I’m currently working on two pieces simultaneously, something I have ever done before. And another “first” for me: I am making both pieces for a specific event. I don’t normally like to do that. I like to work in the size, format and genre that I want. I don’t like being restricted to a certain size, theme or type of quilt.
But in this case I had two separate ideas that had been rolling around in my little head for a long time. And each fits into the requirements for an exhibit-lucky me! Both are part of my black and white grasses series so it’s pretty easy to go back and forth between them. I am really enjoying my grasses-it’s my job as an artist to help my viewer see the beauty in ordinary grasses.
My first piece is based on this rather ordinary photo. I visited my childhood home in North Central Illinois two summers ago and I snapped this shot of the grasses next to our hotel in Tuscola, Ill. The wind was blowing a gale and I liked all the different grasses/weeds submitting to the wind in different ways. I’ll be submitting this to a juried SAQA exhibition, so we’ll see if I jury in. No matter what, this was a piece I HAD to do and it will fit well into my trunk show.
The other piece I am working on is for the Brazilian exhibit. I’m invited, not juried, so my piece will definitely show. It is based on a drawing I did of a Stipa Gigantea head. It surprised me how beautifully composed a simple grass head can be when you isolate it just to show its organic elegance.
Both pieces are in the same format as my previous black and white pieces, so I’m using black Auriful thread (50 weight cotton) on the top and light gray Superior thread (Kimono silk) on the bobbin-a very challenging combination.
If you are using cotton thread, it needs to be high quality thread! This shows my bobbin case after probably 15-20 hours of stitching. Aurifil makes outstanding thread and look at the tiny bit of lint after hours of stitching! If I had used junk cotton, that lint would have been packed tightly in there after 15 hours-like this:
Let’s look at Aurifil and bargain bin cotton thread under a microscope:
You do NOT want to put this stuff through your machine, ever! See all those little fuzzy guys? They are going to shear off in your tension discs and thread path and cause all sorts of pain and suffering.
My work for both of these pieces involves a lot of what I call “offline work”, meaning I practice and audition various attributes of my piece on a separate quilt sandwich.
This is just a portion of my offline work for these two pieces. I do this every single time I start or contemplate a piece. I take a sandwich that exactly replicates what I am working with the same fabrics, thread, batting, needle, etc. I play with whatever I want: batting, thread, thread color, motifs, scale, etc. Then I am more confident when I get to my actual quilt. Case in point:
I made this quilt in 2006. It was what I call my “breakthrough” quilt. I received FOUR ribbons from my home guild, the Folsom Quilt and Fiber Guild. This was the first time that I was outrageously excited about a quilt that I made.
As you can see, there is a lot of detail in this quilt. I really wanted to work that out before I started stitching on that silk!
So I first made sketches, lots of them. This is a tiny portion of what I did. I had to work that McTavishing out for myself. I’d seen how to long arm it, but that didn’t help me much on my little domestic machine.
This is where I first began to work offline. I layered up my silk dupioni, that $24/yd border fabric and wool batting. And quilted it all with silk thread top and bobbin.
I did this much work offline! That is about a 45″ x 60″ space there-I made a whole quilt before I made my quilt! But when I got to the real deal, I was confident and excited, well worth all the effort! It pays to work out the details offline.
I’ll be linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Friday, so you can see lots of great posts!