Thursday, August 27, 2015

More technical details

After my last post about the Two Blind Mice quilt, Gwyned asked me if I'd share a few more technical details.  After writing a long e-mail to her, I thought maybe some others would be interested so decided to share another post.  She specifically asked about my process for the cutouts, binding, and hanging on this one, so here goes.

For these pieces where I have cutouts, I use synthetic fabrics for the front and back and synthetic (polyester) batting.  Next I outline the area to be cut out with cotton thread before quilting the rest of it.  Usually I quilt the whole sandwich, but in this case where I was cutting away most of it (i.e. the cutouts were as big or bigger than what was left behind) I just quilted inside my cotton outlines.  Then I cut away the area near but not quite touching the cotton outline threads (through all three layers).  This time since the pieces were big I cut away using scissors, but in the past when the cutouts have been smaller and fiddly I've used an exacto knife. 

Then I use a woodburning tool to go along all the raw edges.  The synthetic fabric and batting melt back to the cotton thread (which won't melt) leaving a sealed edge behind.  This approach works pretty well for organic shapes, but not quite so well if you want precise geometric shapes or very straight lines (I guess for that a facing would give a crisper edge but I've never faced my cutouts).  Just be careful to have lots of ventilation since the fumes from the melting polyester aren't healthy.


For this one where the cutout section was then cut in two and then bound, I carefully flattened out the large cut out piece and trimmed it to the right size.  Getting the binding stitched on was a pain, but I just laid out the binding strip and put a tiny dot of water soluble glue on each of the floppy arms that was sticking out.  Just to be double sure they didn't move (I was really worried that the arms would shift while I was sewing the binding strip on and then everything would pull funny), I put a tiny binder clip holding the binding at each place where there was an arm.  I tried pins, but everything was way to thick and small to pin precisely.  I then sewed the binding on by machine to the front (just like a normal binding).  The only difference was that I did it in strips, that is I did all the long edges as individual strips and then did the cross pieces (see in picture below).  This means there are no mitered binding corners, but I just tried to make the corners neat looking with no raw edges. I then flipped the binding strips around just like normal and hand stitched them down.  That part wasn't hard, but I tried to be careful and make nice stitches (since they are visible in those open cutouts) and make sure that the raw edges of the binding were tucked inside in those open areas.  The raw edges kept flipping out without a quilt edge to fold against.

To hang it, I put small straight sections of wire clothes hanger inside the binding across the top edges where the corners were inclined to flop, and then stitched a normal pocket across that center section.  It'll now hang from a "regular" slat in the pocket, albeit one that's only the width of the center section rather than the whole quilt, and the corners won't droop because of the bits of wire in there.  

Hope this is helpful to anyone thinking about trying cutouts!  Always feel free to ask if you have any questions, I'm happy to share my trial and error process!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Two Blind Mice and a Wild-Type- Finished!

On Wednesday I shared my progress on this piece and I'm pleased to say that with application and lots of hand stitching, I've gotten it finished.  Many thanks to Mike for taking the final pictures.  I'd left off with having to figure out how to widen the piece to the final desired size, and I decided to go with some cutwork panels since that's worked for me before (in my little fish quilt and my big tree quilt).  To echo the vasculature in the panels, I traced the main blood vessels from each picture onto a piece of metallic beige polyester.  I know that sounds gross, but in person it's nice and shiny without being in-your-face-gold. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures until I'd quilted it (polyester batting and backing), cut it out and fused the edges with my wood burner, but you can see it pinned up to the left of the panels just below.

I decided I wanted the panels to be on both sides, so I carefully cut it into two pieces, trimmed it to size, and then bound around all the edges.  In the picture below I was applying the final binding to the top and bottom.  

Because in lots of places where it was cut out the binding just wrapped back around on itself, I had to be very precise with the binding, something I'm not usually very good at.  I also went ahead and added interfacing to the binding because it was the same slippery polyester I used for the cutwork pieces and I knew it would be a pain to work with.  

The final challenge was figuring out how not to have the corners sag.  Usually the hanging pocket stretches across the whole back, but in this case that wasn't feasible since the sides were open.  And since the only thing holding up those two side panels is a tiny strip of binding, the corners/sides flopped terribly.  I finally resolved it by embedding the top binding with a ~6" piece of wire coat hanger on each side.  You can't see it at all since it's completely under the binding, but it bridges that floppy section and stabilizes the top.

Two Blind Mice and a Wild-Type, 2015, 20 x 30 c. Shannon Conley

I'm so excited with how this turned out-  it was really the perfect antidote to the months of trudging that I did on my other recent finish.  

