Category Archives: Art Quilts

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  www.leamccomas.com/)    and is available through The Quilting Company  https://www.quiltingcompany.com/store/courses-videos/courses?technique=249 .

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 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 pixeladies.com. 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 (fabricondemand.com). 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 spoonflower.com. 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.

 

Contemporary Swiss and European Patchwork

A major part of my recent trip to Europe was participation in a family reunion in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  While there I had a discussion with Caroline Junier, a cousin (I think we have the same great-grandfather, if I have kept my family history straight), who until recently worked for the Neuchatel Museum of Art and History.

Naturally we discussed quilting and I showed Caroline some photos of my quilts.  She explained that there is a very active quilting (they call it Patchwork in Europe) community in and around Neuchatel.  In fact she believes it is the largest such community in Switzerland.  In her capacity at the Museum, she was very involved in putting together a number of quilt exhibitions.  She offered to provide me with the catalogs from three of the exhibitions, and delivered them to me at my hotel the next day.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the quilts and the catalogs, which are beautifully done.  Funding support for the exhibitions and the catalogs (if I am translating the French correctly) was provided by Bernina (our sewing machine friends), Loterie Romande (I don’t know who they are but it sounds like a Lottery), and Migros (big grocery store chain in Switzerland).

I have shown the catalogs to several members of my quilt guild and they enjoyed seeing them very much.  I wish I could show you photos here, but of course the images are copyrighted.  I include some web links and names below where you can see some of the work.

The following is a translation of the introduction to the catalog by some of the organizers.  I first used Google translate to get this from the original French to English, and did some fairly loose intrepretation so that it would make sense.  My apologies to anyone I may offend by my errors in translation!

“After having organized three exhibitions of contemporary patchwork of national importance in 1986, 1989 and 1993, Neuchatel Museum of Art and History once again wishes to show Patchwork to a wider audience, as well as how the assembly of textile elements has evolved and has become a means of art expression  in its own right in Switzerland and Europe.

Caroline Junier, curator of the department of applied art of the Museum of Art and History in Neuchatel, has organized this new exhibit, EXNA 4 in 2010. For her availability, expertise and usual dynamism, as in 1993, we are very grateful.

We are grateful to the jury who, thanks to their skills and knowledge in the contemporary art world, with impartiality selected fifty-two works from those presented in the contest.

We also thank the forty-one invited artists- among the best in Europe – who responded eagerly to our request and have enabled the exposition to present their works in the unique format selected: 35 by 35 cm.

by Maryline Collioud-Robert, Lucienne Hool, and Zibull Masson”

I have tried to find a good link to photos of the included quilts and failed to find more than a few photos.   You can find them yourself by searching for “EXNA 4 Patchwork Contemporain Suisse & Europeen”.  One of the organizers, Maryline Collioud-Robert, has a web site and blog.  She had three quilts in the show and shows these and others of her quilts at her blog: http://www.marylinecollioudrobert.com/en/Home.html .

Other quilters with multiple quilts in the show and current web presence were :     Beata Keller-Kerchner, Cecile Trentini, and Malou Zryd.  You can find some images of their work by typing their names in to the usual search engines.  Nearly all the work is very contemporary, usually abstract, and visually striking. There is a lot of use of texture in the exhibit, much more so than in the earlier 1986 and 1993 exhibits for which I also have catalogs.

Landscape Quilt Class prototypes

I will be teaching a beginning landscape quilt class at Quality Sewing in Silverdale in September and I am doing the preparation work for the class.  Recently I taught a practice class at Creative Union in Port Townsend and it was very useful to me, plus my students created some great quilts.

The class uses the book “Lovely Landscapes” by Cathy Geier as the basis. The objective of the quilt design for this class is to make it easy for beginners and simple enough that the students can accomplish most of the assembly process in class.  So I decided to use a sunset scene with a silhouetted tree.

My first prototype is shown below.

landscape quilt 1 Apr 2015

I decided this one was too dark and the tree needed more detail.  Also the water wasn’t right — the horizon was too high and the water wasn’t interesting.

So I altered the foreground design and lightened up the sky some.  Also added a silhouetted sailboat for a little more interest.

landscape quilt 2 Apr 2015

I still think the sky needs to be lighter yet, and the change in the water is more interesting but adds quite a bit of time to the assembly process.  I will need to simplify the design further by reducing the number of strips.  Also the area where the sand meets the horizon line is not good and needs some adjustment.

And here is the quilt made by one of my students and fellow guild members, Susan Sawatsky.  She decided to go with a daylight scene and did some wonderful collage work with embroidery thread to make the leaves in the tree.  Didn’t she do great?

Susan landscape

I will post more later as I evolve the design for the class.

