Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strolling Down the Paper Piecing Path with Carol Doak

I became a fan of Carol's when I watched her on The Quilt Show online and saw her dedication to accuracy and simplifying the process. Her book Simply Sensational 9-Patch Stars turned my pathetic attempts to piece a quilt into a startling success when I followed her thorough and easy to follow step-by-step directions. For someone whose points never came out pointy or whose seams never aligned Carol's instructions and paper piecing in general seemed miraculous!

I do hope you'll welcome Carol. She has a great sense of humor and unlimited patience. Mega talent, too! I attribute her single handedly with turning me into a happy and content, frustration free 'accurate' quilt maker. -- Dawn

Photo of quilt Scrap Stars mini pattern available on Carol's website. Size 12 1/2 x 12 1/2-inches.  

by Carol Doak

When I embarked down the paper-pieced blocks path 15 years ago, I had no clue this concept would consume me for years and years to come.

I actually wrote about this method of creating patchwork on a paper foundation in a magazine article about that time. I wrote that when you approach what you normally do from a new perspective, you would come up with new ideas. I had no clue I would write 14 books on this subject.

I had no idea this method would become a staple in the quilting community. You only need to pick up the latest magazine and see paper-pieced patterns to confirm this. So why did that happen? Upon reflection, it was actually several paths merging that caught my attention and others' and held it.
First, I am a quilt teacher and being able to teach others how to succeed at perfect patchwork easily was a no-brainer!

Paper piecing is a method, not an acquired skill, so someone who has never created patchwork can succeed with this method. I think the old adage; "Nothing succeeds like success" is the reason people love paper piecing. Once you learn how to do this technique properly, you can always count on a successful completed project. (See 2nd photo from Carol's book of 300 Paper-Pieced Quilt Blocks) 

When people do not learn the proper way to paper piece, they do run into stressful situations like not having cut the correct size fabric piece or they place it incorrectly. With just a bit of time invested to learn how to paper piece, you can count on success every time! When I teach a class, I can have students who have never paper-pieced achieve the same success as those who have because it is a method.

Second, I am a designer. Being able to design innovative and dramatic blocks and quilts featuring this method offers excitement. There are constraints with paper piecing such as the requirement to sew in a sequence covering preceding intersecting seams, but the challenge can also offer creative solutions such as making units and mixing and matching them. Because accuracy is so easily achieved, the designs I can create using this method can be so dramatic. They can possess those long narrow dramatic points with multiple merging seams, but the method to create them is easy! We all love easy! (Photo 3 features a quilt Carol made using blocks from her 50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars book)
Third, I am somewhat of an organizer. I love creating an organized sequence for my work as well as my designs. I create cutting lists for the fabric pieces; pre-cut them into strips and then pieces. The pieces are labeled with the location numbers and set on a tray to take to the sewing machine. The blocks are assembly line sewn so the work goes quickly and each step is consistent. I don't like surprises!

Now, when you have a winner, it pays to explore all the options. This wonderful method has taken me from small blocks and quilts like those in Easy Machine Paper Piecing and 300 Paper-Pieced Quilt Blocks. It has taken me to larger blocks like the Simply Sensational 9-Patch Stars, Mariner's Compass Stars and 50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars. I have even made fun miniatures quilts like those in Easy Paper-Pieced Miniatures and incorporated blocks in vests like those in Easy Reversible Vests. (Photo 4: Royal Medallion Quilt from the Mariner's Compass Stars book featuring the England block)

Now, I don't believe I have reached the end of the path with this fun and accurate technique. I am just looking around the corner to see where it will lead me next.

Check out Carol Doak's website and Yahoo group.

(Last photo: 9 Patch Sampler Quilt featuring some of the state star blocks in Simply Sensational 9-Patch Stars.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preserving the Past -- the Alta Vida La Veta Project -- by Judith Baker Montano

Judith Baker Montano -- a colorful fabric artist in more ways than one -- shares her life, her loves, her home and most of all her art and techniques with us. Generous hardly describes how much she is willing to share in information, time, and techniques. Simpy looking at her creations, such as this block from her exquisite celebration of her home town not only inspires our own creativity but encourages us to also capture the essences and history of our surroundings in cloth.

Thank you Judith for joining us here at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles! -- Dawn

The Alta Vida La Veta Project…..
by Judith Baker Montano

I live in a very small southern Colorado town with the population of 954! It is a historical mining town that over the years has become home to many writers, artists, musicians, aging hippies, cranky old ranchers and those forever outsiders, the summer people!

