Sunlit Boulders- a work in progress

Sunlit Boulders

Sunlit Boulders is an art quilt with curved line piecing, Scribble Quilting and couched decorative yarns and threads. My first intention was  to highlight the Native American batik shown on the left on the first photo. As I chose different fabrics, I decided that I would minimize their use. When I removed more of that fabric, I was happier with the way it looked. It’s okay to change ideas in midproject if it doesn’t look or feel right to you.


Photo 1

Photo 1 I am auditioning fabrics that complement and contrast with the batik fabric. Using  strips of fabric, I couch(zigzag) a variety of decorative threads and yarns to the strips. I cut the strips apart into varying lengths without much forethought.

Photo 2

Photo 2  I am still auditioning fabric. Some pieced strips are left over from a previous project. Notice that the reddish fabrics will be eliminated.


Photo 3

Photo 3  I start to cut up the strips of couched yarns to add to the quilt. I am trying out where I like the pieces, moving them around. Dark strips frame the piece. Some pieces are beginning to be sewn together. Figures from the batik stand out enough.

photo 4

Photo 4 Tucks are added to some pieces to add texture. Notice that some pieces have been moved around. More small pieces are being sewn together.

photo 5

Photo 5 I am not afraid to cut up fabric. I can always use the fabric at a later date for a different project. More tucks are added to fabrics. Some batiks symbols have been eliminated.

Photo 6


Photo 6 All pieced together and ready for batting and backing.

Photo 7

Photo 7  Scribble Quilting is complete. Edges need to be trimmed and cut straight.

Photo 8

Photo 8 The finished art quilt represents my mantra of color, texture, and movement.


The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Artists

Here is an older article I found on Twitter that bears repeating. Edited for space. Although the author is referring to painters, the ideas apply to all types of artists.

The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Artists

Do you want to be a great and highly effective artist?

I do. I might be getting a bit obsessed with it, actually.

Ideas pop into my head unexpectedly. I keep a long running list of ideas for improving my work.

I also study how the most successful artists got where they are, and I pore over every word that they write.

If you want to be a great artist, you should, too.

I wanted to find out what all these top artists had in common. Their mindset, their mental habits.

I spent a lot of time observing, which led to this list of the six success traits shared by all top artists I’ve found. I’m happy to share it with you.

The good news is that even if you don’t have all these personality traits already, most of them can be developed over time. Best of all, if you can cultivate these traits, you’ll become more effective in the rest of your life as well.

1. Highly Effective artists are prolific

The first key to being a successful, highly effective artist is to create. A lot.

The more you create, the better you get.

There’s no way around it; it takes work to be prolific. And effective artists work hard. Putting a successful art career together requires a lot of time in your studio, and not surfing LOLCats or Twittering about what you had for lunch.

2. Highly Effective artists are lifelong learners

If you’re a new artist, you’re probably on a steep learning curve at the moment.

Maybe you tell yourself that things will get better when you’ve been doing it longer. There won’t be so much to learn. You’ll have systems in place soon and everything will run smoothly.

Sadly, I think this is a myth. I’ve been painting and working my career as an artist for more than 15 years, and it keeps changing. Just when you’ve got one element sorted out, something new happens. Or becomes obsolete. Or mutates in 20 different directions.

If you want to stay ahead in art, you have to keep learning.

Fortunately, being curious and wanting to learn keeps you young and your brain active. A love of learning doesn’t just set you up for a successful art career, but for a successful and happy life.

3. Highly Effective artists are focused and consistent

Highly effective artists move consistently toward their vision.  Their work has a consistent voice and approach. Even when they move toward something that may be off topic, they relate it back to their greater vision.

4. Highly Effective artists plan ahead

Highly effective artists know where they’re going. They have a master plan and they stick to it. Yes, they adapt based on feedback, but always in service of a vision.

They don’t let themselves get derailed. They follow the plan.

