Now that the disability standards audit is over (and successful), I have a long weekend to enjoy starting with finishing one side of my quilt. I wasn’t sure that any quilting was going to get done as it is not the best activity for 35 degree weather! Thankfully the room wasn’t too hot and with the opportunity to use Bev’s very large specialist quilting machine I couldn’t not! I’m just learning free motion so I went with a wavy and irregular pattern on the brown so you can’t really see any mistakes! It’s much faster doing it free motion than with the walking foot – which is how I’m doing the spirals as my accuracy is not good enough to free motion them. I’ve also attached below a picture of the most of the quilt. Part of the top is missing (as it was hanging over the fence). My next task is to quilt the other brown side and lose all those safety pins.
One of these days I’m going to pour gravy down Licorice’s ear. Every morning without fail I supply breakfast. I am a loyal subject and feed my 2 furry masters a generous helping. Despite this routine and commitment, Licorice seems to feel that unless she sticks her head over the bowl with great gusto that the food will not land in it. I know the day is coming when gravy will end up in her ear and I don’t really want to explain that to the vet. Perhaps it is this vigorous activity she has each morning that has helped to reduce her substantial girth. The last time the girls both went to the vets there was much cheering when Licorice tipped the scales at only 6 kilos and Saffron at 5.5!
While the girls have been busy losing weight, I’ve been creating a new art quilt for them to distribute their fur on. The first quilt I made is at Andrew’s place. The second I gave to mum for Christmas (last Christmas that is). This quilt is mine. I designed it inspired by Gustav Klimt paintings. I wanted something which suggested a female form but was not pictorial.
While I dabbled in painting fabric for the first quilt I did, this one has had a more concerted effort. It’s been fun making ‘art’ on fabric and then selecting pieces of it to sew into my quilt , together with store bought fabrics.
Above is how it looked last Saturday. I’ve left it with my sewing teacher who is sourcing some woven interfacing to help stiffen the piece before trying to attach to the background. Interfacing or not… I’m expecting there will be a few curse words trying to fit the background into those curves. Still, it will be worth it in the end. A one of kind lap quilt for me to snuggle under… next winter!
It’s one of a kind. My second quilt. My first and final fibonacci quilt – I’ll never make another: I became just too preoccupied with ensuring that I was making things using things which were a number in the fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,21,34,55 and so on).
The flowers have 55 petals or 21 (part flower). The 55 petals, use 13 colours, each used only 1, 2, 3, or 5 times. The background is 13 columns, of 8 rectangles each and using only 5 fabrics.
As I said, I became a wee bit obsessed.
The ‘finish’ was a departure from the traditional method because instead of a binding, I opted to face the quilt. I’ve faced many dresses but had not quite appreciated how much fabric bulk there was to be in each corner with this method. Still, it was well worth it. It finished the quilt without changing the aesthetic of the quilt. I didn’t want it to be bordered / framed, I wanted it as it was and the facing gave me that effect.
Yet I am delighted with the result. It is a bespoke piece for my parents. Hopefully they will finally ditch some of the hideous lap blankets adorning the couch and use this one instead.
I have no doubt that mum’s cats will come to love it as much as Saffron and Licorice did during it’s making. Yesterday when I was trying to finish hand-sewing the edge, Pickle even decided to take it for a test sleep when I wasn’t looking. He matches the gold in the flowers, I think…
‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ asks Andrew. I think I should reply something sensible. Buying cat food. Tidying the house. Doing the Christmas shopping (my mother has already finished – GROAN). But I don’t feel like doing any of those things. I feel like playing.
Isn’t it odd that a child who doesn’t play is considered peculiar, weird, ‘at risk’ of developing life’s essential social skills, yet playtime as adults is something we sneak into the crevices. If we can disguise our play as having a physical or social benefit, then that’s ok. None of my play does. There is nothing physically strenuous about mixed media painting, or sewing (aside from stabbing myself unintentionally with pins).
