Wednesday, April 08, 2015

And it's done...

Completed units of the fountain wall
...but remind me never to do this again.

Let's recap. I was going for replicating a fountain wall, the smoothness of the marble and the sectioning that created narrow troughs for the water to flow through to the next level. A firm quilt with little stitching. I'd gotten away with this on smaller projects where I'd created a mount out of fabric fused to Decor Bond that extended beyond the actual quilt like a border. Could I create an entire quilt this way? I divided my fountain wall design into sections the same as the actual wall and completed each as a separate unit. Now it was time to join them together. I had an idea...

Using the "road map" to line up units

On my sample, I'd merely overlapped sections and stitched along the edge. But I didn't like the look of that line of stitching and didn't want to cover up those beautifully finished edges with stitching either. Moreover, I realized I wanted those edges free and open to help with my illusion of the multi-layered wall. I could hand stitch from the back, a daunting thought, or...I could glue or fuse instead. I'd allowed for an inch overlap which would give me half an inch for fusible, half an inch free. Better yet, what if I added a spacer of felt to lift the overlapped section up a bit, increasing the illusion of a gap? I'd thought to start from the top with the farthest back layer, but realized I needed to join those sections at the bottom first to be sure the rest of the units lined up properly along the sides.

Stitching caused some shrinkage on some units

Oh, such a good thing I did. Joining those 3 sections in the lower right with satin stitching had drawn them up a bit, as laying this out on my master pattern showed. Not much but enough that it would have created real problems had I left it for last.

Building up the wall by fusing it together from the backside

I soon realized that the sections would become more and more unwieldy as I joined them, making it impossible to fuse the felt strips on. I also quickly found that if I did not press on a hard surface, I would get iron imprints in the interfacing. I missed my big ping pong table that was my work space in my previous studio for perhaps the first time since moving. I wondered how much heat my new resin tables could take. I also realized I needed to be working from the back side, not the front, so turned my master pattern over, happy that I could just see the lines without having to retrace.

Strips of felt set 1/2" back from edges

It was a plausible idea, this fusing together with the felt spacers, but what a nightmare. I was slipping a short board wrapped in foil under the overlapped section, using painter's tape to keep the sections from shifting, having a difficult time getting enough heat through the layers to activate the fusible. A second look at the directions indicated I needed to use steam, so I employed a damp press cloth which pretty much did the trick. But the felt, which was not as thick to begin with as I'd been thinking to create a visible gap, compressed nearly flat - even sections I had doubled up. Argh!!! Any places that fusible wasn't totally secured got a quick application of Gem Tac glue.

All units fused to each other at overlaps

Working my way up, carefully lining up the overlaps, I finally had all sections together.

Flipping it over, I held my breath that the fuses would hold, knowing they would be reinforced somewhat by the backing yet to come.

Here you can see the free edge, but if you follow the edge to the right, you can also see how it lays fairly flat against the unit under it. Not what I had in mind.

This section shows a little more shadowing, partly because of the direction of the light source.

I'd already fused Misty Fuse to an over-sized piece of synthetic felt for the backing. Now it was time to lay the quilt on it and mark around the edges with a chalk-o-liner. Then I trimmed off the excess felt 1/4" in from the chalk line so that the backing would not go all the way to the edge of the quilt. Wanting to preserve that realism of the wall, even when viewed from the side.

When I flipped the quilt over and arranged the backing over it for fusing, everything was perfect ... except for this. Another arghhh as I discovered something that had not occurred to me when I folded back the fabric at the two points where there were inside corners. Here raw edges and interfacing lie exposed by virtue of the backing not coming to the edge. Quick fix, though, with a small piece of the same fabric slipped under the backing and angled to run across the diagonal, neatly fused into place. Then it was a matter of working my way from top to bottom with an iron, fusing the backing, snugging it up against overlaps that made for an uneven surface. I did consider ways I might even out the different levels on the back before adding the backing, but it would have meant more measuring, cutting and fusing of whatever I might find to work, and frankly, I was running out of time and patience with this quilt! I was pretty tired of fighting with the Misty Fuse, which held well to the felt most of the time but kept failing on the bond with the back of the quilt. So I just went with what I had, ironing and ironing until it seemed it had fused in place. I was also tired of fighting with the Stiff Stuff which did not exactly live up to its advertising either. In an attempt to steam out places in it where shadowing creases and bumps and iron impressions had developed (this had worked on the small sample but failed on the larger piece), I inadvertently caused the Misty Fuse to release from the back. Arghhh combined with grrrr! More pressing from the back and I was just going to have to live with whatever was going on in the front. By the way, the table with a large beach towel between it and the quilt held up fine under the heat of the iron, although there may not have been that much heat getting through the layers.

I'd had plenty of time to think about what to do about the hanging apparatus. The last thing I wanted to do was hand stitch a long sleeve across the top, and I also felt I needed to add something along the bottom for stability. I'd thought about tabs, but then remembered about triangle corners. I made them from the leftovers of the fused felt, doubling them up so that the ends of the slat would be raised to the overlapped level of the center piece. I initially glued them down with the Gem Tac and weighted them until dry, then secured the top and side edges with hand stitching. To keep the quilt from bowing out away from the slat, I added the tabs similarly to the corners - a little glue, a little stitching.

Tabs all the way across might have been better, because the corners have no extra space in them to keep the 1/4" thick slat from causing a slight bulge from the front at each end - like what happens when you sew a sleeve flat against the quilt, causing the quilt top to roll rather than lie flat. But one thing is for sure; I don't have to worry about those slats going any!

Finally, I printed out a label onto one of the fabrics used in the quilt and fused that to the back with Steam a Seam - something I know will not lift off once properly fused.

Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water

The other thing that has taxed my patience with this quilt is the inability of my cameras to get an accurate capture of its colors. I took this photo somewhat in haste and tried a little correction in Paint Shop Pro. I think it is close, although my sense is I'm still losing some of the warm overtones in the light fabrics. If those get right, then the color of the dark fabrics is totally off. I'm hoping to get a better photo of it while it hangs at the exhibition. At its widest point it is 49 inches and 32 inches high - kinda big for me these days.

Eisenberg Fountain - Detail of water stitching

From the start, I said this was a "concept" quilt, meaning I had a concept for a radically different means technically of constructing it. It was an experiment all the way, parts turning out just as I had hoped, other parts not quite as closely, and still others that didn't work at all. Plenty of coulda's, shoulda's and wish I woulda's, enough that I am a bit motivated to give it another go. You know how it is when you first finish a quilt. Now you can see what might have worked better, or just that with this experience to draw on, you think you might be able to make a stronger quilt. Or perhaps just a slightly different version to try out the ideas that came to you while working through this one. Lord knows, I've got a lot of fabric left over! But for this version, the important thing is that I finished it by the deadline and when I turned it in to the curator yesterday, she said it was beautiful. Really? Oh, yeah, this is the curator who doesn't just tell you nice things to make you feel good. If she says it's beautiful, it's beautiful!


The Inside Stori said...

Your journey making this quilt and all it entailed personally is a testament to your dedication, creativity, and skill as an artist. You nailed it!!

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila, I agree with the curator: your Eisenberg fontain quilt is very beautiful!
I think that the best of this quilt is the opportunity you give us, your loyal readers of follow all the process. It is precious, almost as see the final result.
Congratulations for your efforts and thank you so much for sharing it!!

Wil said...

I took a lot of effort to create this quilt, but it was worth it. Well done!

Susan Sawatzky said...

I read a story about creativity and the brain this morning and immediately thought of your blog post. Reading how you thought out the process to create your wonderful piece, one can see how it helps our brains to keep functioning!

A lovely piece of art....Susan

Connie Rose said...

Whew, what a big project that was, eh? You did a fantastic job on it. I especially love the way you did the hanging apparatus. Way to go, Sheila!

Olga Norris said...

What a journey, what dedication, what an achievement - great!

Sherrie Spangler said...

All that hard work and frustration has paid off -- it IS beautiful!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Oh my - I did not anticipate all this high praise! I am indeed humbled and will now enjoy looking at this quilt through your eyes. Thank you so much - as if you couldn't see, I needed this!

Felicity Grace said...

Your quilt is amazing - that stitching! The close-up photos are beautiful, so it must look even more so in the flesh. I can't imagine (even reading about it!) how you did this but it looks absolutely perfect...I really should get my machine out, I've lost even the basics but this is very inspiring.

Living to work - working to live said...

I've been so snowed under with the day job lately that many of the blogs on my reading list have been abandoned.

But I'm catching up now, feeling a bit less overwhelmed elsewhere, and realised that I had missed this.

First of all I can empathise with all the technical issues - it's how I tend to work when I do a larger quilt ( I had real challenges with Abcission III last year!) - but you nailed it! I wish I could see it in the flesh to get close up and personal with the stitching etc.

Hope you're well

Hilary xx

Sandy said...

This is beautiful. I am glad Living to work - working to live put a link on her blog. The larger image of the quilt really does show the perspective of sections of the fountain in front/behind each other. It makes one feel that you'd recognise the fountain if you saw it.
All the best for the exhibition!
Sandy in the UK

Maggi said...

This has turned out to be a fabulous piece. Congratulations on struggling on to make it so effective,