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? 


  1. Oh, I love the macro Red Stool; so glad you were able to get it made in time to enter. My problem on the Deux exhibit was also the 30" size requirement; I had one good possibility but not time to make it a companion piece. Your facing tutorial is very clear--it's my favorite method, also.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you M-R. I will bring it to my trunk show on January 7. Merry holidays!

  3. Great post, Elaine! I love the macro stool. That will be a great pairing. Good luck!
    The info on facings is VERY clear too. Well done you.

    1. Glad its clear Carolynn .. and thank you for your positive comments. Stay tuned!

  4. Great tutorial, Elaine. I used to do it a different way, but never liked the corners. Now I do it your way and the corners are fine. I am curious, though, as to how you dealt with the legs of the stool.

    1. Good question Norma. I had to think about that one because I made the first Red Stool over a year ago. It was truly a fly by the seat of my pants adventure. I finished the facing just where the legs meet the bottom of the quilt, and then I just zigzag stitched around the dangling legs. The quilt police and haute couture folks would have a conniption if they saw what I did.

      Happy holidays!!

  5. Hi Elaine, your instructions are very clear but I do have one question - I'm concerned with having a lot of bulk at the edge of the quilt with all those layers of fabric and batting. How do you handle that or are you using a very thin batt?


    1. Elena, that is a very good question, and I'm glad you asked! Yes, I do use a very thin batting, Quilters Dream Cotton in "Request" weight, which is their lightest batting. I do imagine the edges would be much bulkier with a thicker batting, and you might likely need to trim some of it away.

  6. Hi Elaine

    I love these and was so sorry they are not included in Deux. I had really thought they would be-I should be a judge or juror.

    Thank ou for this tutorial, I have always thought the most gifted artists are also the most sharing and you reinforce my idea.
    Pam in SW Fl

    1. Why thank you so much for your kind words Pam! I'm disappointed my pieces won't be in the Deux show, but c'est la vie! I'm so happy to get the tutorial up finally as I wanted to have instructions up for my students. Happy New Year! Wishing I were in sunny SW Florida right about now!


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