Sunday, September 14, 2014

Increase Your Quilts' Self-Esteem With Stretched Canvas

In our last installment, I performed the following 12-step highly-effective in-home psychotherapy:

1-11. Cut out colorful batik squares, rectangles, and strips, and stack them on top of each other. Use a few dots from a school glue stitck to affix. (For a 'modern quilt,' use solids instead of batiks, and a newer glue stick.)

12. Zig-zag around all the edges.

That's pretty much it. Oh, you should quilt it. Embellishment is then an option. I decided to go for it:

Old metal stag button:
Glass "evil eye" protection bead.....

Pen spring, with seed beads threaded through....
 Tiny dice from a Vegas rosary, so there's already a hole, plus faux pearl:

The final size was 15" x 15" After embellishment, I fooled around with mounting it on a 12" x 12" stretched canvas that happened to be lying around the house....
...Something I've never done before. Several people wrote to me with excellent suggestions. I'm especially grateful to Bethany Garner, a Canadian quilter who makes stunning art quilts and a fantastic blog at She explained her technique, developed by another awesome art quilter, Cathy Breedyk Law, whose art quilt blog is here. The technique (too long to relate here) involves cutting squares out of the corners of the quilt, minus a seam allowance, then stitching the cut edges together (like boxing corners on a purse). Bethany answered many of my questions and I will definitely try it in the future. But I didn't want to cut into this particular quilt. 

So instead I very carefully tucked in the corners, like wrapping a gift. My thumbtacks weren't very strong, so I wound up using mostly a staple gun.
It's not perfect, but still, wow!  I can't stop looking at how slick this is! DH says I can add 400% to the price (but I'm not selling this one).

However, speaking of sales, I was so pleased with it - and I have a community gallery auction coming up - so I decided to make another one to sell:
Instead of zig-zag stitching around each fabric, like in the first piece, I quilted a grid over the whole thing with gold metallic thread. (Embellishment came after that). The cut edges remain raw. 

The backing canvas is 12" x 12" so I made this quilt the same size, to avoid wrapping.  I painted the stretched canvas to match (painting the front of the canvas was unnecessary, but I did it anyway). Here's the first coat:

After a couple of coats, I stitched the quilt onto the front through the back, with strong silamide beading thread: 

Here's the back:
(Ignore that paint thing on the lower left.) A curved needle didn't work at all. I wound up stitching through the back, through the quilt, under the outer edges of the appliqued squares on the front. I don't know how I would have done this if the edges of the squares had been stitched down. How does one sew so the stitches don't show from the front? 

I'm calling this piece "Earth, Wind, and Fire" because of the wild diversity of embellishments. There's a teardrop-shaped dichroic glass bead:
 A silver plated branch:
A lightly-toasted wooden button: 
Four lapis stone cubes: 
 A metal charm and a sequin:
An 'evil eye' glass bead: 
African rolled copper beads: 
 And another one of these.  
And more. Wouldn't this be a great project to do with kids?

Now I'm collecting stretched canvases for future quilts (cheap at Big Lots and Tuesday Morning, but limited sizes there). This new-to-me presentation has changed my quilting/life forever! It definitely makes a small quilt look less like a shmata/potholder and more like capital-a Art!


  1. Looks great, Cathy! I have a number of stretched small pieces and they are easier to sell because people know how to hang them. I've even seen 6x6 pieces done that way and they look good.

    1. Thanks, Rayna. I can't wait to go shopping at a real art supply store to see what sizes they have - it must be superfun to do with a tiny size!

  2. I'm always attracted to interesting grid ideas and this is a doozy. The colors are luscious and the whole thing is a delightful eyeful!

  3. Cathy, I love your small quilts. I can't believe how much I like them stretched. Very nice indeed. Maggie Winfield

    1. I can't believe it either, Maggie! My life is completely different now! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Will you still make potholders, though? I hope so. Those are so very useful. ( ducking and running...)

    1. Potholders are my first great love. I will never abandon them, except now and then, especially for auctions. Expensive Potholders.

  5. Great project to use my scraps of batiks. Love your ideas!


Thank you for commenting!