Thursday, October 29, 2009

Emotions in Fabric by Nina Lise Moen of Stavanger, Norway

Mrs. Moen's art quilt Hot and Cold in the Blogger's Quilt Show touched me while telling me things I never knew. I can't get it out of my mind. Her choices when translating her story into fabric -- so perfect. The symbolism subtle but again, so meaningful and poignant. I have of course heard detailed accounts of anorexia, but Mrs. Moen's depiction of it seemed to finally get through to me what exactly this disease does. How it not only melts away the body's reserves, it eats away, leaving holes in the fabric of a life. I don't know if that is what she had in mind. But that's what I took away. The choice of background color further re-enforces emotions. I will forever see that quilt whenever anyone mentions the disease. Mrs. Moen's ability to turn complex issues and emotional topics into exquisitely simple clean designs intrigues me. Her Class Picture quilt also makes quick work of deep seated emotions with a playful style.

I'm so pleased to introduce you to Mrs. Nina Lise Moen.

Welcome to Subversive Stitchers! -- Dawn

My name is Nina Lise Moen. I’m 47 years old, and live in Stavanger, Norway where I share my life with my husband, our grown up daughter and our 2½ year old grandson.

I come from a long line of creative and highly skilled needle workers and seamstresses as both my mother and grandmothers have been avid crafters. I have been knitting, crocheting and embroidering for as long as I can remember, and have made my own designs and knitting patterns since I was a teenager. Now I am a textile artist, designing Mrs, Moen quilting patterns  and teaching workshops.

With a background previously in finance and the corporate world, this 11 year long journey into the textile arts has taken my life into a quite different direction.

Quilting in Norway

We have a long crafting tradition in Norway like embroidery of bunads (our national dress, of which I have made a Rogalandsbunad), Rosemaling, Hardanger embroideryLusekofte knitting, and traditional akel weaving.
When it comes to patchwork and quilting, we are highly influenced by the American quilting industry, and to some extent the German and Japanese. Even though our patchwork history has been well documented, it was not something everybody’s grandmother did.

We don’t have Norwegian quilting fabric, but there are interior fabrics with Norwegian design, some of them suitable for quilting. Even though we mainly use American fabrics, the choice of colours and colour combinations are often different. We have quite a few Norwegian quilting books authors and pattern designers, some of them with their own distinct style, others more influenced by American design. As we use duvets for bedding, we use our larger quilts for bedspreads. Smaller projects like table runners, pillows and bag are highly popular.

Guilds are a large part of quilting life all over the world and also in Norway, with traditional quilt guilds and Husflidslag. I am so lucky to be part of two; the regional guild, in which I serve my 4th year on the board, and 1st year as the leader, and a small informal group.

My work

At some point quilting evolved from being something I do, into a part of who I am. While I still do other kinds of fibre art, my main medium is quilts. I don’t work in any particular style, but enjoy making different kinds of quilts.

Always up for a challenge, I do a lot of experimenting with design and materials. I get an idea, and then figure out how to translate it into fibre. The design evolves as the work progresses, and I enjoy this process even more than the finished project. Often working in series, the focus might change with the ups and downs of my life, but the final product is always a reflection of me.

I love turning scraps of fabric into fun, small quilts, of which “But I have nothing to wear” and “Dance in the rain” are two favourites (pictured here.)

I also work with quilting as art therapy.

These are rather personal stories. One of them is “Hot and Cold; 7 and 1/2 years," which I entered into the Blogger’s Quilt Festival this fall. It was made for the European Quilt Association’s Suitcase exhibition. (See first photo above) “Hot and Cold..." tells the story of being a mom during a daughter’s illness.

Part of artist’s statement: “7 1/2 years ago, at the age of 11, my precious daughter got anorexia. She hit rock bottom two years later, when she did not even have enough energy to keep up her body temperature, and spent most of her time in a chair, wrapped up in one of her favourite quilts

At the age of 19, still struggling on and off, she is a brave, smart, strong and independent young woman - a truly genuine person - on her way out in the world. I’m so proud of her!”

It was quite a challenge getting each figure just the right size and in the right position, so that they seem to walk and drag the most fragile ones over the surface and into the future. You can read more about the quilt here.

“Class picture” is another favourite of mine. It started out as a hand appliqué project, and grew from there.

