“Make art every day”—we’ve all heard that mantra and, if you are like most artists, you’ve probably made that New Year’s resolution at some point in your career. So how are you doing with this year’s artistic goals? Are you meeting them (most days) or has your motivation waned? Some quilt artists have found inspiration to live those words, through personal and online challenges that have helped them over time create a ‘habit’ of making art either daily (such as with the 100 Days Project) or weekly (with the Journal Quilt Project) by intentionally exploring their creativity.
Let’s take a look back and learn from an expert!
One of the early pioneers of Journal Quilting was Jeanne Williamson. From 1999-2005, she made one quilt per week (for those of you who are counting, that totals 365!) Her work caught the attention of other fiber artists and eventually led to hundreds of art quilters participating in the Journal Quilt Project. Those quilts were displayed at Quilt Festivals, promoted in magazines, and immortalized in books. There’s a wonderful interview with Jeanne in Quilting Arts Issue 22 examining the birth of her idea and how it changed her art quilting practice.
“My weekly quilts are part of my longest running series,” shares artist Jill Jenson in the December/January 2019 issue. She was inspired by Jeanne’s work, and made it a weekly practice. Jill continues, “This reminded me of an artist I knew who did daily paintings for a year. I realized daily quilts would be too much, so I adopted the idea of making a small quilt every week, which has become a wonderful form of self-discipline.” Jill’s series has continued for 18 years.
Tips to Get You Started Journal Quilting
Jeanne Williamson also offered the following tips for getting started in journal quilting. Read on for a synopsis … although they originated 13 years ago, these are time-tested tips with staying power!
- Use simple materials: Think about any fabric scraps you may have lying around your house. They could be leftover pieces from projects or even material from outgrown or worn clothing.
- By machine or hand? If you don’t have a sewing machine, use a simple sewing needle and a spool of thread. Choose any color you like. By experimenting you will learn how using contrasting or matching thread affects your project.
Binding: Don’t bother with fancy binding. Simply zigzag the edges closed.
- It’s the little things: Don’t feel you have to celebrate grand occasions. Take notice of the little happenings in your life: the bees buzzing in your garden; the way a strobe light hits the stage at a concert; newspaper headlines; patterns you see, such as brick walls or fences.
Experiment with color, fibers, and techniques
- Rubbings: Use an ordinary crayon, rub a texture into your fabric, and iron it to set the wax.
- Photos: Scan copyright-free images into your computer and print them on fabric.
- Recycle: Use fiber materials around the house to add interest and detail, like yarns, wrinkled grocery bags, painted dryer sheets, or even tea bags. Just try different things to see what happens.
- Whole Cloth quilts: Cut one piece of fabric close to the size of your finished journal quilt. Then if you want to laer other fabrics on top, simply stitch or fuse them down. When you’re done, trim your quilt to size.
- Keep it simple: Stick to two basic stitches on your machine; the straight stitch to sew fabrics down and the zigzag stitch to close the edges.
Keep a record of your work: Here’s Jeanne’s perspective on records:
“Have fun with your journal quilts and don’t worry about the results. But do consider keeping a notebook to keep track of your experiments—what worked and why or why not—and to record your thoughts and feelings. That’s what journal quilting is all about.”
The editorial team has had so much fun looking back at the vast number of articles in the Quilting Arts archive as we planned the August/September 2019 issue—our very special 100th printing of this magazine. Jeanne’s article about Journal Quilting reminded us so much about the new trend of starting a daily practice of art making and sharing your progress by using the #100daysproject on social media. Modern and art quilters from around the world are joining in this practice, many of them unaware that their ‘sisters in cloth’ had similar experiences 20 years ago.
I wonder what advances in art quilting the next decade will bring? Will our daughters be searching the 100th issue of Quilting Arts Magazine for tips on art quilting, surface design, and stitching? I hope so!