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Canticle of the Stars

Canticle of the Stars, or should I call it Anthem of Light? Chime in!
Completed May 2020, 36 tall x 46.5 wide.

There is a thing called star trails photography (just google it…it’s really cool). The earth rotates on its axis. The North Star is static in our northern skies. If you take time lapse photos and then “stack” (merge) them, you get star trails….images that describe the lines created by the light of the stars. Did you know that starlight comes in different colors??? It does… I love the feeling of the vastness of space. When I went to college, I comforted myself knowing that my then-boyfriend and I could both look up at the constellation Orion in the sky even though we would be 3000 miles apart. I love wondering what is out there, and feeling snug and at home in my own world. The universe is Out There and it is Within Us. I love the resulting art quilt. While trying to figure out the title (star trails was too boring), I wrote a poem to go with this quilt:

As many of you know by now, I was selected to be a Michael Miller Brand Ambassador this year. At the start (last December) we received a box STUFFED with goodies (post here). I decided to challenge myself, using items ONLY from this box to make an art quilt in my style, but using fabrics that are totally not in my usual wheel house: commercial solids, prints, and bling. I love the result…in trying to figure out the title (star trails was too boring), I wrote a poem above. Help me decide should the title be Canticle of the Stars? or Anthem of Light? Leave comments and thoughts!

So, how do you make an image that is DARK work successfully as an artwork? In this case, the answer is a lot of quilting with light thread in seven shades from pink to peach to green to blues! Here are the fabrics I used:

The quilt is under the fabrics, with the top visible in the upper half and the backing below. The Michael Miller Fabrics are from left to right: Michael Miller Krystal in Aubergine 1278, Wine 2248, Coal 1302 and 1257 Evergreen. Fairy Frost in Black. Cotton Couture SC5333 in Midnite and Ink. Marble CX1087 in Stone, graphite (or onyx) and night (I think on the denim blue). Michael Miller Jet Black which is part of the Cotton Couture line. I overdyed the green with a navy dye to use as the backing.

The quilting was done entirely on my Janome M7 Continental. The sky was done with the walking foot and the trees was free-motion quilted. It has been eons since I did walking foot quilting…I may do more of it soon! And the threads I used:

It is VERY rare for me to use a walking foot for quilting, but for the sky on this one I did. I used the dark blue So Fine to help hold down the Mistyfused pieces (cut curved, but on the bias so I could adapt their arc) and solid black (I can’t remember if it was the Mettler or So Fine) for the treelike silhouette. The six colors are the star trails in the sky. I used both regular straight stitch and the triple-straight stitch with the walking foot.
Detail, Canticle of the Stars. The edges of the print fabrics are definitely rougher than I am used to with the batiks and hand-dyes I use due to the different thread count, but I think they work because the light edges become another star trail.
And a very close up of the raw edges, some wool lint (sigh…do you know how many times I vacuumed and lint roller this quilt??????) from my pressing surface, and the quilting. The pale green turned into that creamy yellow color when quilted. It’s amazing what thread will do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey to the stars, and back to home on Earth.

19 Responses to “Canticle of the Stars”

  1. Nancy MacIntosh Says:

    I would stay with canticle of the stars based on the meaning of canticle in song. Songs have movement and this definitely is a picture of movement. Congratulations on the quilt

  2. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Nancy! I am not a musical person, but it just fit! I grew up in a catholic school, with the best nuns on the planet, and I love the link to the songs…. some of the music was call and response, and that’s what I felt creating this piece!

  3. Judy Schneider Says:

    Definitely Canticle.
    Such a beautiful word, to me it has always evoked timeless mysteries, as do the stars.

  4. Shannon M Conley Says:

    This quilt is fantastic! The round motion you’ve captured is really wonderful, and I love the variety of colors in the swooping stars.

  5. wendy richardson Says:

    it’s a wonderful piece! i love canticle of the stars. that title seems larger than life, as suggested by your image, and also the words seem to invoke movement.

  6. Barb Roe Says:

    Stunning! And as an Episcopalian who sang for many years in church choirs, I agree with the Catholic vibe. The title is perfect and the quilt is outstanding. My one great feeling of loss is that this year, many regional quilt shows will be cancelled because of Covid-19 and all these wonderful quilters are producing like mad. It will take us time to get to see all this wonderful work in person! Please keep up your inspiring blog.

    Also loved your poem – my late husband was a well-known Wisconsin poet, and I’ve always felt the connection between fiber and poetry…


    Wow just doesn’t capture how this took my breath away. I love the title (although I did have to hit the dictionary – started my week with a new word!). What I really love is that you didn’t fall into the trap many quilters do by trying to make the sky “realistic”. I have seen were quilters have tried to convey with beads, sparkle organza, etc., and the quilt becomes too busy and overworked. You let my imagination do the work. The silhouette of the land at the base and then the fabulous sky is perfect! Congrats!

  8. Margaret Blank Says:

    A wonderful piece! I agree: call it “Cantile of the Stars” — and put the poem on the label! 🙂

  9. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks! That is the plan… the Quilts Inc / IQA / Houston show blurb has too few spaces so had to put just a part of the poem….THANKS!

  10. Judith Crespo Says:

    This is a magnificent quilt. Thank you for sharing so much information.

  11. Jaye Says:


  12. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Jaye! And thanks about the video… I’m trying to get better at all of this. May be buying a boom for overhead shots soon!

  13. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Barb…you gave me goosebumps! Thank you for the kind words….. and sorry for the delay in replying. It has been a crazy busy month! I too will miss the shows…we all will. Zoom and other online platforms are great, but nothing beats quilts in person!

  14. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    What a wonderful observation…thank you!

  15. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you Shannon! Your work inspires me…look forward to seeing more

  16. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Wendy!

  17. Barb Roe Says:

    Sarah, I have followed your blog for several years, and have an affinity to your work. Three of my Maineiac grandsons are lobstermen out of Steuben ME, and my daughter lives in the suburb of Ellsworth called Lamoine. (twenty houses strung along Douglas Hwy,I think.) we have come to Maine for many years to spend time with family, and the coastline scenes, lack of city lights (reminiscent of your most recent quilt) and the sound of the tide draw me back often. I can usually tell when one of your quilts was inspired by local scenery!

    Keep up the great work, and I hope you can submit one of your quilts in the Great Wisconsin Quilt Show soon (formerly called the Wisconsin Quilt Expo initiated by our state public television station and Nancy Ziemann). I always volunteer to wear the white gloves and proudly display the quilts to the crowds. Hope to see one of yours as soon as we open up again (it will be virtual this year).

  18. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Hi Barb….gosh, I’m blushing madly! Thank you so much!

    I will look up the Wisconsin Great Quilt Expo—if in person teaching really kicks back into gear (I expect it will eventually) I can try to apply! I’d love to go to Nancy Zieman’s stomping grounds. I was listening to a podcast by a 20-something who had just discovered her and was SO excited, but sad to have learned Nancy died. It’s heartwarming to see her legacy lives on!

  19. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks so much Judith! Apologies for the delay in replying… it has been surprisingly hectic around here. Stay well!