Friday, October 14, 2016

Assignment: Think Big, Work Small

Debbie R. made these two compositions and I feel that they both are lacking a focal point. However, they are good design ideas and would work well as a repeated pattern for fabric or gift wrap or wall paper. 

 Susan sent this wip and a continuation of last week's assignment. How different the one below looks with figures inserted. I can imagine this one HUGE.

Apparently this assignment stumped many of you, and all I can imagine is that you feel squeamish about having your work critiqued in public. I can totally understand that. There is a lecture lurking in me, which I will not employ, only to say that I have come to a decision to end this series, and believe I have presented you all with the necessary information and techniques about fusing, and encourage you to come up with your own ideas from here forward.
Thank you all for participating, taking risks, and trying out new ideas. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Assignment #2, Again

On the left, Mary Ann's piece from last week, and then on the right the same piece is digitally cut up, rearranged, and multiplied. Now which is better? As far as the assignment goes, the second one more closely fits the assignment, but and this is a BIG BUT, the overall composition lacks focus. Which takes me back to her first piece which is much stronger in terms of readability. We see her intentions and they are clearly placed.  There are many ways to arrange the motifs, and the second one would make a great bed quilt layout where it is not important to have a focus.
Both are great ways to learn about composition and they underscore the fact that the more you make, the more you learn.
 On the left Kinga Soni's assignment, and on the right two of my pieces from days gone by. Notice the strong resemblance? Hmmm. Difficult as this is to deconstruct, she did complete the assignment by making three varied size blocks, in two colors/multiple values. And while I think her piece is very well executed, it is obviously derivative and in doing so we learn little about her design ideas.
Susan's piece is unfinished, but submitted at the last minute last night, so we will look at it. Her blocks are varied, and the values are wonderful. It fits the less is more category, for sure. If one can imagine this six feet tall, it would most certainly be a strong statement. No filly fallying here. However, it does feel divided in two. But if turned upside down the weight of the dark L seems to ground it more. 

And it works even better this way. The very important big block has the most weight here.

At the very last minute Elly W. submitted her piece! Excellent repeated blocks, and the value and color changes are yummy. She uses the larger blocks for the focus, and repeats the idea in smaller versions. Well done assignment. 

 For next week... This is a piece by Henri Matisse, done in 1953. It is a HUGE collage. It illustrates how important scale is. He is not worried about the quilt police one bit! Your assignment is to IMAGINE you are making a really large work for a museum exhibit. Make it small but think BIG. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Assignment #2: Simple Block in Two Colors and Three Sizes

Only two people did the assignment. Was it too difficult or too boring? Did the dog eat your homework? 
I am extending it for another week, so let's see something from the rest of you!

Beginning with LuAnn's composition. The one on the right is the finished piece but the one on the left is the work in progress. 

I am showing both because I think the unfinished piece is just wonderful as it stands. Very strong and direct and dynamic. The added borders on the other view don't support the finished work and are sorta gilding the lily.
If I saw the unfinished design (finished of course) in a gallery I would think that this artist was saying that this is just what she means to say, no filly fally.
LuAnn says she is a more is more gal, but her idea was original and looked great with no added extras.

Mary Ann made this piece and in her blog she discussed her frustration. In my opinion she got in trouble with the print. Had this been all solid color it might have been obvious that she needed more variety in scale and more elements (blocks) to repeat. The dark lines of the framing separate the elements and break up the design rather than make it cohesive. The strippy panels work as a more interesting element and perhaps they could have been the simple block.  Still it was a good try.

Thanks to LuAnn and Mary Ann for being good sports and doing the assignment. The rest of you are not off the hook. Send me your designs at fibermania at g mail dot com.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Assignment Results

 Your assignment was to create a composition that could best be done (sensibly) by fusing.

 Kinga Soni made this composition before the assignment was announced, but I felt I had to point it out to you as an example of taking the essentials and using them ALL in a wonderful whimsical piece. Note the background curves echoed in the round posies, and the curving stems also following the curve. This is a great example of reiteration of design elements. Also the lovely strips top and bottom which overlap the edges, a trick fusing is so good at doing. A few wonderful dots and leaf shapes, plus strip pieced wavy lines, and swoon...hand embroidery.
Well done!
 Susan Turney used a gorgeous Southwestern palette for her floral piece. The intricate scissor work is just the sort of thing that fusing does so well. She also made use of curved sections and highlighted them with beautifully elegant quilting. This is a perfect example of letting the fabric do the work for you, as well as less is more. A quilt worthy of hanging in a gallery.

LuAnn Kessi made this asymmetrical work, using wavy borders, (nice!) and lots of skinny lines on the side panel. People will wonder if she pieced those squares, but we know better. Great use of primaries, and of course a central stack under the intricately cut leaf shape. This is not her first rodeo.

MaryAnn Shupe jumped right out of the box with her woven strips piece, including photocopied muslin calligraphy, fuse-wrapping a canvas with fabric and adding a fused circle and a button. This is only 5x5". She shows step by step how she did this on her blog:
I am way impressed. 

Thank you for your great work and now for the next assignment. 
Design or choose a simple block, using two colors (you may use multiple values of the same color) and make it in small, medium and large, and use it in a composition. Again, email me your photo to fibermania at g mail dot com.
Best Wishes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Focus on Fusing: Intermediate Lessons

Sale on Wonder-Under online only:
Designed and made by my sister Brooke Larm:
Brooke Larms'  fused quilt Cell Theory

My sister and fellow fuser,  Brooke Larm and I had a discussion of where I will be taking the class now that the fundamentals have been taught. I wanted to just let you go free to devise your own designs and experiment. But I know a bunch of you want to continue to have assignments of some kind, so what should those be? We came up with a list and I am back on the bandwagon to continue to provide some structure to the class by suggesting ideas and challenges.
Last week Nancy asked:
As for design principles, could you talk a little bit about negative space, i.e. maybe percentages of busy vs. areas of eye-rest in a composition? How does color play a part in achieving a balance? Do you look at areas of a composition and think, now I need something dark in this corner, or something bright opposite this side, to balance? How about motifs – ever need to balance those?
My answer:
I never think of things like that,which sound like rules to me,  so if they are important I guess I have managed a career in art without consciously considering them. I look at the thing I am making and evaluate what it says to me.
This is strictly a personal way of working and you must find what works for you. Your style will emerge from trial and error and seeing the results of what you have tried, in a body of work. 

There are no rules in art that one must keep in one's mind as one creates. If rules made great  
art then art would become formulaic and boring. Let go of worry about rules and just play. 

To begin, ask yourself why fuse? Some of my answers are listed below.
Why fuse?
Fusing is a fast way to get my ideas out of my head and into reality.
Fusing allows all shapes to be part of my design vocabulary.
I can change my design by easily peeling up a part that doesn't work, rather than unsewing it.
Details can be added to enhance my design.
I love the fused finishing techniques for mounting and hanging work.
Fusing works for both pieced looking and appliqued looking designs.

Your assignment is to create a composition that could best be done (sensibly) by fusing. Any size you like.
Send me a picture of your finished project and I will try to feature it on the blog next week, pointing out the way you have used fusing to aid in your design. Not a critique, but examples to help everyone.
My email is fibermania at g mail dot com. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fusing Q & A

Nancy had a boatload of questions, and I am happy to answer them here for all. My answers are in blue.

Hello Melody,
I have been plugging away at our assignments, having just finished our composition and design project.
 I will continue with our projects, but wanted to ask a few things before you’re done with us.
Little tree project, fusing from a pattern: I did this “easy” exercise because it was the assignment for the week, and the process brought up many questions.

I penciled a “G” for glue side as suggested, but that G and any other lines that I did not fully erase during sketch transferred onto the web side of the fabric and showed through lighter colors. Suggestions to avoid this and still know what side you’re working on?

If you are working with a light color, don't write on the pattern piece. Just pay attention to the shape and fuse/cut it.

As I cut individual pattern pieces, I added a 1/8” or so margin all around. As I added other pieces, those seam ended up messing up my original design. Do you add that seam allowance only to select pieces or select edges of pieces as you go along to keep to the original pattern? 
Do you look at a piece before you cut and determine “this edge over, this edge under” and cut accordingly?
(Contrast, contrast, contrast. I thought that your sample looked great, but my little tree was kind of lost in the background. Had no pop to it. I know I need more dark hand dyes, but any other tips to color/value selection?
Simultaneous contrast works in most cases. Opposites on the color provide that, even if they are lighter values.You could have switched out your background colors to make the tree stand out more. Thinking ahead is always a good idea.
What size stitch do you usually use for quilting? When you get to a corner or point, do you lift the foot and manually insert the needle to be right on the point or corner?
Yes, sometimes. I like a longer stitch length, 3.0  usually.

All threads are just brought to the back and left as tails, no knotting?
My machine has an auto thread cutting button which pulls the threads to the back and cuts them. I manually stitch in place about 3 times to secure the threads then press the button. I use a self threading needle to pull the starting thread through to the back. No knots.

Still having trouble with using release paper -- we simply are not friends. As I commented in an earlier post, I have found fusing success only in removing the webbing entirely from the release paper and fusing it from the right side of the fabric, backed by a Teflon sheet. I can continue with the extra steps for this, but I sure would like to know why fusing directly from release paper works for some and not for others. Even had trouble with a piece bunching up when doing a final fuse to release paper at the end of a project. It did relax when pressed to batting.

As mentioned in a previous email to you that there are many variables when it comes to the initial fusing. How hot is your iron, how long are you pressing, how cooled down is the piece before trying to remove the paper, etc. If I were with you in person I might be able to tell what is happening for you, but just let me say that it is not uncommon to have trouble when you are in a hurry or already stressed by life. I have been there. When I am out of creative ideas, it is time to fuse new fabric, and dream about the possibilities.
As another participant recently commented, one of the things that make your pieces so wonderful is the use of your flat dyed fabrics that fade from one color to another. My last attempt at creating these fabrics was a failure, at least not what I was going for, and I’m about to embark on a new dye session, especially to include the darks my collection is missing. Any suggestions for avoiding this look? (colors are off with photo, think blue-purple-red) has all the things you will need to make the fabric I use. The missing info is that I put three layers of fabric on the platter (now I use styrofoam insulation sheets cut to 24x48") and pour on the dyes. working out the bubbles with either my gloved fingers or a plastic spoon. The fabric you use makes a difference too in the final outcome. I use mostly bleached mercerized print cloth or bleached muslin. Not pimatex or poplin. 

As for design principles, could you talk a little bit about negative space, i.e. maybe percentages of busy vs. areas of eye-rest in a composition? How does color play a part in achieving a balance? Do you look at areas of a composition and think, now I need something dark in this corner, or something bright opposite this side, to balance? How about motifs – ever need to balance those?
That is impossible to discuss without samples, so let's leave that for next week.

Trust me to continue our exercises, though I’m lagging behind a bit now. (My last exercise sat on a surface in the quilt room for over a week and I rearranged it every time I walked through the room – there’s certainly something to be said for spontaneity).
If we do not continue the class formally, let me thank you now for sharing all this knowledge, and for allowing us to use your original designs as a stepping-off point. Several years ago you gave me permission to practice using designs like yours until I found my own “voice” and I think that’s a rare and generous thing for an artist to do. I’ve been following you ever since I first figured out what a blog was – no idea how I came to fibermania, but I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing your work and getting to know you. I know you were still in Chicago at the time, and I read backwards from there. I still refer to those posts from time to time.
Thanks for all,
Nancy Albright

Friday, September 2, 2016

Happy Holiday

Due to the Labor Day weekend, there will be no lesson today. But start thinking of questions you may still have and let me know what you need. We are nearing the end of this class and I want to make sure you have everything to move forward.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Overlay Illusion

Annie Stewart wrote:
I think I have more of a construction question, but it leans towards design. I'm quite taken with the "overlay illusion" you use. As in across the moon in some of the October series. How do you have to overlay effect include both the background AND into the moon, and get all of the curved lines to be continuous across both planes? Did that make any sense? Can you show me a step by step? Thanks!!
Since I didn't take photos of the steps in the quilts Annie cites, I decided to make another one of them for this demo. I kept the original drawing so that is where the overlay illusion begins.

As you see, the lines of the pattern show sections that connect. This is how I will be able to plan where the moon begins and the background meets it.
First, trace the pattern, making adjustments to the elements in the design, if necessary.
 Next build the background, fusing the shapes onto the tracing, carefully lining up the cut lines with the lines of the moon shape.
 Then add the silk shapes, making sure that they overlap the background color, just a tiny bit. Notice how the silk still lines up with the background line. The next pieces will have to slip under the lined up piece so that the line continues uninterrupted.
  I've added some more connecting lines in the moon area and those will follow the same lines, both horizontal and vertical. There might be some trimming needed to reinforce the design 

  And the finished top, quilted.
For your assignment, if you choose to try this, draw a small pattern for yourself with shapes that line up. Consider what goes first and then what goes next to that part. Slide pieces underneath the adjoining piece if necessary. Carefully fuse the finished product and post it on Post your homework. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Composition and Design

Charlene wrote: Will you be talking later about the design step? Any tips about composition?
  1. I replied: Yes, I will be discussing composition, but what do you mean about the design step exactly?
  2. Charlene wrote: I say 'design step' as another way of saying composing the final piece. Once you have all the parts made, next you put them together, designing or composing the whole. I'm really looking forward to that discussion.
  3. I said to myself: Gulp. This is where the lesson plan all falls apart. But here goes. In my experience there are two ways of designing, with a plan and without a plan, also called improvised. I went to Wikipedia and searched for Composition, hoping for a way out of having to declare HOW TO DESIGN A COMPOSITION.
  5. That pretty much said all the things you need to know, but I wouldn't dare tell you that this is THE WAY to design. Art just isn't like that. 
  6. For our class, I am hoping to give you the elements and techniques that  allow you to come up with designs or compositions of your own without having to fret over the so-called rules. I NEVER think about the rules. It takes all the fun out of discovering something that you have never seen before.
  7. In artwork, a design may be something that has a planned layout or composition, say a grid, or vertical panels, or concentric squares, or cruciform, landscape or portrait etc. There may be a motif which is the focal point of the design, or it may have a subject matter, such as a house, a tree, a horse, a circle, or star. All the elements within that design may be supportive of that subject matter, but already I am wandering off into rules and specific definitions. I hate that!
  8. When it comes to doing something with the parts you have made, this is where you play (or improvise) with them and arrange them in a manner that is pleasing to you. TO YOU. It is important that you feed your brain with images that appeal to you and determine what it is about that piece that is its strength. I call this research.
  9.  Pinterest has millions of ideas and I suggest you take advantage of what can be found there, and not just in quilts, but in all sorts of design imagery. I collect designs on a pinboard called Surface Design. I am constantly inspired and feed my muse with the clever things I find and pin there. I also pin ideas on my Fabulous Fusing pinboard. You might see some of your own work that I pinned there from our Show YOUR homework page.
  10.  So for today's lesson Join or go to and make a Design board for yourself. Once you have collected some thrilling-to-you-images, share the links to your boards in the comments.
  11. ++++++
  12. OK, you want an assignment. I get it. So let's practice what we learned and this time you will make something of your own design. Make something small. In this case we are going to cut the batting first and that will give you an idea of what size shapes to put on it. OR you could draw out a rectangle or square on the release paper and use that as a guide.

When we fuse a small work it helps to start with an idea of the finished size. Then the pieces we use will be to scale.

Or use the release paper from the Wonder-Under, and draw the finished size on the paper with a pencil. We will assemble the top on the paper, and after it is completed it will then be fused onto the batting.
The reason we have drawn the size on the paper is to help place the pieces within the space. This is especially helpful when cutting the background pieces.

Large pieces of fabric are often daunting to cut, so I suggest cutting off a three inch piece from each color. You may still have to cut into the large pieces but you will have some small pieces to cut into details.
I am using chunks of leftovers and some are already missing large parts, but no matter, I just put another piece in the missing space and it looks like I layered it over a full piece.
But the deceptive truth is that everything that is on top is covering an empty space.

The turquoise piece on the left shows that missing part. I used the sliver of soap to outline the part covered with the orange piece, and then I trimmed away the turquoise piece. It fits under the orange now with only a small bit connecting the two.
I am not suggesting any of the dimensions of these pieces, as you will be making those choices yourself. Just keep it simple and it will all work out just fine. Really.

I keep adding more chunks of fabric, building up the composition.
Nothing is fused down YET. I am still arranging and judging how it looks. This is where the 'designing' comes in. I am just looking for a pleasing arrangement, with colors that look good together.

There will be some trimming and neatening of edges before I do the fusing.

Nothing has been measured or is perfectly square.
Let go of perfection for this project.

The composition is nearing completion, and I am adding the larger chunks to fill in the background spaces. It really helps me to know where the outer edges are, so I can work in the fabric were it fits. Some gaps occured and that provided 'design choices' such as that horizontal turquoise piece on the right.

I have begun adding thin lines on top and underneath the pieces to ground the composition. I really dislike floating objects. The shapes need to relate to each other and the outside edges as well.

At this point I have LIGHTLY fused all the pieces to each other, and onto the paper. I use a tweezer to lift some edges to insert the thin line pieces under the top layer.
The finished top, fused onto the batting and trimmed to size.
I've added a few more lines, some dots and triangles and stopped myself from overdoing it. I will rely on the machine quilting to add the right finish.

IF I were going to do any hand stitching, now is the time to do it. I would stitch through the top and batting with either embroidery floss or perle cotton size 8 or 12. Then later after the backing is sewn on, the machine quilting will be done.

Keep in mind that trimming each piece of fabric  before the final fusing helps keep the look of the design neat and clean.
After the composition is complete, follow through with the finishing technique of your choice.

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