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The “We Are Somebody” Quilting Program

Christine Vinh and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell's quilting students with three bolts of Indonesian-made material for their classroom.

Christine Vinh (left) and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell’s quilting students with three bolts of Batik Tambal Exclusive Batiks for their classroom.

We Are Somebody Quilting Program presents Just 4 U sign

The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival is always a good event for Artistic Artifacts. Because it takes place in Hampton, VA, we see lots of local friends who have made the trip. And we are always grateful for our many repeat customers who seek out the Artistic Artifacts booth to see what we brought along with us. We are inspired by the works many of our customers have in the show and pieces they bring along with them to show us.

This year a particular highlight was meeting up with Roy Mitchell, Jr. and three of his quilting students, young men incarcerated at The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. We have met Roy in the past when he brought the young men to the show for inspiration, but this year was special. Mitchell’s students had their own special exhibit in the show, We Are Somebody: Quilting Program presents Just 4 U. The use of color, design, and workmanship of the 19 quilts by these young men deserved their place in the show, and we’d like to share our photographs of some of these beautiful works.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

From the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival’s description of its 2018 Virginia Quilt Guilds special exhibits: “The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) quilting program, believed to be the only quilting class in the country in a male juvenile corrections setting, teaches not just the hard skills involved in this difficult craft — planning, design, measuring, geometry, sewing — but also critical life skills such as goal-setting, patience, frustration management, public speaking, and the value of precision. Instructor Roy Mitchell, Jr. instills the notion that ‘You Are Somebody’ to all his students. Hundreds of quilts made by DJJ residents have been given to hospitals and homeless encampments, and featured in art galleries in Virginia, Michigan and California.”

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

We took the opportunity to talk with Mr. Mitchell and his students — who learn his class mantra “I am somebody” when they enter his classroom — upon seeing them in the exhibit area near our booth. The pride and joy on their faces was enough to bring us to tears. When we asked who did the quilting of their pieces, one of the boys was quick to say he was the quilter.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back. He has been teaching quilting since 2012.

We encouraged them to take full advantage of the skills they have learned in the quilt classes. We were so impressed that we presented several bolts of our Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik fabric (pictured at the top of this post) for use in their classroom to the group, with a promise to stay in touch and make future donations. By the end of our conversation Mitchell was planning a road trip to Artistic Artifacts with some of his students to spend a day with our local quilters.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

The boys also give back to their community, and recently Mitchell, accompanied by Deana Williams, director of post-secondary programs at Yvonne B. Miller High School, took 35 of the students’ creations to the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond to give to homeless people who were waiting outside the church for a meal. Participants in the program have created quilts that have been exhibited throughout the country and have also created a Virginia-themed quilt that now hangs in the lobby of the Patrick Henry Building in downtown Richmond.

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R --Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R

Visit the Sewing With Nancy website to watch a video of Nancy Zieman’s January 2017 interview with Roy Mitchell, which includes a view of the Virginia-themed quilt — an impressive 10 feet by 12 feet — from the Patrick Henry building. You’ll also learn he has very stringent entrance requirements for this special program. (At least one Artistic Artifacts staffer is certain she would flunk the math exam!)

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M.

We look forward to their future visit to Artistic Artifacts and hope to support them in their quilting endeavors. We also hope you are as inspired as we were by the creativity and workmanship shown by these young men, and by the dedication of their instructor, who has taught quilting to 200 participants with a 0% recidivism.

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B.

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H.

Hari Agung Floral Batik Panel Quilts

One of my favorite ways to put together a fast, but beautiful, art quilt is to start with a handcrafted batik panel and add one of more border strips log cabin style. This one just needs the binding.

Small red floral batik panel by Hari Agung bordered with Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik

To complement this gorgeous red floral panel by Hari Agung, I used two fabrics from our own Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik fabric line: top and left is Fruit Sours, Green Apple, and bottom/right is Fronds, Mocha.

Detail, Small red floral batik panel by Hari Agung bordered with Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik

I machine quilted the borders with simple angled straight lines, and the center panel with a free-form meander.

