Monday, August 11, 2014

Spool Quilt

(Above:  Detail of the Spool Quilt.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

For quite some time I've been unraveling miles of old thread from donated spools.  The thread will be used in a September art installation called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.  I've mounted smaller versions of this idea in the past.  (Click HERE to see last spring's installation for Artista Vista, an annual art crawl in downtown Columbia.)

(Above:  Ancestors, a new grouping of wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools with thumbnail reproductions of old family photographs.)

All the wooden spools have been successfully turned into wrapped-and-stitched "Ancestors".  The photo above is a recent collection ... because I've sold two other collections over the past year or so!  Making these tiny gems is definitely an obsession.  Yet, I just couldn't bring myself to throw out all the plastic spools.  The only spools that were trashed were the hard corrugated and paper ones.  At first, I had no idea why I was saving all these plastic spools.

 (Above:  Spool Quilt, 56" x 28".  Repurposed plastic thread spools, wire, metal rod, and waxed linen thread.  I am considering this side "the front".  The piece is suspended from an I-beam in front of a wall.  The work can certainly be viewed "in the round".)

Finally, I had more than three Trader Joe's paper grocery bags filled with plastic spools and a hair-brained idea for using them.  My idea stemmed from the knowledge that I could make a pretty cool, hippie-styled beaded curtain.  That would have been easy!

(Above:  Spool Quilt, reverse.)

In fact, that's exactly how I started out ... stringing the spools randomly through #8 picture framing wire ... approximately eighteen strings each measuring about 54" in length.)

(Above:  Detail of the reverse.)

My plan, however, wasn't to make a curtain but a unique "art quilt".  Yes!  This is a QUILT!  SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) uses this contemporary definition:

The art quilt is a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.

So, my plan was to stitch through the suspended strings of spools to make a "layer".  Below are photos of how I managed to take individual spools and effectively create two layers that were then stitched together!

(Above:  Me in the spare room with the strings of spools.)

I used two ladders ... which were positioned at angles facing one another in order to create a nice, vertical space between them.  The opposite ends of the ladders were placed on boxes and weighted.  A metal strip was anchored between the two ladders.  The wires on which the strings of spools were threaded were wrapped around the metal strip.  This allowed me to use waxed linen thread and stitch from one spool to the next ... horizontally.  By going from strand to strand and back again, the individual strands were completely linked ... into a "solid".

(Above:  The strands of spools ... liked together by thread ... forming the first of two "layers" of spools.)

(Above:  My metal strip started bending under all the weigh and with my constant pulling and tugging the linen thread through the spools.  I had to add a wooden beam above it ... and wire the two together for support.)
(Above:  This is how the bottom of the first layer looked.)

(Above:  Me on the living room floor stitching the second layer of spools together.)

The second "layer" of spools was lots of fun to make.  I threaded spools together, linking them in lots of directions ... using the waxed linen thread.  It might have been great to make both layers like this ... but I really felt that one layer needed to have wire running through it for strength.

(Above:  The second "layer" of spools.  The linen thread is quite strong.  It was quite adequate to complete the layer.)

(Above:  Stitching the two layers together ... with a metal hanging rod hidden between the two.)

It was fairly strenuous to get the two layers together ... stitching back and forth between the spools ... linking "front to back".  Although I attached the top at both sides, I worked mostly from the bottom up ... finally coming to the place where a hollow, metal rod could be hidden between the two layers at the top.
(Above:  The metal hanging rod.)

One by one, the wires were attached to the rod.  A very, very heavy wire was threaded through the rod.  On each end I attached a small "quick link".  In the photo above, I also had some chain attached to the "quick link".   I added plenty of other plastic spools ... hiding the metal rod ... stitching "front to back" ... attaching the remaining wires to the rod ... until the quilt was only suspended by the two chains.  It weighs plenty ... but it was easy to move to my studio, suspend it from an overhead I-beam, and take finished photographs of both sides.  The work is meant to be seen "in the round".  I'm really pleased that the hair-brained idea worked!  I have a juried show to which I intend to submit this piece.  Fingers are crossed that I get to make a shipping crate!

(Above:  My great Aunt Janet's memorial service.)

I intended to finish this piece before the weekend but my wonderful great Aunt Janet died.  Steve and I attended the memorial service in Huntington, West Virginia.  I blogged about the experience on "My Family Blog" ... HERE.  Aunt Janet was a fabulous, creative person ... who lived to 99 years of age!  She was one of my role models and will be missed.

(Above:  Two little boys playing in the artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters ... now on display in my solo show, Last Words, at the Tapps Art Center.)

Steve and I did make it back to Columbia in time for "First Thursday" on Main Street.  My solo show, Last Words, was extended for another month ... which meant a second reception!  There were more people out looking at art this month than last month ... plus these two kids had a blast!  For more about this show, CLICK HERE!

I am linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art works.  I'm actually doing this from Astoria, Oregon!  Steve and I flew out yesterday.  This morning we attended the International Quilt Festival's "Quilt! Knit! Stitch!" show at the convention center where I handed out information brochures and talked to people in the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) exhibitions, Text Messages and Metaphors on Aging.  I have a piece in each of these juried shows.  It was lots and lots of fun and I will be blogging about our western adventure next week!


Wanda said...

Congratulations on your solo show being extended! It is so awesome and the fact that it has been extended shows that other people feel the same way. Only you could find such a neat way to use old spools. I was saddened to think that all my little pieces of cardboard where I wrap thread around would have been discarded. ha ha I love the word "repurposing". I only heard it for the first time a month ago when I was in the States. I wonder if I repurpose anything. I recycle, yes, but repurpose? Thanks for invoking these thoughts. You always make me think!

Mosaic Magpie said...

I am in agreement with Wanda, in you I find inspiration with your thought provoking work. I shake my head and wonder, who else would think of using plastic spools in such a way. On top of being busy with the plastic spools, you have already used all those wooden spools!

Unknown said...

I'm surprised your fiction !!!! I throw away the empty spool in the trash without thought, and here's a great idea! But how much does take time to build up so much? Bravo!!!!!

Sandy said...

Great idea with the spools! I hope shipping doesn't cost you a fortune. ;-) But it would be great if it was accepted into a show. I love the second layer and how it is not so uniform. But I agree about needing some part of it to be structured.
Sandy in the UK

Sylvia said...

I am so glad to see that you did something will all those spools! I love the piece!


I love seeing your old Christmas stocking hanging by the fireplace! The quilt is really fantastic, love it.