My Process of Making Fabric Collage

Hi    This is JANE HAWORTH  writing this weeks post 

Sometimes coming up with the idea for my next collage quilt is hard but other times I am awash with ideas. Then having enough time is my next problem! A couple of years ago I saw a documentary about giraffes and I was shocked to hear that their numbers are really low and giraffes are on the endangered species list. The BBC documentary was Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants and follows the work of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation

Giraffe image from

Giraffe Image

I was inspired and needed to make a giraffe quilt. I found this image on Pixabay which is a copyright free resource for images. I printed it out as a full page and then had to decide how large to make the quilt. This time I wanted it big, and I mean really big. I always get that feeling when I see one of my quilts out in the wild, at a quilt show, that the quilt looked so much bigger at home. So instead of increasing the size by 3 times or 6 times I decided 10 times. I was now making my giraffe image about 90″ x 70″.

Giraffe by Jane Haworth

Giraffe Tongue

My usual method of making my pattern is to draw a grid on newsprint. I drew 10″ squares and then transposed the lines from the 1″ grid that covered my photograph.

I began work on the tongue and that was 12″ long. The fabrics I decided to use for the giraffe included many upholstery and furnishing fabrics, as well as linen, burlap and regular quilting fabrics I had in my stash. I was not thinking about the background at this stage.



Working on a large scale was hard. On my usual worktable the collage would be falling off any chance it had and keeping all my fabrics close had its challenges too. I first completed the head as a single unit and then I tackled the neck, that would lay behind the head and then be glued in place.

Completed giraffe head by Jane Haworth

Completed head laid out onto batting.

Once the giraffe was made I was very happy and had now to figure out the background. I cut a piece of batting to the approximate size of the completed quilt and using my family room floor laid it out with the giraffe in it place. I decided to go with green patterned fabrics that I been setting aside and these included hand-dyed and over-dyed, batiks, African fabrics and other pieces I again found in my stash.

Work in Progress by Jane Haworth

Using the floor space in my family room.

To complete this quilt I made up my backing and taped it down to the floor. Lay the batting over the top, positioned the giraffe it its spot and then lay out my background fabrics. These I cut to size and pieced together as I went making sure they tucked behind the giraffe. Eventually all the batting was covered and I could glue the giraffe in place. I took my iron and pressed it all while it still lay on the floor, finishing with safety pins to hold the three layers together.

IMG_7072Quilting by Jane Haworth

Quilting using my Janome 6500

To quilt all my quilts I use my regular sewing machine and this quilt was hard work I will admit. I think using the heavier upholstery fabrics and burlap made the quilt stiffer, harder to handle, fit under the machine and generally hard on my body. So I do remember working for only a hour or so at a time especially on those tricky parts in the center of the quilt.

Finished by Jane Haworth

Finished quilt at the FQG Show April 2017

My husband decided the giraffe needed to be called Melman after the giraffe in the movie ‘Madagascar’. So the quilt is named ‘Melman, The vulnerable Giraffe’. I decided if I sold the quilt I would donate half the money to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. It was juried into IQF Houston in 2017 but didn’t sell and this summer it will be at Sisters, Oregon for their outdoor quilt show on July 14 2018. So he’s still for sale!

Having explained my process of making a fabric collage art quilt I must say making a smaller quilt is easier, fun, less daunting, and easier on the body. So join me at my workshop Fabric Collage Addiction, if you can, September 3-7 2018 at Zephyr Point for the Artistic Alchemy Retreat.

Artistic Alchemy will be “out in the wild” this coming weekend, May 5 & 6 at the Pine Tree Quilt Show at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. So come down and meet us, chat about the retreat, hear about our show special and see what ‘goodies’ we have for sale. Here are a few of the things I have been working on for that sale.



Lake Tahoe is beautiful in September so combine a trip to the mountains with sewing and play time. Check out the 4 workshops on offer from Mary, Heidi, Sandra and myself, or just work on your own projects. What could be better than taking a break from the heat and surrounding yourself with creativity.

Winston Debut

by Sandra Bruce

A quick note before I get into my post….we want to let your know that our Artistic Alchemy gmail account was hacked, so please trash suspicious emails that seem to be from us. This doesn’t affect the security of our posts, and and we’ve taken measures to prevent this from happening again.

