Anatomy of an Art Quilt

Not a pattern, but I hope it’s an inspiration! It’s currently on display at Selma Art Gallery.

I make fairly easy quilts for my patterns, but when I create wall hangings for art galleries, I usually bend a few rules and push myself. This one is pictorial with lots of elements, including perspective and a little shading. Called “The Quilts at Poppy Layne Farm,” the story behind it is that I have a small booth in Poppy Layne Vintage store in Wetumpka….so I AM providing the quilts at Poppy Layne. Today I’m sharing the details of this wall hanging.

On the left side, I placed the side of a house, showing a window with a cat (fused) peeking out, lace curtains (doily), plastic “glass” (freezer bag) bias tape (regular and double-folded) window sill, blue shutters (made with little pleats), siding of white “plank” fabric, and roof of gray “roofing tile” fabric. I quilted along the lines of the planks and tiles. I also used an extra layer of fusible fleece to back the house. BELOW

Cat looking out the window over the poppies

ABOVE Under the window are the thread-painted poppies. The bulb parts are a programmed shape on the sewing machine. The stems are simply satin-stitched. However, the leaves, red petals and black interiors are done with free-hand “thread painting.” (Lower the feed dog and just move the fabric back and forth to form the shape you want.) The poppies arise from a brown dirt “bed.”

On the right side is a barn. It’s hard to see, but it has planks quilted in. It was formed over a piece of fusible fleece like the house. The doors open to a black interior. In the future, I plan to add a donkey because Tracy Huffman, the owner of Poppy Layne Vintage, has a donkey! (Alas, I was out of time before this quilt was put on display, but I’ll add her donkey and twin ducks later!) The doors and the frame of the upper hayloft window are “wood plank” fabric. The “hay” is just a piece of mottled gold fabric as is the “wheat” growing in the field.. In front of the barn is a “pebbled” driveway, quilted with little circles that echo the “pebbles.” The grass started as a stripey strippy multi-green print, but I also made big zigzags with a variegated green thread in sort of a hybrid of quilting/thread painting, some stitching overlapping the pebbles and side of the barn. BELOW

The Poppy Layne Farm barn

BELOW The big tree was so much fun to make! I started by ironing paper-backed fusible web (Wonder Under) to the back of a piece of rough bark-looking brown fabric. (Always fuse before cutting out!). I cut out a tree “skeleton” of the large branches. (Use a pin to score the paper to make it easy to pull off.) I satin-stitched around and on the trunk and all the branches, adding a few more small branches.

Next, I cut out a million or so leaves. Actually, I didn’t count (…and they really are pretty big for the size of the tree, but this is fictional!) Since trees are usually lighter on top and shaded below, I incorporated a lot of different greens. To make the leaves, I fused the paper-backed web on small pieces of fabric, removed the backing and then cut little leaf shapes. I gently placed them where I wanted them, overlapping here and there, and when satisfied, I fused them all at once. BELOW

The background, by the way, was already pieced and quilted along horizontal lines and around the clouds. It’s a piece of “cloud” fabric, a piece varying with strips of tan, gray and blue, and another piece with the yellows and greens. (They looked like fields to me, and possibly even the ocean in the distance if you want to think so.) BELOW

Girl on the tree swing

ABOVE Now for the girl on the swing: the swing was easy–just a tube of “wood plank” and some hemp twine (at Walmart I happened across a pkg with 5 different weights of twine!) I threaded the twine through the fabric and made knots. On the tree, I tucked it under some leaves to fuse it in place.

ABOVE The girl took some work. I had to draw a figure (which I’m not used to doing!) and try to get her arms, legs and feet in position. (I wasn’t about to attempt a little face–too hard for the under an inch. Someone else can tackle THAT challenge!) Once I had a little pattern drawn, I cut the basic body out of a pale tan with fused web and added her shoes. I was delighted to find I could tuck the seat right under her knees before fusing. Then I cut simple clothing. The hair was easy because the fabric I used for the field of “wheat” had little curls.

Close-up of the mom hanging a quilt

ABOVE The mom’s hair was also easy, just a piece of strippy stripey fabric, but I tied a real bow of 1/8″ ribbon around it to add a 3D touch. Again, I had to draw up a figure first, then put clothes on her. Her jeans are just a simple piece of chambray fused on over the shirt and shoes. Notice, however, that I took a few minutes to add “jeans style” stitching, including pockets. That detail really helps them look correct. The overalls, though, I made from scratch (like Barbie/Ken clothes!!) I also made the tiny boxers-did you see the little red apples in the plaid?

Of course, the central image of the quilt is the clothes line and quilts. The poles are tubes of “wood” just top-stitched down. The twine is heavier because it’s “closer,” and the line is angled in perspective, as are the quilts. The biggest quilt is a fully pieced and quilted miniature, made of vintage fabrics. The wooden clothespins I found on line at Thread Art. The plastic ones (smaller for the perspective!) were attached to an LED light cord for Christmas cards, I think. BELOW

The clothes line with quilts and clothes

ABOVE The two smaller quilts are PHOTOS! They are both my own designs. In fact, I took the mulberry one to a recent art show and got 3rd place in 3D art! It’s on my website, called “Check Out my Purple Heart” #2309. The smaller one is “Pocket Lozenge Throw” #2311. I used Adobe Photoshop to put the photos in perspective, then printed them on photo fabric. I put a backing on each (like a pillow slip) and did a little quilting too faint to see here. I actually have a poppy design from 1917 I want to resurrect and maybe replace the Purple Heart later.

BELOW Here’s the entire wall hanging. I had used an interlining to quilt with, but it was so ugly with all the weird quilting and zigzag stitching that I covered it with the plain navy for a backing and binding. Then I quilted just a little around the buildings to hold the pieces together. Also, in this shot, you can see the shading I added under the tree by using a dark green thread on top of the variegated used earlier. I toyed with the idea of adding a dog and a tractor as well as the donkey, but those will have to wait for another wall hanging.

“The Quilts at Poppy Layne Farm” by Libby J. Christensen

This took me back to my early childhood. My grandparents lived on a farm with a barn behind the house. Ah, memories! I challenge you to try your hand at a pictorial quilt. It’s a bit like playing with dolls.

PS KEEP TUNED! I’m working on my 100th pattern, called “Bundle of Blossoms”–due out by the end of the month. There’ll be some big celebration specials and a Facebook LIVE….not scheduled yet, but in the works!!