What Shade are You with Leslie Tucker Jenison

Since I have been studying with Nancy Crow these past few years I have rekindled my love of solids. In addition to dyeing my own solids, which I love to do, I am using a lot of commercial solids. One can imagine that “solids are solids”….it probably doesn’t make much difference who you buy them from, right? Wrong. Did you know that many companies source their “gray goods” from multiple places? That some companies outsource the dyeing to just as many sources? Guess what happens to the quality control?? You got it.

Let’s talk for a moment about RJR. As a surface design artist it goes without saying that I spend a lot of time working with cloth; quality is important to me. Last summer when I was making objects with Urban Artifacts I had selected a group of solids to accompany the print line. I noticed that the quality of the fabric was quite good. This was feedback I received from every one of the makers who worked with the fabric. I started to wonder about it and I inquired inside the company. Here is what I learned: the owners of RJR have had a long-standing relationship with the same Japanese company for the source of all their cloth as well as their printing and dyeing. There is a very high quality of cotton broadcloth used and it is consistent. This matters to me.

A few months ago I was approached about making a quilt for the “What Shade Are You?” project and I happily agreed because I really love the Cotton Supreme solids. My style of working tends to be improvisational in nature so there is no pattern to be acquired with this project, but I’ll share with you what I used to create my quilt.

Here is the list of all the fabrics:
283-On The Rocks
433-Silver Lining
380-Silver Screen
395-Warm Gray
341-Stormy Night
282-Gale Force
357-Sunset Ruby

Urban Artifacts:
3067-002 Box Springs in Wine
3067-003 Box Springs in Charcoal

I’m going to “walk” you through how I constructed this quilt and what I was thinking about when I was designing it.

I love to use a rotary cutter to “draw” lines and shapes into my fabric. I think of the rotary cutter as my pen or paintbrush and the cloth as my paper or canvas. When I piece elements together those seam lines become my gestural “marks”. For me, it has been a new and exciting way of thinking about the work. In this construction, another piece in an ongoing series called “Aerial Geometry”, I am thinking about my experiences of flying over the Great Plains in a small aircraft and looking at the geometric layout of fields, crop rows, and farms dotted across the landscape. Quite a bit of my abstracted work is about the meaning of home and place. I’m interested in the juxtaposition of natural and man-made elements. While it might not reach out and “smack you over the head” my work frequently includes shapes and symbols that represent these ideas in many of my quilts. Also in this quilt I have included a basic house-shape, a nest shape, and some graphic Alliums to represent my garden.

First, I free-cut numerous strips of all the neutral colors in my palette. These were sewn together and small segments of Goldenrod, Goldilocks, Sunset Ruby, and Redwork were added randomly throughout. I created sections of gray neutrals and “beige” neutrals separately.

On my design wall I marked a general shape to represent the intended size of my construction. I find this to be a helpful guide while working.

My desire was to alternate the gray and beige areas, which were cut from the long pieced sections in alternating sizes and widths. I wanted to vary the direction of the pieced shapes.

Here is how I “built” the construction: first the pieces, then the rows, then I joined the rows. When piecing these somewhat amorphous shapes I overlaid the edges and cut through them so the pieces would come together as a flat construction. I didn’t worry about that whilst piecing the strips because I steam-ironed the strips really well. It does become important when laying the larger shapes together.

Here are all the large shapes before the rows are joined.

After the background was pieced together I created “stems” for my Allium elements by cutting sections of Gale Force and Rework fabric colors, folding and sewing a quarter-inch seam, then rolling the seam under and pinning the stems to the surface, then stitching in place. Four stems were appliquéd prior to the quilting, and one was added afterward to create some visual depth.

Next, I stitched together a group of raw-edge strips of solids and prints to create a “nest”, which was stitched onto the surface of the construction. I wanted all these elements on the surface prior to being quilted as I planned to add more elements after the quilting.

Here is a closeup of the “nest” components.

Here is a photo of one of my dry giant Allium blossoms, still standing in my garden. I enjoy their metamorphosis and I like how they look after the blossoms have dried out. They offer a lovely visual texture in my garden so I leave them in place as long as possible.

My quilt was longarm-quilted by the talented Joanna Marsh from Kustom Kwilts. She did this beautiful matchstick quilting of the background. I like to use a double batting of Quilter’s Dream Orient and the top layer is Quilter’s Dream wool. This seems to be a perfect combo: lightweight, breathable, and perfect for quilts that will need to be shipped and folded as the wool prevents creasing!

I free-motion embroidered the first layer of blossom with my sewing machine feed-dogs down. Then, I hand-embroidered more stem components of the blossom and the buds were added with French knots. This is one of the few places where I really need to use a thimble because that is a lot of layers of fabric and thread to push a needle through!

The roof and base of my “house” were created with Urban Artifacts by pillow-casing some batting between two layers, stitching and quilting the pieces, then appliquéing them to the quilted surface.

Next, I squared up the edged and stitched a facing onto the quilt, then turned it to the back and whip-stitched it in place. This is a cotton canvas print from Rifle Paper company, which is a division of Cotton & Steel (which is part of the RJR family, in case you didn’t know!).

Here is what the turned corner looks like from the front. I like the clean edge of a faced quilt, particularly for one that is to be a wall piece.

I’m satisfied with the details of the construction.

And here is my finished quilt!
Dimensions are 40″ by 40″.

If you are coming to Quilt Market and/or Quilt Festival in fall, 2017, please look for my quilt as part of “Personal Iconography: Graffiti On Cloth”, a special exhibition presented by Dinner At Eight Artists. Jamie Fingal, another designer for RJR, is the other half of the curating team with me. I hope you enjoyed seeing how my quilt was created. I really encourage you to ask for Cotton Supreme Solids at your local quilt shop(s). It is really a great product and I am a fan!

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Comments (6)

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    I love it! I wish I had that kind of imagination. 😎

    xo Linda

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    I really like this piece. I could look at it frequently and see something that’s there or something that I added just for the moment.

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    Beth T.


    Thank you for sharing details concerning the construction of this lovely quilt and the inspiration and thought process behind it. I often wonder about the choices that I know I wouldn’t make but turn out to be pivotal and really important in the finished quilt. (Such as using gray *and* beige as the foundation for this quilt.)

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    Just lovely! I really like the layered effect of some elements being Quilters and others added after. The alliums are a wonderful addition.

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    Mary D


    Wow, so much talent and thought out details and work went into creating this beauty. You are a creatively talented quilter.

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    How delightful! Enjoyed your process, thanks for sharing. I purchased my first length of cotton supreme solids and was much impressed.

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