Archive for June, 2006



A few months ago, I put together a little how-to worksheet on approaching landscape quilting. Most of it is based on my own personal process of developing and implementing an idea. A lot of it is my memories of what I wish I’d known when starting out. I still use it (or something more refined, yet similar) when I have an idea that needs more oomph or a glimmer of inspiration that requires more systematic thinking through. Thought I’d post it here, in case anyone else found it helpful. Parts one and two are previous posts.

Drawing is not a four-letter word:

Using a sheet of paper, sketch out a very rough outline of where things are going to go in your piece. This is like your map. It need not be good, it need not be pretty, but it should be informative to you. You need never show it to another living soul. This is your artistic view of the scene you will be doing. Include notes on perspective, colour, details to remember, etc.). Scribble notes everywhere, if it will help.
Laying the groundwork:

A wide array of techniques are available to the student for attaching fabric to the landscape, including, but not limited to fusible appliqué, machine appliqué, hand appliqué, raw-edge appliqué, and appliquilting. Which appeal to you? Which would be useful in your work and where?

1. Decide on your background carefully. Skies tend to set the mood for the rest of the piece. Oceans and ponds need to match skies to look believable (although they don’t have to be precisely the same, they do need to “look right” together). Trust your eye. Remeber that skies are usually lighter than water. Does the fabric selected necessitate a change in your plan?

2. Select other fabrics with reference to all the decisions that you made earlier about colour, perspective, etc.
3. Roughly lay the fabrics out together in a pseudo-design way– audition them! Pin them to a piece of cardboard or your design wall and step back from them. Do they look their parts?

Remember to think from far to near. Plan your piece from the furthest point away (the horizon, usually) and layer the fabrics moving progressively closer to you. Remember the section on colour and value – work from light to dark and cool to warm.

Plan each layer separately, beginning with your foundation layer of background fabric. Use the back of this worksheet to identify and plan each progressively closer layer. Plan fabric selection, techniques used and details achieved through quilting and embellishment.

Assembly: Get to it!

Assemble your bottom layer, the one furthest away in your picture. This may mean simply laying down a piece of fabric or sewing an ocean to a sky.

Working forward, use scraps of paper to cut out rough outlines of the shapes in your next layer. When you have pieces to your likeing, cut them out of fabric. Arrange them on the background.

ferryland detail 2
Cut out the next layer of shapes and so forth. Some people like to alternate between cutting out pattern pieces and assembling, completing each layer before moving forward. Some people prefer to have the whole pattern laid out first. Whatever the case, make sure you label your pattern pieces so that you know where they go! If you intend to use fusibles, fuse the stuff to your fabric before cutting out the final pieces. Trust me on this one.

ferryland 3
Keep notes on changes to your plan, problems encountered, etc.

When you reach the point of despair and decide that it’s not working, you have reached a turning point in your piece. Push through this stage. Almost every piece has this point.

Try to visualise how the stitching will enhance the look of the piece and what details can be embroidered or sewn after the top is assembled. It really helps to constantly be thinking ot the next step in a piece, as you can anticipate potential construction difficulties that might be created in an earlier stage and avoid them entirely!

Part 1 & Part 2, for those jumping in at the end…


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A few months ago, I put together a little how-to worksheet on approaching landscape quilting. Most of it is based on my own personal process of developing and implementing an idea. A lot of it is my memories of what I wish I’d known when starting out. I still use it (or something more refined, yet similar) when I have an idea that needs more oomph or a glimmer of inspiration that requires more systematic thinking through. Thought I’d post it here, in case anyone else found it helpful. Parts one and three complete the series.

Thinking and Rethinking:

Visual tools that can help:
1. Lines

  • define edges
  • create movement
  • make contours
  • provide texture

There are actual lines in a piece (the horizon, a fence, a rooftop, a tall building, etc.) and there are implied lines (a river wending through a forest, a receding line of trees, a shoreline).

Calmness is achieved through horizontal lines. This is accentuated through shaping the whole piece horizontally.

