Taken at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, February 2019:
Taken at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, February 2019:
Gwen Lanning is a blogger, photographer, nature lover, quilter, weaver, dyer, and investigator of all things textile. You might know her from her wildlife blog, Little Wild Streak, where she posts the photographs of species of birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and dragonflies that she’s observed in the wild. But I discovered her through the quilts she’s made and posted on her other blog, Deep in the Heart of Textiles. She recently consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.
ARHtistic License: What kind of quilts do you like to make?
Gwen Lanning: I love to make scrappy quilts with unpredictable color combinations. But someday I would love to make whole cloth quilts with beautiful thread work too.
AL: What do you look for when you go fabric shopping?
GL: Because I want all the fabric, I usually buy bags of scraps. I love getting a selection and deciding how to put them together. I also like to look at the clearance section of a quilt shop, make a few choices, and take whatever is left on the bolt. I feel that I am doing a service to the shop owner. 🙂
AL: Do you have favorite colors?
GL: I love turquoise and it works its way into every quilt. I also especially love Kaffe Fassett’s Roman Glass designs and that fabric works its way into every quilt too. I am not alone in that and I love spotting it in other people’s quilts!
AL: What is your stash like?
GL: My stash is not particularly large – it fills one closet that is 30” deep and 48” wide. But I add to it faster than I quilt it up, and I would like to catch up! It is roughly organized in plastic bins – whenever I start to fold it neatly, I just end up starting another quilt.
AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use?
GL: For about 10 years, I used my mom’s Viking, and then last year I got a Juki HZL-F600. I love both of them, but always wish for more room to move the quilt around of course.
AL: Do you quilt by hand or machine?
GL: I quilt by both hand and machine – I love hand quilting the most. But most of the quilts I make are for charity so I need to finish them quickly and make sure the stitching is sturdy.
AL: You also buy vintage quilt tops and finish them off. How do you find them? What do you look for?
GL: I find vintage tops at antique shops and guild sales. (I have not let myself look for them online because I would go crazy and buy them all. Do we see a pattern here?) I get almost all the ones I find, but I especially love the ones that I know I would never piece myself, with tiny triangles and diamonds. Also the ones with wild pattern and color combinations.
AL: Whose quilt designs do you admire?
GL: It was the designs of Kaffe Fasset that got me into quilting – I loved the big bold prints and simple piecing, and his designs struck me as very fresh.
I saw the Gee’s Bend quilts here in Houston and I have always loved that improvisational look. In the old quilts I collect, I really love it when some of the colors have faded, leaving an unpredictable composition of color.
In the quilts I make for myself I try to have asymmetrical compositions and those unpredictable color combinations. (I am more restrained when I make quilts for others.)
I also love Alexandra Ledgerwood’s clean modern designs and have made a few of them. When it comes to art quilts, I love Judy Coates Perez, Kathy York, the free motion extravaganzas of Teri Lucas, and the thread sketches on transparencies of Rob Wynne. And I have just learned about Jill Kerttula and I love the multiple techniques she used in her art quilts.
AL: Do you also spin yarn? On a wheel or a drop spindle?
GL: I know the basics of spinning, but I would not call myself a real spinner. I have spun wool and cotton, on drop spindle, great wheel, and flyer wheel. I would love to spin more, and I love reading Ply magazine and seeing all the possibilities.
AL: What kind of loom do you use?
GL: My favorite loom is an 8-harness, 54” Gilmore, but I also have a 4-harness, 36” Harrisburg.
AL: What kind of materials do you weave?
GL: I have woven with cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk blend yarns.
AL: What do you weave?
GL: I love to weave rugs, but lately I mostly weave dish towels. Just like with the fabric scraps I use in quilting, I have lots of little bits of yarn, and I like combining them in striped and checked towels.
AL: What is the hardest part of weaving?
GL: For years I didn’t like warping the loom, but now I love every part of the process. It is so soothing. Now the hardest part is deciding on what pattern I will weave this time – there are so many drafts I want to weave, but I also love weaving a favorite draft again.
AL: What is the best part of weaving?
GL: For me the best part is that once you throw that shuttle, that part of the cloth is done. If you had to cut it off the loom right then (and could stabilize the edge), it would be ready to go just like that. With quilting, there is the cutting, then the piecing, then the prep of the quilt sandwich, then the quilting, then the binding, and you can’t really call it done until all of those steps are finished. You can’t be sure it is even going to look complete. With weaving, you get that feeling of completion with every shot.
