Sunday, November 29, 2009

Question: What would you like to see at Subversive Stitchers?

Virginia Spiegel's Blue Waters shown here reminds me that all things are possible as we drift through this life. My thoughts turn to 2010 and I'm wondering about Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. What direction should it flow in 2010?

So, I ask you, who have been a part of this fun ride thus far, "What would you like to see, or would rather NOT see? Whose work would you like to see posted here or what guest blogger are you dying to hear from?"

Please let me know your ideas or feelings or wish list for Subversive Stitchers!

I'm also wondering about a logo for Subversive Stitchers? Any thoughts or drawings or ideas are definitely welcome. Maybe a contest?

Thanks so much. I've had such a pleasure meeting and interacting and sharing with all of you. I'm looking forward to the next year and hope you are too!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Valuable Additions to Anyone's Library by Virginia Spiegel and Judy Coates Perez

 I have become fascinated with Blurb Books Publishing ever since Virginia Spiegel released a peek at her latest creation (pictured here): Wild at the Edges: Inspiration from a Creative Life. 

The free software fits my budget and the quality of the finished product is stunning. The author creates and Blurb Books prints and distributes. So of course the beauty of the book depends upon the author. Two of our favorite fabric artists have created stunning and inspiring books -- Virginia Spiegel and Judy Coates Perez.

Check out Judy Coates Perez new book Painted Threads: Mixed Media Textile Arts. Her art nearly jumps off of the pages and is so striking and detailed and colorful and lovely. What an excellent format for viewing Judy's beautiful 'painted threads.' She's put together a book of the most endearing art. To preview her book, visit Blurb Books.

If Virginia isn't creating her beautiful fabric art, she's carrying a canoe on her shoulders through her favorite wilderness and stopping to journal and photograph the journey. Now she has taken her experiences in creating and cojoined them with her insights drawn from nature and from having lived to be a certain age. With photographs of the inspiration mingled with the art she subsequently created, the power doubles and anyone seeing this lovely book can not go away unchanged. Add to that her thoughtful essays as the one shown below, and well, she's created a book that any artist would welcome as a gift or addition to their libraries.  If that isn't enough, 25 percent of the proceeds will go to support the American Cancer Association

A Gift to Ourselves by Virginia Spiegel (An excerpt from her new book: Wild at the Edges.)

No writer on Earth would send a work out for publication without revising, revising, revising. I write these very small essays by hand in a Fabriano notebook, let them sit, type them into my computer, print them out, revise them, let them sit, correct, and revise. Back and forth, back and forth. So much work for so few lines and the end result is, of course, always less than perfect.

But it is in the revision; the erasing; the layering of ideas, of words, of themes that I learn what I really think about this topic, what the topic IS, what I really wanted to say, what is superfluous and what is necessary.

A writer is, by necessity, an editor. If only I could apply the grace of revision to all of my artwork. I don't know why I expect fully-formed artwork suitable for exhibition to appear via a virgin birth. Two of my favorite art books clearly show that Frankenthaler wasn't always "Frankenthaler" and Diebenkorn didn't spring fully formed and complete from nothing. There were steps forward and back, experimentation and revision.

Since my artwork springs not from sketching and plans, but from writing and then interaction with my materials, the revision must come after the fact. I must be unafraid to cut, re-make, destroy and re-build and, sometimes, abandon artwork altogether. I won't expect each piece to be a masterwork, but instead will learn to accept much of my artwork as drafts and to be a kind and gentle editor. Perhaps that is a gift we can all give ourselves.

Photo: Scissorsweb

My book, Wild at the Edges: Inspiration from a Creative Life, is now available and you can go right to a preview.

My new book evolved by thinking about the kind of book I love, but can never find. I love books that tell me about an artist's inspiration and influences while showing me what's beautiful and significant in her creative life. It's not a how-to book, but it will inspire you to make art about what's important to you.
You will find encouragement for art and living in sixteen short essays, a sense of wonder, a little advice, haikus, close-up photos of art and nature, and last, but not least, a very personal view of the driving forces behind my creative life.

Twenty five percent of profits from this book will be donated to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart for A Cause. Fiberart For A Cause has donated more than $190,000 to the American Cancer Society. -- Virginia Spiegel

Monday, November 23, 2009

Raffle Quilt Needs Help to Reach $1000 Goal

We're in the last week or so of this quilt raffle and have $455 raised. Our goal was $1000.

I know there have been some problems with the ALS Association site where you are directed to go to buy tickets. If you have experienced problems, or were unable to donate, please consider sending your donation by mail or by phone. I know you are tapped for all kinds of donations, we are as well. And we so try to donate or promote every cause that quilters support. This time I'm on the other side, asking for support and I'm not comfortable in this position. But I do believe in this organization. The people have given us hope, they are caring, and most of all they have helped us find our way through the new world for us of living with disabilities and finding ways and equipment to give Derrol quality of life. ALS Association provides patient support, advocacy and fund research in one of the best run organizations with minimal administration costs.

