Tag Archives: fiber art

Shout Out to…

My friend Diane! I made her a punch needle name rug. You’ve seen an example of a name rug before, when I made one for my granddaughter.

Diane and I have been friends forever. We met at a show many years ago when our booths were across from each other.

Here’s the little rug, it’s about 8″ x 8″.

Diane is still doing art. Take a look here if you want to know more!

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.

A Punch Needle Project Looking at Me

I’m considering doing a larger-sized punch needle project, a small rug. I say considering, because it will take planning – I will need to build a frame, for instance, to work on. And buy supplies. And refine my ideas. And my technique! But I am approaching a time when I think the project may be feasible – I could make a rug that looked pleasing and did not fall apart.

Right now, though, I still need more practice in getting consistent results. Along those lines I recently did another small Barbie rug (as I call them – because to me they are just right for a Barbie doll to put into the Barbie house. A perfect rug to scrunch your toes in).

I made a design and drew it on the backing. Ugh, I hated it, immediately. Why, I don’t know, it looked fine on paper. Anyway, I then drew in some grid lines (to break the image up and to make sure I did not try to follow the pattern) and I decided this would be a free-for-all image. Meaning, I’d just put in a color and then another and wherever it ended up, well, there it went.

I did a couple of colors each night. Along the way, it seemed to become a sort of face. Well, ok, that is fine. Here it is.

The finished project is about 8″ x 8″. I used wool knitting yarn, bulky size, one strand, except for the navy blue around the edges. It was a little thin so I worked with a double strand.

Visit to the Allentown Art Museum 5/30/21

Our weather has been chill and pouring rain and clouds and more rain for this weekend. But my husband and I knew what to do – visit the museum. Off we went to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on this date.

Two new exhibits have just opened and both were of interest to me. I’ll do a quick rundown and then show you how I participated myself into an exhibit. Sort of. Kind of. If you stretch the definition…

But I digress. Let’s go.

The first we viewed exhibit is called Roots. It focuses on art or craft made by community artists and what happens when the mainstream art world discovers it and appropriates it or redefines it.

The exhibit contained quilts, furniture, sculpture, beadwork, and imagery. Pieces made by the community artists were shown along with works inspired by or derived from, or in some cases made by the community artists to fit the tastes of the mainstream art world.

Upon entering the room I imediately saw the quilts at the opposite end and I knew right away what I was looking at – Gee’s Bend works.

It’s the first time I was ever able to see a Gee’s Bend quilt in person and I took plenty of time to examine the artworks from the standpoint of how they were put together, to their composition, to just enjoying the look of them.

Coincidentally, not long ago I used the Gee’s Bend quilt community’s works, as well as a set of Allentown rowhouses, as my inspiration for a painting. Look here for the post, and here is the painting:

The accompanying mainstream works were prints made by professionals in conjunction with the original artists. They did not compare to the quilts, hands down.

The rest of the exhibit was equally absorbing. Shaker furniture compared to works of Nakashima and Esherick. Native American works compared to work produced by these same artists for tourists, or, in an interesting extrapolation, designs taken from Native American works and popular motifs of the time and printed on fabric by outside designers.

It was a thought-provoking exhibit and an interesting juxtaposition of items connected in a way we do not often think of them – how one can lead to another and what does that process mean to all involved?

More photos:

Next we went to this exhibit.

This gallery featured bedcoverings of all kinds and from all over the world, as close as the Allentown area and as far away as Asia. Various time periods from the past were also represented, as were techniques: weaving, printing, embroidery, quilting, and applique stitching.

The exhibit made the point that in the past, especially before the mechanical weaving of cloth was possible, bedcoverings were costly and a family’s wealth could have a significant portion invested in bedcovers and assorted linens and accessories. Take a look:

I was especially taken by this tiny “bedcovering” for a baby, made by a Hmong artist. It’s meant to be a baby carrier (according to the placard long sashes would have been sewed to the top to wrap up and around the baby and secure her to her mother – and I am envisioning my granddaughter in this item, as you can see).

According to the information, the extremely precise and exquisite embroidery and applique pattern was deliberately made to be complicated and elaborate so that evil spirits could not find the baby in all the distractions of the wrapping cloth. Additionally, the pompoms at the head were to make the spirits think the baby was a flower and thus camouflaged she would be left alone.

I found this touching. I resolved that when I next make a garment or item for my granddaughter I will consider these factors in my design. It can’t hurt.

