Monday, May 10, 2010

"Reaching Higher" - a challenge quilt

As a Statler owner, I took the challenge to design and quilt a whole cloth batik project for Machine Quilters Showcase in Overland Park, Kansas this year. The rules were simple. Using a pre-purchased yardage of SewBatik fabric, create a whole cloth that measures 48 inches square, with a 36 inch center square and a small 1 1/2 inch inner border. No piecing and minimal embellishments. Quilting was to be solely computer guided, allowing for very little hand guiding only when necessary. We were free to choose batting, backing, thread, and designs.

I made my decision when I received the batik fabric after the first of the year. It is a beautiful blue batik with subtle shading and hints of lime green and lavender. My first impression was underwater ocean. However, I quickly switched directions and thought of a starry night sky. Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night came to mind, and a quote that I have over my desk that says, "When you overcome resistance, you create the power to continually reach higher." I began to plan the quilting to look like Van Gogh's painting, with swirls and spirals for stars and clouds, some curvy texture for trees, hills, and dales, and a few buildings to give the impression of a village below. I have a fascination with the night sky, stars, and constellations and for a long time have admired the Orion constellation. There is a nebula within this constellation that is simply beautiful in photos from Hubble. All the time I was imagining that nebula in the center of the sky with Swarovsky crystals dotting the Orion constellation. I wanted to create the nebula as beautiful as the pictures and found some angelina fibers that could possibly do the job. The sparkle and iridescence was perfect! That is, until I applied heat and tried to bond them to the fabric. There is a critical point if too much heat is applied, the angelina fibers lose all their sparkle and iridescence and turn to a simple plain boring base color. If not enough heat is applied, the bonding granules fail to bond and look like sand behind the fibers.

Are you getting the picture yet? Behind a project such as this not everyone sees the details of planning, agonizing, frustration, stress, pure joy, successes, failures, tears, mistakes, do-overs, throw-aways, cover-ups, and more than you'll ever want to hear. As I was digitizing the Van Gogh painting, I was considering what to do in the borders to frame the painting. I remembered a quote I had seen at an Art Festival a few years ago and decided to put script, handwriting, or just plain words in the borders for texture. I didn't intend for the script to be visible and legible and actually read. It took hours of searching fonts to find something that I could quickly connect into a continuous line and actually give it the look of cursive handwriting. Since the quilting had to be computer guided, it had to be a continuous line. I gave up and designed my own font---YES, my OWN font. I draw and digitize my designs using AutoSketch, and found that it was easy after creating my own alphabet from my own handwriting. All I had to do was make little lines that I could grab and connect to adjacent letters in the words and between words. To make a long story short---it worked! I wrote out the quote, joined the words, divided into four lines to fit in the outer border, mitered the corners, reversed it for the bottom border, and divided it in half for the side borders. Then I created another font and wrote the "reaching higher" quote to fit in the smaller inner border in a contrasting thread color.

I could write a lot more about this creation. But it's late and I'm done for the day. I will attach a couple of pictures and the link to my Picasa album where you will find the rest of the pictures. The pictures here are of the whole quilt from a distance and the label I created for the back. None of my pictures do the quilt justice. Yes, the thread blends very well with the fabric. No, the crystals do not show in the pictures. Yes, I'm disappointed in the final project. Yes, I did send it in to be exhibited---not judged. Yes, I do consider it a success because I planned it, executed it, and finished it. I met my deadline and reached the goal. I hope you enjoy the story and the pictures and maybe even get to see it at MQS and S.U.G.A.R. I hope it inspires you to overcome the resistance in your life and create the power to reach higher!

The quote by Edith Wharton, from A Backward Glance, is another special piece of inspiration. How many people do you know who, upon receiving a diagnosis of terminal illness, quit living and give up to die early? This quote is so encouraging to me, I just had to use it in my "textured" border. If no one ever reads it, I will know it is there and the inspiration it gives me to not be afraid of change, to be intellectually curious, to be interested in big things and happy in small ways.

By the way, the fabric I chose for the backing reminds me of Van Gogh's Sunflower painting--just a small detail.

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I am Bonnie Russell, owner and quilter, and my business is making beautiful quilts and making quilts beautiful. NABQC came about as a partnership between the love of sewing and hazelnut farming. That's how the name was chosen. My husband, Fred, is the nut farmer, and I do the sewing using many bolts of fabulous fabric. My studio is located in Dundee, Oregon, the beautiful Willamette Valley, in the center of a hazelnut orchard. Experience came with 42 years of dress making, 40 years of marriage to my wonderful, loving, supportive husband (34 years of nut farming), 25 years of raising three daughters, and now we have seven grandchildren to mentor in Future Quilters of America!

With a Statler Stitcher and Gammill Optimum Plus longarm quilting machine, a 14 foot table, and the drawing program AutoSketch, no project is too big or too small. Anything from hand guided meandering to custom digitized designs can be applied to a project to complete that labor of love.

This blog is to temporarily serve as a source of information until a website is produced. It contains pricing, products, helpful hints, pictures, inspirations, and who knows what else will show up. Thank you for reading and I hope you will find it helpful.

Tale of a Dog