French knots accenting the flower centers of the Hari Agung batik panel

Above, I accented the flower centers with French knots. I love using a variegated thread like our beautiful Eleganza from the Sue Spargo Collection by WonderFil Specialty Threads for French knots: you end up with different colors without changing threads!

I used a medium size Hari Agung panel for this next quilt in progress.

Medium Hari Agung floral panel art quilt ready for quilting and then binding

This one is framed with simple log cabin-style nested borders, including Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik in Connections, Red and the Crosshatch Gold from the Marks by Valori Wells collection, a gorgeous modern cotton. The next step is to add quilting using the BERNINA Q20 sit down machine and then bind it.

Detail, medium Hari Agung floral panel art quilt ready for quilting and then binding

This simple construction technique — batik panel framed by log cabin strips —is easy enough for beginning quilters, but impressive: get started on your own version!

WonderFil Threaducation!

Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula is enjoying her time in sunny California at the WonderFil Education Center Summit…

Judy Gula, owner of Artistic Artifacts, participating in the WonderFil Specialty Threads Education Summit

…as is perhaps obvious from the big smile on her face in the photo above! It was taken by her friend Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, another attendee at the Summit. Liz (pictured below), a certified “Threaducator” with WonderFil, will be visiting Artistic Artifacts in June for her 4-day creative retreat, Stitch Journeys. Suitable for beginners, attendees gain mastery of their sewing machine and develop the confidence to tackle any kind of specialty thread and tame their tension fears as they create a sample fabric workbook that serves as a permanent, creative reference tool. This is her only time teaching on the East Coast this year, so if you can, plan your vacation around traveling to Virginia and attending!

Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution participating in the WonderFil Specialty Threads Education Summit

Judy and Liz are collaborating in the development of an upcoming Threaducation Center class.

Handpainted batik panel by Rusli, enhanced with machine quilting and thread painting using both Konfetti™ and Tutti™ threads by WonderFil

They used a handpainted batik panel by Rusli, which is enhanced with machine quilting and thread painting using both Konfetti™ and Tutti™ threads by WonderFil. Konfetti and Tutti are both 50wt, 3ply 100% long staple Egyptian cotton threads that are double-gassed (burning off the lint from the thread two times) and mercerized to create a soft, clean, and lustrous finish.

Handpainted batik panel by Rusli, enhanced with machine quilting and thread painting using Konfetti™ thread by WonderFil

Additional detail views above and below.

Handpainted batik panel by Rusli, enhanced with machine quilting and thread painting using Tutti™ thread by WonderFil

Below is Judy’s favorite thread sampler, posted on the Artistic Artifacts Facebook page. When she returns we’ll have to get the details from her!

Judy Gula's favorite WonderFil thread sampler

More Threaducation going on…

The WonderFil Specialty Threads Education Summit

But you know fiber artists…even after a full day of studying, they are still up for more fun! You can see Liz and Judy, plus Bernadette Kent and Alicia Campbell in the background of this selfie taken by Libby Williamson of Blue Denim Design at The Dragonfly Shops & Gardens in Orange, CA.

Fiber artists having fun at the Blue Denim Studio at The Dragonfly Shops & Gardens in Orange, CA

They were busy having fun with block printing and thermofax printing on fabric. Judy never misses the opportunity to share her love of wooden printing blocks!

Those of you close to Artistic Artifacts can further your own Threaducation! Join us on Friday, March 24 for Finding Your Voice, a lecture by WonderFil Threaducator Kay Capps Cross. She promises that “We will relax and learn ways to release our inner creativity and express ourselves through our quilts. Art quilts, experiments, free associations, or whatever we call our pieces, they are a window to what is inside of us. With a little confidence, our voice will be heard.”

Kay Kapps Cross quilt stitched with WonderFil Specialty Threads

And on Saturday, March 25, we are delighted that Kay (who quilted the above beauty as she demonstrated various WonderFil threads during the recent AQS show) will be sharing her knowledge during our exciting WonderFil Boutique Show & Tell event. Sponsored by WonderFil™ Specialty Threads, we will hold two complimentary seatings, morning and afternoon, of this inspiring and informational session. Get inspired with samples of threadwork and demos using the many specialty threads by WonderFil! Reservations are required as seating is limited, so don’t delay and claim your spot!

Stitched Photo Quiltlets

Photo stitched quiltlets, a holiday gift to my son, nephew and nieces

A number of years ago I took a photo of my son Kyle with his cousins Megan, Carleigh and Reid (my brother Scott’s children) during an ice skating outing, and it has always been a favorite of mine… and I always intended to use it in my art and share it with each of them. Now that they are all young adults, this past holiday season was finally the year!

My first step was to print the photograph out on EQ Printables Premium Cotton Lawn Inkjet Fabric. I fit two images per sheet. I then used Mistyfuse, my favorite fusible (so sheer and lightweight) to fuse the images to Pellon Heavyweight Stabilizer.

Emphasizing the children by stitching over the photo's background

Since I wanted the kids to be the focal point, I decided to stitch the background out using Fruitti™ by WonderFil, a 12 weight cotton thread. First, I stitched an outline of the group, and then I went back in and added freeform vertical lines to eliminate the distraction of the photo’s background. The thickness of the thread gave me the look I wanted, and I choose one of the more subtle of the variegated colors available to add additional interest without pulling attention away from these adorable kids.

Trimming corners to lessen bulk once turned

I created a small quilt to stitch my photos to, using the Pillowcase Turn method. You can download a free instructional PDF on this technique from Susan Brubaker Knapp’s website… she writes it’s “the fastest and easiest technique for finishing an art quilt.” Above, trimming the corners to lessen the bulk once the ‘pillowcase’ is turned.

Small slit to enable the pillowcase turn method

Above, a small slit is necessary to enable the pillowcase turn method. My fabric label, shown at the bottom of this post, is fused on after turning and hides the slit.

Satin stitching around the photo

For some of the quiltlets, I used a satin-stitch around the photo (above)…

Zig zag stitching around the photo

…for others, just a simple zig zag finish.

Pockets hold a dowel for hanging the quiltlet

I wanted to make it easy on the recipients to be able to hang these up for display, so I added triangle pockets to the back, which hold a lightweight dowel. As these are small and lightweight, they really can hang with just a pushpin! There are a lot of tutorials out there on this easy process — try this one.

I loved popping these in the mail this past holiday season and imagining the smiles as they were unwrapped — grab a favorite photo of your own and turn it into an art quilt, for yourself or for others to display.

Pretty Little Bits….

Diane Herbort teaching Baubles, Dangles & Beads  at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA

Diane Herbort is visiting Artistic Artifacts (standing, above), teaching her Baubles, Dangles & Beads class. As she unpacked her supplies and samples setting up for class, we couldn’t help but snap a few quick photos of her artful bits and pieces.

Diane Herbort supplies for her Baubles, Dangles & Beads class

From her website: “Traditional needle arts, always considered ‘women’s arts,’ are important to me, both as a source of inspiration and as skills that I can use and adapt to tell my story. I think of my quilts and collages as being sister artworks. They are all assembled from the same things: textiles, paper, embellishments and memories.”

Diane Herbort supplies for her Baubles, Dangles & Beads class

“Being an unreformed collector, I gather bits and pieces that help me touch the past. Old postcards, buttons and bits of lace often become a part of my art. Other times, I simply need to have them around me. They possess a sense of age and mystery, of stories grasped only in fragmentary form, that I hope my work also holds.”

Stitched and embellished heart detail from a quilt by Diane Herbort

Diane will be teaching similar methods in her Crazy Techniques class on Saturday, October 8: “Start a small quilt or evening bag while exploring the ins and outs of crazy quilting. This versatile technique lends itself to a wide range of fabrics, plain or fancy…If you enjoy enriching the surface, machine or hand embroidery, beading and just about any other type of embellishment are all possibilities.“ Join us if you can!

Retro fabric panel beaded and embellished by Diane Herbort
Hand-stitched and embellished cases by Diane Herbort

Diane posts beautiful inspiration photos on her website each week, writing wonderful prose about each. Visit and enjoy!

Detail, embellished art quilt by Diane Herbort

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