5. Highly Effective artists are persistent

Highly effective artists understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. Real success rarely happens quickly.

Time is on your side. To get to the top takes consistency, hard work, serious study, and lots of persistence. Successful artists don’t give up.

6. Highly Effective artists are self-starters

I’ve been self-employed as an artist for years.

I’ve noticed a lot of people like the idea of working from home, working for themselves, being their own boss. But if you want these things, you need to be able to manage yourself.

No one is going to sack you if you’re late. No one reminds you of important deadlines or nags you to get your sales numbers up.

If you want to be a successful artist, you need to be a self-starter. It’s not enough to have good ideas. You have to act on them.

Abstract Art Quilts- a work in progress


Color! Movement! Texture! are my main goals for my abstract art quilts. Color is where I begin. What colors do I want to work with? I found a piece of linen at Fabmo, a nonprofit that redirects materials from the San Francisco Design Center. I really liked the variety of colors in this one piece. This became my  inspiration, find other fabrics and textures with the same colors for my abstract piece.
Oddly enough, several years ago four quilter friends and I  were having trouble choosing colors for a donation quilt we wanted to create together. One friend suggested that we find a fabric and choose the colors from that fabric. At the time I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what she was saying. However, when I saw this multicolored linen and got inspired, I immediately understood what she had been trying to have us do.

Once I have chosen a color or two,this is  when the fun begins. I go through my fabrics to find additional fabrics. At this step, I don’t reject much.

photo 2  Here are the fabrics I chose from my stash.
photo 3 I couched (zigzagged) decorative yarn on contrasting fabric. I matched the color of the thread to the color of the yarn to make the yarn stand out. Then I cut up the strips and use them as fabric.
photo 4 I place small pieces of fabric on my design wall. I move them around before sewing them together.
photo 5 A detail of the pieces sewn together
photo 6 Another detail of the pieces sewn together
photo 7 Another detail of the pieces sewn together
photo 8 Here is the finished quilt, Spring Break.



For more information on couching threads refer to my previous post.…d-creating-fabri/

Memory Quilts

As I am in the process of completing  four memory quilts for a client and her children using their beloved father’s clothing, I found this article to be interesting.

By: Andrea Funk on July 9th, 2015

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Memory Quilt Made?


memorial_quilt_with_photos-703443-editedOn the Internet memory quilts range in price from $100 to over $1,000. Why such a large price range? There are a number of factors that go into the cost of making a quilt; taking a free quilt out of the discussion, here are a number of cost factors that go into the pricing of a memorial quilt.


There are 3 basic materials that go into all quilts. There is a quality range for each type of material. Higher quality material costs more and will be reflected in the price of your quilt. So if a quilt is very inexpensive, the materials used to make that quilt will also be inexpensive.


Although memorial quilts are made in many different styles, added fabric is generally used for the backing and binding of the quilts. To help think about fabric, compare it to the thread count of bed sheets. The lower the thread count, the cheaper the fabric. Fabrics can also be made from 100% polyester, 100% cotton and any combination of the two. 100% polyester fabric with a low thread count is inexpensive, whereas, 100% cotton with a high thread count is much more expensive.


Batting is the “stuffing” that is used in the middle of a quilt. Batting comes in a variety of quality levels – from thin 100% polyester, to high quality needle punched cotton batting. Polyester batting tears easily, it bunches up and will poke out the back of the quilt. Needle punched cotton battings are the best choice, and will cost two to three times more than polyester batting.


All quilts use thread for sewing the blocks together and quilting. There are cheap threads that won’t withstand time and use and there are quality threads that will. The less expensive a quilt, the less likely it will have been made with quality thread.

Find more information on memory quilts here.


MemorialquiltforalittleboyAnother cost that is calculated into the price of a quilt is labor. Minimum wage is about $8 an hour. Typically, minimum wage is reserved for entry level and unskilled workers. Accomplished quilt makers are not unskilled. Usually, they should have over five years of quilt making experience – the more the better.


