Thursday, May 26, 2011

Trillium in Technicolor and Problem Solving

Trillium in Technicolor as seen in my book Dancing with Thread
This post will show you how I have spent the last week or so.  I will also share several tips I've learned along the way. Obvious yes, but they are worth mentioning.  This is enough information to fill a half day workshop!

Trillium in Technicolor is a quilt I was very proud of. There were several new things that I tried and they were successful.  However, something has always bothered me about the quilt.  

So here is the big tip: I hung the quilt up in my bedroom where I would see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  After several weeks I figured out the problem,  the largest flower was bright orange and it always seemed to scream at me.  The solution was to change the flower.  Am I crazy? I finished this quilt 2 years ago, why am I fooling with it now? Well, I'd like to show a grouping of trillium pieces in my autumn show at the LaConner Quilt Museum.

I knew the replaced flower had to be in the pink or rose color family, it would blend better with the remaining flowers.
Auditioning soft pink fabric:  not too bad, maybe I like it!
Auditioning deeper rose fabric:  I like this better!

Parchment pattern piece on lower right petal
I had to think about how I was going to do this and work up enthusiasm for the project. With pencil, I traced the three petals onto parchment paper. I added a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance for turning the edges under. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I cut out most of my images using scissors. These petals have wavy edges and I think it works better. I cut out the rose fabric for this first petal and began to see a transformation.
The first rose petal is hand appliqued into position. I also added a light pink edge on one side.
 Using tiny hand stitches, and matching rose colored thread, I used the needle turn applique technique, and stitched right up to the dark leaves. I am really pleased with the results. It did take all evening to do this.
On the second evening, I cut out and appliqued the second petal

I am encouraged as I like the pink, but I still seem to see it as an orange flower!
All three petals are appliqued into place.

I hung the quilt in my studio all day so I could admire my new pink trillium.  It is good. With a steam iron I lightly steamed the flower to make the edges flat.  Now, how am I going to quilt this thing?

Using one of the parchment pattern pieces I doodled some designs that would be effective and similar to the quilting patterns used on the smaller flowers. There were two different Rainbow Variegated Threads that worked with the rose color:  I chose #814 because it added more depth to the quilting.

First I worked up my confidence level, then I began to quilt. It really didn't take too long, even though I took my time, this is the LAST chance for this Trillium.
Detail show of the new and improved rose colored trillium
I'm very pleased with the changes I have made.  Even after all this time, I feel the flower has more detail than the original orange. The light pink edges give the quilt more depth and realism.  Even the quilting is better because I took more time to develop a design for it. I have no idea what I was thinking when I fused the Orange one on in the first place.

So here is the completed quilt, I'm looking at it right now, as I am writing this. It is successful, the colors work well together, and I'm thrilled with how all the quilting patterns have formed a cohesive whole.

Trillium in Technicolor an original quilt by Ann Fahl
Yes I made the changes by hand. This was done because I had so many curvy edges to cover.  I could have maybe fused the fabric down, but I didn't want to flatten the quilt. The final quilting was done on the machine and unless you read my quilt statement about the quilt, no one would ever know that the quilt was altered! I admit. I did a good job. Go to my website to read more about the quilt and see larger images.

This method will work for you, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation!  Be calm, take your time, think the solution through, maybe even making a test sample first. Wearing a bright colored pair of socks will always make you feel better and get you in the mood for "quilt improvement."

If you have a problem quilt, put somewhere you can see it all the time.  Eventually the answer will come to you. Then you can decide whether to make changes or not--that's up to you. You have put so many hours into your work, it would be a shame to stuff it into a closet and try and forget about it! Maybe there is a simple solution that will improve the quilt.

Have a rose filled holiday weekend.

Ann Fahl

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Embrace the Light"

Tea Party an original quilt by Ann Fahl
"Embrace the light," this is one of the messages that Oprah left her viewers today. My days will be a little different, now that Oprah will not be in my studio every day at 4:00.  I am one of her very fortunate viewers because I know what lights me up and inspires me. I have gone out into the world to teach so many quilters my techniques and I have been so rewarded by hearing your stories and appreciation.  Quilter's are very lucky people, we have the threads of friendship and support that help us to grow as people and quilters! For years I have known that I was meant to be a quilt instructor and artist. It took Oprah to put it into words.

Oreo and I stop each day at 4 each afternoon and I have a cup of tea and watch or listen to the topic of discussion for each show. This is not an exaggeration,  there is a little of Oprah and her wisdom stitched into each piece that I've made over many years. I have learned so much in the process and been exposed to  ideas that have made my life richer in many ways.

Thank you for everything Oprah.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The World's Most Expensive FREE Rose Bush!

As quilters, most of us can come up with creative solutions for problems that come up!

Two years ago,  my neighbor, gave me a start from her grandmother's rose bush. I've always admired the one in her yard, it is covered with white roses and it has grown to be a huge bush. This spring all the new canes on my bush, are loaded with new growth, and hopefully beautiful flowers! It really needs to be staked up!  But the sticks I found in the woods really aren't strong enough to hold it up.

But wait, my oldest son is a hockey player. They break sticks all the time. He uses composite sticks, expensive ones.  Now he has given me three of them. I sawed off the broken parts, and pounded them into the ground around the rose.  To hold everything up, I love using colorful strips of fabric or selvage edges to tie the canes and sticks together.

So what's so expensive?  The hockey sticks are worth $100 apiece when new!  If you know a hockey player, and you are a gardener, it's a great way to recycle.
Three sawed off hockey sticks plus one stick hold up Ann's new rose bush.

It's a great spring. My garden is going to be very colorful in a short time! I can hardly wait.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Everything about Trillium

Three Trillium a quilt by Ann Fahl, also a pattern
One of the first flowers that I chose to put in my quilts was the trillium.  I appliqued them, and painted them on batik panels by the number. I love looking at this simple three petaled flower close up. Many years passed by, years full of coneflowers and black eyed susan quilts.  Now the trillium is back. I'm sure you will see why!
Close up of Trillium in my garden.
Because of its simplicity, it is perfect for my threadwork.
Trillium in Technicolor a quilt by Ann Fahl

This quilt was a little different for me, because I used a soft pastel patchwork background. I like strong almost blasting color.  But this quilt was still fun to make.  I loved cutting away some of the double dyed black leaves to let the background peek through.  Also I developed a little trillium quilting design to fill the background.

Trillium in the Sun a quilt by Ann Fahl
What could be better than put this rich green and bright white subject on the color orange? From a distance I love this quilt. The color warms me when I look at it.
More trillium from my yard
And last of all is my newest trillium piece, which I introduced to you several posts ago.  This one is on a rich blue patchwork background. In this one, I got everything right. Finally I developed a unique little stitch to hold the flowers and leaves in place, which is large enough edge detail to hold the pieces in position. I teach this stitch in my applique class.
Spring Gift the newest quilt by Ann Fahl
My criteria for choosing a subject for my work is that the subject must be something that fascinates me or  I love or feel strongly about. If I'm lukewarm about the subject, the quilt will be too.  Choose something that you can wrap yourself around and totally commit too. Your quilt will be ever so much more successful.

Ann Fahl

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Alternative Mother's Day Celebration

This is my view out my studio window
Sunday, the actual Mother's Day was an enjoyable day for me.  I got up late, my husband had a blueberry scone waiting for me, yum.  I decided to spend the day, outside in my garden. Until today I've spent little time outside. There have been too many things going on! My book for one thing, finishing my Gettysburg quilt, and working on a hot new genealogy project which has completely absorbed me. The weather has been crumby, it is Wisconsin, it has been rainy and cold.

The dandelions and thistle are showing up.  Every time I walk up to my front door there are a couple of things that need to be pulled up. It's kind of like looking at a quilt hanging on the wall in a gallery, and there is a large piece of thread hanging on it.  Do you pull it off?
Current view of my back yard garden

Today,  I pulled out my little garden stool, gloves, little diggers and worked on my spring garden clean-up.  And yes, this is really what I want to do on my day!  It's warm outside, the sun is shining and the birds have all arrived. The perfect day. I had a thermos glass full of iced tea so I have something to drink while I'm taking a break.
Wild flowers called Hepatica nobilis bloom out in the front yard

Kmart advertised some yard art on sale. There were flamingos and cranes on special.  So after having lunch out, we stopped and purchased one crane which is now standing on the edge of the garden. I still have many days of work, but this was a wonderful day of discovery. I found primroses, yellow wild violets, little white hepatica flowers, white trillium are beautiful.  What a spring we are having.  The yard is full of daffodils and narcissus. Such inspiration for future quilts. The only thing I missed today was my two sons.
These little red primroses hide among the leaves until I pull them away
I'm going to have a 2 day celebration. Both of my boys went to visit a friend out of town. So we're having our big dinner tomorrow up in Milwaukee at an Italian restaurant. It'll be fun to hear about their adventure, so we'll have fun together and I get two days of celebration.

Life is good.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Interview with Jacquie Scuitto, The Quilt Muse

The following is an interview with my co-author of A Black and White Tale. Her writing really made my vision for the book and the quilts all come together into a delightful story!

Jacquie, tell us about yourself.
Jacquie at the sewing table!
I was born and raised in Maine, went to college in NY State and lived there for some years afterward, then moved to  Europe for 25 years -- Italy and Germany.  My two daughters were both born in Italy but grew up and still live in Germany.  I married my DH, Louis, right out of college and we were married for nearly 58 years before his death in 2010.  We returned to the USA in 1986 and lived in his home town in Sayville, NY, and moved to Vermont in 2003.  Though I had sewn clothing for years I’ve only been quilting since 1991.

How long have you been writing poetry?
My first poem was published in a local newspaper when I was 8.  Then I took time out for years!  I did write poems in college, some of which I still have and most of which I cringe at now!  Joining a couple of on-line quilt lists in 1996 provided impetus through the many discussion threads to express myself in verse.  Since the first ones posted elicited positive responses I was encouraged to write more.

How long does it take to write an 8 stanza poem?
I rarely write any that long and there is no set time required in any case.  Some verses practically write themselves, others refuse to coalesce to a coherent conclusion no matter how long I try.

What does it take to get an idea for another verse?
Usually a comment or question on one of the on-line lists I belong to. Other times it is just from a stray thought.  A few have been written for particular people or events but those don't get posted to the lists!

Did you enjoy verse when you were a child? Who was your favorite poet?
We often learned poems in school and I also had a delightful book, 100 Best Poems for Boys and Girls, where I first met verses by Ogden Nash, Emily Dickinson and many other poets.  I also read the Alice in Wonderland books.  One of my aunts gave me a notebook in which she had copied some of the poems by A.A. Milne as well.  Looking back I realize that I liked verse with strong rhythms and vivid word pictures.

Scrapyard Cats  by Jacquie Scuitto
What is it about quilting that makes you want to write about it?
Quilting opened up a whole new world to me especially after I joined on-line quilt lists and I found a lot to say in verse.  I could even make some fairly sharp comments without getting flamed!

How did you choose the quilts that were added to the story in A Black and White Tale?
Some seemed obvious like the tea table and teapot to go with the one of Oreo with the broken teapot.  The flowers and leaves went well with Oreo in the garden and the Winona Lake ones, even though Oreo was in none of them, seemed to add to the reactions she could have had.

What is it about cats or pets?
Jacquie's cat T2 supervising the quilt scraps
I always had cats as a child as well as for most of my married life.  My husband liked them as well.  In fact when we hadn't had one for several years he wanted to take home some kittens we met at a place where we were staying!  I realized that we NEEDED a cat -- and we haven't been without one or more since.  I currently have two, a tiger named T2, and my black and white Flecki (German for spotted).  They are both getting on but seem to be good for a number of years yet.  I find that they add a bit of life to the house.

How long did it take you to write the verse for A Black and White Tale?
I don't really remember.  The tricky bit was incorporating the new Oreo quilts that Ann kept making!

Flecki guarding the front porch
Are there any amusing stories or difficulties about writing for the book?  
Not really.  It was pretty straightforward once I had settled on the sequence of the quilts -- which did keep changing as more quilts were added!

Any stories about working with Ann Fahl?
I loved her comment that my adding the non-Oreo quilts to the story made her look at her body of work in a new light.

What’s your favorite part of the book?
The Oreo quilts!

Has the publishing of the book changed anything for you?
I feel more like a 'real' author, even though I had already published a book of verse in 1996. This one has an ISBN number!

What's next?
I am trying to gather up my courage and energies to try to publish some of my quilt verses, probably self-publishing in some way.

Jacquie taking a moment away from her quilting!
If you are interested in learning more about Jacquie Scuitto, and reading some of her poetry go to her blog at

Thanks for reading!
Ann Fahl