Sunday, January 31, 2010

Question for the Day

When you reach for a book about quilting or fabric art, what would you like to find?

For example, do you want how-to as in how to do a new technique or how to replicate a project provided in the book?  Books like Stack n Whack or Flip Flop Piecing or Crazy Quilts etc.

Or do you prefer collections of artists and their work such as the 500 Masters series by Lark that features many of our friends and teachers?

Or perhaps a combination of how-to and eye candy? I was fond of the annual American Quilts publications that came out in the 1980s that included photos of authors, their featured quilt and some how to info.

Maybe a product discussion such as what threads to use when machine quilting or doing thread painting? Or an overall book of sewing machine use? Needle choices? Fabric discussions -- texture, color, design, even thread count and ...?
Or more internal inspiration which gets the authors/writers to explain what inspired a piece?

Or maybe various artists taking a design or technique and producing something of their own. I quickly think of the AQS book about The Ohio Star that produced an amazing assortment of quilts from Ohio Star chickens to the abstract and beyond.

Please tell me what you'd like to see in a quilt/fabric art book.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Colin Vincent, photo artist, offers a different perspective

Multi-media fiber artists are always on the look for a new perspective -- or they should be. Have you photographed your frayed jean's lately? (see below) or maybe a lampshade up close and personal? (First photo).

Colin Vincent has.

Whether trying to reproduce what you see in fabric, or snapping photos for alteration or for inspiration. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and can't seem to find anything new under the sun.

California photographer Colin Vincent, who took his photography to a professional level a decade ago, learned from talented photograhers. But he also learned by jumping in with both feet whenever an opportunity presented itself. A friend taking a helicopter to Alaska for a skiing weekend -- wanna come? You bet!

A girlfriend wants to go on a tropical vacation. The girlfriend may just be a memory, but the photos show what he learned about tropical sun and sea.

Iceland? Why not?

Artists whether photographer, writer, or fabric artist must experience life. It adds another dimension to whatever they create.

But then there are other opportunities where Colin took his camera along to an evening at Lucky's house or a quick picture of a friend or the light and shadows of an open doorway.

And don't forget the portraits. One of my favorites is of his father, Roger Vincent. Do you see the father love shining in his face among the cares and concerns the world has given him? Maybe this is Rog's best side, but it is also the face of a most interesting person. That's what a portrait must provide -- a glimpse inside of the person, not just their best side. This photo seems even more important, more meaningful after Colin said, "It was my dad who first encouraged me to really experiment with the camera."

Colin also knows his equipment. Just as a quilter knows what needle to use for applique, paper piecing, or for machine embroidery, Colin knows what lens, what light, what setting, what camera to use for each photo. He also demonstrates that a simple iPhone can deliver some inspiring and quirky and memorable photos. As we know in the quilting community, a master with a Bernina makes magic. But a master with a cheap little featherweight can also make magic.

Checkout Colin's images in the first ever iPhone exhibit. The show opens January 30, 2010 in Berkeley. I would end up taking self portraits, not able to figure out which way to aim the iPhone. But Colin demonstrates that it's in the brain, the hands, the eyes, and the sense of beauty and shape. And sometimes it is pure luck. The right combination comes together and you were there to capture it. A moment of grace.

In the above photo of a man with a robe slung over his shoulder walking toward the sun, Colin had definite goals he wanted to achieve and knows how to get what he wants. He explains: "This was an image shot for a client that manufactures high end robes. I wanted to capture the feeling of having a luxurious robe draped over your body in the warmth of the afternoon sun; to create a sense of peace and calm to associate with the robe. To achieve this image, I had the model walking slowly on the beach directly at the sun and the ocean and used a lens hood to keep my 70-200mm lens in the shadow and prevent lens flare." 

And did you ever realize your water bottle had such character?

Perhaps a few of Colin's photographs and a trip to his website will help you see the world around you a bit differently, help you tip the camera just a few inches off plumb. Or maybe you'll see what the world looks like as you look up at it. I do hope you enjoy his work as much as I have. And I haven't even included his weddings, videos and ....

Even with my little digital Kodak, I feel empowered after seeing what angle and shadow, light and yes sense-of-humor can produce.

In this last photo, Colin explains, "This image was made recently in a club. When I saw the purple lights on the black vinyl I got my long lens (70-200mm f/4) and shot wide open. This lens has image stabilization which really helps for low light shots."

Check out his website for more tips and how-tos for producing photos similar to his.

Of course, I have to include one last photo. Colin Vincent has grown up in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge so a photo collage of his work is not complete without at least one purely San Francisco image. Familiar? Yes. But reproduced here with a certain Vincent flair.

