Quilting as an Art Form–Pursuit of Excellence

I have been thinking a lot lately, for some inexplicable reason, about some negative comments I have heard or read about art quilts. First off, let me say that MOST quilters of all sorts have a broad acceptance of quilting and quilters of any style and appreciate each others’ works, but there are some who view art quilts with a jaundiced eye, erroneously believing that art quilting is somehow easier and less exacting than traditional quilting. Unfortunately, there are also some “art quilters” who may, in fact, deserve this criticism, or view traditional quilting negatively.  Silly views like these should be thrown completely out of the quilting world, and both should accept the other as fine art and fine craft and include continuous training and healthy pursuit of good techniques into their own particular crafts.

I also note that there is also a decided group of artists and media personnel who regard modern day art quilts as unacceptable for the art world, and it is high time museums,  art collectors, and the media take a good hard unbiased look at what is going on in the quilting world today.  Some of them have begun to accept some traditional historic quilts as worthy. But this is another issue than the one I am thinking about today.

Quilting, in any form, should be fulfilling, happy, fun, and emotionally beneficial.  I also believe that, just as traditional quilters mostly strive for those perfectly crafted points and properly sized seams, that art quilters are called upon to also pursue the truthfully unattainable goal of perfectly designed and exquisitely constructed quilts. I am well aware how difficult this pursuit is, because I always end up with quilts that are less than my original vision–sometimes a lot less–even as I can see great progress in my techniques and designs over the years when I look at some of my original quilts and those I make now.

In truth,  quilting of any style requires an understanding of both good design and good quilting techniques.  They also require making multiple decisions on how to reach the goal of your envisioned quilt and solving problems along the way.

Original designs, especially in pictorial quilts, frequently start off one way and end up with big differences,  This is because of finding another, more exciting technique or another design element change that works better than the original.  Art quilts, in my humble opinion, should be pursued to be the best in the quilting world to hold up in techniques and design to the best in the traditional world.  You can’t just slap some fabric and paint on a background and quilt it down.

That is why, quilting as an art form and art that uses fabrics, threads, paints, and beads in concert as its medium requires learning many different techniques and using them like a carpenter uses a tool belt full of fine tools.  Pursuing the full understanding of those techniques is something I have been doing for some time now, and it is wonderful and fun each time I learn something new, or perfect something I thought I already knew how to do.  I am very thankful for the great new world of online classes, shows, and videos that enable me to learn and learn and have a professional and fun time in my studio.

Sew whether you are a traditional or an art quilter or both, go learn and perfect your skills and find the joy of using these new or perfected tools to reach the visions in your head.  Don’t, however, be too hard on yourself.  Perfection is not a human thing…it is only God that is perfect.  Enjoy those little things you know are not quite right in your quilts as a point that shows it is hand-crafted.

OK, I’ll climb down from my soapbox now and go back to work.  😀 😀  Cheers


Progress in the Studio

Hooray!  I finished Canterbury Knight.  Oh, I still have to put the label on, but otherwise it is complete.  This quilt is far from perfect, and yet it has absorbed so much of my time and efforts that I have sadly neglected my blogging, my house cleaning, and a few other things.  And to top it all off, when I completed the squaring up and binding, it ended up too small for American Quilter’s Society shows…or too big.  They have a six inch gap between their small wall quilts and their miniature quilts.  It’s not a miniature anyway.  It’s 26 x 35 inches.  Not to worry, there are many other shows, including Houston, that believes that art quilts “of any size” are acceptable.  And why shouldn’t they be.  They take just as much effort.

Anyway, I love this little quilt with all its flaws.  Here’s hoping I can get it into a few shows so some of you can see it in person.  You should see the quilt at the top of this post and here’s a detail zoom:



Now I will turn to completing at least one of the books I have started.  The one I am sure to finish first is 10 Projects to Help Master Bernina V7 Design Software.  That title is way too long, so I’ll try to find something shorter.  The next one will be on the different types of machine applique and which to choose for what purpose.  I have a third one on surface design lightly outlined also, but let’s see if I can get the first one completed and somehow published.

I plan on blogging more often for a little while, and hopefully will get some feedback along the way.  I love to hear from you.  Sew happy everyone…takes some time to enjoy the spring, but also spend a little time creating.

Fabric Adventures in My Studio

Sometimes I have so much fun in my studio it feels like a great adventure.  This past week has been one of those periods of time.  I don’t have any pictures for you this week. You see, I am working on things I want to share with you later…after they are finished, and maybe even after they have debuted either at a show or in a published book.

