Archive for the ‘Dyeing’ Category

Words –> Power –> Action

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Two and a half weeks ago, I came across a Jimmy Fallon re-working of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ on Facebook and Youtube (hear it here–really LISTEN to the lyrics).  I was so moved by it that I wanted to create a quilt based on the song, but realized there were all those pesky copyright issues with using Fallon’s lyrics, so instead I created this quick piece to capture the spirit of the re-worked song. I pretty much never just drop everything and make a quilt this rapidly, but I just had to do it. I have titled it Words –> Power –> Action because, as our mothers told us, words have power.  Over the past two years, the election cycle, the results, and the first year of the current Presidency, have galvanized many so many of us. I have changed.  Legions of us have changed.

Words–>Power–>Action, © 2018 SarahAnn Smith


As a US Foreign Service Officer, I was not allowed to participate in partisan politics (federal regulations) because our job was (and should be) to serve ALL Americans.  I was used to keeping my mouth shut.  As a national level quilting teacher and artist, I felt it was better to keep politics and religion out of the classroom (and still do), so I kept my mouth shut.  But the past 20+ months have convinced me that I must speak out.  My quilt about the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 was my first overtly political quilt.

Speak Up, Speak Out © Sarah Ann Smith 2017.

I’ve been so distressed about the polarization and apparent lack of civility, compassion and understanding, of tolerance for differing views, that the past two years have been pretty depressing.  Our political climate has made me angry and galvanized me to take action and speak out.  Inspired by Fallon’s lyrics I went in search of quotes.  I’ll share all of them after each detail photo in which they appear.

I began like our nation, with revolutionary words from the US Declaration of Independence, which are written at the top of my brick wall (yes, I have the Pink Floyd lyrics “another brick in the wall” running on loop in my head, along with the phrase “the writing is on the wall”–I resisted the temptation to use that as a title!).  I dyed fabric to be a wall, using cold wax (from ProChem, and can’t find it any more on their website!) to create a resist for the mortar.  The backing is dyed cement grey.  The edges are raw, like my nerves and emotions (and those of so many others), torn on both the top and backing, with a tiny bit of batting peeking out and scruffed up.

The top portion of Words–>Power–>Action . There are more visible bits of words and phrases, and longer quotes written in lighter ink behind, as if they were fading graffiti.

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Speak Up, Speak Out
  • get woke
  • We the People
  • Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.  Barack Obama

Background quotes:

  • Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governedwhenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  US Declaration of Independence
  • We did not come to fear the future.  We came here to shape it.  B. Obama

Closer view of the center of Words–>Power–>Action with quilting that I hope simulates the rough texture of brick.

Center portion of Words–>Power–>Action

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Take a knee
  • Listen
  • Reach Out
  • #metoo
  • When they go low, we go high.  Michelle Obama

Background quote:

  • We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.  B. Obama

Center bottom of Words–>Power–>Action .

Bottom right of Words–>Power–>Action

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.  Hillary Clinton
  • Vote!  Get Involved
  • Courage can be contagious.  Michelle Obama
  • e  Pluribus Unum (for non-US readers, this phrase comes from our Founding Fathers and means out of Many, One which represents who we are as a nation, a government of the people, by the people and for the people)

Background quote:

  • here in America we are waging a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thanks for reading this far.  I hope you like it.





She persisted (ocean quilt) at IQF Chicago

Friday, April 7th, 2017

So if you’re going to International Quilt Festival in Chicago this weekend (2017), please do see my quilts!   Thank you SO MUCH to Becky Navarro, Special Exhibits coordinator for Quilts, Inc. (who put on the shows) for sending me these two photos of “She persisted in her quest to reach the shore and sing the anthem of the sea.”

On the right is my newest work, She persisted in her quest to reach the shore and sing the anthem of the sea, on display at International Quilt Festival Chicago 2017.

The 45th (!!!) Anniversary of the Quilt Festival is coming up and they will be celebrating with the Sapphire Celebration  from 2019 (45th year) to 2022 (sheesh that sounds almost impossible as a year!).  To learn more about entering, go here and scroll down.  They want traditional, art and modern quilts, size 50 x 50 or larger.  The size is a challenge for art quilters who tend not to work so large, but I was thrilled to have the chance to work so large.  And REALLY glad I have a Bernina Q20 sit-down machine now–the LONG, tall harp makes such a difference in working on such a large piece.

Another view of the two quilts promoting and encouraging entries in the new exhibit.  On the right is my newest work, She persisted in her quest to reach the shore and sing the anthem of the sea (c) SarahAnnSmith 2017.   

