Tagged Painting fabric

Sliding into summer; creative projects

I’ve been enjoying that in-between feeling where the last blossoms of spring are falling and the snorts of hot air are pushing the new plantings towards the sky. Nights are sometimes still cool here and the unpredictable New England climate makes my mind wander into centuries past when creativity here was necessity to thrive. It’s a good reminder for me to stay in that creative place and it settles my modern-day angst.

The vegetable garden is planted. Four types of tomatoes, 6 types of peppers, eggplant, artichoke, cardoon, celery, 2 types of summer squash, 2 types of cucumbers, tomatillos, celery, more greens, dry beans and fresh beans, winter squash, potatoes…In the raised beds, the kale and spinach and broccoli are telling me that they wish to go to sleep now—“it’s too hot mom”—so I will let them go soon and plant again for fall when the cooler temperatures make them happier. The garlic looks good and soon I will cut their curling blossom shoots (called scapes) so they do not flower and the bulbs will continue to grow until fall when I pull them for winter.

spring veggie garden; janebalshaw.com

I have already harvested and dried my herbs for the season. Their flavor and aroma is best in early to mid-spring before the heat of summer has changed their constitution by concentrating their more acrid resinous oils. Its still not too late; before they blossom, cut them first thing in the morning before the sun has hit them and dry them very slowly by hanging or laying in a basket in a warm room or attic. I will use some for cooking, some for sachets and some for tinctures in the facials I give and skincare products I make.


My annual window boxes have been planted for long over a month now. I decided to go with a fairly muted palette this year inspired by the local grower’s petunias and a new crazy colored coleus paired with that purple potato vine; inky purple, burgundy-brown, acid yellow with a hit of red, a split-complimentary color scheme.

Coleus window box 2; janebalshaw.compotato vine and coleus color gradation; janebalshaw.com

I always love an American flag in the summer and this year I designed a quilted interpretation for the front door that ties together plant colors. Since commercial fabrics fade in the sunlight I instead painted my flag on a solid piece of fabric with textile paint which, after setting with heat, will not fade. I use colorless Jacquard brand paint that I custom mix with Createx brand tints.

painting the flag quilt; janebalshaw.com



I’ve been reading “Summer” from Stillmeadow Sampler again, a gift from my mother-in-law years ago. Written by Gladys Taber in 1950, it chronicles her life by seasons living in her 1690’s home in Connecticut. There was a colonial revival in the 1940’s and 50’s when many New York based writers retreated to old farmsteads in New England. Living in such old dwellings and utilizing the historic land was quite a departure in the era of TV dinners. There is a lot of creativity expressed in those pages and the name of her home, Stillmeadow, expresses the non-static approach to living a creative life which I strive for.

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Last week-end my son helped me build a woven fence to contain my blue thistle.  It is of the wild variety and was given to me from the Shaker Village gardens here in Canterbury from their original plantings.  It is sentimental but given it natural habit, it falls forward.  The fence should help.  We had just trimmed our trees so the fresh green branches we used just bent into shape held by tension around the stakes.  The color of the stakes will mellow with time and it will all blend right into the landscape.

building the thistle fencd; janebalshaw.com

I hope this post has given you some inspiration to put your own ideas to use this summer.

Please stop by my OPEN STUDIO this summer on Saturday July 30th from 12-5.  I will have some of my latest artwork on view PLUS my studio is open to former students to come have a day of practice with my tools.  Read more about it here…

Also visit the Canterbury Fair that day from 9-5!!

Love, Jane


Flowers in the snow; new artwork

Flowers in the snowMy studio was a cheery place this last month in December; the snow piled up outside while gardens grew inside.  Inspired by my previous abstracted-nature works, my client Heather Brountas commissioned me to create a painted and quilted textile art work to grace the wall behind her Portsmouth office desk. So I painted flowers and painted flowers and painted flowers…

The color palette came from her existing scheme of hanging artworks;  watery sky views, ocean pastels and the warm complex white on the walls.heather color layout

I painted cotton fabric using my mono-print technique—paint goes on my board then the fabric gets “printed” with it.  I stitched flowers together in random clumps then stitched the clumps together randomly.

DSC06222 DSC06226 DSC06227 %22A stroll thru the garden%22; janebalshaw.comWhat do you think?


