PAQA Art Quilt Retreat

I’ve just returned from a retreat with the Professional Art Quilters Alliance (PAQA) (an Illinois-based group I recently joined.)

I got to know many incredible quilt artists, enjoyed the beautiful, sunny view of Lake Michigan and learned a lot from our instructor, Denise Havlan, a nationally-recognized, award-winning artist.

art quilt birch treesI took my machine and a memory quilt project to work on in my spare time (2 half-days) but 1 full day was spent creating this beautiful art quilt with Denise’s helpful instruction. This piece started with a colorful background fabric (orange, yellow, green.) Denise instructed us in using a variety of paints and other colorants to create the dark area in the background for depth, then creating the birch trees from white fabric. We finished by adding shadows, highlights, wildflowers and other accents. We added batting, backing and did some quilting.  I have to tell you—-I LOVE my little quilt! It will had some bright color to my home for spring. And I would love to make another “Birch Trees” quilt—-it was such fun!

My Art Quilt at the Chicago IQF!

I have an art quilt on display at the Chicago International Quilt Festival! This is one of the biggest shows in the country/world and I’m thrilled.

My art quilt is part of a collection of art quilts created by members of The Professional Art Quilters Alliance (PAQA).

These quilts are our submissions to a challenge to create an 18″ square quilt based on the theme “The Midwest”.   Here is my entry, “Harvest of Times Past.”

art quilt at International Quilt Festival

Harvest of Times Past, Amy Cavaness, 01/2015


I saw about half of the quilts that will be displayed at our January meeting. The interpretation of the theme, The Midwest, was as varied as the landscape and culture here. Some quilts were whimsical, others more abstract. I consider my style to be Impressionistic.


What the Midwest means to me:

Our landscape is littered with lovely old homes and barns that have been abandoned. These old buildings seem to represent the evolution of this part of the country. This rich, black soil is what drew the farmers to settle this frontier throughout the 19th and early 20th century. As the farmers came to till the soil, the towns and industries to support them developed around them—evolving into the Midwest we know today. As farming methods evolved, farmers could handle more and more acreage, and the resulting economic changes squeezed out small farmers.  Those old-fashioned farmers moved on, and left their homes and barns to stand as long as they might.

To me, this is “The Midwest” in a nutshell, and the farmhouse I depicted (just a mile from my home) is quite typical. This one isn’t terribly old and still seems quite structurally sound, but the exterior is deteriorating from exposure to the elements.

Midwest farmhouse detail


In this first photo you can see how I used fabric and then machine stitching to depict the landscape—the rolling fields and the forest beyond the fields. On the tree I used some light-colored thread stitching to show the low winter sun shining on the trunk and branches.

The second is a close-up of the sky. This is fabric I painted with fabric paints as I find it easier to paint that hunt for just the right fabric sometimes!

art quilt,corn fields,midwest,landscapeart quilt,painted fabric,sky. tree

























One last detail to share: the binding I used has meaning to me. It’s an old-fashioned print, which seems rather out-of-place on a modern quilt, but that was just the point! These old farmstead seem rather out-of-place anymore on these huge tracts of land. There’s a warmth and sentimentality about them, but they’re outdated, relics of the past—–like the little strip of fabric around my picture!


art quilt at International Quilt Festival













Published in Quilting Arts Magazine

Published in Quilting Arts Magazine

I’m absolutely thrilled to have my art quilts and an article in the latest Quilting Arts  magazine!!!! I’ve subscribed to this magazine for many, many years and truly never dreamed I’d see my own work (and face!) in the publication. But there it is—the Oct/Nov 2014 issue, “In the Spotlight” article.

Quilting Arts Magazine

Latest issue of Quilting Arts magaine

The article features photos of 2 of my quilts (admittedly my favorites), “Peeking” and “Trail Riding”. The first is an art quilt of a little kitten peeking out from under a barn door. The other is a quilt of my husband and me on our horses at Matthiessen State Park here in north-central Illinois. A third quilt is described in the article and displayed on the website.

So grab a copy here to read my article and all the rest—a really fabulous magazine! Every issue has interesting new techniques, new bios of quilt artists and tons of inspiration!!

If you are interested in commissioning an art quilt walling hanging, please contact me. I am accepting commissions for 2015! [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

Business Anniversary Wall Hanging Quilt

Memory quilt wall hanging for a business

I was very honored to receive a commission to create a commemorative wall hanging for a business! Cambridge Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is celebrating their 25th anniversary. CBC is a microbrewery whose award-winning beers are being distributed in increasing numbers of states.


72″ X 42″

Lots of memories!

I received a number of t-shirts, baseball team shirts, and even a baby t-shirt (“Brew Baby”—so cute!) I got creative with many of the t-shirts, slicing and dicing and putting them back together.

business t-shirt quilt

Photo transfers

I was sent digital photos of murals at the brewery/restaurant and other images which I printed on fabric to include in the memory quilt. I use a product called Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) to transfer images from a special paper printed on my printer to cotton fabric. As you can see, it works beautifully.

Each piece is framed with hand-dyed and batik fabrics which have been strip pieced into interesting sections themselves. The earthy colors are inspired by the colors in the Cambridge Brewery logo.


