Friday, March 29, 2013

Bubble Prayers - Letting Go

Bubble Prayers - Letting Go by Sheila Mahanke Barnes 2013
Artist Statement
I recently helped a friend through a grueling three months of medical testing and treatment far from our homes while her friends sent up "bubble prayers" with the help of a cheeky fish bubble maker. In times of hardship and despair, we send up petitions to whatever higher being we believe in once we realize we cannot control our fate. Sometimes we see signs our prayers have been answered. Other times it appears they have not. Yet we must keep letting the prayers rise, letting go of our need to control, trusting that whatever the outcome, our petitions have been answered.

I'm finding it hard to believe that this is my first art piece of the year. I have to remember that I battled a lot of recurring illness over the winter as well as getting used to the new residence and studio. The last month has had the feel of a slow convalescence, both physically and with my art - slow steps back to stamina and confidence. It may have taken longer to resolve this original design than one would normally expect, but I have to admit to being pleased with the results and  glad that I did not rush the work, force it along. A good beginning.

When last I gave an update on its progress, I had many questions about how I would attach those arms. I made a pattern out of freezer paper, ironed it to the right side of the fabric and marked around it with a white pencil. I knew I would not be doing needleturn applique so no need to add a seam allowance, just carefully cut on the white line.

I toyed with the idea of layering it over either a piece of felt or thin batting and quilting it off the quilt top, then attaching it to the quilt top with a zigzag stitch around the edges. I was worried that the quilting texture of the top would somehow show through in a bad way. I had a small quilting test piece though, so laid a piece of the hand-dyed cotton over it and tried out my quilting pattern. Absolutely no need to add a layer of anything under the arms so I pinned them into place.

I quilted crescents up the arms and fingers using the same invisible thread I'd used in the borders. This worked very well and there was very little fraying along the raw edge. So nice not to use fusible web.

I'm not a big fan of edge finishing with facing but this piece dictated that I do just that. I squared up the quilt and cut a piece of the same fabric used for the backing a fraction smaller than the quilt itself. If this had been a larger quilt or if I'd been short on fabric, I would have cut strips for the facing. Instead, I marked a line all the way around 2 inches from the edge as a guide and pinned it right sides together with the top. Then it was just a careful trip around the outside edge, sewing facing and quilt together with a quarter inch seam. I stopped one or two stitches short of each corner and stitched diagonally across rather than pivoting at the exact corner. This makes poking those corners out a bit easier.

Usually facings are handsewn to the back of the quilt, but I didn't want to do that hand sewing. So this is a little experiment to see if I could get away with fusing the raw edge instead. Here I've positioned half-inch strips of Steam a Seam fusible along my pencil line and did a quick fuse.

Lifting the facing away from the quilt top, I made a small snip and carefully rough cut near the fusible to remove the excess facing fabric. I came to regret my choice of Steam a Seam as the paper released during the next step and the tacky fusible stuck where it shouldn't. Wonder Under or even Misty Fuse would have been a better choice of fusible.

Not everyone recommends understitching before pulling the facing to the back, but most do. You can never get into the corners and in this case I couldn't get closer than about an inch and a half. To understitch, you pull the facing out over the seam allowance and stitch very close to the seam on the facing side. A tried and true seamstress trick, it supposedly helps everything roll to the back, but with the thickness of batting in the mix, I'm not sure it helps enough to be worth the extra step. Anyone out there have an opinion on that?

Before turning the facing to the back, I slipped a small cutting mat between it and the quilt top so I could use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim the raw edge even with the fusible. Now it is like doing a pillowturn backing; you need to trim the corners to remove bulk and I have found rounding like this rather than making a diagonal cut works best. Then poke out those corners as you pull the facing to the back. I had to steam and iron the edge quite vigorously to get that bulky seam allowance towards the back. Then it was quite simple to fuse the raw edges of the facing as I smoothed it toward the center with enough tension to be sure it held the turn in place. Since my facing and backing fabric are the same and a print, you cannot see where facing ends and backing begins. I'd definitely do the fused edge again, but maybe place it so the finished facing would be narrower.

I should note that I've had a dickens of a time getting accurate color representation with my camera. The picture of the finished quilt as been tweaked somewhat, but I still get the sense that it is reading more blue than green. I was anxious to get this up on the blog so have not tried an outdoor shot yet. However, this piece has been like a chameleon, changing color repeatedly depending on the light source. Has been driving me crazy - one minute the teal background looking like it doesn't go with the batik border one bit, the next change in lighting showing it a perfect match. 


The Idaho Beauty said...

As to the color discrepancy, I looked at this post on my Kindle Fire last night and the quilt's color was perfect! It may be an issue with my monitor, or the difference of browsers. I've tried some adjustments but on my regular computer the best color adjustment I can make still leaves the picture leaning toward blue. I'm at a loss...

Mary Stori said...

What a special tribute to all those who are praying for Judi!
She very fortunate to have a friend like you.....

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila!
Beautiful, wonderful work, congratulations, not only for the final product, but for overcoming all your difficulties.
Thanks for inspiring me and all the fortunate people that are going to see this post.


Chris said...

Wow your quilt came out great! I loved reading about how you did it.

M Horton said...

Great pictures... the piece turned out great. I like the quilting patterns and how you applied them. Very nice.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Belated thanks everyone!