Thanks Colin for allowing me to pick and choose among your photos for this blog. -- Dawn

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Swirl of Inspiration keeps Helen Remick stitching

Helen takes Fibonacci on a joy ride in her quilts that spiral, move and shimmy, reflecting her own gleeful abandon when it comes to mathematics and material! She breaks down the how to of her quilts for us and makes it all seem so easy, of course.

I'm particularly drawn to her yoyo quilt which surprises me because I have never been a fan. But then most of the yoyo quilts I've seen were made of 1930s fabric scraps and pastels to boot. Nothing wimpy or faded about this quilt named after a real yoyo move: Forward Pass. I really like the way this quilt designer thinks.

Please welcome Helen Remick! -- Dawn

Inspiration for design can come from many sources.

On a trip to France, I found myself fascinated by staircases. I loved the dynamic of line of spiral staircases, seemingly spinning in upon themselves. In the Arc de Triomphe, I photographed the swirl up and down. The shot up, at the underside of the steps, looks a lot like the swirls on a sea conch. (See first photo) I've accumulated more staircase photos on my blog.

My online search about spirals produced a wealth of information. Many mathematicians have studied the nature of these curves and their mathematical properties, in written history beginning with the Greeks. The mathematician now most closely associated with spirals is an Italian known as Fibonacci. In 1202 he published a paper on the relationship of a series of numbers (now known as Fibonacci numbers) created by adding two numbers to create a third, adding the second and third to create a fourth: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.

If these numbers are represented geometrically, the result is a spiral of rectangles, which can be connected to make the "perfect" spiral. (See illustration)

The pattern occurs naturally in many places, including sunflowers and sea shells. Rectangles with sides the length of consecutive Fibonacci numbers were said by Greek mathematicians to be in the Golden Ratio, a concept still used in art. (source: Wikipedia) The Fibonacci numbers remain an area of interest to mathematicians: see for example the web page of the Fibonacci Association.

I found the web page of Ned May, an artist/computer whiz in Virginia. He has created the Custom Fibonacci Spiral Generator, which allows one to make spirals from any square image. I was hooked; I spent hours seeing what happened to various geometric figures and simple quilt squares.

But now I had to find a setting for the spirals.

The Museum of the American Quilters' Society (now the National Quilt Museum) New Quilts from Old Favorites contest for 2006 was Dresden plates. I set to work. After a bit of playing, I settled on a flying geese variation  (See graphic).

Ned's program produces images that will print on 8.5" x 11" paper. With this as a start, I drafted a much larger image and extended the "rays" out considerably. The result was Spinning Out Spinning In 1. (See photo of quilt) My Dresden plates are angular, and in the final design, three of the plates are spinning out of their place - or are they coming back from an adventure?

The quilt was not completed in time for the competition. Sometimes a quilt is just not ready to make its final appearance at the time of external deadlines.

To date I have incorporated spirals in six other quilts. The spirals vary in number of rays and what is "spun." Spinning Out Spinning In 4 is based on the triangle pattern. {See photo of Rose of Sharon quilt).

In Spinning Out Spinning in 5 I spun the Sawtooth pattern (See Sawtooth pattern above).

And in Burgoyne and his Spin Doctor Shade the Facts until they no longer square with the Truth, I spun the traditional Burgoyne Surrounded square. (See Burgoyne Square above). (Burgoyne also failed to make its first deadline.)

In 2008 I decided to explore yoyos, using the names of yoyo tricks as inspiration for the quilt designs. The quilt pictured at the beginning of this blog is the first in this series, Forward Pass. It features a spiral, this time of circles.

All of the quilts can be seen on my web page.

I use a variety of methods to construct the spirals, all based on the "whatever works" principle and my love of hand work: if there are two ways that might work, and one involves hand stitching, I am likely to choose the latter.

I freely mix and match methods and fabrics. In Spinning Out Spinning In 1, the spirals and Dresden plates are paper pieced. The spirals are hand appliqued to the background plates, and emphasized by hand couched perle cotton.

In Burgoyne I used Dupioni and other silk, a synthetic in the piping, nylon netting, hand and machine piecing, hand applique and fusing. Most of the circles are hand appliqued, with the smallest "squares" in the center fused. I recommend against using Dupioni for hand applique; the slubs in the fabric guarantee imperfect needle turning.

For the center portion of Spinning Out Spinning In 5 when the pieces would have been smaller than I wanted to work with, I printed the pattern on the fabric; I repeated this printed motif in an outer portion of the quilt.

Many of the quilts in my yoyo series are made with synthetics-- often sparkly. I get the sensation of making a prom dress in a more age-appropriate format. The yoyos in Forward Pass are made of sheer synthetics with cotton prints fused inside; they are hand-gathered and stitched to the background fabric. Arthritis prevents me from hand quilting any more, but I will continue with hand piecing and applique as long as I can.

