Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"What Was I Thinking?"

I confess...

...I have a stash of "what was I thinking?" fabric (hereafter referred to as "WWITF").  It's not a huge stash,  although I guess that depends on how you measure a stash.  Still, it's large enough to haunt me.

The WWITF's are neatly folded on my shelves...a sure sign that they haven't been used.  And I imagine their plaintive cries of "Take me!"  as I root around through piles of neighboring batiks.

The "whimsical" WWITF's are delightful in their colorful, light-hearted cheeriness -- like this one of exuberant crows dancing around cherries on a sunny yellow background.

It was an optimistic, wishful thinking purchase -- probably made on a cold,  gray winter day.  The thought process may have gone something like this:  "I love so-and-so's whimsical work.  Her pieces are charming and funky and fun.  And look at this fabric, it's funky and fun;  exactly the type of fabric that might inspire me to unleash my own inner whimsy."

Well, maybe not...the fabric is still charming, but it hasn't unleashed my inner whimsy - at least not over the past 2 or 3 years. 

What it has unleashed is a desire to do something with the fabric.  So, here they are...some funky, and hopefully fun, whimsical (and easy) potholders.

There are plenty of YouTube tutorials for making potholders, but the lack of a binding attracted me to this one.  I really don't know who originated the design -- if anyone does, please contact me and I'll happily give credit.   

These particular pieces finish off to a little more than 7"x7" -- but you can really make them any size that works for you.

I started each potholder with the following 8"x8" materials:
-  2 squares of black fabric (I didn't have enough WWITF to use here, so I went with black - but, by all means...rock it out with the WWITF if you have enough)
-  1 square of white flannel
-  1 square of the Insul-Bright (an insulating material by The Warm Company)

I layered them in the order shown above and sewed 2 diagonal seams (top left corner to bottom right;  top right corner to bottom left).  An 1/8" seam was sewn around the perimeter.

For each potholder, I cut 2 squares of the WWITF along with 2 squares  of solid fabric to coordinate with the dancing crows.  (2 squares of the red fabric for one of them, 2 squares of green for the before, all of the squares measure 8"x8")

The fabrics were folded in half (into rectangles)...  

...positioned in a basketweave pattern on the prepared sandwich of fabric and insulating material...
...and then butted up against each other (note, the folded edges are oriented towards the center / the raw edges towards the outside): 

 If you make a little handle, you can fold back the "woven" rectangles and position the handle in the corner.  The raw edge should be oriented towards the corner (to be caught in the final quarter inch seam allowance).  The folded end of handle is oriented towards the middle.  Leave off the handle and you have a choice between calling your creation a handle-less potholder or a whimsical hot-pad!  

With handle in place, I repositioned the folded-back fabrics, sewed a quarter inch seam around the perimeter, and trimmed off the points and some of the edges to reduce bulk: 

The final step was to turn the potholder inside out (or right-side in, depending on your perspective).  Essentially you're flipping the 4 rectangles that made up the basketweave to the other side of the potholder.  (Clear as mud, right?)

In the photo below, we're halfway through the little inside-out maneuver and you can see the handle as it's being revealed (not so easy to get a photo to illustrate -- but once you've made the item, it will be obvious).

My "friends" -- a trusty turning tool and a chopstick -- helped complete the turning process.  A little push here and a little smoothing there and VOILA (!) ... less whimsical WWITF in the stash -- and a holiday gift to boot.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quilt = Jigsaw = Diversion

For those who are looking for an excuse to avoid the tasks on your current "to-do" list...

The Quilt Show has recently posted quilts by three "Fiber Art Options" members as lovely little online jigsaw puzzles.

My jigsaw comes from a piece called Urban Renewal 2:  Visiting the Old Neighborhood.  

(Spoiler Alert:  If you're someone who likes to do jigsaws without looking at the box cover ahead of time, then DON'T look at the photo below -- or glance quickly and forget!)

Urban Renewal 2:  Visiting the Old Neighborhood

The quilt was inspired by the Brooklyn neighborhood of my childhood.  And the style was inspired by a Valerie Goodwin workshop taken several years ago.  (BTW:   Valerie, an architect by profession, is an extremely creative and talented artist and teacher).

Now here's where the decision-making comes in....  If you just need a quick break from the "to-do" list - choose the 36 "non-rotating" piece puzzle;  but if you really want a massive diversion - one that could keep you safely away from house-cleaning (or rotating your tires, or writing your end-of-year business summaries) for hours - then the 289 "rotating" piece puzzle should be just your cup of tea.  

