Friday, August 4, 2017

What Shade Are You? Take A Look At A Quilt Made With Solids From RJR!

Aerial Geometry 2:  Home & Place (detail)
Since I have been studying with Nancy Crow these past few years I have rekindled my love of solids.  In addition to dyeing my own solids, which I love to do, I am using a lot of commercial solids.  One can imagine that "solids are solids" probably doesn't make much difference who you buy them from, right?  Wrong.
Did you know that many companies source their "gray goods" from multiple places?  That some companies outsource the dyeing to just as many sources?  Guess what happens to the quality control??  You got it.
Let's talk for a moment about RJR.  As a surface design artist it goes without saying that I spend a lot of time working with cloth;  quality is important to me.  Last summer when I was making objects with Urban Artifacts I had selected a group of solids to accompany the print line.  I noticed that the quality of the fabric was quite good.  This was feedback I received from every one of the makers who worked with the fabric.  I started to wonder about it and I inquired inside the company.  Here is what I learned:  the owners of RJR have had a long-standing relationship with the same Japanese company for the source of all their cloth as well as their printing and dyeing.  There is a very high quality of cotton broadcloth used and it is consistent.  This matters to me.

A few months ago I was approached about making a quilt for the "What Shade Are You?" project and I happily agreed because I really love the Cotton Supreme solids.  My style of working tends to be improvisational in nature so there is no pattern to be acquired with this project, but I'll share with you what I used to create my quilt.
Here is the list of all the fabrics:
283-On The Rocks
433-Silver Lining
380-Silver Screen
395-Warm Gray
341-Stormy Night
282-Gale Force
357-Sunset Ruby

3067-002 Box Springs in Wine
3067-003 Box Springs in Charcoal

I'm going to "walk" you through how I constructed this quilt and what I was thinking about when I was designing it.

I love to use a rotary cutter to "draw" lines and shapes into my fabric.  I think of the rotary cutter as my pen or paintbrush and the cloth as my paper or canvas.  When I piece elements together those seam lines become my gestural "marks".  For me, it has been a new and exciting way of thinking about the work. 
In this construction, another piece in an ongoing series called "Aerial Geometry", I am thinking about my experiences of flying over the Great Plains in a small aircraft and looking at the geometric layout of fields, crop rows, and farms dotted across the landscape.  Quite a bit of my abstracted work is about the meaning of home and place.  I'm interested in the juxtaposition of natural and man-made elements.  While it might not reach out and "smack you over the head" my work frequently includes shapes and symbols that represent these ideas in many of my quilts. 
Also in this quilt I have included a basic house-shape, a nest shape, and some graphic Alliums to represent my garden.
First, I free-cut numerous strips of all the neutral colors in my palette.  These were sewn together and small segments of Goldenrod, Goldilocks, Sunset Ruby, and Redwork were added randomly throughout.  I created sections of gray neutrals and "beige" neutrals separately. 

On my design wall I marked a general shape to represent the intended size of my construction.  I find this to be a helpful guide while working.

My desire was to alternate the gray and beige areas, which were cut from the long pieced sections
in alternating sizes and widths.  I wanted to vary the direction of the pieced shapes.

Here is how I "built" the construction:  first the pieces, then the rows,
then I joined the rows.  When piecing these somewhat amorphous shapes I overlaid the edges and
cut through them so the pieces would come together as a flat construction.
I didn't worry about that whilst piecing the strips because I steam-ironed the strips really well.
It does become important when laying the larger shapes together.

Here are all the large shapes before the rows are joined.

After the background was pieced together I created "stems" for my Allium elements
by cutting sections of Gale Force and Rework fabric colors, folding and sewing a quarter-inch
seam, then rolling the seam under and pinning the stems to the surface, then stitching in place.
Four stems were appliquéd prior to the quilting, and one was added afterward to create some visual depth.

Next, I stitched together a group of raw-edge strips of solids and prints to create
a "nest", which was stitched onto the surface of the construction.
I wanted all these elements on the surface prior to being quilted as I planned to add more elements
after the quilting.

Here is a closeup of the "nest" components.

Here is a photo of one of my dry giant Allium blossoms, still standing in my garden.  I enjoy their
metamorphosis and I like how they look after the blossoms have dried out.  They offer a
lovely visual texture in my garden so I leave them in place as long as possible.

My quilt was longarm-quilted by the talented Joanna Marsh from
Kustom Kwilts.  She did this beautiful matchstick quilting of the background.
I like to use a double batting of Quilter's Dream Orient and the top layer is Quilter's Dream wool.
This seems to be a perfect combo:  lightweight, breathable, and perfect for quilts that will need to be shipped and folded as the wool prevents creasing!

I free-motion embroidered the first layer of blossom with my sewing machine feed-dogs down.
Then, I hand-embroidered more stem components of the blossom and the buds were added with
French knots.  This is one of the few places where I really need to use a thimble because
that is a lot of layers of fabric and thread to push a needle through!

The roof and base of my "house" were created with Urban Artifacts by pillow-casing some batting between two layers, stitching and quilting the pieces, then appliquéing them to the quilted surface.

Next, I squared up the edged and stitched a facing onto the quilt, then turned it to the back and whip-stitched it in place.  This is a cotton canvas print from Rifle Paper company, which is
a division of Cotton & Steel (which is part of the RJR family, in case you didn't know!).

Here is what the turned corner looks like from the front.  I like the clean edge of a faced quilt,
particularly for one that is to be a wall piece.

I'm satisfied with the details of the construction.

And here is my finished quilt!
Dimensions are 40" by 40".

If you are coming to Quilt Market and/or Quilt Festival in fall, 2017, please look for my quilt as part of "Personal Iconography:   Graffiti On Cloth", a special exhibition presented by Dinner At Eight Artists.  Jamie Fingal, another designer for RJR, is the other half of the curating team with me. 
I hope you enjoyed seeing how my quilt was created.  I really encourage you to ask for Cotton Supreme Solids at your local quilt shop(s).  It is really a great product and I am a fan!


  1. Thank you for sharing this detail post. It's nice to know the names of the fabric you used. You made a beautiful piece of art! I hope I can see it in person at one of the exhibit venues.

    1. Thank you for such kind words, Mia! It was a joy to create it!

  2. Thanks for showing us your process on this quilt. I love this quilt and the colors. Quality fabric is so important in making quilts.

    1. It is my pleasure! Thx for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. really enjoyed reading about the rotary cutter as a pen. im inspired to try a small play piece using this method. i love the bricks and they move the eye. im impressed you faced all those layers! i struggle with just three!

    1. Maybe I will do a blog post on installing a facing. I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve....

  4. Your process of making a quilt is amazing. I wish I had your conception, ideas and imagination in going through all the quilting steps. This quilt is amazing.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Angela. Believe me, not everything is successful. The trick is to "just keep making stuff"! Honestly!

  5. I really enjoyed reading about your process and how it all came together.

  6. Thank you for sharing your process! Fabulous quilt! Love RJR fabrics.

  7. Wow!!! Your quilt is a beauty ❤️❤️❤️ I learned a few tips too!!! I must say that you really put a lot of attention to detail and it's a work of art!!

    1. I'm glad you picked up a few tips! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. I really enjoyed reading how you created this quilt. I have made only one quilt with all solids and look forward to making another. It was then that I found so many differences in fabric quality, even though they were all quilt shop fabrics! Your stitchex alliums are stunning! I grow them, too, and enjoy the dried blossoms!have fun at Quilt Market!

    1. The difference in quality is quite dramatic, in some cases. I've certainly had my eyes opened to it! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I recently faced a quilt for the first time and I like that finish on Aerial Geometry 2: Home and Place. Thank you for sharing the details of your creative construction process!

    1. You are welcome. Thanks for stopping by! I love the faced edge. It seems like a nice finish for many of the things I make. I do love a binding, too, but it depends on the quilt!

  10. I really enjoyed learning how you created your wonderful piece and look forward to seeing it at Festival!

  11. Wow! I really enjoyed reading about the journey you took in creating this lovely quilt! So many steps and varied techniques came together is such beautiful simplicity! Gorgeous and fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

  12. What an amazing work of art! Thanks so much for sharing your design process!

  13. I really enjoyed seeing your construction process. I love the idea of using canvas to give the piece body and like everyone else, would love to see your facing process in more detail. It gives a fantastic finish! Am I correct in saying you use three layers of batting or is it two? Thanks for sharing all this info and your final piece is fabulous!

    1. I use two layers of batting (both low-loft): Quilter's Dream Orient, and directly under the quilt top a layer of Quilter's Dream wool. I don't always use canvas as a backing but I did like the extra body it lends to this piece since it will hang on the wall versus be a useful quilt.

  14. I first "met" you on The Quilt Show and have been a fan ever since. Thanks for explaining how you made your quilt. I was so excited when I heard about Urban Artifacts and even more excited when my LQS had about half the line.

    1. Aw! Thank you, Sue. I'm glad you like Urban Artifacts and I am happy to tell you that it is being re-printed! Should be back in the warehouse late this month and out to shops shortly afterward!

  15. Your detailed instructions were a gift. I do like RJR solids. Have used them in the past before I started dyeing my own fabric. As an aside, I have been wanting to buy some of your Urban Artifacts for at least a year, but haven't been able to find them on-line. No local quilt shop. :(
    Best to you for a lovely day.

    1. Cathy I'm sorry that you have had so much trouble finding the fabric line! I know there are a number of online resources for it. Missouri Star will have the entire line back in stock after they receive the re-print. Another possible source is Stitchcraft Boca. I suggest doing a web-search for shops who are carrying it or will have it back in stock. Hope you can find it and, if you make something, please let me see it!

  16. Thank you Leslie for sharing your process. I love your description of the rotary cutter as a drawing instrument. Your finished quilt is fabulous!


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