10 Years, 10 Art Quilting Lessons

collagraph monoprint quilt
‘Construction 1’ collagraph monoprint
by Heidi Miracle-McMahill.

pokey boltonJust as the summer is winding down (sniff!), so is the celebration of 10 years of Quilting Arts Magazine. It’s not a sad ending, though, because it’s been really gratifying to revisit all the talented artists we’ve worked with and all the gorgeous artwork that has come through our offices and into our pages.

During this time of celebration and reflection, I’ve had a chance to think about some of the major themes and trends that have come out of the first 10 years of Quilting Arts. Some are simple but profound lessons, others are practical advice that can make our art sing.

1. Keep a sketchbook. As I began my art quilting journey, I noticed that most all of the artists I admired most kept a journal of some kind in which they jotted notes, recorded patterns, and sketched ideas. A sketchbook helps you work out design problems and it is an excellent source of inspiration when the well runs dry.

2. Practice, practice, practice. Whether you apply it to free-motion stitching and thread sketching, composition and design, or making a binding, practice is the only way to get better. We won’t talk about my first quilt or attempts at color theory!

3. Make one-of-a-kind fabrics. I adore many commercial fabric designs (and designers!), but making your own fabric is fun and gratifying. Plus, most surface design processes are relatively inexpensive.

4. Take advantage of digital photo technology. Taking your own photos (even photos of your quilts and fabric designs) and manipulating them digitally means you can work with the image indefinitely and in nearly limitless ways.  


embellished patchwork collage
‘FlorAbundance’ embellished patchwork paper collage by Jill A. Kennedy.

5. Make it personal.

Fabric portraitswhether they feature the human or animal formare some of the most celebrated art quilts today. Some people are intimidated by creating faces, but  they are not hard to make with some guidance from experts. And we know plenty of experts.

6. Make it green. And not just because that’s my favorite color! Recycling materials is not a new concept to fiber artists (after all, traditional quilts were often made from old clothing), but in this day and age, it’s important to look for processes, techniques, and even storage components that reuse, recycle, and sustain. And don’t forget to unplug your studio appliances when not in use.

7. Use what you have. Practices like cutting up and reusing a “failed” project, using flour paste as a resist, or turning cast-off potato masher into a stamp aren’t just green and economical, they force you to be creative. Make it work, people!

8. Too much is never enough. One of the things I love best about art quilting is the ability to pile on the embellishment, whether it’s beading, foil, or metal. Even just a touch of embellishment can turn a ho-hum piece into a stunning work of art.

9. Mix it up. Take advantage of the contemporary quilter’s no-rules approach and employ some mixed media techniques: stitch paper, use glue, paint your fabric, make a fabric book or collage.

10. Mind your fiber art business. Whether you want to sell your art, have it displayed in a gallery, or you just want to accomplish some personal milestones in your art career (for example, finishing a project or entering a show) it’s important to set goals and make a plan, with steps, to achieve it.

To commemorate our 10th anniversary, we’ve put techniques, tips, and examples of all these concepts into one book, The Best of Quilting Arts: Your Ultimate Resource for Techniques and Inspiration.

With this book you’ll find the best of the best from the last 10 years of our cherished publicationeverything from quilt design, fabric collage, and construction to unique surface design application and embellishment techniques.

I hope you enjoy reading and creating from The Best of Quilting Arts: Your Ultimate Resource for Techniques and Inspiration as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

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Art Quilt, Embellishing, Quilting Daily Blog