The statement for the quilt reads:  Knockout and knockin mice are genetically engineered to carry mutations in their genome to model debilitating diseases, critical since it is difficult to study many diseases in human patients. The scientific and medical advancements that have resulted from use of these models cannot be overstated. This quilt re-interprets my fluorescein angiograms--pictures of the blood vessels in the eye--from mice with diabetic retinopathy (top) and macular dystrophy (bottom), as well as their normal or wild-type counterpart (middle). We use these specialized mice to study the pathobiological mechanisms associated with these blinding retinal degenerations and to develop and test novel treatments.

The Healing Quilts show is opening this fall sometime at a church in Albuquerque (I'll share more details when I have them), but thanks to the tireless efforts of our SAQA regional exhibition coordinator, I think it's going to travel as well.  Most excitingly, a subset of the show (20 quilts) will get to travel to the NIH to hang there!  So cool!

I'm linking up with Nina-Marie as always and also and Richard and Tanya.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Progress on the Healing Quilt

I've been working away on the healing quilt and it's really nice to see progress so rapidly.  It helps that it's a small project (the show requirement is 20 x 30).  Last week I showed the first two painted images, and after painting the third one I started auditioning fabric for the surrounding edges.

It was a bit challenging to find something that would go with the golds in the paint- there are really a lot of variations in "gold" and many of my gold fabrics that I'd originally thought to use were much too yellow.

I settled on the gradient brown which is on the top left in the left hand picture and the right in the middle picture.  After setting in my painted images, I quilted each panel separately and it was sure nice to have small things to quilt!

To better replicate the blood leakage that characterizes the retina in diabetic retinopathy, I added a bunch of beading to that panel.

In the macular dystrophy eye, the normal vasculature is much attenuated, and new vessels form in incorrect planes (in front of or behind the normal vasculature).  They also adopt an abnormal morphology, so I stitched down a couple different types of wired gold ribbon to give a dimensional effect.

The panels aren't wide enough to be by themselves, so I'm working on some cutwork side pieces to widen it out.  For now, I'll leave you with a dog picture.  I just happened to catch Bentley mid-lick so it looks like he's sticking his tongue out at me.  He loves sitting there in the sun against the door to my studio.  You'd think he'd get too hot this time of year, but that's one of his favorite spots.

Also, just in the spirit of animals, we have bunches of large toads this year (this one is probably 3-4" long).  I always welcome them since they eat bugs, and they're really very calm.  They love sitting on the back porch at night staring in the sliding glass doors.  I think it must be because the lights inside the house draw the bugs, but they sit and stare so intently that it looks like they're just dying to come inside and some mean person is excluding them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Project: Healing Quilts

I'm so excited to finally be starting on a new project.  My big quilt with the tiles I've been working on for so long is finished and the show entries are done!  It's not 100% finished since I still have to make a label, but that's it.  We're supposed to hear the results from the show by the end of August, so if I don't get in, I'll be sharing a final post about the tile quilt then.

In the meantime I'm starting an entry for one of our upcoming SAQA regional shows.   This is the call for entry:

"Since the dawn of history, humans have used plants and animals to cure the sick, heal wounds, and promote health.  Our challenge is to represent one or more of these items, in a representational or abstract way, on a quilt that is 20” wide by 30” tall. You may find inspiration in traditional or modern medicine."

As a scientist, I'm definitely taking the modern medicine route, and my topic is knockout/knockin mice.  Studying human diseases in model organisms has revolutionized our understanding of what causes human disease and develop new treatments. Since I work in vision research, my piece is going to feature interpretations of fluorescein angiograms (basically an image of the blood vessels in the back of the eye) from mouse eyes with different blinding human diseases including diabetic retinopathy and macular dystrophy.

These are the angiograms I'm starting with, captured from our mouse eyes in the lab.

Diabetic Retinopathy Model

Macular Dystrophy Model

Wild-type Mouse
I've decided to switch color palettes, mostly because I got a bunch of enamels from my grandfather (the small jars you'd use to paint model trains), and there are some really fabulous metallics.  I started painting last night, and I've never used oil based paints like this on fabric. They went on smoothly, but I think they're really meant for impermeable surfaces, and I have no idea how they'll be when quilting.  I really like the sheen and sparkle in the metallic colors though so I hope they quilt well- I'd love to be able to use them in future pieces.

Here are the two I've started so far:

Incidentally, this pretty grey/blue fabric is a hand dye my mom made and was nice enough to share (the mottled look is perfect for this).

So have any of you used oil-based paints or enamels on your quilts/fabric art before?  What have your experiences been?

Linking up with Nina-Marie as always!