Category Archives: Art Quilts

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: .

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: .

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:

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!


Printable Fusible Web

I am working on another quilt with Kamon, or Japanese family crests.  These crest designs are quite intricate and are a real challenge to fusible webs.  They need a really good adhesive to keep the pieces in shape.

Recently I read about a fusible web I have not used before.  It is by June Tailor and is sold in 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheets and can be run through your inkjet printer.  The obvious advantage is that, for the right size applique pieces, you can copy or print the shapes right on to the paper back of the web — no tracing of the designs required!  The main disadvantage (compared to Steam-A-Seam, for example) is that the adhesive is not “sticky” before ironing.  So you can’t stick  down all the pieces, repositioning them as needed, and then permanently adhere them by pressing them with a hot iron.  I have found that it works better to place one or two pieces and press them with the iron, then go to the next couple of pieces, etc.

I had completed a couple of blocks using Steam A Seam and wasn’t satisfied with the results.  The particular fabrics I chose were regular cotton and tended to fray on the edges.  One way to solve this problem is to use batiks, which fray much less than regular cottons.  But since I am experimenting with these block designs, I just grabbed fabrics from my scrap bins and some of them were not batiks.

Here is the result of the fusing with Steam A Seam.  You can see the frayed edges.

frayed edges show with Steam A Seam fusible.

frayed edges show with Steam A Seam fusible.


And here is the same block fused with the June Tailor product.  The edges are much cleaner.

much less fraying with the June Tailor fusible web

much less fraying with the June Tailor fusible web

For these intricate designs,  I will be using the June Tailor fusible web in the future.  It is more expensive than other fusibles, so I will be ordering it from a wholesale source to get the price down.  But it can be purchased easily either at your local shops or through Amazon at the following link:  June Tailor 8-1/2-Inch by 11-Inch Ink Jet Printable Fusible Web, 6-Pack  .

Creating dimension on applique with colored pencils

I recently picked up a book “Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge”  about a two year long  challenge conducted by twelve art quilters. (Buy it here: Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge  ).   The entire challenge was conducted online.  A theme was selected by one member, and all the members had two months to produce a 12 inch by 12 inch quilt based on that theme.  After the challenge was completed, the members published this book.  All the members discuss their thoughts about the challenge and how they arrived at their particular quilt design.  It is very interesting reading, and very thought provoking if you want to be an art quilter.

A number of interesting techniques are described in the book.  One I found intriguing — and compatible with some of the things I have been doing this year – was a technique described by Terry Grant.  She used pastel pencils to add shading to commercial fabrics to get a more realistic result.  I just played around with this idea today and can see how it works.  According to Terry, after you are satisfied with the result, the shading is made permanent by painting over it with a dilute solution of acrylic textile medium and water.  I haven’t tried that part yet, but here is the result from spending 30 minutes or so adding the shading with  white, navy blue, and black pencils .

fused applique pieces have a flat appearance
fused applique pieces have a flat appearance
dimensionality added with pencil shading

dimensionality added with pencil shading

Interesting!  This is much like what I was doing last spring with my sliced circle pieces with crayons and Shiva Paintstiks.  At that time I settled on a  white Paintstik to get the best white highlight on the spheres.  The pencil result here is quite good and much faster, if it will truly be permanent after covering with the textile medium.

Book Review: “The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life” by Twyla Tharp.

This book was recommended by Elizabeth Barton in the class I took from her this spring through the Academy of Quilting. I have been slowly reading it ever since. I am still not finished, but I have read enough to highly recommend it.

This book is written in a very conversational, down-to-earth style.  All the concepts are illustrated with real-life examples, and numerous exercises are included to help the reader understand their own creative motivations and how to get started and keep going through the creative process.  The author, who is a dance choreographer, talks about what it is like to face a looming deadline for a performance, knowing that somehow the creative ideas will come and that she will be able to create a dance. She has given a lot of thought to the creative process, and developed many practical tools and habits that facilitate creative development. I particularly like the discussion about “scratching for ideas”.

What I have learned from this book is that understanding the creative process and having the “tools” to use it can make the difference between a craftperson who copies the work of others and an artist who creates genuinely original work. And it helps to understand that all artists, no matter the medium, go through the same intimidating process of coming up with ideas and turning them into finished work.  Importantly, there is plenty of emphasis on the hard work and investment of both time and emotional energy that it takes to get from that vague beginning of an idea to a finished piec of art.

If you have the goal of becoming a creator of truly original art quilts – and it is perfectly OK if you don’t – this book is an excellent resource.

You definitely won’t find this book at your local quilt shop, so here is a link where the book can be purchased at Amazon: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life