Just in time for the Pine Tree Quilt Show, coming up April 30-May1st, a Matrix quilt of Winston, a very sweet Great Dane. This photograph is so perfect for the technique…..fantastic composition, some areas of detail, and some areas of just color. I love the value changes in the grey, perfect for my stash of greys!  I knew the eyes would be the biggest hurdle. Photo courtesy of Jenipher Lagana.

winstoncloseupI pulled out all my purples and greys, using the photo for reference.IMG_0408

The beginning was easy, and got me in the rhythm of things. His head appeared quickly.IMG_0449

Enter: his eyes. This is where things got interesting, and in this case, challenging! He looked a little “mad” to me, although I followed the photo precisely. I’m a stickler about eyes, they are so important. The pupils are black “Perfect Circles”, which I appliquéd on by hand.IMG_0517

Had to take some artistic license, and attempt another eye, or two. They sure do look funny without pupils!IMG_0662

The finished top before quilting, it’s about 38″ by 52″. The wooden couch arm was an unexpected challenge, it’s a little wonkier than I wanted it to be, hoping some intense quilting will help it.


Now, for some fun with thread, picking out colors to use. You know how I love colors opposite each other on the color wheel.


Couldn’t resist this shot, the batik back mounted on the longarm and ready to go!!


Always exciting, the first go round. Left to right, top to bottom.


Here is the finished quilt. Come to the Pine Tree Quilt Show at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, April 30-May 1….you’ll see Winston (and Chuck Close Two!) and Artistic Alchemy will have a booth in the Vendor building, stop by and say hello to us!P1000204

On the Road Again

by Sandra Bruce

My life has gone back into “normal” speed, now that my injuries are healing. I’ve been visiting guilds and working on projects as my arm and ribs would allow! In January, when I could still not do much, my friend Trish came over and cut out some fabric for me. I’d had this adorable Alexander Henry fabric for months and wanted to make a one-block wonder quilt from it. Look at this Christmas fabric in 40’s colors! Cute little gnomes and their abodes!! Love it!!IMG_0315
So,  even if I couldn’t cut fabric I could play with these triangles on my design wall.IMG_0308
A trip to Santa Barbara and the guild there became possible with my friend Michelle’s driving and class assistance. What a beautiful place to live. Here’s a happy student from the Valley Quilters with her work in progress. Great smiling face!IMG_0374

Yeah, I could live here, no problem.

A trip to Roxanne’s in Carpenteria was definitely on the “to-do” list. Look at this collection of Kaffe’s….(oooooo…..aahhhhh)IMG_0377
With no sewing for so long I couldn’t bear to wait any longer to start on my next Matrix quilt. Even when I couldn’t cut I organized my fabrics and got the photo ready. This is “Winston”, to be.IMG_0408
Next trip: Burbank, and the Valley Quilters. I was so lucky to have a free afternoon at the Getty Museum.IMG_0422  


My favorite exhibit……tapestries. Most were centuries old, but I loved this modern one that was made for the exhibit.IMG_0424
Back at the long arm! “Chuck Close Two” is being quilted.IMG_0447


Road trip to Gualala to speak to their guild, the Pacific Piecemakers. Two trips to the ocean in one month, I’m in heaven.
Lastly, a get-together with my FTDF (Friends to Dye For) where I made polymer buttons and earrings for solid hours on end. This is one slab I created.IMG_0479
I ended up with almost 300 buttons. Can’t wait to drill them!


Here’s where I am with Winston. It’s gone fairly speedily up till now but I have eyes in the next row, that’ll slow it down. But it will be done soon!IMG_0497


I hope if you have been thinking about taking my Material Matrix class at Zephyr that you will sign up soon. Contact me for any more info. It’s been a while since I posted it, so here’s a list of where you can find images and an interview about my process. Happy creating!!

An interview with a blogger on Facebook about my work:






Snapshots of the Retreat

It’s official: The first ever Artistic Alchemy retreat is history! The three of us had a great time, and judging from our students’ comments, so did all of you who came. The creativity quotient was high, the laughter was contagious, and the projects—wow! Below are some class images, lunchtime show-and-tell pics, and shots of Lake Tahoe and the Zephyr grounds.

Watch for details about next year’s retreat. Heidi is working with Zephyr on the dates, and we are hopeful we can add an extra day, for a total of three full days in class.