I so appreciate your support -- and I hope you take home a lovingly made quilt to give you comfort.

Here is the information.

Patti Palmer
Events Coordinator
The ALS Association Florida Chapter
3242 Parkside Center Circle
Tampa, FL 33619
Ph: 813-637-9000 Ext. 111
Fx:  813-637-9010
Cell: 813-205-5566
Toll Free:  888-257-1717 Ext. 111

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. I hope you will consider purchasing the raffle tickets and helping us fund research that will help save lives from this disease that has 100 percent mortality. There is no cure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Question: What Plans or Resolutions or Wishes Have You in Mind for 2010?

Feel free to recap 2009 in your comments. I'm always glad to hear of people's accomplishments.

But please also talk about what you would like to see happen with you and your fabric work in 2010?

Which shows do you want to enter? What's the goal you'd like to achieve or the technique you'd like to master?

Here's a quick tip list of things to know before entering a contest info supplied by HGTV.

And here are a few shows and contests that may be of interest. I'm looking for a coprehensive list of major exhibits and shows and contest and events, so if you know of one, please let me know. Or if you have any to contribute to this list, please do!

And I apologize to Sharon Boggon for not mentioning the photograph of her gorgeous diamond crazy quilt, shown here. For more of Sharon's work, visit her website.  


SAQA Reinvention Conference
You can now SIGN-UP ONLINE. Jointly sponsored with Surface Design Association, "Reinvention" will be held at San Francisco State University from March 19-21, 2010. Symposium at SFSU, March 19-20 with studio tours and museum exhibits scheduled for March 21. A variety of three-day workshops will be offered March 22-24.

Western North Carolina’s rich cultural heritage comes to life on August 6, 7 and 8 at The North Carolina Arboretum as it hosts the Asheville Quilt Guild’s Annual Show. The popular show is a judged event featuring more than 250 quilts of exceptional craftsmanship from across the U.S. and worldwide. The three-day show offers live demonstrations, a merchant’s mall and more! For information, call 828.665.2492

41ST ANNUAL NQA QUILT SHOW: June 17-19, 2010, Columbus, Ohio

The next National Quilting Day will be celebrated March 20, 2010. What plans have you and your chapter made?

Georgia Quilt Show “Seeking Color Harmony” is a contest designed to let you discover your inner quilter. Be it traditional or contemporary, folk or art quilt – capture whatever motivates you to quilt. Best of Show prize of $1,000 will be awarded and an additional $4,500 will be distributed for First, Second and Third place awards in each of three categories: Bed Quilt, Large Wall Quilt, Small Wall Quilt. Click here for more information and entry form. Entry deadline September 1, 2010

Road to California Quilter’s Conference and ShowcaseThe Festival Gallery of Quilt Art: Wonders of the World

“The Best in the West” at the Ontario Convention Center, Ontario CA, January 14-17, 2010,
Show Hours: Thursday - Saturday 9:30 am - 6:00 pm, Sunday - 11:00 am - 3:30 pm. One Day Admission: $10.00 • Multi Day Admission: $20.00

SAQA Exhibit Schedule: 2010

An international juried and judged exhibition of Art Quilts
•Appliqué in Tampa Bay II - Higgins Hall at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 5225 N. Himes Avenue, Tampa, FL 33614. November 12-13, 2010

•Museum of Science and Industry – 4801 E. Fowler Ave, Tampa, Florida. To be announced.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My View: Several Books to Give as Gifts to Others, to Yourself!

I have been very fortunate to review so many amazing and unique books that offer help, how-to, as well as entertainment and pure beauty.

In no particular order, here are three of the delights I've recently enjoyed reviewing! Pictured here is the Moth Orchid qult from Sylvia Pippen's new book: Paradise Stitched.

I do hope you'll give these books a second look or add them to your own collection. --Dawn

Thread Work Unraveled by Sarah Ann Smith

Published by American Quilter's Society, 2009

Sarah Ann Smith has had a very good year which included among other things winning an award at Houston and the publication of her book Thread Work Unraveled. Great title. But just wait until you see what's inside. Sarah has truly unraveled the mystery of thread!

I've been known to skim a book, leaf through them, stop here and there and read the tips and then put it away until time permits a more thorough reading. Not so with this book. For one thing Sarah addresses an underserved niche in the fabric arts -- thread. And lets face it whatever we plan to make using fabric -- will require thread. Lots of thread in most cases.

Sarah writes that the book is about: "Thread, which is as important as fabric and as much fun to collect; Understanding your tools and materials; Learning the skills one step at a time; Mastering th skills with practice; Doing what we love: quilting!" And she makes all of these aspects quite accessible and easy to follow -- as well as encouraging.

