ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Making of Red Stool II

In my last blog post, I shared a photo of my latest piece, Red Stool II.  It was made for the 2012 SAQA Benefit Auction.  Anyone can bid on these quilts.  The auction is a reverse auction, meaning that on day one the quilts start at $750 and the price drops each day.  In the last four years my quilts have auctioned for anywhere from $750 to $250.  Proceeds help SAQA spread the word about the art quilt as a fine art medium, and support the many SAQA exhibitions travelling around the world.

I think I have pretty much decided I will never teach a class to make a hosta quilt, at least not where I provide the pattern.  There are several reasons for this.  As an artist I just feel that I want to keep something for myself that is original.  I have taught absolutely everything I know, and in fact I have taught the method I use to make my hosta quilts ... it is the same method I use in my "In Full Bloom" class.  But equally important is the fact that I think it will be extremely difficult for students to find mottled green fabrics in such a variety of values.  You might think that I would jump at the chance to provide these fabrics and earn a little money.  The problem is that I would have to make sure I had these fabrics in stock for every student in each class, and sometimes I simply don't have much turn-around time between teaching gigs.  I also want to spend some time in my studio designing new quilts.

You may have noticed, however, that I have a new week-long class called "Fabulous Flowers and Foliage", which was scheduled to run at the Abruzzo School of Creative Art in Sulmona, Italy in June 2012.  It appears, however, that registrations continue to be low for these classes as the school is not yet well known.  Additionally, the depressed economic climate in Europe is probably a factor in the lack of registrations.  In other words, I am almost certain it won't happen this year.  I am scheduled to teach the class again in June 2013, and hope there will be more interest.  But I am also available to teach this new class anywhere that anyone wants to hire me to do so.  I will teach others how to make floral and foliage quilts inspired by their own photos.

Having said all that, I thought it would be fun to share how I made Red Stool II above so you can see what goes into the making of one of these pieces. 

I am seldom satisfied anymore with one particular photo, so I have begun to put together compositions based on several photos.  Red Stool II contains sections of three different photos.  I start with photos that have a lot of highlights and shadows. I combed through hundreds of hosta images in my photo library for this design.
There is a particular section of the above photo that I really liked, so I cropped out that section and show it below.  I love the sweeping curve of the hosta leaf at the bottom of the photo below.  If you look closely, you will notice that I cropped it from the lowest and fullest hosta leaf from the photo above.  I then printed it on my HP Inkjet printer.
I then cropped out the section below from another hosta photo I took, and printed it.
Last year when I decided to Make Red Stool 1, I needed a real stool as inspiration.  I mean, I really wanted a red stool, as I have developed an obsession for red stools, chairs and benches.  What do you suppose that says about me?  I had a vision in my head of what the stool would look like, searched the internet for red stools I might purchase, but didn't find any I liked.  One day I found an unpainted stool at Michaels, and it had the shape I envisioned, so I purchased it and painted it.  I set it in my backyard and shot it at a time of day when there was light coming in from the side (late afternoon) so there would be lots of hi-lights and shadows. The stool lives in my studio now and I love it.
I do have Photoshop Elements software, but am not very adept with it  Everytime I spend time with it I feel like I've just wasted a few hours I don't have.  So I put together my composition manually, using a scissors and tape.  I cut the sections out of the hosta photos that I liked, cut out the red stool (which I printed in several sizes so there would be one that was the proper scale) and fit the red stool in behind that lovely sweeping curve.
Below is the composition I came up with, all taped together. 
In the past I have often relied on tracings of the composition, by laying a transparency film over the design and tracing out all the colour and value changes.  I then projected that line tracing onto a wall with an overhead projector to enlarge the design.

Not this time.  I decided to draw the composition, and am I ever glad I did because I learned that I can.  I think I will probably choose to challenge myself to draw every composition from hereon in.  It really isn't hard because you don't have to shade or colour the drawing.  You do all of that with fabric, so you really only need a simple line drawing.  Below is the line sketch I settled on.  I always number the pieces of my design starting at the sections furthest in the distance, so I start numbering anything tucked behind the stool first, then the parts of the stool, and finally the leaves that sweep over the bottom of the stool.
I trace my drawing on to a piece of muslin, which will provide the base on which I fuse all the parts.
Once that is finished, I take my drawing and flip it over and trace the drawing onto the back of the paper that contains the drawing. I will need a pattern in reverse to trace to my fusible web. I used a fairly sheer paper here to make it easy to see the pattern through the paper.
I trace out all the parts of my pattern onto fusible web (Steam a Seam Lite).  Of course I don't want any gaps where the muslin shows through, so I have to add a little bit of extra (approx 1/4" around some of the pattern pieces).  This all has to be worked out.  I make my decisions about this as I trace.
Then I pick out the palette of fabric I think I might use.  Here are all the greens for the hosta leaves.  I line them up from darkest to lightest.  I don't number them and I don't plan what value will go where or note it on the pattern as many artists and teachers do.  That would be too restrictive for me.  I make a decision about the value of every piece in the design as I go by observing my photograph.
Here are the reds. 

Each part of the design that has been traced to the fusible web is then ironed to the back of the fabric I've chosen for that piece.  Of course since these are hand-dyed fabrics there is no right or wrong side.

All the pieces for the quilt are then cut out and I'm ready to put them in place.
Below you can see how the piece looks as I start placing the pieces on the muslin base that contains the design.
This is how I prepare the leaves with veins.  There are two layers of fabric, with a lighter one on the bottom, and the top piece cut apart.  I call it cut-away applique, but that probably is not the most accurate term.
Below is the final "Red Stool II".  It was shipped yesterday and once it arrives at its destination it will appear on the auction page.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial, I sure would love to take a class with you someday. The finished quilt is just beautiful.. I tried dyeing some fabrics using your multicolored method but think they might be too muddy--they're in the washer now so I'll know Ina while!

    1. Let me know how the fabrics turned out Laura. Just remember to only add as much dye as the fabric will soak up (no puddling underneath). If you aren#t able to be sparing with the dye I recommend the soda soak method; it keeps colours separate better but is hard on the shoulders because of the wringing.

  2. Thanks so much for the tutorial, Elaine! Your work is amazing and I've learned so much from you, both in class and through your blog. :)

  3. Great tutorial and fabulous quilt! I hope it gets top dollar at the auction.

  4. Thank you for this tutorial! The cut-away applique is something I will try for sure! I love your work and can't wait for the June 2nd class at Dragonfly fabrics! I am so happy that I will finally have the pleasure of taking a class with you! See you soon!

    1. I look forward to meeting you at Dragonfly on June 2 Anne-Marie!

  5. Awesome tutorial Elaine. Thanks for your generous sharing of your technique. Looking forward to spending a week with you at Haliburton this summer.

    1. Oh me too! Haliburton is always so much fun.

  6. Love your recent tutes... so so so informative!


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