May 2010, 17" wide by 17" high, Private Collection, © 2010, Maria Elkins, All Rights Reserved.

Sheer Whim by Maria Elkins
Sheer Whim
In theory, I love the idea of experimenting. In reality, experimenting is a scary proposition. I have to choose to not worry about failing. More often than not I fall back on what is easy and safe. Doing a simple, realistic, straight-forward portrait is the easy thing, but it also can become a rut.

On a whim, I decided to make this quilt. For once, I didn’t have a clear idea in mind regarding the finished image. Instead, I just made decisions as I went. I started with four black and white, commercially printed fabrics and blocked in the basic shadows. Then I drew the portrait on top of the fabric with a black fabric crayon. Add to that some textures with Paintstiks and some color with Tsukineko all-purpose inks.

Sheer Whim, detail, by Maria Elkins
Sheer Whim, detail
After a couple days, I went to the fabric store and bought ten or fifteen different sheer fabrics and nettings. I’m always drawn to grid patterns, so I decided to fuse a grid of sheer squares over my portrait. With the grid in place, I started to plan ways to break up the grid with the quilting. I love feather motifs, and I’ve been really interested in the ones by Patsy Thompson, so I decided to start there.

Maybe I was a little too excited, but I woke up at 4 AM the next day, and started working on my quilt. Out came thread colors I don’t ever use and away I went. I’m a little rusty on controlled curves, and I rarely stitch a pre-planned design, so this was quite a stretch for me! This convinced me I need a lot more practice! Guess I’ll have to make another one now…