June 23, 2012

Seasonal Palette - Update 7

This is as messy as I ever get in the studio, but it’s a good kind of disorder, a happy fiber frenzy with good results.  Once I have all my components readied, and a basic layout organized on the design wall, it’s time to assemble everything, to make it all work together and fit together.  It’s a trial and error process, but with less error as I gain experience.  Bit by bit I cut pieces to fit, seam things together, press, trim, and repeat.  I like to set aside an otherwise unencumbered day for it, as it works best when I can get into an uninterrupted state of flow.  For this project, I was slightly constrained by needing it to all work out to a predetermined size--not a simple equation, as the quilting, and then the rinsing, shrinks it down a bit.  But it all worked out well and the top came together quite nicely.
The next step is to layer the top with batting and a backing fabric.  I use a type of “fusible” batting; it doesn’t have a permanent bond, but pressing activates a sticky resin coating that holds things together temporarily.  On a big piece like this I also do some pinning to help keep things unified.  Any shifting that occurs while handling and quilting can be corrected by re-aligning and re-pressing, and the resin rinses out after quilting and leaves the hand of the fabrics unaffected.
Then it’s time to put the assemblage under the needle.  First I use a walking foot to quilt along major seam lines to anchor everything together.
Then I switch to a free motion foot and do the intensive and closely spaced quilting that adds so much dimension and texture.  At this point the I drop the feed dogs (those little teeth in the bed of the machine that move the fabric along) , put on gloves with grippy finger tips, and move the quilt under the needle by hand.  It’s analogous to a drawing where the pen (the needle) is stationary, and the paper (the fabric) is moved to create a design.  I work in a completely free-form fashion, without marking the top in any way, constructing a grid or maze where I move in and back out again and again.  It’s a very meditative and Zen like activity, except that it goes by very quickly, at umpteen stitches per minute.  It helps to keep an eye on where you are going next, and only half an eye on where you actually are.  There’s probably a parable in there somewhere….
There’s also a bit of an upper body workout involved, to move the bulk of the quilt around and keep it where it needs to be.  Lots of breaks to stretch and get more beverages help.
When the quilting is finished at last, the work is rinsed, laid flat and blocked to dry, trimmed, and bound around the edges.  Finally, a hanging sleeve and label are hand sewn on the back.  I failed to photo-document these parts, but they are not all that compelling.  I do them in a solid craftsman-like way, but by then I’m sort of over it; I’m more of a process person than a product person.

I’ve officially named this one “The Organic Landscape”, as it was originally envisioned as a sort of companion piece to my “The Organic Garden”.  I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I’ve shared the inspiration and the process.  (You can track it back by clicking the “Seasonal Palette” tab at the top of the blog.)  The final reveal will have to wait until it is unveiled at its first venue, the SAQA Seasonal Palette Exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX, Nov. 1 - 4, 2012.  Included in the exhibit will be documentation of the process that each artist has assembled.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the work of the other artists involved in this project, and I know that collectively it will be amazing.  The good news is that there will be a book published on the exhibit, so stay tuned for further updates this fall.

And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

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