Art Quilt Technique Practice

I am an excellent Idea Finder/Keeper/Organizer, but not such a great Idea Executor.  I have dozens of notebooks of saved articles, and I have to take some action! This week I had a few days open and I dedicated them to art quilt experiments.

final for now

Technique practice mini-quilt.

I started with an article called “Layer It On” by Annette Morgan, from the Fall 2005 Quilting Arts magazine.  (Yes, I got to this article within a decade of its being published!)  Morgan suggests making new fabric from scraps ironed onto stabilizer, then stamping on designs, covering the whole thing with layers of sheers, cutting through the sheers to reveal the bright fabrics beneath in spots, free-motion quilting and embellishing.

It sounds like quite a process, her book covers and bottle bags were so colorful and cheerful that I wanted to turn my scraps into similar treasures.

Scraps fused to a background fabric.

The starting place – scraps fused to a background fabric.

Morgan suggested using a lightweight iron-on stabilizer.  I didn’t have any so I ironed the scraps on a sheet of Pellon Wonder-Under®, then fused that whole sheet to the right side of a background fabric.  (I was hoping to cut through to expose the background fabric so I wanted its bright side visible.)  This is a great way to use up those fabrics that are really too flimsy to stand on their own.

When I looked at the results, the oval of silk on the right reminded me of a face, so I decided to go with that for imagery.  I love to do contour drawings without looking at the paper, like the one below —

Blind contour drawing.

Blind contour drawing.

it’s a little more dangerous to do that with a sewing machine, so I peeked as I sewed a basic face and a figure.

Some basic thread sketching with size 50 thread.

Some basic thread sketching with size 50 thread.  Those are not devil horns or barrettes on her head; just markings in the fabric scrap.

The basic thread was too light, so I tried some number 12 size cotton.  After a lot of trial and error, I found that a size 100/16 top-stitch needle handled it well, with size 50 thread in the bobbin.  I sketched in a hand, and also added lines in and around the face and figure.  I really liked the combination of thick and thin lines.

Next I cut away some of the top (scrap) layer, added batting and backing, and free-motion quilted wherever I felt like it.  The top-stitch needle had made me brave so I even used rayon thread!  And, for the first time in my long quilting life, it DIDN’T BREAK even once!

before paint

Additional stitching with size 12 cotton gave more definition to the face.  I used rayon thread around the circles on the background fabric.

At this point I turned to the book The Painted Quilt: Paint and Print Techniques for Colour on Quilts by Linda and Laura Kemshall (2007, David and Charles).

The painted quilt

(I got this book a mere four years ago!  It has barely had time to ripen on my bookshelf.)

The Kemshalls suggest painting areas of the fabric after quilting, and then, after the paint dries, quilting through again with a contrasting thread.  They use Jacquard Lumiere® metallic paints, which I had on hand (purchased only three years ago, and never opened before this week).

I LOVED THIS!  The painting makes you look like you can do some pretty fancy piecing!  The paints can be thinned, blended, layered, and stitched through easily.

I like the way that russet swirls, the white hands, and the moon turned out.

I like the way that russet swirls, the white hands, and the moon turned out.

I also tried some Dy-na-flow dyes, to overdye areas of the black-and-white paisley fabric, and the bright green background fabric.  Those added a nice touch of shading, and the printed lines of the original fabric showed through the dye. You can see that in the photo above.  It’s an option I might use again, but it didn’t cause my heart to sing.

Remember that in my initial plan I was going to use layers of sheers, to blend all the random colors, and contain the raw edges.  I auditioned layers of green net (for deeper greens) and then pink net (the complement of green, to tone it down) over the whole piece, but decided to skip the sheers on this piece.

I did take a four inch strip of green netting, and bunch it up to use as a binding on the top half, and I liked the way that turned out.  It is easy to use along a curved edge.

The bunched netting covers the raw edges.

The bunched netting covers curved raw edges decoratively.  You’re welcome.

Then I machine sewed wired gift ribbon for the bottom binding, and I liked how that worked too.  The gold ribbon I used is a little gaudy, but I just wanted to try the material.  Neither binding would stand up to regular use, but for wall quilts or decorations, I think they would be fine.  And! Both of those ideas were my own!  I’m sure someone else has thought of them, but I didn’t get them from any of my clippings or books.

Just proof that once you start experimenting, new ideas come along.

Now that I have found the combination of materials and techniques that I like, I will probably do a few more of these mini-quilts, with more thought given to the imagery and to unifying all the elements.  I do like the base fabric being made from scraps — it’s not as intimidating as choosing and committing to a big piece of fabric.

Okay, three days of quilt time and one article down!