Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 1994: A Blast From The Past

I was pulling quilts for an upcoming quilt guild lecture next week for a Portrait Quilt Trunk Show. I like to show a few of my first portrait quilts to explain to people that if the desire is there and the willingness to learn the technical and artistic aspects of portrait quilts anyone can do it. My first few attempts were not show stoppers!
In the early 1990s I wanted to make portrait quilts. I knew how to draw and I figured out with tissue paper to make the applique pieces. But there were a few setbacks. I needed to learn how to piece, cut with a rotary cutter, sandwich the quilt and quilt it, add a binding and then I only had hand applique. I wanted to put pictures/motifs on a background but I only knew about hand applique. 
This quilt is an example of my hand applique experience. The quilt is from May 1994 and is a "selfie" of myself and my daughter Jordana just before she was 8 years old. I actually was smart enough to put a quilt label on the back and I called it "Mother and Daughter." This is bittersweet since we just celebrated Mother's Day! It also has my old rotary phone number which I had forgotten!!
I didn't enjoy hand applique at all! I quit making portrait quilts and made traditional pieced quilts which taught me the technical ropes. In 2005 I had nearly given up on quilting because of traditional quilt boredom and unaware of the Internet's potential. I was in a local bead shop in Appleton Wisconsin when I ran into a quilter friend who was now embracing art quilts. She told me about fusible web and how I iron motifs to a background to create a picture. I was elated and made my first raw edged fused portrait quilt in late 2005 and haven't stopped since. I buy Wonder Under by the bolt now!!
Back to the quilt in the photo. I see some similarities to how I proceed now. Portrait quilts, scrappy fabric choices, radiating quilting lines from the back of the portrait, the curves lines in the neck and shoulder area, the shape of the nose, the bright colors, a label on the back and a hanging sleeve.
What is new and improved in 26 years-I machine quilt and I quilt heavily, I do not embroider the facial features but raw edge fuse applique them. I block my quilts for a better shape. I square up everything at every step so the end result is square. My bindings are narrower, the corners sharper and there is no space in the binding that the judges dislike. Even though a judge's comments can hurt one's feelings it is for the best to technically improve! I use batiks as much as possible and, in general, the fabrics available to us currently are so much greater than 26 years ago!!
I would have placed the colorful blocks on the bottom of the quilt and added more of them for visual balance but it is still a nice sentimental quilt. I also would have had less background/negative space and more fussy cut butterflies. And I learned to add embellishments to my quilts if they are hanging on the wall.
This project was my first attempt at the Hoffman Challenge! It did not make the cut (I see why now!) and I didn't enter again until 2010 which did make the cut. I have had five quilts in the Hoffman Challenge since 2010 and 2016s is made and has been submitted for judging.
It's fun to look at old quilts to see where we were artistically and technically and how our supplies have changed and advanced to make better quilts.
I hope you have some oldie but goodie quilts or if you are a new quilter to save you projects and label them with at least a date!!

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