Artistic Artifacts & The Tale of the Frog Princess…

Staffed by Ruth Chandler and Liz Kettle with support from WonderFil Threads, The Thread Lab: WonderFil Threaducation Center is a learning center devoted to teaching a textile classes, both hand stitching and machine sewing, that use the variety of WonderFil™ Specialty threads. Located at Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs, the Thread Lab is also frequented by The Frog Princess.

The Frog Princess of Colorado Springs

Reigning over the Thread Lab and the artist studios at Cottonwood, and inspired by her own garments full of color and texture, The Frog Princess found she had a natural affinity for recommending thread choices to customers and students.

The Frog Princess choosing thread colors

And so, like Ruth and Liz, she studied for her Thread Certification. (Because every princess wants to be a Thread Goddess! photos above and below by Terza Ekholm) The Frog Princess found that Threads, The Basics & Beyond: The Complete Visual Guide to Thread Techniques & Creativity by Debbie Bates and Liz Kettle is an amazing resource.

The Frog Princess studies Threads, the Basics & Beyond by Debbie Bates and Liz Kettle

And so all was well in the land. Until November 30, when Ruth Chandler sent out the alarm:
“The Frog Princess is AWOL!”

Any disappearance of royalty is of course critical, and so the emergency security plan was immediately put into effect. “I called out the troops to find the Frog Princess,” notes Ruth:

Rallying the troops to find The Frog Princess

But then a message arrived from 1,700 miles away, Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA: The Frog Princess had been found! (And there was much rejoicing.)

Yes, craving a change of scenery, The Frog Princess decided to stow away, taking advantage of the trip Liz undertook to assist Artistic Artifacts with the set up and launch the fifth WonderFil Threaducation Center — the only one on the East Coast of the U.S.!

The staff at Artistic Artifacts was delighted to have her as a guest…Friday morning she awoke early to have coffee with Judy, but with so much to do to get ready for the Annual Open House and Pop-Up Holiday Market, we quickly put her to work.

Coffee with The Frog Princess

With her eye for color, The Frog Princess gravitated toward pricing the inspiration packs, popular bundles of hand dyed found textiles and fibers Judy incorporates with two fat quarters of woven cotton, perfect for fiber collage.

The Frog Princess with fiber collage inspiration packs put together by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Below left, she put her stamp of approval on some store rearranging (our ribbons are now nicely showcased, much to her pleasure). At right she poses with Liz on a break from showing off the beautiful WonderFil threads to customers at the Annual Open House on Saturday, December 3, where Liz demonstrated stitching and furthered the “threaducation” of many.

The Frog Princess enjoys visiting Artistic Artifacts with Liz Kettle

Sunday found Liz and students hard at work in the Magical Stitches class. Below you can see that The Frog Princess got herself involved in class discussion.

Magical Stitching class with Liz Kettle at Artistic Artifacts

Artistic Artifacts is usually closed on Mondays, but on December 5, we were all hard at work. Our gorgeous threads and fixtures finally made it through customs and delivery from Canada, so we spent the day putting together the Threaducation Center! Frankly, we thought the tiny little hands of The Frog Princess would have been a bigger help when it came to the WonderFil Thread cabinet construction! But then again, she IS royalty; supervising is really her strength…

The Frog Princess supervises construction of the WonderFil thread cabinets and display stands

Below, everyone wanted to get close to the Sue Spargo collection! WonderFil™ teamed up with the author, teacher, embroidery expert and artist to bring out a new line of colors in the Eleganza™, Razzle™, and Dazzle™ thread lines! These colors have been selected by Sue Spargo to offer an array of beautiful and inspirational choices, including variegated colors that are only available in her line.

The Frog Princess helps Chris Vinh put away the Sue Spargo Collection of WonderFil threads

Below, The Frog Princess poses at the end of a productive workday with the new WonderFil Threaducation Center located at Artistic Artifacts.

The Frog Princess poses with the new WonderFil Threaducation Center located at Artistic Artifacts

Finally it was time to return to her own kingdom. Before she left The Frog Princess took one final lap around the store to soak in some memories:

Come back anytime, Princess — you and your friends at the Thread Lab are always welcome! In fact, consider this a formal invitation for next year, when Liz returns to Artistic Artifacts to teach a 4-day creative retreat, Stitch Journeys — Your Guide to Amazing Stitching, June 15-18, 2017. The cost will be $495, which includes provided lunch each day, and payment plans will be available — please email us to make arrangements. Complete information will be posted soon on the Artistic Artifacts website. Plan to join us!

Slow Stitched Outsider Art Quilt

Judy Gula stitched bird quiltlet in progress

The Slow Stitching Movement has become very hot over the last couple of years. Mark Lipinski modeled it after the international Slow Food movement, open to all fiber and needle artists to prepare them for a higher form of creativity and important work in the needle and fiber arts.

I have to say that I have enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with hand stitching, inspired by my stitching gurus, Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, and renowned stitch/fiber artist Ruth Chandler. They both were interviewed by Mark about the Slow Stitching movement — listen to their podcasts!

Another catalyst for my renewed interest was the publication of Ruth’s book Modern Hand Stitching, which gives you instructions for how to create basic stitches, and then shows the multiple ways you can use and alter it for a fresh new look. I comb the used book stores looking for for European hand stitching books — especially the Scandinavian ones. It’s official…I am hooked!

At one our monthly JAMS meeting, a show & tell project by member Karen Scudder caused such a stir that she was asked to give the group a short demo at a future meeting. Karen had used a creative hand stitching and quilting technique commonly attributed to Teesha Moore (see the bottom of the page for more info and tutorial links). That demo has led to many little hand stitch quiltlets appearing at JAMS meetings, and a number of dedicated new fans of the process!

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, and wanting to use samples from wooden printing blocks demonstrations, I embarked on my own slow stitch project.

Here is what I did:

Despite giving literally scores of them away, I still have a huge number of shirting fabric samples, so I used those as my backings, which also gave me a starting point as to the size of my blocks. I matched up the stamped fabric with backing of cotton shirting approximately the same size (for this technique, it’s often recommended that your backing fabric be a bit larger so it can be turned over to the front.

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich makings

I used Nature-Fil™ Blend quilt batting (a blend of bamboo and rayon; stitches beautifully) and cut it slightly smaller than my front and back pieces of fabric. See the beginning of my quilt sandwich above.

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich -- edge stitched for stability

Step 2 is to stitch around the block, by hand or machine (above), to hold the pieces together. While it is possible to skip this step, I have found it does help stabilize it all for the subsequent steps.

Judy Gula small quilt: rolled and stitched edges

The next step is to roll the edges and stitch around them, as shown above. Once you have a small quilt put together, it’s time to break out your floss and stitch away, using as many embroidery stitches as you desire. Many people embellish with beads or charms too, but that embellishing should take place after you have stitched the block completely (your stitches shrink the entire block somewhat; beads applied too early in the process could loosen or pucker).

Here are some samples of other blocks I have in process:

Judy Gula small elephant print quiltlet ready for stitching

Judy Gula small paisley quiltlet ready for stitching

Ultimately I wanted to join the blocks together to create something. I don’t know what that something is yet, maybe a wall hanging? Journal cover? But this is what I have going so far (click for a larger view):

Judy Gula small quiltlets in progress -- click for larger view

This is a fun and portable project — as you can see in the bird block, I carry the needle with me everywhere!

More About These Techniques

Art quilt by Susan "Lucky" Shie

Susan “Lucky” Shie (pronounced “shy”) is an amazing artist, and created a number of heavily stitched and embellished art quilts featured in Quilting Arts and elsewhere. For years she taught her methods; in 1999 she taught a class in her techniques that included Teesha Moore (see Susan’s online diary, scroll approximately halfway down the page). Susan writes that Teesha, “who had never made fabric art before, took to it really fast! She is primarily a stamp artist and journaler, who self publishes a wild stamp art quarterly. Her ability to translate her creativity over to fabric textures was wonderful!”

Although Susan ceased teaching her methods in 2006, she documented her methods in writing and continues to keep that tutorial online. Visit the Lucky School of Quilting Techniques »

Stitched journal cover by Teesha Moore

With Susan’s permission, Teesha (and others) began teaching her own take on this stitching technique, using it to make art dolls, fabric journals and more. Teesha offers a free set of tutorial videos to create one of her fabric journals, constructed from units she calls pillows. (Teesha stuffs her fabric with polyfil stuffing, rather than using batting.) Watch for her own methods on constructing sewn and embellished fiber art: