Sunday, August 9, 2009

McKenna Ryan Art Quilts: “Faith, Hope & Love” Series


Project: “Love” Art Quilt, Block 8 in the series “Faith, Hope & Love”.  Click here for patterns & kits.

Finished Size: 12” x 12:

Skill Level: Confident Beginner


  • Fusible Appliqué
  • use of Appliqué Pressing Sheet for layering fabric elements
  • invisible thread for stitching
  • mounting a quilt block on Canvas Art Board

Useful Supplies:  Invisible Thread, Steam a Seam II Light Fusible Web, & Appliqué Pressing Sheet.  Click here to shop for supplies.

Let’s Get Started!


“Faith, Hope & Love” is a “Series Quilt” designed by McKenna Ryan.  Nine unique patterns form the series, allowing quilters to create one or more coordinating art quilts.  The quilts are uniquely beautiful as they feature McKenna’s “Glacier Lights” fabric collection designed for Hoffman fabrics.  Each art quilt starts with a pieced foundation (like an artist’s canvas), then fusible appliqué elements added and quilted in place.  Although the blocks could be stitched together, McKenna chose to mount each quilt on Canvas Art Board, to perfectly highlight the beauty of each individual design.

The process starts with carefully chosen foundation fabric.  Each piece is carefully chosen from a small portion of a "repeat" (harmonic gradation of color & pattern that repeats every 2/3 yards).

I began by arranging my background fabric on a flannel design wall:


Then, I machine stitched the pieces together using a 1/4” seam, pressing the seam allowances toward the darker prints:


Trace the appliqué motifs with a pencil onto Steam A Seam II Light Fusible web:


Rough cut the shapes, remove the paper backing, and position the appliqué shapes on the back of the specified fabric.  Choose the most pleasing location within the variegated print for your appliqué .


Using small, sharp scissors, carefully cut out the appliqué pieces.  Once all appliqué shapes have been prepared, used the “placement guide” to arrange your pieces.


Layered areas are created with the ease of an appliqué pressing sheet.  Available in three sizes, these handy teflon sheets are opaque, so you can view the placement guide through the sheet.  This photo shows the flower motif under the appliqué pressing sheet:


Remove the paper backing from each appliqué motif, and align the bottom shapes (the leaves in this example) with the outline on the placement guide.  Gently press in place.  Then, add the next element (the petals), and gently press.


Continue to layer elements, gently fusing them together.  Be careful not to use steam… the teflon sheet will bounce the hot steam back at you, and it is easy to get burned.


Gently peel the layered design off the sheet.  Arrange all motifs on your background fabric.  You can gently press them on by hand, and then lift and rearrange as necessary.  Do not press until you are pleased with the final position.


When you are ready to press, set the appliqué pressing sheet on top of your design, and use an up & down motion to fuse the elements to the background fabric.


Prepare a 12” x12” square of batting & backing fabric.  I used a spare batik fat quarter from my stash, but if you are mounting on the art canvas boards, it really doesn’t matter what you use.  Muslin would be fine.  I set a scrap of  lightweight organic batting on the backing fabric, sprayed the batting with water “to relax the fibers”,  put the pressing sheet on top, and smoothly pressed the two  layers together. 


Trim the backing/batting piece to 12” x 12”.  Then, align it behind the art quilt, centering the motif. The outermost edges of the design will be very close to the edge, so you will need to feel the edge of the batting from front to back, to be sure that your design doesn’t “go off the edge”. My thumbnail is touching the edge of the batting beneath the quilt top.


Carefully pin the layers in place:


Working from the backside, baste 1/4” inside the batting/backing layer.  Check the front to be sure that your entire design is within the basted outline:


Using invisible thread or coordinating cotton thread, carefully stitch around all edges of the appliqué.  Don’t get too close to the edge, or your needle will “shred’ the fabric. I found a size 60 “sharps” needle worked well.  Although McKenna Ryan recommends dropping the feed dogs, and free motion stitching, initially I wasn’t that brave.  I just moved the fabric slowly but surely through my machine, with an open-toed appliqué foot so I could “see where I was going”.  Eventually, I tried some free motion stitching, and it worked well too.  The “invisible thread” is very forgiving… because after all it is “invisible” :)


After all elements are stitched in place, you could free motion or stitch in the ditch in the background.  I didn’t do that. I was happy with my result, and didn’t want to risk getting carried away.

A while ago, I started working on Block 5: “Promise”, but it was previously an UFO.  I happily repeated the above steps, and quilted that block too.

Wesley helped me mount my blocks on canvas art boards.  Laurie-Ann found these at Hobby Lobby for around $7.00 per board.  They come in a variety of sizes, but you’ll need 12” x 12” for this project.

Begin by laying your art quilt wrong side up on a solid surface.  Center the board directly over the backing fabric, aligning all edges.


Carefully wrap and staple the sides to the wooden board.


Then, tuck in the ends smoothly & neatly.  Not too tight… you don’t want to distort the fabric.  Staple in place, creating a 45” angle.


Bring the folded edge around to the back, neatly stapling in place.



Hooray!  These looked so nice!  As a single art quilt…


Or a pair…


Whew!  Two blocks done.  Only seven more to go…


This McKenna Ryan series is somewhat “simpler” than her previous patterns.  We have a lot of her patterns, including many larger, more complex designs.  Click here for our current selection. 

Coming soon: her newest series, “Back to the Farm”.