Beth Markel

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Working with both large and small scale pieces

Posted on September 18, 2018 by Beth Markel

For a couple of months I’ve been working on my “Autumn” quilt, part of a 4-quilt series that is not yet complete.  It’s construct is that each of us has seasons of our lives, beginning with spring, being born, growing, learning, exploring the world, etc.  Summer, when all the world is your stage, you are an adult, raising your own family, some sunny days, some dark and dreary days, but you have really hit your stride.  That work is in blocks and will be completed next.  The large quilt on my design wall is, as I mentioned, Autumn.

I am in the Autumn of my life.  My children are raised, “grown & flown,” as I like to say, all happily married 2 years ago, and living in Texas and Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin couple had a baby in April (still over the moon!) which is the glorious blaze of color in our lives.  Autumn is when you begin to truly appreciate the warm and happy days of Summer in your life.  It’s easy to look back and say, “When the kids were little, do you remember…?”  While Summer is glorious, it goes by SO FAST!  My mother used to say that life goes by, “in the blink of an eye,” and when I was young I thought that was crazy.  Getting ready for tests in school, waiting for that cute boy to notice me, trying to master both Spanish and High School…ugh!  But, as in most things, she was right.  Working on this Autumn quilt has given me time to really process where I am in my life – and it is a glorious blaze of color!

Because I want to express the vast scale of Autumn colors, I’m working with many, many small blocks, so when completed it will be very like a vista you can see when standing on Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Park north of Charlottesville, and south of Front Royal. Blocks are 3/4″finished. And they seem to be legion…

Autumn update 9/18/18

Autumn update 9/18/18

In the past week, I have also finished putting a binding on a work that was completed a couple of months ago, but I save small works until I can just spend a couple of days binding them.  When I first began quilting, I confess that binding was the most dreaded step of the process.  Truth be told, I was really bad at it.  I’ve had lots of practice since, and now look forward to finishing quilts, but in batches if I have the time.

This brings me to large scale.  This wall hanging is 21″ wide X 64″ high, and is the modern take on flying geese.  It might be a little difficult to tell with the lighting, but the geese are turquoise, the background charcoal, quilted with charcoal, then orange echo stitching in the geese themselves.  While modern is not for everybody, just like traditional quilts are not everybody’s aesthetic, I love taking a pattern like ‘Flying Geese’ and doing a modern twist with it.

Modern Geese

Modern Geese

Modern Geese_Detail

Modern Geese_Detail

All of the background charcoal quilting was done by Ruth McCormick, and the orange echo was done by me.  I really love how this turned out!

Make something beautiful today,

Beth

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VALUE, or shades of gray…

Posted on September 7, 2018 by Beth Markel

I am not a traditional quilt designer.  Shocking, I know.  I am, however, an obsessed and relentless designer of artistic textiles. If you are new to sewing, designing, making patterns of any sort, or just like to make art, there are a number of design elements to consider.  These ‘Principles of Design’ vary only slightly from art to architecture to clothing, depending on whether you view it, walk through it, or wear it.

Today I want to talk about “Value” of color, which is an element used to create “drama” in art.  Value is the saturation of color, for me, in fabric.  A black fabric can be as light as shades of gray, or as dark as the midnight sky.  A blue fabric can be anywhere from the palest blue or the ocean as it meets the horizon in the distance, or as dark as the blue velvet night sky in winter.  It’s important to use dynamic, changing values in your quilts, whether traditional or art quilts, or the lovely modern quilts.

Not knowing to whom I should give credit, I use the phrase, “Color gets all the credit, but Value does all the work.”  If you are making art that is OK, but you don’t think it’s spectacular, change up the values you are using.  Instead of another medium yellow, use a vibrant or glowing yellow that has a much greater value – more YELLOW color.  The best way to determine value is often using a camera with a Black/White feature. Even my new Samsung camera has a feature where I can take a photo, then alter the colors, including B/W.

So here is what is on my design wall today:  first in B/W to determine if I have a variety of values, then in color to see it how our eye sees it:

B/W values

B/W values

and now in color:

Same photo in color

Same photo in color

 

There is just something happy about color, and these fall colors really sing, right up to the clear, blue skies over Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley.

Make something today!

Cheers,

Beth

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Summer Update

Posted on August 22, 2018 by Beth Markel

Hi All,

apologies for taking a short break, but I have been working on the same quilt for more than 6 weeks now, and while I see progress, it’s the same block, over and over and over again, just in different colors.

