Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Collage with fabric

 I am still wanting to get better at portraits and want to find the method that I enjoy the most. So far, I have used the 4 or 5 value method that Phyllis Cullen teaches and it is very successful. I used the lightweight fusible web, Misty Fuse to create them. Here is the first one I did of my son, Adam.

4 value portrait

After doing a few of them I tried a collage method using Steam a Seam fusible web as the backing and tulle over the top to control all the fabrics for quilting.

Cat collage

The cat collage was fun to make but all those layers of fabric plus the heavier fusible web made the quilting less enjoyable.

Then, I remembered that Susan Carlson uses a collage method using glue and no fusible web at all. She says that the quilt remains really soft and easy to quilt.

I had actually cut up some fabrics to try the method out many months ago and had never got around to trying it out. At the end of last week I came down with a cold courtesy of my grandchildren. I didn't feel as if I could do anything taxing or creative. I found the fabrics over the weekend and got started on a spiral design.

Spiral beginnings

I drew a very rough spiral on some white fabric and started placing the fabrics.

When the spiral was done, I used blue fabrics for the background.

Finally, I had the spiral finished, it only took an afternoon.

It was a fun and easy thing to do, a perfect project when you are not well. Susan Carlson recommends gluing down the edges with Aleene's tacky glue and I had even bought a bottle of it a while ago.

Putting glue on all the edges is where the fun stopped for me, it was really tedious. I didn't do a very good job really, luckily I have a lot of experience with machine quilting and managed to quilt spirals without lifting the edges.

Here is the spiral quilted.

spiral collage

I used batik fabrics because they are tightly woven and the edges don't fray very much. I remembered why I love batik fabrics, I love the texture and the little bits of other colours in them. Although I made the spiral in yellow and orange fabrics, there are little bits of blue, pink and green that makes it  livelier.

I don't think gluing fabrics down is going to be in my future, even if it is a lovely soft effect.

So, I have decided that my next portrait will be a collage method but with Misty fuse behind the fabrics and I will try hard to keep the layers to a minimum. The test will be how I enjoy quilting it. 

Now I just have to find a photo to use. I will wait until I am over this cold though!

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Soy Wax Printing

 I signed up for an on-line class about soy wax printing. Soy wax is supposed to be more eco friendly than normal batik wax printing, so I thought I might as well try it as I like to know ways to achieve texture on fabric.

Here I am melting the soy wax flakes in my old electric frypan.

Melting the soy wax flakes

They don't take very long to melt.

I got out some of my hand dyed fabric and drew some wax lines and shapes on the top and then painted over the top of that with some blue Procion dyes.

Printing with the soy wax

Here are the results.

The top fabric shows the before and the bottom fabric shows what it looked like afterwards. Not really much of a result for the work involved.

Then I tried using freezer paper as a resist. I cut some freezer paper circles and fish shapes and ironed the negative shape onto yellow fabric. Painted wax in the shapes and then over painted with green dye.

I wasn't very impressed by those results either. Soy wax is obviously a very loose technique and you are not supposed to get crisp edges.

I think I can get better texture with sun printing and painting with dyes and paints or even the flour resist that I used last year.

I don't imagine that I will do soy wax resist printing again. At least I gave it a go. Apart from the ordinary results, I hated washing out the wax. Here is a photo of some fabric soaking in very warm water in a bucket.

rinsing out the soy wax.

You are supposed to rinse out in very warm water in a bucket to loosen the wax and then you can wash in a hot cycle in a washing machine. I rinsed out in very hot water and scrubbed the fabric with my hands but I found the wax very hard to remove. No matter how much I wash out that bucket with hot water, I cannot get the wax off the inside of the bucket. There is no way I would want to put that soy wax in my washing machine.

I had some left over blue dye so I dyed some white PFD fabric and got a nice light blue with texture!

It was light though, so I cut it up into 3 pieces and over-dyed one in the same blue and the other piece in Turquoise dye.

Here are the results.

Blue dyed fabrics

I was happy with them and must do some more dyeing while we have a bit of warm weather left.

So, I gave soy wax resist printing a go and can cross that off my list of techniques.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

More Fabric Portraits

 I have done a couple more fabric portraits since my last post about them in early February.