I started to write this post by taking the photograph of the partially completed quilt top to the left. I then hopped across to the daily prompt at WordPress to check out the theme. It’s a daily prompt that I use maybe six weekly! It was playtime. It surely must be a sign from the internet gods that it’s ok not to do all the things I should be doing today. (Why are your cats going hungry? Because WordPress said it was ok!)
Some people would consider Christmas shopping ‘playtime’. For me, it is when I’m inspired… but right now I’m out of ideas and that’s the problem with a deadline. My creativity doesn’t work to a deadline and I suspect many others don’t either… otherwise they wouldn’t have invented the gift card.
The quilt above has been an on again / off again project. It has been interrupted for at least 3 other items. It has one flower / mushroom / leaf / [insert whatever you call that thing here] to go. Unfortunately it must have 55 strips, using 13 different coloured fabrics. It was my dressmaking teacher who started this fibonacci number lunacy and now I am almost there I cannot skip out on it now. This will be my first – and last – fibonacci inspired effort.
I can see why people make quilts to patterns. Of course there’s the obvious benefit of knowing what the next step is, yet, I was thinking more about fabric planning. Throughout this quilt I find myself rummaging through my sewing bag counting up small strips of colour in an effort to ascertain how many more strips I need and of what colour.
Of course my squirrelling, resource hoarding brain is already planning what I can do with the leftovers. I was painting the other night and had collaged on a woman with a ‘fright’ plastered all over her face. As the only other thing in the piece was a butterfly, I felt this looked rather stupid. Andrew face-timed me in the middle of my pondering. (Is face-timed a word?).
‘I can’t find what I’m looking for… I want a gargoyle I think!’.
Seizing this opportunity he says to me – ‘See, you have too much stuff.’
‘No! I have not enough!’
The postscript to that particular story is that I found a dragon, only to have a paper transfer failure. (See that mottled dark patch between her and the butterfly… that is the failed dragon. More like a decomposing dragon… hmm… wouldn’t that be smelly???)
Hmm… now I have lost my train of thought. What is a train of thought anyway? I’ve got an image of a freight train carrying alphabet soup in each carriage… ok… I think I’ve lost it now. Whatever piece of sensibleness this blog post had at the beginning is now truly up the creek with a beetroot and ham sandwich! It’s time to play for real instead of with words.
Oh… and buy cat food.
After about 6 months in the making, today I finally finished my first – and possibly last – quilt. This quilt was born out of an idea from Andrew: that we should make a quilt together.
He had his own ideas. A sea of aqua, turquoise, teal, blue and violet. A multitude of bright large format squares. I on the other hand wanted my usual earthy and autumnal tones. On the colour front, I’d say he got the lion’s share.
The construction didn’t quite take the format Andrew had expected. The pieces grew organically after the selection of the tree as the centre piece. We stencilled it with lumiere bronze paint together and I think at that point, he probably realised this wasn’t going to be a quick project. It was also not going to be without damage – at that particular stage, little flecks of bronze paint in his bathroom where I had washed out the stencil.
While he may have won on colour, I triumphed when it came to whimsy: the lizard in a teacup with a licorice allsort my favourite of the added amusements.
All cats feature: Saffron as a colour (poor Saff, it was the best I could do), Licorice as the aforementioned sweet, Pickle as his ginger self and Gesso as a purple squirrel. (The last act of the quilt was gluing on his eye today).
The black cat in the tree is the one Andrew wants that we don’t have.
Lizards also abound – some with functioning legs and some without. It is these unique references which make this truly one of a kind. A quilt that could only ever be the story of the two of us.
For those who have see my art over the years, this probably comes as no surprise. Anything I create is made for the purposes of self-expression rather than for it’s aesthetic qualities.
The idea of buying a quilting ‘kit’ holds no attraction at all – unless there’s someone out there selling Alice in Wonderland tribute meshed with wheels, cats, curly-ques and lizards?
As this is my first quilt I could hardly draw on any quilting skills as reference, so I instead returned to my mixed media toolkit.
On the white rabbit – which went purple – I had to turn to my long suffering sewing teacher for advice.
I stuffed him with toy fill, only he kept springing a leak. With some cajoling, he finally agreed to keep his innards, well… within.