 Beer Labels

Another important aspect of this commemorative wall hanging is the beer labels. Again, I transferred the digital images of the labels to fabric and sewed them into the quilt. I carefully free-motion quilted (stitched) around the images on the labels to highlight and give them texture. Then each label was framed with my own fabrics in a contemporary manner before applying to the black background.

beer label transferred to fabric

I found a great themed fabric that featured glasses of beer on a black background which I used for a border around the whole piece. There is a pocket sewn along the top edge of the quilt (on the back) through which a dowel or rod can be inserted for hanging the quilt.

The deadline for finishing this piece was met and I received word that the quilt was very well received.

Here’s to Cambridge Brewery’s continued success!

Sherman and Titus, Art Quilt Commissions


The Gift of Commissions

Art Quilt Pet Portrait

“Your package was delivered yesterday and there are no words to describe how beautiful and perfect the dogs came out.  Your web site, the photos do not capture the beauty of your work.  

It is funny how things happen I found you online and just knew you would do a great job and I am totally impressed with the finish work. 

Thank you again and again.
Dog Portrait Art Quilt
I share this email referencing these art quilts because it meant so much to me. I absolutely loved working on this commission and I’m pleased with how these pet portraits came out. The most important thing, though, is how the client felt about the pieces I created.
Accepting commissions isn’t like creating pieces for art fairs or galleries where you hope someone will like it and purchase it. I’ve done that and it has its own challenges. Customers commission quilts from me because they already have an idea of what they want, they just need it made. My job is to bring their dreams or desires to life. I try to incorporate my artistic vision and expression into a piece that not only meets the desires of the customer, but exceeds them.
One of the things that continues to touch me deeply is the trust my clients offer me. I’m a complete stranger from the big world of the internet. I understand that. I share these excerpts from emails not to brag, but to share my appreciation for the trust someone placed in me. I’m always grateful that someone had faith in me and absolutely delighted that they are so pleased with my work! What a wonderful way to spend my time—artistic self-expression and making dreams come true!

Photos Combined for a Beautiful Art Quilt

Photos can be combined into a beautiful art quilt!

I once had an inquiry about commission for an art quilt essentially designed by the customer. She asked if I could combine 3 images into a single picture for an art quilt. The quilt was a gift for a friend and the first image was his view from his home. Nice, huh?


The next image is a photograph of a sunset taken through a shop window so there’s lots of reflection. It’s a beautiful sunset–not sure if it was a painting or a print of some sort.

DSCN3984[1] etsy


Then she included this image of 3 horses running through a stream.



So the request for the commission was to combine these 3 images into a single image.

Here is my art quilt:

Amy Cavaness Designs art quilt of horses

I tried to replicate the outline of the mountains from the “view” photograph, with the beautiful sunset colors in the sky and mountains. I couldn’t find a fabric for the sky that I liked or thought would work, so I got creative with my watercolor pencils! They were my tenuous, early effort at fabric painting.

The horses running through the water fit nicely in the foreground. I did the whole quilt in raw edge applique. You can see in the background I used both hand-dyed and commercial print cottons. I did use a bit of watercolor pencil for shading on the horses. They weren’t large enough to do the shading with piecing.

raw-edge applique horses detail


This piece was made about 6 or 7 years ago and was one of my early landscapes. The water and rocks came from “themed fabrics” that I cut up and rearranged and appliqued to mimic the picture. I’m not a big fan of using these fabrics anymore—I’m liking the challenge of creating the artwork through interpreting with fabric. It’s like a painter cutting out pictures from a magazine vs using paint to create their image. Both are fine—it just depends on what the artist wants to use. I do like how this came out, and the customer was very pleased with the finished piece—as was the recipient.

Quilted Wall Hanging Amy & Ernie Riding In Process

This is my latest quilted wall hanging, “Amy & Ernie Riding”. (That’s my husband and me on our valiant steeds, Cody and Destiny.) On the left is my inspiration photograph, taken last fall in Matthiessen State Park, here in Illinois. It’s a beautiful park with deep ravines, creeks, woods, fields, and 9 miles of riding trails.

Note: This wall hanging is NOT completed. I just thought I would share my work in-process. So far, I have not done any sewing or quilting. I think it’s important for people to know that they can create some quite nice fabric art without being able to sew. I hope to add some glimpses of earlier stages another time. 

The photograph, as I said, was inspiration. In my art quilt wall hanging, I’m not wearing glasses and my husband is sporting a nice cowboy hat (because I have a thing for cowboys!) I realized, after the fact, that I could have dropped 40 pounds between the photo and my version, but oh, well, I’m just keeping it (fairly) real!


Below is an earlier version—the foreground is naked here. I also had a different hat on Ernie. Great example of “I can’t draw”! I tried to make a cowboy hat from a picture in my mind. Well, don’t go there! I found a photo on my computer that I was able to create a better hat from.



I decided to add a lot of texture with the foliage. Here’s a glimpse at my technique. I cut lots of little pieces of green fabrics and laid them on a piece of freezer paper. This keeps them together and protects my wall hanging from any messes from my glue. Yes, I use watered down glue in lieu of pins to hold pieces of fabric in place. I use just little dots of glue, applied with a toothpick or piece of straw. The pieces are generally easy to remove and there are no glue blobs to sew through.




I used the same technique to apply the fabrics to the foreground.

Next step is thread work: thread painting and quilting! Stay tuned!