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?

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts In the Holler Landscape Quilted Wallhanging

I thought I’d share more of the story of this, my favorite wall hanging.

This cabin was built by my husband’s family in far southern Illinois and was occupied for many generations. It was a large, close family who shared holidays and large reunions every year. This is a photo of the family taken in 1953 when the home was still occupied by my husband’s great-grandfather.

When I first saw the home 12 years ago, it was falling to ruins, covered with vines and occupied by snakes. I took several photos (which I cannot find now) and started a wall-hanging based on one of them. The view is from the side of the cabin, with the lean-to kitchen at the back. I created the basics of the building and landscape, then set the project aside.

During the last year I had a new vision for the project. “Ghosts in the Holler” was born. The history of the family in that home, the hard, primitive lives, the joyous gatherings have survived in the stories told by later generations. I believe that people’s spirit or energy can stay in a place or thing and sometimes we can sense it. Looking at this old home I could imagine the spirits or ghosts that might still dwell there.

I used a number of techniques and mediums to portray the ghosts in this place.  I printed parts of the family photo on a variety of fabrics to use in my wall hanging.

Do you see the faces in the cabin?    

I took this close-up of his parents and inserted them in the doorway of the lean-to in the rear of the cabin. The faces have been painted with inks to blend in with the rest of the greenery that is overtaking the home.

I love how the whole piece turned out. It’s unusual, it’s a bit mystical, and stretched me creatively.

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 Dad and Jack

I’ve documented my process here on my blog and it’s finally finished!


I used the dark blue from the bottom of the quilt on the back.
I put a rod pocket across the top and I added a couple of other special touches.  I added a pocket to hold the copy of the photograph.  I also added a label for the name of the quilt, my name and date, and that this quilt was a gift for my father’s 85th birthday.

I absolutely loved working on this project.  It was like a jigsaw puzzle—-I kept thinking “OK, I’ll just add this one more detail” before I could get out of my studio.

The fabric pieces were an interesting challenge.  I love using hand-dyed and batiks, with all kinds of variations in color and tone.  Finding just the right piece can be overwhelming, but having my fabrics sorted by shade to start with really helps.  I keep in mind that I will be doing some stitching where needed for extra detail.

And the stitching===it’s so meditative. I do free-motion stitching throughout.  Sometimes when I do these quilts I use fine clear thread, but on this piece I used colored thread, changing as I needed to.  I don’t worry about matching the fabric exactly—a little contrast adds interest.

I’m looking forward to doing more portraits and landscapes in fabric.  I think this may be a new direction for my business!

>Portait in Fabric: Almost Done!

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DAD AND JACK:

This photo shows the background I chose. First I had chosen just the dark blue (at the bottom) but I realized the  figure was just floating in space. When I looked at the original photo, I saw the ground/sky line—EXACTLY what was missing in my picture!  So, I found in my stash a nice mottled light blue “sky”, and used the dark fabric for the ground.  I loved the angle of the ground in the photo, so I tried to emulate that in my picture.

 

 Here is my picture with the boarder on.  Using my color wheel, I found the triadic complementary colors for my red/orange (sepia) hues were red violet and teal. I seem to have an affinity for these three colors—I’ve discovered several projects from workshops where I used this exact same combination!

Anyway, I found this nice batik with all three shades in it, which I like very much.  Also notice that I let the dog’s tail come outside the frame.  It really helps bring the whole figure forward, I think. I’m not used to adding the border before I’ve even finished the picture, but it was necessary in this case so I could finish up the stitching on the tail. I really like doing it this way.

Here is a close-up of the face.  I was not happy with something about the face as it was. I realized I didn’t have the shadow on the forehead or along side the nose quite right before.  Here you can see I added a bit of fabric on the right side of the forehead and narrowed the shadow on the face so there is better definition of the cheekbone (it’s evident on the original photograph.)

I guess I could spend another week fiddling with little things—I’ve torn out other stitching, added more here and there—but this must be finished up today!  This isn’t perfect, but then neither am I!

I will post later about the back of the quilt.  I’m doing a couple of special things there, too!

>Fabric Portrait: Cutting out the pieces

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The previous posted ended with my decision on color for the figure of my dad (age 9) and his dog, Jack.  “Sepia” is what I’m calling it.  More thoughts on my color choice: I thought if I went with black and white, it would give the impression of an old photo, yes, but I didn’t want to be caught up in trying to exactly match all the shades of gray.  I know, it might be easier that way, but I guess I’m just too independent minded to take the easier route.  And I really think lifelike color could have made the whole thing too contemporary–my dad’s turning 85, the photo is 76 years old, I want my art quilt to tell that part of the story.  So, that’s that!

I had my pattern all traced on (taped together) tracing paper.  There are many ways to create the fabric pieces from this point. Some of the choices depend on just how exacting you want to be.  I rather like to allow myself to be “in-exact” as this is, after all, ART, not another photograph!

Creating an art quilt which has sewn edges is a whole other creature, which we’ll not get into today!  I’m doing raw edge applique.  I love fabric, I don’t mind my pieces looking like they’re made of fabric, and fabric is made of threads.  So, there are going to be some threads, or edges, evident.  In fact, I like to use those textural possibilities in my pictures!  This is Fiber Art!

One nice method for raw-edge applique is to use fusible webbing on the back of all the fabric pieces.  Steam-a-Seam is great, the pieces can be moved around before they’re ironed down for permanence.

My thought here was, I just didn’t want to be bothered with all the ironing of the Steam-a-Seam.  I’ve done this type of quilt before (tho never a portrait) and have used another method successfully.  I put my tissue pattern on my light box, anchoring it with some scotch tape on each side.  Then I placed my chosen fabric over the area and trace my piece’s shape directly on the right side of the fabric using a sharp pencil or very fine point pen.  This is quite easy, of course, on light colored fabric.  You can see, though, that I have quite a bit of dark fabric.  I still traced it this way.  I drew with a light gray chalk fabric marker (any light colored marking pen or pencil is fine.)  And I re-drew, darkly, pattern areas where I couldn’t really see my lines through the fabric.  I also flipped my fabric back frequently to double-check where my pattern lines were.  

Where the pattern areas were quite large (like the dog’s body, the boys’ coat) I used a couple of pins to anchor the fabric to the tissue.  You can also tape the fabric piece to the tissue, then carefully peel the tape away when you’re finished tracing.  I left those large pieces pinned to the pattern for quite some time as I worked on getting pieces cut.

Pieces have to be cut with consideration for overlap.  Edge-to-edge piecing can end up with lots of gaps.  Think about what piece laps over which and add a little (1/8″ to 1/4″) seam allowance in those areas for glue.

Some considerations about cutting the pieces:

 I use small, very sharp scissors (some Fiskars, actually).  It’s usually best to turn the fabric as you cut, rather than the scissors.  That way you keep your hand and scissors at about the same angle and can keep control and precision.

I’ve learned from experience that, though I think I’m drawing a fine line, it’s still best to focus on cutting on the outside of my drawn line.  It does make a tiny bit of difference, which can be a big difference when you’re putting it all together.

And it’s OK to re-cut a piece.  Give yourself permission to get it the way you want it. It’s not like you’re wasting a yard of fabric!  This all takes time, and it’s a bit tedious sometimes, so be patient with yourself.

After I cut a piece, I lay it right over my pattern to see if I’ve got it about right.  You can lay it under the pattern tissue as well (this works especially well for piece placement.)

You can see I started in the middle, with the dog’s body.  I’m not sure it matters exactly where you start, but starting with a large piece makes things a bit easier.

I did have to be careful, and re-do a bit, with regard to the dog’s nearly white body and all the darker fabric around it.  Sometimes I thought it would look nicer for the dog’s body to overlap another piece, but sometimes you could see through the white too much, so I had to make very small seam allowances, or change the lap.

 The way I attached my pieces to each other was with some watered down craft or fabric glue.  I pour a little out in a little plastic lid or something and use a toothpick to dab glue under the edges I want to glue to other pieces of fabric. I did not glue all this down to the tissue!  A bit did stick here and there, but I could easily pull it off.

To be quite honest here on my blog, I’m posting a couple of pictures of Dad’s face as I worked on it.  This was definitely the hardest part.  I had very small pieces to shape and place, and fabric choices were kind of difficult (though I find that part really fun!)

Here’s the face when I played with some fabric that had stones on it. I was using the wrong side for its subtler colors.  I liked how I could get the highlight on the tip of his nose and the shadow at the bridge of his nose.  However, it just wasn’t an improvement over what I’d done before. Kinda weird looking, actually.  🙂

Another change in this photo is the mouth.  Previously, I’d gotten the lips too dark and they looked too big (tho they were the right size according to the pattern.)  It all had to do with fabric choice.  This time, the upper lip is just a shadow, and the bottom lip is, well, there isn’t a bottom lip!  What I’ve done is just place a little piece of fabric that creates a pale shadow under his bottom lip, creating the effect that his lip is there.

There comes a time when I know I better leave well enough alone.  So this is it.  I did cut out some “whites” of his eyes and some little dark pupils.  They are not glued down–more just to play with.  I may use them, or I may paint or thread paint the pupils. Just don’t know yet. But overall, I’m satisfied.

So what I’ve created is a big applique piece that I’m going to put on a background piece, which is yet to be discovered!  When I get going on all the thread work (thread painting, quilting), this piece will really come to life!

Next post will have a background and some (if not all) stitching done.

Thanks for reading!