Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Road Trip

Another item that I donated for our quilt guild's auction was a road trip to Grounds For Sculpture( in Hamilton, NJ and The Pennington Quilt Works( There were 3 bidders and so off we went. Grounds For Sculpture is a very cool , mostly outdoor museum. It was built in 1992, where the NJ State Fairgrounds used to be, to showcase the sculptures of J. Seward Johnson. His sculptures are of people that are very life-like. Sometimes you can't tell if it's actually a person or a sculpture. In addition to these types of sculptures peppered throughout the park, there are several vignettes that he has adapted from Renoir paintings.

All in all there are over 250 sculptures by many different artists displayed in this amazing botanical setting, with specimen type plantings. Sometimes you round a corner and surprise, there is a piece of art. Sometimes they are in small isolated areas or through a little door. One of my favorite ones was created by Joan Danziger, called October Beginnings. It was maybe 2 feet high - so child-like.

A bonus was the flock of resident peacocks. It must have been mating season. A couple of the males had their feathers arrayed full out. You could hear them shimmying those feathers trying to attract the attention of the uninterested females. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the "show".

We then drove about 20 minutes from the Sculpture Garden to the Pennington Quilt Works. This is one of my favorite quilt shops. They have tons of fabric- most of it very current. Tons of batiks, Amy Butler, Moda and more. I was told that they really try and move their fabric. First it starts out in a collection, then it moves to the color section. As soon as the fabric has been there for a year, it goes into their sale section. Nice.

Another bonus is that in the same strip mall as the quilt shop, there is both a knitting/needlework store and a bead shop. Heaven!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Discharge Dying How To's

When you think of fabric dying, you assume that you will be changing the color of a fabric by adding color to it. Discharge dying isn't about adding color to fabric, it's about removing color from fabric. It's really a technical term for bleaching. The first step in learning about this process is using products containing bleach to remove the color from black cotton fabric.

As part of a fundraising auction for my quilt guild, I offerred to give a workshop on discharge dying along with lunch provided by Terry Kramzar, at my home. Adequate ventilation must be provided. Since it was a very wet and rainy day, we did our experimenting in my garage with the door partially open. I decided to make it an experiment and discovery day. The discharge products included Clorox bleach in a spray bottle, Soft Scrub with bleach, Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Clorox Bleach Pen and Lysol Mildew Remover.

All kinds of crafty items were made available for making designs on the black fabric. These included quilting stencils, foam brushes, sponges, plastic needlework canvas, bicycle parts, foam rubber stamps, bubble wrap and stick-on letters.

Let the games begin! It is so energizing doing this type of experimenting with a group. You feed off of each other and as one person tries something, another tries it and does it one better. Everyone tried the different discharging materials, different lengths of exposure time and different crafty items. It was surprising that even though everyone brought their own black cotton fabric, they all pretty much discharged to a rust color. I thought we might get more variation. One of the fabrics was more of a black tone on tone and that bleached to a different color. A poly-cotton , more poly than cotton, became grey after extended bleaching.

After being exposed to the bleach, the discharge process must be stopped, or else the fabric can become very fragile. This is important to know: YOU MUST USE A SOLUTION OF SODIUM THIOSULFATE (Bleach Stop or Anti-Chlor) TO STOP THE BLEACHING PROCESS. This is available from Dharma Trading ( . You only need a teaspoon for 2.5 gallons of water. This product removes all of the excess chlorine. There is a lot of erroneous information out there, that you can use vinegar. VINEGAR WILL NOT STOP THE BLEACHING PROCESS! After soaking the the Bleach Stop for a least 25 minutes, soak in regular water and then wash in your regular laundry detergent.

We had a blast! A makeshift clothesline in my garage shows how prolific everyone was and the amazing variety. The consensus was :

Favorite Discharge Agent: Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner.
Favorite Design Aid: Stencils and foam stamps

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

To Show Or Not To Show

So you think you may want to enter a quilt show, but you're just not sure if you are willing to put your creation out in the public eye and if it is of quilt show caliber. Should you do it? There are lots of things to consider.

There are many quilt shows with varying degrees of selectivity. Most quilt shows put on by local quilt guilds will show all the quilts that are submitted for consideration. Then, at the other end of the spectrum are the top echelon of quilt shows that are extremely exclusive with a rigorous screening process. There are shows for traditional quilts and there are shows for art quilts and then everything inbetween.

The first thing to know is that most of the time you have to pay an entry fee. This fee can range anywhere from $5 to $40. The lower fee would be for a local show with no monetary prizes. The higher fee might be for a national/international show, where you might be able to win money.

The first question you have to ask yourself is if you want to share your quilt with the public. Then, is it worth paying out money for what you are going to receive? And the next question is - what am I going to receive? The answer to this last question is based purely on my experience. I have had quilts in local shows, national and international shows and exhibitions.

If this is your first experience, a local show may be the best place to start. There are lots of local shows. Many quilt guilds mount a show, usually every other year. Membership in the guild is usally not a requirement. You may be entering the show for many reasons:
  • Share your quilts with the public (family and friends included)

  • Get a critique of your quilt that might include workmanship, color selection, design choices

  • Recognition

  • Win a ribbon/money

If you are looking for a critique, make sure there will be judges. Whoever puts on the show, usually hires NQA certified judges. These judges go through a very rigorous training course that includes mastering many quilting techniques.

My best experience in entering a show was my first show. It was a local show put on by the quilt guild that I belonged to at the time. The year was 1994 and I entered "Whitney Lake" It was machine pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted. The 2 comments that I still remember (and that was over 10 years ago) were that 1. The binding was empty 2. The plaid fabric triangles should match.

After the initial sting of criticism, I have made sure that I have never had an empty binding again. The matching of the plaids was a personal choice and I chose to ignore this comment. It is really your choice in how you view the critique.

After years of making quilts of my own design and teaching, I decided to enter larger shows with more exposure. I also entered some of my quilts in exhibitions. Both of these types of events involve submitting photos and being accepted (or juried in). They also usually involve an entry fee. To enter any of these types of shows, your quilts really need to be your original design. And you need to match your style of quilting with the type of show. Places to look for shows to enter include magazines, such as Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. There are also a few great websites to look for potential shows:

If you know other great sites, e-mail me and I will add them to my list on my sidebar.

The benefits of participating in a large show/exhibition are many. Although I have found judges comments to be limited , just based on the number of quilts they are seeing. Recognition is a great thing too. Exposure to a wide audience, sometimes in many different areas of the country, is the most exciting thing for me. This exposure can lead to being included in magazines, calendars, other exhibitions, teaching opportunities and even commissions.

So you have to decide if this is what you want to do and if this matches your goals. I have to tell you, it's a great feeling to see your quilt hanging in a show and watching people viewing it. (Ribbons are the icing on the cake, but many times I have seen quilts win a first prize ribbon in one show and win nothing in another. Judging is very subjective and should not deter you from your path.)