I managed the white backstitch outline but the point of his umbrella had a distinct wonkiness. The umbrella you see in the finished product had some expert intervention to correct it’s trajectory!
I discovered that I had insufficient patience for large areas of hand-quilting – although I must admit it does have a strangely meditative quality. The small area of pink spiral patterned fabric on the top left is one of the few spots where I did try out the old fashioned way. While I could claim this was out of wanting to be traditional, in truth, it was just testament to my lack of free motion sewing skills. In the end the only area I was happy to free motion were the tree roots, for it mattered not how bumpy and gnarled they became as I covered up each of my mistakes.
This free motion incompetence meant that I completed around each branch of the tree using a walking foot and turning the fabric. It was slow work which at times had me cursing Stencil Kingdom for not selling the tree stencil in a smaller size!
Other features are tiny in comparison – like a small trio of playing cards, or a teapot in the bottom right hand corner. Still I think they add something to the quilt and when you view it in black and white, it only serves to emphasise that together with the tree it’s these little areas of ‘light’ that pop out from all that purple.
Andrew still protests that it wasn’t bright enough – he wanted more pink and more yellow and red gingham (yes, can you believe it?). I on the otherhand wanted something a little less vibrant. That neither of us felt the colour is quite right, just goes to show that we did achieve a representation of us. It is neither his bright bold cheeky self, or my more muted tones, but somewhere in the middle. Today I looked at the quilt with more than a dash of pride. I’m not quite sure how I got to this point… how those ideas tumbled out… but I do know that we’ve created something we will both cherish for a long time. I have to say that I thought Andrew was a little nuts when he suggested we make a quilt. I’m glad he did.
This quilt would not have been possible without the help of a special few and some amazing art suppliers out there.
I have to include a special thanks to The Stencil Kingdom, as without their business, that beautiful tree focal piece would not exist. Whoever was nutty enough to make a stencil with that many little twigs, I thank you. I’ve been buying stencils from this company in the UK for a number of years to use in my work. I don’t get them that often as postage from the UK is expensive however whenever I do, I add another tool to my art stash that’s definitely a keeper!
Fabric & Threads: Most of the fabrics have been sourced from Busy Bee Sewing, with just a couple of the Batiks from The Quilters’ Store. The stranded cottons and embroidery threads also came from Busy Bee and I just supplemented with a few special pieces from The Thread Studio in Western Australia (that gorgeous thick swirl at the bottom) and some I picked up from Room For Threads at the recent quilting show. (To the lady from this stall with the funky red glasses and clear passion for quilts, I assure you that both my and Andrew’s name and the date and the location are going on the quilt. Who knows where this quilt will end up after we are dead – hopefully not in the trash – but I agree it’s a lovely habit to get into signing and dating quilts just the same as we do other art forms).
Applique & Applicuts: To Kim Barter of Applicuts – a huge thank you. When I asked for a 3 inch squirrel as a special order, you obliged… the same with those doves! I know you weren’t sure what the hell I was going to do with them, or that they would become stencils in their own right, but I thank you for humouring me! (For anyone interested in the mileage I got out of a tool intended for applique: check out my earlier post).
Painting & Art Supplies: Thankfully, I really didn’t have to shop much – all the things I’ve accrued over the years came in handy. My old faithfuls – caran d’ache wax oil pastels – got a workout as well as the Golden Fluid Acrylics. Apart from some print paste, I really didn’t have to buy anything to paint that fabric. If anyone does need supplies, I get my Golden Fluid Acrylics from Alex at The Sydney Art Store. Actually, Andrew and I get almost everything art-wise there because it’s accessible (a rare thing for an art store) and Alex is just so helpful. I’ve even had times when Andrew has sent me in to buy a paintbrush and Alex has been happy for me to pluck a few out and go back out to the car so Andrew could choose for himself and then run back in to buy them.
To Bev Barter – dressmaking teacher extraordinaire. I’m not going to say that you are amazing woman, or a brilliant teacher, or an absolute hoot for company as I don’t want ANYONE else to want your teaching services for fear I will have to make way for new students! I want you to be stuck with me.
