Studio, tierneycreates

BLOG TOUR DAY 4: Unlikely Materials

Photo credit: C&T Publishing

Welcome to Day 4 of the Blog Tour in support of Pat Pease & Wendy Hill’s new book Creative Quilt Challenges (C&T Publishing, 2016).

If you are just joining the tour today on my blog, you can see the full list of the 10 participating blogs on this tour at the C&T Publishing blog post: Creative Quilt Challenges Blog Tour Kickoff.

At the end of this post I will pose a discussion question, please post a comment to automatically enter a drawing for a copy of Creative Quilt Challenges. The random winner will be selected and notified around 04/07/16.



In Creative Challenges, Pat Pease and Wendy Hill invite readers to flex their quilt-making creative muscles by experimenting with different “Challenges”. In Challenge #3 – Unlikely Materials, Pat and Wendy invite readers to stretch their creative muscles by working with materials other than traditional quilting cottons!

Transitioning from Cotton Material to “Unlikely Materials”

Four years ago, I would have looked at you as if you were insane if you suggested I use anything other than high quality quilting cottons, purchased from a quilt shop, for my quilt-making. Then in 2012 my friend and mentor, Betty Anne Guadalupe of Guadalupe Designs invited me to work on a collaborative project involving making art quilts out of recycled silks and linen samples from garment manufacturing. These samples had been saved from the trash heap by someone working for an Italian silk manufacturer in the 1990s and stored away since then.

At first I was terrified of working with anything but cotton for quilting. Cotton is so crisp and stable. Silk is slippery, delicate, and…well…terrifying!

One of the first skills I learned when working with silk was how to back delicate silks with interfacing. The best interfacing I have used for backing silk is “French-Fuse“. I learned about French-Fuse from Betty Anne, who learned about it from another art quilter, Grace. This interfacing provides much needed stability to delicate silks and makes them easier to rotary cut and to piece.

Here is one of the early pieces I made with recycled silksSilk Landscape:

ColorStudy2_Silk_Landscape copy.jpg
Silk Landscape (2012). Designed and pieced by Tierney Davis Hogan. Quilted by Betty Anne Guadalupe. Photography by Jeremy Koons.

The Wardrobe Meets the Wall

Betty Anne and I both became hooked on using the recycled silks and linens to create art quilts. We formed a collaboration which eventually became The Wardrobe Meets the WallA collection of art quilts created from recycled garments, manufacturing remnants, and samples.

We have a blog, The Wardrobe Meets the Wall (we are working on evolving this into a a website, “Art Quilts by Guadalupe & Hogan”). See our page The Collection if you would like to see a samples of art quilts all made with “Unlikely Materials”.

Our collection includes quilts made from mens ties, recycled silk and linen samples, scrap wool from clothing or blanket manufacturing, recycled denim, and general recycled clothing.

Once You Start Experimenting with Unlikely Materials, You Might Get Hooked!

Betty Anne already had many years experience working with “Unlikely Materials” and before I knew it, she had me experimenting with using recycled wools and denims to create art quilts.

Here is my first experiment with working with recycled wools (from wool mens suiting manufacturing scraps and wool blanket manufacturing scraps) and denims (recycled jeans) – He Dresses Up, He Dresses Down:

He Dresses Up, He Dresses Down (2014). Designed and pieced by Tierney Davis Hogan. Quilted by Betty Anne Guadalupe

Basically – if you can sew with it, we will now try and make an art quilt with it. There are so many unlikely materials we have yet to try out. We enjoy recycling.

I was intrigued that in the Creative Quilt Challenge book, Pat Pease makes an adventurous art quilt with “hair canvas interfacing“. I bow my head to that level of creativity with “unlikely materials”!

(Disclaimer: We still love and support our local quilt shops and still make many quilts with traditional cottons. There are so many beautiful fabric collections to choose from and our new fabric stashes mysteriously continue to grow despite our obsession with recycled materials.)

Tips for Working with Unlikely Materials

I will not deny it – working with “unlikely materials” for the first time is scary. Here are some tips I have learned over the past 4 years. I am still learning and growing in my knowledge and comfort with using “unlikely materials”.

