Sunday, February 26, 2012

April in Amsterdam

Last April my daughter spent several weeks in Rwanda as part of a charity mission called Healing Hearts Northwest.  On her way back, she and several other nurses spent a few days in Amsterdam.  They visited tulip gardens and she took this stunning picture of the sun shining through tulips.  

 Since mid-January I have been taking a two part on line course on designing nature quilts from EllenLindner.  I have taken one her courses before (Instant Art Quilts) and have some of her publications.  Anyway, for one of my quilts, I decided to try to interpret the tulip picture.

I do fine with composition but still struggle with color and value, especially as they apply to scale, distance and depth.  I first did an 8 by 11 sketch of my proposed quilt on a transparency.  After I had it the way I wanted, I put it on an overhead projector and drew it full sized.

Ellen is big on doing stuff freestyle.  So the background was chunks of green fabric arranged to create the first indication of depth. Rather than pinning them to muslin, as Ellen does, I fused them to French fuse, a tricot fabric that has a light coating of fusing compound on one side. I added borders, because I really like these sort of quilts to have the subject cross out of the interior and into the border – seems more 3-D to me.  Then I started to build the tulips out of yellow, orange pink and red fabric.  The object was not an exact replica, but to convey the feeling of light and springtime.  All the cutting was freehand.  The sketch was merely a rough guide to placement and size.  Ellen thought the tulips should be tilted rather than as straight as they are in the photo.  After adding stems and leaves, I decided a few buds would look good.  Some of this was pinned, some glued.

I then layered the top with its batting and backing, pin basted the whole thing and started quilting. The quilting has to be dense enough to secure all the edges, but I didn’t necessarily have to sew along each edge.  For the background, including the borders, I used a free motion wandering leaf design.  The tulips I outlined, echoed and added a few spirals.  The quilting was a challenge, because the fabric wanted to shift and pucker.  My free motion foot also frequently caught underneath the pieces, so I had to really pay attention.  I found starching and ironing the areas before quilting and really keeping things smooth between my hands while guiding the quilt under the needle worked best. I used about 4 different colors of thread, mostly Isacord and Sulky embroidery threads.  These are my favorite for quilting.

After looking at it, I decided it needed one more bud and added it.  I blocked it and bound the edges as usual.  Then I washed it.  I am always surprised that the raw edges hold up so well, even without fusing.  A wall hanging needs washing every once in a while (at least I think it does), and I like the extra texture that the slight batting shrinkage give the quilt.  

Anyway, I am pretty happy with the results, learned a ton and am now working on a second, quite different quilt for this class.  More on that later…