Make Quilt Art Backgrounds While You Make Dinner

Do you have hours of uninterrupted studio time?

Me neither.

I would say that unless you work full time in a dedicated studio, finding time to create is one of hardest things about being an artist. For most people, especially women, art has to get made in between “real jobs,” kids, pets, and other responsibilities.

pokey bolton fabricsIf you’re looking for an excuse not to pursue your artistic dreams, “I don’t have the time” is a convenient one that most people will understand. But as many of you know, if you are passionate about something, you will find a way to do it.

One way is to set aside the notion of working on one art project at a time from start to finish and make art in stages instead. For example, when I get a rare opportunity to spend a few hours in the studio, I’ll often spend my time over-dyeing fabric. The next time I get a couple of hours, I’ll take that batch of fabric and screen-print it with motifs. Another time I might spend an hour just fusing fabric. This way, when I do need to work on a project, much of the prep work is done.

You can get even more done in short bursts if you multitask. Pam Carriker, who is one of the most prolific artists I know, has lots of strategies for making art a priority in a busy life, and she has put them all into a new book called Art at the Speed of Life: Motivation and Inspiration For Making Mixed-Media Art Every Day.

art at the speed of lifeThough Pam works primarily in mixed media, the method she outlined for making backgrounds while making dinner in an article for Cloth Paper Scissors a couple of years back, is applicable to quilt art. With this method, you can make backgrounds for fiber and mixed-media quilt art such as artist trading cards, inchies, or even small landscape quilts. 

Today I thought I’d adapt her process to fiber art share it, and and her mom’s pot roast recipe, with you.

  1. Lay out all of your substrates (such as pieces of fabric fused to felt for ATCs or muslin cuts for fabric paper) on a protected surface. The surface could be a kitchen counter or nearby table.
  2. Apply your first layer of whatever process you’re doing. For example, stamping with paint onto fabric sandwiches or covering paper or fabric with gesso.
  3. While this first layer is drying, assemble ingredients for a soup or stew in your crock pot.
  4. Once that’s going, add another layer to your backgrounds. Fuse on strips of fabric, add a wash of paint, or stamp with a chunky stamp and a different color, etc. Don’t be too particular, you are just making backgrounds. Experiment and have fun.
  5. While this layer dries, you have time to start a load of laundry, put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and have that second cup of coffee.
  6. When you come back to your backgrounds, you may see them with fresh eyes. Do you need to knock back the colors with gesso or a layer of sheer fabric? Do they lack the metallic pizzazz of some Lumiere® paint? Add it now.
  7. Let that layer dry and check on dinner, take the dog for a walk, or move the wash to the dryer.
  8. Once your backgrounds are dry, you can either cut them to 2½” x 3½” ATCs, inchies, or just stack them up in your studio, ready for creative quilting inspiration to strike!


Recipe for Pam’s Mom’s Pot Roast
3-4 lb. rump roast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1 soup can of water
1 small bag of baby-cut carrots
1 medium onion, sliced
4-5 potatoes, cut into chunks

Put everything but the potatoes into the crock pot. Turn it on low. Make backgrounds. Put potatoes in about an hour before dinner. That’s it!


Pam and her contributors offer much advice, inspiration, and how-tos in Art at the Speed of Life that will help you create more regardless of how busy you are.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Art Quilt, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Make Quilt Art Backgrounds While You Make Dinner

  1. My ‘studio’ is what would be called a family room off the kitchen in many houses. Now most of the children have moved out, my daughter and husband suggested I set up one of the spare rooms as my studio, which is very kind of them but what I like about the current set up is that allows me to do just what this article has talked about. It is the only way I can do as much as I do. Nothing like catching a few minutes to cut out some fabric in between stirring the dinner.
    I have friends who stand around waiting for the next process in their cooking, not me I’m busy utilizing that time for a bit of my current project.
    I’m not a great fan of cooking so this process helps a lot.