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Turtle Grass II heads out

27 Dec Alanna Nelson Turtle Grass II SAQA Trunk Show Quilt

When the Studio Art Quilt Associates announced their 2017 Member Trunk Show, I had a pretty good idea of what I might send. After all, the portrait orientation letter sized quilt could easily grow from a nuno felting day inspired by the greens and blues of warm weather swimming toward shore.

The big question: How to bind this tiny quilt? I love the flowing color that comes with nuno felted pieces. A traditional fabric binding can be so stiff and angular. A facing would have worked, but I should have considered that before I cut my final size. What to do?

Somehow, the answer came to me as I babbled at our NOBO SAQA break out group… a felted binding! This time, I tried needle felting. Maintaining uneven edges, I needle felted the binding to the finished quilt top and sewed it to the quilt back. It took much longer than expected.

Alanna Nelson Turtle Grass II SAQA Trunk Show Quilt

Turtle Grass II

Now it’s time to send this piece out for its traveling adventures. Fair winds, oh little quilt.

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The Story of A Quilt

26 Dec

From a stack of library books, a quilt was inspired. The Celery Stick block from Marnie Buck and Jilly Guffy’s Quilt du Jour was supposed to quickly yield a nice big quilt top to build my machine quilting skills. Oh, well. Quilt and quick aren’t really two words that go together.

The Celery Stick block is easy to piece and scale up or down. Shopping my stash, deep night blues and yellows formed the color palette. Oh, yes, an Italian hilltop town at night could totally be an option. Many great memories of day trips to this northern Lazio town were reason to start strip cutting.

But what to quilt? After all, the whole purpose of this quilt is: 1) to play and enjoy the quilting process 2) to create a warm queen size bed cover 3) to be challenged. Then it occurred to me. I could quilt in the guild symbols of 18th Century Orvieto to build my skills.

Alanna Nelson Oriveto Quilt Inspiration Arte e Mestieri

Arte e Mestieri di Orvieto

The Guilds of Orvieto depict the reliance on textiles in 18th Century Orvieto’s economy. I remember the afternoon spent chatting with a gentleman who made terra cotta representations of these Guild mascots. I bought one as a gift. I wish I’d purchased more. So here is my quilt that is inspired by Oriveto which hung at the 2016 Rising Star Quilt Show

Vintner was one of the easier quilt shapes to dress.

Detail of the quilt top.

The Oriveto City Seal

Alanna Nelson Orvieto Quilt at Rising Star Quilters 2016 show

Orvieto as it hung at the RSQ show

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So think of me if you’re ever on vacation and you find you cannot sleep forever. I’m under this wonderful quilt with twinkling lights and wonderful wool batting.

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Nika Feldman: Traveling with needle

18 Aug

While I may forget a comb or pajamas, it is rare that I hit the road without knitting or reading. On a recent overnight sail, I found myself in one of Gloucester’s book stores, looking for a quick read.

Leisurely deck reading of American Craft Nika Feldman

All magazines on deck!

Unwilling to commit myself to an entire book, I picked up the most recent American Craft magazine.  Nika Feldman, the subject of the August/September feature, is a woman after my own heart.  This woman travels, relates, communicates with a needle, thread and scissors. I always travel with knitting needles and yarn, eschewing quilting as less portable. How could that change?

Mulling over ways to bring quilting into my travels, I realize that a sketchbook and pencil fell of my travel packing list. Ten years ago, these tools lived in my purse. The arrival of the iPhone pushed it out of my bag. It was too easy to snap a photo, and my purse was lighter, smaller. Sketching should re enter my daily habits and most definitely return to my travel packing list.  Shouldn’t everyone draw?

At one time, drawing was a skill crucial to education. Travel journals consisted of words, sketches, watercolors. Of course, at this point, I always turn to Isabella Stuart Gardner’s travel journals. As she neared the end of her life, Isabella burned her letters, but chose to keep her travel journals. How do you remember your travels? Selfies? T shirts? Art? Magnets? Post cards or other ephemera? Matchbooks, coasters or cocktail napkins?

Would drawing change your relationship with the place? Clearly, traveling with a needle, scissors and thread completely frames Feldman’s work. She has the benefit of time on her side… no quick sailing trips to Gloucester… but your travel experience would definitely change if you drew or stitched.

So much for deckside knitting comtemplation.

Quilt Photo Declaration

9 May

Writing a Studio Art Quilt Associates member profile  about myself sent me scampering for quilt images. Turning to the CDs, flash drives and cloud storage nooks where my art quilt photos lurk, I found some nice memories.

Alanna Nelson art landscape quilts of Italy

Detail from “The Road to School,” 1999.

Alanna Nelson Italian landscape quilts

Detail “Road to School,” 1999

It took forever to sew these pinky nail sized leaves onto the Road to School. At that point, I would machine quilt for the bed, but art quilts were always hand quilted. Now I use a longarm or hand quilt, depending on the statement and effect desired.

