Quilting and painting a new fish quilt

We’ve come back from Festival of Quilts all fired up to make new work. I know Laura has a project on the go but she’s keeping the details secret at the moment – all I’ve seen is a pile of cut patchwork shapes on her instagram feed, so if you follow her you probably know as much as me! While we were at the show I had so much interest in some of my monoprinted fabrics that I couldn’t wait to make more as soon as I got home. I made a few fishy prints first of all.

You need plenty of imagination to visualise how this little piece will turn out – what you see here is far from the finished article. There will be more stitched fish shapes between the monoprinted ones and lots more hand painting to connect the separate elements. I always enjoy the challenge of taking diverse colours and shapes and making them relate to each other as a complete composition. My piecing of the quilt is usually very simple and where I have patches that appear abrupt where they join at the seam I aim to take elements from one patch across the seam to its neighbour. The frond print is an example of this – what you see here is probably only one quarter monoprint and three quarters stitched and painted. I am aware that the checkerboard strip on the left looks completely unconnected right now but I have plans for that – trust me. If it doesn’t go to plan I can always cut it off!

Here’s a closer look at one of the monoprinted fish. I used Golden Open Acrylics on a print plate and made the marks using a scrap of cloth wrapped around my fingertip. This technique produces really loose marks that are quite characterful. Finer detail could be created by drawing into the paint with the wrong end of a paintbrush or similar but I prefer to leave space for my quilting to do that. Once I have enough of the paint wiped from the plate I drop a piece of smooth cotton fabric over it and press lightly with my hands. Lifting the cloth reveals how every mark is transferred to the fabric.

All the quilting is worked free motion. I’m keeping the threads to just a couple of colours  – olive green and teal. I’m using Sensa Green sustainable threads from Madeira and they are working brilliantly for free motion quilting on my Pfaff PowerQuilter machine. I wanted a closely worked background design that felt relevant to my fishy theme and decided little bubbles would satisfy that. I stitch them figure of eight style – it’s really easy to travel from one bubble to the next that way.

Here you can see how I’ve incorporated a couple of my favourite monoprinted frond shapes. These were originally inspired by fish skeletons seen on the banks of a river one January long ago when we travelled to Canada. I’ve used them many times in various incarnations in my fish series. Here they are meant to suggest seaweed floating underwater – a leafy underworld for my fish to inhabit. The seams of the piecing chopped right through the prints but as you can see I’ve begun to continue the motif by outlining it with stitch and then imagining it extending both up and down the body of the quilt. I’m beginning to paint into the empty frond shapes to match those of the print but when I complete the shapes of the monoprint I’m trying my best not to obliterate the subtlety of the printed mark completely.

I rarely mark lines for free motion quilting but here I have pencilled in a simple outline of another fish that will soon be stitched. I’ve used soft chalk pencil that will disappear as I quilt or maybe even before that if I don’t get back to my machine and get back to work!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how one of my little pieces is evolving. My work is always about a layering of techniques so although I have a pretty good idea of what I’m aiming for I always respond to the piece itself. It may take a different path from my original plan. There’s lots of work to do still but I’ll let you see how it turns out when I’m done!

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Scrap Quilt Tips

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Text on Textiles: Handwriting

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