Monday, January 20, 2020

Miss Peach

I think we had a hamster named Miss Peach once.  Anyway, it seemed a good name for the portrait I recently made on my longarm quilting machine.  Peach was not made in my normal slow way of designing.  Usually, I work on my vertical design wall and spend many days cutting, pinning, standing back to look, adjusting, studying, trimming, patching, changing my mind, and then finally, over several days, handstitching each piece onto the background, then quilting the three layers together. 
With the new method, I can bypass some of the steps, and get a quilt designed, and quilted in one day. I began with a backing fabric, batting, and part of a beautiful hand-dyed damask tablecloth - all pinned to my longarm frame.  I then chose some fabric prints that I thought 'went with' the background. 

I made an effort to limit the colors to only a few, and I included various size motifs.  I used one fabric for a contrasting background shape at the top.
I then began cutting shapes for the shoulders, neck and head, and then moved on to the features.  Instead of pinning, I just placed the shapes onto the background, and tried not to sneeze.
Here is Peach before she got hair.

With this method, I am designing horizontally, at about chest level.  This makes it impossible to stand back and squint at the composition, as I am used to doing.  To get a good look at what is happening, I have to climb up on a ladder and take a photo.
Peach looked a bit better with her hair added.

The next step is to carefully cover the entire design with tulle, and then quilt heavily over all in order to hold all the loose pieces in place.  I had a gauzy fabric from a dress, which I wanted to audition.

Nope. Too foggy!  So I went with a peach colored tulle, which is nearly transparent.  I pinned the tulle along the edges, and quilted all over.  Here she is after the quilting.

I took her off the machine, added a facing, and took a good look.  Oh, dear, she has a beard.  Normally, it wouldn't bother me to have flowers or polkadots or birds or any motif on the face, but this time, the random placement looked like either a beard or some bad scrapes on her chin.  Not despairing, I got out some paint and stamps, and set out to obscure the dark flowers. 
Here is the final version.

I may have gotten carried away with the stamping.
So, I think I will try this method again.  It is a huge timesaver.  When I do, I will take more time to study the composition before beginning the quilting. 
I'm still much more comfortable with my slow process, but sometimes, it's nice to be able to finish a project more quickly.  (And I still took the time to add a bit of hand stitching at the end!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Recap 2019

Our priest said that we should look back on what we accomplished during the past year, and evaluate how we could do better in 2020.  I decided to look through photos to see what I was able to make quiltwise last year.  Here are some of the highlights:

 In January, I was invited to show a collection of my portraits at the World Quilt Show in Tampa.  Here is one of four sections of my work:

This photo shows three in progress pieces which have all been completed now, and are either traveling with exhibits or designated to do so.

This is a quilt titled Sliders, which will travel with the SAQA global show called Aloft.  It shows me and my son John, a few years back.

I took a class with the wonderful Betty Busby in January, 2019.

Here is a quilt that I made afterward, titled Leaf Dance:

I decided to give two OLD quilts to the dog shelter in order to clear some space in my studio.  Here is one of them, which I made for my son when he was small.  It was difficult, but had to be done.

I participated in a slice quilt with five other quilters.  Here is the result:

Here are a couple of quilts that I started in classes I taught, and then completed later.

I was hired to make three quilts using doggie bandanas that the owner had saved.  Here is one of them:

This one was started for a call for entry called Wild Fabrications.  I didn't finish it in time to enter, but I finished it this year!  Titled Namaste.

I took a class from the wonderful Pat Pauly, and made some super screen printed fabrics.  Here is Pat, and a quilt that I made using some of those fabrics:

I also taught classes in several locations both in and outside of Florida this year.  Check my website to see what classes are available, or email me at

I took a class with the fantastic Paula Kovarik. She invited her students to come visit her in Memphis, and two of us did just that!!

I got to play with Pamela Allen in Memphis:

I was moved to create two large lap quilts for friends who are fighting cancer this year.  I hope they feel the love inside:

There are a few that I can't reveal yet, as they are being made for competitions.  Here is a peek at three of them:

This year I completed a King sized bed quilt that I started MANY years ago.  It felt GREAT!!

I started work on a book for my group Cloth in Common.  I'm hoping to wrap it up very soon.  You'll be able to see all of the work that was completed by eleven artists over a two year period.  I also started an Instagram page for the group.

I collaborated with two other artists on a project involving sea creatures and poetry (and another book).

I don't have wall space for all of my quilts, but this one, Pond, gets to hang in my living room.

Every now and then, I add to this Scrap City, because I hate to throw anything away.

I made a jacket.

And a kimono shaped quilt.

For Christmas, I made each of my children a bed quilt.

It was a terrific year.  There were many magical moments.  I got to travel, visit friends and family, see fabulous art, take loads of photos,  sold some work, wrote some magazine articles, and passed on the gift of art to others.  I look forward to more of the same in 2020!!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Designing on the Longarm

I've joined an online special interest group to learn about ways to design quilts on the longarm machine and save steps.  I've tried a bit with this technique, and worked with it again today.  I thought I would explain my process so others might try it and avoid the mistakes I made!

My goal is to be able to applique without pinning or basting the pieces.  The idea is that you lay all the pieces on the quilt top, right on the longarm, and cover them gently with tulle.  The tulle holds the pieces relatively in place while you quilt all over the quilt top.

Here is how I started today.
1.  I selected a piece of ice dyed fabric, and pinned it to the longarm machine.  Keep reading, because this is not how I should have started!  This piece is about 45 by 25".

2.  I wanted to use up these scraps from a recent project, and make an abstract garden design that I can cut up into postcard size pieces when it is finished.

3.  I randomly spread the scraps around onto the background.

4.  I pulled apart some old silk flowers to add to the mix.

5.  Then I added some yarn.

6.  I gently layered all with tulle.

7.  At this point, I thought I was ready to quilt, but before I did . . . . . I realized that I had forgotten the backing and batting, which should have gone on the machine FIRST.  

So, I carefully took off the top, so that the pieces would not fall off.  I laid this all onto a small design board so I could move it out of the way without disturbing my design too much.  I then cut a second piece of hand dyed fabric to serve as a backing, and pieced some batting scraps onto the backing.  I enlisted help to transfer the top with all the parts and the tulle back into place on the longarm.  Now I had a sandwich and was ready to quilt.  I pinned just the sides of the tulle to hold it in place.  I started by loosely quilting over each piece of the composition.

8.  I continued quilting over the design, adding extra stuff in the empty spaces. 

9.  The finished panel.  Now (tomorrow) I will divide it into smaller pieces and decide how to finish the edges.

10.  My next project using this technique will be portraits. They may end up pretty abstract, as pieces do move with this method.  But that could be a good thing!! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Focus on Fiber, Florida Style

If you've thought about attending a retreat for fiber artists, please consider this one.  Held annually in the spring at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, this is a fabulous getaway. 


 The venue is superb, as is the food by Chef Tom.  These are some art pants we made for a gift for Chef in 2018. 


 You'll have plenty of space to work (wet or dry), comfortable rooms, short drive to the beach to see the sun come up, wonderful like minded people - it just doesn't get any better than this. 

                                               Classes are available, but optional. 
This year we have Jane Dunnewold (full), Paula Kovarik (a few spaces left) and Deb Cashatt (a few spaces left) 

Take a look at the Focus on Fiber website for more information and dates, etc.

                                    Mary Pal and friends at Focus on Fiber 2017