I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.
I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!
Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.
My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.
In the fall, I’d rather be spending my weekends camping, hiking, or working in the garden. But because of the recent sprain/break of my foot (x-rays inconclusive), I have to keep my foot elevated most of the day and limit walking. One thing that has helped me keep calm during this frustrating time is sewing! Check out these recently completed projects.
For the triangle pillow, I combined recycled t-shirt fabric (used on the back), upcycled corduroy, a recycled jeans pocket and new flannel fabric to make a pocket pillow that my husband Tom and I gave to our great-nephew. For the pattern, I used a commercial beginner pattern and added a strip across the front to make a bigger pocket to accommodate the stuffed gnome/elf that my husband bought. The finished pillow has two functional pockets.
In the middle is a throw pillow that I made for our cat Leo. I’ve been thinking about making something like this for him since our other cat, Griffin, died in February. They were together for over 20 years and Leo seems lonely sometimes. I don’t know if it really helps him or not, but it turned out cute enough to use as a throw pillow as well. I used upcycled upholstery fabric from a chair that matched our sofa that we are replacing due to wear and other things (Leo was pretty destructive to the chair – perhaps because of frustration or loneliness or both).
I made the cat with a commercial pattern that my Mom used in the early 1980s. The pattern includes six animals and I hope to make more soon. I drew a new face for the embroidery on the cat to give it more attitude than the face design in the original pattern.
I started the felt stocking a few years ago as a sample for one of the classes I was teaching at JoAnn fabrics and crafts. If I ever teach there again, it might be a long time. So I decided to take the extra parts I made and sew this stocking up to finish it. When making my samples for teaching, I typically cut out enough parts to make several so that I could demonstrate the steps for the students during the class. If the classes were popular, I would often teach multiple sessions. When making the samples there was no way to know how many times I’d end up teaching it. The original project had more gluing and less sewing since it was for kids. I used all sewing and no glue this time since it’s unlikely I’ll teach this class again and I no longer have to stick to the project directions exactly. This sure was fun to stitch!
The stocking is now listed for sale on Etsy. Here is the link:
When I’m fortunate to get some time to relax, I like to take a portable art project like hand-sewing outdoors to work on. If I can set myself up by water, that’s even better! Better still to add human companionship by going on a group campout. It’s always nice to take a little break from kayaking and other active pursuits and sit down around a campfire. If I should happen to get stuck with a lot of rainy weather and have to stay under a shelter for awhile, I’ll never be bored waiting it out if I have sewing with me to do. I have more camping trips planned for this season so I’ve prepared some next steps in three different current sewing projects to work on while I’m out there. These are easy to transport rolled up and carried in a bin with a selection of sewing threads and tools.
I’ve readied the right side of Experimental Art Quilt #2 in preparation of adding some accents in blue scrap fabrics and blue thread. The image above shows how I used computer graphics to plan out the red triangle area that I sewed during the last campout. I knew the finishing touches on this were going to either make or break it, so I tested out the red area in Adobe Illustrator first before stitching it. I think after adding the blue area, I’ll go back to the pale yellow areas for a bit of subtle texture, then I think it will be ready for the border to complete it.
Here are some of the scrap strips I made earlier combined with some fabric that is going to frame it in a reverse applique technique. I make a lot of strips of both paper and cloth scraps to incorporate into other projects later. I’m turned on by the idea of one stripe being colorful and rest being all neutrals.
My favorite shirt from the 80s is on the left. It used to be white and black with short sleeves and a collar. Over the years, it got so stained and faded that I stopped wearing it, but I could not bear to get rid of it because I loved the pattern so much. In 2018 I dyed it my favorite color lime green when I had a batch going for my wedding, and last summer I cut the collar and sleeves off and made it into a vest. Now I wear and enjoy it once more!
On the right is that salmon-colored shirt I’ve been stitching on. When I bought this shirt it was white with black. Yes I still love black and white shirts with Aztec-looking designs on them! The first time I wore it, it got stains on it from riding a chartered party van to and from a Rush concert (May 2015 during their farewell tour – EPIC day and night by the way – my brother and his friends started partying at brunch, I joined in a group pre-show BBQ about 3 pm after getting my day’s work done). I don’t know what got on the shirt, but I could never get it out. I put it aside for future dye experiments to try to fix it. I made two different mistakes when dyeing because I was in a hurry and ended up with even more stains and splotches to try to cover up. So I decided to put embroidered patches on all the bad spots until they were all covered up.
Patches on the front are done, though as it gets closer to completion I might add some decorative trim from top to bottom around the center panel to tidy it up. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but I think it needs to be a little neater. Now I’m starting work on the back. Sleeves will be last. Although the look is different, the concept of patching clothing with decorative stitching was done very well by the Japanese with the art of Boro, which I would love to try out in the more traditional Japanese manner sometime.
This was a lightweight, airy shirt when I first bought it – now it’s going to be a bit heavier because of the layers, maybe for fall wear. Probably when it gets close to completion I’ll add some white or metallic or both to the yoke area to bring the focus back to the neckline area. In the meantime, I’m having a lot of fun doing the stitching in different weights and colors of thread, like salmon, peach, rust, and coral to see what happens!