It takes skill to make a memorial quilt. If it didn’t take any skill or experience, you would make it yourself.  Highly skilled and talented quilters make the nicest memorial quilts. This means that their hourly rate will be much higher than minimum wage. If you want to only pay minimum wage to a quilter, expect an entry-level unskilled quilter to attempt making your quilt. If you value your clothing and memories you are putting into your memorial quilt, an inexpensive quilt should scare you!


How long does it take to make a memorial quilt? This depends on a number of factors including quilt style, complexity and craftsmanship. A low-cost quilt will take less time than a more expensive quilt. This means that the low-cost quilt will have a simple style without any complexities and the workmanship may be questionable.

The Worth a Quilter Places on His or Her Work

If a quilter under prices their work, they are telling you up front that they do not think that their time and skills are good enough to charge more. Think about what this tells you. If someone does not find value in his or her work, will you.


Wright_Family_Memorial_Quilt_3-447719-editedThere are two basic styles of quilts – those that are made in columns and rows and those that are made with our Too Cool puzzle style. The number of steps and the amount of time it takes to make each style is vastly different.


A traditional style memorial quilt is made from blocks in columns and/or rows and the blocks are all one size. This makes the project very easy and involves very little planning and time to layout.

The “Too Cool” Style

A memorial quilt made with many different sizes and shaped blocks involve a lot of consideration, planning, math and other time consuming steps. This style of quilt will take 10 times or longer than a traditional quilt.

These and other considerations are indicators of the quality of a quilt. They also greatly influence the price of the quilt.  For example, someone with great skill and artistry using cheap material might make a good looking quilt, but the quilt still has been made with cheap material that will look cheap and not wear well. Conversely, a quilt made with high quality materials that is poorly made is still a poorly made quilt.  You want a quilt that is made from high quality materials by a skilled and artistic quilter.

Look carefully at the cost of memorial quilts. Be sure to know what you are paying for. A quilt that costs only $100 is probably going to be a disappointment.

To learn more about having a memorial quilt made, please feel free to download our Memorial Quilt Guide. It has information that will help you through the process of having a memorial quilt made.

Download the Guide


Eli Leon, collector of quilts and other items

Eli Leon — A lifetime of quirky collections for sale

Eli Leon and Lemmy. Photo courtesy of Eli Leo Living Trust
Eli Leon and Lemmy. Photo: Courtesy of Eli Leo Living Trust

For 55 years, Oakland Reichian psychotherapist Eli Leon collected kitchiana, textiles, aprons, vintage clothing, traditional standard quilts, and, most famously, Afro-tradition quilts which he bought in California and on repeated research and collecting trips to East Texas, northern Louisiana, and southern Arkansas.

Beginning on June 23 through 25, Geneva and Julie Addison will be selling his collections, other than the Afro-tradition quilts, in his home at 5663 Dover St. in Oakland, a few blocks south of Berkeley. The collections are breathtaking — manifestations of a driven collector with a sharp eye for acquisition and for juxtaposition in his home. Proceeds from the sale will go towards Leon’s care. See their blog about the sale, with more than 500 photographs.

At my Quirky Berkeley blog, I explored Leon’s life, home and collections. Here I present a small portion of the wonderful quirk that will be for sale this weekend. The first weekend of the sale will deal with the non-textile collections. The traditional quilts and other textiles will be sold later this summer. The sale is first come, first served. It represents a perfect chance to pick up some pre-collected quirky material culture and to honor a great scholar and collector.

Describing Leon’s collection is not simple.

A homemade vest, using a grits sack for the fabric.

Leon’s most famous collection is of African-American quilts; it is the hope of his Trust that the collection be preserved intact by a museum or consortium of museums, so none will be for sale. About 100 of the traditional American quilts, but here are a couple photos that give a sense:

Double Wedding ring-yellow

Double wedding ring quilt. Photo: Chere Mah
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on June 15th, 2017.

Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on June 15th, 2017.

Leon kept most of his quilts in temperature and humidity-controlled airtight vaults.

Leon was a passionate and driven and skilled collector. I have never seen a better opportunity for buying quirky little things, and visiting Leon’s house will give a glimpse into the world of that driven and talented collector.


Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

Studio Art Quilt Associates: Featured Artist: Maria Shell

Maria Shell is an inspiration  to artists around the world.

SAQA Featured Artist: Maria Shell

Maria Shell

Maria Shell  Anchorage, Alaska

Artist Statement

Since 2011, I have been working in a series called Colors Grids. This has been a very satisfying explo-ration of patchwork as art. I love to layer pattern on top of pattern. Essentially, I am piecing, with my sewing machine, my own prints. These quilts are modern day tapestries of color, pattern, repetition, and stitch.

According to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, my Color Grid quilts are inspired by and related to the following quilt blocks–The Red Cross Quilt, Stone Mason’s Puzzle, City Streets, Squares and Square, and my favorite, Crossed Square.

Limiting the structure of my work to the traditional quilt block has allowed me to go deep into color and print. How do I get color to vibrate? How do I get a self made print to read against another self made print? How can I stitch these elements together so that the viewer sees not only hundreds of scraps of fabric but also the SUM–the whole as greater than its parts? What would happen if a traditional bed quilt ate a healthy dose of psychedelic mushrooms? Those are the questions I am trying to answer.

Vintage and contemporary commercial solid and print cotton fabrics, as well as hand dyed cotton textiles I have created are the materials I use in my work. These textiles are improvisationally and ruler cut and then stitched into a two dimensional surface. Once I create this pieced canvas, I spend hours on my long arm quilting machine stitching the top to cotton or wool batting and a fabric backing. The final step is to bind or face each individual piece.

TRIBE © Maria Shell

Beyond my love of the process of making a quilt—the hours of stitching, designing, ironing, and cutting—I am also a fierce advocate of the quilt as a legitimate art form. Many art quilters shy away from the word quilt and work actively to bury any references to the tradition in their work. They use the materials and techniques of the quilt while publicly denying its ancestry, preferring instead to align themselves with mediums more easily recognized as fine art—painting and photography, in particular.For years I have stood alone on this issue. My friends would say, don’t call yourself a quilter—there is so much baggage there! And I would say that is the point, but it is not baggage—it is a tradition and a history, and I stand on the backs of those who went before me with the hopes of moving this craft into new territory that celebrates the past while simultaneously embracing the future.

What makes me happiest is to create the most wacky colorful beautiful quilted compositions I can and then share them with the world.


SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?

SHELL: I started stitching when I was four years old. My mother let me use old clothing, and I made all kinds of things in the way that children do—stuffed animals and dolls, handbags, and pillows. I did not have sewing patterns or fancy fabric. So, I went at creating with what I had. My mother promised me a sewing machine when I turned ten, and I held her to it.

I think of myself as a maker whose primary medium is cloth and stitch. There is something about working with these materials that makes me feel good about myself and the world.

Dance Party at Tamara’s House © Maria Shell

I am obsessed with daily art projects. Last year for Project Every Day, I wore only clothing I had made for an entire year. Every day my youngest son would take my photo in the same place—the dirt road we live on. I would then post that image on Instagram. Right now, I am very intrigued by paper collage. I started with cough drop wrappers. Every day, I add a new material (usually paper) into that day’s composition. As I run out of a particular material it disappears from the compositions. I have been posting a new piece every day on Instagram. I am not particularly good with mixed media, but I am loving the journey.SAQA: What inspires you?

SHELL: I am constantly inspired by pattern, repetition, color, and the traditional quilt block

SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?

SHELL: I think of my work as hard edge painting made with stitch and fabric. The Hard-edge painting style is related to Geometric Abstraction, Op Art, Post-painterly Abstraction, and Color Field painting. Some of my favorite artists are Frank Stella, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and Bridget Riley.

SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?

SHELL: I am about as old school as you can get. I always say we piecers do three things—we cut, we stitch, and we press. I use a ruler, and I don’t use ruler. I use vintage and contemporary cotton textiles and hand dyed fabrics. I stitch on a Bernina 640, and I quilt on a Gammill Classic Plus.

SAQA: Where do you create?

SHELL: I have two studios. The main studio is in our home in Anchorage. My husband has built fabric and quilt storage all around the room—it is a highly functional space. I have two sewing centers—one is an old desk where my Bernina lives, the other is a long arm quilting machine. On the front of the studio is an L-shaped cutting station with a view of our front yard.

My second studio is very primitive. It is the back half of an old garage which is attached to our dry cabin in McCarthy, Alaska. There are holes in the walls where the summer breezes comes through, and it is totally powered by the sun. It also has a huge design wall.

SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?

To Agnes Martin, with Color © Maria Shell

SHELL: I spend at least half of my time: teaching; writing blogs, lectures, and grants; using social media, and connecting with people via phone and email. I like to get that work done first and then I can go into the studio. If I start with the studio, I have a very hard time quitting and moving into office, but I never have a problem quitting the office work and moving into the studio!SAQA: Have you published in art-related media?

SHELL: C&T is publishing my first book this year. It is called Improv Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts Made with Line & Shape. You can preorder the book here.

I did a short interview for the Quilt Show at the 2016 International Quilt Festival and I am taping a longer episode in August of this year.

I am also part of the SAQA video Stitching Together a Global Community.

SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?

SHELL: I just received a fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation to create 12 new large pieces based on the curved quilt block called Flowering Snowball. I have done a lot of linear work over the last five years, and I am very much looking forward to this new challenge.

I have joined a new small art group called Cloth in Common, and I will be producing new work based on challenges suggested by the members.

Project Every Day—the project where I wore only clothing I have made for an entire year—is moving into the next phase. I am hoping to make a stop action flip book style movie and a series of 12 quilts composed of the remains from the clothing.

I will also be having a solo show at Hello Stitch in Berkeley, California in November & December of 2017.

View more of Maria Shell’s work on her website and SAQA Juried Artist Member profile.

Connect with Maria Shell on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to her Blog.

Underwater Fantasy Art Quilt- a work in progress

My underwater fantasy art quilts are created on a table rather than on a design wall. I call it the fabric layering technique. I create a scene and then cover it with tulle netting and free motion quilt the three layers(back, batting,top) together.
I begin by choosing the top fabric. I prefer to choose a fabric with some dimension already on it, light and dark spaces. If I choose a dark background, then I will choose lighter colored materials for my  plants, fish, rocks and other items . If I choose a lighter background, then I will choose darker colored scenery.

Step 1 -The back fabric is flat on the table. A piece of batting is laid on top of that. You can see the white batting  hanging a bit over the edge. Then I laid a piece of moddled commercial fabric on top. The piece is about 14″ by 14″. I let the fabric’s different shades of coloring do part of the work in creating interest and depth in the piece. I lightly baste the layers together with an Avery glue stick.


Step 2-For this piece, I cut out light colored rocks and placed them in the foreground. I cut out irregularly shaped dots of different colored batik fabric for the jellies(formerly called jelly fish). I place the jellies as if they are swimming in the current.


Step 3- Next, I cut out plants and place them between the rocks. I add decorative threads for the tenacles of the jellies being aware of the movement of the water. When everything is in its place,I  baste the pieces in place with a light dab of glue.



Step 4-I cover the scene with tulle netting and pin the tulle in place.


Step 5- I free motion quilt the three layers together. I lower the feed dogs on my machine to allow me to move the piece however I want. The quilting  creates another level of movement.


