Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Quilt: Life Along the Rio Grande

This fall the SAQA New Mexico region is doing a call for entry called Life Along the Rio Grande.  The Rio Grande river flows through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, and is a critical water source for the largely high desert region.  

I, of course, went science-y with my entry.  The Very Large Array is one of the coolest radio telescopes in the world and is in western New Mexico in the Rio Grande Basin.  It consists of 27 separate radio antennae that are each over 80 feet wide.  They can be moved around over several miles into a bunch of different configurations depending on what they're looking at.  It's such a powerful tool for studying our universe, for some examples, take a look at this and this and this.  If you're ever in the area, you can tour the site and its pretty awesome.

Anyway,  I decided to make my quilt out of velvet and crushed stretch velour since I was kindly given a bunch of different pieces of it (thanks Georgia!!).  The only problem is that the colors were very flat and uniform, so painting was the first order of business.  I didn't want too much paint buildup on the surface, so I did lots of thin layers, very very wet, and build up a dark blue gradient to simulate the night sky, brown gradient (with more layered on top later) for the foreground, and purple velvet with black and grey for the mountains.  The crushed stretch velvet sky started out very light blue.

How to do the stars and milky way was a big questions-  I considered beading (too much time), painting dots (too hard to get a random look), foiling (same problem).  I also considered cutting a silk screen and then either printing with paint or glue for foiling, but it's a big sky and making a screen that big wouldn't have been easy.  Finally my mom suggested flinging paint, and that totally worked!  It gave me enough control to make my milky way, but enough variation in size to look like a starry sky rather than polka dots.  I took the top out on my back porch and just sort of Jackson-Pollacked paint at it.  I used white and grey and gold and silver and maybe even a bit of metallic turquoise.  I love the way it turned out; the sky is my favorite part of the whole thing.  After letting it all dry, I quilted up the whole thing (that's the right picture below).

Next I cut out the telescope antennas so I could have some openwork free motion embroidery.  I've done a fair amount of openwork in the last few years, but this turned out to be trickier than I anticipated.  I'll be back to share more about it later in the week!


  1. This merging of your scientific interests with quilting is fascinating to me.
    I got to visit the Library of Congress a number of years ago and was very impressed with its beauty.

  2. This is stunning, already!

    I believe you're in Oklahoma? (Just wondering how far you reach with quilting)