I had a wonderfully productive work week last week.  Spring seems to be springing and I finished quilting Canterbury Knight.  I also managed, after about four tries of putting it on and taking it off over and over to get the three rows of Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle around my central block with nice square corners and mostly straight sides.  It looks so good I got excited about it.  Now I have to paint the border designs.  Yes, that is scary.  After working for months and months on this quilt, the last thing I will do before binding, labeling and adding the hanging sleeve to it is the painting, where things can so easily go out of control.  So today, I made a small mug rug sized piece that I quilted and all just to practice my painting before I start the real thing.  “Practice makes perfect”…well, at least for me it makes “better”.  😀

In addition to all that, I took a webinar tutorial on Corel Painter.  That was the best I’ve ever taken.  The artist was painter master Aaron Rutton, and I discovered he has a lot of videos out there on this program under “Draw This”.  I will be watching many more.  I am slowly becoming almost able to really get the best out of that wonderful program, so I really will be watching a bunch more.  It’s like using real paint without all the mess, and with additional cool things, like layers, that let me accomplish things I see in my head even if I am not a great painter…like the horse on the Canterbury Knight.  I painted that in Corel Painter, minus tail and mane.  It was a struggle, though, that took me weeks, so if I can improve my knowledge of this program, just think what I can do with it.  I’m sure Mr. Rutton could have done that in a matter of an hour or two.  One of things I plan to do with it is to put items for sale and for free like tail-less horses and faces and hands, and Vases for flowers for people to download and print on their own Electric Quilt or other printable fabrics for their own quilts.  Let me know if you have suggestions for small, similar things you always wished you could find for your fabric art.

Then finally, I have been making huge progress on my book on using Bernina v7 software.  I got a little bogged down on my applique book, because I need to work out samples and take pictures to move forward.  But when my daughter-in-law came over for a short lesson on the software–she has never even used an older version–I realized that I already had a book in my head on that, because I have been thinking about this for a long time.  So I sat down and sketched out an outline before I lost the idea that just came to me, and got the first two chapters of an eleven chapter book about ten projects that will help you get the most out of Bernina design software written and illustrated.  To top it off, I got a response from Bernina that no permission was required for me to publish such a book.  Hooray!  I think I can finish this one by the end of April, though we will see.

Sew happy everyone!  Even though it’s spring, and you want to go outside, still spend some time in your sewing space and then take lots of breaks running outside to see the next flower open.



Background stippling…time for pondering and a story


Background stippling the central theme

Background stippling the central theme

Well, it has been quite a project up until now, but I am finally at the background stippling stage.  Actually, I have finished the stippling in the central theme and am currently stitching around every letter in the text and stippling the black background with a simple smallish serpentine puzzle style of stippling.  I find this seems to be the most effective when I want the background to become the least important part of the quilt.  I don’t know. Judges probably hate it by now.  So many people use that stippling pattern, and I see a lot of quilters have departed from it when I go to shows.  But I still love it.  For one thing, I can do it without too much thinking, so that leaves me able to think of other things, or listen to an audio book.  What am I listening to now, you ask?  Young Adult fiction by Brandon Sanderson…Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and the subsequent books in the series.  They are fun, light, and make me laugh from time to time, especially as the widow of a librarian and mother of a writer (he talks a lot about writers in the books).

Anyway, I got back my quilts (Sky Horse and Canterbury Silk) from Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival where they were part of the show.  They did not ribbon, but I got some interesting comments from the judges.  Would you like to know?  For Sky Horse the judges (Frieda Anderson and Barbara Olson), said “A really ambitious project well done.  Great use of embellishment”; and for Canterbury Silk (Esterita Austin and Anna Hergert), they said “The central motif is exceptionally well executed and supported by the text.  Ensure your borders do not overpower the central theme.”  From Road to California I finally got a complement on my quilting on Canterbury Silk, so that was a first.  From MQX Midwest, that quilt won Best Surface Design, and I believe that was largely on the strength of the borders.  So you never know.  When you get to where your quilts are usually accepted into the major shows, and you don’t get a lot of criticism from the judges, or the comments from one show to another conflict, it is hard to figure what needs to be done to move forward into gaining ribbons.  Ribbons are important to someone like me who is trying to establish a micro business, but they aren’t absolutely essential.

Sew I am about to overpower the central theme with the borders once again on Canterbury Knight.  As you see, I have completed the quilting of the outlines of the border design and they are ready to paint as soon as I complete the miles and miles of stippling.  I am thinking of adding a false sashing to the outside of the painted border by stitching it with decorative stitching.  This quilt is a little smaller than Canterbury Silk and I think it could use that.  What do you think?  It would resemble the inner faux sashing I did on Canterbury Silk between the central theme and its overpowering borders (see below):


Canterbury Silk with its overpowering borders

I am not putting a faux sashing on the inside of the borders for Canterbury Knight.  I think it looks better without, since the borders have more stuff in them.  Perhaps the additional black will help lower the power of the outer borders.  😀  Don’t worry.  I’m really not upset.  I am sure the judges were tired, had seen hundreds of gorgeous quilts and it just wasn’t their taste.  Perhaps they really don’t like paint on quilts, which I think is highly probable.  I’m not resentful, and I don’t really think they overpower the central theme.  I’d be interested to know what you think of that.

Sew happy everyone!  Spring is right around the corner, and even already there for some of you lucky souls.  Cheers!