Monday, August 20, 2018

Happy Patches

I live in Paducah, KY, “Quilt City, USA,” home to the National Quilt Museum and now biannual QuiltWeeks. I am hardly a traditional “quilter.” Precision is NOT my jam. When I try to make a baby quilt I’ll piece it and it will never, ever line up. Ever. I figure a baby is going to spit up on it so it doesn't matter. Big Juicy Rationalization. My sewing machine intimidates me (I actually have written on it with a Sharpie to remind me what certain buttons are for and duct taped the instruction manual to the case). I’m sure the “Quilt Police” have a warrant for my arrest!…......yet....from time-to-time..... I'll machine sew.
This is my "janky" sewing machine.
Earlier this year a group of artsy-craftsy friends and I hung out in my Studio and The Loft for a private retreat. Huge. Fun. Each participant taught the others something or put together a project for our weekend. Brenda Delaney and Valerie Pollard taught us how to make Boho Bags using upholstery fabric as a base for the bag and tons of fabric scraps, lace, trims, and “Happy Patches” as adornment.

We ripped and sewed fabric scraps to our bags with abandon! It was a blast!

I had an “Aha!” moment while sewing that day. What I loved about what we were doing were the same things I love about creating Mixed Media Art; working in layers to create interest, tripping across something surprising in your work, finding cohesion in the mess, editing, adding, subtracting, and finally pulling it all together. 

Paper, paint, assemblage or fabric, it’s the same process! Doh! The fabric didn’t have to represent just precision quilting for me anymore!!

My favorite part of our project was making “Happy Patches.” I’m not sure who named them, “Happy Patches,” but that is exactly what they are because they make you smile. Using fabric, acrylic paint, stencils (of course!), rubber stamps, and Stazon ink we created personal badges to adorn our bags. 
The perfect weather to stay inside and get creative!

A few Sundays ago I was seized with opportunity. Hubby was on a trip with his brothers. The sky looked like this. 

Whoop! An afternoon in the Studio with no other responsibilities. 

If you’ve ever taken a workshop with Mary Beth Shaw, you know she is alllll about the “parts.” When I was a prolific handmade cardmaker, there were days I wasn’t inspired to make a card but felt creative. Those days I’d sit in my craft room and make parts for future uses.  Making parts is a great way to jumpstart your creativity, hone your skills, and create for the love of creating. 

I decided to pull out the machine and make some Happy Patches. 

Months ago I ordered vintage linens off of Etsy. Some of these precious old fabrics were used as the base of my patches. You know how wonderful working with old paper is, right? Same thing with the fabric. It rips beautifully, soaks up the paint, and feels so natural — no sizing or anything left in it but natural fibers. Yum. 

I chose stencils that represented my mood and what I might like to see added to Bag or article of clothing one day. Carolyn Dube's Fridge Poetry is a great one thinking I would use it whole or cut out the words to use separately, and Mary Nasser's  Go Your Own Way Arrows is a perfect choice as the arrows work great on Happy Patches!

For the black, I used Liquitex Black Gesso. Why is it Black Gesso gets EVERYWHERE when I use it?? The hardest part is keeping my hands clean. 

I stenciled on a large piece of vintage fabric knowing I'd cut or rip out the images. 

I'm desperately in love with Andrea Matus deMeng's Free As A Bird and smaller version called Fowl Play stencils and use them in so much of my artwork. I layered the birds with sections of Jessica Sporn's Becoming sentiments.  The Wolf (who I think of as a sassy fox) and eyeballs came from Roxanne Coble's Wolf stencil. She's teaching at Ephemera Paducah next month and we all can't wait to meet her in real life! Squee! The bright citrusy looking stencils are ones that I grab a lot when art journaling, created by Terry Stegmiller and called Slices 6. Gwen Lafluer's July Stencil 2018 StencilClub set was the Bomb and the choice for the multiple colored circle/mandala. Below you'll see I also used Nathalie Kalbach's Typewriter, a lovely image!

I’m kind of in love with Dina Wakley’s acrylic paints. They have a great opacity and awesome bright colors. I decided to give them a whirl with the stencils I wanted to use with color. They worked brilliantly. 

(Often times I field questions from our QuiltWeek visitors about what “works” on fabric. In my opinion, most everything does, it just matters what you’re going to do with it when you are done. If you plan on putting it in a washing machine one day, obviously you have to be more judicious with heat-setting and using the proper mediums so that your work doesn’t wash out. If it’s going to hang on a wall or decorate your purse, go wild!)

I dipped into my fabric stash and ironed pieces I thought would layer well with my painted fabric. I use any kind of fabric for these including felt, cotton prints, velvet scraps, silk scraps, and ribbon, laces, and other embellishments. Literally. Anything goes

Black thread is my preference for stitching these but that's purely a personal choice. I purchase the packs of already threaded bobbins in black and white so I don’t have to stop the creativity when the bobbin runs out (and I have to re-educate myself how to fill it). 

Some very important tips when making these:
  • Use a “Denim” or another heavy-duty needle
  • Increase your stitch length to 3.5 or 4
And then start stitching!

Then it’s all about quick decisions. Don't think too much--layer, add words, add trim, HAVE FUN! (And please don't look too closely at my stitching!!!

I love creating for the sake of creating. These Happy Patches let me do just that. And, one day they will add interest to whatever I decide to sew or glue them to. The possibilities are endless... the front of a journal, Boho Bags, my new overalls, a chambray shirt from the Thrift Store, aprons for the studio, the backside of my favorite jeans....makes me want to stitch some more....xoxoxo, Kristin 


  1. So fun!! I am a quilter that is playing in mixed media. I never thought about making parts before. I hope you do more fabric type stuff. That is the kind of inspiration I am looking for. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Quilter Mom! Parts are a blast and remember, anything goes!

  2. What a fun project! It definitely makes me happy :-)

    1. Thank you, TerryO! Glad to have brought a smile to your face today!

  3. I LOVE this post! Kristin, you are amazing! The thread, the stencils, the fabric, imperfect perfection!

    1. Thank you , Debi! I love that, "imperfect perfection!" xoxo


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