How Do I Finish These?

How Do I Finish These?

One of my latest projects has been playing with Inktense pencils and pans. I used a 12” x 12” stencil that I had purchased from The Crafters Workshop to begin the outline for my buildings piece.

I traced the stencil onto a commercial cotton that had a pattern of newsprint on it. It was fun to give it some texture.

I don’t know how any of you work, but I’m not too good with planning my whole projects out from start to finish so I didn’t really worry about how I wanted to finish this piece while I was working on it. After I finished it, I decided that I wanted to put a border on it and incorporate stitched figures of people into the border. I decided at first that I liked the blueish space on the sides and the bottom and began auditioning border fabric with the idea of leaving that area as inner border.

Here are the little blocks of stitched figures that I hand stitched, and I washed over them using a watered down Inktense solution of Navy Blue with a bit of Payne’s Grey added to it. These were initially about 4 inches.

I tried a couple different fabrics and placements of the figures blocks.


I decided that I didn’t like the blue border all the way around it so I cropped off the two sides and the bottom and tried it with a darker inner border.

So far I’ve not been happy with any of my choices but I definitely like the blue outline being removed. But now the wash on the figures wasn’t blending, much too blueish. So after doing a bit of testing, I put a brown Inktense wash over the figures. They are darker in this photo because they are still wet.

Once I washed over them, it also changed the whole mood of the buildings and I basically had to start auditioning a whole new color palette. A big sigh was going on in my studio when I got to this point. What have I done??

AND THEN I decided that the little figures just weren’t going to work at all for me. I felt they detracted too much from the buildings.


So when I found the blue grey hand dyed fabric, I thought that one would do it. Sometimes simple is better! It kind of reminds me of when I’d stay in a hotel in the city and look out the window at the buildings across the way when the sun was shining on them.

Now what do I do with all those stitched figures?

I decided I would put them on the back of the building quilt. But when I got the back put together, I thought it could be a quilt on its own. It was too sad to think of them on the back where no one would ever see them. Especially after all the work I had put into stitching them all!

But it needed more work to be a quilt on its own. I took the whole piece apart and started over. I ended up cutting the figure blocks down to a finished 3″ square so I lost most of the white edges. A sad loss, but necessary so I could make both quilts the same size.

I have a lot of fabric, but do you think I could find anything to go with this weird blue/brown wash I had put over the figures?? I wanted to put the tree fabric in to give the feel of being in a park. But it also added to the weirdness of the colors.

It took me several days to get both of these little 18” x 18” pieces done. I’m happy with the finished pieces now but it was a rather agonizing process to get to that point. I have to admit I did learn a lot while going through it! Learning is good!

I call the building piece “Summer in the City” and the figures piece “Winter in the Park”.

Will I plan how I will finish my pieces better in the future? I doubt it. But now I have plans to create Spring and Fall quilts to go with these two using the Inktense pencils and I look forward to doing that and seeing what I learn from them.

Happy Creating!

Tesi Vaara

16 thoughts on “How Do I Finish These?

  1. I love both of these. I’m like you in that I rarely plan every step of a project, often preferring to let things develop along the way.
    Although I like your figures, as I was scrolling down I was wondering how I could tactfully suggest you don’t use them as the border. Then I got to the photo of the buildings with that beautiful grey fabric and gave a sigh if relief…. its absolutely perfect!
    I’m also glad you’ve made those little figures in to a quilt of their own, they work really well with the tree fabric and what a unique look!

    1. I gave a sigh of relief when I got to that grey fabric as well!!
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I was happy to read they wouldn’t be hidden behind the buildings. I plan but then the plan changes as I go. The pieces are beautiful. You are probably finished stitching by now but my favourite was the second last one. I liked the way the people were not all lined up and separated. The trees around that one would have been nice. The colours on the last one are very good, nice and wintery, although I don’t know about the polka dots.
    Ok, You can tell me to shut up now. 🙂

    1. That would have been a great layout that I did not think about once I got the original tore apart. Thank you for your critique! I’m still a bit on the fence with the polka dot fabric too but it is what it is!

    1. Thanks Barbara. I have so many stencils that I thought I should start trying some of them out.

  3. Both of these pieces are wonderful Tesi. Sometimes, the not planning makes you go in an entirely different direction than the first idea. It’s interesting to see your process and how you worked through to a solution. I look forward to seeing the companion pieces.

    1. Thanks Ruth. It seems I get an idea in my head but when I get there I don’t like it so off I go into that other direction. Sometimes frustrating but also a great way to learn. Someone once asked the question “When do you give up if you aren’t happy with a piece?” I have a hard time giving up. Stepping away for a spell seems to help get it figured out.

  4. I admire not only your artistic skills, but your tenacity at finding what direction in which to take them!! Thanks for sharing the steps!

  5. Tesi these quilts are great. I’m so pleased you separated the figures from the buildings & gave them their own unique setting rather than hidden from view.

    Your journey has been fascinating to read & echos how many of us work. Having a plan in mind is certainly helpful but For me textiles seem to exert their own will, meaning the process often becomes very organic….the results being a curse or a blessing but always a learning curve!

    1. Thanks Antje! These definitely had a will of their own going on! Go with the flow…

  6. You definitely made the right decision to treat these as two pieces – they are both truly beautiful. I loved reading about your whole process. I often think that the best learning is when one does not have an ‘end goal’ – one is less rigid in one’s apprehensions and therefore more likely to throw oneself into the learning curve. Looking forward to seeing the two remaining quilts. 🙂

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