September 27, 2016

Workshop with Paula Kovarik

This summer, I had the good fortune to take a week-long workshop with Paula Kovarik at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  The workshop was called "Follow the Thread," and was aimed at teaching a process of generating quilting lines that are not just the standard repetitions, but that originate from an idea or inspiration, with the line developing from there, and then changing as the thread leads one on.  I deeply admire Paula's work, and leapt at the chance to do a workshop with her.  (You can see other posts of mine about Paula's work here.) Paula's own work is often "whole cloth"--that is, the cloth is one piece of fabric or simply pieced, and the focus of the work is in the stitching. I don't imagine myself ever doing whole-cloth pieces, but was confident I could still learn a lot from Paula. I had two goals for the workshop.  The first was simply to further develop my skills and confidence in machine quilting.  This is the aspect of quilting that I feel the least comfortable with.  I'd like to do it more confidently, and would like to build it more into the overall design of a work.  And I'd like to enjoy it more!  The second goal was to work further with floral motifs based on the line drawings I began doing a few years ago.  I wanted to work on simplifying the drawings further so that I could use them in repeated designs.  I had been thinking of using the designs as motifs in printing fabric, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to try them out as stitching designs along the way.  I made a great deal of progress towards both goals during the week, inspired not only by Paula, but by the awesome work of other students in the workshop.

The photo at the top is probably my favorite piece from the workshop, stitching based on a drawing of perennial salvia.  You can see the whole thing (about 15" square) in the bottom left below, along with other exercises.  (Double-click to enlarge.)

Here's another sample where three of the designs are worked off a drawing of a branch of ash leaves.  The upper right corner is a trial of the variegated black-to-white thread that Paula had us try.  It provides an easy way to build in serendipity, as the white disappears if sewing on white fabric, or the black if sewing on black (as in the set just below the white sampler).

And a final example, with the panel on the right a riff on early drawings of clover, a couple of other permutations of the ash leaves, and some simple squiggles just for fun.

I expect to spend some time developing one or more of these motifs in my workshop next week with Claire Benn.  But if they don't find a home on printed fabric, I may well incorporate them into some quilting. . .


  1. Did you draw on the fabric before you started your stitching or was the stitching done free-hand? It reminds me of a bookmark you did for me of ink drawings: I have it on my refrigerator in Maryland so that I see it each time I open my refrigerator door! Lovely...

    1. Yes, I should have mentioned this. I was planning on drawing the design first on the fabric, but Paula encouraged me to try it free-hand. So I just drew three curving lines, to guide me on the shape of each stem of flowers, and I also chalked on a little cross-bar line for each place I wanted to put a pair of petals. I was really happy with how it came out!

  2. I love that and free motion. Great ideas to try.