Monday, September 17, 2018

Care and Feeding of a Quilt

People who buy my quilts often ask how they should take care of it.  This article by April Niino that I found on Rose Rushbrooke's Blog  is the most comprehensive article I have found about the care and feeding of a quilt. 
The Display and Care of Art Quilts by April Niino, Penny Nii Quilt Art 
This short article is aimed primarily at art quilts, but it applies to any quilts, including antique quilts. However, because of the fragility and the weight of some of the older quilts, additional care needs to be taken.
Quilts should be handled infrequently but when it becomes necessary, wash and dry hands thoroughly before handling – body oils are easily transferred to textiles. It is a good idea to remove any jewelry which could catch on the quilt. Use a large clean surface to work on. In lifting the quilts, support the main body from beneath with both hands.
To hang the quilt, a sleeve is sewn onto the backing using a slip stitch. Many artists will have sewn the sleeve themselves. A curtain road or a ¼″ thick wood slat sealed with shellac or acrylic paint is inserted into the sleeve. The slat may then be nailed to the wall, or it may be hung from the ceiling using monofilament wire. We recommend using a slat so the surface hangs flat. Often a second sleeve is sewn on the bottom of the piece and a slat inserted to give the piece some weight. This will help the piece hang flat and straight.
Heavier quilts may require the use of Velcro strips. The softer half is machine sewn to a piece of cotton fabric ½” wider than the Velcro. The fabric strip is then sewn onto the edges of the quilt back using a slip stitch. Closely staple the hook half of the Velcro to slats sealed with shellac or acrylic paint with rustproof staples, then nail the slats to the wall. Attach the quilt to the slats without stretching the quilt.
Sunlight and Lighting
The worst enemy of any artwork is sunlight. In the case of fiber art, light will not only fade the quilt but will also weaken the fiber. Ultraviolet rays are the most harmful, but using filters on windows and fluorescent fixtures will greatly reduce ultraviolet light. 3M makes a clear film which can be easily glued to glass. Plexiglas UV filters can be inserted between the fluorescent light tubes and the cover. Another option is to enclose the quilt in a UV filtered Plexiglas frame.
If you must light your quilt, the recommended light intensity is 5 foot-candles. The heat from lamps can dry out your quilt causing it to become brittle. Spotlights should not be kept closer then eight feet from the surface of the quilt.
The best way to clean a quilt is by vacuuming. Use a hand held vacuum with low suction and a soft brush attachment. Do not use an attachment with a rotating brush. The best method is to work in a pattern of lifting and pressing. A clean soft paintbrush can be used to lift off more stubborn dust and dirt. Vacuum both sides before storing.
The ideal storage facility is a dark place with good air circulation, and large enough to store the quilts flat. Avoid a room subject to poor ventilation, high humidity or temperature extremes. If the quilt must be folded, fold it with clean sheets, cotton fabric, or crumpled acid free tissue along the folds. This will prevent creasing the quilts. If your quilt is to be stored on a wood shelf, drawer, or box, line it with a layer of heavy duty aluminum This will prevent acid migration from the wood.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Making a Pattern for Landscape Quilts, or Not

I used to feel it was pure sloth to start a piece without a pattern.  I'd seen books on making landscape quilts, and those artist made fairly elaborate patterns, so I felt I should too.  My problem is, after investing lots of time in making the patterns, like this one for my sea gulls,
I get sort of lost in the lines, and wonder, what the hell was I thinking?  Also, LINES are not SHAPES, which caused more head scratching.  So even though I had this giant drawing on taped-together-pieces of butcher paper, it proved pretty useless. What's light?  What's dark?  Arg.

Sketches like the one below, while not a pattern, were more useful to me when I was making the little quilt on the left.  The sketches weren't life size, and they weren't even the final shape of the quilt, but they were a pretty good map for where I wanted things to go, and where my lights and darks would end up.  Ultimately, everybody has to find what works for them, and for me, that's an ever evolving process.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Lesson Learned from Having a Deadline

It's been almost a year since I was contacted by the Art Committee of the Orcas Performing Arts Center and asked if I would hang an exhibit of my art quilts in the lobby gallery.  I was so pleased to be asked that I immediately said YES! However, when I got off the phone, I was a little freaked out because I only had 4 or 5 of quilts. on hand.  YIKES.  That was not nearly enough to fill the gallery.  I almost called the committee woman back to tell her I couldn't do it.

But I really wanted to do the show, so rather than make that call, I decided I needed to become much more disciplined with my work, and produce a body of work.  I know artist who produce an astounding 10 or 12 pieces a year.  I was averaging three. 

So, I rolled up my sleeves, oiled my sewing machine, and set to work.  I had no shortage of potential projects.  I had pages of sketches and ideas, some dating back years.  Honestly, my biggest barrier was simply my irregular studio hours.

I once worked for a principal who used to say you can do or learn anything if you simply work at it one hour a day, every day.  He had examples of people who became fluent in a foreign language, wrote a novel, learned to musical instrument--all by spending one hour a day just doing it!   One hour is barely enough time for me to figure out what I'm doing, so I chunked my time a little differently.

My husband and I took a couple trips this past year which knocked out about 6 weeks of work time, but whenever we were home, I spent at least 4 hours a day in my studio for a minimum of 3 days a week, but most often 5 to 6 days a week.  I have never been so disciplined as I was this past year, and I found it very rewarding.  Instead of putting my art in last place in my list of priorities, I put it near the top of the list.

What I learned from this practice:
  • I often used to let a piece sit for months if I came to a sticking point.  This last year I hit lots of problem spots as I worked on pieces, but since a deadline loomed, I was forced to think about it constantly.  I wrestled with the problem not only in my work room, but at night as I was falling asleep, in the morning on my run, sitting in the car on the ferry, pretty much 24/7.  When a problem is front and center like that, and a deadline is on the horizon, it's amazing how quickly a solution or two pops into your head.
  • Keeping a studio journal is very helpful.  Before I left my studio for the day, I tried to jot down notes on what I needed to do the next day, and I'd set out fabric, thread, paint, whatever, ready to work the next day.  This saved a lot of dithering time--I'm a good ditherer!  I didn't always used the plan from the previous work session, but even rejecting an idea has a certain momentum:  If not that, then what??
  • Other people may be able to work in fits and starts, but I found I was most productive and most creative if I had an uninterrupted 3 to 4 hours.  Stopping to get a cup of tea, or throw some laundry in the washer, or answer the phone broke my concentration in ways that did not serve me well.  After each interruption it would take me time to reorient myself and get started again.  
So time's up.  I hang my show two days from today, and I feel ready.  I borrowed back two pieces I had sold earlier, and I completed 7 new pieces this past year. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

November 2016, Before They Knew

The morning of the 2016 election my daughter took this selfie with her daughter to commemorate what they thought was going to be a historic day:  The election of the first woman president.

Unfortunately, that day ended with the election of a man that we felt would be harmful to every single thing we cared about--the environment, working people, women, immigrants, people of color, education, and basic human decency.

My daughter is wearing a brooch she inherited from my mother, Ella Gaquin--a woman born before women could vote.  My mother's mother, Thelma Watt, and my mother's grandmother, Minnie Hall, were both suffragettes in upstate New York.  Our family has a long history of feminine  activist.

This quilt has been a long time in the making, and I'm still not 100% happy with it--but it's least for now. I plan to hang it in my show at the Orcas Center next week, along with 19 other pieces, so like it or not, I needed to complete it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Orcas Ferry Landing Quilt

My latest quilt is called Home on the Late Boat, and depicts the Orcas ferry landing at night.  This is a small quilt, so it didn't take me half a lifetime to piece or stitch.  It will be one of the quilts in my show at the Orcas Center.  The builting is a little lopsided, but I like the light shining down on the Orcas sign.

I painted a piece of white Kona cotton with Intense color sticks to make the piece of light fabric under the letters.  I wanted that pool of yellow light that spread out to a cooler white, and couldn't get it by piecing fabric.  

The Deer Harbor Post Office Quilt

At long last, the Deer Harbor Post Office Quilt is finished.  The top stitching on this took as long or longer than the piecing.  Every time I make a quilt this large (41"x54") on my Bernina sewing machine, I swear it will be the last.  Wrestling a large quilt under the needle of a domestic sewing machine, even a relatively large domestic machine, is a physical challenge!

I'm fairly happy with this, though the porch light is too bright, and bugging me.  If I have the courage, I'll take some paint (Derwent Inktense sticks)  to it, and tone it down.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Storing Quilts: Now You've Made It, What Do You Do With It?

Like a lot of things, the topic of how to store a quilt has its share of strong opinions.  Method for storing a queen-size bed quilt usually differs from storing smaller, wall quilt, especially one that is heavily embellished.  Large quilts are generally folded, wrapped in archival tissue paper, and stored in boxes in a temperature controlled environment--which for most of us means inside our homes. 

Art quilts/wall quilts are a different kettle of fish.  Storage methods often depend on things like the type or amount of surface embellishment and the over-all size of the quilt.

All quilts, regardless of size or embellishment need to be stored away from direct light, in a dry, odor free place.  Small quilts, ones that are 2 feet by 2 feet or less, can be stored flat between layers of archival tissue paper in a drawer, box or on a shelf.  Most of my quilts are around four to five feet long/tall, so I go with the pool noodle school of storage.

I lay the quilt to be stored out on a table, look it over for any loose threads, or foreign objects that shouldn't be there, like an overlooked pin that could rust or snag something. 
Quilt face covered with tissue paper.

Then I cover the quilt top with layers of archival tissue paper.  Archival paper is more expensive than regular tissue paper, but especially if your quilt is going to be stored long term, it is worth the price.

I like to roll my quilts on swim noodles.  The swim noodles keep the quilt from compressing and creating fold lines.  Also, I can stand the quilt on end without the quilt itself touching the floor.  I keep my eyes peeled for deals on swim noodles, especially at the end of summer.  This fall Joann's Fabrics had a bunch of swim noodles for $1 each, so I stocked up.

Some people insist the quilt be rolled with the backing facing in.  Their rationale is that the quilt will then naturally curl toward the back, and therefore hang flatter on the wall.  I always feel it makes the quilt top more vulnerable to abrasion, dust or some other disaster, so I want the part I worked on for months to be as protected as possible. In my mind, that means rolling the quilt so the top is facing in and the backing is facing out.
To keep the quilt secured on the swim noodle, I use strips of bridal tulle to lightly tie the roll closed.  the tulle stretches a bit, so it holds things in place, but doesn't dent the fabric.

Then when everything is trussed up nice and snug, I slip the quilt into a cotton sack with draw strings.  I have made some of these sacks from muslin, but most often, I repurpose old pillow cases. There's a part of me that says a plastic bag would be better protection against disasters like rising sea levels and broken pipes, but everything I've read says plastic isn't such a good idea.

I have 4 quilts stored in this one bag, which is really too many, because the quilts are tightly packed.  It'd be better if I only had one or two quilts per bag.  Some how, making bags isn't as appealing to me as making a quilt, so I end up jamming too many into one bag.

When I ship quilts to quilt shows, I use this same method, and then put the bag with the quilt in a mailing tube, if possible, or a long skinny box, that I sometimes have to manufacture from a larger box with lots of packing tape.