Friday 1 November 2019

The Endeavourers #8, Dreams, "Moonlit"

Today is the 8th reveal for the Endeavourers art quilt group. 

Our theme this quarter was 'Dreams' and I knew straight away that I wanted to make a quilt about the moments between twilight and dawn when your senses become really acute but at the same time the natural world takes on a magical and rather dream-like quality. 

One of the best things about being involved in a quilt group like ours is being inspired by all the other members.   In this quilt I borrowed a technique from Fiona who is always so adventurous in trying out something different.  In her last piece for the group she used cyanotype (solar-printing fabric) and the colour and effect of this technique fit perfectly with what I envisaged.

My initial plan was to use a bit of cyanotype along with overprinting and painting but once I got started I fell so in love with the process and the result that I did not want to add any further colour or techniques, so my quilt owes a far bigger debt to Fiona than I first intended.

You can buy the chemicals required to create cyanotype fabric yourself but I bought ready-to-use fabric.  You use sunlight to 'expose' it, masking out the shapes you want by placing found or made material on top.  I used flowers, grasses and foliage along with moth shapes which I drew and cut out of card.  I also tried drawing on acetate but the result was too faint.

Once you have taken your piece of cyanotype fabric out of its lightproof packet you obviously have to work quite quickly to compose your image but it was not cheap so I was careful to plan my images first.  I took some glass out of a couple of picture frames and placed it on top of each piece to stop my materials blowing away - the sun doesn't make it over the roofs into my garden at this time of year so I laid out my work first on the pavement outside, and then on the roof of my car in the street!

The glass also helps to hold your material flat and in contact with the cyanotype fabric, resulting in a crisp image without any 'shadows' where the light has got in round the edges,  but I liked the more blurry and ambiguous results best as they are far more ethereal, delicate and dreamlike and I stopped making any effort to weight the glass down completely flat.  I also really loved the differences in colour according to how long each piece was exposed, and how sunny it happened to be at the time.  I exploited this for the section that is supposed to look lit by the abstract moon. 

Having assembled images into a composition (which took ages of faffing) I wanted the stitching to add texture and interest without dominating in any way, so the only thing I did was to add some barely-there embroidery (seed stitch and french knots) to the moths and fennel flowers, in off-white Aurifil wool because I love the matt and organic look and feel of it.   I also took advantage of the pattern showing through the 'moon' from underneath and highlighted it with some machine quilting.

It's always very exciting to read how the other members of the group interpreted the theme, and to see how this was translated into their quilts!  Please check out all the quilts on our group blog, where you'll also find links to members' individual blogs.

Things I learned:

The colour in cyanotype fabric is only on the surface - and stitching left tiny white puncture holes.  These show in my seams if you looked closely, and also where I tried and took out some additional machine stitching, and I would try a very sharp needle and very fine thread (eg Aurifil 80?) next time in case that helped.

The texture of the fabric is more open than quilting cotton and there is a lot of fraying.

The colour of the fabric after washing and drying keeps developing over the next several hours, becoming deeper.

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to cut at least some of the fabric sheets into smaller pieces to play and experiment with first!


  1. I did this in the South of France in the summer, so I am really impressed that you tried Sun printing in Scotland in the Autumn :)
    The composition is lovely and the whole quilt is a great response to the Dreams challenge.

  2. I love looking at all your Endeavourers pieces together here -- it is like taking a walk through a park full of friendly animals and plants. :)

  3. This is such a lovely quilt. Thank you for describing your technique. I'm very tempted to try this but I think I will have to wait until the Summer :)

  4. There's something very peaceful about your composition. It is beautiful! Definitely makes me want to try that technique.


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