Hand dyed wool, cotton art quilt Bright Sky by Alanna Nelson

Bright Sky II, 2013

I couldn’t easily find CDs of some professionally photographed quilts. Ack. There are quilts that I never photographed, some of which I’ll probably never see again.

Italian Landscapes in Art Quilts by Alanna Nelson

Gioia’s Rainbows, 2003

This little journey down quilt memory lane shows how pursuing the Master Hand Knitter program has reduced my quilting since 2013. That will soon be out of my life so I can focus on quilting more.

I hereby declare:

to photograph all completed quilts from this day forth, establishing a data storage policy which shall make future retrieval of digital images more efficient.

Nuno felt art quilts swirling into action

1 May

I promised to update you on the nuno felting results. This quilter just adores the water color, layered effect that nuno felt gives to my tops.

Equipped with roving in greys, natural off whites and blues, I actually completed one quilt with nuno felting yardage in April.  Attempting to represent moving water while still honoring the wooly origins of my materials, I placed needle felted “rocks” underneath a portion of the quilt top and then needle felted it to a suiting weight wool border.

Feline fiberista approved.

Nuno felt art quilts by Alanna Nelson With several nuno felt pieces in hand, I headed over to Laurena’s Longarm Quilting and experimented with different battings and threads. Hand quilting is imperative for certain portions of the quilt… it “moved” in just the right way.

Here’s a detail of Rapids….
Alanna Nelson art quilter Rapids 2016

And now back to the next episode of watery themed quilts. Time to dye some wool.

Cowabunga II

17 Feb

Despite subzero temperatures last weekend, we stayed quite warm under Cowabunga II: Feline Party Wave.ccII_full

Do you remember that surfing cat fabric I picked up last year at City Quilter? Bought to create Kowabunga Karina? Well, I took apart the second baby quilt top and starting piecing, playing and procrastinating, pushing my blue hand dye fabric collection to the brink and completed an 80″ x 90″ top (actually, I had to go buy additional border fabric… nothing appropriate left in stash). There was a stash of wool batting. How lovely, light and cozy this quilt feels.

ccII_statler

The Statler did most of the quilting, as I mentioned in my January round up. I trimmed out sections where I quilted in these haikus:

Stoked for dawn patrol; A glorious green room glide; feline party wave.

Gnarly offshore winds; Pop up and grab the back door; Just carve it, kitty

Inspired by the 60 degree angle of the surfing cat fabric, improvisational equilateral triangles fill most of the quilt top  (I realize now that my hub was holding the quilt upside down). Never mind, the quilt is done and on my bed. It’s the first quilt I’ve made for our bed in many years of quilting. After all, most of my quilts are destined for the wall these days. And before that, the beds that needed quilts were doubles and twins.

With the scraps, haikus and momentum still left, there will be a Cowabunga III.
ccII_back

Remind me NEVER to think it’s a great idea to sew a back together on the bias. Throughout this process, I realize that I have lots of enthusiasm and ideas. Part of my process is whittling down this fire hose of loose thoughts and prioritize. What is really worth the time, energy and materials for the impact? I spent a lot of time putting the back together. Fabric was chopped up quite unnecessarily for little final contribution to the quilt.

Quilting is going in the back seat again… as I mentioned, the MHK3 comments came back quickly and there is a tam on my horizon.

How begin 2016? With whichever craft I please!

14 Jan

Blocks of quilting, knitting, mending, drawing and dreaming frame the early days of 2016.

Alanna Nelson knit Boston

One Sunday afternoon to do list.

Soon I’ll finish the second quilt in the Cowabunga Cat series. This one kind of got away from me. Originally, the second surfing cat quilt would also be a baby blanket. After the first, I felt like the fabric needed more room to breathe. So I unsewed the top and placed the large isosceles triangles in a larger setting…. try queen size. The top is still pretty busy…. but I can definitely see waves of surfing cats moving through the tube.

Although I said I’d never use a Statler Stitcher on my quilts after Karina Kowabunga, Laurena’s Longarm Quilting now has several of the Anita Shackleford Modern packages available for the computer guided quilting machine. “Modern Paisley” seemed the perfect choice for this surfing cat quilt.

Alanna Nelson Statler Stitcher quilting Modern Paisley

Anita Shackleford Modern Paisley Digital Quilting Design

Trimming out portions of the pattern, changing height and other diddly choices means I’ll spend more than 8 hours quilting the 81″ x 90″ top. Over the autumn, I wrote several little haikus about surfing cats, two of which I’m quilting into the top. I’ve got some leftover fabric and a few more haikus… a third quilt in the offing? While these projects weren’t even on my horizon in January 2015, it’s been a fun little hike.

Already the pull of the 2016 quilt diversion dots my day dreams: Quilt du Jour by Marni Buck and Jill Guffy.

Quilts 2016 by Alanna Nelson

Quilts du Jour by Marny Buck & Jill Guffy

Plucked from the library just before Christmas (along with Margaret Radcliffe’s completely approachable and useful Knowledgeable Knitter), the simple blocks have lots of opportunities to play. We could use a few more large quilts at home. I’ve signed up for studio blocks as a subscriber at Laurena’s through the summer. With only two large WIPS destined for machine quilting, I do need to look at stash and play with possibilities.

