Sunday, November 24, 2019

Guild Challenge: Tear, weave, quilt, applique, electrify!

Battery holders, alligator clips and LEDs may not seem like the traditional tools or materials used in quiltmaking... but with the technology advancements in soft circuits, it's very feasible to add electronics to quilts, wearables and other fiber art. I did!
Alligator clips and test leads hooked up to a battery and soft switch on my Challenge quilt.

My latest quilt, A Light Touch, was created in response to my guild's Challenge this year and it incorporates electronics along with traditional quilting materials such as cotton batiks, threads and batting. This is an overview of my process.
A Light Touch.
2019 Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge.
18" x 23"

Guild Challenge Parameters

As with all Guild Challenges, participants in the Choo Choo Quilters 2019 Guild Challenge were given certain parameters or guidelines to follow when creating a submission. Through a round robin fabric swap, participants received a total of one yard batik fabrics—7 different batiks in various sizes. A bit of each fabric had to be used in the final piece.
Seven batik fabrics required for the Challenge.

The Challenge was issued at the February guild meeting, and my thoughts were about creating something that was dimensional and had an unexpected element to it. My impetus was to employ aspects of a mixed media workshop with Michael Brennand-Wood I attended in June, but I must have also been influenced by samples I made for a Art Weave class I taught in March.
Weaving the top.
Since the original batik fabric pieces were torn, I continued with the frayed edge concept and continued tearing the fabrics into strips approximately 3/4" wide. My fabrics had a good range of values—lights, mediums and darks—so the plan was to create a woven gradation of color. Sometimes smaller strips were sewn together to get the needed length for weaving.

Preparing the Quilt Sandwich
After weaving the top, I had to figure out a way to keep the woven strips in place. The quilting would solve this. A variety of variegated threads [40 wt. and 50 wt. cotton] were chosen in colors to complement the light and dark areas of the weaving.
Auditioning thread colors for free-motion quilting.
A piece of batting was cut to the size of the woven top. The backing fabric was wrapped around the edges of the batting to enclose them and give the piece a finished look.
Batting enclosed with the backing fabric.
This batting/backing piece was layered with the woven top and pin basted.
Top, batting and backing pin basted.
The sandwich was free-motion machine quilted.
Free-motion quilting.

There was still one more fabric to incorporate—this orange batik with the circle motifs.
The final fabric to incorporate into my Challenge piece.
I anticipated appliquéing the circle motifs to the quilt top. In keeping with the torn edges of the woven strips, the edges of the applliquéd circles were pinked. Extra batting was stuffed under the appliqué shapes for a trapunto effect (satisfying the idea of a dimensional piece).

But I still wanted to push this piece to another level... This is when the idea to add electronics surfaced.

Adding Electronics
The circle motifs seemed an ideal place for LEDs (light emitting diodes). I had six appliqués to work with:

  • perhaps two or four could light up with LEDs,
  • maybe all of them would light up... 
  • maybe they could blink... 
  • could a switch be incorporated? 
It was getting more intricate... but it was exciting and I didn't want to give in... Once I entered the Wonderland of electronics, it was like going down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Appliqué motifs pinned in place.

Interactivity and Soft Switches
Thinking it would be *cool* to make the piece interactive, I was challenged with making a soft switch. Activating a switch (pushing a button or flipping a switch) would close the circuit and make the LEDs illuminate. It might be interesting if one switch illuminated two LEDs and another switch lit up the other two. Was I making this too complex?

The next step was to devise the schematic of the circuit—with 4 LEDs, 2 switches and the battery (power source)—to see if my plan could be executed. The composition and placement of the appliqué circles needed to be preserved, so I had to figure out the best placement of the power source and the traces (connections and paths for the electricity). I enlisted advice from friend and fiber artist, Geri Forkner, about the circuits and placement of the electronics. Geri has done extensive work with soft circuits and incorporating electronics in her weaving and felting art. [Thanks for your guidance and advice on this piece, Geri!]
Drawings of the circuit schematic.

Although aluminum foil could be used for the switch, with a week before the deadline, I found conductive fabric online and ordered it. Sewing with the conductive fabric was a better solution than adhering aluminum foil to the batik fabric. 
Testing the switch.
The soft switch was first tested with the alligator test leads and a battery. It worked well.
The LED lights when the switch is engaged.

LEDs were inserted into four of the trapunto appliqués. Two of the appliqués were un-stitched to incorporate the new soft switches. Actual buttons were stitched to these two circles (so viewers could "push a button"... get it?) . Then, conductive thread was used to hand sew the circuits (from the back of the piece). All circuits were go!
Button switches.

Do you push buttons?
Usually, educated viewers respect quilts and fiber art pieces and do not touch them when they are on exhibit. For the Challenge display at the guild meeting, however, I added a "Do you push buttons?" sign to encourage interaction with my piece. 
Viewer interaction at the Challenge exhibit. 

During our guild's Challenge Reveal, each quiltmaker gives a brief explanation of their piece. I talked about the LEDs, the coin battery, and stitching with the conductive thread (some people think wires are used). For me, determining the circuit and stitching the electronic components took more thought and time than making the quilt itself. 

But, this is what a Guild Challenge is all about: trying something different, expanding your skills and stretching your abilities.
Label for "A Light Touch."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Fall Quilt Market Recap, part 3: Bags, notions, techniques and new substrates

Large or small, there's a project for everyone! In addition to quilts and garments, bags in all sizes and a slew of creative stitching projects were on display at Fall Quilt Market... in booths, display cases and in Demo Alley.
Fall Quilt Market 2019, Houston, Texas.

Bags, Totes, Pouches and Duffles
At the M&S Textiles Australia booth, several bags and totes from Penny Sturges [Quilts Illustrated] were on display. This Summertime Carryall featured Dreaming in One Flame, one of M&S Textiles Australia's striped aboriginal designs.
Summertime Carryall [Penny Sturges from Quilts Illustrated] with M&S Textiles fabrics.

The Roxy Bag, made with Man & Goanna for the body and strap, was accented with a Four Seasons stripe along the curved top.
Roxy Bag [Quilts Illustrated] with M&S Textiles fabrics.

The Totably was made with a stylized floral—Summertime Rainforest in the black colorway.
Totably bag [Quilts Illustrated] with M&S Textiles fabrics.

A zippered duffle featured Brett Lewis' Stag and Thistle collection from Northcott
Stag and Thistle zippered duffle bag.

The FIGO booth showed off its upcoming DIY collection with a cute tote to store crafting supplies—paint brushes, crayons, scissors, washi tapes, etc.—for the active do-it-yourselfer.
Art supply tote and art smock from the DIY collection from FIGO.

A Rainbow of Bag Making Hardware
Need special hardware for bag making? If the standard gold and silver colors won't suffice, several companies have a range of colored zippers, magnetic snaps, bag feet, swivels, clasps and the like. Anything you'll need to provide an expert finish to your next bag project.
Bag making supplies from Sallie Tomato.

Colored magnetic snaps from Sassafras Lane Designs.

The Cork Fabric Craze
Although this product has been out in stores for a few years, it made a resurgence at Market. Cork sews just like fabric—and without any frayed edges to attend to. What's not to like about that? Cork comes in colors and prints and it can be embellished as desired.
Cork bag from Belagio Enterprises Inc.

Although I haven't tried this innovative substrate yet, it appears you can crochet, knit, sew or weave with it or cut and slice it to make a quick fringe or tassel. Cork seems to be "un-stoppable" with what you can make with it!
Projects made with cork fabric [Belagio Enterprises, Inc].

Patterns and Tools 
To assist quilters, sewers and makers with their projects, vendors previewed new tools, notions and patterns to facilitate accuracy, efficiency and creativity. These are just a sampling of what you'll be seeing at YLQS [your local quilt shop] soon.

Fat quarter and pre-cut friendly patterns and the Shortcut Binding tool
from The Franklin Quilt Co.

Pom Pom making tools from Clover Needlecraft.

Studio 180 Designs patterns and rulers.

Hand Stitching and Classy Accoutrements
Hand stitching is still going full force! New patterns, books, threads, needles and other notions are available for every kind of hand stitchery you can imagine.
Books, patterns and kits by super stitcher, Sue Spargo.
Hand and machine threads from WonderFil Specialty Threads.

This display featured Vicki McCarty's [Calico Patch Designs] beautiful wool appliqué, patchwork patterns and kits as well as the Yazzii bags—a classy way to organize, store and carry all your hand stitching and quilting supplies.
Calico Patch Designs products and Yazzii Bags.

The needle arts manufacturers are embracing time honored techniques like sashiko and kantha and combining them with intriguing new pattern designs, notions, and threads in gorgeous color palettes. Hand stitching—for decorative embellishing or for the functional mending processes—is still going strong.
Hand embroidery projects from Bald Guy in a Kilt/Global Artisans.

Sashiko stitching and hand sewing needles from Tulip.

And speaking of hand stitching... still one of my favorite fabrics to use for hand stitching is the yarn-dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles. A range of soft neutrals and textured stitched patterns are coming to the Nikko Geo collection. You'll certainly want to get your needles into these!
New soft neutrals in Nikko Geo [Diamond Textiles].

So, that's a wrap for Fall Quilt Market 2019! Hope you enjoyed a preview of what's coming to your local quilting and sewing shop.
All packed up! A pallet of boxes ready for shipping.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Fall Quilt Market Recap, part 2: Quilting

As one would expect, Quilt Market booths were draped with colorful, striking quilts—examples and inspiration for creating with fabric manufacturers' upcoming fabric collections.
Painted Ladies quilt (center) featuring Street Art batiks from Banyan Batiks.
A repetition of simple shapes and basic block patterns provided a framework for the array of colors and fabrics to a dance in rhythm in these quilts—with each quilt featuring a different fabric collection.

I attended two schoolhouse presentations by Banyan Batiks. Designer, Tiffany Hayes [Needle in a Hayes Stack], talked about her upcoming Sazerac batik line for Banyan Batiks. The collection was inspired by the era of the Speakeasy and is portrayed in sultry, rich earthy colors with spicy citrus-toned accents.
Tiffany Hayes talking about her Sazerac batik collection [Banyan Batiks].
Banyan Batik quilt at the schoolhouse session at Quilt Market.

Karen Gibbs from Banyan Batiks talked about the batiking process and passed around an example of the hand-crafted tjap [pronounced "chop"] that is used to stamp and create the designs and motifs on the fabric.
A tjap used in making batik fabrics.

Technique Reboot!
Classic patchwork techniques and quilt blocks are just as fun and popular now as they ever were! Diamond Textiles featured its textured cotton embossed collection with this one-block Carpenters Star quilt. The cotton embossed fabrics are created with a resist process—much like the process for making batiks.
One block Carpenters Star quilt with Cotton Embossed [Diamond Textiles].

The Superior Threads booth featured Leesa Chandler's Melba fabric line using the classic Stack N Whack (kaleidoscope) technique. The Melba collection [from Australia-based fabric company, The Textile Pantry] also has a teal/silver colorway that is just as striking in the Stack N Whack quilt.
The Melba fabric collection [The Textile Pantry] is stunning in the stack n whack quilt.

Northcott Fabrics is pushing the traditional attic windows technique to new levels with its upcoming collection, The View from Here. What's the view you'd like to see out your window?
The View from Here from Northcott Fabrics.

The View from Here fabric collection

The Log Cabin goes Uptown
M&S Textiles Australia brought a contemporary twist to the traditional log cabin quilt. A mix of colorful aboriginal prints paired with a light fabric offers areas in this on-point log cabin setting for fun machine quilting. In the classic log cabin patchwork style, it's all about the placement of the lights and darks!
Log Cabin quilt in the M&S Textiles booth at Houston Quilt Market.

The big block Durango pattern [Villa Rosa Designs] offers easy piecing for this log cabin quilt. It's a great pattern to show off a variety of large scale fabrics like these aboriginal prints.
Durango [Villa Rosa Designs] quilt in the M&S Textiles booth, Houston Quilt Market.

Whether you're a cat or dog lover, this clowder of "calico" cats is a cute way to show off the Australian aboriginal fabric designs. The Cat City pattern [Villa Rosa Designs] is a fat quarter friendly pattern. 
Cat City quilt [Villa Rosa Designs] using Australian aboriginal prints
from M&S Textiles Australia.

Another log cabin quilt—this time with the barn raising setting—features the Primitive Collection from Batik Textiles.
Log cabin quilt in the Primitive Collection from Batik Textiles.

We never tire of these classic blocks! They stand the test of time because they are so versatile.
Primitive batiks at Houston Quilt Market.

New Techniques
MJ Kinman's booth showcased her stunning gemstone quilts. MJ has trained a team of Gem Affiliates from across the USA and Canada in her unique piecing technique. 
MJ Kinman's Gemstone booth at Quilt Market.

Northcott Fabrics is bringing her gemstone designs to the quilting community with fabric panels and jewel-toned coordinates in its Jewel Box collection. Now quilters can achieve gemstone designs in multiple ways.
MJ Kinman's booth at Houston Quilt Market

Ask your local quilt shop [YLQS] about these fabrics and any classes they will offer to help and inspire you in your quiltmaking endeavors. YLQS is your source for what's coming in the quilting world.

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