This time I tried to do a self-portrait. I chose 5 levels of fabric and left them out on my table overnight.

First choice of fabrics

When I looked at the fabrics the next morning, I thought I was being too safe and needed to challenge myself a bit more. I pulled out some more fabrics to work with.

Final choice of fabrics

Here is what the portrait looked like after I had used the 3 lightest fabrics.

3 values done

You can still see it's a face but it really shows how important those darker values are.

Here is the portrait with all 5 values.

Portrait of me.

When I showed my portrait to our on-line group, someone thought that my second value was too light. I must admit that there is a lot of light values in it because my skin is quite pale.

I considered making it again using a lightly darker colour but then I couldn't be bothered and used a fabric pen to darken the value!

Here is the portrait with the pink darkened.

portrait changed

I wish that I hadn't done it now, it looks too pink. One of my friends said that I look sunburnt!! Oh well, just another lesson not to jump into changing things too soon. 

I think that I will do another one now, but maybe I 'll find another photo to use. Next time, I'll stay away from pink.

I also did another portrait of my cat, Misty. Here is the first one that I did.

Cat portrait 1

This time I used the collage method, where I cut up little pieces of fabric in 3 different values. I laid the fabrics down on a line drawing that I drew on a piece of Steam a Seam 2 fusible. When I had all the pieces of fabric in place, I ironed them down. Because there were still lots of loose bits of fabric, I put a layer of black tulle over the top.

Cat Collage

This is what it looked like after quilting.

Cat Collage

Quilting definitely improves a piece. I liked doing both methods but I didn't enjoy quilting the last collage one as much. There were quite a few layers of fabric and the machine had to really work hard to quilt it.

I prefer it if quilting is smoother and freer. I put tulle over the entire top instead of just the cat and it did darken the background a bit, if I did it again, I would try just having the tulle over the cat.

I must get on to doing some more portraits so I can improve and not forget how to do it. I have been distracted lately doing some surface design techniques. There are only so many hours in a day and you can't do everything.

Bye for now,


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Sue de Vanny Exhibition

 Hooray, I finally got to a quilt exhibition last week. The first one in 12 months. The last exhibition was actually my own show that was on this time last year and then the world seemingly stopped and there has been nothing on since.

Sue de Vanny's exhibition is currently on display at the Kyabram Town Hall Gallery in Victoria, Australia. It is a large gallery space with professional lighting and it specialises in textiles. We are so lucky to have a gallery like this.

Sue de Vanny is an art quilter and it was so wonderful to see all her quilts together and have a close look at her techniques.

Sue has been to South Africa a few times and uses her photographs as inspiration for many of her quilts.

Close to Me by Sue de Vanny

Long Tall Sally by Sue de Vanny

Majestic Presence by Sue de Vanny

I am amazed at the realism she has achieved in the lion quilt above.

I have always admired her quilt Limelight.

Limelight by Sue de Vanny

I remember Sue's tram quilt at the Australasian Quilt Convention back in 2014, it was very popular and won Viewer's Choice, I think.

Tram Route no. 10 by Sue de Vanny

Sue has started with a different pieced technique lately and this quilt has recently won 3rd prize at Quilt Con, the Modern Quilt Guild Competition. It was able to be at the exhibition because the show was a virtual exhibition this year.

Shape I'm In by Sue de Vanny

I drove the two and a half hour drive to Kyabram with my friend Marion, who was also my room-mate when I went to Uluru in 2018. It was good to spend time with Marion again. I asked Marion to take a photo of me in front of the quilt that I love the best out of all of Sue's quilts.

Me in front of Time by Sue de Vanny

I felt so inspired by the exhibition that I wanted to come home and start sewing, of course I didn't, life got in the way but I do have some ideas percolating in my mind.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Exploring Emotions with Quilts

 For the past few years, I have been thinking about how to explore emotions with my contemporary quilts. One of my latest quilts is called Grief.

A year before the Covid event, my best friend and my younger brother both passed away unexpectedly within a year of each other. It was tough, even though life must go on, there is a hurt that you carry around inside. I decided to make a quilt about this sad subject. Don't get me wrong, I am not depressed or anything, in fact, I think I am the opposite, I am usually pretty upbeat and positive.

