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Unravel: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

Unravel: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

” I resolve to make a difference.”

Alanna Nelson hot pink silk quilt in Unravel at Arlington Center for the Arts
Boston Women’s March: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

The Arlington Center for the Arts includes this quilt for Unravel – a fiber art exhibit that sheds light on the contemporary political scene. Difficult to photograph, this quilt shimmers in real life. The messages from signs remind me of the positive, political determination of that day on the Boston Common in 2017. That shot of energy is perfect every day!

The reception is May 17 from 7 to 9 pm, but it’s on view through July 8. The selections cover a wide range of textiles and messages. Can’t wait to see all of this fiber art in person!

Let me know what you think if you get to Unravel

Finestre Migranti at Verona Tessile

Finestre Migranti at Verona Tessile

On a post-travel, post-exhibit, post-finished work high, I am. The 2019 edition of  Verona Tessile ended on April 28. If you are a fiber art or quilt lover, definitely put Verona on your 2021 list. Now, let me try to separate the thoughtful threads currently tangled in my brain….

By their hands, we are fed. Alanna Nelson, 2019. Cotton, wool felt.

Finished and photographed a week before my departure, relief and gratitude abounded as I tucked my contribution to Annamaria Brenti‘s Finestre Migranti project into my carry on duffle (You can read more about my thought and construction process).

What a gift it was to have the time and contemplative moments to create this work. My goal: let this quilt inspire you to savor your next meal and consider how it arrived on your plate. Here are a few detail shots…

Now it’s time to work on other pieces that fermented while stitching. I hope to flat bed scan “By their hands..,” leveraging the hours of work and ideas into other projects.

Finestre Migranti at Verona Tessile 2019

Finestre Migranti Inaugural exhibit at Verona Tessile, April 2019
Wish we had a drone to show the creative installation envisioned by Silvanna Zenatello.

How to display more than 40 contributions totaling nearly 80 meters of fiber art – now that’s a curator’s installation puzzle to solve. Silvanna Zenatello, a key force behind the project, cleverly designed a serpentine path where each quilt flows into the next. Thanks to the Verona Tessile sponsor SEC Events, their crews adeptly installed the support structures following Silvanna’s CAD drawings.

Alanna's ready to help install Finestre Migranti in Verona
On the steps of Gran Guardia, ready to install!
SEC Events unloading at Verona Tessile 2019
SEC unloading show structures
Morning shadows and art at Verona's Gran Guardia
From the landing outside the Finestre Migranti exhibit at the Gran Guardia

Installation took a big chunk of the day, even with excellent preparations and layout instructions. Fortunately, Emmanuela, Katrina and I are tall enough to reduce ladder climbing. Sigrun became a master Pinner, and Maddalena dashed to wherever Silvanna asked. Silvanna brought many quilts with her from Roma and Lazio. Others were delivered to Ad Maiora in Verona, still others delivered on installation morning.

Finestre Migranti – first public exhibit, many emotions

After working alone on my Immigration Windows/Migrating Windows project, I relished hearing experiences and emotions that mirrored and differed from my own. With contributions from Chile, the US, Italy, Kenya, and Gambia, the artists presented universal and timeless perspectives on immigration. I reunited with Lazio quilters from my Frascati days. Many quilts were delivered by hand, so new friendships developed, including SAQA member Shoshi Rimer.

Our shared experience making an Immigration Windows quilt created immediate kinship even if it was the first time we met. We had a fun meal out together after the opening day, and I found myself stopping by the exhibit just to chat with whoever was white gloving.

Katrina Montesanti
Katrina Montesanti answers questions about her quilt
Condor Pasa at Verona Tessile
Textile artists from Chile created “Condor Pasa” piece
Bimba a Finestre Migranti Verona Tesille
A young visitor reads messages in a quilt. Many included words as part of their piece.
By their hands we are fed quilt by Alanna Nelson in Verona exhibit
The inner wave opens the Finestre Migranti exhibit
Finestre Migranti quilts at Verona Tessile
Looking from away and up close
Nadia a Verona Tessile
Nadia shares stories that inspired a quilt

Visitors responded thoughtfully and with great interest to the project. Nadia, a dynamic interpreter, was like a pied piper leading groups through the exhibit. In addition to enjoying the visual aspect of the work, visitors definitely enjoyed hearing the stories and understanding the techniques. With the artist statements and techniques in Italian, English and Spanish, people could alternate between the stories and the art.

On Friday morning, the Chilean textile artists gave a talk about the creation of their gorgeous contribution to the project. I shared strategies to encourage quilters to consider a conservation perspective when creating their quilts. We honored the young Italian residents with international heritage who explained the meaning behind their Finestre Migranti quilt.

Ragazzi artisti a Verona Tessile
Young artists and their supporters were honored at the Finestre Migranti

Immigrants to Italy also visited the exhibit. I met three young men who are living in limbo without passports or an easy road to immigration. The enormity and duration of their endeavor was palpable in their demeanor.