This book is written with authority and sound information beginning with the chapter on thread. This author knows of what she writes -- how thread is made, thread types, selecting threads, even a thread tension sampler which she warns readers not to attempt to do the whole sampler at one sitting. And then, as if learning which threads to use wasn't helpful enough, she moves on to needles beginning with the anatomy of a needle.

Her tips are new information to me. Ways to ensure the needle is inserted all of the way into the shaft, the thread industry's new standard of measurement, which needle to use for metallic, holographic and some rayon threads, and on and on. She addresses how to applique and use thread colors to tone down, shade and highlight and thread painting and machine quilting and resources and even workspace ergonomics.

If there is only one book to gift yourself with this holiday season, I suggest this one. It is the most informative and user friendly book I've encountered in a very long time. And the colors and photos and layout are stunning. Beautifully made book and one that I've read cover to cover.

Unforgettable Tote Bags
by Eleanor Levie and Celebrity Quilters

Published by Eleanor Levie, 2009

On first look, you may think this book is about making decorative tote bags. But anyone who's been a fan of the celebrities and legends in the quilting community will quickly see that this is an opportunity to have many of their favorite quilters, designers, artists -- in one book.

Not only do you see tote bags made by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy, Karen Eckmeier, Virginia Avery, Diane Gaudynski, Jean Ray Laury, Susan Shie.... You get to see these experts at play, having fun designing and decorating a tote bag with their own techniques and personality. And then giving you directions to recreate it! This is like taking classes from 11 creative teachers, tops in the fabric arts and quilting community, legends -- all in one book.

No, you won't become an expert machine quilter like Diane Gaudynski after one tote bag; nor able to handle an air brush with the finesse of Susan Shie, but you can take the first steps. And you'll have a make-you-smile tote bag to help you lessen your carbon footprint.

If you don't want to sew the bag itself -- directions show you how to take a blank already made bag and turn it into a work of art. The author, Eleanor Levie, includes a couple of her own creations along with directions for deconstructing a ready made bag to allow embellishments. The colorful book with a pleasing balance between white space and text offers step by step instructions, color photographs, and most of all, a few moments with your quilting heroes. Who could ask more of a book than that?! I can hope that this is the beginning of a series of books focused on celebrities gone wild! What next -- art vests? Chaps? Dickies? Who cares what they make, I just want to see them make it!

Paradise Stitched: Sashiko and Applique Quilts by Sylvia Pippen

Published by CT Publishers, 2009

Sashiko has become such a popular design element and you'll see it used masterfully in many award winning quilts. Not just a design for hand sewing, machine sewing with the right threads and needles (See Sarah Ann Smith's book) is quite stunning. Yet, the author encourages machine quilters: "...Try hand Sashiko. You might be surprised at how fast it goes and how calming it is to sit down and stitch a beautiful Sashiko design."

But Sylvia is not satisfied to let the beauty of Sashiko stand alone. She paired it with applique and added a tropical twist. Here in Florida Asian and tropical go hand in hand whether it be clothes or decor or art and Sylvia and CT Publishing hit a homerun with the pairings and projects featured.

Not only does Sylvia offer her own designs to reproduce, including full size patterns, but helps readers to take the steps to make their own innovative quilts. For example, she writes "My favorite design tools are my digital camera, a photocopy machine, and a bit roll of tracing paper." She adds that another way to create compositions is to cut flowers and foliage and arrange them on a dark fabric background. Then photograph them. She provides every bit of information needed to make stunning applique and exquisite Sashiko which means this book can stretch to cover more than one technique you may want to try. And I can't think of a more visually alluring book than this one. Eye candy and inspiration abound. For more information or to order the book, visit Sylvia's website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today's Question: Where do you shop?

Online, on the street, where do you go for the items you need for your art or quilts or mending or paints or whatever you are doing in the craft room? Lately I've heard of online scammers and that shoppers need to beware, so perhaps we can trade insider information about safe and secure and really great suppliers of all kinds of materials and equipment from needles to batting to chain mail and beyond.

A new location I plan to check out today is Any others I should be checking out? Another one, down the street, is the new Goodwill store.So, please tell me -- where do you find your treasures and necessities?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Painter's Perspective from an 'Ancient Artist' -- Sue Smith

When I first discovered the Ancient Artist blog by Sue Smith, I felt like I had discovered a gold mine or golden mind! And then when I read her trials and discoveries while growing her art I saw very little difference between the discussions we've had here focused on fabric and her exposition about oil and watercolor art. I admit that I'm not ready to be referred to as an 'Ancient Artist,' yet I like the connection to the past that 'ancient' denotes. Ancient also sounds wise, doesn't it? And Sue is definitely wise.  I could identify with much of what she had to say and by so doing felt less isolated and yes, a bit more hopeful that I still have time to find my creative gene.

