Surface Design Techniques

Surface design techniques can be used to create unique, original fabrics for your art quilts. Common techniques include fabric dyeing, painting, and printing, as well as digital image transfer. There are many different approaches within each of these categories: screen printing, immersion dyeing, stamping, and more. For inspiration and ideas, visit the Quilting Arts Surface Design Forum.


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  • Thread sketching? Love it! Using free-motion stitching with your sewing machine to create what looks like pen-and-ink drawings lends a real "hand of the artist" look to a quilt. The technique is also an effective way to add stitched imagery to fabric collages.
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  • As you know, I am a surface design junkie. As you also know, surface design is messy. So while I often take my beloved Bernina® on vacation with me, I'm not likely to lug my screens, Thermofax machine, paints, dyes, and soy wax with me.
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  • Reports from Fashion Week earlier this year (how many of us knew the term "fashion week" before "Project Runway" came on the scene?) showed that color, graphic design, spots, and fabric that seems to move would be hot this fall.
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  • I confess, if I didn't love Quilting Arts so much, I'd throw in the towel and spend all of my time painting and dyeing fabric . You see, some day when I finally grow up, I want to be Jane Dunnewold (or Kerr Grabowski). I save any kind of surface
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  • I was pulling laundry out of the dryer the other day when I spied something among the folds that looked black, fuzzy, and about the size of a quarter. I dropped the laundry basket and jumped back, convinced I had just seen a giant spider.
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  • Finally, we've had a stretch of warm, sunny days and my spring flowers are starting to bloom. Local garden centers are awash with marigolds, pansies, geraniums, and herbs. All of which has made me think about gardening and dyeing. Sunny, windless days are perfect for dyeing. But while I usually use
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  • You might have seen this picture from my wrap up of "QATV" Season 8. Yes, I am vertically challenged and need a little boost in order to reach the pedal on the set's sewing machine. The Quilting Arts crew thinks it's funny to capture these little behind-the-scenes TV moments. And frankly
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  • Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As promised I am pulling the name of the winner of a goody bag from my last post with guest blogger Faith Cleary. Congratulations to janicen7 , you are the winner! Please email me at lmurray@interweave.com with your mailing
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  • Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by the LAST stop of the Quilting Arts In Stitches blog tour! I hope that you have enjoyed all the stops along the way. For the last post, I have asked artist Faith Cleary to tell us a little about her experience with
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  • Every time I come back to our editorial offices back east I'm greeting with more Quilting Arts @10 anniversary postcards. I love it! We'll be featuring some in the next issue of the magazine, so watch for them.
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  • 111 Text Messaging Writing on your quilts not only adds texture and interest, but can literally help get the message across. This show presents simple ways to add text to your quilts using the computer; hand-stitching, gel pens, markers, and lots more
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  • 106 Pictorial Quilts Learn to make faces—creative self-portraits and quilts with figures, done with fabric, stitch, and embellishment. It’s hard to keep from smiling when you create your own self-portrait. Then it’s guest Pam RuBert
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  • 205 Thread is the Focus The hallmark of contemporary quilting is the use of thread in a new way. Instead of being content to only use thread as a way to quilt pieces of fabric or stitch on an applique, today's quilter uses thread as its own feature
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  • Let’s face it: pet owners love our pets. My next door neighbor loves his labs so much, the only décor he has in his house relates to black labs--from every piece of wall art to the toilet paper dispensers! So it was no surprise to me that
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  • 409 Get ready to be inspired by innovative designers with the latest in contemporary quilting. We begin our show today with designer Terry White. She’s going to demonstrate thread painting techniques with her stitch samplers. Next, it’s mixed
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  • 404 Quilting arts is all about trends. First up, is Melanie Testa. Her trend is artists’ trading cards and she uses them to demonstrate alternate finishing and binding techniques for quilts. Then, meet designer Sue Kelly with the latest in surface
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  • 501 The first show begins with Susan Brubaker Knapp. She creates art from her photos using fused appliqué and thread painting. Today’s inspiration is a lighthouse in North Carolina. Next, Pokey shares a stitched and stenciled book with photos
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  • 705 DIY Fabrics for Quilting Let your personality show by making your quilt unique. What better way to accomplish this than learning how to easily design your own signature fabrics? First, Kerr Grabowski gives a lesson on surface design, demonstrating
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  • Cheryl Johnson decided to change up the way that she displayed and created Artist Trading Cards. For some inspiration on how to spice up your own ATC collection read on. What was your inspiration when you decided to change up the shape of ATC’s
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  • There's an old joke, from well before my time, that is still around because it's a classic. An elderly gentleman is walking down the street in New York City. A younger man steps up to him and asks, "Excuse me, sir, but how do I get to Carnegie Hall?
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  • I'm a fabric printing nut. I started with stamping, then added Thermofax® screen printing, and lately I've been churning out gelatin prints by the score. I couldn't tell you what I like best about printing-the graphic nature of the design, the thrill of pulling the paint through the screen
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  • Last week while back in Massachusetts I picked up a few essential Christmas mementos to send to our new Colorado home. As I was packing them up at Quilting Arts headquarters, people gathered around to comment.
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  • Celebrate Quilting Arts 10th Anniversary with 10 innovative techniques! From adding LED lights to your art quilts to screen printing with natural items and creating machine stitched reverse applique pieces, you're sure to find a unique art quilting process that catches your fancy. Learn strategies
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  • Contemporary art quilters and mixed-media stitchers may take vastly different approaches to their art, but one thing we all have in common is our love of stitchery and sewing techniques. I, for one, can never get enough sewing ideas, whether its machine quilting stitches or hand stitching techniques
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  • It’s that time of year again. Winter is coming, and although I’m in a new locale where all my neighbors promise me winter in Boulder really isn’t that bad, I still worry I’ll go down the rabbit hole so to speak. After all, I was
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  • Last week we asked our Facebook fans to share with us one of their blog entries in hopes of becoming the first Quilting Arts Facebook blogger of the week. There were so many great blogs that were posted it was nearly impossible to choose one! in the end
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  • There are some artists whose work always puts a smile on your face. For me, this is the case with Malka Dubrawsky, whose vibrant and candy-colored fabrics and quilts are always cheerful, bright, and wonderfully whimsical. I'll take any excuse to chat
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  • Paints, inks, and crayons—they’re an integral part of the art quilter’s studio. Episode 612 makes use of them all. The first segment features Pokey demonstrating gelatin monoprinting. Then, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer shows how to use creative
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  • The topic of episode 611 is the world around us. Liz Berg is the first guest. She shares techniques for making abstract quilts inspired by photographs. Then, Terry White demonstrates beautiful thread painting. Finally, Andrea Bishop shows how to make
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  • The first project in episode 605 combines drawing and stitching. Karen Fricke demonstrates thread sketching on stabilizer, starting with pen and ink and then moving to thread and fabric. Next, Sharon Morton—from one of the largest guilds in the
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  • Episode 603 focuses on surface design. Jane Dunnewold returns as the first guest. She demonstrates stenciling and stamping hot soy wax and adding color with fabric paints. Then, Susie Monday shows how to make colorful screen-printed fabrics using water
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  • I couldn't wait to turn the calendar to October, and not just because it's my birthday month! I was just so excited to enjoy one of the best examples of free-motion thread painting I've seen, Susan Brubaker Knapp's "Autumn's Bounty," the October quilt in the 2010 Quilting
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  • Judith Trager's Maine Coon, Pumpkin, sleeping on the job on top of Judith's art quilts. I had a sublime 10/10/10 weekend. Just perfect, and much of it had to do with Boulder's city-wide Open Studios program that take place four weekends a
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  • You've heard the expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," right? Well, at the recent taping of "Quilting Arts TV" Season 7, I learned you shouldn't judge an art quilt by its original fabric.
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  • Fresh surface design techniques and much more! Screen printing with shredded paper; oatmeal resist; digital imagery; thread sketching; tie-transfer dyeing; wire embellishment; sell your art; and the list goes on! Learn strategies for selling your artwork at fairs and festivals from Jane Dávila’s
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  • Like you, I love fabric. Like you, I collect fabric. And, probably like you, I'm always itching to change the fabric I have. Why? When there are so many beautiful fabrics out there, why do we art quilters feel the need to alter them?
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  • Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 It’s hard to believe that August is already here, and this new month brings a new issue of Quilting Arts. Those of you who have already picked up or received your copy of
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  • Don’t miss the first of our newest series: Mary Hettmansperger presents “Metal as a Surface Embellishment” and dives right in with copper foil. Explore more thread sketching strategies with Susan Brubaker Knapp, with a look at dimension. Be inspired to start your own small art group
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  • I first became aware of Elin Waterston through the Quilting Arts reader challenges, particularly our annual calendar contests. Very quickly, our team came to recognize Elin's distinctive brand of well-thought-out, uncluttered design featuring a strong focal point.
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  • I haven't written much on my own personal blog lately. Why is that, you ask? On top of an industrious work schedule, I have been camping out of a suitcase this summer. (I have it figured out that the only clothes one really needs in the sweltering
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  • It's officially summer, and that means blueberry season. I'm lucky enough to live right next to my father-in-law's blueberry patch--more of a field, actually. While they last, I just have to walk out my back door and down the path to have access to fresh blueberries for breakfast, a snack
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  • You know how I feel about frogs , right? So when Karen Fricke submitted her thread-sketched frog quilt, "Coqui Up Close" to Quilting Arts Magazine back in 2007, I was captivated. And not just by the frog motif, but by her technique for turning a photo into a thread-sketched design on stabilizer
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  • Is there such a thing as too much texture? I don't think so! Texture is what we art quilters are all about. Texture is what excites the quilt artist and it's what entices the art quilt viewer to come up and take a closer look. Plus, adding more texture to our quilts gives us a great excuse to
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  • Inspiration and techniques! Thread sketching; needle felting; hand stitching; recycled sweaters; 3-D embellishments; batik with soy wax; Dunnewold on design; circular quilts; “Inner Animal”; and more! Continue thread sketching with Susan Brubaker Knapp, with a focus on texture. Learn Jane
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  • Isn't it funny how sometimes the simplest of art processes can be so satisfying? I mean, you know I love my Thermofax screen printing and I am a sucker for hand embroidery. Thread sketching fascinates me and I never get tired of dyeing. But when it comes to hands-down fun, I have to go with stamping
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  • I love it when there is a simple solution to a problem, especially when that solution is readily available and inexpensive.
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  • Many of you probably know I have five furry, four-legged "children." But did you know I feel a similar motherly instinct toward Quilting Arts Magazine ? Asking me to choose a favorite issue is like asking me to choose a favorite child. I love them all equally!
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  • Many communicate with their loved ones overseas through letters or care packages, but when Pat Hamlin’s son was serving with the Montana National Guard in Bagdad, she kept in touch with him through a quilt. Each week that he was away (52 altogether
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  • I love the soft shimmer of metal embellishment on a quilted surface. Just a touch of metal can act as an elegant focal point. An all-over quilting pattern of metallic thread, couched wire, or foil can add texture and make the quilt seem to glow from within.
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  • As you can tell from Pippa's latest entry , we've been doing a little road tripping lately... I'm thrilled to say the next stop is the International Quilt Festival/ Chicago ! Are you making your art to trade with others at the new Trading
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  • It’s been a few days since Quilting Arts April/May 2010 issue hit the newsstands, and many of you may have noticed that this is our animal-themed issue, containing 21 creaturely quilts, Pokey Bolton’s article on “Pet-ty Journal Portraits
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  • As a devotee of "Project Runway," one of the things I love most about the show-after the hilarious Tim Gunn quips-is watching how the designers translate their inspirations into line, pattern, and form. Take last week's episode, where Anthony and Maya were inspired by New York's Chinatown
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  • In the April/May 2010 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine , treat yourself to: more thread sketching with Susan Brubaker Knapp, focusing on line; silk-screen printing onto disposable facial washcloths with Leslie Tucker Jenison; Pokey’s journal quilt-sized and fabric collaged pet portraits; Susan Carlson’s
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  • International Quilt Festival/Chicago commences April 16 in Rosemont, IL, and Yours Truly is counting down the days. If you haven't heard of Make It University!(TM), it's a hands-on area that takes place right on the show floor in the vendor area
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  • Knowing how popular patchwork is, we're offering you this FREE downloadable eBook, How to Make a Quilt: 6 FREE Patchwork Quilt Projects for Contemporary Quilts , that gives you six ways to use patchwork patterns.
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  • Above: Diane Nunez's dimensional fabric flowers Five days, 39 segments, and 13 episodes later, Season Six of Quilting Arts TV is born. A number of very talented guests joined me this season: Jane Dunnewold was back to dazzle us with two surface design
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  • I'm packing my suitcase again, getting ready to fly to Cleveland to tape the sixth season of "Quilting Arts TV." As hectic as the shooting pace is, I always look forward to taping, because I get to learn new tricks and techniques in person
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  • Last week the staff in our Stow offices got together for some after-hours creative play-time, making gelatin monoprints on fabric and paper. I'd been cranking out monoprints for a segment I'll be shooting for the sixth season of "Quilting Arts TV" and everyone else wanted in on the
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  • In winter I crave creating with color-- during the darker, bleaker months, my studio is completely taken over by paints and dyes (think periwinkles and lime greens, cerulean blues and bubble gum pinks). Imagine my glee when I got the latest book offerings from surface design experts and Committed to
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  • We received so many fun and interesting Let Out Your Inner Animal Challenge quilts from readers that the Quilting Arts editors decided we had to play, too.
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  • Since the February/March 2010 issue of Quilting Arts has now been on the newsstand for a couple of weeks, I’ll be announcing the winners of Lyric Kinard’s fabric quiz this Friday (February 12 th ) at 12 pm EST. So if you still haven’t
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  • I like to think I'm always open to trying new things, especially when it comes to surface design methods. But there was one technique I shied away from: batik. I loved the effects, but doing it myself always seemed so complicated and time consuming.
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  • In September 2006, I got a little personal on my blog and shared that my father had just lost his battle against lung cancer in my Bye Dad post. In rereading that entry, Virginia Spiegel at that time had raised $53,000 for the American Cancer Society
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  • I have an uncanny (some on my staff would say freaky) ability to remember exactly what artist's article appeared in which issue of Quilting Arts , going back to the very first issue nearly 10 years ago. And up until recently, I've been able to put my hand on the printed page more quickly than
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  • I'm sure that many of you will be inspired by Lyric Kinard's clever methods for turning fabric dyeing disasters into works of art in "Disappointments to Diva," on page 28 of the February/March 2010 issue of Quilting Arts . See if you've
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  • Creating Figures in Fabric; Leftover Dye Pillows; Turning fabric dyeing mistakes into masterpieces; Experimentations in resist dyeing; Embellish your quilts with simple machine stitching; Lession 1: Focus on color; A conversation with art quilter Barbara Walter; Major works by leading artists; Creating
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  • Thread sketching is not a new technique, but it seems as though more people are willing to give it a try and are looking for tips on how to do it. If you're one of them, then look no further, as Quilting Arts has plenty of thread sketching tricks and techniques for you to try.
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  • This January, I’m all about soup. You see, I ate a little too much of this kind of thing while on vacation in Mexico: (the best chicken and mole I’ve ever had in my life) I received a glorious Le Creuset ® French oven for Christmas (basically
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  • Want to make a unique imprint on your handmade quilts? Learn how to create your own fabric with our latest FREE eBook, Fabric Painting: 5 Surface Design, Paint, and Monoprint Techniques from Quilting Arts . You'll learn how to paint fabric with textile paints, fabric paints, and oil sticks. Plus
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  • One of the most exciting ways to change the look of fabric is through resist dyeing techniques. Resist-dyeing is one of the oldest ways to transform cloth, used the world over. These methods are exciting, because they are unpredictable-perfect if you're a person who likes to play, because each time
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  • I’m sure many of you did a double take when you saw the cover of the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Quilting Arts . The quilt, “My Buddy and Me,” by Barbara McKie (featured in the exhibit “SAQA@20: Art and Excellence”
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  • Around the Quilting Arts Community, people with "tension problems" don't need relaxation techniques--they need a stitching specialist. Fortunately, we know several, and Susan Brubaker Knapp is one of the best.
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  • Looking for an easy, no-stitch holiday decorating idea? Why not make fabric fortune cookies? They're a great way to use up those precious scraps of hand-dyed or commercial fabrics you can't bear to throw out, and you can slip artful wishes for the New Year inside them.
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  • This is a difficult post to create because I forgot my camera in a store in Galveston Texas (it is being returned to me this week). So these photos are thanks to Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jennison and Sharon Hyll. Thanks gals! This is a photo of me
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  • Brace yourselves! I think I'm about to set a world record in the Blogosphere for the number of photos in a single blog entry. I took nearly 250 shots at International Quilt Festival/Houston, but I cut the lot down to 49. (The ones I don’t post
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  • I added the two blog comments together, 10 from my Author blog and 27 from my personal blog and used a random number generator to choose a number between 1 and 37. Drum Roll please! Debbie L. I am going to Houston tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. so please excuse
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  • Designing Fabric; Sketches on fabric; Mixed-Media approach to quilting; dyeing technique; Sub Urban Art - selective Rusting; Edges; Monoprinting with texture plates; Journal quilts; Spontaneous explorations in color; Re-create your sketchbook images on cloth; Edges; Goddess at the last minute with Robbi
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  • A gelatin monoprint process; Asian-inspired, richly embroidered accessories; creating with silk: painted and beaded trees; printing with incised rubbing plates and non-toxic materials; the effective artist statement; The Lowell Fiber Studio; Artist Profile; The Whisper Challenge, and more. Cover quilt
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  • I returned home from San Diego after teaching a great group of gals and found this! In my mailbox! Mailed. With postage applied to the back of the postcard and a hand written note from Jakquil (the woman who won my Pretty Purse give away). It seems to
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  • Last night I went to my Alma Matter, The Fashion Institute of Techology and gave a small talk to a silk painting class. The teacher was one of my favorites when I went to school there, Zsu Zsi Dalquist. Or at least I hope that is how you spell it. Zsu
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  • Opening reader challenge art is a lot of fun. I am honored to be able to see such inspiring work. But, sometimes it becomes a bit of a challenge (pun intended) to decipher just who the artwork is from. Some people really get into creating beautiful labels
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  • Thread painting; pieced landscapes; perspectives on art and quilting with Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs; inspiration from the Symbolists; time management for artists; inspiration from a Kenyan tradition; image transfers; “Rock On!” challenge results; print fabrics with hardware store finds;
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  • Pokey Bolton chats with “Project Runway” winner Jay McCarroll; Venus-inspired art: from prehistoric times through the Renaissance; designing with ink pads; thread painting 101; hand embroidery; designing with Paintstiks®; glue gel resist; monoprinting fabrics, and many more art quilting
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  • What's that saying: When the cat's away the mice will play? My husband's been out of town for the past week, and while he was gone, play I did… A few things have been on my mind lately: my beautiful hometown of San Francisco, the Grateful
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  • A sample of my hand-dyed and screen-printed fabrics. What would you do if you had a month off and could do any one activity? If I could take this kind of time, I'd scamper off to some secret destination (preferably a small creekside cottage in Sedona
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  • Collaged fabric panels with found objects; wholecloth facing technique; monoprinting fabrics, including sheers; free-motion machine quilting; mounting and framing art quilts; flour paste resist with Jane Dunnewold; painterly quilt collage; eco-friendly journal quilting; 2007 Journal Quilt Project; Goddess
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  • Digital imagery; delicate design with silk, lace, flower petals, and machine embroidery; the Kemshalls on finishing with embroidery, foil, and color; quilted fabric sculpture; textural book wraps; large-scale photograph quilts; thread sketching on stabilizer; showing artwork; binding techniques; embellishments;
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  • Finding Inspiration; Scale, proportion, and balance; Finding Your Voice with Fabric Collage; silk painting with resist; understanding tone, value, and light and dark to create mood and feeling; Artist Profile: Frances Holliday Alford; five artists, one quilt; holographic effects; contour drawing with
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  • This is too cool for school... check out the loot that Jacquard Products sent us in addition to our order for fabric paints we placed with them last week: I asked for some product to help with my workshops for Make It U! and I'm positively bowled
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