Take a look at who was there and what we did. (We were missing a few when we took this group pic.)IMG_7690IMG_7642IMG_7718IMG_7648IMG_7611IMG_7644IMG_7584IMG_7699IMG_7628

show & tell 3show and tell 4IMG_7660IMG_7716IMG_7738IMG_7710This could be YOU, next year! Stay tuned. . . .

Why Do We Take Workshops and Classes?

by Sandra Bruce

Recently I spoke at my local guild, Pine Tree Quilt Guild in Grass Valley, CA and taught my workshop the next day. It is very gratifying for me to teach my technique and watch ladies grab the concept and say things like, “I know I’ll use this again sometime in another application”, or, “I have a newfound appreciation for what you do, and I love this technique. I learned something new today!” Here’s Gabby, happy with her success!:


Granted, we may not be interested in every class that comes along. But it’s funny how even in a class we think won’t be the most gratifying we do sometimes learn, even if it’s not immediately applicable, and it can pop up in our brains at a later time when the knowledge can benefit us in some way. The world of quilting is rich with knowledge, and how will we know our potential and find what “rings our bell” unless we try new things? Even ones that seem scary, daunting, or not necessarily the most interesting at the moment?

To give you an example, for a very long time I shied away from anything that involved curved piecing. Without even knowing anything about it I avoided any project that would require it. It just had to be hard, right? One day an opportunity came up to take a class from one of my favorite local teachers, Cathy Stone, in curved piecing, so I took it, gritting my teeth for the worst. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had made a mountain out of a molehill and in truth, there really wasn’t much to it. It opened a whole world to me, and in hindsight if I hadn’t learned how to do that I wouldn’t’ve been able to develop my Material Matrix technique which depends heavily at times on curved piecing.


Another example, also a class with Cathy Stone, involved taking a photograph and adapting it to fabric, using fusing as many quilt artists are doing today. I very much enjoyed the class. What did I learn? That while I enjoyed it, and learned how to reproduce a photograph with accuracy, that it wasn’t something that “rang my bell”. However, I knew that someday the technique involved would come in handy. And it has! Also, it showed me that reproducing a photograph precisely with perfect edges is actually the opposite of what I want to do. And that’s OK too. This is how we learn. This is how we find out what we want to do as quilters and artists.

In classes we sometimes learn something that isn’t what we thought we’d learn. It’s even possible that we can learn something about ourselves that we didn’t know before. Something as simple as making a new quilting friend in class can ultimately guide us in a direction that pushes the envelope for us (I’ve heard this more than once). There are so many benefits to taking a class or workshop. Every time we learn, we add to the sum of what we know, what we can do, and who we are as quilt artists. Lucky are ladies who have quilting sisters, actual or not. Happy sisters Cathy and Bobi!


In a nutshell, I say:  LEARN SOMETHING NEW!

I believe Artistic Alchemy, consisting of myself, Christine Barnes, Heidi Emmett and Sharon Alves, fosters this belief, and we as a group hope you will learn something new about yourself by taking one of our workshops. We learn from you, too. Actually, we 4 learn also from each other, and that makes us tighter as a group, and as a result, I believe, better teachers.  I myself vow to take more classes and keep my “little grey cells” working!


In closing, please leave a comment if you wish, we love hearing from you. It helps us know what you, our readers, are interested in, and how we can better teach what you want to learn. Suggestions always welcome.

Happy Easter and Spring, everyone!




I Have to Talk About Chuck Close

Happy New Year to all! Sandra Bruce here, with my first post of 2014. I’m excited about the year coming up and hope it proves to be a creative and enriching year for us all. This will be Artistic Alchemy’s first full year and we have a lot to share with you, our readers!

I can’t possibly blog in the Artistic Alchemy site without talking at some point about Chuck Close, who has been very influencial to me as an artist, and a human being. I talk about him in my lecture as an art quilter, and hardly a day goes by that he doesn’t cross my mind in some capacity. Let me give you a snapshot of his life and work, and if you’re not familiar with him you will be driven to go look him up and discover more about him yourself. There are many interviews and articles on the web you can easily find.

