Quilt Progress Report

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I have posted on my blog. It seems that Instagram has become my main social media outlet these days. So for those of you that don’t go that route, I am reposting some process shots of my most recent appliqué quilt project.

When spring comes to the Midwest the natives take a deep breath and buckle their seat belts, because once things start growing they can’t be stopped. In a matter of weeks the bare gray landscape is transformed into a mass of undulating greenness. This quilt is a celebration of that energy of growth and portrays several of my yearly spring favorites, Bloodroot and Trillium.

I started by designing six prototype leaf patterns, each approximately 12” to 14” wide. I picked stacks of green hand dyed cottons (lots of Cherrywood) and some dupioni silks. Each leaf graduates from light colors at the top to dark at the bottom to suggest depth in the shadowy woods.

You can see one of my leaf patterns in the picture below. Each was assembled in sections with a quarter inch underlap built into the design. The parts were Tacky Glued very sparingly to hold them together for easy portability. As I made each leaf I placed it on the table covered with white paper. I like to work flat these days because it is easier and more spontaneous to move the pieces for composing. The stems and flowers here are made of construction paper, just to test out the possibilities.

I almost always make my shapes first without a definite composition in mind. As the shapes begin to interact the composition evolves.

I also like to make contrasting shapes, because contrast creates DRAMA! The spiral represents growth, energy and movement and it is a symbol that I use often. So why not give them a try. I have lots of cardboard spiral templates in my collection and I picked the largest ones in the drawer. Yep! These big round shapes definitely add some energy! You can see that I am toying with some construction paper Trillium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, too.

Next I laid in a trial background of two dark browns. I chose this color because I always see these plants peeking through a carpet of dark dead oak leaves. And brown seemed richer than black, in this instance. The Trillium are filling in the corner and two spirals have been cut in deep blue fabric. I have also made some sprouts to add to the upward momentum and to supply another contrasting shape. Note the two leaves on the right that will get rejected. They are now in my file of “orphan” shapes and perhaps will appear in a future project.

A purple spiral and more sprouts have been added. The composition is settling in. Now It just needs tweaking and the flowers and stems to be made in fabric.

Here is the final composition, 64″ X 34″. The sprouts have been angled to look more natural. All the spaces are filled and arranged from front to back to give a feeling of depth and layers. This is all laying on a table! How the heck am I going to keep track of all the pieces and then put this thing together? The answer is to make a tracing of the entire composition on large sheets of tracing paper (I use Gold Threads tracing paper on rolls).

Of course, I have a photograph, too. So now can I take the composition apart and put it back together again in sections? I hope so, as it would make my job much easier. I use the photograph to determine the least obtrusive way to dissect the background into smaller workable sections.
Ideally, I want to hide my background joints under my appliqué, so no one can see them. I’m afraid I have created a logistical nightmare. But here is my final working map for the different sections. There will still be lots of layers to keep track of. But I enjoy a good engineering dilemma!!

But before I start work on the sections, I need to do the inner embroidery on all of my appliqué shapes. For this quilt I am using a simple satin stitch to finish all the edges and adjusting the width of the stitch to taper off toward the outer edges. Each shape has it’s own stitching formula… all the Bloodroot leaves are stitches the same way and all the Trillium leaves are done the same, etc. After all the shapes are embroidered, I can begin assembling the sections.

I decide to begin construction in the bottom left corner. Using my tracing as a blueprint, I cut the background to size and back it with interfacing. All my appliqué shapes are already backed with interfacing, too. Then the blue spiral is attached with a matching color straight stitch and then finished with satin stitch, except where other shapes need to be tucked underneath, like the sprouts here. After each shape is attached and finished with embroidery, the fabric behind it is cut away.

Then on to the top left corner with the Trillium. Always using my tracing as a guide, the stems were attached first since they are behind everything else. Then the leaves were stitched down, always working from the background up. “Straight stitch, finish with embroidery and cut away from behind” is the mantra for each shape as it is put in place.

Now the two left sections can be put together.

Here we have the right and left sections shown in relation to each other and the center section still to be made. Followed by the almost completed right side.

After the middle section is completed, all the units can be combined. First the center and left areas are stitched, then the right side is slid into place and stitched. Now it is just the top most details that are waiting to be added and the top will be finished!

But you will have to wait for the next installment because I will be busy teaching and it may be a few weeks before I can get back to my project. But if you would like to join me for a creative and restorative retreat this summer, you can work on your own exciting project! I will be doing 5 day workshops with the wonderful folks at Quilting Adventures at the Jordan Ranch in Schulenburg Texas, July 9 to 13 and the bucolic Madeline Island School of the Arts, La Pointe, Wisconsin, July 31 to August 4. I would LOVE to see you there!

12 Responses to “Quilt Progress Report”

  1. Mary Baker says:

    Lovely! Really beautiful. Love the design and composition.

  2. Judy Chase says:

    Hi Jane,

    Just gorgeous! Makes me want to take my ding dang Lunar Moth out of storage and try again.

    Hope all is well,

    Judy Chase
    Chepachet, RI

  3. Pam Schilling says:

    I love to read about your process! Just returned from the quilt museum in Paducah and your exhibit is beautiful!

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Pam, I’m so glad you got to see the exhibit! It’s am honor to show my work in such a beautiful venue!

  4. Anne Byrnes says:

    Hello Jane this is really lovely. Thank you for being so generous and sharing. Would love to see your Paducah exhibition but a bit too far from Australia.

  5. Elizabeth E. says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post about creating from the ground up (literally, in this case, with the representational brown). I enjoyed this very much. I always learn a lot from you, and appreciate the time you took to write this.

  6. Linda Fleming says:

    This is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your process. Look forward to the next installment!

  7. Kathy says:

    Thanks for sharing your process with us.it is absolutely gorgeous! I, too, need to pull out the project I have started from your workshop.

  8. Lianne says:

    Hello Jane,
    I am from The Netherlands and I just found out about your website, blog and marvelous quilts. I like the movement and the bright colors in the art quilts very much.
    Do you ever come to Europe to give a 5 days course? I would love to enter a course like the one you give in Wisconsin: with the Gardenshadow quilt. Drawing and designing your own quilt, by matching and working with historical designs and floral elements.

    Please let me know.

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Thanks for your nice email. If things go as planned I may be visiting in Europe next year. Stay tuned to my schedule posting later this year.

  9. Leslie Kight says:

    Jane, your work is incredibly vibrant and a feast for the eyes. I’m new to it, and am wondering what type of interfacing you use to back your fabrics. I hope to take a class with you in the future!

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Thanks, Leslie! I use ShirTailor 950F iron on interfacing by Pellon. Most of the big box stores carry it. I hope to see you in class one day, too.

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