Seriously, thank you for fixing the licorice allsort, the rabbit’s umbrella, for teaching me french knots… oh… and how to quilt enough to get by on this project. Not that many people would have let a student do this as their first project. Which just goes to show you truly are one of a kind.
To Licorice, Saffron, Pickle and Gesso, thank you for all your assistance during the project. Sitting on the quilt was so helpful. Really.
Lastly, to Andrew for having the idea in the first place. For drawing that bloody woman, the white rabbit, helping to paint the tree, and all those little helpful comments along the way. Sorry about the pins I left in your couch, or all the threads that went into your vacuum cleaner! I know that you will forget all about these once you get to sleep under it and you are toasty and warm. You are a delight and a bugger at the same time. On this project I can truly say the idea was not mine alone, but mine.
It’s been a week of dealing with Saffron having cystitis again combined with the first full week back at week and very hot weather that leaves you drained of energy. When I let Saffron out of the bathroom I was watching her like a hawk to ensure there weren’t any accidents outside the tray. The shower recess became a favoured spot but, quite frankly, I was happy with anywhere in the bathroom. That’s what mops are for! She is improved but still not back to normal.
Needless to say with a full week of work and sick cat, there has been little ‘art-ing’ or quilting going on. So I’m uploading photos of what I did in between Christmas and New Year. I tried to take a photo of a larger area and encountered cat assistance. I think it won’t be until I have some humans to help hold it up that I can get a wider shot… so I’ve gone for the detail instead!
I, like many others, have trouble keeping the stitches even. When it came to tree roots I figured that even wasn’t important. I went over them quite a bit as I didn’t want them to appear too delicate – it’s a bloody big tree they are holding up! Also doing this, unpicking was not an option. Perhaps when you just have to go for it, the result is better?
The chequerboard floor
I needed an quilting pattern which would fill that expanse of purple around the bottom of the tree. I also needed something matching my level of quilting yet still in keeping with the quilt being about Andrew and I.
A chequerboard pattern seemed a great option at the time – I only had to sew straight lines! It was pretty easy, just length with all the tying off. The chequerboard pattern also fit with me. I have been known to throw the odd chequerboard into a painting:
I supposed it’s related to Alice in Wonderland and the chess pieces. It could also be because I’ve seen them used so beautifully in the work of artist James Christensen, one of my first art book acquisitions and still a favourite. He often puts a fish in his paintings. (If your not familiar with Christensen’s work, the link I’ve included is to a slideshow of his art). I’ve just realised looking at the above painting of mine, that perhaps I’m getting a thing for teacups! The one above has a hippo in it. The one in the quilt has a lizard… and a licorice allsort…
Lastly, a photograph of my French knots. I’ve never done these before I think they look a little more like French grubs than knots, but never mind! They are a little added texture. Most of them are 1 strand of brown silk and 1 of reddish-brown cotton. (I was told not to mix n match but it seemed to work ok). There are a few which are just two strands of cotton. I really can’t see any difference in ‘grub’ quality between the silk-cotton mix and just the cotton. So mix n match it will be!
The car has been at the engineering shop for 2 weeks. The lifter has landed on the roof but apparently the seat modifications aren’t completed. Like nearly everything in the disabled world; it is happening very slowly. I am getting pre-Christmas crankiness.
Andrew and I went to the shops today – in my car. The wheelchair lifting part was all good – when we’re together that’s my job and I manage it with reasonable ease. The getting in and out of the car without a fixed transfer board – slightly more tricky. Not to mention that my car is somewhat smaller in the door cavity than his – really not ideal at all.
Pickup of the car is scheduled for Wednesday. I have my fingers crossed for Wednesday. And my toes. And my legs. I’m crossing everything.
In the meantime I’ve started to stitch the wheel onto the quilt. My first attempt looked like a pizza. A blue and purple pizza but a pizza just the same.
My second attempt, I cheated. I used the wheelchair wheel and like a 3rd grader – traced it! Harder than you may think as the wheel is not perfectly flat.
Then when it came to the stitching I found that the top layer was all puffy. All those hand basting stitches to keep the batting, backing and top together weren’t holding it down enough. So, with some swearing under my breath, I set about unpicking 2mm satin stitching.
I dragged the quilt to the armchair – I may as well be comfy.
Licorice appeared. Licorice was persistent. We reached a compromise. She could sit on the piece of fabric resting on the footstool as long as I could hold on to the end I was still unpicking. Minutes later – Saffron wanted her share of the quilt. Nevermind that Licorice was already sitting on it; she just climbed up and wriggled her way in. The funny part was watching her slowly descend. It wasn’t a quilt – it was quick sand. For Saffron had decided to sit on the quilt but between the footstool and my on the armchair. Eventually I gathered up enough of the fabric and pushed her enough onto the footstool that she stopped sinking.
Of course I just had to take a photo.
Sometimes I love getting an ‘art material’ and using it in a way it wasn’t intended! I know that many artists do this; it’s why both ends of the paintbrush get dirty; why happy accidents turn into techniques.
Lately I’ve been playing around with applicuts. An applicut is a fabric shape/image cut using a laser which is intending for applique work on quilts. It comes with a sticky ‘fusible’ backing so you can iron it down first and then stitch. Whether you use satin stitch, straight stitch, a decorative machine stitch or even hand stitching is really up to you. I recently hand-cut a shape with scissors. As I was applique-ing (if that is a word!) it down, I had problems with it fraying. I think I’ve been spoilt by using applicuts as the laser almost ‘seals’ the edges so it seems to fray less.
A friend of mine (the daughter of my dressmaking teacher) makes these applicuts. She hasn’t asked me to write this post and may just shudder at some of the things I’ve been doing with her materials!
Applicut as a stencil
When I started the art quilt I knew that I wanted to include some birds in it as Andrew loves painting pigeons. I also wanted a squirrel (one of our nicknames for Gesso). A small squirrel. I got some left facing and right facing doves. At first everywhere I put the dove in it’s ‘true applicut’ form seemed to stand out more than I wanted. My idea was to have a few doves over the quilt but integrated within it, rather than looking like items I added later.
I was getting nowhere until I was messing around with handpainting fabric (I’ve become a little bit of a painting fabric-holic) and decided to add a subtle outline of a dove by tracing around the applicut with a Pitt pen. It was subtle. I was happy.
But what would happen if instead of putting it on after the fabric was painted, I used it during the painting process?
Applicut as a mask
Under the screen went the applicut. It was going to get paint all over it. Hmm… nah… who cares. I had a spare one!
It shifted a little as I did it. Sometimes I think that would be annoying but in this case I didn’t mind that it was a little fuzzy. I did a monoprint with the lighter copper colour on a piece of perspex and then defined him a little more once again using a Pitt pen.
Applicut as ‘stamp’
After doing a few of these, my applicut was more than a little wet. I flipped him over (something I’d seen Kerr Grabowski do with paper she’d been using under her screenprints) and rubbed a little . I must have also had gold/copper paint on my hands because even outside the bird I got some added colour. This is one of my favourites birds in the quilt. He sits in the top right hand corner.
Applicut for ‘pattern’
My applicut had started to curl up. I think all the moisture was getting to it. So I just plonked it down without worrying whether it was straight or not. I then got a pallette knife and dragged some copper paint over the top and then removed the applicut.
It looked nothing like a bird but I still liked it. At this stage my applicut looked decidedly dirty and sick. I had a couple so I wasn’t fussed if that was the end of this particular applicut. I’d had some fun with it!
Initially I’d tried using the ‘paper’ backing as a stencil tool. Unfortunately it’s slightly ‘waxy’ and after one use it ‘recoiled’ itself into an unusable state. When I try to unfurl it to stick it under the screen, it springs back and I can’t get it flat.
About a week later, I was painting fabric again. (Yes I know, it’s a little addictive!). Anyway, I was looking at the poor applicut which was once purple. Now mottled on both sides I could still see residue of the fusible backing. I decided to give it a shot and see whether it would stick.
Remarkably – it did!
Yesterday, I finally put a purple bird on the quilt.
They were always supposed to be purple – not gold and copper. I didn’t do anything untoward to this particular applicut besides clipping his wings a little. I wanted to make it look like it was behind the other shape (at this stage marked out by the temporary white tacking line). I intend to quilt along that line so hopefully it will look like the bird is in the background.
I’m not sure that I’m done with the applicuts just yet. If anyone has any other ideas how to get a little more mileage out of this one art material, let me know.
I think I’ve finally cracked it! I’ve tried a number of different mediums to combine with my regular acrylic paint to make them into ‘fabric paints’ with very mixed success. At last, I have found that print paste is my new best friend.
If you are thinking of creating your fabric for quilting then here’s a few of my ‘what not to do tips.’
Golden GAC 900
You can have too much of a good thing! I found that when I combined my paint with GAC 900, the result was often sticky. Perhaps I put too much but it seemed to be a fine line. For me, I want something that’s not as sensitive. That I didn’t have great success with this Golden product really surprised me. I am very attached to my golden paints and many of their mediums – they are simply a joy to use! However GAC 900 is being crossed off my list. Others my get it to work. I’m not that patient!
Supercover = supertacky! I actually didn’t realise when I bought my black permaset textile paint that I had chosen Supercover. (Their paints come in standard and supercover). I think the idea is for a product which has a greater opacity. Unfortunately it gets a tacky feel which I really don’t like.
Believe your silk screen will stay clean
Every site I’ve read says it – don’t let your paint dry on your screen; clean it quickly. Well, it doesn’t seem to matter how speedy gonzales I am at getting the silk screen washed, my screen is not ‘clean’. What I soon discovered (after fretting I’d ruined my screen) is that it is more stained than dirty. I can still get really clear prints through it but I do have marks – particularly from phthalo green!
Believe you can stop at just one piece!
Originally I’d only planned to put a small piece of my handpainted fabric into the quilt. I thought given I hadn’t put pieces in the centre parts that it would look like I’d tacked them on! With a dwindling supply of the fabrics already in the quilt, I’ve had to supplement. (At least that’s my excuse!)
Thinking starting with coloured fabric is a good idea!
There are fiber artists out there who like to start with fabric which is already coloured – Lynn Krawczyk is one. She says she got tired of filling in the white spots! Perhaps it is because I’ve painted on paper and canvas first and fabric second, that I seem very attached to starting on white. I know how one colour layered on top of another will behave when I’m using paint. When I’m starting with a fabric colour, I’ve taken my art colour theory and adapted it – with very mixed results. I think it is because it’s hard to know the properties of the colour you are painting on. I stared at it for a while trying to decide whether it was a green or purple leaning blue; I deliberately chose a red loaded with crimson as usually you can make a beautiful purple out of a blue and red where each leans towards purple in it’s colour. I got dark mud instead! So, I’m sticking to start on white.
Forget to put gloves on
A lot of people recommend gloves whenever using any kind of paint for health reasons. In the case of silk screen printing, I’ve discovered that for reasons of ‘messiness’, the gloves are essentially. Somehow I regress back to a 2 year old and get it not only on my fingers but up my arms, elbows and on my clothes.
Think the cat will leave you alone
Wait until your cat is in a very deep sleep or suffer their curiousity you will!
So what is working?
Permaset Print Paste in combination with any of my acrylic paints seems to be producing a very consistent result. I like the Golden Fluid Acrylics the best but I think that’s just a result of my passion for them generally! Thicker paint does work and other brands seem fine – e.g. Matisse.
As you need a fair bit of paint for silk screening, I’ve taken to using the lumieres for some embellishment on the top (see bird at top of this post) rather than using them through the screen. They do work beautifully as a screen print; it’s just me being stingy on my paint!
Waterproof Calligraphy pens
I’m loving the nice crisp line I can introduce with a calligraphy pen – especially amid the chaos that is my painting style! Now my quilt has the words ‘mad as a hatter’ up one side. It’s subtle enough that you can’ easily read it however still detectable.
I’m trying a few other things but I’ve yet to wash them so will let you know if they are a success!