Artist’s statement: “A class is very much like a quilt; bits and pieces making up a whole. When you look closer, you’ll see the differences in backgrounds, styles and personalities; and who’s not fitting in.

You’ll find me in the back, by the window with the other oddballs; bright and shining.”

The quilt was a part of the exhibition at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in 2007. You can read more about the quilt here.

Currently -- I’m taking my first art class learning to paint with acrylics. It is so much fun with just the right amount of theory and lots of playing with colours and textures.

-- I'm working on finishing UFOs and find a lot of inspiration in old projects and taking them into another direction.

-- I’m falling into a much slower pace with hand quilting using pearl cotton. My last finished quilt is “If I lay here”, which is a whole cloth quilt painted with fabric paints and quilted with pearl cotton.

-- I’m working on woollen projects like this bag (photo and detail photo) made from a knitted and matted self made material with appliquéd and embroidered circles.

-- I’m finishing my Christmas patterns and preparing for a workshop I will teach in November.

If you would like to know more about me and my work, visit me at MrsMoen

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Question of the Day: What do you like to read in fiction?

I have a confession to make. Most of you know I'm first of all a writer and a wanna be or utilitarian seamstress.

My specialty is nonfiction. Personal essays published in a variety of anthologies from Knit Lit to Cup of Comfort and some between. Also magazine articles including Quilters World, Ohio Magazine, Birds and Blooms, Notre Dame Magazine, etc. And several years worth of feature articles for various newspapers where I served as reporter, editor, columnist, etc. And then the years as freelance writer for Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post, etc.

 Along the way I have 'secretly' delved into fiction, winning an award for The Vigil and publishing a few short stories. If you check out The Vigil, you'll see it is listed as nonfiction -- maybe creative nonfiction since its based upon a personal experience, but I consider it fiction.

Always in the back of my mind is the goal of publishing a novel.

Well, I haven't reached the 'published' goal, yet for a novel. But on my way to that end, I started this blog named for the working title of the series I'm writing -- Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. This is a project that has been fermenting for quite some time.

So my question is -- what would you like to see in a novel with such a title? Or what you're tired of seeing and hope no one ever writes about again!

I keep switching characters and plots and can't seem to figure out where this is going. But next month, November is NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and I plan to devote it to Subversive Stitchers.

Please don't hesitate to wade in with what you wish you could see in a book that has stitchers, fabric artists, quilts, and needles in it!

Thanks so much. Obviously I am going to need alot of nudging and prodding to get this project finished. I hope you'll keep me on track.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Alliance for American Quilts—Anniversaries and Auctions!

Heads Up! Time is short!

The Alliance for American Quilts Crazy Quilts Auction starting date: MONDAY, OCTOBER 26th!!! Check your calendar! One quilt to be auctioned is shown in the photo to the left, Crazy for Pink made by Joan Kniffen.

AAQ's executive director, Amy E. Milne has taken a break from her busy schedule to tell us about a couple topics every quilter should care about. -- Dawn

As executive director of the Alliance for American Quilts, this is my favorite time of year—the warm buzz of Market and Festival in Houston is still in the air and it’s time for our annual small quilt auction.

During Festival this year the AAQ held a reception to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project. It’s never more evident how important this oral history project is than when quilters are gathered together sharing and reflecting.

Through the Q.S.O.S. project, the diverse team of partners that is the AAQ ensures that these stories are documented, shared and preserved for future generations. We now have over 1,000 stories from today’s quilters presented on our website and archived by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Pictured here: Q.S.O.S. volunteer leader extraordinaire Karen Musgrave with AAQ President Meg Cox.

You can be a part of the Q.S.O.S. project in many ways.

1. Visit the AAQ website ( and explore the Q.S.O.S. collection, print a few out to tuck in your bag or leave by the tub. You’ll find inspiration from quilters of all ages, experience levels and backgrounds.

2. Take a look at the Q.S.O.S. manual ( on our website and consider becoming a volunteer interviewer.

3. Present the project to your guild or community leadership to see if they would undertake or underwrite their own Q.S.O.S. project.

