“Art quilt? No, I’m no good at art. I can’t draw.”
My art education has consisted of elementary/middle school art class and a slew of museum memberships. But I love to experiment with different tools and techniques in quilting, so when space opened up in the Art Quilt Club at my local quilt shop, I jumped at the chance to join up.
I made some friends who invited me to participate in a small informal group of art quilters, and although “I’m no good at art,” I figured I could learn a little and make some more friends, so I said, “Sure!”
At their next meeting, they were going to bring their most recent projects, which were supposed to be “fruit.” I figured I’d start on something, although I was unlikely to finish in time. I decided to challenge myself with a wholecloth mini-quilt of a pineapple.
I have a big tin full of Derwent Inktense pencils that I’d been wanting to play with, so I looked around online for ideas of how to use them. First I tried just drawing on fabric. Then I brushed it with a mix of water and fabric medium.
I thought it looked kind of cool, but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t know what I wanted to make, but it wasn’t this. Not right now, anyway.
Next, I took a piece of fabric and coated the entire thing with that same mix of water and fabric medium. After it dried, I drew a pineapple lightly with pencil (I used my trusty lightbox and traced part of it–I really can’t draw) and used a little 505 spray to put a piece of batting onto the back of the fabric. Then I traced over the lines with Aurifil 50 wt. I used a free-motion foot and went pretty slowly.
This time, I dipped the Inktense pencils in water to color the pineapple. I tried to color the lightest areas first and then gradually get darker. This is what I brought to show the art quilters the first time I met them:
Okay, I was pretty pleased with this. But it was just a pineapple floating in space. It needed a surface. I remembered a quilt that I saw at Quilt Con and was inspired to make a tablecloth.
Using a ruler and pencil, I drew a horizon line and made small marks about 3/4″ apart along it. Then I made marks about 1″ apart along the bottom of the quilt. I drew lines between the marks, added horizontal lines, and voilà, perspective. (Kind of). Then I filled the whole thing in with more Aurifil.
Next, I thought, “It needs a chair.” So I drew a chair, outlined it with thread, and filled it in with Inktense pencil the way I did the pineapple. Then I added some paneling the same way. Then, a window. I decided it would be night time, because the way I had shaded the pineapple it wouldn’t make sense to have sunlight streaming in from that direction. I put a little tulle on to simulate a screen and differentiate the window from the window sill. I made a little curtain.
Then it stopped talking to me. The curtain didn’t feel right, and the wall needed something. So I got to thinking about pineapples.
Did you know that pineapples are a symbol of hospitality and warmth? I thought about this picture I was creating, about a well-lit and cheerful table contrasted against the dark outside, and I realized that the color I chose for the paneling reminded me of the cabinets in my grandparents’ kitchen.
I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ kitchen table. I grew up running in and out of their house, and it got pretty crowded around the table sometimes, but there always seemed to be room for another chair.
So I decided to try to evoke the warmth of that kitchen. I “painted” the wall a sunny yellow, and used Photoshop to shrink down and “frame” the decorations I chose to hang there. Here’s where I kind of broke with my original plan of a wholecloth quilt using only thread and Inktense pencils.
Believe it or not, the last part was the hardest. The kitchen had a big sliding glass door that had some pretty memorable curtains made from a special fabric. They were faded, but otherwise in good shape. And they had been given to me.
I’ve had them on a shelf for years. It was hard for me to cut into one of them, but I know I’d never use them as curtains, and what better way to show them off?
Mimi had another trivet hanging over the stove. It said, “Come In, Sit Down, Relax, Converse. Our House Doesn’t Always Look Like This, Sometimes It’s Even Worse.” I think the first part of that really sums up the atmosphere I was aiming for, and the symbolism of the pineapple that started the whole project.