A similar mix of techniques informs my design and drafting. I sketch out my designs, although usually incompletely. I start the spirals using Ned's program, but then transform them through extension and changes in size beyond what his pattern produces.

At some point, most designs end up in an actual size paper rendition. I change the resulting designs freely. Even though I have no formal training in art or drafting, I like the feel of putting pencil on paper. Recently I have been doing more design work on the computer; this was necessary, for example, to do the fabric printing on Spinning Out Spinning In 5.

I had to retire before I had enough time to learn the basics of Illustrator software. Now I just need to practice, practice, practice. Hmm, that is the same answer for improving my machine quilting.

As I look back on my work, I see clearly that I work in overlapping series almost like a musical fugue or jazz riff. My first quilts are red, black and white -- as is my first spiral quilt. Magenta - green makes an appearance in spirals and comes back in yoyos. The first yoyo quilt includes a spiral. Orange and blue are added to the mix. A favorite Islamic design forming stars with four, five, six, seven and eight points is about to make a reappearance in a yoyo quilt.

The animals in Walking the Dog are getting ready for a starring role in Raining Cats and Dogs (here's a sneak preview of their performance). (See last photo)

I know that spirals will continue to find a place in my quilts, I just never know when.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alliance for American Quilts news and events

The nonprofit Alliance for American Quilts will host Connected by Threads on Thursday, March 4, 2010 in Washington D.C. This event is actually a twofer. Two fundraising events in one.

Kicking off this one-of-a-kind event is the always fascinating Carolyn Mazloomi. Most of you will have seen her work, read her books, or been awed by her vast knowledge of quilt history. She's presenting an afternoon lecture titled "From the Country to the City: An Aesthetic Survey of African American Quilts." Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network, will also reveal quilts from her collection. The lecture and tea reception will be held from 4:00 p.m - 6:00 p.m at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives at 1201 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC.

The evening component of "Connected by Threads" honors longtime board member Le Rowell, an independent curator and lecturer on quilts and diplomacy. Rowell's lecture is titled "Quilt Diplomacy Connecting People." Many of Rowell's quilts will be exhibited. Mazloomi will also make remarks at the dinner, and a brief overview of the work of the Alliance for American Quilts will be shared. The dinner, lecture and a silent auction of quilts and quilt-related items will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the DACOR Bacon House, located at 1801 F Street, NW, Washington, DC.

"Connected by Threads" is sponsored by Lisa Ellis of the Sacred Threads Exhibit and maker of Art Call, the on-line artist registration, jurying and exhibit administration system,, and the Rowell Family Charities. The duel events will benefit the nonprofit AAQ, a national organization that documents, preserves and shares the rich history of quilts and quiltmakers.

Also on exhibit at the Sumner School during this event is "Legacies in Fabric: The Heritage of Quilting and Quilters," by the Daughters of Dorcas and Sons, a DC-area quilting group formed in the 1970's. Twenty members of the Daughters of Dorcas and Sons have been interviewed for the AAQ's grassroots oral history project, Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories,

Individual tickets are $17 for AAQ members and $20 for non-members for Mazloomi's lecture. Individual tickets for the dinner are $75 for AAQ members and $90 for non-members. Table reservations are also available. A combined ticket to both events is $85 for AAQ members and $100 for nonmembers. For complete information and online ticket sales, visit the AAQ website.

In other AAQ news. Many of you will be disappointed to know that Karen Musgraves, long time volunteer and primary interviewer and instigator of the S.O.S. project has stepped back and is taking a hiatus from her responsibilities at AAQ. I will NOT say that Karen has left the building because I want her back! But for now she has placed the reins of the S.O.S project in other capable hands. Sorry, I don't know who will be heading that up.

And of course the 2010 New from Old contest. I've blogged before about the AAQ contest. Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Imagination brought to life through applique, altered photos and Sally Papin's skill

Sally Papin sees such beautiful colors in her meticulous world of applique. And when she includes altered photography in her work her imagination goes wild. Fortunate for us, she's a talented artist who can create whatever pops into her brain. I'm so pleased to present Sally and her imaginative, creative, beautifully stitched quilts. She proves that fabric art can be fun and whimsical and filled with fantasy without being childish. She creates a different world that is fun to visit! -- Dawn

Thank you Dawn for the lovely invitation to be among such a group of wonderful artists.

I come to quilting from a spinning and weaving background. I fell in love with wool and silk, dying, blending, spinning and creating great yarns for knitting and weaving. As time progressed I switched over to fabric and quilting where I have dabbled in different quilting applications.

I did not start quilting traditional style quilts. Instead, I jumped right into free style quilts where I could use my photography as a template tool, giving my craft its own identity. Searching out fabrics always seems to present the hardest challenge and this year I have taken the News Year Resolution to finally get busy and hand dye some fabrics. I fear that might become its own obsession, as I look back on dying wool and silk!

