One of the hardest things for me at quilt shows is observing the no-touch rule. As much as I completely understand it, I often silently thank the quilt guardians for keeping me on my best behavior. It's so hard to resist all those touchable textiles!
So, every time I return from doing a show like International Quilt Festival/Long Beach, I can't wait to get back into my studio and immerse myself in my stash, where I can touch all the textures and feel the interplay of fabric and stitch.
There are so many ways to add texture to art quilts, but one of my favorites is to layer fabric and hand stitching. Beryl Taylor is a master at this--her WorkshopTM DVD isn't called "Layer by Layer" for nothing. And Carol Taylor (what is it about the name Taylor?) has an amazing talent for designing quilts using textured fabrics in a cohesive way, something she demonstrates clearly on her DVD "Art Quilt Design, Strategies for Success."
Another artist whose technique I admire greatly is Jude Hill. With small pieces of fabric, tiny stitches, and a keen eye for design, this artist starts where many others leave off.
For example, instead of seeing patchwork design as an end, Jude sees it as a gridded canvas for further textural embellishment.
But don't think you have to assemble (or acquire) an entire patchwork quilt to explore this process. In the August/September 2010 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, Jude shows how to weave a cloth base for a mini-quilt, using the squares as a patchwork-style grid.
Weaving, instead of piecing, the base has several advantages, says Jude:
1. It's easy. The base comes together quickly as there are no seams to sew.
2. The juxtaposition of the strips provides organic texture.
3. You can mix many fabrics and use up lots of small scraps.
4. Weaving's grid is a natural ground for design.
I would add to this list that it's the perfect way to experiment with fabric and design, and it's also a great take-along project once you have the base done. All you need are scraps, a needle, thread, and scissors.
In fact, I may take one of these projects along the next time I go to a quilt show. With my hands so full of texture, I won't be as tempted to touch the quilts!