Last fall I took a journey into the Decew Falls conservation area, close to my home in Pelham.  My objective was to capture suitable imagery for my new-found passion for sculptural quilting.  Line, shape, colour, texture, light and ultimately form served as inspiration in this piece.  I have for the last year been searching for a printing company who could accurately render my photographs on quilting fabric with no limit to size and at a reasonable cost.  This spring I found such a company “Design Your Fabric” located in Mississauga that I cannot speak more highly of.  I would recommend them to anyone interested in this pursuit.

I worked up a small 8 x 8 inch sample of one image to see how the end result would look and was pleased enough to go BIG – 80 x 110 inches.


I was excited by the prospects of beginning work on this image, although slightly overwhelmed by the size and time it would take – still, no longer than some of my former projects.  I estimate around 50 hours to complete.

As with other quilting projects, the subject necessarily dictates the technique.   The photo itself is ambiguous to read.  It is heavy with shadows and light, thus creating projections of shapes and colours.  This is what I particularly liked about this photo.

My aim is to project to the viewer the texture and dimension of the image. I began here with the sumac leaves aiming to create the feel of the slightly jagged edges. At times a straight running stitch for outlining is all that the image requires.  Working up the branches, especially the heavier ones requires some form of trapunto (back stuffing) technique – whether without stuffing or with some degree of rigidity.  My earlier attempts at giving these branches a rigid form were not satisfactory which sent me to my reserve of fabrics.  I found a piece of old ironing board underlay which did the trick – never throw anything away!  Deciding what to leave unquilted for a distant background effect was also an aspect of the decision making.  I am presently working on my first sumac bud.  I always find this type of texturing a lot of fun.  I call it my free-form smocking technique.

I am now just over 3 weeks into the project and thinking ahead to the next quilt and further pieces.  My aim is to complete 20 quilts.  My thinking is evolving as I see this dynamic of colour and form in nature and perhaps the way in which we see it juxtaposed against a human made landscape.  This part I will keep hidden for a while yet.

The process of creating a raised surface continues from one area to another, dictating the technique that will provide the texture and profile that I feel will most compliment the photograph.  I don’t know why I feel this necessity to take the illusion of 3-D into the ream of the “real.”  I have challenged this concept before asking the question “what is real?”  I am moreover mesmerised by the process and am completely transported when engaged, this despite the neck cramps and worse.  I try to get up and move periodically and try not to work more than 5-6 hours a day at the same task.

The final stage involves cutting and pinning the surface area, which is now fairly warped, to a background which is exactly rectangular to the narrowest measurement horizontally and vertically.  The extra surface area is pinned down to create more dimension.  Areas such as the feature sumac are back padded to add the amount of height/dimension that looks right.  There is a lot of perspective correction and decision involved here until all comes together in a way that looks natural and pleases the eye.  The completed surface is now sewn down by hand in just enough places to hold firmly.  The perimeter is sewn down exactly along a drawn line.  I must admit that I am quite fussy about the exactness of measurements and angles of the corners.  I expect the viewer to appreciate the work itself and not be distracted by skewed borders.

At this point I am leaving the work for a while to start my next project, but have purchased a lovely heritage blue that works with the sky to create a fairly narrow border that extends the sky background of the quilt.  I will post when that is completed.


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