Monday, June 21, 2021

Range Grasses-Finished

 Late last week I shared a post about my grandpa and a quilt I've been working on inspired by his lab notebook.  I ended that post by talking about the digital collages made from his specimens, drawings, and notes and my microscopy images.  I had the digital collages printed onto a polyester satin fabric by spoonflower.  The print quality was very good, and the panels are pretty large (the finished quilt is 37"h x 57"w) and I started by sandwiching the quilt and quilting the whole thing.  The quilting turned out to be nightmare unfortunately- I had a new can of spray baste and I evidently used too much because everything was constantly gunked up.  It was a mess.

Here's a shot from mid-quilting.  I really struggled to keep the straight parts of the design straight and I struggled so much with the stitching (thanks to the gunk) that I was pretty discouraged by the time I finished quilting.  The other thing was that the whole thing was really really shiny.  Usually I like things that are shiny- I love working with polyester and satiny fabrics that are shiny, but it was a poor choice for this project. In the first place, it was supposed to feel like a weathered old lab notebook which is (duh) not shiny.  Almost worse was that because a lot of the design was small and detailed, after quilting, the quilting texture (which stood out much more because the fabric was so shiny) felt like it was overpowering the design.  It was not a good experience. 

I wasn't sure initially how I wanted to finish it, but I settled on some cutwork borders for the outer edge, (I really love the way these turned out) that have shapes that were inspired by the grasses.  Narrow, solid painted brown stripes acted like sashing to separate the panels.  The brown borders and panel edges are zig-zagged on from the top, and I couched on some fun dark green sparkly line to help hide the butted up edges. 

I love the right hand border, it's one of my favorite parts of the whole piece.  I used some paint and shiva paintstick to give a little color variation to the borders and sashing so they wouldn't look so flat.

I didn't want to just have three even panels, so I made some top and bottom borders out of some green velveteen appliqued over some additional printed microscopy images.  The microscopy images are a picture of grass stem- what you see below in brown underneath the green leafy brown overlying applique.  Unfortunately the strip of brown grass stem wasn't long enough so I pieced in some turquoise and then added some paint to give it some depth.  The turquoise alone was looking pretty flat.

To help cut down on the shininess, I painted over all the panels with a coating of matte medium.  It helped some with the shininess, but you can still see a lot of the quilting texture. Normally I love that, but here I worry that it just fights with the design.

Here's the final quilt.  It turned out better than I expected given how much I struggled with it, and designing the panels and reading through my grandpa's lab notebook was a really wonderful experience.
AH  107, Range Grasses.  c. Shannon Conley, 2021, 37"x57", photo by Mike Cox

I made a special label for it with another picture of my grandparents when they were young.  That's my dad over there on the right! I'm so grateful my grandma is still with us to tell us her stories and my grandpa's.  She's gotten really good at zoom and has more recently been playing bridge online with me and some friends.  Love you grandma!


  1. Well, despite the issues with the spray baste and shiny-ness, it sure turned out amazingly! I love the cutwork borders; what a clever idea! I've never used paint on fabric, don't even know where to begin, but it sure is fascinating. Thanks for sharing this with us, Shannon!

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