Graciously, Sue Smith accepted an invitation to join us at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles and share her art and her experiences. Maybe you will discover you're an 'ancient artist,' too. -- Dawn
Facts of Life (shown here) is part of the Mesa Series is 24"h x 12"w. This bird lives in the imaginary spaces, and he, too, is imaginary - a composite of several species of bird plus a bit of whimsey. The technique is similar to that used in another piece in the Mesa Series shown below: How the Light Gets In.

How the Light Gets In is oil on panel. I use a lot of texture in the Mesa Series paintings, starting with gesso spread thickly on the panels. As the paint dries I scrape into it with sandpaper, sharp scraping knives, whatever is within reach to create more texture. Then more paint, more scraping, until I get what I'm after. These are landscapes that evolve out of my imagination - they are places that have never been explored before, wide open to your own imagination as to what you might find there. This painting is 12"h by 30"w.

The idea behind this series is finding ways for us to reconnect to the sense of the landscape as a sacred, unexplored and unpopulated place where we make a journey that reveals to us a new awareness about ourselves - sort of a shamanistic influence, about going to a secret place and returning with newfound wisdom.

I consider myself a painter.

I am fascinated with words and the meaning behind them - what does "artist" mean? What does "painter" mean - if anything other than they describe what I do and are interchangeable. I once read a statement by a successful artist who said he was an "artist" because he brought something more pure to his work than "painters" who merely slap color on to a surface - but I don't call myself a "painter" just to be contrary or because I think I just slap paint on the surface without meaning.

I call myself a "painter" because of a book that I read, called The Painter From Shanghai, by Jennifer Cody Epstein. It's the life story of the very talented Chinese Postimpressionist painter Pan Yuliang who moved to Paris and "lived at the intersection of great art and tumultuous modern history...the story of a bold and improbable woman" who suffered greatly but refused to give up on her inner knowledge that her life's purpose was to be an artist. I identify with her - will never face the difficulties she did - but her story gives me courage to struggle on and not give up.

So, in my own way, I am a painter.

When I turned 50 I took the risk to really educate myself and went back to school. I earned an art degree from Oregon State University and graduated with the Distinguished Student - Department of Art Award at age 56. I come from a line of needle women, even made a few baby quilts and crewel-embroidery. But nothing hit me as hard as painting.

It wasn’t until I went to Italy for a painting workshop that I realized this was something I had to do. One minute I was the old me, and in the next instant I had passed through a doorway and wasn't looking back.

I'm now 61, and in the years since becoming a painter, I've accomplished goals I never imagined possible: some as simple as discovering my artistic voice, others in the form of professional recognition. When people ask me why I'm doing this, I try to explain it this way:

“All I really know are my own experiences, what I see and perceive, beauty that presents itself to me in a flash and disappears. But when I read a poem, or see a painting, or hear a melody filled with recognition of the familiar, I am knocked breathless with the awareness that I am not alone in my experience.
This is why I paint.”

In addition to the Mesa Series, I also paint traditional landscape. I alternate between the Imaginary spaces and the real spaces - each one informs the other in a way. Here is another landscape for comparison between the two main styles I use - titled Beneath Whychus Creek Bridge. 14 x 18, oil on canvas. (third photo)

I started out painting in watercolor, but soon discovered that oil fit my painting methods perfectly. There is luminosity in oil paint that visually I find compelling, plus it is forgiving and allows me to really work the paint surfaces if I need to. I love that.

Liz Massey who writes the Creative Liberty blog interviewed me awhile back. This is what she had to say:
“A contemporary landscape painter who also does work in abstracts and other areas, Sue always has something interesting to say about the creative process, and her insights as someone who became serious about her art later in life ... provides valuable perspective in a youth-obsessed culture.”

What I discovered after I graduated and experienced life after art school is how hard it is for people at mid-life to get the culture to acknowledge them as having something important to say. There are so many people who turn to artistic expression as a second or third career, but they feel marginalized; yet research proves that older artists have advantages over their younger peers and can still produce strong work well into their 70’s.

I started writing Ancient Artist because I wanted to share what I was learning with other emerging older artists and provide one source of encouragement and support to people working in isolation. It’s so important to stay positive and determined, to realize you can succeed.

The truth is Ancient Artist has probably been the main driver that has kept me moving forward despite the setbacks and disappointments that occur every day in this business.

I think it’s helpful to take a moment and look back to see just how far any of us has come. In this first image, I'm petrified and have boxed myself into a corner, the wall at my back. A defensive stand for sure. It was my first Art Opening in a mainstream Contemporary Art Gallery. Shelly Hall Gallery. This was 2 years ago and sadly Shelly Hall Gallery closed in 2008 due to the economic downturn.

In this second image I am at my most recent Art Opening at High Desert Gallery of Central Oregon. I was too busy talking to people to worry about being nervous (I'm the one in the white jacket). As a certified, life-long introvert, I can tell you this is a major personal growth milestone – and proof that we are getting closer to our goals every day, even if we don't realize it.