Crazy for Quilts

The other exciting AAQ event at Houston was the exhibition of 85 small quilts, the Crazy for Quilts contest entries, including Joan Kniffen’s Crazy for Pink, the first photo in this blog. Our exhibit had great placement, just behind the German Fabric Forest exhibit.
The 16”x16” quilts are entries into the AAQ’s annual contest, this year celebrating the spirit of the crazy quilt. Entrants were encouraged to draw inspiration from one or more aspect of the crazy quilt: design, color, fabric, surface embellishment, history or any other aspect of this style. The response includes a full range of “crazy”-from traditional approaches to art quilts.

Seeing our contest quilts on exhibit at Festival is always thrilling—the hard work and generosity of the artists who entered and donated their quilts shines through to me, and the show-going public delight in the artistry and diversity of these quilts. Whether you’re a crazy quilter or not, I know you’ll appreciate the creativity, skill and stories embedded in these quilts, and you’ll soon have the opportunity to own one of them.

The eBay auction of the Crazy for Quilts entries begins on Monday, October 26 and continues through November 16.

The quilts will be offered in three 7-day auctions, all of which start and end on Monday’s at 9 pm Eastern. Visit the AAQ website for instructions for bidding and a full gallery of the quilts, including Michele Muska’s, Ciao Bella, Limoncello, above right. All proceeds support the AAQ, whose projects include Q.S.O.S., the Quilt Index, Quilt Treasures and Boxes Under the Bed.

Bio:  Amy E. Milne, Executive Director, has worked as a nonprofit administrator, an educator and an artist for the past 17 years. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from North Carolina State University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan.

Amy joined The Alliance after serving 5 years as Executive Director of SeeSaw Studio in Durham, N.C. Amy works closely with its Board of Directors, board committees, members, partners and supporters to carry out the planning and implementation of AAQ projects.

Amy travels to national quilt shows and meetings that allow her the opportunity to network and meet with members of The Alliance's virtual community and to share our mission with new audiences.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Pamela Allen's art could be called 'double takes' since no one can look just once. This Canadian sees her world with a unique lens and brings this view and her insights together to form some of the most striking, thought provoking and yes beautiful art. Art should make you think and Pamela Allen invites thought and consideration from her students as well as viewers. And sometimes, her own art process makes her pause for thought and re-evaluation.

For anyone who thinks multi-media or fabric collage or art quilts are simply thrown together without consideration for fine stitching -- then take a look at Pamela's beautifully and carefully constructed fabric art. -- Dawn

Here's Pamela Allen in her own words:

When I am teaching, I often exhort the students to “be fearless”. If they have an idea, however off the wall, just try it out without inhibition and worry. After all, what is the worse that can happen? You will end up with an interesting quirky potholder!

Good advice really for any aspiring fabric artist. However, I have discovered for my own work, that fear is a major player! Here are some issues that haunt me as I am embarking on a new piece.


This is related to my belief that we all must educate ourselves through exposure to other media and artists we admire. My studio walls are covered with reproductions of various artists, both contemporary and historical, whose work is inspiring in some way.

My own work reflects that inspiration through greater or lesser appropriation of some elements from the said admired work. The fear comes from that dreaded word “DERIVATIVE.”  I am striving all the time to isolate what it is about my collection that is personal to me. For instance, I have discovered that I am attracted to art that is “quirky.”

I like representational but not realistic rendering. Folk art, outsider art, medieval art, native art all fit this category. I discovered I like unusual colour combinations. I discovered I like subject matter that describes every day events, or humorous narratives. So when I was designing the quilt Grandmother's Lullaby (see photo above), I picked elements from a medieval Madonna, (see photo right of Sienese Mother and Child). For instance the outline effect of her veil and robe, to start the composition. I’m sure people will relate this image to the many Madonnas and Child we have seen, but I am hoping they won’t say, “She stole that image”!

I have been a full time artist for more than 28 years, mostly a painter but also dabbling in printmaking, collage and assemblage art. It is the latter that is responsible for my large collection of doodads, miniature thingies and wooden objects all of which I began using as embellishment when I switched to the fabric medium.

Here I am having designed the quilt, appliquéd all the shapes and quilted the surface. Oh goodie, what can I attach now? Even as I did all those other tasks, I was thinking about what I could add to finish it off. In the beginning, I was somewhat disciplined about this, but later became consumed by the artspeak term called horror vacuui or fear of empty space! Here is an example of totally OTT embellishment. (See photo to the right of Icon Domestic Goddess.)

Fortunately, I realized in the nick of time, that embellishment is not the be all and end all of my work but rather, in theory anyway, just an addition to help the viewer get the message. I now evaluate whether my piece actually needs ANY embellishment. It often doesn’t and I have taken to top stitching as a substitute…. at least until that too approaches being OTT! (See photo Woman Waiting 2 below)


Over the years, I have realized that I keep returning to certain themes such as the Eve story. It’s not quite the same as working in series, as some of these were made several years apart. Nevertheless, there is the fear that I will just do more of the same so I kind of obsessively try to make each different in style, or narrative, or expression. This has the added advantage of maintaining my OWN interest as I re-examine a theme. There is nothing worse than becoming bored with your own work as it is in progress! Not to mention the possibility that if I am bored then the viewer will be too! (Below are samples of her Eve themes in various examinations.)

Eve Under Scrutiny (2005) photo left

Eve in Transition (photo right)


Wanna Bite? (2008) (photo above)

I guess I shall have to revise my diatribe to students, as fear can also be an asset in that it keeps you always looking for better and different ways to express your idea.


Pamela Allen (B.F.A. Queens University) exhibits regularly in both Canada and the U.S. Her work has traveled to Europe, Japan and Taiwan. Pamela has enjoyed several working vacations in El Paso Texas, Tucson Arizona, Ventura California, Tuscany Italy and an artist’s residency in Pouch Cove Newfoundland. She works at her art full time and enjoys a spacious studio in her Kingston, home.

Pamela has been a full time artist for several decades and has been working in fabric since 2002. She has exhibited in many national and international quilt art exhibitions and has won numerous awards for her quilts among them awards from IQA Chicago and Houston, major award from Quilt Canada and other venues. She has had her work published in the Quilting Arts Magazine, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, and the Canadian Quilters Magazine. Her work has been included in the recently published Masters: Art Quilt (Lark books) and Creating with Fabric (Tweetiejill Publisher). Pamela has made an instructional DVD as well, called THINK LIKE AN ARTIST, and is currently working on a book.

For more of her work and to learn more about her classes and Pamela, herself, visit her website.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Congratulations to the Houston Winners 2009

It's been a very good year for art quilts and quilting in general. And although I think all of our Subversive Stitchers are winners!!! We have a few with the ribbons (and prize money) to show for it.

I just visited the site and many of the winners are already posted. I saw some very familiar names there and even some familiar quilts that have been featured here at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. Check out the guest blogs for more photos of their work and a discussion of their process and techniques and inspiration. Just click on the artist's name in the right column listed under 'Guest Blogs."

The competition was tough and talented and oh so inspiring. To even be included in such an impressive array of quilts would be enough. But to win!

Way to go!

Please, please, please, speak up if I missed your quilt in this list!!!

Robbi Joy Eklow garnered a 2nd place award for her imaginative (and dare I say 60s reminiscence with the glowing oranges and purples) for iCandy 3.0. Love that title! She won in the Art Abstract-Large competition. (Above)

Building Up by Kathy York won first place in Art Abstract, Small. Her Falling Through the Cracks brought Kathy a 3rd place in the Embellished category. (both shown here)

Maria Elkins, one of our favorite guest bloggers, won at least two prizes. Her lovely Violinist won an honorable mention in the Art Miniature category and Broken Dishes walked away with a 2nd place award in Art- People, Portraits and Figures category.

Hollis Chatelaine may have earned a first prize in the Art Painted Surface contest, but our own Judy Coates Perez received an honorable mention for her Moon Garden. You had some pretty prestigious competition, Judy. Love the stylized art and use of colors to represent moonlight and just that one focus of bright color -- one red bird.

Gloria Hansen, who will be guest blogging here in the near future, made quite an impression in the Digital Imagery category with a third place for Circles Collide and an Honorable Mention for Witley Decay.

As mentioned before, Lynn Drennen's Grape Harvest received a first place award in the Group Quilt Category. Gina Perkes and Marilyn J. Smith made up the rest of the group. And Gina won the Future of Quilting award -- again.  (See Lynn's guest blog and the right column for photo)

I felt compelled to include Noriko Endo's Autumn Enchantment in honor of the blog about confetti quilts. I love that technique on so many levels and she does it soooo well. Her quilt won an honorable mention in Art Naturescapes.

