ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Friday, December 14, 2012

Strip Facing Tutorial/New Work/Photographing Work

Red Stool Macro, 2012 (30" x 30")
Last week I created a new work in about five days from start to finish!  I think this is a record for me.  I really wanted to enter SAQA's new show, "Deux", which requires entrants to submit at least two, and up to four, works that relate to each other.  Those chosen for the show will have their work travel to International Quilt Festival Chicago, as well as venues in Italy and France in 2013.  The major obstacle I encountered were the size restrictions.  All works had to be at least 30 inches in BOTH directions.  I have been working long and narrow for the most part for quite some time.  I had only one recent work that qualified and that was Red Stool.  You will remember this one: 

Knowing the second piece I might create had to relate to Red Stool also posed a challenge.  However, I finally decided, days before the deadline, that I wanted to take the new piece to the macro level, right up close.  You know what?   It was faster to create than the complicated hosta patch above, that took me weeks.  I settled on a design on Wednesday afternoon of last week, worked on building the quilt top on Wednesday night and Thursday, and part of Friday.  I had to prep for Saturday's class on Friday as well, and was out teaching Saturday, but Saturday night the quilting began.  It continued all through Sunday, with the strip facing going on late Sunday night.  The piece was photographed, artist statement written, and on-line entry made on Monday.  I'm so happy that I made this deadline.  Keep your fingers crossed that my work is accepted.
I'm really excited that during the creation of Red Stool Macro I finally had the opportunity to document the strip facing method I use on many of my works.  I will share the full facing method in a future post.  I prefer the strip facing to a full facing because it allows the quilting to show on the back of the work. 
Before you make your strip facing, you need to trim and square your quilt top.  For the facing you will need to cut four strips of fabric.  For this quilt, I cut mine 2-1/2 inches wide.  Two of the strips are cut the width (or length) of the quilt, and two are cut the length (or width) of the quilt minus 2 inches.  In other words, it doesn't matter which side the longer or shorter strips go on, only that you need to decide and measure accordingly. 
I press the edges of the strips under on the long sides by about 1/4 inch and machine stitch along this to form a small hem. 
The facing strips are pinned to the quilt with the right sides of the strip face down on the front of the quilt, meaning the hemmed edge faces you.  Note the strips along the top and bottom are the exact same size as the width of the quilt, while the strips along the sides (which are 2 inches shorter than the length of the quilt) are pinned so the ends are one inch away from each end of the quilt.  I've used two different greens here to make it easier to see, and because I was running out of suitable fabric.
You can see how the strips are pinned to the quilt better in this closeup.  Make sure the shorter strips are layered on top of the longer strips.
I then stitch all the way around the perimeter of the quilt to attach the facing, stitching about 1/4" away from the quilt edge.  Remember that you will lose 1/4" all the way around by adding a facing, so plan accordingly when you are squaring your quilt.
One trick makes for crisper corners, and that is turning and stitching three stitches on a 45 degree angle across the corner, rather than stitching into the corner and making a 90 degree turn.
You can see what I mean here.  If you click on the photo you can also see a closer view.  After the facing is sewn on, the corners need to be clipped.  Now you can see why one set of strips has been cut shorter: there will be less bulk in the corners as a result.
After the facing is attached, I press as much of it back from the quilt front as I can.
On the sides with the shorter strips this is easy.  Not as easy on the sides where the facing is sewn into the corner.
The entire facing then gets steam pressed to the back of the quilt, being careful that the facing stays slightly behind the quilt front so it doesn't peek out the edges (of course this could be a design feature too in some cases if you just want a hint of a different colour to show).  The facing basically forms a frame on the back of the quilt.  Honestly, it is a coincidence that my scissors are also red!
It takes a bit of muscle power and manipulation to get the facing pressed nicely to the back of the quilt.