  • Do not be afraid to experiment and play: You do not have to create a great work of quilting art your first time working with a new “unlikely material”. I played with silk for a while before piecing it into an art quilt.
  • Check your sewing machine manufacturer’s website for tips on working with various materials and fibers.
  • Search for YouTube videos on working with a particular fabric and sewing tips on handling that type of fabric in your machine.
  • Network with other crafters that have experience working with a particular textile you are interested in trying. For example if you know a seamstress who has worked a lot with silk, you could ask her/him for tips.
  • Determine if a fabric/material needs to be interfaced in order to stabilize it for sewing. As I mentioned earlier, French-Fuse (which can be purchased at sites such as Annie’s Craft Store) is wonderful for backing delicate silks. It makes them so much easier to cut and piece. There are also YouTube videos on using French-Fuse.
  • If you are using heavy weight materials such as denim and some wools, consider pressing open your seams, and using 1/2 inch seams (like in making garments) as opposed to 1/4 inch seams. A trick that my mentor Betty Anne taught me is to run a tiny (1/8″ inch or less) seam along the front of the seams (front of your piece) to hold down the pressed down seams. This will be helpful if you have your piece professionally long-arm quilted so that the thick seams do not flip and catch the needle when being quilted.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up! I have had several “unlikely materials” piecing/sewing disasters (bad words were said, not suitable for repeating). Some disasters were so bad I had to put them in the trash, I could not even recycle them into another project. Speaking of recycling a disaster into another project, see the post A Very Successful Rescue! about a piece made with recycled silk that was destined for the trash but was recycled by another quilter into a wonderful piece!
  • Warning – your other quilter friends who only enjoy using cottons, may at first give you a lukewarm response on your pieces made with “unlikely materials”. Do not be discouraged – art is a private and personal thing and you cannot control others reactions. (I love the saying: “It’s not my business what others think of me”…or my art!). I am sure I have quilter friends who thought at first I had lost my mind working with recycled silks and linens. As you grow in your experience with working with “unlikely materials”, your confidence will grow as will your adventurous spirit.

Working on My Latest Piece with Unlikely Materials

The timing of this blog tour post is great, as I am currently working on a new piece for a group exhibit I am participating in, called “Doors” for the local SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) group I belong.

Designing the piece: Selecting the “Unlikely Materials”

I decided to use a photo of a door for inspiration, and located a wonderful collection of unique door photos on an Australian door and window manufacturer’s website Brisbane Timber .

I wanted to created a semi-realistic version of one of their doors, using recycled textiles (“unlikely materials”) and name the piece Recycled Door.

Here are the materials I selected:

(List clockwise from top)

  1. Recycled Corduroy Shirt
  2. Recycled Corduroy Pants
  3. Recycled Tweed Jumper
  4. Unusual shiny gold home decor fabric (this fabric was given to me by the very talented art quilter, Dianne Browning, who primarily uses the unlikely materials of home decor fabrics and decorator samples in her art – you can check out her incredible art at her website Art Quilts by Dianne Browning)
  5. Recycled Denim (from my bag of recycled jean sections)

The Piece in Progress

Below is a photo of Recycled Door in progress. If you like, for fun, you can go to the Australian door and window manufacturer’s website Brisbane Timber  and see if you can figure out which door inspired this piece.

(The thread at the lower right hand of the piece is orange thread – I think it needs to be quilted with orange thread to repeat the strong orange accent in the piece.)

Are You Ready to Experiment or Have You Already Experimented? 

Now it is time for you to weigh in on your experience with using “Unlikely Materials” or whether you are interested in experimenting with “Unlikely Materials” in the future in your quilting projects.

Please comment below and all comments will be automatically entered into a drawing for a copy of Creative Quilt Challenges.

The random winner will be selected and notified around 04/07/16.

The Creative Quilt Challenges Blog Tour continues tomorrow, Friday April 1, at BOLT Fabric Boutique, Thanks for joining me on the blog tour today!

“When you are scared but still do it anyway, that’s BRAVE.” – Neil Gaiman

53 thoughts on “BLOG TOUR DAY 4: Unlikely Materials”

  1. Oh Yes, I love silk, suede and all kinds of textured blends. In fact, I almost never use quilter cottons. I love the unique looks that can be acheived from a variety of fabrics…and don’t forget embellishments. But, you know me, you’ve seen what I’ve created. I actually find the slightly heavier fabrics easier to work with; there is a bit more fudge factor allowed. I hadn’t heard of French Fuse, so I will have to check that out!
    Thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have deconstructed many men’s ties and added non-woven interfacing to make them easier to sew with less fraying. My favorite use is in Log Cabin or Courthoue Steps blocks. A piece with about three blocks framed in black makes a great gift for a boy graduate.

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  3. I love the silk piece that you created! I have worked with denim before; I had to learn the hard way to change my needle out for that. I’ve also done a children’s piece with felt; I should put the silk and satin on the list of things to try out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I recently made a memory quilt from baby onsies combined with quilter’s cottons. I don’t enjoy the stretchy fabrics so much — even with the interfacing I used it was a bit of a battle to keep them from stretching and bunching when quilting. It was a bed size quilt, perhaps something smaller would have been more manageable. Or maybe that French Fuse could help next time. I like the idea of silk for art quilts. I do have some factory samples of decorating fabrics, I might need to see what I can dig up from those boxes.


