Friday, March 13, 2015

Asilomar/Empty Spools 2015

I just spent a wonderful five days at Asilomar, on the Monterey coast of California, attending Empty Spools Seminars.  Such a beautiful place to be, and quilting all day long with others is a real treat.  This year I took a class from Denise Oyama Miller and Nancy Ryan called "Landscape Impressions."  Boy, did I learn a lot!  They were great teachers with a great technique.

I started with a landscape photo.  I chose the one below, a street full of gingko trees in the fall when they are a beautiful yellow.  I proceeded to make the landscape mine by removing the street, houses, and cars, and adding in greenery/forest floor instead.

First I fused my batting onto my backing fabric.  The size of my piece is 14" x 24".  Onto this "canvas" of the layered batting, I began to build my landscape.

It was loosely sketched out with chalk onto the batting.  See--I've added a small path instead of the street and cars.  

The next job was to choose some fabric for my "picture quilt."  I had several blues that I thought would work for the sky, and someone in the class let me use these very light fabrics.

To make an impressionistic quilt with this method, I needed to cut my fabric up into tiny, tiny pieces.  I started with two strips about 2" wide lying on my cutting board.  After I had cut them into tiny strips by going back and forth with my rotary cutter, I cut the tiny strips into tinier pieces by slicing at 90 degrees from the first cuts.  (Sort of like finely dicing carrots!)

You can see how small the pieces are in this photo of my green pieces.

When I was done cutting all my blue colors, this is what my "palette" looked like.

Now comes the fun part!  I sprinkled these little blue pieces at the top of my canvas to form the sky.  I added the lighter pieces near the top.  Even though there are going to be those lovely yellow gingko leaves covering some of the same place, I needed to have a background of sky on which to build.

Now that the sky is pretty much done, it's time to start working on the lower part of the canvas.  This needs to be done before I work on the trees.  Here I have laid down a few very dark (black and dark gray) pieces for the very back of the undergrowth, where there would be shadows from the trees. 

Here I have it filled in with several different shades of browns and grays.  I've left a space where I'm going to put a path.  

At long last I get to start working on the beautiful trees.  Below you can see the palette of colors which I've prepared.  A hotel plastic room key is an easy way to pick up (or move) a lot of little pieces at once. As is a putty knife.  I used my fingers to pick up small amounts to sprinkle on my quilt.

Now I have all the trees finished.  As the original photo showed different shades of yellows, golds, and oranges, I have added these colors to my quilt.  Also, some of the leaves haven't turned yellow yet.  They are a lighter green than normal, and were just about to turn yellow.

I filled in the path with a lighter brown color.  Later I will do some stitching on the path to further differentiate it from the area around it.  You can see a few places where the sky is showing through the trees.  I learned that the technical artist's term for this is "sky holes."

After I had the leaves in place, I cut some tree trunks and branches from brown fabric.  I tucked them in underneath the leaves, and sprinkled some more leaves on top.

A closer view of the path.

At this point it was time to start getting all of this stuff held down.  I did that by v-e-r-y 
c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y laying a piece of black tulle over top of everything.  Then it needed to all be basted together with millions of safety pins!  They are placed one to two inches apart.

Close-up of quilt with safety pins.

A word about the tulle netting.  It doesn't obscure the scene, but it tends to help meld the different colors together.  It will dull down just slightly a very bright quilt, or make a little darker an already dark quilt.  Strangely enough, white tulle obscures the quilt a lot more than black tulle.

The following photo shows the small branches that I quilted into the trees.

In the photo below I have filled the quilt with closely spaced stitching using monofilament thread.  You can see some of the tulle netting here.

Here you can see the meandering stitches I used to define the path.

There is a lot of dense quilting on the back, isn't there!

And here is the final product.


  1. Absolutely stunning!!! Amazed at your talents & patience to create this beautiful quilt, Jan Herbert Carter!!!!!! Totally impressed in Texas!!!!

  2. Loved being able to go to Asilomar last three years. It looks like you had a wonderful teacher. She attended a class with Lonni Rossi when I atttended a couple of years ago.
    Your landscape quilt is stunning; gives a real autumn feel!!!

  3. What a beautiful representation of my favorite street during my favorite time of year! Lovely!

  4. Did I tell you that our next family reunion will probably be at Asilomar? I'm looking forward to seeing it. Harmony had told me great things about it too. Nice quilt!