Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alice's Canyon: Sunrise Over the Urban Canyon

I had many canyon photos of my own, but none seemed just right.  So I turned to the Internet and found many lovely images.  One in particular I was eager to try to render in fabric, a “slot canyon” that was spectacular, but I knew that to use another’s copyrighted image as the basis of my quilt, I needed to ask permission.  Alas, my favorite picture’s photographer didn’t reply to my email! 

But then the phrase “urban canyon” popped into my mind!  Yes!  I sketched several make-believe cityscapes.  When I came up with one I liked, I drew it more carefully using a ruler on 12"x12” graph paper.  This I traced onto freezer paper, and I used those shapes as templates for my quilt.

At first I used fabrics printed with window-like squares for the buildings.  After I laid out the first version of this quit, I asked my husband, “Can you tell what this is supposed to be?”  He studied it, and then said ruefully, “I’m sorry; I really can’t!”

It was a classic case of his not seeing the forest for the trees!  Yes, those “trees”—those colorful buildings with their fanciful “windows”—were ideal, but just not for a quilt this small.  I then applied Wonder Under to solid-look fabrics of black, gray, brown, and blue.  These I cut using my templates and assembled version #2.

I called Bob in again—Eureka!  He knew immediately that what I was picturing was a cityscape, in fact, an “urban canyon.”  I fused all the buildings and the street to some fabric that reminded me of a sunrise.  Then I fused the front to some all-cotton batting.  Appliqué stitches served as the chief method of quilting, both buttonhole and zigzag stitching. I couched several lines of black and brown Perle cotton thread down on three of the buildings, to delineate the fronts and the sides of these structures.  I then added some random machine quilting in the sky.

I finished the edges with a technique I learned at the Sue Benner workshop last fall—multiple zigzag stitches in several different colors.  As Sue does, I left dangling threads at the four corners.  The back is a cityscape print that I’ve treasured since 1999; it depicts Seattle (the part I used); Washington, D.C.; and New York City.  The NYC portion includes the Twin Towers, and thus this fabric is precious to me.

Here's the back showing the skyline of Seattle.

I wanted to show you how the quilt looks when I pull back a bit, to show
the dangling threads at each corner.


  1. Alice this is just lovely!! You conveyed your idea perfectly and the sunrise fabric is just spectacular. Love the backing as well. Sorry you didn't hear from the photographer. I received an immediate response from Gene Burch which amazed and thrilled me!

  2. Oh Alice, I think we really are kindred spirits! Needless to say I love your interpretation of the theme! Wonder if there will be any more cityscapes? I love the perspective that you chose, you really do get the sense of being in a canyon, even though it is a city.

  3. What a fun unexpected interpretation of a canyon. It really works! Love the colors and the perspective and the layering. Great job Alice. Don't we all have many canyons in our minds!!!!!

  4. Love your fabric choices! This turned out so nicely and it will be great to see it in person.

  5. Really very nice, Alice. And when I am in the big city, I think it is a trip to the heavens...and what colorful ones you present. Perfectly evoked thoughts. Enjoyed your odyssey in the making.

  6. I like the depth perception you created in such a small space. Your building fabrics seem to shimmer with the reflective quality skyscrapers would. Love the twist on the theme as well.

  7. I love the originality of your theme, the subtle colors and the sunrise. I remember when I used to drive into downtown St. Louis, I felt as if I was driving between a giant's teeth.

  8. Alice, this is beautiful. I especially loved the background you used. I had trouble with my sky and when I saw yours, it was a Duh! moment. Love it!

  9. Hi Alice - Stunning ! I hadn't thought of an Urban Canyon, and you depicted yours perfectly. Your perspective is wonderful, and I loved your narrative about couching thicker threads on to help define the building edges which helped immensely with the perspective. What a great job you did with my challenge word ! Many thanks :-D