I met my friend Kate in 2016 while we were both teaching craft and sewing classes at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in the Deer Creek Shopping Center in Maplewood. I was not a quilter when I started teaching there, nor was I an expert seamstress. I had quite a bit of experience with simple hand sewing so I was skilled enough to teach kids’ and adults’ beginner level classes in hand sewing and embroidery. I also taught jewelry, paper crafts, some flower arranging, and general crafts. The JoAnn classroom is on hiatus right now. If they ever start having classes again it might be awhile before I can do it again because of other projects – some of which I can write about on this blog and some that I can’t!
I was given some scraps and pieces of things left over from teaching to practice my skills on. The baby quilt section shown above was a remnant that some other teacher pieced as a demo. This section was cut off and discarded so I took it to practice on. I have three other quilts in progress right now – two experimental art quilts and a repair job on a vintage quilt. When I need to move up a skill level, Kate helps me out by showing me some tips and techniques. I’m working a bit on each quilt to improve my techniques as needed to finish the next steps on each. The baby quilt remnant I was given is long and narrow so I’ve decided that when I’m done quilting it, I’m going to turn it into a sleeping bag for dolls and stuffed toys.
I thought I was finished quilting last week, and I hand washed my quilt to clean any dirt off from my hands and get the blue washable marking pen lines off. Unfortunately, I tend to save up a bucket full of hand washable items to wash all at one time to conserve water, and I carelessly washed the quilt with some old fabric items (more about that later) that were so old I didn’t think they would bleed. Apparently they had never been washed before and they bled a little dye on four panes of this quilt. Fortunately I found some fabric in my stash to applique and re-quilt over those squares, that not only goes well with the colors, but features a terrific motif for a toy sleeping bag because of the camping theme. That gives me some more ideas for how to accessorize the sleeping bag to make it “adventure ready”! Now I’m going to like this project even better – that’s one of the life skills art and crafts are good training for – turning problems into wins!
There are personal, regional and world-wide reasons why the last few weeks of life have been especially difficult. I’m not the only one who seeks solace in art and craft activities, especially ones that bring back warm memories of cozy winter afternoons spent with my family making things. There is nothing better on a cold wintry day.
It’s been nice snuggling under the old family quilt my mother in law gave us recently. It was made in the 1930s by my husband’s grandmother and friends. I was given it in the hope I’d make something from it, since it has a few areas of damage and I’m well known for making new things out of old things – a lifelong pursuit. I decided to repair some of the spots before it gets worse, because most of it still looks good and for now I’d prefer to use it than upcycle it if possible.
I could have purchased fabric for repairing this quilt that matches more closely to the old fabric to disguise the repairs more, but I decided to approach this repair as adding a little of my own history to this quilt instead of trying to do a museum quality restoration. I looked in my extensive fabric stash to see how close I could approximate the colors and patterns with what I have, and decided it still looked good and I would enjoy the little differences and the memories from my fabric scraps. My Mom made me a tablecloth out of that multicolor floral print on the right in the early 1980s, and Kate gave me the blue floral scraps, for example. Every time I see the fabric I will remember them and others, that is one of the best things about quilts and quilting. This repair is very satisfying to work on because I’m adding memories and functionality as I go.
My Dad recently went through some things in his basement, and he had an extra quilt that someone gave him so he passed it on to me to clean and repair. It doesn’t have any holes that go all the way through and very few torn patches so we’re using this one until the other repair is finished, then I’ll swap them out and repair the second one. I really get a kick out of these colors and patterns. They look to me like they are from the late 1940s or early 1950s.
I’ve been putting my toe in the water of learning quilting over the last two or three years. I have two art quilts in progress and one baby quilt. Kate is giving me tips as I need them. Repairing quilts is a great way to increase my skills along the way.
In the above photo are some stuffed animals and little pillows I made in the 1970s when I was around the ages of 8-12. The rooster on the right was made from a commercial pattern that my Mom had in her stash and I think I still have it. The others were made by me from my own patterns – I’m not sure about the frog though. That one seems a lot more advanced than the others. It even has wire in it to make it poseable. Well, it probably is mine – it’s not symmetrical and I cut a hole in the back of the head to insert the wire and sewed it back up again, so that was probably an afterthought. The items on the right were recently extricated from my Dad’s basement and I had completely forgotten about most of them. I pretty much liked a lot of the same animals then as I like now – sea life, fish, invertebrates, birds, frogs! I loved little pillows with pockets, then and now! I felt very satisfied when I made these, and I love looking at them now for the memories of where those fabrics came from and how much fun I had. Maybe I’ll make some of these into patterns for kids – that’s one way to make sure a kid can do it! I know there are people who will make kid’s drawings into things, including softies. That’s a fantastic idea I think! I think I’d enjoy teaching kids how to make patterns from their drawings. I’ve loved making patterns since I was young too, though I enjoy following someone else’s from time to time – it rests the brain a little bit!