My favorite quilt to date is a combination of a pattern called Circle Play and altered photos – it’s the quilt banner on my blog.

It was the first time I ever used the fabric in the printer. The blocks also have some lovely old looking upholstery fabric giving tapestry effect. There is nothing special about the pattern itself but the way the old world prints which I altered in Photoshop interacted with the fabrics made it really rich and truly old world looking.

In the last couple years I have worked on some interesting pieces using altered photos. This really opened up lots of ideas for me. But I have limited printer capabilities and feel restricted with the price of ink so my ideas have now gone beyond this to more of a watercolor painting on whole cloth then quilting. This is however a 2010 leap of faith that my ideas will please my friends and myself.

I have finished a few complicated appliqué quilts and I have tried all the methods of templates, glue sticks, as in Birds of Paradise, and I have come to the conclusion that I prefer using just needle turn with some aid of toothpicks and a hint of nail polish for those light woven fabrics.

I love the batik fabrics – they are my favorites of all time, and the Fossil Fern fabrics are a close 2nd. They are light woven fabric but have such an incredible array of color that they fit into many of my quilts.

I like to use embroidery floss to outline some of my quilted pieces but I don’t use the floss for the needle turn, I go back and outline after I am done as I have done in ToadBoy, and the Beasts.

The Toad Boy pattern is from Susane Marshall's book and the one I call the Beasts is a replica of her And Dragons Too - no pattern, I just sketched it and created it because I loved it so much. The Birds of Paradise is an old pattern from Pat Campbell, and My Cats Garden is an old pattern 1999, from Maggie Walker. I just have updated them with a new more vibrant looks. Without these ladies "over the top" gorgious applique patterns and ideas I might have overlooked the wild and wonderful whimsey applique holds without it becoming too silly and childish. I am really drawn to these difficult pieces but have found that I bail and dont finish quilts with repetition.

The end of 2009 I began a blog – and wanted to devote it to just my fabric art. So far it’s been very rewarding and it keeps me focused. It’s been fun sharing and teaching what I do with friends via the web, reviving patterns and ideas.

My Cats Garden, as I mentioned was produced from an old 1999 pattern. It really came to life with the availability of some of the new texture fabrics and batiks. I have wanted to do this quilt for a long time and I don’t even have a cat!

What I enjoyed about finishing it was to see how the background blocks of different colors and sizes gave a lot of shading to the whole quilt and helps keeps the eye moving giving it a place to rest.

I hope you will enjoy my blog and visit often, 2010 should be magical.

Sally Papin

Photos: 1. Roberto (detail from Bird of Paradise). 2. Appliqued Bird of Paradise 3. Circle Play (altered photographs) 4. ToadBoy 5. Detail of ToadBoy 5. Beasts from And Dragons Too detail 6. My Cat Garden

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Call for 'Hearts'

Let's share our hearts with one another!

I'm compiling material for a 'heart' blog entry or entries and am asking you to contact me if you have a heart project you'd like to add to the blog. Maybe something you have made that is particularly dear to your heart or of which you're especially proud. Or may be a heart that always makes you smile or laugh or cry or....

I'd like to bring as many projects as I can of all of yours to share with each other. The heart shown here is the 'heart' of Linda Cooper's unique kinetic quilt.

So, please send me an email, a photo, and let me know what you'd like to include in a blog that will be published -- of course -- the week of Valentine's Day! February 14.

Projects need to involved needles. They can be embroidered, knit, crocheted, tatted, quilted.... Well, you get the idea.

How do I heart thee, let me count the ways....
Thanks and I look forward to see what hearts you! -- Dawn

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jean M. Judd asks the controversial question: Art Quilt or Quilt Art?

Jean Judd, who is spending a few days in sunny Arizona for the Mesa Contemporary Art Exhibition, was amazed when I commented that I found it refreshing the way she uses traditional patterns in her art quilts. My words pressed on a sore spot, a point of controversy in that no man's land between art quilts and traditional quilts. For me, her quilts are the best of both worlds. Thank you Jean for guest blogging. You are definitely a Subversive Stitcher: Armed with Needles!

Pictured here are her Choir of Angels, Photo 2. Wyoming Valley #2, and Photo 3. International Harvester quilts -- Dawn

By Jean M. Judd, Textile Artist

Since 1991 I have been making textile artwork focusing on incorporating traditional quilt blocks and techniques, into quilts that really are quilt art according to viewers and collectors alike. Many of my pieces have been juried into both fine art exhibitions as well as traditional and art quilt shows.

In 1998, I read the book “Surprising Designs from Traditional Quilt Blocks” by Carole Fure. This is not a pattern book or technique book, but a way of looking at complex traditional quilt blocks and discovering the unlimited design possibilities using just one block in a quilt. It really was a turning point for me in how I looked at making my art quilts.