“Forza,” I encouraged them. “Each day seems heavy now, but resolution will happen.”

Of course, resolution will happen. But when? How? How can I bolster and support people who are living in transient times? This window on immigration was living, not in textiles.

The opening day, April 25, was a national holiday, commemorating Italian liberation at the end of World War II. With the Festival taking place during the week after Easter and with free attendance, turnout included local, national and European contingents.

Annamaria just posted a video that followed the waves of the Finestre Migrante exhibit. Take a peek.

With Verona Tessile 2019 over, the next objective is to send the exhibit on the road. There are definite ideas and connections being made, so stay tuned for more details!

With those first threads of my travels untangled, it’s time to get back into the studio. I’ll share more people, sites and stories about Verona Tessile soon!


“Outside the Ordinary” in Lawrence

“Outside the Ordinary” in Lawrence

Surround yourself with those who share your passion.

My fiber art critique group, Joined by Stitch is a perfect example of that adage. Eight spirits work through different stages of their artistic journeys, creating beautiful examples of technique, message and visual delight. Our latest group exhibit, “Outside the Ordinary,” is on exhibit through May 31, 2019, the Sidell Gallery at the Essex Art Center. The well lit, white and brick walls of this Lawrence gallery is a beautiful setting. Let me know your impressions if you visit.

Waterfall (pictured above) debuts in “Outside the Ordinary.” Made of wool and silk felt stitched by machine and hand, this piece definitely highlights the latest bends my fiber art journey. Four of the six pieces on view were finished in 2018 – I guess I have been productive. At our Joined by Stitch group exhibit last spring, the work was more representational and used more dyed and painted woven cotton and silk.

In the Center’s Beland Gallery, you can also see work from artists who have shown at El Taller Cafe – a moving and shaking caffeinated venue in Lawrence that seeks to feed the community stomach and soul. Wow! The energy, talent and passion bounce off the walls. At the opening reception, it was great to meet some of the artists and ask questions about their work.

Blending different media and different perspectives gives the Essex Art Center a vibrancy that certainly reflects its mission. Often, fiber art hangs out in its own world. I’m delighted to see our work with painters, mixed media creators.

How lucky I am to be surrounded by passionate people.


Distilling Fiber Thoughts

Distilling Fiber Thoughts

Last summer, I felt certain my Finestre Migranti Immigration Windows quilt would be complete by October. In October, my expectation was surely complete it by the end of 2018. Ha! As winter 2019 begins to thaw, I’m still feverishly felting and stitching.

Alanna Nelson Finestre Migranti Window quilt background components
Background piecing for Finestre Migranti (Immigration Windows). My large square units weren’t a perfect fit – most likely due to my conversion from metric to English measurements.

Perhaps you read about my inspiration and thought process for my contribution to this international initiative. Although immigration and its ties to our food certainly focused my theme, the opportunities to express it swished and swirled until little lights sparked. This one quilt can’t do it all. There could be a series here.

Never had I written an artist statement before a quilt was complete. To meet the exhibition deadlines, choosing less than 75 words powered those lights. Suddenly, a path of color and texture appeared. I knew where to go next. Let this quilt brings a moment of reflection and gratitude for immigrant labor as we enjoy a meal.

wet felt wool fills Alanna Nelson's Immigration Windows quilt
A few of the wet felted pieces created for my cathedral windows quilt.

Annamaria was in Boston, and we enjoyed a trip to the New England Quilt Museum.  It was wonderful to talk about possibilities, logistics on the way up and then jump into the wonderful world of fiber art and quilts.

The Finestre Migranti¬†exhibit opens at Verona Tessile on April 25. Annamaria revived my desire to go… dare I?

Follow Immigration Windows on social media using #FinestreMigranti.

You can see my #ImmigrationWindows posts on Instagram

An afternoon of Nuno felting

2018 Felt making class with Alanna Nelson

An Afternoon of Nuno Felting

March 9, 2019

1 to 4 pm in Melrose, MA

$65 includes materials

Play with wool, soap and water to create fabric that is sturdy, beautiful and useful. We’ll talk about several ways to create felt and see examples. Learn how your wool choice impact the final fabric.

Create your own wool fabric about the size of a placemat using wool, water and soap.

No tools necessary. The class fee includes wool and simple tools to create your own felt. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a full apron (waterproof is great)  and clothes that don’t mind getting damp.

Class size limited to four people.
Have questions? Contact Alanna

Reserve your place by sending a check to Tactile Travel Fabric & Fiber, P.O. Box 761092 Melrose, MA 02176 or use the PayPal button below. Be sure to include your email address and/or phone number. Your payment is refundable up to three days before the class, provided that your spot is filled by someone off the waiting list.


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