Chuck Close was born in 1940 in Washington state to parents who encouraged his artistic leanings. Chuck was severely dyslexic as a child and struggled as a student in school, except for art. A teacher once told him he’d never amount to anything. He was not socially popular and couldn’t play sports due to a condition he had. When he was 11, his father passed away, followed closely by his mother developing cancer and Chuck himself was struck by a kidney infection that forced him to spend a year in bed. So much at a tender age! His love of art deepened as a teenager after seeing an exhibit of Jackson Pollack’s paintings, and that was when he determined to become an artist himself. Fast forward to the 60’s, when Close got a degree in Art from Yale and established himself with his signature style: very large, photo-realistic paintings of people, including himself. This acrylic painted self portrait, from 1968, is 83″ by 107″:

late20th32 copy

Amazing, isn’t it? Notice how absolutely, perfectly detailed it is.  It is so…..real. Imagine it at its size. By the 1970’s Chuck Close had established himself as a leading American contemporary artist and was enjoying success and notoriety, rightly so.


Fast forward again, to 1988, when Close was at a ceremony where he was on his way to the podium to present an award. He fell mid-stride, suffering a spinal collapse of an artery, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. One can only imagine where this left him in his mind, unable to do anything, let alone paint. Months of rehab brought him limited movement in his arms, but he was to always remain in a wheelchair. In a documentary about him, his wife, Leslie, tells of his depression in rehab, and how she pressed the doctors to help: an art studio of sorts was set up in the basement of the rehab hospital, where they literally strapped a paintbrush onto his wrist with tape, and Chuck Close began to paint. His new technique was born. This is my favorite of his self-portraits:


Close grids the photos he takes, commonly in a diagonal format, and paints each square of the photo a solid color, then makes amorphous circular shapes, one inside the other. Inches away it is hard to imagine what exactly you’re seeing, but stepping back to view it your eyes see it as he intends you to see it. What truly amazes me is how he knows what colors and shapes to paint each time! He’s making an average hue. Here’s a close-up view…..squint!Chuck+Close+Chuck_Close_Up_Close

Incredibly, Chuck Close also suffers acutely from “Prosopagnosia”, or face blindness. He once failed to recognize the face of a woman he had lived with for a year. But, if Close paints a face, therefore converting the image into a two-dimensional one, then he can commit it to memory, and have a photographic memory for it. “Everything about my work is driven by my disabilities”, he once told an audience of neuroscientists. Chuck Close is the ultimate illustration of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. I do not mean to make light of his handicaps, just to say that he epitomizes how to make the best of what life deals you. Chuck Close is an exceptional human being. There are many quotes attributed to him, but my favorite, and the simplest is, “Art saved my life”. He took what could easily have been the end of his career and life as he knew it and turned it into a new career, more successful than the last. He continues to work, making each day mean something. He sees his glass half full. In fact, I’d say he sees his glass running over!

The first time I saw a Chuck Close painting in person I instantly thought: QUILT. Although it was not in the front of my mind at the time, I think a seed was planted that finally came to fruition in my quilt “Self Portrait”. The act of using fabric to represent a photographic image in a gridded, square format is very exciting to me. Unlike making a quilt that is “photographic”, where the image is represented literally, using my Material Matrix technique allows for fusing color, line and form in a way that invites serendipity and happy surprises.closeup of eye SBquilt

I’m looking forward to teaching my workshop this year, in particular with my Artistic Alchemy sisters in Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe, in September, 2014. Those participants taking my workshop will be able to experience some magic, hopefully, creating quilts from their own photographs. I invite you to join us!

Meanwhile, again I wish you a Happy New Year, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Chuck Close.Film_ChuckClose


Playtime is Underrated

Happy New Year everyone! Where did 2013 go? I am looking forward to 2014. There are so many exciting things happening in 2014, and one of them is our September retreat at Zephyr Cove. The only New Years resolution that I made was to allow myself more time for quilting and beading. Monday I took a class on Polymer techniques for beads and buttons from Sandra Bruce. Now, I will also need more time for polymer.  I love the unexpected colors and shapes that emerge during the process.

This is why I love designing quilt patterns. I experiment for a while on my computer and eventually an unexpected design will emerge.  It’s almost always something I didn’t expect.  From here, I develop the design.  One of the interesting processes that I do with my pattern design is use gray scale before I start to pull colors. This allows me to see the effects of light and dark and how they transform the design.