Step 6-I finish the piece by zigzagging the edges twice. For larger pieces, I often attach a facing and turn it to the back and stitch by hand.


Here is a photo of the back of the piece where you can see the machine stitching easier.


Studio Art Quilt Associates Featured Artist: Cindy Grisdela

Sharing an interview with a great art quilter,

SAQA Featured Artist: Cindy Grisdela

Cindy Grisdela – Reston, Virginia

Artist Statement

From my studio looking out over a lake in Reston, VA, I draw inspiration for my contemporary wall quilts from the view of nature outside my window every day. Pebbles on the path or currents in water might become part of the texture I stitch into each piece. Color combinations in bird feathers or flowering plants might slip into the palette I use to start my next design.

My abstract art quilts are designed improvisationally without a preconceived pattern, a little bit like jazz music. Each decision about color and shape influences the next and complex blocks repeat like beats of a melody, calmed by irregular plain areas that provide a resting place for the eye.

The color is the first step. Putting colors together intuitively, I use fabric the way a painter might use paint to create graphic compositions that engage the viewer from a distance, yet invite a closer look.

The texture is the second step. The stitching lines provide contrast and dimension to the piece, integrating the different elements into a cohesive whole. I do all of my stitching on a sewing machine, but it is entirely hand driven. There’s no computer program or marking ahead of time. I stitch the motifs freehand using the needle and thread of the machine like a pencil or a brush.

I come from a long line of women who have expressed themselves using a needle and thread, although curiously there were no quilters in my family. Creating with various forms of fabric and thread has been a part of my life since I was a child, and I’m self taught as a fiber artist, with lots of experimentation along the way. My formal education includes a BA in Fine Arts from the College of William and Mary and an MBA from George Washington University.

My work is represented by Chasen Galleries in Richmond, VA, and can be found in a number of private collections all over the country. I am a teacher and author.


(Click images to enlarge)

SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?

Uneven Bars © Cindy Grisdela

GRISDELA: I’ve been sewing since I was 10 and my mother decided I was old enough to be trusted with her beloved Singer. I studied art in high school and college and experimented with painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture and weaving.I made my first quilt in 1983 after seeing an article in a magazine–a queen size Trip Around the World. After that I was hooked and I spent a number of years making traditional quilts as a creative outlet while I raised my family. About 15 years ago I got bored with following patterns and started seriously trying to make my own art in fabric.

SAQA: What inspires you?

GRISDELA: I’m inspired by abstraction, color and texture. I enjoy playing with color and seeing how various colors and shapes interact. I think one of the reasons I create with fabric instead of with paint, for example, is the ability to add another dimension to my compositions by adding the stitching texture with dense free motion quilting. I want the stitching to be an integral part of the composition, not just a means to hold the three layers together.

SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?

GRISDELA: I have a degree in Art History, so there are always lots of influences rattling around in my head. I love Abstract Expressionism, especially the Color Field School of artists. Matisse’s cut outs are important to me, as are Klee, Kandinsky and Klimt. I’m also drawn to the work of Robert and Sonia Delaunay. Among quilt artists, I am indebted to the work of Gwen Marston, who was an early influence.

SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?

Nautilus © Cindy Grisdela

GRISDELA: I use hand dyed fabrics to create almost all of my current work–mostly by Cherrywood Fabrics. I experimented with dyeing my own fabrics a number of years ago, but realized that’s not my skill, so I’m happy supporting others who do it well.All of my work now is created using improvisational piecing techniques and free motion quilting. I enjoy the dialogue that happens when I’m just cutting out colors and shapes intuitively and letting one decision lead to the next. It’s a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, only I get to decide what the picture is going to look like. I do all my quilting freehand, without marking ahead of time or using a computer program.

SAQA: Where do you create?