Finally we took a quick trip up to the kids’ area. Since we were at the museum so early, the area had just opened and no kids had arrived yet. We had never been in here since it has always been so busy in the past.

The ramp up into the space has a display of fiber art – Cocoons. There was also a display of felted vegetation-like forms inside the kids’ area. I hear they are having a workshop later on featuring the making of such items. Hmmmm…

What a great spot for kids and families to make art and reflect on what they might have seen in the displays by creating something themselves.

That’s not a man sitting over there, it is a statue. Yes.

On our way out, my husband called me back to look at the…bathrooms. Right. Well, they are a treat. The Mens’ and Ladies’ both feature murals incorporating some of the museum’s well-known works. I saw some friends in each room.

And…here is where I became part of the exhibit myself. Kind of. Look and see if you can find me.

Sure you can! And my husband, too.

Well, that’s it for the visit. I hope to return and take another look at both of these displays this summer.

Finishing the Power-Tufted Rug

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop on power rug-tufting and I wrote a detailed post on the event. But…I didn’t get to the finish line on this project in that post. Now I have done so and I’ll describe the last steps in completing the rug and show you the “masterpiece” as it now begins its life as a rug fully participating in rug life.

After that build-up I am sure you expect drama. Thankfully for me, there was none. Finishing the rug was easy and pretty quick.

When I came back from the workshop the rug looked like this, on its right (tufted) side. I had trimmed the yarn ends from the wrong side at the workshop before I took it off the frame. Here you see the rug on the backing fabric so you can have an idea of how it looked as it came off the frame.

I trimmed the right side of the rug at home. Then I was ready to glue the back.

If you don’t glue the back, the tufts can just pull out. The tension of being crammed together is not enough, long-term, to keep a rug together.

I viewed a video made by Tim Eads, the instructor, on how to do this glue step. In the ideal world, you would be doing this while the rug was still on the frame and held taut. But, I found it to be no problem doing the process with it spread out flat on a table.

First I steam ironed the rug from the right side (protected by a cloth and using only light pressure). This helped the rug stay flat.

Then I flipped it so that the back side faced me.

Then…I pulled out a specially purchased bottle of Elmer’s Glue. After some guesstimating I chose a 16-oz size. According to the video, yes, this product is perfectly fine for rugs that will be wall hangings or otherwise lightly used. Different glues are recommended for tufted clothing (??!!) or for rugs that will receive heavy wear.

Well, then I poured some glue into a bowl, swished a brush through it, and started lathering it on. In the video it was applied pretty thickly, so that is what I did, even though I felt queasy about applying glue all over the fibers.

Here is a comparison of the back fibers before and after glue:

Ick, is what I said, so it’s ok if you say the same! The next morning the glue had dried and was clear. I prodded the rug and decided more glue was needed in quite a few places, so I put on another coat. Yes, I used up that whole big 16 oz bottle and it was needed, believe me.

The next day, I was happy with the adhesion. I tried pulling out a tuft here and there and could not do it, so I felt things were secure.

I did not like the crunchy hard feeling of the back, now, though. Well, no matter. The glue was just doing its job. The next steps were:

  • trim the orignal backing cloth and fold it under
  • cut and sew by hand a cloth to cover the raw back of the rug.

I chose a light cotton fabric for the covering cloth. In retrospect I would have used a heavier fabric, maybe a light canvas. But it didn’t really matter since the rug is not going to receive hard use. I did not take a photo of the backing, but the result is similar to what I did for my punch needle tiny rugs:

Now the rug is finished. Here it is in its natural habitat on the floor:

I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. My only dislike was the crunchy sound the rug made as I walked on it, due to the glue…but, a few minutes of treading on it and that broke down the glue enough so that the rug was quiet. In no way did it feel lumpy or stiff even before I did this, so now…I think the rug is just right. It’s soft and cushiony on the feet and quiet too.

The cat likes it – he’s already tried it out for a short rest.

I don’t know what I will do with this rug, but…I’m enjoying it just to look at and to wiggle my toes in, for right now. I would like to try another project like this one sometime, that is for sure.

Another Form of Rug-Making: Power Rug Tufting

My art life is slowly taking a turn away from the past and from previous activities. While I don’t plan to give up painting and many of my old pursuits anytime soon, I am not doing shows anymore, and I don’t do art for my work anymore.

That’s led me to examine my art activities; I found I had a lot of “should” cropping up in my thinking. It’s hard to shake the feeling of “I should be painting right now” when for decades that was exactly right – art was work and I should be working because it was the time of my life for working.

Now things have changed and life has moved on. Art is just for fun.

Recently I have taken several online art classes and enjoyed the experience. In the process of finding those classes I signed up for email lists at a number of art insitutions, museums, and art centers. Back when I was focused on art for work, I never would have done such a thing. Now I am seeing all the activities I can try out.

Rug-making has interested me since I was young. I made a couple of knitted rugs long ago, but nothing else until I took an online punch needle class at Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh a few months ago. Since then you may remember I’ve made some Barbie-sized rugs:

I like doing this craft and I have plans for more tiny rugs and maybe someday a bigger one.

But I’m here today to tell you about another foray into rug-making – a class I took at Winterthur, in Delaware, on May 15, on the subject of power rug tufting.

First, Winterthur. (And you say it, Winter-tour. Now you know.) It’s a museum, garden and library located near Wilmington, DE. A former duPont family home (yes, those duPonts), it focuses on the collection of Henry Francis du Pont, a well-known antiques collector and horticulturist. The museum features American furniture and decorative arts. The gardens are extensive and beautiful.

The event I attended was part of the museum’s Sustainable Style Fair, which featured workshops on handmaking, recycling, and using nature in home projects. I read the description of the rug class from the museum’s website:

Learn to use power tufting machines to create rugs by hand with the help of internationally recognized artist and designer Tim Eads. Create and tuft your own simple design for a 20″ x 20″ rug or pillow using post-industrial, recycled cotton yarns. Learn how to cut, glue, and finish a rug for use on the floor or as a wall hanging and about other ways you might incorporate recycled materials.  All supplies are included and tufting machines are provided.

…and I knew I had to try it out. Is it possible to make a rug in one morning? So my husband and I took the one-hour drive to the museum on a beautiful morning. Our plan was that I’d do the class; he would explore the gardens (which he did, walking about 6 miles); and then we’d eat a picnic lunch and go home. 

We arrived a bit early and parked right by the classroom building. We took a very short walk around the location. It’s the height of azalea and rhododendron time in our area.

I was a bit envious of my husband’s anticipated walk when I took in this scene but I got very happy when I entered the classroom and saw things set up.

The class was being given by Tim Eads of Tuft the World in Philadelphia. And now, you wonder, what is power rug tufting?

Basically, you use a power tool, the tufting gun, to apply yarn through a fabric to create a fiber piece. I’d suggest looking at the website to see the tool, but it sort of reminded me of a drill in how it looked, though with a rapidly-moving “needle” that, when you press the trigger and apply it to the fabric, a series of stitches are made that result in either a plush surface or a looped surface (depending on which version of the tufting gun you use). Like punch needle, you work from the back of the rug.

Here are the yarns we will be using.

It’s easier to show you the set up than to describe it in words. Here are the frames ready for the fabric to be attached – what I saw when I came into the classroom.

Here is my station. You see the empty frame and the two dowels upon which the cones of yarn will be set. You use two cones at one time, and you can mix colors for a mottled effect or use two of the same for solids.

Here it is with the stretched fabric, held in place by these strips of carpet tacks attached to the frame. Eek! Those hurt if you brush against them. You can also see I have two colors of yarn, red and yellow, on my dowels.

We learned how to thread the tool. The tool had an on/off switch, of course, but for good measure I unplugged it every time I re-threaded. I know myself and my tendency for accidents with power tools.

Then we learned how to use the tool. Basically, you press it firmly to the fabric, squeeze the trigger, and move the tool upwards in a steady motion.

Yes, that is it.

You can see on my blank fabric I have drawn in the area to be worked. Tim suggested marking a section to be used for experimenting (read: the area where you try things and mess up so you don’t spoil your rug). The other members of the class drew designs on their fabric to follow. I did not do this – I figured I’d just get it as I went along.

As usual I got very caught up in the process and forgot to take many photos. But essentially, here’s how it goes. You can only run the tool in one direction: up. You can go in any direction as long as the tool thinks you are going up – in other words, you can make a horizontal line, but you just can’t scoot the tool sideways. You have to turn it and run it in that direction. Tim suggested that since we are beginners we use the tool only in the up direction.

So, to make a circle, say, the best way is to draw the shape and then make a series of staggered-length lines to fill it. It’s not hard to do this – because of how the tool works.

Somehow it knows how to make the stitches and cut them into individual tufts every single one of them. So when you stop, you just pull the tool away. The mysterious scissors inside this thing has cut off the yarn, of course, ready for another tuft. You just move the tool to where you want to go next and press the trigger and you’re off!