Change of season creative inspirations

fall pumpkin:pepper; janebalshaw.comIts fall and the gardens are winding down here at my country home and studio.  This time of year is always settling to me as though the plants and I have run a long, hot race through summer and now we can rest on our laurels.  Artistic inspiration always comes.  Here is what I am thinking…

hydrangea:nasturium; janebalshaw.comThe color of the end-of-season hydrangea and heirloom nasturium makes me want to get back to my hand appliqueing in similar tones.  I am making a baltimore album type quilt a little bit at a time, year by year.DSC05864

The gray bark of the maple trees is inspiring me to finally do something with the wood grained fabric I painted last year.  Maybe I will get something created with it for Open Studio next month.wood grained fabric; janebalshaw.com

HOW TO: Apply a thin coat of textile paint to your paint board, run a wood-graining tool through it then very carefully lay either wet/rung-out cotton fabric [like above] or dry fabric on top of the paint.  Roll a brayer on the fabric to “print it” with the paint below.  Pull off carefully and let dry.  Set paint with heat, wash and iron.

Although my rose geranium is still lush, it may freeze soon so I have clipped some stems of it and made starts already for next years planting.  I make gorgeous rose geranium tinctures to use in my summer facials.  Clip a tip off your geranium and pull off the lower leaves.  Prepare a pot of good soil by moistening it with water and poke a hole down the center of the soil (I use the handle of a wooden spoon.)  Dip the stem into powdered Growth Hormone and insert stem into hole.  Press dirt around it.  It will root where you pulled the leaves off and grow into another full sized plant.geranium starts; janebalshaw.com

I pulled down the worn out vegetable plants at the back door to clean up the entrance to my studio collecting the last bits.  David dug up the potatoes out of the compost pile.  I think I will make my stuffed pepper dish.   Maybe an au gratin of potato with some rosemary on another day.fall harvest; janebalshaw.comEven the bees are slowing down enough for a photograph.  Columbus Day week-end is always a good bench-mark for closing her down and buttoning it up.  Enjoy your close to this season!zinia:dalia; janebalshaw.com


Images of water and First Friday fodder! 8/1

water series 2This Friday from 5-8PM, in conjuction with the First Friday art gallery openings here in Portsmouth, I am showing my newest collection of artworks at the Shapley Townhouse in Strawbery Banke.  All water themed, they might be fodder for your own inspirations!  Please come and share some light refreshments with me; 454 Court St.

Above; “Ripples and Rivulets” 22″x24″.  Hand painted and hand dyed cotton fabric, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted, hand appliqued.  Stretched quilt.

Quilt Floating on the Surface

Above; “Floating on the Surface”  30″ x 32″.  Hand printed/painted cotton, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted, hand appliqued.  Stretched quilt.

quilt, Piscataqua from the other side

Above; “Piscataqua from the Other Side” 16″ x 22″.  Hand painted and dyed cotton, machine pieced, machine quilted.  Stretched quilt.

Painting, On a Clear Day

Above; “A Clear Day” and “Another Clear Day” 12″ x 12″.  Hot glue and acrylic on canvas.

See these and many other works hanging in the halls outside my business Euchlora now through September.  454 Court Street, Portsmouth.  603-491-7305

The making of an art quilt

Jonquils at Sea

“How long did it take you to make that?” is the question most often asked.  The honest answer? Weeks.  And months.  To create something original in stitched fabric – without a pattern, without a super clear direction – it does take a very long time as the piece builds upon itself before one’s very eyes.  It’s as though the piece has its own end in mind and you are just along for the ride.

And unlike paint that one can joyfully swath onto a canvas with immediate results, that moment of inspiration is delayed through the process of finding the correct colored fabric, cutting it, stitching it then ironing it and hoping it is what you see in your mind’s eye.  And if painting or dying fabric is involved, add another 5 or so steps.  Creating art with stitched fabric takes at least 5 times as long as painting a canvas of the same size.

Here is the process used to create “Jonquils at Sea” above.

The Inspiration.  In strolling thru my bins of fabric color one day, my eyes stopped at the blue grey.  That got my attention;  I could see that color mixed with the complimentary colors of yellow and orange.DSC05598DSC05593

The design.  I walked around that bin in the studio for several days waiting for the color inspiration to create an image in my mind of how it should take form.  Suddenly I had it, so sketched out the form and the proportions quickly while the actual details I held in my mind.  I like my finished work to be slightly off-square thus one side longer than the other.  I use the golden ration to decide where to divide that “square” into parts.  28″ ÷ 1.61803 = approx. 17″;  28″ – 17″ = 11″…….. 25″ ÷ 1.61803 = approx. 15″; 25″ – 15″ = 10″.