GRISDELA: I have a studio in the basement of our townhouse on a lake. I look out on the lake while I’m sewing and it’s a very peaceful retreat. The commute downstairs is great too! I also have a shared space with nine other artists a short distance from my home. I’m the only fiber artist in the group, but it’s good to be around other creative people and share inspiration. I try to spend one day a week there.

SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?

GRISDELA: That’s the tough part. For the last ten years I’ve been traveling extensively showing an selling my work at fine art and fine craft shows all over the country. I do about 12-14 shows a year. I also have an active blog and presence on Instagram and Facebook, and I’m a regular contributor to the SAQA Journal.

Probably I spend about half my time on the business side–writing, applying to shows, keeping my website up to date, marketing, and other business. I like to spend time in the studio in the morning and early afternoon, because that’s when I’m most creative, and work on other business later in the day. I have to keep lists and work backward to make sure enough time is allotted to keep my inventory up for the shows, so sometimes I’m writing blog posts or marketing pieces on the road.

Lime Medley © Cindy Grisdela

SAQA: Have you published books or been a guest on an art-related media program?GRISDELA: My new book, Artful Improv: Explore Color Recipes, Building Blocks & Free Motion Quilting, was just released by C&T Publishing in October 2016. It’s a friendly guide to creating your own original art quilts without a pattern, using simple design principles and improv techniques.

SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?

GRISDELA: I will continue doing shows, although probably not as many in 2017, since I’m doing a lot more teaching in conjunction with the book. It’s such fun to see a diverse group of artists come together for a day or more to explore their individual creativity. Each person’s work is different from the others and different from mine because we all bring our own personalities and history to the table.

I also have plans to work on a new series of larger improv quilts. The great thing about improv is there’s always something new to explore!

View more of Cindy Grisdela’s work on her website and SAQA Juried Artist Member profile

Connect with Cindy Grisdela on Facebook and Instagram

Follow Cindy Grisdela on Twitter and Pinterest


Couching Threads and Creating Fabri

I have several small spools of yarn I inherited from my mother. I was drawn to keep them by their bright colors. I don’t know what my mother had used them for. But I wanted them for something. I didn’t know what though. They languished in my studio for a long time before a perfect use came up.

Several years back at a large quilt show, I saw a piece that had a large amount of yarn jammed on top into big blob. To be honest I didn’t like effect at all. But it gave me the idea to use the decorator threads and interesting yarns in a more orderly way. I stumbled upon a way to creating texture for my pieces.

After I have chosen the colors I want to use, I take a long strip of cotton fabric, 20”-40”long and 5” to 6” wide. I tried using other backings like ribbon but I didn’t like the effect as well. The ribbon was slippery and was not easy to sew with. I couch (zigzag) the threads to the cotton fabric. I don’t worry about the lines being straight. I also prefer to match the sewing thread color to the yarn as that the color of the yarn stands out more; the stitching appears invisible. But that is a personal choice one can make. A thin thread can be doubled or tripled to become thicker .  I repeat couching similar or different threads on the cotton fabric. Remember to leave space for the seam allowance and don’t sew too close to the side edges of the cotton fabric. Sometimes I keep the threads straight and sometimes I cross one thread on top of another.  I like the movement this creates on my quilt. Overthinking this process is not necessary. I find it fun and relaxing. If things don’t turn out as I would like then I can just save the piece for another project.  After 5 or 6 threads have been couched, then I randomly cut them into pieces to use as fabric.

It is easy to find interesting yarns and threads at flea markets or garage sales. There won’t be enough for a scarf or a sweater but there will be more than enough for your couching creating fabric projects.


Maria Shell, Alaskan Quilter

Faculty Profiles: Maria Shell
For more than 35 years, QBL has brought world-class faculty to Central NY for 2 weeks each summer. This year, we’ve invited Maria Shell to teach two signature workshops  Abstraction through Color, Pattern, and Repetition (2-days) and Making Prints out of Solids (3-days). Maria Shell’s work is grounded in the tradition and craft of American quilt making. She strives to take the classical components of a traditional bedquilt and manipulate them with the hope of creating surprising combinations of pattern, repetition, and color for the viewer.