Strength and power are shown through vertical lines. This is accentuated through shaping the piece vertically.

Diagonal lines create a sense of movement, as can curved lines. Curved lines tend to create more varied, but more gentle movement. Diagonals tend to be quite dynamic. Even a calm piece can use an implied diagonal line to create visual interest and to make the eye move through the piece.

What mood are you trying to convey and how can you use lines in your piece to convey it?

2. Direction
Which way do you want the viewer’s eye to travel? Left to right? Right to left? Right, left and right again? Up?

3. Colour & value

Colours not only create unity and contrast, but they convey mood, emotion and help to indicate proximity.

Warm colours (reds or colours with red in them) generally feel closer than do blue colours. Darker colours feel closer than lighter colours. For harmony, pick colours that lie side-by-side on the colour wheel (yellow and orange, orange and red, purple and blue). Picking colours that clash works well to draw the eye to a particular spot (a white house with a red door, for instance)

What are the dominant colours in your piece going to be and how will you use accents to draw attention? Do you want the eye to travel into the distance in the piece (therefore requiring progressively lighter colours)? Do you want the focal point to be closer? Would colour choice help to achieve this?

4. Scale and proportion
How big is your piece going to be? The Golden Mean (8:13 ratio) is a handy chart with which to decide on proportion. It is based on a very old calculation which seems to consistently give proportions which are pleasing to the eye. A piece 12” on one side would be 19.5” on another and vice versa, for instance (24”x39”, 18”x29.25” and so forth).

Within the parameters of your piece, will your depicted objects look well-sized? A huge cliff in a small frame will look out of place. Think about how big your focal object will be.

5. Texture
One of the blessings of quilting is that you get to work in three dimensions. Not only do you have the ability to use the tools that painters use (line, shape, colour, value, proportion, etc.) to create a feeling of dimensionality, but you can be a sculptor too. You can manipulate the fabric to actually make a bump or a ridge. Embellishment with embroidery, the addition of layers and even simple quilting lines can add physical depth to a visually deep piece.

Part 1 & Part 3 complete the process…

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A few months ago, I put together a little how-to worksheet on approaching landscape quilting. Most of it is based on my own personal process of developing and implementing an idea. A lot of it is my memories of what I wish I’d known when starting out. I still use it (or something more refined, yet similar) when I have an idea that needs more oomph or a glimmer of inspiration that requires more systematic thinking through. Thought I’d post it here, in case anyone else found it helpful. Parts two and three complete the series.


General Tips and Ideas:

  • There is no wrong way for you to make your artistic work. Use whatever techniques you need to accomplish your vision. Some techniques are more appropriate than others, but all have their place.
  • Remember that what you create has to satisfy you. Your artistic vision is your own and it is your prerogative to make choices in its rendition. Shut out of your mind what other people might think, say or believe and work with your expression of an idea and your interpretation of what the piece needs.
  • Keep a notebook or photo album (or ideally both!) of ideas, potential scenes for inspiration, interesting perspectives, things that are meaningful to you, etc.
  • Keep notes and/or photos not only of the basic picture that you want to do, but also of skies that might be used with that scene, details of flowers that might be artistically transposed into the scene, that sort of thing.
  • Collect an assortment of fabrics. When trying to decide on colours, look at nature’s palette for guidance.
  • Look for new perspectives on old motifs. Don’t just do the same shot that everyone else does. Change the angle from which you’re looking at the scene. Zoom in on a detail of the scene. Use the borders to add depth by incorporating flowers, rocks, an extension of the scene itself or some other detail.
  • Eliminate the word “can’t” from your vocabulary and just do whatever it is the piece requires.
  • Work towards visualising all of the steps that go into making a landscape piece and their contribution to the whole. Don’t forget about the dimensionality that quilting adds. Embellishment with beads, ribbon or other additions can add sparkle and attract the viewer’s eye.
  • Be open to changing your plan! Art has a way of growing organically and taking on a life of its own. Be aware that even the best laid plans sometimes need reworking.

The Starting Point – what are you hoping to do?

Get a notebook or a sheet of paper and work through the following steps. Feel free to cut and paste this text into a wordprocessing program and print out your own worksheet.

(If you have a photo, picture or sketch, put it at the top of your worksheet. If not, write a brief description of the scene you want to depict.)
Points to ponder and questions to ask yourself
1. What is the scene I’m doing? Where is it?

2. How do I feel about it?

3. Why am I doing it? People do landscapes for different reasons – veneration, expression of powerful emotion, perfunctory Christmas gift, etc.

4. Colours that immediately come to mind when I think of this place:

5. How can I make this more interesting and different? Can I add neat borders, portray it at a different time of day or a different season? Look at it from a different angle? (Don’t worry about the construction yet, just think on the end result)

6. What do I envision my rendition as being?

Part 2 & Part 3 continue the process…

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Summer is a fabulous time of year to increase your hand-painted and dyed fabric supply for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can work outside and not get things inside your house messy. Secondly, you can work outside and it’s an excuse to be outside AND working at the same time.

shelley fabric
Here are some tips and things to think on when braving the elements to create textile masterpieces:


  • 100% cotton gives the best results. A high thread count gives crisp lines and good colour. I find that 100% cotton sheeting or quilt backing works fabulously and generally purchase mine in the fabric section of Wal-Mart.
  • man-made satin can be interesting, but iron it only lightly or it will melt! It is therefore not as colour-fast as cotton when finished.
  • Silk is fun and gives a softer texture to the finished work. Iron on the appropriate setting. Silk organza and satin are very rewarding (but expensive).
  • Threads and laces and cording made of natural fibres can also be painted, but their “hand” may be altered. Paint embellishments for a project at the same time as you paint the main fabrics and using the same paint mixes, so that they go together well.
  • corrugated plastic comes in 4 x 8 foot sheets and is great for stretching and pinning fabric in preparation for painting.
  • keep a set of “painting pins” and “painting scissors”, so that your good ones don’t get covered in goop. Consider a painting iron too, especially if your husband regularly uses your sewing room iron to iron his white dress shirts.

Things to remember:

  • Generally, wash your fabric first, dry it in the dryer and iron it to mostly flat.
  • Set-up is very important – protect your home, garden furniture and clothes from splatters!
  • Mix enough paint of each colour at the start
  • Paint a piece bigger than you anticipate needing, if you are painting for a specific work.
  • Water acts as a lightener. Think of it as your “white”.
  • The faster fabric dries, the darker the colours will be.
  • Paint bleeds on fabric, no matter how careful you are. It will bleed more readily into damp areas. To increase bleeding, spray the area with water. To prevent, do not moisten fabric. Resists can help to contain areas.
  • For large quantities of fabric, consider baking the results instead of (or as well as) ironing them.
  • Don’t iron a piece before it is completely dry.
  • Keep your test pieces and label them with a fabric pen for your first few sessions. They will act as your “cheat sheets” in future projects.
  • Fabrics will often turn out radically different from your preconceptions and intentions. Trust in serendipity.
  • What you leave to dry and what results may be different things.
  • Any ripples in the fabric will show in the results.

Skies and water:

