Demo Day at The Framery Gallery

Yesterday was great fun doing a calligraphy demo at the Framery Gallery in Whittier, CA.

There were lots of folks stopping by to watch the different demo's going on. I was happy to answer any and all questions about this technique.

The most common question from fellow quilters was

"Do you pre-treat your fabric?"

The answer is yes; and no. I don't prewash. Most often on small pieces (2ft by 2ft typically) I will fuse the fabric to WonderUnder (lite). That helps keep the ink from wicking out. I keep the paper backing on for ease in moving the fabric piece and it keeps a nice smooth backing surface to heat set with the iron after the calligraphy is done.

This was the scrap piece I used to demo lettering, centering, the use of the 'invisible ink' pens (I created a double circle) for lines or shapes to follow.

The most common question from everyone was "What do you do if you make a mistake?"

The scrap piece above turned into a wonderful example for that very question! Since I had put the circle on the piece I was toying with the idea of simply doing a circular alphabet and actually wrote the letter A at the top. But then 'saw' the compass points instead and changed my A into an N. After feeling all smug that I liked the compass idea better my good friend jo griffith (cartographer) pointed out (pun intended) that my E & W compass points were reversed . So then we all had a laugh saying things like 'Artistic license' and I said something dumb like 'I'll just make up a reason why that was actually intended!

So, onward through the demo a couple cute girls came over & enjoyed watching me write their names in 'fancy' writing. After they left I was in mind of children & turned my E into an Elephant. I did like the way it sounded then; Northwind, Westwind, Southwind, Elephant! (ya, I'm weird)

The correct answer of course is that 99% of the mistakes you may (and will) make in calligraphy whether it's on fabric or paper is; you simply must start over.

There is seldom room for error when you get to the stage (as seen in this photo of my piece 'Flight') where you are putting all your words on and you've just spent several hours painting bird feathers not to mention all the bias tape Irish Insular plaits on the frame. That's why it's crucial to use the 'invisible ink' pens to write out all the words first prior to inking them in permanently.

The reason for that when you are doing calligraphy especially; you are concentrating on making the letter form; keeping your pen at the right angle; spacing the letters and forming them properly. Spelling is the last thing on your mind! It's a perfect marriage between right & left brain thinking if ever there was such a thing. The artistic side is watching shape; space; color and the left side is reciting 'i before e except after c'.. wait, what? LOL...

What is marginally easier in a way is using a language that is not your native one! I was surprised at this but after I thought about it, it made sense. You are now creating the letter, watching the spacing and since you have no preconceived or 'wrote' idea of the spelling you all ready are paying close attention to it.

The second most common question?

"How long does it take to you to do that?"

Like any art quilter worth her fabric stash I would like to answer "All My Life" but since that's not very tactful the more accurate and helpful answer would be "I can't really say'. Practicing calligraphy takes many, many hours of time and for me it was all done many years ago when I was only working on paper.

When I started making art quilts I had the idea to put words on a quilt I was making (Children of Lir) and that is when I figured that my fabrico inks I used for rubber stamping were permanent when heat set so that ink might work on fabric too. It was trial and error watering them down to get a consistency that could be used with a proper nib; but ultimately the effect pleased me greatly.

I'm happy to say that particular quilt is now on display at the Houston Quilt Festival in the special exhibit titled 'Text on Textiles'.


The best news is that in today's artquilt world your very own handwriting is perfectly acceptable and in many cases more desirable (for it's ease). After all; most time you are using text as a surface design that will be altered or chopped up partially obscured or repositioned. The intent is not necessarily to have the lines of script readable by the viewer. Maybe a word or two but the script becomes an overall part of the design and can be very striking when done effectively!

That is not to say of course that you can't create a design that focus' on the words itself:

So as you can see; it's a fun technique to use and much more cost effective compared to fancy computer generated fonts; laser printing, etc...

Thanks for reading!


  1. Looks like it was a fun day! I am so envious of your calligraphy skills...

  2. Very nice post about your calligraphy! You go girl!


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