An interview with Maria
All of your quilts have such bold graphic colors- have you always worked this way? If not, how have your quilts changed?
This is my very first quilt. (right)
So, I would say that from the beginning I have loved bold graphic colors and compositions. I remember studying for hours and hours quilts that I liked. I wanted to figure out what I liked about them and how I could duplicate that. It really is about creating contrast through pattern, color, or value.
You also have worked on many community quilt projects. Can you tell us some more about that and the people you worked with?
I started making community quilts as a way to justify my quilt making obsession. I tried to make a community quilt for every baby that I knew in Valdez, Alaska. I would collect the blocks from other moms and then stitch them together. Lots of quilters helped me make those quilts happen. I have written about these quilts in several blog posts listed below.
In the fall of 2014, I was an Artist in Residence at the McColl Center for Art & Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. A big part of that residency program is community engagement. I worked with a formerly chronically homeless population to build a community quilt to be installed at Moore Place, their new home. That was an amazing experience and a spectacular quilt. If you would like to know more about my residency, Moore Place, and HOME the community quilt we built, you can by following these links.
I love the deep meaning of community quilts-we are literally stitched together.
The underlying structure of many of your quilts is actually a simple grid, can you tell us more about how you get so much complexity and variety out of grids?
For six years, I have been working in series called Color Grids. They are based on a traditional quilt block that goes by several names including The Red Cross Quilt, Stone Mason’s Puzzle, City Streets, Crossed Square, and my favorite, Squares and Square. It is essentially an uneven nine patch. One of my missions as an artist is to claim the traditional quilt block as a legitimate art form.
I have challenged myself to use this same grid over and over again-just like a gridded traditional quilt. But instead of things remaining static, I expand and contract the grid while also filling the space with different information-color, print, shape, and line are always changing within the constraints of the grid.
Funky Monkey has a slightly different format. If you look closely you will see that Funky Monkey is really sixteen blocks placed in a grid with sashing. The direction of the lines within the blocks creates interesting figure ground work. The eye moves back and forth trying to decide exactly what is ground and what is figure.
With Solstice, I introduced print into the mix. I am still exploring how to successfully do this.  Adding print to the mixture definitely opens up some new possibilities, but it also complicates things because it is one more variable to contend with.
What do you like most about teaching Abstraction through Color, Pattern, and Repetition?
  I love this class because it really is the sum of what I have been working on since I began making quilts. The students start with an image of their own and, with my help, figure out how to abstract it. The compositions that have come out of this workshop are amazing! Here is Wendy Hoag’s quilt that she started in this workshop.
What do students take away from this workshop?
 Students get the opportunity learn about how I use color, pattern, and repetition to create abstract work, and they discover that creating original work is exciting and do-able.
What do you like most about teaching Making Prints out of Solids?
Making Prints out of Solids is a simple concept with mind boggling opportunities. We all recognize prints in our every day lives-stripes, polka dots, herringbones, chevrons, and even plaids. In this class, we recreate and piece our own prints. It is super exciting. This is sample of what the students learn how to make in this class.
What do students take away from this workshop?
Students will learn a lot about color and how pattern and repetition can be used to create dynamic compositions. They will also get a clear handle on how to cut and piece improvisation-ally  while also learning some slick technical tricks to help all those pieces fit together in the end. Kate Yates made these two quilts after taking this workshop. I think they are incredible!

More Classes & Information on QBL 2017

QBL Classes  Housing Participant Information
How to Register QBL Quilt Show QBL 2017 Brochure
Questions? Call the Schweinfurth Art Center at (315)255-1553 or email today!

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Schweinfurth Art Center · 205 Genesee St. · Auburn, NY 13021 · 315.255.1553 ·
Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn, NY 13021
Sent by in collaboration with
Constant Contact
%d bloggers like this: