Today we welcome back quilt artist, author, and teacher Sue Rasmussen for the second part of her guest post. On Tuesday, Sue presented a tutorial on her technique for creating curved pieced landscape blocks and quilts. In this post, she shares a few of her beautiful quilts, with insight into her inspiration and fabric choices. The floor is yours, Sue!
After reading my Tuesday post, you might wonder what drove me to come up with such a detailed approach for piecing a landscape or pictorial quilt. That’s easy: it’s because I simply LOVE pieced quilts! Pieced edges are clean and crisp, and don’t distract from the quilting or design elements as roughly finished edges will. I also like the way the softness of a pieced top allows the “mountains and valleys” made by those lovely quilting stitches to add dimension and detail to the quilt. What’s more, pieced quilts can be easily washed, and then folded or rolled for storage.
Many years ago, I began taking “landscape classes,” and learned several techniques from nationally recognized quilt artists such as Susan Turbak, Katie Pasquini-Masopust, and the late Joan Colvin. It was in a class with Ruth McDowell, however, that I found my true passion for pieced pictorial quilts–I fell in love with her simple piecing technique. Today I thought I’d share a few of my quilts and their birth stories, talking about the inspiration behind them and the fabric choices I made.
Beech Trees was begun in 1996, early in my landscape-quilt career. It is a fairly large quilt and uses a combination of curved and straight-line piecing. It was inspired by a friend’s photograph which I thought would make a great forest quilt. I was limited in the assortment of yellow-golds and cheddar-golds that I had at that time, and found myself driving to quilt shops and fabric stores miles away in search of anything gold.
Ultimately, choosing the fabrics for Beech Trees was a real challenge, but I learned so much from this quilt. I used cottons as well as many dress fabrics in linen or rayon/cotton blends to get the variety of coloration I wanted in the tree foliage. I even used boy’s green-plaid boxer shorts for the bushes deep in the forest! I added the double-sided, dimensional leaves in the foreground to give the viewer a sense of standing on the rocks, looking in.
I made Cliff Maids for my husband, who loves to hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He takes wonderful pictures there, including everything from the granite boulders to rushing streams. This little 6″ flower shudders in the cold winds above 8,000 feet.
A pink dress fabric with black dots in my stash became the color inspiration for the flowers, and I added several plaids for the petals. The very narrow, pale-yellow inner border was my husband’s suggestion, and I think it sets off the flowers and defines the inner quilt nicely. The blue background, representing that brilliant blue sky found only at high altitudes, is a multitude of blue batiks. Many years ago, my friend and first quilt teacher, Margaret Miller, asked me, “Why use one fabric when you can use five, and why use five fabrics when you can use twenty?” That’s all I needed to hear to justify building my stash! I still follow Margaret’s advice in almost every quilt I make.
Maple Leaves was inspired by a windy day spent training our dogs in the local park. Beautiful, huge maple leaves were falling to the ground all around me. I gathered up a dozen or so, and when I got home, taped a large piece of paper to the floor, stood up high on a ladder, and let the leaves fall gently onto the paper. I traced the leaf shapes onto the paper to create a pattern.
Once again following Margaret’s suggestion (“more is better”), I incorporated a multitude of dark blue batiks in the background. The large-plaid border fabric in the lower right is from a man’s shirt I found at the local thrift shop for 50 cents; it’s turned up in more than one of my quilts. Sometimes that really ugly, too bright, or very unusual fabric makes the perfect zinger!
The latest quilt in my North American Wildlife series is Mountain Lion-I See You! I wanted to achieve that intense look these magnificent animals display when they have spotted something.
Again, the fabric is really what makes this lady lion come alive. I used mottled browns from the Stonehenge Collection by Northcott Fabrics, and the Home in the Woods collection by McKenna Ryan/Pine Needles Designs from Hoffman Fabrics for much of her head, fussy cutting specific colors for the forehead. The granite boulders are made using the wrong sides of the fabrics. When I shop for fabrics, I always look at the reverse, which often can be used to achieve a subtle variation in value.
I am involved in raising and competing Golden Retrievers, and I teach all my puppies to retrieve anything that falls on the floor. Most of the time, this is really helpful, but it’s another story when I’m working on a quilt. I have a habit of tossing fabric on the floor when I’m done with it, and the dogs are constantly cleaning up after me. When this quilt was on the wall, my young golden, Ellie, proceeded as usual to practice what she had learned. She was so proud of herself, but completely unaware of what was lurking behind her. The lion looks as if she were sizing Ellie up for an appetizer!
As you can see, I find inspiration for quilts everywhere. Any subject matter can be translated from a photo using my curved piecing method. I call my classes Landscape/Pictorial Quilts: Machine Pieced but really buildings, fruit, flowers, insects, animals, people, birds, or just about anything can be made into a quilt from a photo or printed image. My students have made quilts imspired by photos ranging from their childhood homes to koala bears they’ve seen on vacation.
If you would like more information on my upcoming classes, or are interested in booking a class, please visit my website for details and contact information.
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We hope you’ve enjoyed your visit with Sue. The good news is, Sue sent us so many of her wonderful quilts that we couldn’t fit them all in one post. Keep an eye out for another post from Sue in the upcoming months, and don’t forget: our friends at The Quilt Show are offering Sue’s episode–Picture This: Simplified Pictorial Piecing–FREE through Tuesday, March 12.