Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New Quilt: On Irises

I've been working on this quilt (is it a quilt?  what do you think?)  for a few months now and finally have it finished. Mike took some pictures of it last week so I thought it was finally time to share it.  Some of you may remember my giant abstracted interpretation of a dahlia and this is another piece in that line.

On Iris, c. 2017, Shannon Conley

Going into it I wanted to do purple and yellow as my primary colors and I wanted to find a way to make it large and 3D but not have to use the fabric stiffener like I did on the dahlia.  I'm still experimenting with different ways to support dimensional fabric pieces, and this time I decided to use a wire infrastructure.

I had this idea to do three petals, each reaching out of a surrounding frame, one flopped forward and attached to the frame at the bottom and two pointing upward and attached to their frame at the side.  I started by painting my petals, and quickly realized that I needed both front and back to be nicely painted because the "back" of the quilt is actually the "front" of the petal.  If that's clear as mud, stick with me, it might make more sense in a minute.  I started out with three different pieces of purple fabric and three different brown pieces.  The purples were a fairly heavy weight polyester satin, while one of the browns was a similar fabric and the other two were very light weight, almost like a brown and white polka dot chiffon.  I painted them with acrylic and latex paint, and with my fabric very very wet.  I love the way the paint sits on the surface of the purple and blends so fabulously.  Those swirly bits are my favorite part.

After that, I made separate quilt sandwiches for each of the three petals and put several pieces of wire between the layers.  The wire was sufficiently heavy weight that I could NOT quilt over it, so I quilted right up next to it to keep it in place.  I accidentally broke 6 needles during the making of the quilt while dealing with the wire.  After stitching around the wire, I free motion quilted the rest of the petals with lots of fun colors of thread.  Here are the three petals from the brown side and the purple side.

After finishing the quilting, I cut the petals out and started figuring out how I wanted to sculpt it and how I could get it to maintain it's shape and be self-supporting.

My original plan was to have each petal still attached in it's frame, something like the version below, but I could not get the upper petals to look right that way.  I kept trying different things, but finally realized I was going to have to detach the side petals from their frames.

Here you can see it all pinned up, more or less how the finished quilt was, but at this point nothing was attached, it was all just pinned to the design wall with about a million pins.  I had to make a full frame for the back to hang it from rather than just a top slat.  That meant four pockets to stitch down (yuck), but it was necessary to give the back piece enough stability to support the rest of it without crumpling.  Then there are smaller pockets on the back and the upper petals attach to those.  In the picture below you can see what looks like dark strings sticking up off the top of the left petal, but that is actually roving-coated wire.  I got it at a fiber festival and used it to edge each petal.  That way the edges can be shaped, and the end wire bits can be stuck around to the back of the piece to anchor the petals.

Here's the final flower, completely self supporting, along with some closeups.  I love the way it turned out, especially the strong bright colors and the brown background.  I really love the purple and yellow with the little hints of green where the colors meet up.  And even though getting this to be self-supporting and structurally stable was really challenging, I like this method better than the fabric stiffener.  I'm going to try another method on my next quilt, we'll see how that works.  I'm going to do at least one more of these abstracted flowers, but I haven't decided which one yet.  I'm open to suggestions if anybody wants to nominate something!


  1. This is really impressive and inspiring. I like the way you have a vision and are approaching it in different ways. You are a pioneer.

    According to the Quilt Visions definition, yes, it is a quilt. (They did keep it broad).

    I like the paint swirls, too. Between that and your multi-colored stitching, the iris petal looks moire in the long shot.

  2. Wow, Shannon, you have outdone yourself with this amazing piece. It reminded me that the installation of a piece of art can be just as challenging as the making of it. But like you, I like those very strong purples against the browns. (puces come to mind) Incredible you!!