Sunday, November 1, 2015

In Memory of Jessica: quilting shadows

I was delayed starting this until I could get some canvas, which was a suggestion I got from a lecture at the New Mexico Quilter's Association meeting by Jennifer Day.  

Thread painting quilt layers: photo printed on fabric, canvas, batting and backing.

Then I pin basted it.  I wouldn't recommend spray basting because with all the layers too much spray basting will cause skipped stitches.

Pin basting.

And then I spent a lot of time thinking about thread and colors and shading.  Like, a whole day.  Finally I decided to start with the darkest shadows in the hair, then the eyelashes and eyebrows:

Beginning thread painting.

This is the same, but with different lighting.

Starting to thread paint.

Then I worked on the medium shadows on her face, mostly because I felt confident (at the time, haha) with the thread color I wanted to use (this is after 1 bobbin):

Working on the medium shadows on her face and neck.

And again in the different lighting:

After one bobbin of thread paint.

I'm using all Aurifil threads, which they have generously sponsored for this project.  Here's the back, I love watching it come to life:

Back of the thread painting.

 Another half bobbin of quilting later (darker face and neck shadows and another shade light in the hair/shoulder area):

Thread painting progress.

I do like seeing it in this lighting, it really shows the texture and compressed areas from the quilting.

And this is where she's at today, after the second bobbin ran out (more work on the hair, and mostly filled in the face):

After 2 bobbins of thread painting.

She's got chipmunk cheeks!  

 It is so hard to see it come together when I'm so focused on the tiny details.  I'm questioning every color choice and placement!  But stepping back, and especially seeing it in photos has helped me feel better about everything!

The back of the thread painting after 2 bobbins worth of quilting.

How I'm Feeling
This quilt has brought everything up again, which is good because I've been talking about it again and trying to find new ways to deal with my remaining anger over Jessica's death (if you haven't read the first post about this quilt, go back and read it here).

One of my biggest regrets is that there aren't any photos of me and Jessica--13 years of friendship and I could not find one of us together!  I consider myself to be a photographer, her boyfriend was (still is) a photographer, and my dad is a photographer, and no one had a photo of us together!  I went through old printed photos from when we were teenagers, and still nothing.  Her boyfriend put together a beautiful photo slideshow for her memorial, and there were many photos of her with her other friends...but none of me.  This was the next best photo:

Jessica and my 9 month old son at his first Halloween party (he's a lemur)

So...that was the photo he used in the memorial slideshow.  I already knew it was the best one, but my heart still broke.  How sad that we spent so much time together, and went on so many adventures, and almost always had at least one camera around...and still we never got into the same photo with each other.

Since her death it has been my resolve to take more photo WITH people, especially friends and family I may not see often.  But I am still pretty self conscience and feel really silly asking someone to take a photo with me (or of me)!  Sometimes I feel overwhelmingly awkward to the point I don't even ask for a photo, and then regret it later--a missed opportunity to share a photo with a friend!  So this is my reminder to you, especially if you are usually the photographer in the group: go get in some photos with all those people you love!!  If you feel awkward, acknowledge it, put it aside and have your picture taken anyway.  :-)

In Memory of Jessica thread painting series:
2. Quilting shadows (you are here)


  1. I've been trying to take more pictures lately. This holiday season my family and friends better look out - that picture is happening! It really is a pleasure to see this develop. I love looking at the back, too!

  2. I love how it is coming together, Renee. Especially on the back. Even with the same color in the bobbin, the change in directions of the areas you are working on the front is still creating a very striking portrait of her on the back.

    What a beautiful photo of Jessica with Arden, and a good reminder. Even Michael and I struggle to get a photo of the two of us together.

  3. Oh, Renee, I know--I have a very similar experience. I lost a friend so dear that most people think we were sisters, and yet in my home there is only one picture of us together because I was always behind the camera, taking pictures of her, and later of her and her kids. At the end of her life we took pictures together, but they break my heart, because she was so ill and I had to wear a mask and gown, due to an auto-immune disease. So--I don't display those photos, and yet, would go back in an instant just to be in that moment, holding her hand.

    And still I haven't quite learned my lesson. I bought a small point and shoot camera, thinking that it was because of my intimidating DSLR that I never handed it over to anyone to take my picture with friends and family. But often I carry that little camera on outings, and never get into a shot. Or carry the camera and keep it in my purse.

    Have you seen any of the postings reminding us to "embrace the camera"? It's especially aimed at getting moms to get into pictures with their kids, but I think it applies to any of us. 20 years from now we'll look back and think we looked young and pretty, and we'll be happy we captured the moment--any moment. So--let's embrace the camera, and the ones we are with.

    Thank you so very much for this tender reminder. And thank you for the inspiration that this thread portrait is. I have a lovely picture of my sister that I may turn into a quilted portrait someday soon.

  4. She was a beautiful young lady. Your quilt is an amazing tribute of her life and your love for her. Thank you for sharing not only her story, but the steps involved in creating this beautiful memory.

  5. This is going to be so beautiful when you're finished. The process intimidates me like crazy, but I can imagine how cathartic it must be to lovingly work on a thread portrait of a loved one we've lost. What a beautiful way to create a portrait that has both of you in it - your image might not be there, but your soul definitely is. I, too, am very very bad at staying out of pictures. Thank you for sharing your grief and nudging us all to rethink that.

  6. It's coming along so nicely, Renee!

    My mom has always been the photographer in the family, but she would often use the timer on her camera so she could run and be in family pictures too. There are still way more of everyone else than of her, but at least she gets in some of them!

  7. This is coming together very quickly. You are doing a great job. What size is it?

    I've got to remember the photo thing. I know there is a group photo that indludes me and my best friend at a wedding about 3 or 4 years ago. Other than that, I think the last one that was taken of the two of us together was about 12 years ago - we took it in a photo booth at an arcade on my 22nd birthday for a bit of fun. Wow, it's amazing to think how much time you can spend together without thinking of taking a photo occasionally. I don't think I even have a photo of my husband and I together in the last few years! Thanks for making us conscious of this.

  8. Like Leanne, my mum is the people photographer in the family. I am very bad at taking photos with my friends too. I love how this project is going, beautiful photo.

  9. I love seeing the progress on this quilt. Such a touching story. And I appreciate the reminder to have pictures with friends. I don't think I have a picture of my dear friend of 11 years with me, only our children together.

  10. This is a beautiful memorial of your friend.

  11. It is coming along wonderfully Renee! I love the photo of Jessica with your little lemur. You are so right about capturing photos with the people you love. I am always the one behind the camera, like you, and camera shy too,.

  12. This is truly an inspiring project, Renee.
    I know what you mean about photos with people. My husband and I can go a whole year and not have a photo of the two of us together.