A Mixed Media Barbie™ Doll Quilt

24 Mar 2010

Who would have thought that Barbie could serve as the inspiration for an art quilt? Well, Suzy Liss did when she created this mixed-media piece, “Mom’s Little Secret” (51" x 28"), which is embellished with the doll’s accessories. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I chatted with Suzy about this humorous and inventive quilt, and her seasonal quilting plans.

What gave you the idea to create this piece?

I purchased a large collection of old Barbie and Disney® dolls at a garage sale. I was greatly surprised to find all the accessories and shoes included, and marveled at how they had survived, as I would have thrown out the small parts with the packaging or vacuumed them up.  Thus, “Mom’s Little Secret.”

 This was my first mixed media quilt, but the majority of my work is embellished or dimensional. My five-year-old granddaughter took one look at this and asked, “Is that what is going to happen if I don’t pick up my stuff?” Proof again that one picture is worth 1,000 words.

I take it your granddaughter—and perhaps you as well—are Barbie fans?

When you associate with five-year-olds, you quickly become a Barbie admirer. I love the glitzy clothes and hair—a sharp contrast  to my childhood paper dolls which were cut out of the mail-order catalog (if I could get it before it was  repurposed as toilet paper for the outhouse).

It sounds like you don’t like to have a lot of junk lying around and that you’re a fairly tidy person. Does your quilting studio reflect this?

“Fairly” is the appropriate word. My living space is spotless but that is easy when you live alone and don’t have pets. My studio is organized for maximum efficiency with a layer of “artistic embellishment” (inspirational items, yarns, sketches, and things that are too large for drawers.)  The top layer is scraps and threads from my current project which I don’t clean up until the project is complete. 

How did you create this quilt?

The background was made by sewing together fabric for the floor and fabric for the wall, then adding a strip of fabric for the baseboard. I quilted this background before adding the vacuum. I used a picture of a vacuum to create a freezer paper template, and used Steam-A-Seam 2® to attach the vacuum pieces to the background, achieving the illusion of dimension by adding various amounts of batting beneath each piece. I added the embellishments at the end; I sewed the soft items in place, and I used a nail file to rough up the smoother items before gluing them down. I also attached a piece of soft clear plastic to cover the vacuum canister.

Do you have any spring cleaning plans? What about spring quilting?

Every few months I review my “To Dos”: 14" x 16" plastic zipper bags containing all the items I have compiled for each project.  If I am no longer interested in one of the ideas, the contents go back into my stash. Usually, new ideas pop up faster than I can complete the old ones. But I have been successful in reducing my fabric inventory by making quilt blankets for Project Linus.

I have just completed a dimensional wall quilt using multicolored plastic grocery/boutique shop bags in lieu of fabric. I have plans to make another soon, maybe even before my “Barbie Closet” project. So many ideas, so little time!

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upstatelisa wrote
on 24 Mar 2010 6:53 AM

Great quilt...Love your idea for "to do" project bags!

She-Quilts wrote
on 24 Mar 2010 8:39 AM

How fun!  My husband would have loved this if it would have provided inspiration to pick up the Barbie stuff and the Legos!!  Things that go OWIE in the night...


caren12 wrote
on 24 Mar 2010 6:31 PM

I love this quilt!  I have a 7 and 5 year old girls, and I have vaccumed tons of Barbie and Polly accessories!


paula74 wrote
on 30 Mar 2010 8:42 AM

. Who would have thought that inspiration was lurking inside the vacuum cleaner.

Would like to see that plastic bag creation, whatever the subject!