Monday, July 4, 2011

Sandra Palmer Ciolino - Fabric Is Her Medium

Sandra Palmer Ciolino
detail of quilting on several works

Many of you will relate to how Sandra Palmer Ciolino has found her way working with fabric. Beginning as a child, she has warm memories of her mother and how she was inspired to take up needle and thread and begin to learn the time honored skills and joys of working with fabric.

I first met Sandy at Form Not Function which is held each year in New Albany, Indiana and I continued to get to know her through communication online. You may recognize her name or her work through another blog, artwithaneedle as she and Kathy Loomis have collaborated on some projects.

Sandy's work is beautifully executed and her free motion quilting is flawless. She teaches in and around her home of Cincinnati, Ohio and I found out recently that she will be teaching a 3-day workshop at the Crow Timberframe Barn in Baltimore, Ohio. The course is titled: Machine Quilting and Finishing: A Contemporary Approach and is scheduled for Oct. 23-25, 2011. This might be just what you need to polish your skills.

Fractures #3 - Intersections
Sandra Palmer Ciolino
29" W x 27.5"H
Machine Pieced, Machine Quilted


Terry: Tell us about how you developed your expertise in the area of machine quilting.

Sandy: Soon after finishing my first few small quilts in 1996, I purchased the book, "Quilting Makes the Quilt," by Lee Cleland. This book features several groups of five identical traditional quilts, each machine quilted in a different way. I was amazed at how the various quilting styles dramatically changed the look and character of each quilt. The author's concept made a huge impact on how I began to think about quilting my own work.

For the next decade, through trial and error and with the help of technical advice offered in my growing library of quilt books, I taught myself to machine quilt. In 2005, I took a machine quilting workshop from Diane Gaudynski (as well as her advanced workshop several years later), and my skills improved by leaps and bounds. But as my more traditional style morphed into a more abstract viewpoint, I realized that a new quilting design approach was in order.

Fractures #3 - Intersections

Sandra Palmer Ciolino

Terry: What do you take into consideration when deciding how to quilt a new work?

Sandy: I ask myself two questions. Will the quilting design I am considering enhance and elevate the artistry of the composition? And do I want to emphasize stitch or texture - or both - in the finished quilt?

Terry: At what point in the creation of your work do you begin to think about the quilting pattern?

Sandy: The moment I see some indication of a roughed-in composition on the design wall, my brain begins to formulate and audition possible quilting designs. As I refine and then piece the composition, I mentally edit the possibilities. Gut instinct almost always determines the final design choice.

River Birch 1 & 2
Sandra Palmer Ciolino
17"W x 17"H (each piece)
Machine Pieced, Machine Quilted

Terry: How do you develop your ideas for quilting patterns?

Sandy: I see inspiration everywhere - in nature, architecture, graphics, and interior design. For example, a simple linear pattern carved into a wooden vase became the inspiration for many quilting variations of the original design.

Detail - River Birch 1 & 2
Sandra Palmer Ciolino

Terry: Do you make full sized patterns to see how these new patterns will look on a particular quilt before you actually apply the pattern?

Sandy: I have never used this approach. I prefer to trust my ability to visualize the finished result and then begin to stitch without agonizing or intellectualizing the process. I do audition quilting threads, check machine tension and "warm up" on a small test quilt made with scraps left over from the actual quilt.

Terry: Is all of your quilting done on a home-style sewing machine as opposed to a long-arm machine?

Sandy: I have machine quilted all of my quilts on a Bernina 1260, a sewing machine my husband gave me in the mid-90's. It is solid, dependable, and has beautiful stitch quality. A few years ago, I felt the need to own a second machine and spent a lot of time test-driving newer models. After searching and testing, I decided to purchase a second Bernina 1260. I now own two identical machines and enjoy the bonus of interchangeable parts and accessories. A hi-tech sewing machine is not a requirement. What is essential is having access to a dependable, well-maintained machine that is capable of producing beautiful, balanced stitches.

My Metier
Sandra Palmer Ciolino
30.5"W x 20.5"H
Machine Pieced, Machine Quilted

Terry: What do you see as the biggest challenge for artists when deciding how to quilt and "art quilt"?

Sandy: I see two challenges: artists thinking of their quilting designs as flowing naturally from their compositions rather than as afterthoughts; and artists choosing quilting designs they are capable of executing and that also challenge their technical and conceptual skills.

Detail - My Metier
Sandra Palmer Ciolino
Machine Pieced, Machine Quilted

Terry: How do you view your role as a teacher?

Sandy: I think of myself primarily as a learner and then as a teacher/facilitator.

Terry: What do you enjoy about teaching?

Sandy: For me, the highlight of teaching and facilitating is witnessing the process of learners becoming increasingly responsible for directing and managing their own development in ways that are meaningful to them.

Terry: What special qualities or abilities do you bring to your teaching?

Sandy: I bring to the classroom a sense of humor; a deep respect for diverse viewpoints, skill levels, and learning styles; a passion and enthusiasm for the subject matter; and a desire to structure the learning environment in ways that offer the support necessary for individuals to progress beyond their expectations.

My thanks to Sandy for sharing her work and responses with me and my readers.


And thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and Remember:

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  1. wow! great interview - thanks so much Terry and Sandy - so glad to hear you talk about concerns that we face concerning finding the right design!

  2. Thank you! Sandy's technique and decisions as to how to quilt are beautiful!

  3. Hey Judy! I know Sandy will love your comment!!