Here it's all pressed back and I'm starting to pin it.  Once pinned I tack the facing to the back of the quilt by hand.
Here is the finished work.
Please do let me know if any part of this tutorial is unclear because I can add clarification to this post.  I intend to refer students here so I want it to be as clear as possible.
Although many artists choose to have their work professionally photographed, I have not gone that route.  Part of the reason is that I am often creating work at the last minute.  During the winter months, and when the weather doesn't cooperate, I do my photography indoors.  While I still maintain that better texture can be achieved outdoors on a cloudy day, I am often rushing at the last minute or late at night, and I'm not prepared to set up in a snowbank.  I learned my method for setting up inexpensive indoor photography lights from artist Holly Knott.  She has a very helpful section on her website called "Shoot that Quilt."  In her section on Lighting Holly provides information on how you can build your own photography lights, like mine below.  This gives you enough light to not have to use the camera's flash, which often results in washed out, off-colour photos.  I should also mention I have my camera on a tripod to avoid hand-shake.  The tripod is placed at a height near the middle of the quilt to avoid keystoning and distortion.  Holly's site discusses this in more depth.
Here's a closeup.  Of course the photos I submitted were much larger (at 1800 megapixels on the long side, while these are only just over 600).
So Red Stool below and Red Stool Macro (above) were entered.  I hope they appear to be speaking to each other when the juror views these images.  The colours are certainly appropriate for the season, aren't they? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Coming Up and What's Up!

My house is feeling like Santa's workshop right now.  Well actually it is kinda like a thread dyeing factory.  I've been making skeins of Pearl Cotton in sizes 12, 8 and 5, and dyeing dyeing dyeing.  These will make great gifts for my arty/quilty/stitchy friends.  Some have already been given.  There are more batching and some hanging on the line drying.  But for now this is the completed pile in my studio.  The favorite moment is when I twist that skein and see all the colour twirl.  I am also planning a project that uses hand-stitching and hoping to play with it over the holidays. 

My teaching for 2012 finished this past Saturday, and starts up again on January 5.  The old year is drawing to a close quickly, and before we know it 2013 will be here.  I have a lot of workshops coming up locally in the new year, so thought I'd make a special announcement.

On the evening of January 7, I will be delivering a lecture, "From Inspiration to Art Quilt", for the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild.  I'll be Shop of the Month that night as well, selling my hand-dyed fabrics.  I'll also be teaching two workshops for them:
January 19, Fast & Fun Fused Designs
February 16, Liberated Radial Piecing
Check out their Workshops page for more information.

Also this coming winter, I have a complete series of machine quilting workshops, at all levels at Dragonfly Fabrics:
Intro. Machine Quilting: (half day walking foot, half day free motion) - January 26
Beyond Stippling, Part I (confident beginner to intermediate) - January 12
Beyond Stippling, Part 2 (advanced) - March 23

Beyond Stippling, Part 1 is also being offered on February 23 at the Country Quilter.

Another session of Collage Tree runs February 9 at Dragonfly Fabrics.

The next session of Uncommon and Unforgettable Threads starts Friday, January 18 at Dragonfly Fabrics.  This series is being repeated due to there being a waiting list of those who didn't make it into the first session that started in September.  There are a total of five classes in this series, and the dates (all of them Fridays) are:
January 18
February 8
March 22
April 12
May 3
This class is all about threads: thread sketching, thread painting, thread lace, couching, bobbin work, dyeing thread, and doing hand work with hand-dyed threads.  You can see some photos of the class where we dyed threads here in my blog post of October 29.

I'm also sharing photos here of this past Saturday's class on thread painting.  Students did a fantastic job creating stand-alone appliques using sheers and water soluble stabilizer.  Dragonflies, bottleflies, and butterflies are the perfect creatures to create with this method.

Alice's bottlefly.
Ann's butterfly (this one was actually a fully thread painted butterfly on regular stabilizer)
Caroline decided to thread paint an iris with foliage.
Josee's dragonfly
Mary's dragonfly
Marylynn's dragonfly
Rosemary's bottlefly.
Students in the class inspired me to get back to thread dyeing again and inspired me with their experimental colour combinations.  It is so much fun!
Thought you might also like to see Josee's results from my new Dye Another Day class on November 12.

