Category Archives: Fabric and Fabric Collage

Fabric memories 2

I’ll continue with recounting a few memories associated with photos I found in my archives a little while ago.

These pictures show me at the Lansdale Festival of the Arts in 1998.

This festival is one that I have done since 1996. I attended 2022’s version this past August (below).

A lot of things are the same in these pictures. I am still using the same racks today, but I have replaced the rack covers since 1998, and I have a different tent, though in the same style.

And I still set up the racks in the same configuration, a U-shape – I’ve tried others over the years but in the end, I always come back to this one, because it allows a nice open view of the work.

The park in which this fair is held looks very much the same now as it did 25 years ago, and that many of the same people who organized the show back then are still doing it today.

I love this show and it has a special place in my heart. I won my very first prize ever here in 1996 (I broke down in tears when they brought me the ribbon). And without fail I have always had a wonderful welcome from organizers and patrons alike.

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All right, here is another picture from the same show, Lansdale, but a different year, 1999. This piece, “Along the Beach Road”, was done in raw edge applique with machine free-motion stitching and it won Best of Show.

Well, thank you for going along with me on this little trip back into the past. These photos have reminded me of how much I have enjoyed doing shows and how much the art world has given to me – not just the artwork and awards/recognition, but the friends and interesting times along the way. Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this road.

Fabric memories 1

I was going through some old photos a little while ago and came upon a grouping from several shows I did back in the 1990’s. They feature my fabric work, which was the first medium I exhibited.

As background, I started making fabric wall hangings in 1994 or so, and at first, I concentrated on making house portraits. I built up a little business doing portraits on a commission basis and also sold them through a local shop, along with some items on spec.

In the beginning, I worked totally in hand applique with edges turned under. Later on, I learned to do free-motion machine applique and I then switched to raw edge applique.

These first pictures are from a show at New Hope, PA, probably in fall 1997. I date it this way because most of my work here is still hand applique. Also, I am no longer using my homemade display set up; I have the professional racks, but no tent.

Next, here I am in May, 1998, at the Roxborough (Philadelphia, PA) Festival of the Arts. I can date these photos because I won Juror’s Choice at this show. I was thrilled at the recognition and also flabbergasted at the size of the prize, which helped me buy my tent with money left over.

Here you can see that almost all the works are raw edge applique done with the machine.

I was also amused to see the sign on my display signifying that I accepted credit cards. Back at that time it was costly and work intensive to do so, but I remember that at a show the year before, I had almost missed a sale because I didn’t take cards and the buyer didn’t have enough cash (we figured things out, thank goodness).

So I had moved up in the art show business world with this step. To remind you how things were, I used paper receipts and a “knuckle-buster” machine, and after the show I had to take the slips to the bank and deposit them to get credit.

I’ve got a few more reminiscences that I’ll share in another post!

Fabric Explorations

Over the past few months I have been feeling like doing some sewing, but I couldn’t get a good fix on just what that might entail.

Functional sewing, such as shirts or other clothing? Pieced quilts? Applique? Painted fabric/stitching wall hangings? I could not focus.

So, I spent some time just looking at fabric work in books and online. I learned some great techniques for making a T-shirt pattern based on your own shirts (I may still try that). I reviewed my ideas about quilting and tried out some things and realized I still don’t like piecing fabric. Along those lines, I read about improvisational art quilting which, to be honest, still sounded like too much planning for me.

I enjoyed reading about making clothes without a paper pattern (reminded me of how my mother made me some gathered skirts in junior high requiring a length of cloth and a waistband; I loved them). But I don’t really need a gathered skirt or even any other kinds of clothing.

I even read up on making drapes and shades though I have no intention of ever making window coverings again (in a previous house, a Victorian with tons of windows, I made curtains for 53, yes, 53, separate windows. Enough.)

In the end, I was back where I started from. Really, I just like to slap down some fabric on a backing, run a lot of machine stitching over it, and then see if I can make it into some kind of imagery. I really enjoy just humming along with the stitches reeling out. I especially like free-motion stitching. I like drawing with the lines of stitching. I like tiny pieces of fabric and sticking them on to other pieces of fabric. I don’t like making large things, I like making small pictures. I like painting on fabric and then stitching to go along with it. Or over it.

So I’m just going to stick with this stitching idea and see where it goes.

Here are a couple of little guys I made in August 2022. Maybe they are pointing the way for me.

Good-Bye, Old Friend

Not too long ago I bought a new sewing machine to replace my old one. At the age of 24 years, its motor finally had given out.

That machine, a Babylock 6600, was purchased in 1997 from Granny’s Sewing Den in Glenside, PA, which was also my primary place to buy fabric for many years. Granny’s has been closed for some time; it was owned by two women, mother and daughter, the mother now deceased, the daughter retired. Both of them were friends to me.

Anyway, this machine was responsible for my success in the fabric part of my art career and without it, I do not think I would have gone on to to work in paper collage, or to paint. Or all the other art things I now do. I do not think my work would have progressed enough for me to make those leaps without the techniques this machine allowed me to master so that I became able to express in fabric my visions.

Here is an example of a fabric wall hanging I made with this machine. It’s called “Garden in the City”, was made in 2000, and was displayed in Philadelphia’s City Hall in an exhibit devoted to community gardens. I still have the piece.

I also made many garments for my family with this faithful friend, as well as home decor items, tote bags, dolls and toys…you get the idea. This machine worked HARD for me and never once did it let me down.

Well, after I bought the new machine (another Babylock, the Jubilant model, which is very similar to its predecessor in my sewing life), I kept this one for a while. Finally I decided that since it could not be repaired, there was no reason to keep it around.

We decided to dismantle it. Maybe I could use its parts in some of my hanging metal sculptures. I hated just to throw it out. My husband spent two or so hours taking it apart. Sure enough, I now have a box of parts for a future project.

But I am saving some just for a keepsake. Here is the assortment:

What’s in the photo? First of all, you see a tag for a cleaning; my name is written in the handwriting of one of the women at Granny’s Sewing Den. I kept it on the machine’s storage box all these years for sentiment’s sake, I guess.

You also see two feet from the machine – the metal one (with grooves worn on the bottom side from pins and the like passing under it) – and the purple plastic one. I used a lot of free motion stitching in my fabric work and this foot was purchased separately – the machine at that time did not have its own proprietary one. I do remember it was called the Big Foot.

Here is the throat plate. This is the part of the machine that lies under the needle and it’s what I looked at the most in all those years of using the machine.

And here is the plastic plate that I used as part of free motion stitching. To do free motion work, you need to disengage the feed dogs, the part of the machine under the throat plate, that move the fabric along. This machine did not allow for the feed dogs to be dropped; they needed to be covered instead. Hence this plate.

It snapped on over the open section at the top of the throat plate, where the feed dogs would have been. I could never remember in which direction to orient the plate. Usually I realized I had set it in wrong and fixed it before I started stitching. But…sometimes I didn’t. That is why you see the holes in the plate. The needle punched right through it.

I am getting older now and can look back on a lot of years that I have been doing this thing or that thing. Sewing is one of those activities that in my life extends back decades; my mother taught me to sew about 55 years ago on a totally mechanical Necchi machine that she kept until the end of her life.

I’m not a great seamstress but I was able to take my sewing skills and use them to make art, something I never would have thought of in my childhood lessons. Trial and error and experimentation and a lot of enjoyment is what got me along the path. That, and this machine.

Thank you and Good-bye, old friend.

Small Fabric Pieces: Six

You may remember the small fabric pieces I showed you pretty recently. (look here). I have a few more to show you – these were made in September/October 2021. I used the technique I followed for much of the time I made fabric art for sale back inthe 1990’s and early 2000’s. For a full explanation, look here at this post I wrote about a large hanging I created not too long ago.

Short version: I adhere pieces of fabric to a canvas fabric background using stitching, either regular stitching with the machine or free-motion machine stitching. That’s it!

Both of these are about 6″ x 6″. And there is a lot of blue in them. And that’s pretty much the whole story!

Small Fabric Pieces: Five

You may remember the small fabric pieces I showed you not long ago (look here). I have a few more to show you – these were made in September/October 2021. I used the technique I followed for much of the time I made fabric art for sale back inthe 1990’s and early 2000’s. For a full explanation, look here at this post I wrote about a large hanging I created not too long ago.

Short version: I adhere pieces of fabric to a canvas fabric background using stitching, either regular stitching with the machine or free-motion machine stitching. That’s it!

The first one is 6″ x 6″, more or less, and the second one is smaller, I think because I must have not liked the side of it and cut it off. Maybe that’s the reason, and maybe not. I admit to not being able to remember.

Did I mention that I bought a new sewing machine? Yes, I did do this, back in September. My old machine, a veteran of 24 years of very hard use, finally showed signs of giving up the ghost. Rather than repair it, I opted to get a new one.

I reflected on the idea that if this new machine lasted 24 years, I would be 87 years old. And that when I got my previous machine I was 39 years old. Well. This is something to think about, right?

Toy Blanket or Farm Field, You Decide

Since my vision problems began in August, 2021, they have affected my artwork, but not the same way for each medium I do. For some reason, I have not found it difficult to manage fabric work (on the sewing machine). Maybe it is because I am manipulating the pieces with my hands and have time to adjust things, and I also think it could be because the pieces are larger (meaning, not tiny pen strokes), my inability to see detail does not matter so much.

And, since I have been sewing for 50+ years, some things your hands know how to do without your eyes, such as threading a sewing machine (luckily my machine has a device that puts the thread through the eye of the needle or I might be saying something different here).

Anyway, I was sifting through some fabric scraps one day in September and thinking about sewing, but what? I decided to just sew the scraps together and see what came out.

I ended up making this small (@ 19″ x 27″) quilt for my little granddaughter. In homage to my eyesight I did not try to make anything straight if it didn’t want to be.

I quilted it using the Claudia version of free motion stitching (drive the fabric all over the place and hope the needle keeps up and who cares about a pattern or whatever???) using a very thin batting.

I mailed it to my granddaughter and I figured it could be a blankie for one of her toys or else a nice set of farm fields for her farm animal play set.

Small House on Paxson Avenue

I have a long history with this little house, which is located not far from where I live and in an area where I often walk. I’ve always liked the look of it.

Way back when I first started doing art, I made house portraits on a commission basis. These were all hand-appliqued and quilted by hand, not too large, maybe in the range of 24″ x 24″. I used a photo of the house to be depicted, made a scale drawing, and worked from that to create the simplified version of the house.

I made some samples to have on hand for people to see at the art fairs where I exhibited, and for the store through which I also sold them to display. This house served as the model for a very early hanging made during this phase of this time in my art life, probably about 1994 or so.

Here is the simple portrait hanging I made from a photo similar to the one I just showed you – the house has not changed in all those years at all, that I can see.

As time went on, I got more skilled and able to depict more detail in fabric, and then I began to sew them on the machine, and then I taught classes in the process and even wrote out a how-to manual that I sold…and then I had had enough of house portrait work and devoted myself to other scenes and eventually other mediums. I don’t know what happened to this particular hanging – maybe I gave it away for a raffle or something like that.

Anyway, in summer 2021, I was walking by this little house and took the photo, for old times’ sake. And then I drew the house in my sketchbook. A really pleasant experience, because it made me remember the very beginnings of my art career, so long ago.

I drew this picture in pen and it’s in my 8″ x 8″ sketchbook, from August 2021.

Inner Circle

Does anyone remember this wall hanging in process? Well, now it’s finished. Here’s what I did to get to this status.

I spent a lot of thinking about how to give the piece more weight and presence,taking into consideration my skills and my eyesight limitations. I want to extend my thanks to Leonie Andrews, who took a lot of time and consideration of the piece in coming up with several suggestions. She really helped me figure out what I wanted this piece to be, from a fabric standpoint.

Because – though the images are drawn, the fact that they are on fabric makes the piece different from a painting on canvas or ink on paper.

In the end, I used skills that I am familiar with and practiced in from my days in making fabric wall hangings (my first real venture into the art world, I made and sold appliqued wall hangings from about 1996-2001 or so).

I used very thin batting and a backing for the piece, so I had three layers to work with. I did free-motion stitching all over the piece in different colors of thread that I felt complemented but did not compete with the images.

My version of this technique consists of driving around the piece as fast as possible and paying no attention to the pattern the thread makes or inconsistent stitch lengths and so on. I just try to get a nice amount of thread holding all the layers together in a way that looks good to me.

I left a few areas without stitching, or with less stitching, but mostly I really laid that thread down. I just like the flatter look for this piece.

Then I put a black binding around it plus a hanging sleeve and voila! All done.

Here are some detail photos.

Well, there you have it. The serendipity of scrawling some images on fabric to test out paints and markers transformed into something more. I named the piece “Inner Circle” because I think these creatures are all part of a tight little society that landed on my fabric.

Small Fabric Pieces : Four

In August 2021 I put some time into making little fabric artworks. I used the technique I followed for much of the time I made fabric art for sale back inthe 1990’s and early 2000’s. For a full explanation, look here at this post I wrote about a large hanging I created not too long ago.

Short version: I adhere pieces of fabric to a canvas fabric background using stitching, either regular stitching with the machine or free-motion machine stitching. That’s it!

I’ve got several of these little images to show you and I’ll do so in a short series of posts.

These two images are the last in this series of small fabric artworks…for now. More will be coming! Anyway, these two images feature creatures of unknown types, and also there is a lot of blue in each image, too, isn’t there?

They are both about 6″ x 6″.