La Veta is nestled in the cleavage (valley) of the Wahatoya Mountains. This town has an addictive charm that draws people in. I speak from experience when I say…. If you come for a day you want to stay a week, if you come for a week you want to stay a month and if that ever happens…you are captured and La Veta becomes your home!!! (See Photo of La Veta, with the Wahatoya Mountains in the background.)

I have been returning to the La Veta area since 1968. My eccentric Aunt Ora, a retired professor, living in Trinidad, Colorado convinced my parents there was a fabulous journalism department at the Junior College, but that is a whole other story about a homesick Canadian ranch girl in the high sierra of southwest Colorado, working on the school newspaper and striking up lifelong friendships.

On the 1994 annual trip to Trinidad, I stopped in La Veta just to look around. I fell in love with an abandoned 1876 cottage. With the first royalty check from “The Art Of Silk Ribbon Embroidery,” I purchased the property and became the proud owner of four town lots, an uninhabitable cottage with a twenty-five year old trailer in the back yard!!
(See Photo 2)
Six months later, during a weekend stay to clean out the old trailer, I went to a local dance and met my husband Ernest Shealy!!

Ernest’s family had been returning to La Veta for over 35 years. I had been single for eleven years with two children in university and Ernest had lost his wife of 25 years to breast cancer. He came to visit friends and relatives and the rest is history.

La Veta has been very good to me!

For many years we lived between three locations but the novelty of that wore off in less than a year!! I had to have one home only! With my work I was travelling half the year and the shuffle between homes was overwhelming. Ernest and I both share a great love for southern Colorado so we chose La Veta as our permanent home. (Photo 3: Judith and Ernest on porch of their LaVeta home)

We were determined to save the old cottage (The Old Carver Place: Photo 4) and started the restoration in 1999. I wanted to honour the history of the property by restoring the yard and the buildings to their original beauty.

The original owners of the cottage were the Carver’s, a big ranching family in the La Veta area. One branch of the family moved to town and built the cottage, sheds and barn. The yard was given over to a large vegetable garden and 35 fruit trees plus several perennial flowerbeds. The big barn (torn down long ago) in the back yard housed horses, chickens, pigs and a dairy cow…

Mrs. Carver taught piano lessons in the front parlour and Mr. Carver did odd jobs about town. They were very limited in finances and the cottage never did receive a lot of attention. (Photo 5 of property in June, 2007)

In 2001 I met the Carver children, by then in their late eighties and they were able to show me the layout of the gardens and where the barn had been. They were in tears to think that someone wanted to save their childhood home.

Today we live in the cottage surrounded by huge perennial gardens, old apple trees, a garden shed/office and a beautiful studio/guesthouse. It is like paradise in a compound!!! We have saved the old Carver Place. (Photo 6: Judith's home, photo take July, 2009)

It is a joy to see the surprise in people’s face when they walk through the rose arbour. The cottage now sits proudly clad in yellow paint with white and teal trim. A rose purple band runs around just under the eaves. Australian fretwork decorates the porches and every window is topped with Australian awnings.

(Photo: Office Garden Shed in June)

(Photo: Studio in July 2009)

(Photo: Studio Porch in Sept. 2008)

Have you ever looked around and noticed that progress has changed the look and feel of your community? Old buildings have been torn down, some have been upgraded and new buildings have changed the look and feel of your surroundings. You suddenly realize that you’re homesick for the way things were.

(Photo: Old Adobe Shed)  This happened to me several years ago when I was on my way to the hardware store. There was an old adobe shed that I liked to photograph but on this day it was gone, replaced by a nondescript plastic shed! It was such a shock that it galvanized me into action. So began the “Alta Vida La Veta” project.

The very next day I was with my camera to prowl up and down the alleys looking for old sheds and barns. Over the next two years I was able to photograph all the old houses, sheds and barns. With my photo collection complete I contacted several old timers to research the history of the buildings. That was a wonderful experience because I learned so much about my town and met so many interesting people.

I was not satisfied with just photographs and chose sixty for watercolour paintings.

Using Photoshop for colour correction, sizing photographs and creating traces, I painted the watercolours over a three-month period. You can find the whole process, from photography to watercolour painting in my new book “Fibreart Montage: Combining Quilting, Embroidery & Photography With Embellishments”

Each step is carefully depicted in diagrams, photographs and easy to understand instructions.

