Beth Markel

Blog

Progress and Updates

Posted on June 5, 2019 by Beth Markel

First I would like to thank everybody who sent me notes and emails after the MQG show in Nashville. My sister’s quilt really struck a universal chord, as everyone at some point must deal with grief. While we all deal with loss and grief differently, this quilt really appealed to a lot of people and I’m so grateful. Many emails addressed how the quilt sort of fades to black on the right-hand side, and this also struck a chord.  A sweet gal who had lost one of her own sisters kept saying how fun but messy sister relationships can be.  She would know, as she had 5 sisters!  At the end of making this quilt, I’ve decided you never get over the loss, but with time it sort of becomes the fabric of your life.

I have also travelled quite a bit lately and have neglected my blog, but I have been working diligently when I’m home. First, an update on Autumn: the top half is pieced and in 6 large chunks of blocks, 2 of which are quilted. This is a quilt-as-you-go, which I don’t do very often, but since the entire work will be stitch-in-the-ditch, this was the easiest way to tackle it.  It looks like it will be about 75″ x 75″ when completed, although I’m making this up as I go, so that may vary in the end:

Autumn_Update_5_25_2019

Next, because working with 3/4″ blocks can be so tedious your eyes begin to bleed…I took 2 days and made a small quilt for Sacred Threads Eye Contact.  The parameters were it had to be human eyes, but a small size.  Any technique or surface design was accepted.  So I used an older selfie and quilted this guy in a very short period of time. The size parameters were 5″ high by 23″ wide. Kind of an odd size, but I’m fairly certain they are going to gang them all together like tiles in a mosaic that fit because they are all the same size. That is just a guess on my part, so what they actually do to display them might be totally different.  No hanging sleeve was required.

What did I learn from this? There is no love in my heart for fusible!  I have wildly curly hair and I thought pink might be a nice color, so I fused a pink batik to 2-sided heat bond, cut out the curls and heat set.  It was all going well until I began to quilt this piece and the heat bond failed.  It might be failure on my part…did I press too long and the glue was too dispersed to be sticky?  Since I seldom use it, I was at a loss, and ended up quilting every single, stupid, pink curl by itself!  Lesson learned.

Sacred Threads Eye Contact, 5" H x 23" W

Sacred Threads Eye Contact, 5″ H x 23″ W

Apologies for the quality of the picture. I only thought to photograph it when I was standing in the post office packing it and the left is mostly shadow. The whole piece looks a lot more like the coloring on the right. There is applique, fabric pens, quilting, a thread painting in the eyes…you name it, and I was willing to try it. Sometimes a small project tickles your muse and you just have to go for it!

Recently I also took a weekend to go fabric shopping in Ohio. There is a wonderful shop in Waynesville, Ohio called the Fabric Shack, just a block off of Main Street, where our family used to go antique shopping. Waynesville has grown, and the antiques are just as wonderful, but when I lived just up the road there was not a quilt shop or fabric shop in the area.  So…I spent about 3 hours shopping in this GEM of a store, and met a lovely woman who will be 90 soon, and by met her, I mean she was WORKING there! Her daughter also works there, and what a delightful, bright, intuitive pair they are! There are lots and lots of beautiful quilts hanging on the walls, and they have a smashing batik section as well. Lots of kits, lots of fabrics, lots of fun! I also might have a new fabric favorite…Cotton + Steel, Citron Lawn. Not quite neon. Not quite green apple…but totally yummy.

Just one of the rooms in Waynesville's Fabric Shack

Just one of the rooms in Waynesville’s Fabric Shack

Cotton + Steel Citron Lawn might be my new favorite color

Cotton + Steel Citron Lawn might be my new favorite color

 

Next, I am off to Wisconsin for a weekend workshop with one of my favorite people, Sherri Lynn Wood of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  She was also the keynote speaker for the Modern Quilt Guild, MQG in Nashville this year, so I’m really looking forward to being on the student side of the table instead of the teaching side of the table for a weekend.  Do I love to teach? Yes.  Do I think I still have lots and lots to learn? Also yes!  I’ve never been to Cedarburg, Wisconsin, so the whole weekend will be something of an adventure.

I’ll try not to neglect my blog, but I also want to have things to share when I do blog…and not just the same, “I’ve been working on this Autumn piece.” “So, this week I made lots of 3/4″ blocks and worked on Autumn.”  Now that it is roughly 1/2 done, I’m hoping the rest will go a little faster.  When I travel I’ll be making lots of grey strip sets for the rocks, actually the outcropping of rocks, where I took a lot of photos of Shenandoah National Park when we lived in Culpeper, Virginia. Such a beautiful area, and when the fall colors emerge, it can be breath-taking.  I do not know if our kids remember being on one of the hiking trails when we were suddenly between a mama bear and her two cubs, but it’s one of those moments that I will never forget. We were hiking and about 30′ in front of us, two small bear cubs come running and tumbling out of the woods, only to cross the trail and keep going. When we heard mama bear call, we suddenly realized we were between mama and the cubs…so we picked up our youngest and as quietly as we could, moved back up the trail until we watched her cross where her cubs did.  Scary and amazing, all in the same moment.

Make something malapert today!

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><

 

 

 


The eye cannot always discern value, but a B/W photo never lies

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Beth Markel

I have, what a lot of sewing or quilting enthusiasts call, a “scrap bin.”  My bins could easily occupy a 5′ x 10′ storage unit, not stacked to the ceiling, but respectably shoulder high. It’s not something I’m proud of…but I USE my scraps!  At the beginning of the year, I began sorting scraps by color – just to make them easier to tackle.  There is a lovely, local long-arm quilter (Ruth McCormick) who also passes on her “crumbs” bag, but being a long-armer, has lots of strips of respectable length.  So enter a project I ONLY allow myself to work on 2 hours in the mornings, often before the sun comes up. I use this time limit as one of the parameters for this project, because I want it to be something I look at critically and develop slowly.

Most of us have a cell phone in our pocket or nearby.  I use the Black/White feature or B/W Classic feature (for Samsung Galaxy) to evaluate not the color of the blocks, but the VALUE of the blocks.  What’s the difference?  Colors are Roy G. Biv, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet, as many of us recall from learning about art and rainbows.  What is infinitely more critical to me, however, is the value, or depth of color, within each block, and how the blocks interact together.  Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit.  So far, I’ve fiddled with the lay-out about 15 minutes each morning, and have settled on a 6-block wide x 8-block high size, and will continue to fiddle with value as I make more Indigo & Violet blocks.  The next project may then be ROY blocks…as I said, lots of strips and scraps to work with.

See if you can spot where the values are all too similar, or unbalanced:

2_14_19 layout

2_14_19 layout

 

2-14_19 B/W Values

2-14_19 B/W Values

 

Stronger blocks together

Stronger blocks together

 

Finished layout until Monday. Value distribution is better...

Finished layout until Monday. Value distribution is better…

 

The camera is your friend. The human eye looks at color, is drawn to color, and often does not see value differences in subtle ways. The eye cannot always discern value, but a Black/White photo never lies. To make your art more dynamic, use value to balance pieces out.

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><

 

 

 


Winter Update

Posted on January 31, 2019 by Beth Markel

You know it might be Michigan in the winter when you are excited that the temperature is UP to 0° but the best thing to do is hunker down and sew!  I haven’t posted much lately, because, frankly, I’m doing the same thing day after day. I’m working on “Autumn” which has finished squares of 3/4″ so are being cut at 1.25″ and although some might think it’s tedious to work this small, I’m enjoying it.  It is, however, hours and hours of making design decisions, so I thought I would let you in on the process.

Nope. If long sides are together they look clunky when sewn in. Next.

Nope. If long sides are together they look clunky when sewn in. Next.

Nope. Again with the long sides...but colors are good, so rotate one block or the other.

Nope. Again with the long sides…but colors are good, so rotate one block or the other.

 

Yep. Better...

Yep. Better…

 

16-patch with blocks rotated and sewn. Currently 3.5" and will be 3" square when sewn in.

16-patch with blocks rotated and sewn. Currently 3.5″ and will be 3″ square when sewn in.

 

Likely where they will land in the autumn colors.

Likely where they will land in the autumn colors.

 

Autumn Update 1_ 31_2019

Autumn Update 1_ 31_2019

 

There you have it so far. I’m calling this process “Structured Improv” as the structure is really like any quilt block you have, regardless of size, pattern, or even color.  I like working with “blocks” of any size when the design process is working on balance as you create.  With a work this size, roughly 75″ wide x 65-70″ when complete, it’s critical that balance is always at the forefront of your thought process.  Without balance, this piece would be very “clunky” and I don’t really know what other word to use – a well-designed piece of art allows your eyes to dance over the piece – it draws you in to look closer and closer.  Clunky is something that STOPS the eye, or interrupts the balance of a piece, whether sewn, painted, photographed, or sculpted.

Finally, two of my quilts are going to very different places – one to AQS-Lancaster, PA:

Grandma's Candy Jar. Yes, that is paper-pieced. Yes, I did set it on point, and nip each of the neon pink corners off on purpose, and yes, it's a Karen Stone NYB, and yes, I got her permission!

