Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scarlett Rose Mixes Celtic and Familiar Designs to Form Fantastic!

Scarlett Rose, like skilled quilt makers through the centuries, looks at a pattern and says 'what if....' Out of that curiosity has sprung some luscious and imaginative quilts. Her 'what if' creations will jump start your own imagination of what can be achieved by a combination of traditional designs to create the unique and the utterly fantastic! Scarlett has a touch of the subversive in every stitch! -- Dawn

With my thanks to Dawn for her kind invitation, I'd like to tell everyone a little about myself and my interest in Celtic applique.

Celtic style applique has been an integral part of my quilting life for many years, ever since I bought Philomena Durcan's first book on Celtic quilts back in 1980.

Having started out as a traditional patchwork quilter, I had been looking for an applique style that I would enjoy working on and exploring. Since I discovered that the possibilities with designing Celtic interlace were endless, I was hooked!

I happen to have some genealogical connections to the British Isles, which made my interest in Celtic art a way to explore some of my own background as well. I'm also half Japanese, an influence that apparently affected my own designs from the start. My early designs combined Celtic knotwork with floral elements, blending the East with the West. My first Celtic quilt, Celtic Orchids, led to my first book, Celtic Style Floral Applique, which was published by the American Quilter's Society of Paducah, Kentucky in 1992. Although it's now out of print, my first designs are still popular and I'm thrilled to still see quilts made with those designs appearing in shows worldwide.

Celtic Orchids, 1991, (First Quilt Photograph). This quilt was my first big Celtic project. Back in 1990, I started making these blocks without any idea of how I would put them together. I was busy playing with designing the blocks themselves, enjoying the process, and only when I had the nine blocks finished, did I realize that I needed to design something for a lattice and border. The appliqued lattice is my Celtic version of the traditional pieced Garden Maze lattice.

The Celtic border came from the block designs themselves, from which I picked out elements that I liked and linked them together. This 78" square quilt is entirely hand appliqued and hand quilted. After sending it around to numerous quilt shows and entering it in competitions, I received a number of requests for the pattern. Since I'd already sold some quilt patterns to magazines, I knew I wouldn't make much from selling this design that way.

I didn't do anything about getting the quilt design published until I attended the Paducah quilt show a couple years later and took their lecture on becoming a quilt book author. I talked to their book editor after the lecture, sent in my proposal as soon as I got home and six weeks later, had a contract in hand. Besides Celtic Orchids, I designed and made a series of four wallhangings, the Celtic Medallions, for my first book.

After finishing all the work on my first book, I wanted to continue designing Celtic applique, so I ran with an idea that a quilting friend suggested and drew up some knotwork block patterns that I called Celtic Baskets. This was my way of making sort of a Baltimore style design, since that's what my friend was really into at that time. The woven basket applique block that appears as the center of many medallion style Baltimore Album quilts had interested me, but I resisted the temptation to make a traditional one, going instead for my own version.

Indian Summer, 1995, (Second Quilt Photograph). This quilt was originally meant to be the center of a larger medallion quilt, but I wasn't happy with how the center, and the border I'd partially finished, looked together. I decided to split them into two quilts. I added a simple border to Indian Summer and made a new center panel for the Celtic applique border, which became the quilt, Out of Darkness: Hope. When I wrote my second book, I included the layout for the original quilt, which I named the Nightmare Medallion, that I had intended to make instead of two quilts.

Due to the suggestions of these quilting friends who were into Baltimore Album quilts, I did my own Celtic version of that style and wrote a second book, Baskets: Celtic Style in 1995. I'd found that I liked blending Celtic with many quilting styles, as well as doing more intricate Celtic knotwork.

As I travel and teach, I enjoy seeing what quilters make from my patterns. I hadn't planned on quilting becoming my career, but it did and it has given me the opportunity to teach throughout the USA and in Japan. My website promotes my teaching and quilting, shows pictures of Celtic quilts I've come across and provides me with a homebased business that I've operated since 1998. As the Internet has grown, I've branched out into e-patterns, teaching online classes through QuiltCampus and posting on Facebook. Learning how to weave the strips over and under is the most common problem that students have. It sometimes takes a block or two to get into the rhythm of over and under, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Some of my latest Celtic patterns combine patchwork and applique, adding a Celtic touch to what would otherwise be a traditional patchwork pattern.

