Abstracted Pipe Dreams

Last April, I was enrolled in Katie Pasquini Mosopust's 16-week online Color & Composition course.  Every other week, we would receive a new assignment designed to have us explore one or more elements of color & composition by creating a new fiber art piece.  It was a pretty intense series, further intensified as the timing of the assignments overlapped with the Project Quilting series of bi-weekly quilt challenges!!  So while I managed to submit all 8 assignments to Katie for a personalized critique, I did not always manage to finish the quilting and/or binding of these class projects.
"Pipe Dreams," Finishes 12" x 17"
Pipe Dreams was started as part of the 8th and final course assignment focused on abstracting a photograph.  We were instructed to choose a photograph that we felt strongly about and Katie outlined three options for abstracting our selected photo.  After reading Susan Brubaker Knapp's "Point, Click, Quilt!" book, I opted to complete Mission #2:  Shoot in a Mundane Location and disovered a fun assortment of lines, textures and colors all within the vicinity of our trash & recycling bins.  You can read more about this adventure as well as see more of the photographs taken during that walk about here.  I was especially drawn to this rusty pipe and chose to work with this particular photograph for my abstraction assignment.
Step A:  Abstraction
After cropping my photograph to a pleasing composition, I then proceeded to outline the major design elements of my pipe and then overlap it with an uneven grid.

Then I sacrificed two of my hand dyed fabrics to fill in each of the gridded sections.  The background grid utilized a teal shibori where I alternated the directionality of the shibori stripes creating a fun woven effect.  As the 11"x17" photograph was too large to fit onto my lightbox, I improvised and used the front window as my lightbox.  Of course this worked out fabulously, as long as there was still daylight.
On and Off-Shift for My Make-Shirt Light Box
Lite Steam a Seam 2 was perfect for this project, as its tackiness allowed me to temporarily place all the shapes into place while it was taped vertically on my window.  Care had to be taken to mirror image all my shapes.  Once all the shapes were in place, I carefully removed the entire piece and transported it to my ironing board where I was able to heat set with my iron.

Once all the background grid pieces were fused into place, I chose another piece of hand dyed fabric that had contrasting textures and colors.  I was able to do some fussy cutting in order to replicate the textures and light/dark values contained within the photograph.
Piped In Color
Quilted Grid & Quilt Back
I was so pleased with the finished composition but at a total loss as to how to quilt it.  Both Katie and I liked the smoothness of the fused shapes, but I needed a way of securing the shapes into place.  I attempted to quilt some pebbles into the pipe areas, but the fusible kept gumming up the needle on my sewing machine, creating skipped stitches.  After trying again to heat set the fusible and washing off the needle with rubbing alcohol, I gave up and put this project in a time out.

A year later, I pulled it back out, determined to carry it to completion.  I covered the entire piece with a black tulle netting.  I carefully pin basted the tulle into place, taking great care not to puncture any of the fused tiles.  I then used a matching black Aurifil 50 weight thread to outline stitch all the fused tiles, effectively encasing each section with tulle netting.  The quilting took less than an hour and preserved the smooth tile effect.  The quilt label and faced edge took another hour or so to complete, and I was left with a finished Pipe Dreams!!

In Katie's final critique, she noted "lesson 8 very exciting the way that you have taken an ordinary form of the pipe and made it so exciting by the colors chosen and the tiling of the shapes that make up both the foreground and the background."  She also said that my fabric choices gave the piece a "fantasy feeling."

So the next time you are looking for quilting inspiration, grab your camera and explore...
...Because Quilting Inspiration Is All Around!!


  1. What an interesting project, Mel. Your rounded tiles and fabulous fabrics make a very sophisticated quilt. I wonder if the technique in Crafted Applique might have worked better than Steam a Seam here since it uses only one fabric.
    So glad you got this one done.

    1. Thanks Ann. I've used Steam a Steam in the past without issue...but wonder if I got an extra sticky batch last spring? I've also been encouraged to try using a titanium needle which helps mitigate the sticky factor. I will definitely explore the Crafted Applique technique using a fabric modge podge as I really loved the finish of your birds within your border. I am always open to trying out new products and techniques!!


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