Anyway, I was more interested in all the colors and trying combinations of colors. I just started making lines. Here is a view of the back at some point in the process.

Every so often I would walk around to the front and get a glimpse of what I was making. Here are a couple of process shots.

Why I had so many long tails in front, I wondered – Tim said it was where I had hesitated or slowed down. No matter, they will trim off even. (You’ll see!)

Eventually, I finished my work. I covered not only the “official” part of my rug, but I also incorporated my “practice” area. You really can make a rug in one morning, it turns out.

We took it off the frame (more ouches from touching those darn tack strips) and I trimmed the back. Here are some of the scraps.

We discussed the finishing of our rugs. We will need to put a glue on the back to secure the stitches and then turn under the fabric edges. I don’t plan to use my rug as a floor covering (though I don’t know what I will do with it!) so I think I will also put a fabric backing on it just to make it look nicer. The finishing will take place at home with instructions from a video Tim made.

Now you want to see the rug. OK, here it is. Remember, it still needs to be finished as I said above, but you can now see the plush look of it. I can tell you, it is very soft!

Here it is just off the frame, before I trimmed this side (which I did later at home). I have the rug in the position in which I worked on it.

And here is the trimmed version. The “practice” area in this shot is the 1/3 to the left – I usually did a couple of lines to test out the colors before I went to the “official” side. Later, when I saw I was going to have enough time to cover the whole fabric, I filled in the gaps.

Well, that’s the story of me and my introduction to power rug tufting. Here’s my take on the whole thing: I loved doing this project, and I would sign up for another workshop in a minute. Now that I feel I have a good handle on how things work, I have some ideas I would like to try…

Do I want to have my own tools and set up and so on? No, I don’t. To me this is clearly one of those activities that I’d like to dip into at intervals. It fits right in with my desire to explore new fields without feeling I have to become proficient or dedicated to them. I do see how the craft could grab hold of you, though. There are so many possibilities with color as well as experimenting with mixing loop and plus textures. And I also learned that the tool can be adjusted to make longer or shorter plush or loops…hmmm…

So I would say, what a great experience! And thank you to Tim and my fellow classmates. We had a lot of fun doing this activity. I’ll end with a quote my husband found on a sign out in the garden. I think it fits.

In Which I Punch Some Fabric and Then What Happened Next Surprised Me

A while back I signed up for an online class at Contemporary Craft , an arts organization in Pittsburgh, PA. Some years ago our family visited there (in person) in their previous building while we were on a visit to our son, who was living in the city at the time. I’ve never forgotten the experience and when I was looking around for virtual classes to attend this winter, I took a look at their site.

I’ll let the organization describe themselves in their own words from their website:

Presenting contemporary art in craft materials by international, national, and regional artists since 1971, Contemporary Craft offers innovative exhibitions focused on multicultural diversity and contemporary art, as well as a range of hands-on workshops, community outreach programs, and a store.

I enter the situation via the workshop option. On their site I had noticed this event:

VIRTUAL: Matisse-Inspired Wall Tapestry with Kirsten Ervin

and was drawn in by the image shown ( I don’t know who to credit for the photo, but I took it from the center’s site).

Tapestry fiber craft workshop - Kristen Ervin - Pittsburgh artist

Wow! I read more and I found out we’d be exploring punch needle art. I was so excited. I’ve been interested in this kind of work, similar to but not the same as rug hooking, for a long time. I’ve looked over quite a few books on the subject over the years, but I’ve never found a class or instruction.

Obviously the time had come. I signed up right away.

Wait a minute, you say. What exactly is punch needle art? Well, it’s a form of embroidery, and it uses a special tool and some kind of fiber, such as yarn, to create work on a fabric background. What we were going to do in this class was design our own image and then make it. Just as simple as that.


Time passed and then, about a week ago, I received the kit of class materials, prepared by the presenter, Kirsten Ervin. Everything I needed was included – the stretched cloth background, yarn in the four colors I had chosen, and the punch needle tool, among other items for our session. I was very impressed by the obvious care and thought that had gone into making up this kit amd I was even more anticipating the class once I saw what I’d be working with.

On February 20 I set up my materials, fired up the Zoom, and arrived virtually in Pittsburgh for the class, ready for a four hour session.

After introductions, we got to work. Kirsten had provided each of us with a couple of pieces of heavy paper. The idea was to take scissors and cut shapes, quickly and freely, and arrange them to fit the @ 9″ x 9″ square that our work would cover.

Here are some of the shapes I cut.

They look pretty good now laid out on my dining room table. In reality, I didn’t use any of them. I kept cutting shapes and revising them and trimming them and they became paper slivers mostly falling to the floor. My head did not wrap itself around this method of composition at this stage of the game, though I think it’s a really good way to go about it.

I think that since I was unsure of how the shapes would translate into the fabric work, I felt confused. And you know that I don’t plan anything in my artwork; I just start in and let things take their course. But…it all worked out. I salvaged a few shapes from the disaster, laid them on my background, and traced around them with a sharpie pen. I drew in some random things. Then we got to work.

We learned how to thread the punch needle. Here is the tool, facing up, in the way that you use it:

And here it is, threaded. You poke the yarn through the eye and then lay it along the slit. You sort of wiggle/yank/pull/push and the yarn goes right into the channel. It’s as if the tool resists for a while and then gives in and settles into being ready to work.

My four yarn colors were orange, blue, black, and white. Since I had no set design, exactly, oops, I would have to figure out things as I went along. Other people did things differently – they had a color scheme planned and marked it on the fabric. It depends on how you like to work – either way can come out fine, I learned.

Since I didn’t take photos of the fabric and frame set-up when they were empty, I will now show you what I made in its final form and explain all the parts. Here is the final image I came up with. It’s about 9″ x 9″ square.

And here is what it looked like as I was working. You can see the fabric background, which is something called monk’s cloth. Its loose weave allows the punch needle to slip between the weave pretty easily.

It’s stretched very tightly on a wood frame because the fabric must be taut for this process to work. Let me show you the back view and you will understand.

Kirsten put the cloth/frame assemblage together for each of us. This took some work, all right, even down to the stitching needed around the edges of the very prone to fraying monk’s cloth. I really appreciated this effort. It was very easy to work with this set up.

OK. Now how about some details of the work process? To do the actual task, it is really pretty easy. Stick the punch needle in up to the hilt, and then pull it out at a 45 degree angle or so. Don’t pull it up away from the fabric; keep it close to the surface, and slide it a short distance in the direction you want to go. Stick it in and pull it out. That’s it!

I started with this orange circle, shown below. I worked from the outside in. I did very many messy stitches. Just because it’s easy to do this, well, that does not mean it is easy to do it well. It took me a lot of time to grasp the beginnings of how far apart to make the stitches (I thought of them as “dives” as I dived below the surface with my needle…), and how not to pull the tool too far away from the fabric on the upstroke, and so on.

Know why there is a black dot in the center of this circle? Because when I was finished with the piece and had used up all my orange yarn, well… oh dear, I noticed that it was as if this circle was balding – I had left too much space and left a bare spot. Voila, a black hairpiece and all was well.

Here is more detail of the work. Lots of irregularity. Well, you know, there is something called “practice” and we have that concept for a reason, right? I will improve if I keep on trying.

I also learned that, if a stitch did not satisfy me, just pull it out and redo it. Because this is not an art where you can say…ooops, look at that way back there in line, and fix it. And it’s very easy to remove stitches. So go ahead and do it.

You may be wondering, how does this whole thing hold together, if it is so easy to just pull it apart? Well, it’s an interesting question. Let’s look at the back for some answers. I don’t think my photos show it too well, but the back is fluffier and there is more yarn cramming itself together. It mimics the pattern on the right side, but is different, too, isn’t it?

You might see it better when I contrast the front and back views.

What makes it work is how tightly the loops are packed in with each other. Yes, grab hold of one and start pulling and things can disintegrate. But you are not going to do that, and so the piece’s elements will work together to stay intact. Interesting, isn’t it?

Last bit of construction information. You might also be wondering how the tail ends of the yarn are managed, the ones left when you start or finish a color or area or whatever. Kirsten told us we could just clip the tail ends right to the surface of the work. I almost could not believe her, because in every other fiber art I’ve done, oh my goodness, you must do knots or weave ends or somehow hide them in the work. Not here. Just get your tiny embroidery scissors and carefully clip. Fantastic!

Let’s look at the final result again, now that you know how it is made.

There are a variety of ways to finish it. I could leave it on the frame, for instance. But I like the idea of carefully cutting it from the frame and then folding the monk’s cloth edges to the rear, then covering it with a hand-sewn backing.