Bio: Sue Favinger Smith began her award-winning career at the age of 50, earning an art degree from Oregon State University and graduating with the Distinguished Student - Department of Art Award at age 56. Since traduating from Oregon State University, she has focused on oil painting, exploring the techniques and color used by painters who inspire her. She is best known for her poured oil Elements Series, the semi-abstract Mesa Series, and representational landscapes...but she has recently added still life and the figurative Ancestor Series to her painting oeuvre.

Residing in Central Oregon, Sue has participated in national and regional exhibitions, solo and three-person shows, and is a juried member in Oil Painters of America, an associate member in Women Artists of the West, and a juried member in the prestigious National Association of Women Artists. Her work is in private collections across the country. Sue maintains not only her popular Ancient Artist blog, but also websites Sue Smith Fine Arts and Sue Smith.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eye Candy on the Internet

What an innovative idea.  Cath Kidston, a stitcher, fabric designer, etc. etc. etc. kind of like the Karen Neuberg of the United Kingdom has put together a new book of simple projects. What makes this unique and excites me is her inclusion of  a length of a unique fabric specially printed for the book. She adds handles, a label and button -- materials to use to make the bag pictured on the front of her book. What an excellent promotion idea. I'm not sure the book is available in the U.S. But I'm more excited about including fabric and notions with a book so someone purchasing the book can make the project!

November 10th is the 234th Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps and it is also the last day of the Smackdown to raise funds for Alzheimer's Quilt Initiative. The only connection is the date, that I know of. Well, perhaps they both deliver a 'smackdown.'

But I like to add a bit of trivia and factoids to the site. The marine's first battle was of course against the British during the American Revolution and at that time -- get this -- there were 234 marines! For more interesting Marine trivia, check out my Suite 101 article.

OK, back to the Smackdown. Four of the top quilt artists have pitted their creations against each other to see who can raise the most money for this charity, the brain child of Ami Simms. Who do you think will come out the big winner -- other than the charity? Here's one of the entrants -- Hollis Chatelain's Fading

Also on the Internet fascinating artists and their art jumped out and me. I just have to show you what I found.
With permission from a few of those artists, I'm compiling a little sampling of what I've found so far this week. And, it is only Tuesday!

Let me start out with fun art by Peter Anton, pictured here with a few of his sculptures.

Peter explains his art this way:

Artist Statement and Philosophy:  In my sculptures I like to alter and overstate foods to give them new meanings. I have an innate reverence for the things we eat. Food brings people together and there is no better way to celebrate life. Through the use of humor, scale, irony, and intensity in my forms, the foods we take for granted become aesthetically pleasing and seductive in atypical ways. I like to create art that can lure, charm, tease, disarm and surprise. My sculptures put viewers in a vulnerable state so that I can communicate with their inner selves in a more honest and direct way. I activate the hunger people have for the things that give them pleasure and force them to surrender. The sensual nature of the works stimulates basic human needs and desires that generate cravings and passion.

A comment on his work comes from an essay by Gerhard Charles Rump, art critic:

His works aren't meant to be modern moral subjects. Which means, again, that they are about seduction, showing us, how easy it is to seduce us, because, given the right enticement, we follow the call so willingly. But some of Anton's works show signs of consumption: Of ice creams, for instance, bits have been bitten off. This is a sign of human presence, the human consumer taking the part of the Old Masters' snails. And it also shows that eating candy is an all too short, a fleeting moment of joy Peter Anton tries to capture and hold for eternity. And that has always been a function of art, too.

On Peter's site he also takes visitors on a tour of his studio -- ohhhh my. Not only does the candy sculptures whet my appetite, but I'm drooling over that studio! (see a photo above of Peter Anton in his studio with what will become a chocolate covered cherry!)

You may have noticed that I have a weakness for crazy quilts. I'm actually working on a Christmas wall hanging featuring crazy quilts and one of my prized possessions that was made by my grandmother's mother is a life history crazy quilt. But neither of these efforts can compare to Sharon b's work!

A visit to Stitchin Fingers, and I found Sharon b. She is a most generous quilt artist and master embroiderer (is that the right moniker?) -- whatever it is called, she's fabulous! On her Pintangle (love that name) blog, she shares videos and how-tos and has amassed a great deal of helpful information.

Here Sharon b has taken crazy quilt to a new combination of traditional pattern and crazy piecing. She has based this quilt on diamond shaped crazy quilt blocks. And well, it is absolutely stunning!

Don't believe me, look at the detail photo here!
There are more photos on her website, too. She also teaches and one of these days she says she will guest blog here for us. I can't wait!!!

Don't forget that there are absolutely gorgeous and innovative crazy quilts at the Alliance for Art Quilts site yet this week. The sale is on! Don't miss it! I have a link to it in the right column -- see Pamela Allen's donation.