For the full list of winners in the Houston International Quilt Festival, visit the website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inspiration from unlikely places: Linda Gass

 Maps tickle our curiosity and speak of the unknown, making it known. Maps in themselves are treasures and as you can see from Linda Gass's work, also art. The statement underlying the beauty is one we all need to hear.

You may be familiar with Linda's work or have seen her teaching or appearing a couple of times with Alex Anderson on HGTV's Simply Quilts. Please give her a warm Subversive Stitcher welcome. Here's Linda Gass in her own words:

After the Gold Rush, (first photo) I have tried to beautify an unnatural landscape through a play of color and texture on silk. The landscape is I-5, a major transportation artery, crossing the California Aqueduct, the man-made river that moves water from north to south and irrigates farm fields in what once was a desert. This is the second mining of California and hence the name of the quilt. (Inspired by a photograph by Ray Atkeson, courtesy of the Ray Atkeson Image Archive.)

Eight years ago I went to hear the poet Gary Snyder. Snyder mentioned a list of questions he likes ask people entitled “How Local Are You?”

He asks “do you know where your water comes from?” “do you know where your garbage goes?” “do you know where your water goes?” “name five native grasses,” “name five native birds,” and so on. I consider myself an environmentalist and one who lives close to the earth, however I was embarrassed to realize that I didn’t have answers to any of his questions.

The questions tumbled around in my brain over the years. Every once in a while I would ask someone if they knew where our water came from or if our curbside recycling actually got recycled. I would get varying responses and it only became more mysterious to me.

Then a serendipitous thing happened: a new environmental organization formed in my home town and I joined a Green Ribbon Citizens Committee to research and make recommendations to the city on water and waste. A small group of us met weekly and researched every source we could find. We organized field trips to local recycling facilities, landfills and sewage treatment plants. We met with our local service providers for waste hauling and water supply. I was in heaven; I was finally getting the real answers to the “How Local Are You?” questions.

But the answers were more like hell. I learned that the outtake for half of my drinking water is downstream from where the city of Stockton discharges their treated sewage into the San Joaquin River. I learned that some of our collected yardwaste isn’t composted but sold to a local power generation plant and burned for energy. And I learned that the bottom has fallen out of the recycling market and much of our plastic sits in huge bales waiting for a buyer and may simply become landfill.

From here came the inspiration for my latest series of artwork, all very personal in nature.

They are stitched paintings on silk of where my garbage goes, where my sewage goes and where my gasoline is refined. All are aerial landscape views exploring land use issues on the edge of San Francisco Bay, a body of water near and dear to me as I live only a few miles from it. The artworks visually highlight the juxtaposition of the development to the bay and I have titled all three of them to end in a question mark as a signal to the viewer.

The San Francisco Bay is an estuary, a semi-enclosed body of water where fresh river water mixes with salty sea water. It supports over 750 species of fish, animals and birds. The wetlands surrounding the bay filter toxic pollution and excess nutrient runoff, making them essential to the health of the region’s fish & wildlife populations as well as the human residents. Unfortunately we have developed these lands in ways that threaten our collective health.

Treatment? (photo above) shows my local Regional Water Quality Control Plant. Raw sewage is processed into nearly drinking quality water and then discharged into the bay. This freshwater discharge dilutes the salinity of the bay and is a source of contaminants not removed by the treatment process.

Sanitary? (photo above) shows the landfill where my garbage is hauled weekly. This 342 acre island is one of several artificial mountains built from trash that sit on the edge of the bay. Surrounded by essential wetlands, it borders a fresh water river that flows into the bay. Organic materials in the landfill generate climate changing methane gas while leachates from run off have to be carefully managed to avoid contaminating the nearby water.

Refined? (above) shows the Chevron refinery in Richmond where oil tankers dock offshore and their raw crude is transferred to the refinery through pipelines. The company is the largest industrial polluter in the region and has been fined in the past for discharging untreated toxic wastewater into the bay. The proximity of this noxious industrial facility to the bay highlights the vulnerability of the bay and the vigilance we must maintain in protecting it.

These three artworks are part of an exhibit entitled "Still Water" which runs through November 22, 2009 at the Dalton Gallery at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

My hope is to use the lure of beauty in my work to encourage people to look at the hard issues we face. The process of doing the research for my latest artwork caused me to seriously question the way I live and how we can do better. I like to think of my artwork as a snapshot in time that I hope we will never return to. If all goes well in the coming years, much of this landscape will be radically transformed and we’ll return to having a healthier bay.