Make a color palette from a photo

I recently received a marketing email from Brewers, a wholesale sewing supply company.  They included in their email a link to a blog post on the subject of color palettes that I found very interesting.  After reading the blog post, I experimented with creating color palettes from a few of my photographs using color palette software available from Sherwin Williams.  They of course intend you to use it to select paint colors the next time you decorate.  And that is a great thing to do with it.  But for us quilters, it is a wonderful resource for designing a color palette.  (link to the original Brewer’s post is at the end of this one)

So here is the process.  Go to the Sherwin Williams site:     http://letschipit.com/ .

Upload a favorite photo and follow the instructions.  You will have to create an account to save your color chip, but it just requires a user name, email address, and password – so no big deal.  Once you have looked at the color chip card – be sure to click on the “edit colors” button because you will find there are some more colors hidden behind the first five, and you want to see them.  I only discovered this because the first photo I am showing you below came up with NO pink in the first five colors! So I went looking and found them.  Be sure to drag and drop the colors around so that the first five or so are the colors you would really use in a quilt.  Then save the changes.  Click on the “edit colors” button again to make the secondary colors show, if you want them.  Then right click your mouse on the picture and choose “Save As”, giving your new chipcard a name that you will be able to remember.  You should be able to find it again using the search feature in Windows Explorer or whatever software you use to find files on your computer.  On my computer, these files ended up under the “Pictures” folder.

So here are my first results.  I think these chip cards would be a great help to fabric shopping!

A Rhododendron bush in Port Gamble:

Sherwin Williams Color Chip Card derived from my Port Gamble Rhody photo

Sherwin Williams Color Chip Card derived from my Port Gamble Rhody photo

A Rhody Bud in a neighbor’s yard:

Sherwin Williams chip card from a Rhody bud

Sherwin Williams chip card from a Rhody bud

I thought the brown, mustard yellow, and dark red were interesting.  I wouldn’t have pulled those out of the original photo, and yet I think they are interesting additions to the color palette.  In limited quantity, one of them  would make a good accent color or “zinger”.

And a sunrise photo:

Sherwin Williams chip card from my Sunrise photo

Sherwin Williams chip card from my Sunrise photo

Interesting, aren’t they?  I especially like the sunrise photo results because I would have had trouble coming up with those colors.  I would have been inclined to select more vivid yellow/orange/pink shades.

Here is the link to the very interesting blog post that started me on this little journey: http://www.brewerinspires.com/home/2015/4/9/drawing-quilt-inspiration-from-color-palettes.html?utm_source=Brewer+Quilting+and+Sewing+List&utm_campaign=0412d478a7-A+Modern+Quilters+Inspiration++-+04.10.15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_357729c506-0412d478a7-374377749

Rainbow Scrap Quilt

I received a quilt book as a Christmas gift that I am enjoying.  It is called “Lovely Landscape Quilts” by Cathy Geier and can be purchased either at your local quilt shop or at Amazon through this link: Lovely Landscape Quilts: Using Strings and Scraps to Piece and Applique Scenic Quilts .

This book presents some very simple techniques for creating impressive landscape quilts.  The techniques produce results that will be satisfying to an experienced quilter, but at the same time are simple enough for a confident beginner.  I like the techniques enough that I am considering creating a new class based on this book.  First I have to make a few quilts so I am sure I can get good results and be confident that my students will also get good results.  I started with a very simple quilt using scraps.

Before describing the landscape techniques she uses in the book, Cathy Geier presents a range of landscape quilts by other artists.  The very first artist presented is Ann Brauer.  If you are interested in Ann’s quilts, she has an Etsy store where she sells her quilts and smaller items.   She may also have a website or blog, but I haven’t looked for those.

The quilt I “copied” is called Rainbows of Summer.  It uses a string piecing technique, making blocks using four to six fabric strips of varying widths.  I started with paper foundation rectangles that I cut 6 inches by 8 inches.  The paper rectangles were good for ensuring that my blocks were all the right size, but tearing out the paper afterward was tedious so I might try making the blocks using a template rather than a paper foundation the next time.

I spent a lot of  time sorting fabrics into colors of the rainbow and cutting strips.  My strips were all about 9-10 inches long and varied in width from 1 inch to 2 inches.  Some of them were narrower at one end that at the other; this adds some visual interest to the finished quilt.

Sewing the blocks is very straightforward once you have selected the colors for each horizontal row of the quilt.  I laid out piles of strips and picked out assorted fabrics as I went along, trying not to repeat the same fabric in one block and to vary the use of the fabric so that it did not always appear in the same position.  I  had 10-15 different fabrics for each color, so I had enough to choose from to create nice variety.  Once I had enough blocks of each color, I squared up all the blocks to 6 by 8 inches.  Then I assembled the quilt top one horizontal row at a time.

Here is the finished quilt top:

Rainbow scrap quilt based on Ann Brauer's "Rainbows of Summer", 64 in by 66 in

Rainbow scrap quilt based on Ann Brauer’s “Rainbows of Summer”, 64 in by 66 in

I really like the variety of fabrics and found this a great way to use up scraps.  Of course I had lots of scrap strips left over so I will have to dream up another project to use them!