Also while at Stitchin Fingers, I found Kay Scheidt. Her work is diverse and beautifully made. Her choice of colors seems inspired and her meticulous stitching and attention to detail really sets her work apart. She has a fun and honest blog with the cool name "out of the basement" which showcases some of her work and many of her interests, travels and loves. She explains the name of her blog -- "because that's where my work and my blog originates. It's a bit of a joke in the family how much time I'm down there." Time well spent!

Pictured here is her Treehugger quilt to the left and her Not Quite Dream Time quilt to the right. I just love her choice of colors!

If you're looking for a small but memorable gift for a fellow stitcher or a soon to be stitcher such as a granddaughter perhaps, this Tea Flower Pincushion is just the item. The directions are easy to follow and available (free) at The Object Project. This was brought to my attention by BellaOnline.

One suggestion I would add is to stuff the 'cushion' with wool batting or wool fabric scraps cut into tiny pieces. Wool is so much easier to stick a pin into than the usual stuffing materials and can even clean and sharpen the pins and needles a bit. Of course you could use sand, as in an emery bag, but there's the spill and leak factor that I would want to avoid. This project may be the closest I have come to successful origami.

And on a final note, a bit of quilting humor can be found here by T. McCracken.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Flowers for a Cure: Linda Cooper

Linda Cooper continues to use her art for good and as you can see from this guest blog, she puts her imagination, varied techniques and all around best efforts into each quilt. Her Flowers for a Cure certainly reflects her talent and eye for beauty. It's so good to have Linda back as a guest blogger. Check out her Kinetic quilts guest blog, too -- Dawn

My art quilt teacher, Cyndi Souder  returned from the Houston Quilt show in 08 armed with a challenge for her students and a large box full of bridal gown fabrics. She had talked at the show with LaNelle Heron, a representative of the Making Memories Foundation which raises money for breast cancer patients by selling donated wedding dresses.

They were interested in having quilts made from pieces of the gowns no longer wearable. Karey Bresenhan, Director of the International Quilt Festival, (Quilts ) had offered display space for some of the quilts to be hung in the 09 show.

The quilts could be made of the recycled fabrics or any wedding-dress type fabric. I added to those materials by raiding the remnant bins and tables for more white fabric: satins, sheers, metallics, silks and polys. I decided to experiment with Setacolor and painted selections of all the remnants. They painted beautifully! (see photo) I used a technique I learned from Phil Beaver.

My initial design was going to be a stained glass window from Messiah UMC Church in Springfield, VA, (shown here) with an adjacent vase of flowers. I wanted the window in perspective.

The problem when I enlarged my initial drawing was that when I observed the drawing from the one side, it looked correct, but from the other side, the perspective was all wonky. Ironically, the Washington Post ran an article that week about Master's Paintings with the same problem.

Those paintings only looked correct if the viewer was at the observation post of the painter. My solution was to add a second window on the other side, making a bay window.

I transferred my window patterns onto muslin and used that foundation to stablize the slippery fabrics. The window mullions are made from purchased gold bias binding which I fused in place. I used a narrow zigzag stitch to attach pieces to the muslin to prevent the fabrics from slipping out or ravelling. Often I glue-basted the edges to keep them in place for sewing. I replaced the window inserts with the breast cancer pink ribbons.

To make the background of the center window, I fastened a large piece of fabric to wooden canvas stretchers and I painted that in an ombre style. I mixed a small amount of teal paint with water and after each stroke across the fabric, I added another tablespoon of water, giving me the paint dilution.

I used images for flowers either grown by my son and daughter-in-law (Matt and Jennifer's photos shown here) or from copyright-free images I found on the net. I enlarged the color images, printed them, and laid a piece of vinyl over them to trace with a large marker. Then, using a light box, I laid sateen fabric (which I stablilized with freezer paper) over the vinyl and transferred the outline. I painted the flowers with Tsukineko Inks and Fabrico Markers. (photo of flowers and vase before quilting)

Then I finally appliqued them by machine using variegated threads and my own raw-edge Broderie Perse method.

I had to eliminate my initial vase (which I loved) because it didn't look strong enough not to tip in the real world. My friend, shop owner Judy Gula (, is always encouraging me to bead and the flowers looked much better when I followed her advice.

I was happy to donate this quilt to Making Memories. I've known so many people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. The windows are a memorial to them and the flowers are a tribute to the researchers and health-care givers who are working hard to fight the disease.

The size of Flowers for the Cure is 63x 45 inches. (Photo: Close up of beaded flowers)

BIO:  Linda's family has endured her quilting obsession for the past 20 years. Linda loves all aspects of the quilt world but has gravitated to art quilting in the past few years. She teaches fabric painting, raw-edge appliqué, and other classes at Artistic Artifacts Annex in Alexandria, VA. She is also available for lectures, workshops and commission work.