Once I finished the watercolours, I scanned them into my computer. Each painting was sized to 4” x 6”, 5” x 7”, and 8” x 10”. That way I could use them for greeting cards or prints. I could also use them for creating silk prints for crazy quilting, landscapes or embroidery.

I use silk fabric that comes in 8.5” x 11” sheets. The silk is adhered to removable paper and I use my bubble jet printer with archival inks for printing. I purchase Jacquard silk fabric sheets from Dick Blick Art Materials for the best price. You can also purchase organza and cotton fabric sheets for printing.

Knowing I could not save every old building in my beloved town I know I could create a record through my photographs and my watercolour paintings. I even created a book through Snapfish and gave it as gifts to our local Library, the La Veta Historical Society, friends and family.

(Photo: from book)

That same year I designed “Ornamentations”, a line of fabric for Robert Kaufman and they needed a sample quilt using the fabrics for the spring wholesale show. I decided to create a crazy quilt featuring the 4” x 6” La Veta watercolour silk prints because they look like postcards. Slowly the process turned into a large wall hanging that became even larger when I offered it as a gift to The La Veta Library. Upon seeing the blocks on the design board they wanted to feature it over the entrance fireplace!! So five more block later…..”Alta Vida La Veta” which means La Veta the high life was finished!

(Photo of another block in the Alta Vida La Veta quilt)

The crazy quilt and I went off to the May wholesale show and it was a huge success. Everyone wanted to know if the houses, barns and shed watercolours could be made into a new fabric line!!!

We introduced the new silk/cotton line “Radiance” with this collection and it is used throughout the Alta Vida La Veta crazy quilt. It is a magic fabric, 45% silk and 55% cotton so it has a fabulous sheen and a beautiful hand!! There are 63 solid colours and I got to choose them all. Everyone: the art quilters, crazy-quilters, fashionistos to the traditionalists love the Radiance line. For purchasing information go to your computer and google “Radiance, Robert Kaufman”.

I used my Montano Series of silk threads and ribbons by Treenway Silks for the embellishment/embroidery process. You can find this line on my website by clicking on links.

Before presenting “Alta Vida La Veta” to the local library, I entered it in a local art show. The crazy quilt won best of show and that was such an honour to me because the award came from my community, my beloved La Veta, Colorado.

I hope my story gives you some ideas about commemorating your community or your home. Perhaps you want to create a project around a childhood home or a vacation spot. Look through my new book and all the chapters. It encourages you to mix mediums to create original fibreart projects.

Judith Baker Montano

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I just saw an innovative new design in sewing machine that not only sews, it dyes the thread to match the fabric.

Want me to repeat that? Sounds like a dream come true? Maybe it is!

And look at the design.

No problem getting the fabric where you want it, bunching it up against the trunk of the machine. The sewing surface is wide open.

I am not endorsing this machine, not having used it. But what I see so far -- it looks like someone is thinking outside of the box and heading in the right direction for serious fabric artists. And those of us who like to look like artists!

Here's a link to the site that tells more about this delightful innovation.

Of course my dear husband's first response to my, "I want it!" was of course -- "How much!"

I don't have an answer for him. Does anyone else know the cost of this machine? Or has anyone used it?

I'm thinking it may not be in production, but is a winning concept that connects with other aspects of fabric manipulation. Here's a comment from the sewing machine's co-designer Anna Muller: "The concept Leitfaden is an all-embracing product system. It simplifies the procedure and allows for a simple, fast entrance into the craft. Provided with a lasercutter, the Leitfaden drapery shops offer customized pattern-cuttings. The ergonomically optimized Leitfaden sewing-machine offers more free workspace. All features are clearly arranged in the operation unit. The chosen mode is backlit while the current stitch pattern is projected onto the fabric as a guideline. A pneumatic JetAir-system handles the threading while a built-in yarn printer can colour the universal yarn into every desired colour by means of a sensor." 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Evolution of a Fantasy: Beth Wheeler

Beth Wheeler is so generous and humble and I am pleased that she is sharing her work and her creative process with us here at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed With Needles! In 2007, according to her bio, she was released her 45th book. I admit that I sat with my mouth hanging open after reading that tidbit. I can't begin to come up with enough to fill half that many books. One would be good! And here's Beth, taking time out of her busy days of creating her art, putting together tutorials, books, and taking her place in the duo Sipsisters with Lori Marquette. I do hope you'll accept Beth's invitation to visit her site on May first for the great unveiling! I can't wait, especially she is giving us a sneak peak and insider info on her creation. -- Dawn

PHOTO:  Shrine to the Gerberas, in the collection of Nora Jones, is a small art quilt designed for Tote Tuesday, Virginia Spiegel's 2010 online auction to benefit the American Cancer Society.

