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Ann Fahl: Applique Ann’s Way

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I’m so happy to be able to share with you a lovely little booklet by art quilter Ann Fahl:  Applique Ann’s Way, A New look at Machine Applique, which you can order directly from Ann, here. This little gem is small but absolutely jam-packed with information, tips and ideas for machine applique.  I can totally see why Ann wrote it; as a teacher, you want to share so much in a class, but there often isn’t enough time, plus people don’t remember all those hints and tips.  In this modestly priced booklet ($10), her students (and now you!) can get all of that including photos.  Ann’s website is here.

Ann Fahl's Machine Applique booklet, available for just $10, here.

Ann Fahl’s Machine Applique booklet, available for just $10, here.

One of the first things I need to do, though, is apologize to Ann!  She sent me a review copy in early April; I warned her I was swamped and wouldn’t be able to blog until probably June.  Ahem.  It is now early September.  I’m SO SORRY to be SO LATE!  But the good news is that it is a great little book and totally worth tucking onto your shelf.

The booklet is 36 pages long (18 sheets of paper, folded in half and stapled so it stays together).  The outside–the cover and inside of the cover–is printed in color so you can see a range of the techniques Ann teaches in the book.  The inside of the booklet is printed in black and white, but even when you are looking at the detail photos, you can still see the stitches clearly.  Ann covers:

  • Supplies
  • Fusing instructions
  • Using decorative thread
  • Thread and needle chart
  • Satin Stitch applique
  • Refinements of the satin stitch
  • Starting and stopping
  • Stitch placement
  • 90 degree corners
  • Tapering points
  • Creating bold lines
  • Open zigzag stitch applique
  • Decorative stitch applique
  • Messy stitch free-motion
  • Straight stitch free-motion
  • Florentine edge applique
  • Trimming tip
  • Problem solving

I was really pleased to see how many things she and I teach the same way from supplies to tapering at points, from decorative stitches to troubleshooting.  My only addition would be a caution about ironing; Ann recommends giving your applique a good pressing with steam.  I’d caution you to TEST that level of heat on a sample scrap first.  Many of the threads I use are delicate and would shrivel and/or melt with steam!  So just as with any sewing project, be sure to TEST your stitches and methods on a sample before you do it on the real thing!   If you need to apply more heat, try using a press cloth and ironing from the back, but whatever you do, TEST!

All in all it’s a great little book.  As a teacher, I wish I had thought of doing something like this to have for my students who want something in writing, on paper, but don’t want to spend a fortune.  There is as much packed into these few pages as in MANY full-length applique books.  A great book for those learning to machine applique!

PS:  if you are a member of AQS, check out Ann’s great article in the September 2013 issue of American Quilter on Florentine Edge Applique, one of the techniques covered in the book; the article is on p. 24.

Art Quilting Portfolio: People & Portraits

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

The winner has been chosen using a random number generator at for the free copy of People and Portraits, it’s number 22!  My comment list says it is Anne, so please contact me via the Contact page on this site with your name and address, and Lark will send you a copy.  Congrats and thanks to all.

Martha Sielman and Lark Crafts have done it again:  another wonderful survey of art quilts today, this time with the theme of People and Portraits.

Art Quilt Portfolio:  People and Places by Martha Sielman, published by Lark Crafts

Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Places by Martha Sielman, published by Lark Crafts

The book includes profiles of 21 major artists from around the world and galleries with works by another 120 artists based on themes:

  • Happiness
  • Contemplation
  • Community
  • Icons
  • Family and Friends
  • Work
  • Play

There are several ways to approach this book:

  • Sit down and devour it at once from cover to cover
  • Dip in at random, opening a page to works by people you may or may not know
  • Savor a section or an artist at a time
  • Grab a favorite beverage, find a comfortable place to sit, and reward yourself with a half hour or hour to read and study the artists you admire
  • or all of the above

I started by devouring the book, seeing whose work was in the book, were my favorites there (yes!), whose work had I not seen before?  If you’d like to do the same, read to the end of this post for information on how to win this book, thanks to Lark!

I appreciate the more in depth look we get at each of the featured artists.  Each feature has a one paragraph introduction by Martha, followed by five or six images and writing by the artists (I’m presuming in response to questions from Martha). The commentary covers both technique and substance.   In Bodil Gardner’s section, I enjoyed learning that she includes sheep to add a dash of white to a piece, and that cups are her symbol for women sharing and getting together.  I love reading about Collette Berends’ life and inspiration and also about the wide range of materials used.