Her Flowers for a Cure was in the IAQ 2009 Quilt Festival's special exhibit: Making Memories. Her Fading Memories quilt with hand painted background is currently on tour with Ami Simm's Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative traveling exhibit. See more of Linda's work in her Subversive Stitchers guest blog featuring her kinetic quilts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Making Faces: Ginny Greaves discusses fabric choices

I'm a sucker for a furry face and this fabric portrait by Ginny Greaves of her mother's faithful companion brought tears to my eyes. Yes, she chose the right title for this creation : Unconditional.

Ginny's  work is all about love, just like this little guy. Love of fabric, love of creating and love of her subject are just a few samples of her dedication to her art. Please welcome Virginia 'Ginny' Greaves to Subversive Stitchers. She has some important techniques to share about fabric choices. -- Dawn

When I was a little girl, I used to make faces behind my mother’s back. If I didn’t like what she had been telling me, I would stick out my tongue and scrunch up my mouth and eyes and throw a nasty look at her back. But one day she caught my reflection in the china cabinet – and I never made faces at her again!

My mom is an impressionist painter, and throughout my childhood, I watched her make oil landscapes. She would make large canvases from scratch that filled the entire studio because she couldn’t buy the size she needed. If she didn’t know how to do something, she worked until she found a way.

Mom was a great influence on me and I owe her a lot, but when my children were young and I was looking for an outlet of expression, I couldn’t paint. It felt too much like my mom’s work. Luckily, I was given a sewing machine at that time and I fell in love with fabric. I realized that I had found my medium.

Thankfully I inherited Mom’s eye for color and her problem solving ability. Now I spend my days making faces and working out problems – all of it in fabric.

I don’t really remember what led me to make my first quilt from a photograph – but an old photograph of the dalmatians from my childhood surfaced in an antique secretary, so I gathered my fabrics and started.

Dalmatian Downs
(See photo)

It is always easier to look at value in black and white, and starting with black and white dogs gave me a gift I didn’t understand for some time. The understanding of value and then color are the basics of creating realism in any media – and it is as achievable in fabric as it is in any other media. We typically envision paintings when we think of illustrative work, but I’ve seen portraits made from trash artfully poised and photographed aerially from a crane. Anything that you can dream you can achieve.

There are many ways to construct the face, but over many mistakes, I have found that the hardest part isn’t the construction or even developing the initial pattern – it is choosing the right fabrics. Not only do you have to have value change between fabrics, but they have to be good jumps. Subtlety isn’t good enough. The good news is that you can remove many of your worries about pattern. I have used hand-dyed fabric, but it really isn’t necessary. You do have to look at fabric differently however.

Faces in Cloth IV

I’d like to say that I magically pick the right fabrics but the truth of the matter is that I use my camera. I line up the fabrics in value order that I think will work and look at them in black and white, either on my camera or on my computer. There are always fabrics that don’t work that I think should. Sometimes a subtle pattern like a batik will throw a fabric from one value into another. I used to trust my eyes and make adjustments when the piece was all fused together – but as much as I love the cutting and fusing, I don’t do anything now until I have the fabrics right – and I know if I have them right or not by looking at the value of the fabrics in black and white.

Interestingly, just like the pattern in the batik that shifted the value unexpectedly, I’ve found that some types of pattern can shift value in the direction I’m looking for. A black or blue pattern on top of the color I need can give the illusion of a value change.

I’ve also learned to look in unexpected places. I have bins where I store fabric by color, but I’ve learned to look beyond how I’ve organized – and if I need a particular color, to look in the complementary color bins for possible matches. Although a fabric may come home from the store as one color, it can look different when placed against other colors.


This is best explained by my quilt Chameleon – which is essentially a color study. It is one simple profile shot with four values reproduced in six primary colors. These profiles are then mixed with each other so that the mixed profiles have two values of light from one color and two values of dark from another color. For the most part, the same fabrics used in the primary profiles could be repeated for the lightest and the darkest values of the mixed profiles, but the two middle values required adjustment and better understanding of how the values changed with the introduction of new fabrics.

But color matters some, right? My early portraits are monochromatic, but lately I’ve been making more realistic color choices.

Chameleon taught me that color is less important than value, but my latest series of faces has taught me that understanding of value within color families can contribute significantly to realistic portrayal.

The trick is to step back from your work and evaluate its impact before you invest too much time in it. It is easy to fix mistakes in the planning stages and much more complicated during construction. We work so close to our work – sometimes we need to step out onto the crane to see it properly (or use a reducing glass or even the computer).
Photo: Adelpho, a portrait of another Ginny.


Virginia a.k.a. Ginny lives with her husband and two children in Atlanta, GA. She is most often working in her studio but can be found occasionally roaming fabric stores. She is easily distracted by shiny objects, refuses to listen to the naysayers of fusibles, and sometimes runs with scissors. Her work can be seen on her website  and her in progress adventures are documented on her blog.

