Saturday, June 04, 2011

Brain Picking Day #3

Minu said... Brain Picking, I like that and will take advantage with a few questions. I love your pillow case back. Q. Is this allowed in quilt shows or is it something that the judges look down their nose at?
If the judges are crazy about the front, it doesn't matter what the back looks like. You would not believe what the backs of some of my prize winners look like. One must make the art and love what one makes, disregarding judges. If the judges had any complaints I wouldn't know since I never read the comments. This may sound heretical or superior, but in reality it is too late to change anything when the judges see it and I make what I make, and as long as it looks good to me, I am the only one that matters.

Here's what makes me feel this way. A long time ago Nancy Crow entered a fabulous quilt in a major quilt show and got like a third place or honorable mention or something like that. Crazy. It just showed me that the judges had some other criteria than FABULOUSNESS so what good is their critique
Moonstruck and Matchsticks are so great and among my favorites of my many favorites of your quilts. Q. What was it like cutting all those tiny pieces, controlling them and getting them fused in place?

Detail of Matchstick Moons
Like so many things in art making it was a process. I had a large table with the top spread out flat for both of these quilts. The cutting of small pieces could be done as I fused, keeping the glue side down always and using tweezers for the Matchsticks, I could place a few and fuse, place more and fuse. It was tedious but not difficult. Moonstruck was more difficult because each piece was different sized and had to fit in the space allotted. To be clear, all the fabric was already fused in half yard lengths so all I had to do was cut a slice of a color and work with that piece for my matchsticks.

Moonstruck 60x82" Hand dyed Fused cottons, Machine quilted.
Early in your career you did shows, can you share what that process is like?
I entered shows to 'get famous' if you can believe that. I thought if I was famous then maybe someone would hire me to teach and I could  have a career doing what I loved. It kinda worked, but not like you think. More on that later.
It used to be much more difficult to enter shows because good quality slides were necessary. To begin I hired a local photographer who charged me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it because I had her come to my studio to do the shoot and I paid close attention to her set up  and what she did for each shot. Then I got the same equipment and began doing my own photography. After I made each new piece I would take a roll of 24 or 36 slides and put them in a binder, in a slide page so I could find them when I wanted to enter a show. This practice came from Caryl Fallert who was also someone I carefully observed and from whom I learned so much of the business.
Now things have really changed. Digital images are what is required, and putting them on a cd is a snap. O for that ease back then. Funny that I stopped entering shows about the same time as the easy way with digital came into being.
The guidelines for each show are pretty clear, about what they want, and essentially one must take good shots of the quilt pinned to the wall. No ripples or threads or stuff on the surface, of course. But good lighting and proper exposure are so important and SO EASY now. And no waiting for development.
But I hated the stress of entering, even tho I mostly always got accepted. I can think of two disappointing times when the quilt was rejected at one show, only to go to another and win first place. It all depends on where your quilt will 'fit' into the kind of show it is. On cannot allow one quilt show rejection to end the entering.
Now I avoid going to shows because 1. If the quilts are bad, I get mad. 2. If the quilts are good, I get mad.
There is no pleasing me. I'd rather make the work than compete anymore.
And don't get me started on the politics behind the scenes! I will say no more.

Now about getting famous from entering quilt shows. Mostly in the early days  (1995) Laura Wasilowski and I had our fabric and thread for sale at these shows and people came into our booths where we also had our quilts hanging. We chatted them up and invariably would meet the gals who were guild committee people and get teaching gigs from them. Sure we had quilts in the competition at these shows, but it was the meet and greet stuff that really made us 'famous'. That and word of mouth. We had a show business kind of act with music and unexpected comedy and once that got out, we had lots of work. It was so much fun to be on stage.
But it was also a lot of work. So I am glad to be retired, with happy memories. One forgets the heavy lifting after awhile.

Melody. Could you share how you press and every trick......I just don't believe it will stick down forever, so I am constantly sewing the edges. I think pressing is so important. You are an inspiration. THANK YOU.

There really is no secret. I fuse with a dry iron, just like I am ironing a whole half yard of fabric, only with the paper (glue side down) on the top. I don't steam, and I don't let the iron sit on the fabric for several seconds. I do go back and forth like one does when one is ironing anything....nothing special.
But then I LET THE FABRIC COOL before peeling off the Wonder-Under paper.
Then I use a dry iron or a hobby iron like this picture to fuse my pieces in place. I lightly press them and that means if I change my mind, then they can be lifted and moved to another spot. When the top is all fused together, then I will use a press cloth and press and hold a bit longer.

If a piece has to be packed in a suitcase or gets nudged by a curious viewer and an edge comes up, I will re-iron the area. If you are using the right fabrics, no need to worry about things falling off. And use only Wonder-under, please. Never ever use Heat 'n' Bond for quilts. Ever.
Recently I have become a convert to spray starch. I like to spritz the finished product to make everything lie flat and look crisp and new, even older work. I don't know if it makes anything stick better, but the finished product looks perfect with a bit of starch.

Thanks for answering the reader's question on how you fuse in today's blog. My question is, what is your opinion on Steam-a Seam or Steam-a-Seam Lite? I know your prefer Wonder Under so I'm curious to hear your opinion of these products.
TIA, Sally

Steam a Seam and Steam a Seam lite are narrower and more expensive, Why pay more?

And they tout the ability to press in place and then have the option to move the applique. What I have found in my classes when students use it, it leaves a tiny bit of glue wherever it is placed and during the process picks up bits of lint, thread, batting or whatever is lying about. The stickiness is supposed to be an asset but the moving of the sticky backed fabric turned out to be a mess.
See this post for more on fusing a design


  1. I love your comments on show judges. A quilt should make the creator happy. I have seen some ineresting ribbon winners in local show!
    Thank you for all you share!

  2. What a great post! And...I hadn't seen these 2 quilts before!

  3. Great post, so informative.....I love how candid you are.

  4. I miss seeing Chumley's cute face.

  5. I'm learning alot from these Q/A posts. I think I need to go back to Wonder Under for fusing.

  6. Have another question--do you prewash the fabric from Dharma? I can't tell if it's PFD. thanks.

  7. Claire,
    PFD fabric means it is ready to dye with no prewashing necessary.

  8. Thank you so much for generous sharing your thoughts, they are so valuable for us, newbies with a love of quilting in all sorts. I really love the pieces you show here. And isn´t the internet the most a-political,judgeless and inspiring show(case) of all? Once again, thank you for sharing.

  9. Question from the class, Melody:

    I live in Canada and though WonderUnder may be available in the country, it isn't available where I live.

    I use HeatnBond. Why shouldn't I? ::eeek::

  10. hahaha. For the last three days I've been reading that as brain pickling....

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