This is how I started my Mardi Gras Pattern.  This is the outline of the block.

Mardis Gras BlockI finished the block and played with arrangements.  Once I had the blocks arranged, I started experimenting with the gray scale.  It really shows the difference value will make. Do you see the different shapes and how the design changes as the gray scale changes?

Mardi Gras - Sample 3 Mardi Gras - Sample 2Mardi Gras- Sample 1Then I started filling in with color.

mardi gras - on pointAnd I wound up with this.  (I wish that you could see the quilting.  Sandra Bruce quilted it.  It is Beautiful!)

mARDI GRAS - QUILTI had a great time doing this with my Anacortes pattern. This is the block that I started with. Anacortes-3 I played with both the block arrangement and the gray scale.

This arrangement was fun. (And I may still do another quilt with this layout.)

Anacortes-2However, I loved all the different designs that emerged when I created this block and     gray scale arrangement.

Anacortes-1Here is the final quilt. How many different shapes do you see in this quilt?  (The quilting on this quilt was done by John and Karla Rogers of Precision Quiltworks.  The quilting is beautiful!)

cdPlaytime and options are underrated. As we begin 2014, allow yourself the freedom to try new things.  You never know what will emerge.  Logic takes you from A…..B .  Imagination will take you anywhere.

Before I close I really must show you the fabrics that I purchased yesterday at my favorite quilt shop, Sugar Pine Quilt Shop in Grass Valley, CA.  I saw these fabrics and just knew that I needed to create a summer quilt for my bedroom.  Aren’t they just yummy?  A new pattern will be forthcoming.  So, stay tuned. I will show you the progress as it unfolds.

fabric photo_2Have a happy and creative week!


Complicated and Intimidating? Definitely Not!


Hello, I’m Sharon and this is my first blog post ever.  As you look at our group picture, you will see that I’m the one who isn’t wearing a sewn garment.  Actually, when we took this picture, Sandra said,  “Look, we’re all just about the same height.  Except Sharon.”


I love to organize retreats, so I am very excited to be part of the Artistic Alchemy group! The energy and talent in this group is unparalleled. Each one of us has a unique style and can share a different perspective. It has also become a great friendship, and I feel fortunate to have Christine, Heidi and Sandra as personal and professional friends. I am so looking forward to our 2014 retreat at Zephyr Point.

My career has been in fire protection engineering. This is a discipline that requires precision and working within close tolerances. Even though the process requires precision, I must be able to communicate how the process is to be completed, and I must communicate that information clearly. So, when I started designing quilt patterns, that is the approach that I took. I wanted to design a unique quilt, but make the process uncomplicated and definitely not intimidatingI’m short and blonde – how difficult could I make things? I enjoy precision and precision piecing, and my patterns are designed to give you an extraordinary look.  One of the principles that I discovered early in my career was that if the project appeared daunting, start in a corner and work out.  If you take it a step at a time, all of a sudden it is no longer intimidating.

I have decided to teach two projects at the retreat this year:

I will be teaching FyreWyrks I, which is a contemporary Lone Star design.

Alves-1We will first break down the color placement so you can get your star to sparkle.”  Then we will build the components until, all of a sudden, you have a beautiful star. We will strip piece the star points, and I will show you how to block your points so they will easily fit together. The outer points are paper pieced. The pattern is also designed so that there are very few Y seams. Once your components are built, it all goes together flawlessly .

The second project that I will be teaching is my Anacortes pattern.

cdOne of the great things about this pattern is that I provide template sheets.

template sheetAll you need to do is pin the sheets to your fabric and cut on the lines. There is no need to cut individual templates, which can be extremely time-consuming. Color placement is key with this pattern. If you look at the  quilt you will see different patterns and shapes emerge.  We will work with color placement first.  Once you decide where you want your fabrics, the rest is simple. The templates are all designed to fit together easily. Once again, it is a matter of building the components.  With the exception of the border, this is a one block quilt.

I love fabric and I love color!!  Give yourself options and enjoy playing with fabric and color. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the process.  You will walk away with a stunning quilt!

It has been a lot of fun writing this blog. I’ll catch up with you again in a few weeks. I’ve got a some new things in the works. You can sign up for my newsletter on my website. You can also go to my Engineered for Quilters Facebook page. I will be launching a new contest very soon.