  • skies are darker higher up than they are towards the horizon. Paint the top of the fabric, and allow the paint to bleed into the horizon (tilt the board to help).
  • Skies are rarely one colour. Some basic reminders:
    • 1. Summer daytime sky/water recipe:
      • 1 part cobalt to 2 parts ultramarine
      • 1 part ultramarine to 2 parts cobalt
      • water each down to taste
      • use intermingled with sponge for skies and dab
      • use foam brushes for ocean and paint in broad, sweeping strokes
    • 2. Night skies – they may look black, but are more effective when painted blue, black and purple:
      • Paint on hot, sunny days with low humidity for best results
      • Blue with lots of black
      • Purple with lots of black
      • Add rather little water – test on test sheet first
      • Stars can be added when fabric is almost dry using pearl shimmer paint and a dry brush
      • Moons can be added after, or put on first. If put on first, allow to dry before painting the sky
    • 3. Sunrises
      • Paint in cool conditions and dilute the paint more than you think necessary
      • Allow to dry slowly for best results.
      • Muted colours work best
      • Start with yellow, add pink, move to blue. Allow them to bleed into each other. Dry flat.
    • 4. Sunsets
      • Paint in warm or hot conditions. The hotter and drier the weather, the stronger a sunset you will have.
      • Tinge colours with their opposites on the colour wheel. Yellow tinged with purple, blue tinged with orange, etc. Only a drop of the opposite is needed to make the colour richer.

Other Pieces:

  • Sun painting works best in warm, dry weather.
  • Only the Pebeo Setacolor transparent paints can be used for sun painting.
  • Pin leaves down to prevent their blowing away
  • Try other materials for shadows in sun painting – flower petals, grass, etc. all give different effects.
  • Pearl shimmer paint and opaque paints can be used over top of transparent and will cover the lower layers.

ferns fabric

In Canada, order from G&S Dye:

G&S Dye and Accessories Ltd.
250 Dundas St. W., Unit #8
Toronto, Ontario M5T 2Z5
Phone: (416) 596-0550
Ordering: 1-800-596-0550
Mon – Fri 10am-6pm EST
Sat 10am-3pm EST

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I'm currently working on (among other things) an accordion-style book that is attached on both ends to its cover, the inside of which forms the background to the piece.

Since that description's about as clear as mud I'll clarify. The pages are attached to each other and, when compacted, pleat like an accordion or concertina. The string of pages is attached on either end to the front edges of the front and back covers. While the covers are standard, rectangular book covers, the pages are not standard shapes. A continuous strip of ground runs along the bottom of all the pages. Emerging from this intermittently are standing stones. There is no sky or edging to each page (apart from the bottom), so the stones are standing freely and not touching each other. The insides of the cover will be decorated with the background for the stones, with a hillside, sky and smaller, more distant stones making up the design. The overall effect is of stones emerging from the book. When opened, the book will be able to stand on a flat surface and the stones will form a ring.

I've got the fabrics selected and the cover partially done. The stones have been drafted and are under construction. I'm using fusibles to layer slivers for texture and shadows on the background rock fabric. The resulting stones will be heavier than your average piece of fabric, but still quite floppy. They'll be backed with night sky fabric,I think. not quite sure on this yet. I was thinking either of night sky fabrics with star formations and constellations, sky fabric to match the background sky fabric or possibly some other fabric on which I could write. Still leaning towards the first two.

Anyway, I'm currently wrestling with how to stiffen the stones and ground so that they don't flop or twist. It's turning out to be trickier than I thought it'd be. Heavy-duty stabiliser isn't enough. Neither plastic canvas nor template plastic are quite sufficient. I was thinking about acid-free matte board, foam core or possibly corrugated plastic. Anyone have any suggestions? I'm hoping to use something that will remain stiff over time, is acid free, will not discolour fabrics or leech into them and also that will not warp in humid weather.

I'll make up an entry on stabilisers and stiffeners from any info received….

Thus far I have the following possibilities:

  • plastic canvas
  • fusible stabiliser
  • corrugated plastic (is somewhat thick)
  • matte board
  • template plastic
  • plastic canvas
  • old board books (note – not acid free)

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Moved over

So I've separated my everyday life from my work blog-wise. I can't actually do so practically speaking in reality, but perhaps distinguishing between the blogs will help me to actively write more art and fibre art-related entries. I'm going to attempt to do at least one a week. Like all things creative, there are floods and droughts, so expect a flurry of activity during some periods and a dearth during others.

Must get some actual work done now. The first step to a blog entry is actually having something to blog about…..

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After reading this, I'm rather glad I work in textiles.

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