Linda Gass has been in love with textiles since her grandmother taught her to sew and embroider as a child.

In her early adult years, she took a detour through technology after graduating from Stanford University with a BS in Mathematics and an MS in Computer Science and worked in the software industry for 10 years.

Linda returned to making textiles 14 years ago and now exhibits her work internationally in galleries and museums. Her work is published in numerous books and magazines including The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, Art Quilts: A Celebration, Fiberarts Design Book 7, American Style, American Craft, Surface Design, Fiberarts and Batik for Artists and Quilters. She was featured in two episodes of Simply Quilts on Home & Garden Television and has taught workshops at Arrowmont and the Mendocino Art Center.

She travels extensively in the wilderness areas of the West where she finds much of the inspiration for her work. Linda serves on the advisory board of the Black Rock Arts Foundation and the leadership team of GreenTown Los Altos. She is a master member of the Baulines Craft Guild. She also served on the boards of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and the Textile Arts Council of the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

For more information about Linda and her work, visit her website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Question of the Day: Do you Tessellate?

I just finished writing an article about Tessellation for Suite 101 and can't get the process out of my head. Have you experienced the tessellation mania?

Semd a photo of your project to my email to post here with a link back to your blog or website. Or tell us about your 'affair' with tessellating.

And feel free to read about tessellation in my article -- let me know what you think.  -- Dawn

I love a quick response. Here's the first photo.  It was recommended by Diana Feit. Unusual in that it uses two shapes -- birds and fishes. The pattern can be downloaded from Quilters Newsletter. It looks like a fun way to use gently curved piecing, too.

Thanks Diana!

Christine Thresh offers her Elephants Around block that she's selling. Part of the proceeds, she said, goes toward the Elephant Sanctuary. It is a play on the Snail's Trail pattern. Note the interlinked trunks.

The pattern can be purchased at Christine's website.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Question of the Day: What's Your Favorite Experience?

With October comes Houston and the thought of magnificent quilt shows and malls and classes and merchandise and and nirvana.The question isn't just about Houston, but was sparked by this mega show.

Today's question asks about your favorite or most memorable, endearing, (or embarrassing) quilt show memory. Or perhaps an epiphany or encounter at a quilt show that changed your life or your art?

One of my favorite stories, I've recounted in an early blog and may even have repeated it a few times. I think of it as one of my 'Real Men' series of stories. My husband has been excellent fodder for several essays sold to Christian Science Monitor and other markets.So briefly tell me your stories!

Today's photo was taken at the Cabin Fever Quilt Show in Orlando in January, 2009.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Christmas is Coming -- Hurry and Make That Special Christmas Quilt!

Christmas is heading our way.  I can hear its footsteps on the path. So, while the holidays approach, here are a few ideas I gathered together for inspiration, patterns or information – or, just for fun.

Ann Fahl has a fun line of patterns. I particularly like her Color Mews cat pattern. But for the holidays, nothing says Christmas like Ginko! This is a super quick pattern using fused applique and some stylized cloth or a little fabric paint.

Ever since seeing my first arpillera quilt, I've been fascinated by the expertise and patience and imagination they incorporate.

Anytime of year is the right time for  arpillera art, but especially appropriate during these magical holidays. It has such a fantastic history as well as appeal. Here’s one design specifically to celebrate the holiness of Christmas.

Penny Halpern offers some suggestions for making a Christmas or holiday art quilt. She suggests photo transfer, appliqué, or geometric representational shapes (triangle for evergreen tree and small square or rectangle for the trunk) on either one large square or smaller squares incorporated into one larger quilt.

Her suggestions brought to mind a wallhanging I made wayyyyy back in the day when wall stenciling was the rave in home decorating. I found some of those stencils people used when decorating windows with decorative snow and used them to apply stencil paints, probably acrylics or maybe leftover paint-by-number paints to muslin squares. I then divided the squares with a border and it looked like a window. I should have added a bit of snow and maybe a scene behind it with a cardinal in the background. I’ll have to work with an update on that project. It was fun and fast and – hey, come to think of it – that was my first ‘playing with paint’ experience! It's been in my blood all this time and I didn’t realize it.