    1. Lisa Marie thanks so much for your comments! I agree on stretchy fabrics, I have yet to try and make anything with knits! However we have made t-shirt (technically like a jersey knit?) quilts with interfacing on the back of each t-shirt (not French-Fuse but a stiffer cottony type) which really made a difference,


  5. i hope this isn’t a duplicate post! 🙂 April fools day seems to be hitting my computer! I love using nontraditional fabrics and fibers in my quilts – working with felt lately and using some silk! Lots of fun and really bends your creativity!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have made one quilt out of recycled shirts & a linen skirt….difficult to keep the shirt fabric from puckering–needed some stabilization. It belongs to my Scotties now. BUT, it was fun to hunt for the fabrics at thrift stores. Going to tackle a box of recycled silk garments one of these days….

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  7. I have “saved” materials other than cotton to use sometime. What an inspiration the book is as well as the blogs. Thanks

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  8. I have a giant bag of my son’s tshirts that I’ve wanted to use for a quilt but hesitate over because of my lack of experience. I should just go for it!

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  9. I have not experimented lately with materials but recently uncovered a hand pieced hexagon(not epp) project I made 40 years ago using uncut corduroy and seersucker.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Enjoyed your post and if I had easy access to silk or linen, I’d probably move into uncommon materials. However, I’m currently enjoying my cottons.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have always been a traditional quilter, but now that I am making small wall quilts, I’m branching out into more “unlikely” materials. My favorites are those with sentimental value, such as old fabric passed down from my grandmother, that I would have hesitated to use in a quilt that would receive a lot of washing and wear. I recently became very brave and cut up an old lace dresser scarf (if that’s the name for it) and put it to use in a wall hanging that I now love–my grandma made the lace, and I now see it every day as a part of my own art instead of something that was gathering dust and making my house look fusty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Beth T. Very cool using the old lace dresser scarf. I know a very talented quilter, Mary Nyquist Koons. who made several quilts for her children completely out of family heirloom garments (antique wedding dresses, antique baby bibs, antique linens, christening gowns, etc). They are pretty spectacular. If you check out Betty Anne Guadalupe (she was the long arm quilter) blog at the link you can see a section of one of the quilts. They were in a white on white exhibit at a NW quilt show.


  12. I have not used “unlikely materials” but maybe it’s time to try. The other day we hired a designer to help us with colors, new furniture and carpet for our very neglected family room. When she learned that I am a quilter she told me they regularly throw out the sample books for fabrics and asked if I wanted them. I said yes, thinking I could find someone who wanted them but now I think that someone is me. This book looks exciting.

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  13. I like the looks you can get with the different fabrics, including various silks, denim, decorator fabric, corduroy. INTErested to try more!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I was young and did custom dressmaking I got my fill of slippery fabrics. I do recycle jeans and have tons of corduroy scraps to work with. I’ll leave the slippery stuff to the rest of you. This book looks great and I’m a fan of Wendy Hill.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have a trunk full of my husband’s and father-in-law’s ties that I plan to make something with someday. Not yet sure how I’ll handle the polyester double knit ones!

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  16. Thanks for your overview of unlikely materials. I’ve used silk and cotton linen in my quilted pieces. Looks like I should continue thinking outside of the box with even more!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I have been collecting thrifted plaid shirts for a project I have in mind, but this has inspired me to perhaps start project with other more unlikely fabrics. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shirley! I am so honored this post gave you inspiration as I constantly get inspiration from other quilters and I got inspiration from these comments!


  18. I love all types of fabrics but my most unlikely art quilt had copper screening in it. Thanks for sharing your tips and photos to inspire me.

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  19. Thanks for the inspirational photos and tip! I love working with many different fabrics and have mad an art quilt with copper screening in it. Now that was fun!

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  20. I made a t-shirt quilt once commission from my SIL, but did research to learn about stabilizers. Really paid off. It came out great. I would like to venture into quilting silk, it was my favorite garment fabric.

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  21. I come to this late, but I love that these authors are encouraging quilters to step outside the lines. I’ve been quilting for over 50 years – I started in 4th grade, cutting up fabric scraps and old clothing for my materials to make doll quilts.

    I guess I’ve always used less conventional materials if you judge by current methods, but I come from a long tradition of quilters who believe everything should be re-purposed and there’s always a “quilt bag” in the closet to collect those outgrown, outdated, whatever clothing, curtains, bed linens… I’m sure you get the idea. So things are very scrappy around here. And every grand-kid has their own flannel quilt made from the pj’s I made them.

    But I haven’t tried wool. I’m intrigued with the idea of buying the wool garments at 2nd hand stores, washing it to make it like a boiled wool and using the resulting fabric in quilting… maybe for a table runner to start.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’ve worked with some strange fabric combinations. When I started quilting, high quality quilting cottons were basically nonexistent. Some of the fabrics in my first quilt (a log cabin) have completely disintegrated! I remember just pulling the colors I wanted from Mom’s stash, disregarding the fabric content! Guess I was inexperienced just enough not to know that I was doing it “wrong”! Thanks for the affirmation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Kate! I remember as little girl making Barbie clothes out of all sorts of strange fabrics. I only learned about using cottons when I started quilting. Now I return to the lure of “all sorts of strange fabrics” again 😀!


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