The first result of this discovery was Choir of Angels Tapestry Quilt (81”x81”). I started this piece in March of 1998 and didn’t complete it until 2005. The quilt was designed from the center, out to the final binding. The block that I used was the Wyoming Valley block originally designed for the Nancy Cabot series in the Chicago Tribune newspaper in the 1930s. The block had 65 pieces consisting of triangles and squares.

The quilt is heavily hand quilted and was juried into the 2006 Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibition at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Albany, New York. The quilt won the Catherine Hastedt Award for Hand Workmanship and was featured in some of their newspaper articles.

Other judged quilt shows that it has been entered in, have brought mixed results. At NQA’s show in Columbus, OH the same year, the judge’s comments were that it was in the wrong category as it wasn’t traditional. The World Quilt competition in 2007, the piece was entered in the Innovative/Contemporary category and the judge said it belonged in the Traditional category. This is where I started to decide that it was all subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on what is considered traditional quilts and what is an art quilt. Now I refer to all of my work as textile artwork and let the viewers’ decide.

Subsequent quilts made using the Wyoming Valley block, turned out very differently in design from the Choir of Angels Tapestry piece. Wyoming Valley #2 (108”x108”) was started in February of 2002 using commercial sports fabrics for the focus fabric. The center of the Wyoming Valley block was used as the focal point when designing this quilt.

This quilt, Wyoming Valley #4, was designed from the center out and uses a very unusual bright orange. Each section used a different sport fabric and the edges of each block were designed to make the background work as a receding border. This piece is also hand quilted and was finished in March of 2003. The Wyoming Valley block is used in a regular orientation here.
In Choir of Angels Tapestry, the block orientation is on point Wyoming Valley #4 (93”x81”) was started in 2003 and completed in 2006. The International Harvester emblem design was used with permission of the company. This time when using the Wyoming Valley block, I concentrated more on what happened at the block joining and made multiple borders appear. The center square of the block isn’t the focal point in this design.

Wyoming Valley #4 was juried into the AQS show in Nashville, TN in 2007, and the owner was amendable to letting me have the quilt back in order to send it to Nashville for display. This quilt is on the owners’ bed during the winter months, and then is displayed in the great room on the wall during the summer. It is a great way to be able to use a large quilt all year around, and for it to fulfill both its roles as bed quilt and artwork.

Many of my clients are looking for large quilts to fill huge wall spaces and they want them to still retain the aspects of a traditional quilt. They are very interested in the unique textures created by the hand quilting and the unusual designs I use in the hand stitching.

I have 2 more commissions for textile artworks using this quilt block. They will both be 101”x101”. The first one is already pieced and ready for hand quilting. This one, Wyoming Valley #6, looks nothing like the preceding quilts. It is always exciting to see what will come about in the design process. When it is completed, it will be featured on my web site. You can see detail images of the featured quilts there as well.

Thank you to Dawn for asking me to be a guest writer on her wonderful blog, Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. There are some very talented trailblazers featured here and more to come, I’m sure. Continued Success, Dawn!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Worthy and Respected Contests and Charity Projects

Alliance for American Quilts unveils it's 2010 Contest

The nonprofit Alliance for American Quilts has just announced the theme of its 2010 quilt contest, "New From Old." This will be the fourth annual contest for the organization, whose mission is to document, preserve, and share the stories of quilts and their makers.

Here are the major details:

Quilt size: 16" square

Deadline: May 31, 2010

Grand Prize: Handi Quilter HQ Sixteen Quilting Machine for Sit-Down Use

As in previous contests, the Alliance encourages a free interpretation of the contest theme. "New From Old" could refer to a new quilt made from a traditional pattern or a quilt made from vintage fabric or fragments of an old quilt. The theme also might be interpreted personally or metaphorically, depicting anything or anybody who has been re-invented and/or re-imagined. Be playful!

The top prize, valued at $5,000, is a major prize, especially for producing such a small quilt. The other prizes are also noteworthy, and include a huge gift basket filled with goodies from sponsors including TQS, Moda, and Simplicity Creative Group. Second prize is Electric Quilt software, and third is a basket with items from sponsors including River Silks and C and T Publishing. Learn more about the prizes and contest here. From there, you can click on the contest page and download an entry form. Contest quilts become the property of the Alliance, which will auction them off on eBay next fall.

There are many benefits to entering, even if you don't win a prize. Not only are all contest quilts displayed on the AAQ website, but they will be touring to several major quilt shows, including the NQA (National Quilting Association) Annual Quilt Show in June and the AQS (American Quilter's Society) Show & Contest in Knoxville, TN in July. After the contest, all entries will be exhibited permanently on the Quilt Index, a much-lauded database of 50,000 quilts run by the Alliance in cooperation with Michigan State University.