And, if you still haven't had enough, you can check out the jigsaw made from Susan Brubaker Knapp's Fancy Fish quilt or Susan Lenz's Only Child quilt jigsaw.  Best yet, your could do all three (in the 289-300 "rotating" piece format);  you might not come up for air until after New Year's!

And don't worry, feel free to blame me...although I won't come to your house to do the cleaning, I'll be happy to take psychic responsibility for diverting your attention away from those pesky "to-do" list jobs in favor of a little low stress fun.



Monday, November 16, 2015

The Quilt Show: Behind the Scenes (and a link to the show!)

There are two parts to this post.

Part 1.  The "Cut to the Chase" section
Part 2.  The "I'd Like a Behind the Scenes Glimpse of a 'Quilt Show' Podcast Taping" section

Part 1:  For the "Cut to the Chase" Folks:
The segment I taped for "The Quilt Show" is currently being aired.  Normally, the podcast is only available to those with paid subscriptions.  But, the nice people at "The Quilt Show" send their guests a link to share with friends and family.  

The show is #1710 (Conquering Abstract Fears)...and you can watch it by clicking below:   

(Note:  this free link is only active until November 22, 2015)
I appear in the last segment of the show, talking about my photomosaic quilts.  I am lucky enough to be preceded by two extremely talented women:  Libby Lehman and Lyric Kinard.  Their segments are wonderfully inspiring and exciting.  Feel free to share this with whomever!

Part 2:  For the "I'd Like a Behind the Scenes Glimpse of a 'Quilt Show' Podcast Taping" Folks:
It didn't begin on "a dark and stormy night," but rather on a lovely, cool sunny morning in the mountains of North Carolina.  

We taped on location:  at the Governor's "Western Residence" in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina.  It's a home that serves as a Gubernatorial retreat - but when it's empty, it can be rented for other functions...our good luck.

The residence itself is rather lodge-like...not pretentious or over-the-top lavish;  as a NC taxpayer, I was relieved.  It's cozy and comfortable, and has a lovely view.  We all fantasized about squatters' rights, but Alex Anderson was definitely ready to move in.  

Governor's Western Residence:  Outside View
Inside the Residence:  Alex Anderson and Lilo Bowman (Logistics Manager for The Quilt Show)
On scene were hosts Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson, producer Shelly Heesacker, logistics manager Lilo Bowman, Quilt Show photographer Greg Chase, and Alex's husband John (who manages and coordinates the Quilt Show's business and technology tasks).

The regular "Quilt Show" studio film crew didn't travel to North there were also three local stringers doing sound and videography.

We arrived to the launch of Ricky's new drone in the clearing behind the residence and to much "boys-with-their-toys" ribbing from Alex and the crew.

But Ricky may have gotten the last laugh:  the drone videos of the setting turned out to be incredibly impressive in their color, clarity, and coolness factor (and they were aired as part of a trailer for the show).  

"Official" Quilt Show Drone piloted by Ricky Tims
As far as the pre-taping routine:  there's no formal make-up or wardrobe "stuff" or "diva" behavior.

Folks wear street make-up (or not) and wardrobe guidelines are simple:  no white or busy print tops;  go for solid, bright colors (Alex had a small suitcase with casual tops that she could coordinate with guests' outfits).  I was eternally grateful for the heads up from producer Shelly Heesacker on hand close-ups;  it gave me time to get my nails in I-don't-have-to-hang-my-head-in-total-shame shape for the taping.

Guests meet with Alex, Ricky, and Shelly right before a segment is taped.  Shelly outlines the segment information and nitty-gritty details are ironed the segment will begin and end, who'll interview, how the hosts will participate in demo's, and so-on. 

l to r:  Shelly Heesacker (producer), Alex Anderson,  Lyric Kinard - going over details for Lyric's segments
BTW:  There's no formal script for the segments and I think that contributes to the spontaneous charm of the interviews.  But don't be fooled:  there's an enormous amount of preparation (particularly by Shelly and Lilo) that goes into each segment.  And, don't be fooled:    the spontaneity and freshness are a direct result of Alex and Ricky's skill and professionalism.

Taping for our episode took place on the patio...with Lyric leading the way:

Lyric with her quilts on the patio
Lyric making final preparations for her segment;  John Anderson in the background

Camera and sound crews set up on the patio;  Alex Anderson in foreground

Those who know Lyric won't be surprised by her terrific segments.  She's a wonderful teacher, with lots of experience on camera...and it shows.

And then my turn....