Last week I disappeared off the face of the earth for five days to create a new work of art for an upcoming show. This new work, and the story behind it, will be shared in my next blog post.  I also managed to finally document, with photos, the strip facing method I use on my quilts.  That tutorial will appear in my next post. 
Hope you are keeping your calm during this busy season. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Drawing Fundamentals and Zentangling

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  I've been teaching quite a bit locally the last couple of weeks, and have one more class on Saturday.  However, my art class (Drawing Fundamentals I) finished today, and I wanted to share about it, as well as the Zentangles class I took a few weeks ago.  These are both things I've been wanting to do for a while.

I've taken a couple of drawing classes in the past.  In the first one, about 10 years ago, we spent 10 weeks drawing our left hand (or at least that is what it felt like!).  In the last one a few years ago, we were told to take a pencil and draw without much instruction.  What I loved about the class I've been taking since September is that we were introduced to a variety of materials (pencils, charcoal, conte, and ink), and we received instruction on how to use them, how to see and how to approach a drawing.  This class is a credit class in the Art Fundamentals certificate program at the Ottawa School of Art.  It gave me more meat than the "general interest" classes I've taken in past.  I've already registered for Part 2, which begins in January.  Fortunately I managed to only miss two of the fall classes due to teaching travel.

So we began by learning to draw shapes and shadow shapes.  Who knew that it might be a good idea to use more than one hardness/softness of a pencil in one drawing?  Who knew about using those blending sticks?  I didn't, but now I do, thanks to my instructor Mahshid Farhoudi.  Drawing below is a ball in a bowl.

We loosened up with some blind contour drawings (no looking at the pen and paper, only the subject) using a pen.  I found these quite fun. Students in the class took turns modeling.

We had live models for four of our classes.  We began with quick contour sketches using charcoal to capture the basic pose.
 We then tried a longer pose.
 I tried a self portrait.  The eyes still need more work.
 I think you can tell how much I liked doing quick sketches with ink and brush by the sheer number of them I've included below.  It is about capturing the light and shadows and the the pose. 
One of the big bonuses in this class is that we had two days of studying composition.  The Old Masters were, of course, masters at composition, so we were instructed to choose a couple of works by either Rembrandt, Rubens, Rafaella or Boticelli. 
I chose The Three Graces by Rubens. 
but ended up working with my other choice, "Moses Saved From the Water" by Rafaello:
It became apparent that many of the Masters works contain an entrance and an exit that leads your eye into and back out of the painting.  We studied how the eye is directed around the composition.  You can see in the photo below that I've traced lines and arrows showing the way the eye moves.

 We spent a couple of classes drawing draped fabrics.
and finished our last class doing another self  portrait.  I need to work on the eyes a bit more on this one.  Either that or I badly need some sleep! 
Two weekends ago my friend Sylvia Young invited me to her house to take a Zentangles class with Barb Round, a certified Zentangles instructor, from Campbell River, BC.  There were four of us (Sylvia, Nicole, Arlene, and I) and with Barb's inspiring guidance, we all turned out wonderful results.  You can also see that even though we were all given the same instruction, we produced different results.  For me the beauty of "tangling" is largely about the focus required and the way it calms and centres.  I've sat down a few times since to try some tangling, and found it very calming and meditative.   
So I have to say that the kind of stuff I learned in Drawing Fundamentals is hard (at least for me and at least at this point because I'm such a newbie), but the kind of stuff I learned in Zentangles is fun and relaxing.  I hope to work both into my life more regularly!  As with everything in life, mastering a new skill requires practice!
Is there something you've always wanted to learn?  How about making 2013 the year you indulge yourself?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Late Autumn in the Garden

A few days ago while raking autumn leaves from the lawn, I found these stunning sights and grabbed my macro lens.
In the midst of death and decay, a few "Johnnie Jump-Ups" blooms in November!   I call this photo HOPE.  The next four photos feataure Johnnie Jump-Ups amid dying hostas.

I love the way hosta leaves curl into interesting shapes at this time of year.
The browned and drying hydrangea leaves showed amazing texture!
Beautiful when backlit by the sun!