And guess what – there is really no wrong or right side to this work. You can choose the one you like best. I can see how different compositions would favor one side or the other. I guess you could turn it over halfway, too, and work from the opposite side, and then get the effects of both looks? (Get me some paper, I must write that idea down…)


So that’s the story of how I learned to punch needle. I haven’t said anything about the class itself, and I will now. Kirsten was a great teacher; I’ve mentioned her good organization and I appreciated her clear plan for the class. We covered all the topics necessary for us to work on our own. She also showed us examples of her work and of various other rug and tapestry-making tools and materials, all of which were helpful in giving ideas and perspectives on the craft.

Plus, she was just a lot of fun to learn from – she has an obvious enthusiasm for the craft and caught us up in it with her. I also enjoyed seeing the WIP and the conversation with my other classmates – which included participants from Pittsburgh and a college student from her dorm room in the middle of the state, besides me.

I want to say thank you to Kirsten Ervin and to Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, PA, and to my classmates for such a good class and for a lot of fun. I also want everyone to know that I am getting ready to order some punch needle supplies…you can tell I really enjoyed myself by the fact that I finished up this piece last night, I was so full of enthusiasm! I will be doing more punch needle art, you can count on it.

Looking Back: House Portraits

A post in an occasional series – looking back at artworks or mediums I worked in from earlier in my artist years.

Here I show you two house portraits and tell you a little bit about these houses, why I made these wall hangings, and about house portraits in fabric and me.

All right, here is the story. In the beginning of my art career, the first thing I made was a portrait of our house in fabric. I got the idea from a book and I was inspired to try it out. It was an awful mess but I enjoyed doing it. So I kept on.

At first I did them in hand applique and later went on to machine work. I developed my own methods and refined them, and my sewing abilities improved. I began to sell them on a commission basis, with customers found either through art shows or through a local shop which displayed samples of my work.

In most cases I took photos of the building and worked from them, drawing up a picture on graph paper and using it to create pattern pieces for the building. This method was the forerunner of the technique I recently described for collage work.

I made houses, mostly – but I also did commercial buildings, a nursing home, and a florist’s greenhouse, as I remember. Here are some photos. Please excuse the poor quality – all of these works were done in the 1990’s or so and I was still using a film camera, not very well. I made the gallery small because there are so many of them – click if you want more detail.

You may notice there are two versions of one building – it’s the Valley Green Inn, a popular spot in Philadelphia, on Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park. The original piece I made at the suggestion of the owner of the shop I referred to earlier – she sold it in the store. The other one was made as a commission, requested by someone who had seen the original and wanted me to make this version, a fall scene, as a gift for her sister who was having her wedding reception there.

Well, there is a story with each one of these pieces.

Let me get back to the original images I showed you. In 2001, I was asked by the editor of a series of quilting books by Rodale Press to participate in one of their volumes. Its theme was drafting and designing various types of quilts. My assignment was to explain how to make a house portrait in fabric, start to finish.

I was given a template for how to write up my process as well as for a glossary, tips, and suggestions. (I still have the files from this project, so I know! What a trip down memory lane). I had to come up with 2 house subjects, one a front view and one an angled view. My husband and I drove around our area looking for the perfect subjects and found them in two different neighborhoods within 15 minutes of home.

I created the drawings, did all the writing, and made the pieces, submitting them for editing and review. I remember I asked a friend to read over the directions to see if she could follow them before I sent them to the editor.

Then came time for photography of the process, the drawings, and the pieces themselves. With the editor’s help I broke the process up at points that would made good photo points. This meant I had to make several drawings, for instance, showing different stages of design. Luckily, since the book was not about construction, I did not have to show myself putting the piece together, and make several different versions at different stages.

We met at the editor’s house to accomplish this  photography task: me, the editor, a hand model,(!) and a photographer. At this session I mostly observed and handed over the right items at the right time. And enjoyed the inside view of how a book photo project was made.

The book is still available: check here on Amazon.

This project was a highlight of my fabric art career. I was, and still am, very proud to have been chosen and for the work that I did on the project, and through this phase of my art career.

I also did a self-published book on the subject in the 1990’s. Don’t know if there is still a copy in existence (though Amazon says there is). I still have the interior of the book in my files, though, I think.

All of the house portraits I made were sold or given away long ago, and I don’t have photos of some of the earliest ones I did (which is maybe a good thing). I also did a few house portraits in collage, but not many – by then I was wanting to spend more time on my own work and did not accept many commissions. In any case, house portraits are what got me firmly involved in art-making and I will always remember this phase of my work in detail and very fondly, I think.