My photomosaic quilts set up for taping

A reminder for the hosts:  the guest's name and the gist of the interview taped to video equipment

Right before taping...talking about my upcoming segment with Ricky Tims
Some Observations:

1.  No taping is without its challenges...

At 8:00 AM, the setting on the patio was idyllic:  cool temperature, lush greenery;   birds chirping in the background, leaves rustling in the breeze .

By 10:00, a different story:   still air, hot and muggy (plus heat from the lights);  the whir of leaf blowers and the screeching of chainsaws.

We stopped multiple times to wait for a pause in leaf blowing or to reshoot a section drowned out by the chainsaws.  And we also stopped for little "blotting" sessions.  (confession:  I turn red and "glow" on my face when I get those pauses were mostly mine;  I gave up on my hair...which began to look poodle-like.) 

2.  It's all about the people...and they were warm, welcoming, and wonderful.  What you see on air with Alex and Ricky is exactly how they come across in person.  And the folks surrounding them (Shelly, Lilo, Gregory, and John) are equally gracious, helpful, and encouraging.

A quick story:  I followed Lyric's very professional taping and felt a little nervous as Ricky and I were about to start mine.  I turned to him and joked "Well, now it's time for amateur night at the Roxy."  He turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and pointed to himself, "If you look like an amateur, then it's my fault...just follow my lead and you'll do great."   What a gracious thing to say. 

3.  When I was first approached about doing the segment, I had long conversations with the show's extraordinary producer, Shelly Heesacker.   At one point she asked me this:  "What would YOU like to get out of you want to do more trunk shows and lectures, have more commissions?"
I gave it a lot of thought.  Trunk shows, lecture gigs/teaching, and commissions would certainly be lovely.  However, what I REALLY wanted was the adventure of being on the show, getting my own behind the scenes view of the people and the process, and having some good stories to remember and tell.

Mission Accomplished....   

Alex, Debbie, and Ricky:  It was a wonderful adventure
 PS:  It helps to have someone taking photos.  All photos:  Joal Fischer

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Of Websites and "Quilt Show"s

I confess...I've had a pitiful, woeful website for way too many years.  I always intended to revive it out of its incomplete, neglected, and moribund state.   But somehow, my intentions never got moved from back burner to front.       

However, now it's been done and the new website is online: 

So what kicked me into action?

 It all began last spring with a message asking whether I'd be interested in taping a segment for  "The Quilt Show," a podcast hosted by Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson.  I had some lovely telephone chats with Shelly Heesacker, a fascinating and fun woman who's the producer of the show.  And in July, I found myself discussing my photomosaic quilts and taping a segment for the show on the patio of the Governor's Residence in the mountains of North Carolina.
As I prepared for taping, the awful thought occurred:  what if folks wanted to google me after the segment aired?  Holy cow, there I'd be, with my pitiful, woeful website.  That definitely lit a fire under me.

So the time has come...the podcast began this week ( #1710:  Conquering Abstract Fears) and I'm honored to be in wonderful company:

Lyric Kinard and Debbie Langsam (photo: Gregory Case / The Quilt Show)
Fiber artist and award-winning teacher, Lyric Kinard is there sharing some of her extraordinary pieces and providing tips for working with foil on fabric.

Plus the show starts out with a visit to Libby Lehman - a much loved internationally renowned quilt artist, author, and teacher - who shows her spirit as she continues to recover from a devastating brain aneurysm and stroke.

Libby Lehman was a world-famous quilter, author and teacher until a brain aneurysm and stroke in 2013 ended her career. Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff / © 2015 Houston Chronicle
Libby Lehman  ( Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff / Houston Chronicle)

Next week I'll post about the "excellent adventure" of taping and I'll also have a link that will allow anyone to view the program free of charge from November 15th through the 22nd.

But as for's now official.  After hours and hours and hours and hours of work (especially from my tech-guru husband Joal Fischer).  I actually have a new website!

BTW:  I insisted that Joal give himself credit for doing so much to make the site a reality...and he did.  Those who know Joal's quirky sense of humor won't be surprised by what appears on the credit line of the home page:  Created by Good Looking Spouse Productions.  



Thursday, February 12, 2015

“Fancy Goldfish”

“Fancy Goldfish” (copyright 2015) by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Susan Brubaker Knapp here. This is my piece for The Alliance for American Quilts’ 2015 Contest, “Animals We Love.” All submissions to this contest become the property of the Quilt Alliance, and are auctioned to support the mission of the organization: “to document, preserve, and share our American quilt heritage by collecting the rich stories that historic and contemporary quilts, and their makers, tell about our nation’s diverse peoples and their communities.”