And the block is 3/4″ x 3/4″ finished.  So slow, tedious, but so far I’m liking the work in progress:

Autumn Update 8_22_18

Autumn Update 8_22_18

So while this is actually “progress” it is slow.  I am making this a quilt-as-you-go piece also, as the entire work will be stitched in the ditch, and not all the blocks line up perfectly.  I want it that way, simply to make the eye work harder – it makes it more interesting , or at least I hope it will by the time it’s finished.  The first of this series was also stitched in a quilt-as-you-go manner, as I wanted the quilting to be as detailed as the work itself was.  While Autumn is still in the works, below is Spring:

Spring Storm

Spring Storm

And the detail… I have no idea what I was thinking at the time, and yes, those are all tied knots, even the tiny ones:

Spring Storm Detail

Spring Storm Detail

Now on a very happy note, my quilt, Chatter, was juried into the Quilts=Art=Quilts 2018 exhibit at the Schweinfurth Museum in Auburn, NY, and will run from 10-27-18 to 1-6-19.  I’m so blessed!

Chatter, part of the Escuchame Paradox series, this is #7 of the series

Chatter, part of the Escuchame Paradox series, this is #7 of the series

That’s all for now – I will keep you posted on the progress of this work.  I am looking forward to a busy fall schedule, and if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email.

Cheers,

Beth

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Quilt #3 in “Seasons Series”

Posted on June 22, 2018 by Beth Markel

I started a series a couple of years ago with the intention of making 4 quilts, one for each season.  “Spring” has traveled about and won first place in the division of traditional blocks turned into something different at Road to California 2016.  It took a solid 14 months to make, and is still one of my favorite pieces.  “Summer”  has numerous blocks made, but I am wrestling with an image I may or may not want to include in it.  “Fall” is now in the works, as I started making blocks for it last week.  In a slight departure of the first 2 in the series, this one will be more “structured” which, for me, really represents the Autumn of life I have now entered.

The Spring label reads:

Spring Storm, 1st in a Series of 4 Seasons            

I believe there are seasons in our lives.  Spring happens when we’re young, a little wild, tempestuous, naïve, and turbulent…the beginning of growth.  Evolution.  Storms.  Setbacks.  More growth.  Beauty.  So stand back.  No, literally, stand back!  The only way to see the twister is to stand back a way, then be slowly drawn into the joy that is every single decision, every single choice, and every single piece that together, tell a story.

Spring Storm

Spring Storm

So here is the beginning of Autumn or Fall, still full of life, but really colorful, and filled with love of family and our first grandchild. It’s busy, beautiful, fun, but also a changing of the seasons, where I go from Summer where my own children were growing up, to a season where change is embraced and celebrated, in a beautiful, colorful way.

The finished block is 3/4″ x 3/4″ and no, you did not read that incorrectly.

Having spent a fair amount of time outdoors, hiking, camping when we were quite young, lots of time on the lakes near our house, as well as living in the shadow of the Shenandoah trails in Virginia, I can tell you that Tulip poplars are golden yellow; Shining Sumac, bright red; Hickory, a lovely golden bronze; Oak (which keeps their leaves until new spring growth pushes it out) are red, red-brown, or russet, and Dogwoods a deep red shade. I think piecing this small can be tedious, so I crank the tunes and am working on this a little every day.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Seasons Series 3_Autumn  blocks

Make something every day!

Cheers,

Beth

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Unfinished Conversations is finished…

Posted on May 25, 2018 by Beth Markel

And I am an emotional basket-case today!  Becky Collis of Collis Quilting quilted this for me, and I love it, but sitting and binding it, inch by inch, was a roller-coaster of emotion.  It was a reminder that when you lose somebody, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, plodding, so inch by inch, I plugged along until the binding was done.  When you lose somebody so dear, for a while you just go through the motions.

David Roberts photographed this for me, and I picked it up yesterday, drove home, unrolled it, and burst into tears!  I thought after sewing the top I would be done with all of the emotions this piece represents for me, but no!  This work brings me right back to the conversations I did not get to share with Barb, from our kids beginning high school, graduating, getting into college, birthday parties, ridiculous shopping trips, laughing until I needed a Depends…

Unfinished Conversations

Unfinished Conversations

Leukemia sucks!

OK, deep breath.

