Monday, October 19, 2015

Portrait and Stained Glass Quilt Fun with Phyllis Cullen

If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from internationally-renowned quilter Phyllis Cullen, who lives Hawaii, but travels to teach, leap at the opportunity!

Leap is what I did when I found out that Phyllis would be teaching two classes at the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework's biennial convention last May, in Phoenix Arizona. 

 The classes -  Portrait Quilts, and Easy Stained Glass Quilts - were fun, fascinating, and ran the gamut from coloring book level (the stained glass) to graduate level challenge (the layered portraits.) 

For the portrait quilts, Phyllis had us send her a picture in advance of the class.  I sent this shot of my daughter as Mother Superior in her school's production of The Sound of Music. 
Every Jewish nun deserves a portrait! Phyllis scanned our photos, turned them into greyscale images. She then printed each gradation layer, from dark to light, onto the paper side of Steam-a-Seam fusible web. We pressed the fusible to the different layers, then cut each layer out seperately. It is an intricate process. (And it requires serious photoshop-type skills. You can actually hire Phyllis to do this with your photo.)
 I wasn't  completely sure of what I was doing, but I diligently followed orders, cutting different shapes from three different shades of bluish-grey fabric, After stacking the layers, I wound up with this:
WHOA!!!! Never, ever has anything like this ever come out of my hands!

The last step, which I haven't taken yet, is to freemotion quilt over the whole thing. 

Just for fun, I stacked the cutaway pieces (unfortunately, I lost some of the eyeballs), and wound up with this fascinating, albeit sinister photo negative:
I am not sure yet if I want to fix up the missing eyeball, and make a quilt with both images, or just use the positive version. 

The next day, Phyllis presented a class at the opposite end of the conceptual challenge spectrum. She had mapped out a drawing of a pomegranate. 
Phyllis brought suitable fabrics, and we choose from her stash. We cut and placed each piece. It was incredibly relaxing, like adult coloring books. Here's how it looked with all the pieces fused in position.
Phyllis likes to add black tulle over the finished piece, then freemotion stitch over everything. This softens the raw edges. Here's how mine looks with the black tulle on top.
It's a little greyer - I'm not sure if I'd use the tulle if I do this process again. It's now hanging proudly in my home!

In her own work, Phyllis takes these techniques to a high level of color and drama. Check out her glorious portraits here. Her stained glass quilts start on this page. Take her classes, and tell her I sent you! (No financial affiliation!)

For my step-by-step approach to stained glass quilts, check out this post.


  1. I am not sure about the Mother Superior Quilt but I am wild about the Pomegranate Quilt!. Did I ever write you to thank you for the book? If not, thank you so much! My docs say I am getting wel(ler?) faster thank they ever expected but not fast enough for me. Looking at more surgeries. On the up side, my wonderful son took me to Israel this summer! and, we live on the expense account so only 5 star hotels will do. WOW. And how beautiful. Unfortunately, all the pics are still on his phone as my fingers were acting up, Cathy, you do great stuff!

    1. Belle, I am SO happy to hear from you! I am also glad your health is improving and that you can travel! Please stay in touch!