There is a very good range of styles and techniques represented as well, ranging from the cartoon-style of Pamela RuBert to Bodil Gardner’s whimsy to Jennifer Day’s and Jenny Bowker’s realistic portraits.  Lastly, this book has the dates the quilts were made. I LOVE THIS because I enjoy looking at the works in chronological order to see the artist’s progression in style, theme and technique.  I do wish they had included the artist’s home country (recognizing that a number of them were inspired by life in other places), and it would have been wonderful if there had been room to include a small photo and bio of each artist, perhaps in the index, but I realize that we all want to see more quilts and there are only so many pages you can squeeze into a book.

From a technical standpoint, almost all the photos are crisp and clear.  The majority show the edges of the quilts; you can tell those because of the drop-shadow used on the page.  Others are clearly cropped to be in a rectangle.  I vastly prefer seeing the entirety of the quilt, not cropped, and wonder at the decision to do this–I wish they hadn’t.  I also wish there were some detail photos:  the first time I flipped through the book quickly, I actually looked to make sure these were all quilts, as I couldn’t see the stitching on many pieces.  This is a function of two things:  the quality of the photograph submitted by the artists and the size of the original quilt (the larger the quilt, the more detail is lost as it is shrunk to fit on a page).  For example, Julie Duschack’s “Monk in the Doorway” is very large, about 4 feet tall by 6 feet wide.  I saw it in Houston and walked as close as I could get to see the stunning quilting on the large black wall; alas, only a portion of this stitching shows on the page:  a detail photo that included part of the stitching would have been wonderful. These are, however, minor quibbles about a book that is well worth adding to your library.

Bottom line:   You’ll love this book!  And I’m thrilled to say that Lark has offered a copy to a reader who comments on this blogpost!  Thank you Lark!  So please leave me a comment.  Tell me what you like to see in portraits, whether your preferences are abstracted, photo-realistic, close-ups, painted or appliqued, tell me what is it that speaks to you when you see an art quilt portrait.  On June 12 I will pick one person at random (I’ll use an online random number generator based on the total number of comments); I’ll need your email to contact you with the good news, which I’ll also post on this post as the last message.


A foray into Metalworking

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Copper tendrils hold the watch face onto my sketchbook cover.

Oh what FUN!  For a number of years now I have been inspired by New Zealander Claire Prebble’s wirework in her art-to-wear costumes (her website is here), and have wanted to mess around with wire.  Then last summer I took the first of three online classes with Jane LaFazio.  In one of them, I “met” Janice Berkebile and several other wonderful women.  After the second of the classes with Jane, we decided to set up our own sketching group online (we are globally dispersed from the San Francisco Bay area to northern California to near Seattle, Ontario Canada, Vermont and Maine and in the UK).  One day, Janice quietly said “Oh… my first book is just published.”  SAY WHAT?!!!!!!!   Here it is, and it is wonderful:

If you’d like to see Janice, click here and for the home page to their website, click here.

Well, I’m nowhere near starting on anything as awesomely intricate as Claire Prebble’s work, or even one of the simpler projects in the book, but I sure had a grand start today.  See several years ago, my Frayed Edges art quilt mini-group friends and I decided to do a journal-cover swap.   I got the lovely one made by Kate Cutko (queen of recycled and all things “green”…her blog is here) which has discharged and also rust-dyed fabric.  When she gave it to me, she told me she had wanted to find a watch face to sew to the cover.  Well, that year at Quilt Festival/Houston I found just the one!

After several years of use, the monofilament thread which I had used to attach the watch face had  broken, so I wanted to re-apply the watch face to the journal more securely.  At first I was going to sew beads to set it the way you would use seed beads to couch a cabochon (big flat stone/bead) to something.  Ugh. Hard.  Then I had a brainstorm–WIRE!   So this morning I started to play.

My work table this morning with hammers, pliers, cutters, wire (copper), more wire, and Janice’s book open to the appropriate page.

At first I was thinking of making a network of wire underneath with curlicues that extended to the front and intertwined with a circle of copper (since I bought that because it isn’t as expensive as silver!) on the top.  Then I thought…why a second circle on top?  How about “prongs” that wrap to the front and have them hold it?   SO….I made it!

Janice and Tracy’s book is great because it tells you what tools you need, which are nice-but-optional (especially when starting the cost of tools can be a bit frightening!).  I bought a larger bench block than you recommended (only slightly) in the book because I want  to eventually work on some larger pieces that may well include shapes cut from sheet metal…. They give all sorts of hints and tips, and have TONS of step-by-step pictures so you can follow along on your own.