Grandma’s Candy Jar. Yes, that is paper-pieced. Yes, I did set it on point, and nip each of the neon pink corners off on purpose, and yes, it’s a Karen Stone NYB, and yes, I got her permission!

 

Next would be Unfinished Conversations going to MQG-QuiltCon, next month:

Unfinished Conversations

Unfinished Conversations

 

Yes, I am over the moon about both quilts being juried into shows, as crazy-different as they are!  It’s a little like my cooking – I never want to get stuck in a rut, so I’m always reading, looking, and trying different things.

Try something different today!

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><

 

 

 

 

 


When thread is naughty…

Posted on November 14, 2018 by Beth Markel

Sometimes thread can just be naughty.  It can be sassy, it can be calm & predicable, but sometimes just naughty is the only way to describe it.  So this happened on the back of a quilt that’s quite large (100″ x 85″) or close to that, and I didn’t discover it until I began the endless miles of binding that a quilt this size requires.  My next piece might have to be a more manageable size!

The stitching on the front of the quilt was solid, so this just seemed to be an issue where the bobbin kept going when the stitching had stopped.  I’ve heard these called “bird nests” and “thread boogers” but regardless of what they are called, they can be fixed pretty easily.

Naughty thread

Naughty thread

 

There was no way this was going back on the long-arm to fix, and no way I was going to wrestle this beast into my Bernina 330, so the only good choice was camouflage.

Beginning with backing material, I approximated where the pattern matched, then used Heat & Bond lightweight and heat-set backing fabric to it.  Then, because circles are less intrusive than squares or rectangles, I cut it out and pressed with a hot iron.

 

Naughty thread 2

OK, so it isn’t actually a perfect circle, but it works here because I just want to have it blend in with the rest of the backing.

Finally, I have the “patch” heat-set on, and I just do some tiny stitches around the edge to prevent any future disasters, and will do some light stitching to match the quilting stitches.

Not a perfect fix, but sometimes you just have to improvise!

 

Ready for "quilting" stitches to finish the camouflage

Ready for “quilting” stitches to finish the camouflage

Make something today!

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><


The 70273 Project

Posted on October 23, 2018 by Beth Markel

Sometimes when you sew in your own studio, it becomes easy to get wrapped up in details, deadlines, and making the next critical design decision.  I often have deadlines for custom quilts or t-shirt quilts, art quilts, and sadly memorial quilts, all of which I am respectful towards, and realize the memorial quilts are sometimes all families have left after they have lost someone dear.

Sometimes, however, a project jumps out at you from facebook, and you know you must, in some small way, become a part of it.  This was true for me when I ran across the 70273 Project, started by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. Here is how this project got started, and I believe we’re up to 50,000+ blocks.  You can find Jeanne at www.thebarefootheart.com

 

70273

A brief overview:

Between January 1940 and August 1941, Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls. Though they never even laid eyes on the disabled person they were evaluating, the Nazi doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, the person was deemed “unfit” or an “economic burden on society”, the doctor placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors were to read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed.

I will commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (representing the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X’s (representing one person), and I will stitch them together into quilts.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But Bones say I can’t not do this. I can’t change history – can’t unring that bell – but I can commemorate the lives of these 70,273 disabled people in this small way . . . if you’ll help. (I’ve done the math, and I just can’t do it alone.) See where it says “70273” at the top of the page? If you’ll click on that, you’ll find all sorts of information about how and why to become involved. Take some time poking around the pages, and when you’re ready, join us.

So while my 12 blocks are not exactly a force to be reckoned with, they brought me to tears with each stitch, and I thought about the people I worked with in college who had mild-moderate mental handicaps.  Such sweethearts!  I thought about my sister’s good friend, Lynn, who struggled with a genetic disorder her entire life, and passed away at 19.  I thought about the people I volunteered with 2 years ago, all of whom were mentally and/or physically challenged who came to their first prom EVER – some were in their 60′s and 70′s and had been excluded from simple things like a school dance, their entire lives.  I thought about my good friend, Lana, whose granddaughter has developmental challenges, and is the sweetest girl.  It hurts my heart to think about just making an X across a page to determine if someone has “value”.  None of us can change the past, but we can try to make sure it never happens this way again.

 

70273 Project

 

Make something good today.

Cheers,

Beth

<(((><

 

 

 

 


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

<(((><


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

<(((><

 

 


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

<(((><

 

 

 


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

<(((><


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

<(((><