In the next couple of weeks I will be finishing some smaller projects, and I will continue to clean up, clean out, complete some projects, and work to make my studio a cleaner, clearer place to create.  It turns out I am something of a pack-rat~

Make something today!

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><

 

 


New work on the design wall…

Posted on March 29, 2018 by Beth Markel

Hi All,

For the first time since having a quilt grace the cover of Quilting Arts Magazine, I have taken a short hiatus from blogging. I was quilting, to be sure, but it was totally different than what I normally work on. Quilting Arts Cover First, t-shirt quilts made using the Too Cool T-Shirt template which means to backing for the shirts, no stabilizer, nothing heavy or stiff to make the shirts less comfy, snuggly, warm – the best part of t-shirts!

Jackie HS quilt

Next, using this same method, making a Navy veteran’s quilt.  Did you know there are different anchors for different ranks?  I didn’t when I started, but I did at the end – and while NOT an applique genius, the Chief’s Anchor took almost 8 hours to make.  The way it turned out, it was worth all the time put into it, and he loved the quilt!  That’s a good ending – and the pockets all work, so when he’s snacking while watching a movie at home, he has a place to put things.  My family has a long history of service to this country and making veteran’s quilts is always an honor.
USNavy Chief's anchor 12x12

If you have ever read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m not overly fond of patterns – OK, free-wheeling might actually describe how I often work, and why, perhaps, projects take on a life of their own.  My last VERY large quilt started small but reminded me more and more of my late sister (leukemia sucks!), and eventually became a watershed piece for me in recognizing all the unfinished conversations we missed out on.  It turned out to be cathartic, monumental, and a release from grief.  So, the opposite, and I mean what is diametrically opposed to the way I usually work, is making “building” quilts, or local area buildings and land-marks into quilts for the AQS Grand Rapids special exhibit area.  So, there are quilters and artists that love working from patterns.  I respect that, and spend random afternoons on occasion doing EPP, or English Paper Piecing.  I love the precision!  However, in making quilts from existing brick-and-mortar buildings was a challenge…

At the Sign of the Black & White Cow - I am starting with Kona white, drew on the fieldstone, and am filling in with fabric markers.  I want it to have a painterly feel...

At the Sign of the Black & White Cow – I am starting with Kona white, drew on the fieldstone, and am filling in with fabric markers. I want it to have a painterly feel…

Almost there...

Almost there…

Basic assembly almost complete - Fieldstone "mortar" took 4 bobbins and extremely dense stitching

Basic assembly almost complete – Fieldstone “mortar” took 4 bobbins and extremely dense stitching

Mortar

Mortar

Finally, I’d like to thank DH, Darling Husband, for adding 20″ to my design wall – no more pins in the drywall when working on large projects!

OK, so that’s where we are and what’s on the design wall.  I’ll post pics when completed -

Make something today!

Beth

<(((><

 

 


Using old blocks for something new

Posted on December 11, 2017 by Beth Markel

It has been a lovely, long Fall season here in Michigan, and I took this photo 2 weeks ago when there were still leaves on the tress.  The change of seasons seems so fitting as we look forward to our first grandbaby on the way.

Last leaves of Autumn 2017

 

After completing a quilt that was an emotional roller-coaster, I wanted something simple, and frankly, easy.  I recently inherited a box of squares, all cut in somewhat different sizes, although I did not realize this at first. They were all cut by my darling mother-in-law, who passed two years ago this month.  One of the cousins had the box for a while, and I think it may eventually make its way around to all the cousins who sew.

So this is what I started with.  I just dumped the box out since it was rather jumbled from travelling, and found some squares already sewn in strips, some in pairs, and lots and lots of free-range squares.  This means, in my book, nothing matched!  So you have red, pink floral, orange florals, some Southwestern cactus graphics, batiks, medium tone grays with modern flair, some vintage feed sacks, lots and lots of shades of white, and even some upholstery fabric, as well as chintz…

Grandma Dee's Bucket-0-Squares

Grandma Dee’s Bucket-0-Squares

Wanting to use some of the squares my darling MIL had sewn, I found some that I knew she had marked on – she always penciled in a line for half-square triangles.  My goal was to make a new quilt for our first grandbaby, but one that his Great Grandmother had sewn part of.

