Wednesday, May 04, 2016

From Photo To Fabric

Finally finding a minute to show you my experience with the slice quilt challenge I teased at the end of this post. If you are not familiar with slice quilts, follow the link there for a fairly good general description. Otherwise, I think you will quickly catch on. Above is what each of us were given to work with independently of each other: The article from Quilting Arts magazine about one group's adventure in slice quilts (and which gave our organizer the idea to try this) and a copy of the reference photo (one her husband had taken). Our packets also included a grey-scale full-size copy of our particular slice of the photo (mine was the first slice on the left) and additional instructions pertinent to our challenge. We were told we could use any technique, style, colors and fabrics (as long as we stuck to quilting-weight cottons).

I've worked from photos before and know that my natural tendency is to interpret them literally as opposed to using them as a starting point. So as I studied the photo and my slice, I tried to keep that in mind, especially that I didn't have to include every detail in the shot. Still, I couldn't help wondering what the others would do and how closely they would adhere to what they saw in the photo. And we all had to remember that certain areas had to match up to the adjoining slice, like the roof lines. So working independently but not entirely. Well, I decided, some things are a given. The sky is blue and the grass is green so I can start there in my stash hunt. And I have lots of texture fabrics bought with tree trunks in mind that would work perfectly for barn siding. I pulled a lot of browns before realizing that was my silly left brain assuming all barns are brown, even though I'd studied this photo often and knew THIS barn was grey. Not to worry - I had grey bark fabric too. I admit to briefly wondering if the others would make their barns grey, or would this be a place where they would stray? I spent moments in indecision over this, eventually deciding that of course they would make their barns grey, and even if they didn't, I liked the grey fabric I'd found. Yes, I am easily influence!

I'd decided on raw edge fusing for the most part, but because of using the tacky Steam-a-Seam which didn't always get covered with another fabric on the back, I opted to work on a muslin base. Here I've centered the slightly oversized piece on top of the full-size photocopy to pencil in the outer edge and placement lines for the barn pieces. I'd planned to remove the copy, but liked how well I could see it through the muslin, so left it in place as I started to build my barn. The Steam-a-Seam allowed me to cut the holes in the back of the barn and the windows areas, slip the other fabrics underneath and then fuse the barn sections to the muslin base. The grey bark fabric was so dark that I used the lighter "wrong" side instead.

Remember that I said I was struggling with that roof when I showed my progress to the art group? After much auditioning and digging deep into my many stashes, the fabric that worked the best was a shirting fabric from the days when I made my husband's shirts (eons ago when men with long arms had difficulty finding long sleeved shirts that actually fell past their wrists). It is 100% cotton but a bit thin and looked so blah - even with the stripe that was to emulate the corrugated roofs so often seen on barns. In my search for something more suitable, maybe something with a little pattern to it, I checked a lot of wrong sides of fabrics and made an interesting discovery. Many light fabrics are not printed on a white base fabric, but on an off-white one. Any bit of not pure whiteness just looked wrong next to these greys and black. So it was back to my shirting fabric and laying it over other fabrics. I'd been thinking along these lines even before the art group suggested it and we were right. Fusing it to the textured fabric here (which had been abandoned as both a barn and a roofing solution) beefed it up a bit and its darker texturing just shows through enough to make me think of moss or dirt or other things that end up on an aging barn's roof.

The boards around the door and upper window are yet another grey fabric - just a bit lighter to help them stand out. I could have done raw edge fusing here but I couldn't get past the thought that turning under the edges would give them a more sitting on top look. I did put fusible on the back, the exact dimension of each piece, but then cut with an allowance that I turned to the back. My thinking was that the allowance would then fuse into place, and that mostly was the case, but with too much overlap to leave some fusible exposed for the final placement. Where I did not fuse (like the roof section and these boards), I used basting glue to hold things in place until I could add some stitching. I realized, to my surprise, that were I quilting this myself, much of the detail and final attaching would have been done in the quilting. Since I could not depend on the quilter to read my mind and instinctively know what areas needed going over, I ended up doing some stitching close to the edge. And the overall problem with the disappearing roof edge where similar valued roof and sky meet was solved by a narrow satin stitching with a twist thread before attaching it to the muslin base with a straight stitch.

Now to customize it! I planned to use one piece of fabric for the grass, but "fringe" the top a bit where the photo shows the tall grass coming up above the base of the barn. I only added fusible to that top edge, penciling in the grass on the paper backing to guide my cuts. I could audition against the photocopy as I went along.

Before fusing it in place, I added a fussycut motorcycle in the barn (you may remember how my late husband loved motorcycles and I loved riding with him), and built up what I hoped would look like a lilac bush in full bloom along the side of the barn (where in the photo was only piled up brush and tree limbs). Lilacs bring back pleasant childhood memories of spring Sunday drives in the country, my dad always looking for abandoned farmhouses or barns where we likely would find these beauties and cut big bouquets to bring home. Now I could fuse the grass in place with that fringed area overlapping cycle and bush, and add the last bit of personalizing - a dog! I was hoping one of the dogs from my Labrador retriever fabric would work, since most of my life this was the breed of dog underfoot. Alas, the proportions were off (would have looked like giant mutant puppies), but Meg from the art group remembered she had some Dalmatian fabric. I'll take it! Those puppies on it were just the right size, and the blue bandana ties in with the blue sky and the blue on the motorcycle.

And because there was so little else going on in the upper part of my slice, I added this hawk. I remember watching hawks so often when I lived in Wisconsin, and this one fell out of a piece of "woodland creatures" fabric when I unfolded it - already with fusible on the back and cut out. One of those guess this was meant to be moments.

One last detail also helps with that grand expanse of uninteresting sky. As I peered at the original photo, I noticed faintly in the distance where sky meets land a few telephone poles. Easy to stitch, using the same black/grey twist thread I used in the satin stitching of the roof, and I traveled between poles just on the edge of the grass fabric which had been turned under as opposed to seamed. I think you can really see the textured fabric shadowing through on the roof in this picture. There - I think I am done.

Time to fuse everything needing fusing down, run a line of basting just outside the binding line to hold the top and muslin together where there was no fusible, and check it against the full-size photocopy. Ahhhh - perfection!

Here it is before the final trimming, next to the full-size "pattern". Nothing overly creative here, but true to myself with touches that anyone knowing me would recognize and know this was my slice without being told. And yes, still a bit literal and conservative. I need to work on that. Because. . .

In Slice Order: Sheila Barnes, Alice Weickelt, Mary Carlson, Wanda Meinen

. . . here are all four slices together, before quilting. Yes, my Wisconsin ladies went a bit wild and let their imaginations go for a romp. I look at this and can't help thinking those other slices look a bit like an unruly group of children and mine looks like the playground teacher saying "Kids! Kids! Settle down! ;-)  What a great experience though. As with nearly every project I take on, I learn something valuable about myself, and something valuable about design and technique that I take forward into the next challenge. I'm so pleased my friend Mary thought to include me and that I agreed to take on the challenge!


Living to work - working to live said...

Ah! I get it. What a great challenge. And they look so wonderful together.

The Inside Stori said...

Sheila….this is GREAT… nailed it and it looked like it was a lot of fun to create!

Wil said...

It is lovely! Are you 4 making 1 sliced quilt in total, or one for each participant?

Chris said...

This came out well. Love the motorcycle in the barn and the the telephone poles. Also like how you solved the roof issue.How different each one came out.

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila!
Thanks for sharing this experience! I didn't know what slice quilt was but you explained it very well.
I like it you show all your process with so much patience.
And I think it is true that each slice reflects the crafter personality.
I loved the whole result, it is so beautiful!
In storytelling we have a similar process: in a circle, one storyteller starts a story and each one keeps telling it. When well done it is a whole and reasonable story, but each part is so particular and surprising.
Thanks so much again!!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks everyone! It will be interesting to see what the quilting adds to it.

Wil, I'm glad you asked - at the moment, it's just the one quilt, although the organizer did mention that if it went well, we might want to make more. But for now the intention is to get the finished quilt into some quilt shows and perhaps it can be raffled off for a good cause. I think Mary had a charity in mind but at the moment it escapes me. One of the group has become quite known for her "selvage quilts" and she sewed some selvages together, quilted two layers of them together, then sliced them into 4 strips and finished the outer edge to make a bookmark for each of us. What a nice idea so we would each have something tangible in hand to remember this experience.

Lucia, I love your analogy of the storytelling circle. It is just so - here you are thinking everyone is thinking the same as you but they are not. Just like my expecting that the sky in each slice would be blue, but two definitely had other ideas.

Michele Matucheski said...

So THIS is your challenge for the year! My old Art Quilt Group talked about doing a slice quilt in those last stages. But we were all so short on time (even the ones who were newly retired), and doing our own things that none of us would/could commit to the project. Now I wish we had ... This came out beautifully! And yes, you were a bit too literal, but there's definitely a place for that in this world, too. Thanks for sharing your process on your slice. I love that you added a lilac bush, and that adorable dalmation. And the hawk wanted to be there, too -- so you DID mix it up!

The Idaho Beauty said...

LOL Michele. I appreciate your honesty as no one else was quite brave enough to say what I know is true - fairly literal interpretation. :-) However, as you say, it was those personalizing touches of bush, dog and hawk that saved it from being a carbon copy of the photo. A little part of me wouldn't mind being given another chance - I'd go a bit wilder, really I would.