May 1, 2010 my new show will open at the Universalist Unitarian Church Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There will be approximately 25 pieces in the exhibit—all based on childhood memories.

The exhibit is a tribute to my mom, who passed away May 23, 2009.

As an only child, I was often in situations where the grown-ups were doing or saying something “important” and I had to be quiet. This was not easy! About the age of 5, I began telling myself stories, making up songs, or carrying on conversations with some wonderful creature to entertain myself.

The pieces in this exhibit are snippets of those occasions, as I remember them.
PHOTO: Whispers On The Wind started it all. This small art quilt will debut in the Rust-Tex Collection exhibit at Quilt Festival in Chicago April 16–18.

Each piece begins as a memory fragment, such as Whispers On The Wind, above. One spring day my grandmother, mother, and I went to the farm of a relative to see the spring wildflowers in the woods. I was mesmerized by the delicate shapes and colors of the various blossoms, but was disappointed when Grandmother said they couldn't go home with us: “They’d be unhappy away from their home in the woods and would die.”

I quickly grew bored of looking at flowers that wouldn’t be in a vase in my room and wandered off, sat on a log, and imagined I could hear fairy voices on the wind. Their voices were soft as whispers and they spoke in a strange language.
PHOTO: Tote-Tuesday-Padfolio

How do you design a visual of a memory? For me, digital collage was the answer. I could combine elements extracted from photos and clip art to express the feeling experienced in that one moment so long ago.

Arranging the design elements on Photoshop Elements workspace is one thing, but placing them on a background that helps explain the memory, is artistic, and adds to the visual story without overwhelming it is quite a task.

I use Photoshop CS4 or Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac and a Wacom tablet to cut this photo of my cupped hands out of the background, convert it to black and white, and place it on an empty workspace in Photoshop.
The fairy was also extracted from a larger image, but I used a different method, so her outline would be less smooth, adding to the ephemeral effect.

Together, the hands and fairy begin to suggest a story. To further express the magical nature of the fairy, I might reduce the opacity of her layer, to make her seem less concrete.

Since this will be printed on rust-dyed fabric, however, I'm a little reluctant to reduce her opacity too much, for fear she'll fade away into the rusted elements on the fabric.

The 8 ½" x 11" test print reveals a lot about how this will look printed 24" x 30". The hands need more definition, which I added with a Sharpie marker on the test print AND the fairy needs to be flipped so she is looking at the person belonging to the hands. Facing away suggests she is not engaged with the person and I want to convey a feeling of communion between the two.

The final 24" x 30" layout shows the fairy in the correct orientation, in a conversation with the person—as illustrated with the screened-back image of the ancient language.

Once printed on rust-dyed fabric, some color will be added with my new formula for Earth Safe Finishes fabric watercolor paint in matte and sparkle finish. Stitching will be added in monofilament thread, to add texture without adding color that could overwhelm the composition.

Hand beading and stitching will complete the composition, which will then be hung by a free-form hanger made from cold-forged refrigerator tubing from a retired refrigerator (this suggestion from my friend and long-time colleague Barbara Matthiessen).

The exhibition pieces are coming together and I‘m considering adding hand-painted and hand-dyed backgrounds. Please visit my blog "Thread Society" on May 1 to see more photos of new pieces for the exhibit.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Question of the Day:

It's been suggested that Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles is the perfect spot for a cyber quilt show. Not having ever undertaken such a project I'm looking for suggestions and advice.

I like the idea of a juried show. And I like the idea of the art being for sale, so you can come and browse and find something at a price fellow artists can afford. What size art? Techniques?

As for a theme -- it is wide open. What about prizes to those visiting the show -- door prizes kind of giveaways? Perhaps a viewers' choice? Vote for your favorite? A silent auction? Open bids?

Please tell me what you think.

Would you enter a juried cyber show?

What would you like to see if visiting one?

Please, share your views....


Photo: Taken at the Orlando, Florida, Cabin Fever Quilt Show, January 2008 by Derrol Goldsmith