The idea of a Christmas Hawaiian quilt surprised me – in a good way – but I think that says more about my lack of imagination than anything. This collection of smaller blocks – poho poho – which means ‘patched’ offers some holiday images, but truthfully any of the Hawaiian motifs done in Christmas fabrics or colors would work fine for me. I particularly like the red star motif pictured here. And using fused applique makes this a quick project.

Another thought! I have this marvelous book “Grandma’s Magic Scissors” that has some of the most delightful patterns and ideas for paper cutting. Those would also make excellent stencils or Hawaiian style motifs for a poho poho wall hanging. Or perhaps do some freehand snowflakes in varying sizes and applique them to background, not necessarily in blocks, but randomly -- like a snow storm.

Leaping from the islands into child's play -- remember those viewers we could peek inside and turn it and we'd get the most amazing colorful designs? Why not make it into a quilt with a Christmas or holiday theme?  Kaleidoscope squares. They are fascinating to view and even more fun to make! This one I found on the site Hand Dyed by Lori.

Of course Christmas colors can vary. Red and green may be traditional but blues and grays shout ‘Winter!’ Nothing cooler and more inviting than this lovely Bloom Creek design, Indigo Star, from Connecting Threads.

And check out the logo for the Inchie Swap in the column to the right of this blog entry. Deadline has been moved to November, so there's still time to join the swap. Nadine Ruggles has provided an easy to follow tutorial for making inchie ornament. Click on the logo to go to the guidelines and tutorial. It looks like a quick, creative project that you can make in plenty of time for Christmas!

Yep, even in October, Christmas is in the air. In my hot little house in Florida where we see palm tree Christmas trees decorated with lighted flamingos, and Santa wears a Hawaiian shirt and drinks fro-fro drinks with umbrellas stuck in them. Whatever your impression of the holidays -- make it in fabric! Happy stitching. -- Dawn

Monday, October 5, 2009

Creating is NOT an option for Margaret C. Wheeler: Silk fusion is her medium of choice

Margaret C. Wheeler has generously shared her process, and her work as well as her experiences that might help others grow their art. She gives an interesting and thorough intro to silk fusion. But if you're like me, its hard to take my eyes off of the photos long enough to read her story. But be strong -- its a great read. -- Dawn

(First photo: Maui Ocean #1)

Margaret C. Wheeler in her own words!

Silk fusion is the process of bonding silk fibers together to make, usually, a sheet which can then be altered to anything you want. It is very strong since silk is very strong. It is nearly impossible to tear. I make wall pieces out of it. I cut and weave strips into a sheet and then I do freeform machine stitching and finally I do lots of beading. I am always evolving so things change fast and now I am adding prints of my photographs on silk organza.

When making silk fusion you lay the fibers (very carefully) in one direction then another layer in the opposite direction. Usually one more layer is required but if you need a 4th that is up to the individual. 2 layers is the very minimum. It is laid out on plastic screening and then is sandwiched between a second screen. This is where it gets messy. You need to wet it thoroughly with water and a tiny bit of liquid soap so that it will accept the textile medium. Next you carefully sponge out the water after which you apply the textile medium. Since silk does not have barbs like wools it needs something to bond the fibers. You must not apply too much or it will be too stiff and rubbery but you must be careful not to apply it too thin or it will not stay together and when you take the screen off it will pull apart.

Next you must hang it to drip the excess "glue" and dry. Usually about eight hours to be sure it is fully dry. Then you carefully peel off each piece of screening and there is your sheet and you are just getting started.

I set up tables in the garage to do this process because I like to make larger sheets. I break apart boxes to lay under a wooden clothes rack to catch the drips. If I am working in the warm summer weather I will hang it outside between 2 trees and let it drip on the grass.

Meet Margaret C. Wheeler

I have been working in textiles since I was about 18. I started designing my own clothes for a practical reason. I was married young and had my family early and hence no money. I would make my clothes and then when I grew tired of them my mother would take them to her town about 20 miles away and sell them to her friends. I now had money to buy new fabric. My husband and I got involved in starting a summer stock theatre in NE Montana and the director figured if I could sew I could do costumes. And I could. For the next 25 years I worked in theatre as a designer and I also constructed my designs. (Photo 2: Maui Ocean 2)

There were always volunteers but I never liked their work and always had to redo it. I learned so much about fabric and what you could make it do.

