Monday, July 02, 2012

Conveying Atmospherics

Dear Melody,
You are one of my favorite art quilt bloggers because you are so open about your techniques and methods.  That is truly appreciated by all of us who use blogs like yours as a classroom to learn how to do what we want to achieve.
I have a question about one of your early pieces that you posted a photo of back in January of this year:

I have been looking for a method to convey "atmsopherics" using fabric and boy, this is it.  I just tried a small piece and I seem to be on the right track but the proportions are off.
How large was this piece and did you have a method for determining how wide the strips should be?
Thank you, once more!        Janet

Dear Janet,
Happy to help, since I did nothing interesting over the weekend, and this is definitely blog fodder, especially for those who wonder if I am EVER getting back to fabric...
This quilt, Emergence, 60x60" 1990, was made from my first ever collection of 'hand dyed by me' fabrics. At the time Colorwash quilts were all the rage. My dear friend and fellow blogger Wanda Hanson is a real champ with this technique, using prints and spending quite a lot of time finding exactly the right values to place in the best spot. Coincidentally she is working on one at this very moment.

OK are you back here now?

The way I did it was of course so labor intensive and dumb, but I was new to all this stuff at the time. I cut little strips, 1" to 1.5" and got tired of that and just started ripping. I sewed them end to end to form long strings of one color (Nuts? yes!) which was of course mottled multicolored from my dyeing technique. Then I cut 6.5" squares from lightweight interfacing. I sewed the strips down on the diagonal to the interfacing, or nearly diagonal, all from the continuous strip of a single colorway, and when the square was covered. I cut it into fours. Then I pinned the 3" squares on my wall and continued in the same way until I had pretty much used up all my fabric strips. The squares were arranged by value, with the lightest colors first grouped together, and it is no surprise that the were very much all cut from the same 6.5" squares and just turned around to best connect them to the next small square. With hand dyes it is much easier than using prints, so this wasn't an arduous process.
 It's all about the value, light and light medium, medium, medium dark and dark.

And with values in mind, the next trick was to make them blend. That is done by the viewer's eye...just standing back and looking. Nowadays, a digital camera set to black and white will make the errant value jump right out and can be easily fixed.
When I was satisfied with the arrangement, I sewed the squares together, made the quilt sandwich, and just quilted it in the ditch, with a facing instead of binding. I wasn't thinking of atmospherics, or much of anything. I was just assembling the squares. Sometimes it just works.
Best wishes, and thanks for the blog fodder.

PS. Sorry to disappoint those of you patiently waiting for more quilt related stuff. I am in a quilting slump and have no motivation, oomph or interest in making a quilt at this time. Haven't even touched the blocks still on my wall in the studio from February. With 9 exhibit quilts rolled up and waiting to be stuffed back into the quilt closet (since March!), knowing there is little room for them there, or under the bed or on the bed, or on the walls, or in the chest of drawers or rubbermaids in the attic, I wonder if I will ever have a reason to make another...
I do look at them on Pinterest, but it all looks fine to me that someone else has made them.


  1. I too have been in a quilting slump for a little while now. I've been knitting only as well. I don't know if I will get out of this slump or not. I know I have to create something and for now it's knitting, which I enjoy too. Maybe it's the heat? It's been 100 degrees or so here with no end in sight of cooling off. So I've been in a stuck-in-the-house a lot slump as well.

  2. Hi Melody, I've missed your quilting posts too but I enjoy your flowers. Wish ours would grow so well. Hard red clay is almost impossible to dig in for hubby. I don't dig I supervise - Hee, Hee. I also enjoyed the painting posts you did a while back. I've bought the canvases but haven't touched them. Can't get away from the quilting or the computer. Hoping for a cooler day. We're setting records here in GA.

  3. I'm pretty sure you'll be back to quilting sometime! I keep looking at "Full Sails" and all your FMQ and thinking how much fun you must have had while making it. Doesn't everyone move from one thing to another? That's why I haven't gotten rid of my polymer clay or watercolor supplies. I have no interest right now but know I will in the future!

  4. Anonymous10:54 AM

    The older I get the happier I realize I just don't need more stuff. Having said that, I DO desire to create. So I have turned to making quilts and knitted items for charity. This satisfies my needs and desires and hopefully, warms heart and body of someone in need. Cheers, Beth F.

  5. While I love seeing you quilt, I equally enjoy reading about all your other creative adventures! You have a wonerfully entertaining voice. I like to knit, garden and paint as well as other things, so it's all good.

  6. The upside of having 'a slump'is that you do know it will come back. It may take a little while, but it always returns. I think with anything creative this does happen, and it's often some outside influence that has caused it, but dont worry - it will return.
    Kindest regards,
    Shirley I.

  7. I've been in and out of quilting and gardening slumps. I've just come back to gardening this year and I think the break did me a lot of good.

  8. Janet in Portland11:28 AM

    Quilting slumps must be contagious, I have it too. Mine has also been replaced by knitting.


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