I chose fabrics in various greyed blues that I thought would represent the subject. I started to make this quilt last year when we were in lockdown. Luckily, there is a quilt shop within 5k of my home so I was able to order on-line and go and collect it. Once you have an idea for a quilt you don't want to wait three weeks for the delivery of the fabrics.

Fabrics for quilts

I decided to try and make the fabrics change from darkest at the bottom and gradually get lighter towards the top to represent feeling better as time went on.

Fabric gradations

I thought about the people that I was missing a lot while I was making the quilt and it was quite therapeutic. I really believe it helped me accept that they were gone and I could move on and be glad that they had been in my life.

Here is the finished quilt.

Grief ©2021 Linda Steele

My artist statement for the quilt was

'Grief cracks us open: eventually we reshape and re-emerge but we are different than before. We will never be the same, life is different now. With time we will become more compassionate, more human and more patient than before'

Here is a detail photo.

Grief detail

I entered this quilt into the SAQA Connections exhibition and was absolutely thrilled that it was accepted. SAQA is a top international art quilt group and I was very honoured to be chosen and be amongst some very prestigious company. The exhibition will premiere at Houston in November.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 9 March 2021

SAQA Acceptances

 I've had good news recently, two of my quilts have been accepted into SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) exhibitions. 

The first was a regional exhibition for Australia and New Zealand called Distance and Diversity, my quilt will be travelling around to various shows and galleries for a couple of years. The first exhibition isn't open yet and so we are not allowed to show the entire quilt until after the opening. I am allowed to show a detail photo though.

Reef Revelations detail

Can you tell that the girl reading the book is my granddaughter, Savannah? I actually painted her skin and appliqued the hair and clothes. It was a very nerve-wracking day painting that face, but I was happy in the end.

 SAQA have a conference every year and this year it is a virtual conference and the Oceania region (Australia and New Zealand) are the hosts. They are having a virtual quilt exhibition as well and the theme was Impressions of Oceania from Around the World. The quilt did not have to be a new quilt and people from all over the world entered, I was thrilled to have my quilt Firelight accepted.

Firelight by Linda Steele

This quilt is made from wool and it was a very different technique for me. I must get around to trying it again!

Here is a detail photo.

Firelight detail

I think that might be my last acceptance for a while unless I get onto some new work. I am still busy playing around with paint and portraits. I am learning a lot and hopefully it will eventually translate to some new quilts.

We have recently heard that AQC (Australasian Quilt Convention is going to be held in August instead of April and the Victorian Quilt Show that I coordinate has been changed from July to November. So, I have some time to get some more quilts done.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 23 February 2021

New Improv Quilt

 I've been busy working on a new improv quilt but it takes so long to sew that I have to take lots of breaks. Sometimes, I don't sew anything for a couple of weeks then I get it down off the design wall and do a bit more.

Here's how I started.

Beginning my Improv

I haven't done a lot of improv so I am probably really slow compared to people who have done a lot of it. There is no pattern or plan, I just cut some fabric and then cut another piece next to it and sew it together.  I stare at the quilt and decide what to sew next.

Adding leaf shape.

Because I am using red, orange and brown fabrics, I decided to sew a leaf shape, then I have to work out how to add it to the quilt in a pleasing way.

The next photo shows the leaf sewn onto the quilt.

leaf added

Here's what the quilt top looks like now after many, many hours.

Improv quilt.

At the moment, I am thinking that this is the top left quarter of the quilt. That means there is a long way to go. I hope all this work is worth the effort. At least I'll be a lot better at piecing by the end of it.

I suppose I am slow at it because I am also busy with the portrait quilts, plus I am doing a colour course which is time consuming and I am doing some on-line painting classes.

I don't know why am doing these painting classes because I am not very good, but I am totally addicted to them. It's supposed to be good to learn new skills and keep your brain exercised! It will probably help with surface design in future quilts. Most of the classes I am doing are abstract and I am learning a lot about paint and mixing colour.

I am still planning to do another two weeks of classes with Nancy Crow next year. Who knows if that will go ahead. I suppose it depends on the Covid Vaccine and how well it works. The vaccine  has arrived in Australia this week but health care and aged care workers are getting it first, then people over 70. I'll probably get it in the third stage later in the year.

Anyway, that's what is keeping me busy these days.

Bye for now,