It is based on my sketches of goldfish, and wholecloth painted. After quilting around all the scales, and the details on the goldfish, I quilted lots of water currents and bubbles in the background. But I wasn’t entirely pleased with it, so I rubbed some purple-blue shimmery paint on the bubbles, which made them stand out a lot more. 

It was very tricky getting good photos of this piece. I had to shoot it five times – at different times of day today – to get the photos in this post. Some of the shots were too washed out, some were too flat. The photos here are pretty true to color, and Im pleased with how the texture of the quilting shows. 

To see photos of this piece in progress, visit my blog here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Laura Sutthoff

Laura Sutthoff is a native to Charlotte, NC. Laura graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA degree in Surface Design. She was then employed by Wesley Mancini and designed printed and woven fabrics for Collins & Ackman and Kravet Fabrics before heading out on her own.

Many years of interior design, decorative painting and murals followed until she was blessed with twin boys! Life has changed in a very good way and so her artistry adapted as well. Laura created a business that would utilize all of her talents from interior design, painting, graphic design to starting her own line of fabrics. These fabrics are mainly printed digitally or silk screened by hand.

Traveling to Highpoint, N.C., twice a year, fashion shows and of course quilt shows are a constant to keep up with what is new in color and design. Experimenting with dyes, resist, silk screening and sharing techniques with others through classes has been a great journey for Laura.

Laura Sutthoff is a member of Surface Design Association and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA).

“My life’s passion is my family and fabric design!” says Laura. “I constantly am inspired by my creative friends and surroundings. Currently I am working on framed quilts hand painted with  Jacquard paints, stitching, embroidery and vintage beads and buttons.”


 “Canadian Geese Chaser”  (2014)

Appliqué Chairs (2014)
“Top Of Boone” (2015)

My latest work

Susan Brubaker Knapp here. I have been remiss in posting here, so I thought I’d bring you up to date on my new work. This is my latest piece, “Le Poisson Bleu-Vert” (“The Blue-Green Fish,” 31" x 18") The fins, scales and letters are made from Lutradur®. Lutradur® is a spun-bonded polyester. It takes paint and inks very well, and has the key advantage of not fraying. So when you cut it, you get nice clean edges. It is also somewhat transparent, which can be nice for adding depth. 

If you want to try out Lutradur®, you can get a pack that contains some lightweight (70 grams) and some heavyweight (100 grams) from C&T Publishing

I painted some sheets of it with ProChemical & Dye’s Profab transparent and pearlescent acrylic textile paints in shades of blue and green, and cut the scales out by hand, in arcs. Then I machine stitched them down, starting at the tail and working my way toward the front of the fish. The stitching on each row is hidden by the row that covers it. 

The free-motion stitching in the background was so much fun. I did it without marking, and stitched shapes suggesting coral at the bottom, and then filled in around it with a tight, small meander in shades of yellow, green and blue. Above, I stitched wavy lines filled with bubbles, suggestive of water currents. 

I painted the fish’s body before I stitched the scales on. (Aside from the scales and words, this piece is one piece of white fabric – Robert Kaufman Pimatex PFD – that I’ve painted.) After the fish was mostly done, I thought the composition could use something else, and decided on type. I’ve always love the French word for fish, “poisson,” and decided it would be fun to describe the fish in French. I cut the letters from the Lutradur®, too, then simply stitched them down.


Several months ago, I was contacted by Matt Reese and Stevii Graves, who were organizing an invitational exhibition called “My Personal App” that would debut at Road to California later this month.

Here is my piece for the exhibition: "Look, See"  (36" x 36"). It is based on a closeup photo of my eye in bright sunshine, and is wholecloth painted and quilted. Quilters invited to participate in this exhibition were asked to create a 36" square quilt that looks like an app icon, representing their personal app. This piece is wholecloth painted and then quilted, and is based on a photo of my eye. I believe it is the mind, heart, and eye of the photographer, and not the camera, that makes a good shot. It is learning to see – not just look at – things.


This piece, “Sunny,” (10.5" x 10.5") is my donation to Virginia Spiegel’s “THE 100” fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It is based on my sketch of a sunfish, then wholecloth painted and quilted. One hundred artists have donated a lovely piece of art to this cause, and the first 100 people to donate $100 to the American Cancer Society through Virginia on Feb. 4, 2015 will be randomly assigned one of those artworks. Check out the details on Virginia’s website.