And here's Ginny's self-portrait monochromatic in purple.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kay Mackenzie: Armed with Needles Stitches Up Applique and a Business

Kay Mackenzie's quirky quilt, Shopping Bags, size 40-inch x 40-inch, caught my eye when I was checking out quilts at the Blogger Quilt Show. I was glad when Kay agreed to share her work and a bit of herself with all of us.

Her quilts and designs look like they flow from a happy, lets-have-fun spirit. Kay also demonstrates another aspect of quilting/fabric as a business selling her books, designs and sewing products via her online site. She also introduced me to Martingale and Company publishing through her book. And her innovative applique method makes my fingers itch to give it a try. Please Welcome Kay Mackenzie. -- Dawn

Kay in her own words --

I was so pleased when Dawn extended the invitation to be a guest on the blog. I can't claim to be very subversive, though I do admire the spirit. However, I am definitely armed with needles!

There are three main needles in my life.

Size 10 milliner/straw needles (same thing), Size 7 cotton darners, and sharp-tipped sewing machine needles, size 70/10 (shown above).

My nature as a quilter is as an appliquér. 

The straw needles are long and skinny. I can get a good grip on them and they glide through fabric easily without resistance. I use 10s instead of 11s because I bend the 11s like the wind! The 10s last until the finish wears off. Here's a quilt I made when I used to use the freezer-paper-on-top method.
(Photo) Sixteen Baskets by Kay Mackenzie, 38 x 38. This is the cover quilt for my book Baskets to Applique .

Now I've become a convert to the back-basting method, where no templates are required. The large cotton darners are perfect for the basting step when you want a thick needle. Here's a quilt that I made using back-basting hand applique.
(Photo) Blooms in Red and Yellow by Kay Mackenzie, 32 x 32.

This is a sampler of some of the flower blocks in my recent book from That Patchwork Place Martingale and Company publishing, Easy Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes. I'm so excited about this book because it comes with &;CD that enables you to print any of the 50 blocks at home, in five different sizes, or in reverse when you need a flipped pattern. Such a convenience!

When I became a professional I learned to machine appliqué so that I could get additional samples done more quickly. The Microtex needles (or other similar needles) are just right for raw-edge fusible machine appliqué with the blanket stitch on my Bernina. I also use them for machine quilting, another thing I had to learn along the way. Here's one of my machine-appliquéd quilts.

Delicious Tea by Kay Mackenzie, 24 x 10.

The apple teapot design is from my Teapots 2 to Applique.

Okay now I'll show you the closest I've come, in my estimation, to making an art quilt.

Free Flowers by Kay Mackenzie, 27 x 21.

This was a personal challenge that I issued to myself, to use no templates and to finish no edges. I pre-fused the fabrics and free-hand scissor-cut all the shapes, placing them improvisationally as I went. I kept going until I felt it was packed enough, then fused everything down. I quilted close to the edges of all the motifs. I love this one! It's so not me!

My company is By Kay Mackenzie. All of my books and patterns are available there. I also offer a few notions for appliquérs, and a back-basting intro kit that has everything you need to become acquainted with this very cool method. I write a blog called&;All About Appliqué, which is how Dawn contacted me. It's devoted to appliqué - any kind! There's lots of great information there. If you click on the category "Back Basting" it'll bring up a photo tutorial.

I grew up in North Carolina, went to school in Colorado, then lived in Los Angeles for a number of years. During all that time I had not one stitch of quilting heritage. I started in a beginning quilting class about 17 years ago after I got married and we were living in central Ohio. When I told my instructor that I enjoyed the Dresden Plate the most out of all the blocks in the sampler, she told me, “You just might be an appliqué person.” I still wonder whether that observation shaped my destiny, because it turned out to be so true!

From that class on I was gripped with the quilt pox. For a long time I made quilts from patterns or pictures. Then I began to branch out, modifying designs in some way. We moved to Santa Cruz, California, and I got my own computer. When I learned some skills in illustrating, I finally broke through to creating original appliqué designs of my own. I can’t draw at all with my hands, but the computer gave me the tool I needed. I was taking some classes in digital media at my local community college, and just loved the information on typography and page layout that was presented in addition to learning the drawing programs.

And so it happened that a peculiar combinations of interests in my strange brain led me to become a publisher of books for quilters… quilting, computer illustration, writing, editing, typography, and page layout all combined!  My company By Kay Mackenzie has six titles in print now. 

My most famous books are Baskets to Appliqué and Teapots 2 to Appliqué.;

I fill every position in my company I’m the quilt designer, quiltmaker, writer, illustrator, book designer, and publisher. I’m accounts receivable, accounts payable, marketing manager, and the fulfillment department. (I’ve become an experienced bubble wrap wrangler.) I love it all.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m also the webmistress. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re interested and you roll  up your sleeves. While you’re admiring my ‘coding skills’ over at By Kay Makenzie be sure to check out my Giveaway For Kids.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to show you what I do when armed with needles!