Journal, with watch face attached with way more fun and creativity this time!

The tendrils that wrap to the front grip the watch face securely.  I sewed the copper “whatchamacallit” to the cover, then tucked the watch face into it, and pinched the tendrils down.

And then for fun I tried to make a spiral…while standing up and rushing.  Not the best, but at least it is a start!

Not quite round, but at least it is a tight spiral with a hanging loop!

So now I have their book back by my spot on the sofa and tonight will pore over it to see what I can adapt to use some beautiful beads made by ANOTHER internet friend that I got to meet in the real 4 years ago in Paducah (Caty are you out there?)!

Jacquie Scuitto’s Quilt Verse, Volume 1

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Last month my dear friend Jacquie Scuitto, a.k.a. The Quilt Muse, published a book of her verses in an e-Book format via SmashWords!

If you’ve been fortunate to be on any online groups with Jacquie, you’ll have enjoyed her periodic commentaries (via verse) on various and sundry things dealing with our quilting life.   Here’s a link if you’d like to order your own modestly-priced e-Book!  It’s fun, wonderful, and I’m so happy to be able to share with you!

I’m feeling a bit sheepish at taking so long to writing this review… I was away teaching then learning in April when it came out, and it seems May has just evaporated into a blur of kid-activities, springtime chores and whatnot (as you might gather from the lack of blogposts)!  With that said…. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of these verses, and found favorite poems.  Jacquie has hit the nail on the head in describing this as light verse… it is just that, with insightful commentaries on so many of our favorite things.

I’m tickled to see that her poem on thread, The Wonder of Thread, which she let me include in my book on just that topic, is included in this volume.  Other favorites included The Workshop:

Quilts here, quilts there,
Quilting quilters everywhere.
Fabrics on tables, scraps on the floor.
Choosing and cutting,who could ask more?

Which continues with input from the teacher of the workshop, of course!

Many of us will nod our heads in understanding when reading SOS

Where can I store more fabric?
my shelves are crammed….

And yet another commiseration (Sarah typed, grinning away….) in Meaningful Scraps:

When I burrow into my boxes of scraps
It’s an archeological trip:
There’s a bit of my quilting history
In each and every strip.

Here’s a taste of just one more —-and there are lots of these lovely verses…. I’m only including portions so you can get a feel…. if you’d like to read them all you’ll need to head on over to Smashwords and download your own copy!  You can select a PDF (which I did, to read on my laptop), or versions for iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc….. I think every reader program is covered!   This last delectable is  The Recipe:

A fat quarter of this,
A half-yard of that,
A rotary cutter.
A queen sized batt.
Mix well with one quilter
And add in the spice


Well, when you mix well with the one quilter who just happens to be Jacquie, and add in the spice of her gentle sense of humor and winning way with words, you’re in for a lovely treat.  A great gift for yourself or the favorite quilter on your gift list!  Order it here.  And for another review, hop on over to Ellen Anne Eddy’s blog, here.  Yes, I’m biased—I’m so happy that Jacquie is my friend; she’s a good friend and a fun writer and I hope you’ll enjoy her whimsy and wisdom as much as I do.

Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

A brief book review before I head off to Arkansas (at 5:15 tomorrow morning…..blinkbleary-eyes)!  Executive Director of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Martha Sielman is published again with this portfolio of works depicting things “nature.”  It is another eye-candy book, and I am enjoying it greatly (and no, not in this one!).  There are 19 profiles of various artists, plus a number of galleries with works by many, MANY more artists.  The galleries include Flowers 1, Birds, Water, Animals, Leaves, Insects, Flowers 2, Trees and Textures.

Usually, I like to thoroughly pore over a book, reading and evaluating it cover to cover.   This spring is sufficiently busy, however, that I didn’t want to wait, especially since Lark Books (the publisher) was kind enough to send me a review copy.  The interviews with the profiled artists are nicely in depth, and I feel the questions responses give me a much better feel for the artist and how this work brings out their individual response to art and the world around them.  The artist profiles are roughly grouped into the same categories as the galleries.  For example, Ginny Eckley’s work–which often features birds–is just before the birds gallery.  Organizing the book in this way helps the viewer really see how the “voice” and hand of the individual artist are revealed despite similar subject matter.

This is a book I know I am going to want to savor over an extended period, and one which I will return to in the future.

I’ll be teaching in Arkansas for the QUEST guild in Little Rock then the Hot Springs Village Quilt Guild this week!  I’m home for just long enough to do laundry, then off to attend a workshop on dyeing silk.  I’ll post when I can!