Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finally...the River Quilt

--Click to enlarge any photo--

I've been so busy with travel and other projects that I really haven't been keeping things as current here as I'd like. So over the next few days I'm going to try to fill in the gaps and show pictures of all the projects that have been keeping me busy, the biggest of which was 'The River Quilt'.

This project began a year ago when at the October 2009 meeting of the Rogue Art Quilters we signed up to be part of this project to create a 39 foot long quilt divided into 19 sections. We were each given an entrance and exit dimension on the left and right for the 'river' and then overall dimensions for the size of the piece which were variable by 6" either larger or smaller. A particular fabric was designated as the water portion in order for there to be some continuity between the pieces...i.e. to make them 'flow'. Other than that we were left to our own devices to create a river-themed work due on July 28, 2010.

I spent about 6 months just thinking about how I might want to construct the quilt and what kind of imagery I would want to use. Lucky for me, in August 2009 I spent several days in Sunriver, Oregon photographing the Deschutes River. At the time I had no idea what I was going to use the photos for, but I loved the colors, the light, and the feel of the area, and I immediately thought of that photo archive when this project came up. After studying the photos, I had a general idea of the colors and types of fabrics and threads I wanted to use, so I spent the remaining time casually shopping for fabrics and threads until I had pretty much everything I needed. I spent a week or so compositing several photos on the computer in Photoshop, playing with placements, colors, etc. and finally printed out a full-size road map for the quilt construction.

The actual construction started on May 1 and I finished on July 21. I tried to be vigilant about keeping the hours of work involved but there were a lot more than my worksheet total of 93! I decided to use raw edge applique since I thought it would be much more realistic looking and frankly, I was tired of piecing and working out paper piecing patterns. I wanted to be able to cut and utilize the parts of the fabric that would work best for my aim so I tried a new technique using a product called Liquid Thread vs. a sheet fusible web. Most of the fabrics are hand dyes or batiks. I basically started at the top and worked down, creating whole sections of trees, grass, sky, etc. then putting them together once all the pieces were created. This allowed me to make changes and to be able to redo any sections that I wasn't happy with. I did a lot of auditioning on the wall with various fabrics to get just the right colors and light. Since I was using photos from different times of day, shadows were very important to get correct once the construction began. Reflections in the water were also a concern. One of the most difficult portions was the near bank of dry weeds. There were several editions of this before the final one appeared after a stroke of insight involving cotton parcel twine, cheesecloth, acrylic paint, and thread. The entire piece was then pin basted and free-motion quilted using my own freehand designs and over 30 different colors of thread, including metallics. It was an intense 3 months but I really enjoyed this project and look forward to making more of these realistic pieces.

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