Quilts Inc. is giving you plenty of notice so put on your creative hats and get to work!

Umbelliferous:  Queen Anne’s Lace No. 1 is also on display in the Patterns exhibit curated by Dinner@8, then will go to her new home with a private collector (I am still stunned and thrilled–thank you!).

Umbelliferous: Queen Anne’s Lace No. 1 by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2016

Now, I need to go to the studio to work on my next piece!


Monday, February 13th, 2017

If you wonder what I’ve been up to, I dyed a bunch of fabric a while ago.  Now I am in the throes of turning it into a quilt.  A Very Large Art Quilt.   The blueberry barrens quilt was a sprint.  This one is a marathon.  Perhaps an ultra-marathon.   If anyone has some clever titles for the Pacific ocean crashing up on a rocky shore, let me know. I stink at titles and names.   My teddy bears are named Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear.  My childhood lion is, get this for originality, Leo.   Suggestions welcome!

Hand-dyed fabrics I made in January for a surf/ocean quilt.Oh…that bright green on the top right, not part of the quilt.

This quilt has a due date / needs to be in a box and getting shipped of mid-March, so I’m going down to the studio.  I will emerge.  I hope.

Autumn on Blueberry Lane

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

This quilt was inevitable.    Right click to view larger.  That thing in the middle is the needle bar of my Bernina Q20.  Notice the difference as I lay in the grasses along the edge of the driveway:  done on the far left, upper grass done on the near left, upper and lower grasses done on the near right (but not the tall grass which will happen in the final pass back to the right), and no stitching at all.

This photo is not the full quilt, but the quilt is a strong horizontal, and this shows more of it than I’ve shared to date on Facebook.  I’ll share the full quilt in mid March when I tape my Quilting Arts TV episode on one of the techniques I’ve developed and used in this quilt.

The photo below, taken in October 2015, was my inspiration, along with every autumn blueberry barrens I have ever seen.  The colors in the wild blueberry bushes are just beyond belief.  So I dyed a lot of fabric and went to town!

More autumn decay with blueberry barrens, decaying stone wall and birches in autumn in Maine.
The usual edits: smart sharpen, tiny bit of vibrance, crunching levels.

Hand dyeing fabric inspired by the blueberry barrens Maine (they look the same in Nova Scotia, too)

Same colors, different technique, scrunch

Scrunch and done. I used just about every single bit of this piece of fabric except for the more pink bits.   The blueberries are more of a russet and burgundy…this needs a touch more yellow in the red to get to that color.  

I’m still doing the facings and hanging sleeve…I’ll share the finished quilt in March, unless I change my mind and do it sooner!



Productive procrastination

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

So, I am supposed to be working on something that has a FIRM due-date of mid-to-early-ish March.  I have dyed the fabric and know what I’m going to do, but got sidetracked for a few days doing something I’ve wanted to do for eons:  paint the basement room that has the furnace, water heater, fuel oil tank, and water pump in it.  WHY?  Well, it’s where I do my fabric dyeing.   Since fabric is a lot more attractive than cement, here’s my last two batches of fabric.  Remember them, you’ll see them transformed at some point this year.

My time at the dye pots was FUN! And more interesting than a basement utility room which is what this post is really about.

What provoked this flurry of activity?  The Elfa sale at the Container Store, where good quality closet storage stuff goes on an annual 30 percent off sale.  Decided after much research it would be the best option for getting some shallow shelves above my “not a legal sink but a a basin” in my dye room because it would require the fewest screws going into the cement foundation walls and those few could be above grade (important for when the ground and snow melt in spring).    Here’s the before:



Panorama shot of the basement in the before stage…which I remembered to take only after I had started putting the DryLock paint around the window.  Click to make larger.  

I decided that I couldn’t stand putting the Elfa stuff in without finally painting the walls white (which will help with light and visibility in the room), so I started painting.  Four days ago!

First coat of DryLock paint partly on.  Better already!

Just about done except for the cleaning and moving stuff back in place and waiting for the shelf stuff to arrive.  A vast improvement (did another coat of primer on the wall at the far left).  Now, if I could just convince Paul to let me paint our dark living room……

I finished the last of the painting/priming today.  I used DryLock which helps keep water out on the cement walls.  It is like trying to paint with sludge/mud/thick paste.   ICK.   Primer on the base of the chimney/stone fireplace, and semi-gloss on the wall behind the sink as well.    I’ll post pics of the shelf stuff once it arrives and is installed.   It will require a masonry drill bit and Advil for the arthritis in my hands that will be aggravated from drilling the holes!