Dee's pencil marks

Dee’s pencil marks

 

I did not realize until after I started sewing that some of the squares were NOT 2.5 x 2.5, but rather 2.38 x 2.5 or 2.25 x 2.25…or any combination thereof!  The lesson here became sew a four-patch THEN square it up so there is some unity in size.

Squaring up the box of squares

It is not finished yet, but I have now sorted and sewn light/dark or white/pattern pairs, 100 pairs, and will try to put them together in some charming way.

Lots of pairs

Lots of pairs

 

I’ll post when it’s finished and quilted.   In the meantime, enjoy the time you have with family & friends.

Cheers,

Beth

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Unfinished Conversations is Finished

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Beth Markel

Hello all,

I apologize I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a challenge to finish this very emotional piece.  If you look back through previous posts, you can see where this just started off with some stray, orphan blocks, and where it is today.  For me, this has been a wild roller-coaster of emotions, from missing my sister, to thinking about the mischief we got into, to laughing about small things and big things, and having babies only 4 months apart, and 2-yr olds at the same time, chasing after them, and so many things in-between.

So I’m going to take a deep breath, post a couple of the pics from along the way, and the final quilt.  When I finished it, and pressed it, then put it up on the design wall, I burst into tears, and cried for about 24 hours, just as the loss seemed so fresh again.  After 2 days of that, I feel like healing is coming.

OK, these just look like argyle socks...

OK, these just look like argyle socks…

 

Design Wall Friday 1_27_17

 

Cluster of blocks on shades of purple - it's OK, nothing special

Cluster of blocks on shades of purple – it’s OK, nothing special

 

Direction...

Direction…

 

Design Wall Friday 4_15_17

Design Wall Friday 4_15_17

 

DWF_6_16_17

 

DWF_10_13_17 Color

Done. My chest tightens up just working on this, but it's also been amazingly therapeutic

Done. My chest tightens up just working on this, but it’s also been amazingly therapeutic

 

Make every day count, and be kind to each other.

Beth

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Using Black/White photos to determine color value in your quilts

Posted on October 14, 2017 by Beth Markel

Hi all,

I’m updating my design wall, first with what it actually looks like:

 DWF_10_13_17 Color

 

 And now in Black/White.  Often, when I get towards the end of a project, in this case one that is meaningful for me, I switch to B/W photos to look at the distribution, not of color, but of VALUE.  Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit!

DWF_10_13_17 Black and White

 

Are there ebbs and flows, or light and dark areas?

Is the value fairly flat across the entire piece?

Do I want more or fewer dramatic value changes?

Does any one area look too light?

Does any one piece or area stick out like a sore thumb?

In this case, can you tell where I begin to move to a completely dark tone, without a harsh line, but just movement into dark?

 I love the design process.  This pieced tribute is pure expression of what I think all of my unfinished conversations with my sister look like.  Relationships, especially with a sister, are complicated, funny, messy, loving, ridiculous, bickering, competitive, back to loving, but mostly enduring.  It’s the enduring part without her being here that’s hard.

Be kind today,

Beth

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Design Wall Friday Update

Posted on October 7, 2017 by Beth Markel

In the last couple of months I’ve been working on a quilt that has come to mean a lot to me.  It did not start out that way, as it was just a handful of orphan blocks which I made thinking I would use them for one of Nancy Crow’s workshops.  The requirement for the workshop was to make them in black and white, which I did, but then I made a handful of them with some purple and yellow scraps leftover from another project, thinking I would first use the B/W then the color.  If you have ever been to a workshop that lasts 5 days, especially one with the extremely talented Nancy Crow, you’ll understand completely that things don’t always go the way you have them planned in your head!  In fact, I’ve learned to go to the Crow Barn with zero expectations of finishing anything, and zero expectations of my own agenda.  To sit at the foot of a master, you must set aside your own agenda, your own preconceptions, and your own bias.  Open-minded.  Period.

So this journey started with these dozen orphan blocks, and the more I worked with them, the more they reminded me of my sister, Barb. To make a long story short, she lost her battle with leukemia, APL – Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia – and this is what unfinished conversations with her looks like.  It is almost done, and I’m working every day to complete it.

Height it roughly 70″ and width will probably be close to 80″ when I’m done.

I think you can see where I’m moving into darkness – silence – off to the right.

This is where I was Monday:

DWF_10_1_17

And here’s where it was last night, Friday, around 10 p.m. when I finished sewing:

DWF_10_7_17

Cheers,

Beth

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