Thursday, November 9, 2017

Stepping Out of the Box

True confession time: I (Kara) like to live in a box. Not a real box, although with moving I could have had plenty to choose from, but one of my own making. I like doing the things that I am comfortable with and straying too far from that makes me a little nervous. It's not just in my day to day living  that I like my box, but in my quilting life as well. Appliqué, embroidery, crazy quilting;—those are all quilt techniques that are in my comfort zone. I control the needle, and it doesn't beep at me when I break a thread, and my hands don't quit working for no apparent reason. That is why I have looked at my new Bernina sewing machine with fear and trepidation. 

A friend here asked me if I wanted to take a class with an excellent teacher, but it would be all machine work. I nervously said yes, because I knew I needed to take a step out of my hand-stitching box and learn how to use my machine. The class was Playing on the Surface, with Gloria Loughman, from Australia, and would be two days. I signed up in July and didn't give it much thought until all of a sudden it was November, and the class was in three days! All the supplies were gathered together, and off I went, not sure what to expect. 

From the moment we started, I knew that I was in good hands with Gloria. She made us all comfortable right from the beginning, as she shared what we would be doing in class. We would be using machine appliqué and embroidery to create abstract designs that were one of a kind. I was a bit nervous about my  design capabilities as abstract is not my forte, but Gloria's methods made it seem achievable. She began the class by showing some of her work to help us get an idea of what we would be doing.

The tiling on the background fabric adds so much depth.

Incredible detail
Gloria sometimes uses painted fabric to add detail.

This was one of my favorites!

An interesting skyline
This one reminds me of butterflies.

What spectacular use of color!

A colorful facade
So many different techniques were used in this piece.

I love this color combination!

Gloria enjoys using fabric with original Aboriginal designs.

Now that we were suitably impressed and just a slight bit intimidated, we got to work. Gloria's instructions were clear and simple. We started with a large sheet of paper to begin our designs, and she guided us through the process, so we really didn't get too stressed. 

Each technique was demonstrated clearly.
We spent most of the first day just figuring out our design and color schemes, choosing fabrics and shapes to incorporate into our piece. I was aiming for a fall theme; in hindsight, I should have made my design a bit smaller, but I will make it work.

Some of my fabric choices  being auditioned

Gloria also hand-dyes fabric and had some shipped over for us to buy—and of course I couldn't resist, even though I had brought what seemed like half my stash.

Such beautiful eye candy!

By the time we left for the day, our minds were swirling with color and design decisions. Ready to get started on day two, we continued putting our pieces together. I re-worked a piece, because one of the colors wasn't playing nicely with the rest, and added some things to another piece that needed some oomph. Gloria's method is to divide the quilt into sections and do the stitching/appliqué on the pieces while they are small, so they can be manipulated easier. Some of the ladies were speedy and by the afternoon, had their pieces ready to put together. Others, like me, were still trying to finish the design in order to actually put it all together.

Everyone hard at work with Gloria, on the left, encouraging us

My hot mess of a work station!

My friend Angela started all over again the second day and made these gorgeous sections.

Taking a class or going on a retreat in Germany is awesome, because they set up snacks! We had pretzels in the morning and cake in the afternoon, as well as coffee, tea, water, and sparkling apple juice.

Apple Schorle: kind of like apple soda
A German staple

The second day drew to a close, and it was time for a little show and tell of our progress. I was still fighting with mine, and so was my neighbor, but we put them up anyway. Others were further along, but there was no pressure at any time to be at a certain stage in the process. That's what I call a good class. 

Water was the theme for this artist's work

Aren't the elephants perfect?

My work after two days.  Not as far along as I had hoped but I will finish it someday.

Stepping out of my comfy box was a bit of a stretch for me, but I'm glad I did. Abstract may not be my strength, but it was a treat to take a class from such a wonderful teacher and to challenge myself to learn something new. Gloria's work is inspiring in so many ways, but what was most inspiring to me was the way she taught and encouraged the class. It is my hope that someday Teri and I can become teachers just like her. I hope you have enjoyed coming to this class with me. If you would like to read more about Gloria Loughman and her amazing work, you can go to her website here


  1. Good for you! I am a box resident myself, so I know how hard it is to crawl out and do something different. I LOVE your piece!

  2. I really likes your blog! You have shared the whole concept really well and very beautifully soulful read!
    Thanks for sharing