Knotwork Nine Patch, 2008 (Quilt Photograph 3) - This 50" square quilt was inspired by a classic patchwork design, the improved nine patch. This innovative quilt design uses simple pieced blocks combined with bias applique, instead of being pieced with difficult seams as the traditional version requires. The bias strips add the Celtic touch and allow for a contrasting color to accent the pieced blocks. My sample quilt was made from an assortment of blacks and whites which I pulled from my stash. The bias is made from an assortment of blues. There are some very pretty color combinations shown in the Gallery for this quilt, showing what students have chosen for their own quilts.

Knotwork Nine Patch and San Kamon are available as printed patterns and e-patterns.

Other new designs are more Asian, based on traditional Japanese designs that are interlaced.  San Kamon, 2009 (Fourth Quilt Photograph) This wallhanging/table runner design came from my research into Japanese family crests.

I'd found out years ago that many cultures have some kind of interlace that they use as an art form or put in some way into their art. I've collected a worldwide range of traditional designs which I could see being done with Celtic applique, using bias strips or a variation of that technique.

The three blocks in this pattern are crest designs that I thought looked good together. I asked a friend to do a hand embroidered version since embroidery has become so popular again. She backstitched the same block designs and set them together with a border fabric. I did the quilting on her top and also completed my own sample quilt. I've since added lots of hand quilting on my sample, so I'll be updating the pattern photo soon.

I have so many designs drawn up that I can't wait to see made in fabric, it makes me wish that I had unlimited time to sew! I applique by hand and machine, using different techniques depending on how I've chosen to applique. I don't baste or fuse my strips if I'm hand appliquing, but I do make the fusible bias if I'm machine stitching the strips. I usually want my machine applique to be invisible, so it looks like the block is hand appliqued. I've done some machine blanket stitching, so I like the look of a contrasting color thread stitched on the edges of bias, too. The most common problem I see with fused bias is that quilters have to realize that the strips aren't permanently attached to the background until they're stitched.

The fusible webs aren't meant to keep the bias glued down through much handling or especially washing. If you use a heavy fusible to try and make the bias stay, then you get a hard appliqued look and I personally don't like that style. The same applies to the fabric glues. Unless you wash them out after stitching, the applique will be stiff and hard looking.

At one time I hand quilted entire quilts, but I just don't have the time anymore for it. I enjoy hand quilting, so I normally do the quilting designs by hand with metallic threads, then do the background and in the ditch by machine.

I'm always willing to learn new techniques and I can't wait to see if they could be useful in making one of my own designs. You never know when something can be adapted or applied in a new way unless you try! That's how I got into researching Celtic and Celtic style knotwork, once I started seeing interlace in all kinds of unusual places.

I'm also one of those quilters, who takes the words: "you can't do that!" -- as a challenge.  This stubbornness has served me well with my quilts. For example, after making Celtic Orchids, which is done in all solid color cotton fabrics, I decided I wanted to add some sparkle to the Celtic Medallion series. I mentioned at a meeting that I was going to try putting some tricot lame in the first design and many quilters from my local guild were aghast. They were sure I would ruin my design! After they saw the finished quilt, though, no one had any objections, so I knew I was right in going my own way. I've used lame in most of my Celtic quilts, either as bias strips or insets, ever since. Now I'm quilting with metallic thread, by hand for the quilting designs in the open areas, or by machine for the decorative blanket stitching on the bias.

I've used fabrics and prints that aren't what many would think appropriate for Celtic designs, and chosen all kinds of non-cotton fabrics for my art quilts. Besides the Celtic applique that I'm best known for, I also design my own versions of traditional quilt patterns, sew up some wearable art from time to time, and make some contemporary art quilts.

I hope to do more books in the future and I will continue to explore and teach Celtic applique.


gaylenona said...

What a pleasure to see a "home girl" on this blog. I've been admiring your work locally for many years. You truly have a unique approach and your work is so full of joy.

Scarlett said...

Thank you for the kind words Gayle! It's nice to know.