We moved from Montana to Washington where I continued to work in theatre. I loved it even tho it was very hard work. We moved to eastern Washington and I decided it was time to quit and do other things. I had started weaving in 1980 and had several looms so that was going to fill my time and satisfy my creative needs. Well it didn't. I developed an allergy to wools of all kinds, mohairs, angoras you name it.

I sold some of my looms and started to make clothes again for others, spirit dolls and fabric bowls. I was on a search for my niche. I went to a regional weavers conference and happened to find a seminar (her classes were all full) by Karen Selk on silk fusion. Had no idea what it was. I had taken other classes from Karen and knew that whatever she did it would be good, understandable and memorable. I was not disappointed. I knew I had found what I was looking for.

I love everything about silk. And silk fusion gave me that without having to set up a loom which I never liked doing and was never that good at because I do not have good eye sight. Weaving has been great for me because I understand all about the single fiber and how it fits into the scheme of a beautiful finished piece. Because of weaving I had the opportunity to take classes on color, dyeing, weave structure and many other things from some of the best people in the world.

As I say on my web site " Creating is not an option; for me it is a passion; it is my life." Other than my 4 sons and 7 grandchildren and 1 great grandson there isn't anything else I get into the "zone" over. I am very passionate about travel but cant afford to go all the time and I love golf but nothing fills that inner need except my grand kids. I never get tired of creating something out of nothing.

You asked me what does my art do for me spiritually, emotionally, physically or financially. Well spiritually, and emotionally my work fills all the holes in my soul and makes me feel complete. I often wonder what it would be like to not have to "make" something and I cant imagine it. It is a blank.

Watch TV??? Never. Maybe I would walk more. Physically it can be very hard on me. Most of the time when working I forget to take a break and pay for it the next day. My hands have arthritis in them and if I bead too long it may take several days before my thumb joint stops hurting. Not to mention neck and back problems from sitting too long. (Photo 3: Maui Ocean #3.)

Financially It is a losing proposition. I never made much money in costuming and I do not make much money now. I am very lucky that my husband is a big fan and loves my work and is willing to support my needs. We have spent a lot over the years especially when I was weaving. Equipment is so expensive. I always said I should have taken up knitting instead. I have one small drawer full of enough knitting needles to do whatever anyone would want forever. So much cheaper!!! I make more money selling my weaving equipment now.

I have collected beads and things over the years to last me for a long time.

I have a 500 sq ft studio separate from the house. I have knitted scarves, made handbags, hemmed dresses, made aprons for German trachten, dyed silk scarves, you name it, in a effort to make money to help and it does in a small way. My hands are always busy. My Mother always said "Idle hand do the devils work."

But more often she said "To thine own self be true."

I think silk fusion is for the person who really likes to start from scratch but does not want to weave. Spinning then weaving your yarn are really starting from scratch. Well then you must grow the sheep. But silk fusion can satisfy that need to start from nearly nothing and create your very own piece. I admire quilting a lot but the ones done from a pattern or using a printed design that is cut and sewn on are like paint by numbers paintings to me even tho I admire the beautiful ones. Technically I do not think I could be that precise because I'm too impatient but creatively I think I can do something better. At least I have to try and my head is full. I will need to live to 200 just to do what I think of now. By then I would have even more.

Silk fusion is a technique that is for the person who has their own vision, doesn't mind being wet and sticky and a bit messy (tho nothing like felting) and making the sheet is just the beginning. Bottom line to any one who might be interested in exploring silk fusion I can only say there is nothing more beautiful than silk. (Photo 4: My Flower Garden.)

I have several things in shows right now:
  • 2 paper collages (the 2 of the dog Kelly on my website) in the NWCollage Society Fall show.
  • 1 silk fusion (Let Your Life Speak) and the Memory Book (although I had to change the cover because the feather disintegrated so I have used antique lace) in a fiber show in Sequim, WA. 
  • And last but not least I have a huge hand woven quilt 10 feet by 13 feet that I designed and sewed the pieces together. I oversaw the work of about 60 members of the Seattle Weavers Guild who wove the fabric for the squares and long strips as joiners and also emblellished 48 squares. That is being hung at the LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum in LaConner, WA. and will be there until the 27th of December. I have shown some of my silk fusion there in the past.