In 2019 I made the above softies for a niece and nephews. They were both modified from other designs I saw online. The chickens have a little pocket for hiding things under the wing, that’s one of the things I added because I love pockets so much. The monster bunny has a stomach pocket too though I ran out of time to embroider a stomach and intestines on it. My original vision of the monster rabbit also had some other ideas that got put aside as I was running out of time to get it done, but if I make another one I could give them another try. I made a deliberate choice to use crazy mixes of scrap fabric in order to pass on some of my fabric memories to them – even though they don’t know what most of them are, it feels satisfying somehow! I can still enjoy the memories looking at these pictures!
In this project you can practice your skills in fabric painting, fabric coloring and applique. I had a lot of fun with my stashes of fabric, trim, buttons and threads to create different blends of colors and textures. I used blank burlap bags and fabric remnants to make festive and reusable containers for small holiday gifts of different kinds. I wrote this last year and it didn’t get published by Canvas Corp at that time because they got sold to another company and disbanded their Creative Crew that I was on. It might seem a little early for Christmas projects but if you make your Christmas gifts it’s really not unreasonable to start working on them now. Also you can use the same techniques with different themes to fit the season. I had a ton of fun making these. Enjoy!
Printed canvas sheets
Burlap wine sacks
Burlap shoulder bags
Assorted burlap, trim and other fabric remnants
Gold fabric paint
Assorted sewing and embroidery thread including gold metallic
Clean scrap paper
Small paint brush
Sewing and embroidery needles
Iron and ironing board
Select images from printed canvas sheets by Canvas Corp and cut around them with fabric scissors. Tape an assortment of cutouts to a piece of scrap chipboard or cardboard. Outline the images with gold fabric paint. Let dry, and heat set the paint with an iron if necessary. Place the fabric pieces between two pieces of clean scrap paper to protect the iron and ironing board from paint and ink.
Color the images with fabric markers, and heat set if necessary. The particular fabric markers I used did not require heat setting.
Lay out the burlap blanks that you are going to use on a work surface. For my samples I used Canvas Corp wine bag and tote bag blanks. I also had some remnants of burlap that I decided to cut into rectangles to make into little Christmas themed door hangers with pockets that could be used as ornaments or to hold object such as greenery or small gifts. These burlap remnants had a very loose weave so I backed them with green fabric pieces. Match up your decorated printed canvas cutouts with a burlap bag or piece and go through your fabric and trim stash to find scraps that look good layered behind the printed canvas pieces. Pin the trim and fabric remnants together with the printed canvas pieces on top. You might want to leave some fabric edges raw or hem them for slightly different looks. You can explore a lot of design options by working on several pieces at a time. Pin your printed canvas piece on top of the fabric and trim arrangements. Don’t pin the canvas/trim/fabric assemblies to the bags yet – some of the sewing will be easier to do before the assemblies are attached to the bags. Here are a couple of burlap wine bags with pinned assemblages ready to be sewn…
…plus a couple of burlap shoulder bag examples…
…and some rectangles that will become door hangers with the addition of a loop of braided trim for hanging.
Sew around each printed canvas cutout with gold embroidery thread. Secure the trim pieces with embroidery thread in a complementary color. If you want to, add a few buttons or other embellishments as accents. Once all the layers on your assemblage are sewn together, pin the assemblage to the front of your bag and sew in place. You are done!
I’ve been wanting to try reverse applique for a long time. I also like piecing together fabric scraps to see what I can make with them. I decided that pieced fabric would be interesting to sew behind the front of an apron with a large Easter Egg shaped cutout on the front. Here is how I did it.
First I gathered together some fabric scraps. I picked out pink, blue and green pastels and decided to add some navy blue and red to the mix also. Why add those colors to the traditional Easter pastels? Right before I started sewing this apron, I stayed for the weekend at a home with a great art collection that included several prints by my all-time favorite artist, Alexander Calder. One of the things he was known for was the use of primary colors with black. Here is a composite of some selections from this collection, with a couple of other artists’ works (Joan Miró and Roy Lichtenstein) thrown in that use similar color schemes.
The finishing touch on the apron was to sew a row of rick-rack to the top edge of the pockets.
As you can see, I made more pieced fabric than I needed just for this apron. That’s because I have another idea for using more of it. What will it be? I have a pretty wild idea. If it turns out well you’ll see it here on this blog someday!
Yesterday was my two month anniversary of getting married! I’ve been really busy with moving my studio, plants and personal effects and before that working on wedding projects so I’m a bit behind on writing new blog posts and coming up with new projects. However here are a couple of new articles about me on the Canvas Corp Brands blog that you might enjoy:
Hand sewn-canvas nautical flag banners with my (former) initials CMH
One of my many DIY wedding projects was to make banners displaying Tom’s and my initials in nautical flag symbols. I made two sets, one with my (former) initials and one with his. To make them I dyed canvas flag blanks from Canvas Corp a lime green background color then appliqued fabric and felt on them by hand sewing with embroidery thread.
Yes, I hand-sewed all those selvage pieces to the front of a blank canvas pillow cover. It’s the third one I did, and I’m in the middle of a fourth one now. Hand-sewing is something I love to do to relax. When I don’t have anything specific to make but I’m in the mood to sew, adding another strip or two is a great soothing activity for me.