out.

I then applied a paper towel to the Crayola marks to see if I could blot up the ink.  A lot of the ink was absorbed into the paper towel, but there was plenty left in the fabric.

Even blotting with a paper towel didn't help; lots of ink on the towel, but plenty left in the fabric.

Even blotting with a paper towel didn’t help; lots of ink on the towel, but plenty left in the fabric.

I was in a hurry to finish my test so I ironed the damp sample.  The Crayola marks stayed about the same- ironing doesn’t seem to have any affect on the marks – but the blue washout marks re-appeared. The photo below is from another sample with only the Mark B Gone, but shows the result.

Oops! I ironed it dry and the marks came back.

Oops! I ironed it dry and the marks came back.

Then I took the sample to the sink and rinsed it in cold water.  Although the marks became faint, they were still left in the fabric.  Then I scrubbed the fabric with warm soapy water.  Finally the blue washout marks were permanently gone.  The Crayola marks were nearly gone, but there was a faint shadow remaining that doesn’t show up in the photo.

Scrubbed with warm soapy water, and finally all the marks disappeared. There were faint shadows left by the Crayola markers.

Scrubbed with warm soapy water, and finally all the marks disappeared. There were faint shadows left by the Crayola markers.

If you plan to run all of your quilts through the washing machine when completed, then you can probably use the Crayola markers.  You should also seriously consider doing so if you mark heavily with the blue washout markers.  My personal solution is going to be to minimize marking if at all possible. Some temporary marking can be done at the last minute with chalk, since it comes off easily.  For a complex pattern that required marking, I might seriously consider copying the pattern onto tissue paper and sewing through it on the quilt.  And of course, changing the quilting design so it doesn’t have to be marked is even better.  The ruler templates I blogged about a couple of months ago are another option.  Proceed with caution!

Quilt Show at Uptown Dental Clinic, Port Townsend

This show includes quilts from a number of my quilting friends.  The show was originally planned to be a two person show with myself and Charlie Petersen.  Due to Charlie’s sudden and unexpected death in September, I invited several other quilters to participate.  Fortunately Charlie’s family gave us permission to include some of her quilts in the show, so we all get the opportunity to see Charlie’s latest work.

The show runs until January 7, 2016.   Quilts can be viewed during the Clinic’s normal business hours:  Mon-Thurs 8-5 pm and Friday 9-2 pm.  The Clinic is at 642 Harrison Street.    A reception with the artists will be held Friday, October 23 from 4 to 6 pm.

Besides myself and Charlie Petersen, other quilters participating in the show are Fabienne Farley, Nona Giersch, Helen Oakland, Susan Sawatzky, and Jo Ellen Thompson.  Some photos from the show are included below.

Reception area 1

Uptown Dental reception area 2

Uptown Dental hallway left (2)

Uptown Dental hallway right (2)And Charlie’s last quilt, quilted and finished by her friend Carol Olsen.  We named it “After Impracticalities”.

Charlies last quilt (4)If you are in our local area, we hope you will be able to visit the show!