Week in Review 2021 – 02/19

Why Create Fiber Art?

Why do you create fiber art? This is a question asked in a variety of ways. My answer varies on any given day. For example, one thing I like about fiber art is how easy it is to put down and pick up where I left off. Then on another day, I might praise the tactile qualities and how that makes the work approachable. Today, my answer is because there is always something new to learn. I am never, ever bored. I may be frustrated or challenged, but I am always curious. I create fiber art because it is a never ending journey of questions to explore.

Time for a New Plan

Image of the front side of Out of the Ashes after the background filler quilting has been completed in light, right side of the quilt.
Out of the Ashes

Never did I imagine, when I began Out of the Ashes in September 2020 that I would be inspired to reinvent the design in revolutionary ways, not once, not twice, but three times. It is hard to believe but it started out as an homage to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her lace collars are so iconic and graphic I could imagine a design based on them. So, I opened up EQ8 and began designing a “collar” quilt. By the time I was done those collars had opened up, and transformed to rainbow ribbons and circles.

One of the advantages of piecing such a daunting top is it gives me plenty of time to ponder the next step…quilting. When Biden was elected President pictorial images of emergence, such as butterflies were swirling in my head. I knew I needed to add thread painted butterflies in various poses.

A detail image of the background quilting and thread painting used on Out of the Ashes.
Thread painted butterfly

Perhaps because I am crazy, I thought why stop there? Why not have the butterflies actual come out of the quilt. This is precisely what I have been playing with this week. Playing is the key word. The butterfly pictured here is a prototype to make sure it can be done. Fortunately, my husband, who is a polymer scientist extraordinaire, worked out the 3D logistics for me.

Here is how we did it. The three-dimensional feature of the butterfly was accomplished by providing the butterfly with a shaped backbone hidden within the fabric of the butterfly. The shaped backbone was constructed using plastic* from the cover of a large recyclable container that had been used to package salad leaf greens. He cut an “X” shape from the lid of the container. I constructed four fabric “wings” to cover each of the four plastic tabs of the X.The central body of the butterfly was then sewn to the wings creating a single, butterfly structure.

*The polymer scientist refers to this as a polyester sheet. I am opting to use the layman’s term, plastic since polyester sheet means something different to the non-scientist and we would call it by the more generic word plastic.

Let the Magic Begin!

Now for the magic, getting the wings to raise. This was accomplished by thermoforming the butterfly using steam from water boiling in a tea kettle. The steam was directed to the juncture of the wings and the body on one side of the butterfly causing the plastic to soften. Once the plastic was softened, it was bent to shape and removed from the steam to allow cooling. Once cooled the plastic retains its bent shape. This shaping process was performed on both sides of the butterfly to achieve a flat, central body with uplifted wings. 

I am linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Fridays.

By Gwyned Trefethen

I am an artist who uses fabric, thread and miscellany to create designs gifted to me by my imagination.


    1. isn’t coming up with something new precisely why you and I are have been creating fiber art for years? There is always something to try, get exasperated over and be joyful about. The butterflies are 5″ H x 5″ W x 1.5″ D. They can be flattened and spring back up. Next week I hope to share how they will be positioned on the quilt.

  1. Ummm…Maybe pin them on the surface and let it percolate for a while…There’s a sweet spot somewhere between ‘just right’ and ‘too much of a muchness’…and I’m sure you will find it (or the piece will tell you where it is)…

    1. I’m keeping it secret for now, but I have a great idea of how to “secure” the butterflies to the quilt. This will allow me to test a variety of placements. It will also make it easy for the quilt to be shipped for exhibition and allow the exhibitor to easily unpack the quilt, butterflies and then combine the two. I have no intention of adding more 5 3D butterflies and will likely go with just three. I felt the quilt needed a focal point or three to allow the eye to rest. Did you know a group of butterflies may be referred to as a kaleidoscope? Anyway, my plan is not to add a kaleidoscope of butterflies. The mission is to come out of the ashes and chaos, not create more.

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