AL: You also make your own dye using plants. Tell me more about that.
GL: We moved to our farm 10 years ago, and right about that same time, I found out that you could do natural dyeing with the same process you would use to make sun tea – put in the plants in a glass jar outside, pour boiling water over them, and see what color develops. I tried every plant I could find, and I was excited to find out that some of the best colors came from some of the most nondescript “weeds.” It was a great help in learning to distinguish those plants.
It works best on wool, which we don’t use a lot of here in Texas, and the colors do fade over time, but it is a lot of fun.
AL: Do you still knit? What do you like most to knit?
GL: I knit and crochet a little. Someone gave me a huge sack of leftover crochet thread, (and then I bought an equally large sack of leftovers, in case I somehow ran out of something from the first sack), and I am slowly crocheting those into place mats and baskets. I like to always have a project of that sort going, to take along with me when we go visiting or traveling.
AL: Do you still cross stitch or do any other kinds of embroidery or needlepoint?
GL: I hand stitch a little to embellish art quilts, and I keep telling myself I am going to do a stitch journal, but I have not done as much as I would like in that area.
AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories or weaving stories or other craft-related stories?
I used to work at a historical park, where we had a big loom set up. Kids could sit down next to me and I would help them weave, but usually the parents were not patient enough to wait for the five minutes this would take. One woman and her 8-year-old daughter poked their heads in the door, and the woman said, “Oh, she’s making candles,” and pulled the child back out before I could say anything.
Twelve sips of creative juiciness to inspire artistic vision.
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If you are in the Phoenix East Valley area this weekend, head down to Old Town Tempe for the Festival of the Arts. I had the pleasure of spending three hours there today. I took lots of pictures and bought some stuff. I’ll share a little with you, but you should go see for yourself. It opened today, and it runs through Sunday, 10 am to 5:30 pm.
The first thing I saw was this blue grass band. They also brought along extra instruments so people could jump in and jam.
After Leah Kiser (below, right) illustrated her brother Seth Ode’s children’s book, Morgan the Ox, she looked for a new project. Her little daughter dressed a toy dinosaur in a doll tutu, and that became the inspiration for the painting Black Swan (second photo below, right).
Dana Robbins makes amazing art glass. I especially love the knobs in the second picture below.
Bob Reynolds uses different kinds of woods to make beautiful inlaid cutting boards.
Elizabeth Jenkins weaves cloth. Some of it she then further designs by removing some of the pigment. She makes unique scarves and shawls and throws–and coats!
Art below by Deborah Haeffele.
Joshua Seraphin reverse paints on glass.
Darryl Cohen and Kevin Frosch make decorative items out of glass. I fell in love with the mirror on the left.
James Floyd builds, sells, and plays hybrid instruments. Here he is playing some sort of guitar/Dobro/tambourine. In the second picture, an instrument has a mechanical arm for holding a harmonica while you strum.
Brian Smith spent five years driving around the country in an RV, taking photographs of things that suggested letters to him. He will help you put images together to spell words that hold special significance for you.
John McDonald’s glass art reminds me of Chihuly. I especially like his “Yard Sticks” below.
Tom Deitenbeck makes beautiful pottery. I love the knitting yarn bowl in the second picture below. I bought one of his napkin holders.
Rick Murphy welds together found objects to create curious creatures.
Bob Cuthbertson plays a Chapman stick. I got to hear him play the Bach Toccata and Fugue. Awesome!
And, finally, Jocelyn Obermeyer on Irish harp and Nathan Tsosie on Native American flute.
I hope what you’ve seen, a small sample of the more than 350 booths, will entice you to attend, too. And if you’re there on Sunday, you might even see me. I saw a gorgeous jasper necklace by Jean and Maya Montanaro that my husband said he’d like me to have for Christmas. Best Husband Ever.
He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers (Exodus 35:35 NIV).
Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted line and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman (Exodus 26:1 NIV).
They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth–the work of a weaver–with an opening in the center of the robe like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening, so that it would not tear. They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses.
For Aaron and his sons, they made tunics of fine linen–the work of a weaver–and the turban of fine linen, the linen headbands and the undergarments of finely twisted linen. The sash was of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn–the work of an embroiderer–as the Lord commanded Moses (Exodus 39: 22-29).