Ah, how pleasant it is to just jump into whichever craft calls me today! Random craft choice won’t last much more: we’re leading a Knit a Long for the Aidez cardigan at Sit and Knit. Who knows what 2016 will bring?

Art Quilt Collector: Dawn Allen

14 Oct

As an art quilter, collecting and admiring art quilts comes part and parcel with the passion. This fall, I vowed to support the Studio Art Quilt Associates Auction for 2015. With 358 members submitting work, this is a mind boggling bounty of techniques and voices expressed in 12″ x 12″ quilts.

With my small, defined budget, my bidding opportunities meant I could participate toward the end of the week’s bidding. On the other hand, the selection of beautiful quilts that I could get with my small, defined budget was bountiful!

Last week, the latest addition to my art quilt collection arrived:

Alanna Nelson art quilt collector buys Dawn Allen's quilt

Dawn Allen’s 3 D art quilt is now mine! Dawn is a fellow Massachusetts/Rhode Island Studio Art Quilt Associate member. Hurray!

You can run on down to the Fuller Craft Museum to see another Dawn Allen quilt through January, 2016.

Trends of Quilt National 2015

7 Sep Alanna Nelson visits Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015

Alanna Nelson visits Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015A flash sale on Southwest Airlines suddenly snapped my long held daydream of visiting a Quilt National exhibit in Athens, OH. Owning several of the exhibit catalogs is never the same as seeing art in person. How I thoroughly treasured my afternoon dose of reality at the Dairy Barn, hanging out with the 84 expressions of art quilting today.

Choosing quilts must have been challenging for the jurors. Quilt National seeks to create a statement of today’s quilting trends; quilts that balance historic roots and yet incorporate new techniques and experimentation. As such, one could easily define this as a quilt exhibit and not a surface design or mixed media exhibit. Rich in message and layers of media, I saw these quilting trends:

  • Upscaling and recycling: True to a patchwork tradition, many artists used clothing and scraps in their work.
  • Adobe Photoshop: This software has become the quilter’s favorite. Whether creating images or modifying photographs, digital image manipulation is part of many quilters’ visual vocabulary.
  • Beyond textiles: From Deidre Adams‘ layers of paper to Wen Redmond‘s metal, to stones and other ephemera become integral to art quilting.
  • Machine quilting: The norm and not the exception, by longarm or free motion, machine quilting has become the norm. Storytelling through stitching was evident in many works. Hand quilting, what will happen to you?
  • Machine Embroidery:  Creating embroidered texture and images made dramatic statements on many works.

The show was hung well, using a variety of different mechanisms to let the work hang. Lighting was also generous and focused, without being detrimental to the longevity of the work. I walked around the exhibit once, soaking up the different artistic flavors… and the flavors were striking. There was often an enormous shift from one quilt to the next. Certainly the curators spent a lot of time trying to find the right flow.

Next to each quilt, the label stated basic quilt information and a QR code that would take you to the artist’s web site. I appreciated the artists who gave you a landing page with their QN15 image and perhaps a statement about the piece before exploring other aspects of their web site.

The Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015 You Tube Channel gives you a fantastic background for many of the works on display. Throughout the summer, I had viewed videos as they were released. This formed the basis of my second tour of the exhibit, back to visit the quilts I remembered from videos. I toured the exhibit one last time, listening to the artist’s video as I looked at the quilts. Got two minutes? Watch one of their videos… they are well done.

Quilt National closes today, but fortunately you can enjoy their YouTube channel to hear many of the artists speak about their work. If Quilt National 2017 is on your summer travel list, swing over to my travels in Athens, OH blog post for more scoops about enjoying the area as well as the art quilts.

Karina Kowabunga! Quilt

31 Jul

Remember that surfing cat fabric I purchased last winter? Improvisational piecing resulted in a couple of quilt tops with coordinating Cherrywood gradient packs. Despite the fact my to do list is 8 miles long today, I went to Laurena’s to use the Statler Stitcher.

Of course, I didn’t want to do things simply. Mixing two quilt patterns and trimming the motifs made the process much longer. After finishing the project, I decided I wouldn’t probably use the Statler on my quilts again. Ok, maybe if I designed the quilting motif and let the Statler do the stitching. There’s a time and place for everything, so I’m sure I’ll rent the Statler again. Overall, I’d rather move the longarm rather than letting the computer do that work. However, the quality of stitching was spectacular… such perfection.

When I got home, I laid it on the floor to really look at the trimmed piece. Immediately, fluffy feline placed her paw of approval.

Can you imagine surfing ginger cats in this quilt?

Can you imagine surfing ginger cats in this quilt?

Karina Kowabunga will have an orange sherbet binding then zipped out to a sweet pea I love.

The second quilt top will be dissected and placed into a larger setting. All of that action needs more space. I wonder what will happen next as the improv piecing becomes more thoughtful?