Stabilizer Secrets from Sarah Ann Smith

At MQU we’re fortunate to have wonderful frequent contributors like Sarah Ann Smith. She is well known in the quilting world as a gifted teacher and author, and of course for her gorgeous quilts! Sarah’s articles and features have been very well received, most recently those on ergonomics (Healthy and Comfortable Machine Quilting, July/August 2014) and stabilizers (The Fourth Layer: Stabilizing the Quilt Sandwich July/August 2015).

sarah milkweed No. 2
©Sarah Ann Smith Milkweed No. 2

After seeing some of Sarah’s latest work, a beautiful quilt featuring milkweed, I asked her to share some information on how she created that quilt as well as its companion. Here’s what she said:

“My Amaryllis quilt, selected for Brenda Gael Smith’s earlier Living Colour Textiles exhibit, set me on the path to testing stabilizers and finding away to predict (and minimize) the shrinkage that happens inevitably when one quilts as much as I do. On that one, I thought I had ample extra length to meet the required final dimensions—at least three inches. After quilting and squaring up, I ended up with a 1/8” seam allowance for the facings on the top and bottom.Yikes! That was too close for comfort.

The testing I did led to an article in MQU magazine, quilting the same yellow rose eleven times  (ooof!), testing various interfacings, stabilizers, embroidery stabilizers and canvas. After all the testing and figuring out which two worked best for me, I realized that I could dye one of them, the cotton duck, to match the quilt and then use that as my backing instead of hidden inside the quilt sandwich. After all, why spend money on yet another layer of fabric?

Making my entry this time around, thanks to my testing, I knew that by using dyed-to-match 10 ounce cotton duck, I would minimize the shrinkage and would be better able to size the image to fill the space well. I also tried using thermofax screens over the collaged greens at the bottom of the quilt. By using two colors of paint and two different “all over” screens (which I designed and had made) I was able to visually blend the collaged pieces and therefore had less thread coloring to do on the bottom.

sarah detail 2 from milkweed no. 2
©Sarah Ann Smith Detail from Milkwood No. 2

For the milkweed seed pods, with those glorious, wispy silks, I used two different colors of white/pale grey thread over the cream and white paint I used on a freezer paper stencil.  Again, the fine lines of paint reduce the density of quilting needed and provide a lovely contrast to the even finer lines of stitching.”

Sarah has been generous enough to also share photos of the companion to Milkweed No. 2, Milkweed No. 1.

sarah milkweed No. 1
©Sarah Ann Smith Milkweed No. 1
sarah detail from milkweed no. 1
©Sarah Ann Smith Detail from Milkweed No. 1

Thank you so much Sarah!

We’re excited to say that Sarah’s Milkweed No. 2, as well as ten other quilts from the exhibit a matter of time, will be featured in our May/June 2016 issue of the magazine. Don’t miss it!

4 Responses to Stabilizer Secrets from Sarah Ann Smith

  1. Ah. Painting the wisps may be the answer I’ve been searching for to do white whiskers on a completely black cat’s face. I can test it. Her whiskers have much finer ends than the base at her face.
    Thanks for the article and this Web Extra.

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