Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rita's Travel: "I took the one less traveled by" from the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Two years ago I was commissioned to do a series of 40 inch by 40 inch panels of the four seasons as they might appear in the beautiful backyard ravine of dear friends that live near Lexington, Kentucky.  Photos of these were posted on this blog in the introductory section of our Material Mavens.  The panels were created using a technique I first saw several years ago on the TV show, Simply Quilts, hosted by Alex Anderson.  Alex's guest was Noriko Endo from Japan (Confetti Naturscapes from Dragon Threads Publishing).  Since doing those four large panels, I have wondered how this technique could be used for something much smaller.  This month's theme was the perfect place to experiment with a smaller format.

Photo Essay of the Technique

 The first step is to find a photograph that illustrates your vision.  I had my chosen photo enlarged to 16 inches by 16 inches to allow for the 12 x 12 quilt panel plus the necessary material needed for the gallery wrap frame.
Choose your fabrics in the colors that mimic the photograph.  I feel that batiks are the best choice because they essestially do not have a right and wrong side.

Trace the photo onto clear plastic with a fine tip Sharpie marker.

Place the tracing on the back of the photo.  The back of the photo is white making the tracing stand out nicely.  Again, trace the entire photo but do it this time on freezer paper.  This will become your master pattern for reference.

Next, trace the pieces that will be fused to the background, also on freezer paper.  For my Travel piece, only the tree trunks and limbs were fused.  Roughly cut out the traced shapes and iron to the right side of the chosen fabric.  Then put fusible on the wrong side of those fabric pieces.  I used a paper backed fusible called Shades SoftFuse.  I had not used this product before, but it is very nice, soft, not stiff and works very well.  Remove the paper from the fusible web and then cut out the shapes using the pattern you drew on freezer paper and which is still attached to the fabric.

For the background, I used two fabrics that were seamed together, one for the sky and one for the road.  Make your quilt sandwich at this time.  This must be done before you start adding tiny bits of fabric.

Next, I sliced and diced the fabric for the leaves, ground cover and pebbes.  I have found that tiny parallelograms work well for leaves.  To do this, I cut my fabric into narrow strips and then cross cut the strips at a 45 degree angle.  For contrast, I cut squares for pebbles and ground cover.  It is a guessing game to know how much fabric to cut.  Start with a small quantity as you can always cut more.  I put each fabric in a small bowl which became my 'paint pots'.

As the piece is started, study the photograph and determine which parts would be the greatest distance away.  Those are done first.  The rest of the details are then added from back to front and layered one on top of another.  You may find you will need to refer to the master drawing and that you can use the plastic tracing to place the fabrics that must be fused.

Now for the fun part, which was placing all those tiny bits of fabric.  My most valuable tools were long tweezers and a stylus.  I would pick up the fabric pieces with tweezers and then push them into place with the stylus.

When the image is to your liking, it will be completely covered with a piece of black tulle.  It is helpful to have a second set of hands for this step, as it needs to be carefully placed on top of the image.  To secure the image for quilting, use safety pins but do not fasten them.  Use as many as you feel you will need to hold everything in place.  You will be amazed that after doing the pinning, you can pick up the top of the quilt and nothing moves!  Remove the safety pins as you quilt.  I used invisible thread.


  1. Rita, this is truly beautiful and amazing to look at. How thoughtful of you to provide a photo tutorial. I was showing the beaders today your piece and they sucked in their breaths. Thanks for sharing. I like a maroon tulle but guess black works great as well.

    1. Linda, I have never tried Maroon. When I did the large panels, I purchased pale green for spring, medium green for summer, etc., and those made things look 'muddy'. I had purchased black as well and ended up putting black on all.

  2. This is striking and makes me want to try this method thanks to the explicit tutorial you shared. I'm not sure I have the patience for this but I really appreciate the texture and impressionistic feeling portrayed here. Beautiful!

  3. Rita, I recall seeing that same Simply Quilts episode, and I have never forgotten it. But unlike you, I didn't buy the book and wasn't brave enough to attempt such an intricate process. What an inspiration you are for ALL of us! This quilt is stunning. And your tutorial--absolutely great. Thanks for taking the time as you worked to document photographically the steps. You are such a treasure, and I am so grateful that you are in our group.

  4. Perfect technique to represent your photograph. Thank you so much for your very detailed tutorial.

  5. I was lucky enough to see your four seasons at the quilt show and they are as stunning as this quilt. Thank you for the lesson, I rarely know what techniques are being described. Pretty, pretty, pretty (just like you!).

  6. Beautiful! You have done it again! The photo, colors, technique are all just perfect. How nice that you now own a quilt using this technique. Love your paint pots of fabric photo too.

  7. Rita, your attention to detail is amazing. What a gift you have. I love the photo and all the colors in your piece, and am especially grateful for the careful explanation of your techniques. Just stunning!