Jonquils sketch

The mechanics.  I thought for a while on how I would execute what I saw in my mind’s eye on that left hand section, I envisioned variegated patterning with little rectangular splotches of color set into that grey.  I dove in trying a technique I had used before, strip piecing that then gets cut into random curved lengths that are pieced and stitched as I go, deciding what the color and placement should take place after the last one has been done, pausing and pondering after each strip to create “intentional irregularity”.


Because of the very small piecing (some finished splotches of color are only 1/4″ square!) it makes for bulky bundles of seams.  I random pressed them with a hot iron and steamed to be the most flat; some inward, some outward.  It makes no difference with quilting in the end.DSC05560For the top right hand section I used my random square technique of simply starting with a square or rectangle (in this case the white) then piecing around it like a log cabin block,  only I don’t cut the strips square so it creates a off-centered look.  I consciously work at alternating values and colors so that the over-all effect looks evenly patterned.  Again, this takes time because each piece needs to be made to fit up against the former one creating sections of blocks that are then sewn together.  Most of the fabrics used were hand-painted or hand-dyed at another time, each one taking hours/days as color is layered and dried, layered and dried, then set, washed and cured.DSC05553

I had envisioned the lower right hand section to be hand painted section.  I did not have any pre-painted fabrics so I custom-created a piece just for this section.  I mixed the paint to match the fabrics already used, then made several tries until I got what I wanted.  The process for this type of finish is to paint the board then brayer the fabric into it.  The pieces that did not make the cut will be used later in something else just like the pieces I used in the yellow/orange section.DSC05631

When the quilt top is finally finished and pieced I then create a sandwich of plain colored backing with “bat” in between.  I hold it together with curved safety pins.  I then begin the process of stitching the layers together with quilting.  I used my own techniques; some to mimic the look of more paint splotches, some to reinforce the design and some to add visual interest.  Most of this was done by machine but a bit was also done by hand. DSC05601DSC05603 DSC05602DSC05600

Once the stitching is complete the quilt is stretched over canvas stretchers bars and finished with a paper backing like a finished painted canvas.  Whew.  Complete.

This quilt will be on display & for sale at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s headquarters gallery exhibition, “Circles, Squares and Triangles” in Concord, New Hampshire July 11th through September 26th, 2014.  49 South Main Street across from the Capital Center for the Arts.  Join me at the opening reception Friday July 11th from 5 – 7.



Color Your Life Workshop

Painting pillows

Color makes us feel good. There is a reason for this; as part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the energized wave lengths of color affect our emotions by activating our endocrine system to release pleasure hormones.

On Saturday May 17th I am teaching a color class through the Concord Hospital Wellness program held in the Craft Center at the League of NH Craftsmen headquarters.  In this class learn about how color can change your mood, what colors make you feel best and how to incorporate them into your home. Experience this color theory through painting and penciling on fabric to end up with the components for a throw pillow to be assembled at home later. [NOTE: no sewing experience is needed. Non-sewing methods can be applied.] Demonstration, lecture and worksheets also included. $60.00 for the class plus $20.00 materials fee.  FUN!!

Saturday, May 17th, 10-2

League of NH Craftsmen Headquarters

49 South Main Street, Concord, NH

Please contact the Center for Health Promotion to register – 606-230-7300 or register through LNHC by phone 603-224-3375 or on-line.

Click here to download the information PDF shown below.workshop

“Shadows and Flame”, new art work

Formula red


I have just completed a new quilted artwork inspired by the Call to Entry from the League of NH Craftsmen HOT STUFF exhibit that opens on January 10th in Concord, New Hampshire.  “Shadows and Flame” is a throw back to my original roots in textile art; it is a true quilt, not stretched as I have done in the recent past but instead stitched tightly with under-turned edges that reinforce a firm hanging format.

The quilt features hand painted, hand dyed and over-painted fabrics with microscopic piecing, fused reverse appliqued and detailed stitching which includes the wording for the color formulas used to make the paint colors.

Please join me on opening night of the exhibit to see this work and the other work of some other amazing artists that the League supports.  Friday, January 10th 5:00 to 7:00.  Wine tasting by LaBelle Winery.  LNHC Gallery – 49 South Main Street suite 100 , Concord, NH  603-224-3375.  Shows runs through March 21st.

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