In addition to knowing that your quilt will be preserved for the future, you'll be helping to preserve and grow a dynamic, educational, and inspirational organization for everyone who loves quilts.

Other fundraisers to consider:

Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS

Please give the gift of a quilt to warm the life, the heart and the lap of an ALS patient, and help raise awareness and research money for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. To be a part of the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge - Simply fill out your entry form and donate your quilts today.

Your donated quilts will be given to an ALS patient or used to raise awareness and research money for ALS by being photographed, displayed, auctioned, or raffled.

In addition to contributing your quilt to a wonderful cause - ALL donated quilts are eligible to win exciting and wonderful prizes. Our list of generous sponsors, categories and great prizes is growing!

Hopes and Dreams is a non-juried quilt challenge. All donated quilts will be entered into general prize drawings plus there are incredible prizes recognizing the most generous quilter, quilt shop, professional quilter and guild. Special prize categories for theme quilts and 'most popular' quilts.

For the comfort of the patient, we request that quilted or tied quilts be a minimum of 35" x 44". Lap and Bed size quilts of all sizes are welcomed. We look forward to you joining us in this unique quilting event - the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS.

Photo: Quilt donated by California quilt artist Jane Herlihy.

Tote Tuesday: Fiber Arts for a Cause
hosted by Virginia Spiegel

ToteTuesday, a Fiberart For A Cause fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will open Tuesday, February 2 and continue through March.

ToteTuesday will feature themed totes filled with unique, beautiful, and inspiring items from the worlds of fiber arts, knitting, art quilting, mixed media and surface design.

You can expect totes offering original artwork, autographed books, hand-dyed fabrics, gorgeous yarns, handmade journals, fun and useful materials/tools for mixed-media and surface design, and much, much more.

A list of the twenty-four themed totes now in progress is at Virginia's website

ToteTuesday will take place Tuesdays in February and March here.
100% of the proceeds will be donated directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. Fiberart For A Cause has already donated over $190,000 to the ACS:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Kathy York frequently asks, "Why?" and then "Why NOT?"

The name Kathy York is becoming forever linked with fabric art described as 'extraordinary' and 'unique' and of course 'awesome' and 'beautiful.'  Her work also receives awards accompanied by the question 'wherever did she get that idea?'

Kathy asks a bit different question and takes a few minutes here to share some insight into her rich art  and embold us with her infectious energy and sense of humor. 

Along the way we get the idea that whatever we can imagine -- we can do.... Dawn

From time to time, I will get a wild hair of an idea for a quilt, usually one that is huge in scale. Unfortunately once it takes hold, it is hard to shake loose. I frequently want to kick myself for taking on such a monstrous project.

Oh WHY did I get THAT idea????

I have heard the perspective that who cares how long it will take. The time will just pass anyway, whether you do it or not. So, why not just do it?

The first really big project was Little Cities. [First photo]

It started out as a bit of a joke. I made a tiny little log cabin block, 1” in size, and a big log cabin block, about 15” in size. I wanted to try to make a quilt out of very different sized blocks. I took the blocks to my quilting bee and announced my intentions. My friends looked at me with surprise and incredulity. I didn't have any idea of what I was doing, but had a palette of colors selected and I was just itching to get started. I knew that I was ready to revisit the log cabin block and that it needed to be BIG, as it was for my king sized bed.

I had many false starts on the project, including altering the color palette to include some warm colors. I learned a lot about color values while making the blocks. I also learned to paint dots on fabric to alter the values. That's when I had the idea to put the little 1/2” satin stitched circles in 1” blocks. The more I made, the better it looked. Then I realized how many I would need to make the vision a reality. It was overwhelming to say the least and I got that need to kick myself again.

Something made me do it anyway.

Maybe it was persistence, maybe it was a need to prove something, maybe it was just obsessive? But, when I finished the quilt (2 years later) and stepped back to look at it, it was so incredibly satisfying. I was really pleased with it and proud.

Then it won a first place award in Houston and I realized that other people liked it too!
This is when I realized that my art is bigger than myself. It affects other people and that is a great, great feeling!

And I don't remember now why I needed to make 3D fish, and embellish them with beaded costumes swimming in patterns like synchronized swimmers, but on about the 200th fish, I started asking myself the same old question, why? Why so many fish?

(There are over 400 of them on the quilt.)

Why did they have to be three dimensional? Just because.....

[Photo: Synchronized Swimming: 51" x 51" $5000 This is a whole cloth quilt. You could call it shibori, but I called it tie-dye. I tie-dyed it and then over dyed it with another set of circles. Because I was experimenting, I decided to make two identical or nearly identical large pieces and used the second piece for the back. The fish are made from almost all commercial fabrics. They are 3 dimensional, stuffed, quilted, embellished and are fitted with copper wire on the inside to make them 'bendy fish'. They have copper wire pectoral fins, painted eyes, no mouths. Each set needed it's own original costumes, so I went to town decorating them. It was a fun project. Not all the fish can be seen in their entirities because some of them are diving below the surface so only their tales show. Others are just coming up to the surface, so you can only see their heads. The blue masks for the fish in the circle on the left were each custom fitted for each fish and made from a collapsed mondo play ball. See Kathy's blog for more detail.

Fast forward to the present.

I begin to see a theme emerge, 3D fish in a 3D city world, and you have Little Fish in a Big City. [See photo. 60x60-inches]

I had the idea for a futuristic city partially submerged by the rising sea levels of global warming. The fish would be the taxis. I already knew how to make the fish, but the buildings were new. And I had no idea if they would stand out properly or sag. In fact, I made all the buildings before sewing them on to the quilt without knowing the answer to that question.

The answer turned out to be that most of the buildings did great, perfect! Some of the tall ones had their issues and I had to resort to some rather elaborate problem solving, but eventually all were whipped into shape.

And looking at all those buildings (whose fabrics were all created with batik, bleach discharge, and over dyeing), and all the fish (whose fabric was a screen printed thickened dye), and the quilt (all hand batiked fabrics, densely hand and machine quilted) probably know EXACTLY what I was asking myself about half way through!

A small comfort, but at least now I know the reason I am an artist.

I get ideas, and I take risks!

Note: Little Fish in a Big City was Kathy's Quilt National 2009 entry.

Little Fish is all about global warming and the where will I fit in? Sea levels rising, engulfing cities, the new transportation, fish carrying all the people. Look closely at the bottom right corner for the little fish for whom the quilt was named. This quilt is dedicated to environmental refugees everywhere.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Charity of 2010: Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS

You probably know of my interest in finding a cure for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. My husband and many members of his family are victims of this neuromuscular disease. We are not alone in this struggle that always, ALWAYS, ends in death. There is no treatment. There is no cure.



Kathy Thompson, CEO of Quilters Dream Batting Company, is fighting for a cure for her son who was striken shortly after the birth of his own son. Kathy has connections, a network, and money. Her project is making a difference. But even with all the tools she has in her arsenal, she cannot succeed alone. So I hope you will all consider getting involved with this project.

I think many of you have voiced how much you like the batting, well, now's a chance to use it (or any batting of your choice) to make a quilt to raise funds for ALS research or provide comfort for an ALS patient.

Barbara Bierangel from Kailua Kona, Hawaii donated this intricate quilt in memory of her father, Henry Luhning of Minnesota, who passed away from ALS. She writes that "it was a learning experience for the family to see this man who was always so able bodied lose his ability. His love of fishing was kept alive because a couple of younger men would take him out fishing even though they had to carry him into the boat." Barbara sends her warmest hugs along with this wonderful quilt.

Here's how Kathy describes the project:

Please give the gift of a quilt to warm the life, the heart and the lap of an ALS patient, and help raise awareness and research money for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. To be a part of the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge - Simply fill out your entry form and donate your quilts today.

Your donated quilts will be given to an ALS patient or used to raise awareness and research money for ALS by being photographed, displayed, auctioned, or raffled.

In addition to contributing your quilt to a wonderful cause - ALL donated quilts are eligible to win exciting and wonderful prizes. Our list of generous sponsors, categories and great prizes is growing!

Hopes and Dreams is a non-juried quilt challenge. All donated quilts will be entered into general prize drawings plus there are incredible prizes recognizing the most generous quilter, quilt shop, professional quilter and guild. Special prize categories for theme quilts and 'most popular' quilts.

For the comfort of the patient, we request that quilted or tied quilts be a minimum of 35" x 44". Lap and Bed size quilts of all sizes are welcomed. We look forward to you joining us in this unique quilting event - the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS.
Kathy also writes a letter describing her personal affiliation with ALS:

Two years ago, at the age of 32, my wonderful son, Josh, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). In two years, the disease has taken Josh from a strong, happy, athletic young husband and new father to being completely paralyzed – unable to eat, speak, or move. He is on life support. To say his diagnosis and this experience have been devastating is a true understatement. It was shocking to learn that a disease that was discovered well over 100 years ago has absolutely no treatment or help available. Scientists still do not know the cause and do not understand the cascade of damage.

At first we thought ALS was rare, but it is the most common neurological disorder. Every 90 minutes an America is diagnosed with ALS, and every 90 minutes an American dies of ALS. Complete paralysis (referred to as a “Glass Coffin”) and death are so rapid that the there is very little interest in research for ALS – as it is not deemed profitable. Most ALS patients become paralyzed and die within 6 months to 5 years of being diagnosed. For an unknown reason, more and more young people are getting ALS. The US military has also been particularly hard hit and ALS is now considered part of the Gulf War Syndrome. Today there is an estimate 35,000 to 50,000+ Americans living and dying from ALS.

Still reeling from the shock and desperation of my son’s diagnosis and the terrible losses and heartbreak that he has experienced, our family decided that the best way we can honor Josh and other devastated families is to help raise awareness, help raise money for research, and reach out to help underserved ALS patients.

Sponsoring a quilt donation program and quilt contest is something I feel very strongly about. When I contacted the Virginia director of the ALS Association, she was thrilled (coincidentally she is an avid quilter!) We are hopeful that the “Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge” will soon be an important annual event in an effort to help raise awareness, warm the hearts and laps of suffering and forgotten ALS patients, and raise research money along the way.


Kathy Thompson (Josh’s Mom)

(The pink and diamond quilt shown above was made by Nancy Hinds. The first quilt shown here was donated from Terry Albers of Hedgehog Quilts, Greenbay, WI. Hedgehog Quilts also sent patterns of this quilt for a lucky prize winner.)

For more about Josh and their fight for a cure, there is a New York Times article that fills in alot of the information. Also, Kathy has also successfully raised $$$ for ALS research through the annual Walk to Defeat ALS. She's a natural at this fundraising business, but she can't do it alone.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Elizabeth Barton: The Artist To Whom Other Artists Turn

Practice Comes Before Impractice!

It has been said that great artists break the rules. However, the reverse is not true!!

“All great artists break the rules, therefore breaking the rules will lead to great art!!”

Yeah!!! If only! Illogic does not rule however much the spin doctors would like it to!

I think if you look at many forms of art what you’ll see is that (apart from a few amazing geniuses, usually born to genius families and occurring about once in a hundred years!) really good artists have all spent a lot of time learning the basics of their profession. Once they know the theory and the techniques so well that they have become second nature, then they can begin to bend things a little to make a particular point.

Take for example, Rubenstein’s playing of the Chopin nocturnes (wonderful music – I’ve worn out 3 copies!!) – if you actually sit with the music as he plays, you’ll see he takes all kinds of liberties with the timing. This is because he knew Chopin’s music so well, and the spirit of the music, and also the requirements of the playing of the music that he knew just exactly how much torque and rubato he could use to bring out the sweet melancholy of a particular phrase.

Because an athlete understands the mechanics and physics of a particular movement through excellent and lengthy training and repeated experiences, then he can explore a different way of accomplishing the same feat.

Because the painter knows what it necessary to make a painting effective and endlessly intriguing, then he can bend those “artistic guidelines” in the interest of expressing a particular idea.

For example, it’s generally accepted that the most important areas of a 2D visual piece be somewhere around an invisible line about 2/3 from one border and 1/3 from another – the so-called golden area not slap bang in the middle, and not on the edge.

But, if you wanted to make a piece about feeling like a target, then you might want to put yourself right in the middle of the piece…you would know that that might lead to viewers not seeing anything else in the piece and you would know strategies to overcome that.

On the other hand you might be feeling as if you were right on the edge, almost disappearing – in which case you could put yourself right on the border – just creeping in…or walking out (depending on your theme!)…and again you would know how to compensate for the lack of balance such a composition might have. You would be using your knowledge and experience to enable you to go against some of the accepted guidelines to further your main idea.

So!!! Don’t break the rules thinking that might make you into a great artist!!

Break the rules when you’ve become a competent and experienced artist! And then you might become a great artist.

And, if you have been [breaking rules willy nilly] thanks for reading!! And if you’d like to read more of my wanderings please check out my blog:  my quilts can be seen at

Thank you!

PS:  The piece at the top is Remembered Lines currently touring with Quilt National ’09 and is my 14th black and white piece…practice, practice, practice!  Remembered Lines (69"w, 41"h) is currently touring with QN '09, (black and white)

The piece in the middle,  Red Shift 5, was my 7th attempt at working with red. Red ShiftShift 5 (25"w, 36"h), is in a private collection in London, UK.

The third piece, Petergate, was my 25th street scene!  Petergate (37"w, 53"h), is available for purchase ($2000).

Elizabeth's name seemed to always surface in just about any conversation between quilting artists. One would say, "I learned this from Elizabeth Barton" or another would say, "Go and see what Elizabeth has to say on that topic." She is the artist that other artists look to for example and experience and answers. One look at her work and her success shows that she has definitely learned the art of fabric and is now more than qualified to break the rules. But even Elizabeth Barton may not get it right the first time -- but look what she's learned from -- oh dare I call them mistakes?

Thanks Elizabeth for your hard work, beautiful art and for joining us Subversive Stitchers in this promising new year! Needles raised! Salute! -- Dawn