Saturday, April 18, 2015

International Threads challenges 1

Earlier this year I wrote about my participation in International Threads, a group of eight artists in four countries.  We had our first public show last week at the Prague Patchwork Meeting, and I'm just off the plane coming home from that visit and other stuff in Europe.

When we formed the group two years ago there was some discussion about what kind of work we wanted to do.  I said I wanted the themes or prompts to be sufficiently open that I could use these small pieces (16 x 32") as a way to work with ideas already on my to-do list.  For instance, I didn't want to have to make a Baltimore album type quilt, riff on the theme of Hello Kitty, or to make a faithful rendering of a photograph, because those approaches would never be on my artistic radar screen.

I am pleased to report that the format worked out exactly as I had hoped.  I never "had to" make a piece that didn't advance my own personal agenda, and in fact some of them turned out to be important steps toward new approaches in my "real" work.  Let me show you all seven pieces, over the next several posts, and tell you what I learned with each one.

The first prompt was "red," and I decided to use it to see if I could successfully use print fabrics in my fine line piecing. I'd previously worked with commercial stripes and a few small-scale geometric prints, but never with bold patterns like the big polka dots in this quilt.

Red Fizz, 2013

I love this quilt, even though I don't think it was totally successful. The large prints like the polka dots seemed to work better than the allover prints that read as solids.  But I liked the way the different prints each had their own bit of real estate and how their territories got all zigzaggy around the edges.

The second prompt was to use all gradations of gray and just a tiny bit of color.  I'd been working with commercial stripes on a couple of huge quilts and accumulated quite a stash of neutrals.  And I had been mulling over next steps in my fine line piecing -- I'd explored a lot of variations on the theme and was wondering whether I could do something dramatically different.  I decided to eliminate the middleman and let the fine lines pile up on themselves without any intervening backgrounds.

Linear A, 2013

I love this quilt even more than Red Fizz, so much that the minute I finished it I decided to make it again three times as large.  The result was Linear B, 42 x 73", the same composition but big enough to have a real impact.  I'd like to make it again, big, in a more colorful palette and play with the precarious balance of the pile.

Linear B, 2014

I'll show you more of the International Threads quilts in subsequent posts -- stay tuned!


  1. Really loving the Linear series...who knew neutrals could say so much in such a straightforward way? Thanks for sharing and looking forward to the upcoming bloggs!

  2. Kathleen, the stacks of lines are fantastic. I love the idea that the second one is nearly life sized.

  3. Love the Red Fizz! I like the mix of prints and solids, especially the big pink polka dots.

  4. these are wonderful! I am partial to your red creation. Love the drama. Martha

  5. These works are fabulous, Kathy, and I will look forward to seeing more.

  6. Love both of these quilts and I'm glad you returned home safely. It was a great workshop with you. Thanks for sharing your technics.

  7. Great to see how you have used the challenges to approach your work in different ways. The linear quilts have a lot of potential for a great series.

  8. Love the red, but those stacked pieces call to me.

  9. I love the smaller dots in the dividing lines of Red Fizz; very cool and effective. (Great title, too!) I especially love the Linear quilts. Can't wait to see more

  10. Always fresh, always a surprise. Thanks for letting us all see how you make what you do change and grow.