Update on Paper Shredding Fabric Design

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This is what I’ve got so far in my ambitious diaspora project. The size is roughly 58″x58″. The concentration camp image is almost done; above that is the Lincoln memorial image, you can see it in pencil barely, and I’m going to start filling that in today. I’m auditioning text for the other spaces, not sure where that will all go yet. Also, the conquistidor shape, a rubbing from my recent visit to Santa Fe, will factor in somehow, as will the national weather service hurricane symbol, which you can see to the left.

Here’s a close up:

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And here is the stack of color photocopies (I’ve spent close to $100 on these) which I’ll be ripping up and fitting into the piece, somehow. I recently shared with one of the women in my bi-weekly art quilt group that I was spending my time shredding paper in my art studio; she asked me if I felt like a hamster. Not a lot of fabric is designed by ripping up paper and taping it together! Next time I’ll post a photo of the paper debris on the floor. It’s impressive. But, not until the Lincoln memorial design element is complete.

Art Quilts, Meet Power Tools

I want to try and frame some of my newer, smaller art quilts, given that they look painterly; and if I’m successful, maybe I’ll even try framing larger pieces! Given my DIY sensibilities (why buy it if you can make it), I priced out entry-level compound mitre-saws and picked one up at a local hardware store yesterday morning: this is the tool that allows one to cut wood at a 45 degree angle, what’s needed to make frames for art.

Power tools freak me out. My mother’s father was a very gifted carpenter, as are his sons; they built the church at a nearby monastery in St. David, AZ. You’d think some of the handiness would be passed on to me. Perhaps. Sadly, when I look at power tools what comes to mind isn’t carpentry but war and torture; I’m not trying to make this political, it’s just sadly a morbid train of thought I can’t stop thanks to our war in Iraq.

But, you know, I want to make frames for my art quilts. Dour thoughts aside, I really liked firing up my new saw and hacking away at some molding strips I got at a local lumberyard.

Here’s my first set of stretcher bars!

The plan is to stretch the poppy art quilt over the bars, staple, and then build a frame to go around the stretcher-bars. To that end, and thinking optimistically, I drilled 2 holes on the top and bottom bars, so that I can screw the stretcher bars to the frame I eventually build.

I’d like to thank Jerry, the Sixty Minute Artist; his blog post about building frames for his paintings gave me some good ideas. Thanks Jerry!


Tomorrow is my only day off this week. I have to work in my garden; it’s going to get warm here quite soon and I have beet and carrot beds to dig up and get ready for something for spring, which is a very short season around here. Maybe snow peas. We’ll see.

Yesterday I put a mitered border on the laminated silk organza piece I posted about a few weeks ago. I don’t know if this type of border really works for such a non-traditional bit of fabric….but this is just a sample. I’m going to quilt it within the next few days and see how it goes:

This is roughly 16″ x 22″.

The Art Quilt: Es Todo

Well, this is it, a quick snapshot of the finished art quilt project; I hung it up in the livingroom to get an idea of how it looked when I was done. Clearly, I will need a professional photographer to take a decent picture!!

But this gives you the idea, and it’s largely straight; at least, it looks straighter in real-life than in this photo.

I turned this in to the Tucson Quilters Guild last week, thus meeting the deadline for submissions for this weekend’s Quilt Fiesta quilt show at the Tucson Convention Center. This is last week’s news, I guess, but last week I think it’s fair to say the whole city was really preoccupied and stunned by the mass shooting. Anyway. It would be nice to get a ribbon at this weekend’s show; but, I’ve sold my pieces whether they’ve won ribbons or not so I’m not too worried about it.

Here are some highlights:

I just ordered some silk organza, soda ash and urea (chemicals for dyeing) and some fabric dye from Dharma Trading, THE best source for fiber art supplies; it all should arrive by Thursday, so this Saturday I can get started on my next project, which will have something to do with prickly pear cactus.

Straightening Up the Art Quilt

The level is on the right, and you can barely see the plumb line on the lower left corner; these are the most important tools in straightening up a large piece of fabric art. There isn’t exactly a T-Square that will work. For the first time I used masking tape to create a straight line after I’d measured carefully, and that turned out to be a helpful cutting guide rather than just drawing a line on the fabric.

I made a temporary hanging sleeve last night and hung up the piece, unfinished, to see how straight it looks; I was surprised at how relatively good it looks. I wanted to get an idea of how straight it was before sewing on the binding…..and then hanging it up….and then taking off the binding to straighten it up…..what a nightmare that is!

Bear in mind this is an old house, where there really are no reliable 90-degree angles, and that there’s some distortion in the photo:

I wanted to use this very cool fabric I dyed for the binding….

…but I don’t have enough! I went to a local fabric store and bought a yard of dark fabric for the binding. Which I plan on sewing on today….so stay tuned! I can’t believe this is almost finished.

Machine Quilting is DONE


Well, it’s all machine quilted! The image probably doesn’t look much different than it has for the past few months on this blog. But, trust me, it is different because every square inch is quilted!  Up close, a lot of it looks like this:

And for the past 4 weeks, my dining room table has looked like this:

And this:

The remote is important for channel surfing while sewing.

The last 5 days have been a real push to get it done. I had to take some time off to tend to the yard; we had a deep freeze (19 degrees F. at my house a couple nights ago) several days ago, and that means covering frost-sensitive plants and picking all the citrus. My tangelo tree was loaded with juicy tangelos, which, if exposed to frost, would make them dry and inedible. So, I picked them all:

Today it felt great to be done quilting (it’s taken me 4 weeks!).  I finally got my dining room table back:

And all my thread is put away:

Now I have to straighten up the piece, put on a binding, make a temporary sleeve and make sure it hangs straight….and then presto, I’ll be done!

Machine Quilting Marathon

What you’re looking at, above, is the back of my 54″ x 60″ art quilt. You’ll be forgiven if you can’t quite make out the machine quilting details, it’s not the best shot. Here’s a close-up of some of the madness:

As I mentioned in a previous post, my sewing machine is right-hand dominant; the “throat space” is on the right, the controls (this is an old machine, so, there aren’t many controls) are on the right. So, my right arm is feeling a bit of repetitive strain. Needless to say, since my machine-quilting marathon began 3 weeks ago, I’ve done little if any swimming, belly dance or fiddle-paying, all activities which require a cooperative rotator cuff.

Here’s some of the quilt front:

A close up:

All the hard stuff is done. While there’s still 20% to go, it’s mostly stippling on the edges, which is not very time-consuming. Today I had the Turner Movie Channel on in the background while I was sewing; today’s movie theme was Disney live-action films like the Parent Trap and Escape to Witch Mountain. I’m not kidding you, those movies were playing while I was sewing. I was also dealing with a migraine, so, creating a simple mood was key in getting anything done.

I hope I can get this thing to hang nice and straight when it’s done. THAT is a huge chore for any non-traditional quilt where there’s lots of distortion of the fabric.

Finished Quilt Top

Every minute I spend posting to this blog, I could be working on my art quilt….which is due January 11th at the local quilt guild meeting if I want it to be in the January Quilt Show.

This is what I had to work with around Thanksgiving: I was arranging the poppy appliques and trying to figure out where they looked best. There was an awful lot of pinning and re-arranging going on before I settled on where each flower looked best.

After looking at it for a while, I realized I was going to need a couple more poppies for the design to feel balanced. I made a couple of appliques at the dining room table; here you see the pieces cut out, but not yet sewn together:

And here’s the finished applique:

If I worked on this before dinner time, I got this look from the corgis in the house:

They are staring at the dining room table. Where I am sewing. Not eating, and not making them dinner.

This is how dinner looks:

Baxter eats about 1/4 cup of wet food and then conks out for a bit while Bearbear attacks his kibble and peanut butter filled Kong toy.

I lost a whole evening of sewing at Thanksgiving time making pies with that super-special lard I blogged about a few weeks ago; yum yum, here are 2 sweet-potato pies and an apple pie and they were DELICIOUS:

Then, upon further inspection of my art quilt, I decided that the satin-stitching wasn’t dense enough: in certain places, because I was using light thread on dark fabric, you could see the fabric through the stitch. So. I put stabilizer under all of my reverse applique poppy shapes and put down another layer of satin stitch on top of the existing stitch. It took FOREVER. I was going crazy. But, the end result is much better: you can’t see it too well here, but, the orange thread on the right side of the sewing machine needle is 2 layers of satin-stitch and the orange thread on the left side is just one layer:

In the photo, it looks insignificant; but trust me, the real thing looks greatly improved with my sewing due-diligence.

My goal was to have the quilt top done–absolutely done–by the end of November, so I could spend all December quilting. Which I hope will be enough time. Here’s the finished quilt-top: pressed, all bits of thread snipped, and looking pretty darn good:

I met my deadline! I’ve already sewn together my muslin backing for the quilt, gotten my batting; I’ll put the quilt sandwich together Friday and get quilting this weekend.

Wish me luck. And just a few chiropractic visits.

Quilt Top Is Almost Finished

Progress is bleeping slow, that’s all I can say. Having a day job and trying to get an art project done right now seem to me to be mutually exclusive occupations.

Tonight I finished all the “couching”, which is sewing down yarn around the unfinished edges of reverse applique.

Here’s a reverse applique with unfinished edges:

And here it is with yarn sewn down around the edges:

On the back, you can see the bobbin thread on the tear-away stabilizer;  I used sheer polyester thread for the topstich. Polyester is the good invisible thread; nylon is the bad invisible thread (it turns yellow over time).

I then tore away the stabilizer, as the name of the product suggests; all of the layers of the quilt top are quite evident here:

Voila: here it is, everything is DONE except now placing the appliques, which I’ll do over the next few weeks, and hopefully get started quilting this thing by Thanksgiving. There will be about 5 desert poppy appliques placed on top of this design when it’s done: