My 5 Favourite Art Quilt Techniques
I like to try and limit the range of techniques that I use in my textile art. There are so many different and interesting things that I could try to incorporate, but I'm fairly certain that it's better for my creative endeavours to limit myself to a few. Just like it's sometimes creatively stimulating to stick to a limited colour palette or in a limited time frame. The saying that 'necessity is the mother of invention' comes to mind. There's a challenge in expressing what I want to express with the few techniques at hand, without reaching for new techniques. There's also a place for mastering several techniques well, rather than many techniques poorly. And of course, limiting the number of techniques and processes I use also helps to limit the range of equipment and supplies that I need.
Here are my five favourite techniques:
I began dyeing my own fabric even before I settled on machine-piecing as a signature technique. Initially, I had two reasons for this. Firstly, I figured it to be cheaper to dye my own range of colours than to try to source it from patchwork shops. Secondly, the range of colours generally available in fabric shops is quite limited. I like to have more than twenty assorted greens at my disposal when making a eucalyptus quilt. Another thing I really like about hand-dyed fabric is the unevenness of the colour. Commercial solid cottons are rather flat-looking by comparison.
Machine-piecing is what I consider to be my most important technique, if I can put it like that. It's what makes my work different to the work of many appliqué artists. It also imposes great limitations (or maybe challenge is the better term) on my artmaking. The physical challenge of piecing together very tiny or tightly-curved pieces of fabric limits how small my images can be, or the type images that I create. Sometimes that frustrates me, but it also forces me to extend myself, and to keep trying new ways to make the machine-piecing work for me (finer lines, tighter curves, smaller scale or alternative styles of drawing). Sometimes an image or idea is better portrayed with pieced outlines, as in Trike, and other times solid blocks of colour works better.
Machine-quilting doesn't hold quite the same excitement for me as the piecing does, although getting started is always the hardest part. Once I've started, it's usually an enjoyable process. I always start by ditch-stitching over all the seam lines. Then I decide where to add extra quilting in the form of doodling, pictures or text.
Not every artwork I make features screen-printing, but I always love it when I am able to incorporate this technique into my quilts. Like hand-dyeing, it is a surface design technique, allowing me to manipulate the fabric even before cutting and stitching. Where possible, I like to use designs that enhance the story of the quilt.
Of these five techniques, hand-embroidery is the one that I have most recently incorporated. When I don't machine quilt the whole quilt heavily, I often like to add some had stitching. Usually a simple running stitch, but other times, seed stitch, unconnected chain stitch, chicken scratches, crosses and more (pardon me for not knowing the official terminology!) I use stranded embroidery thread for this, and I love the interest and texture that it adds to the artworks
Do you have a go-to technique or set of techniques for your creative endeavours?