Anna Grossnickle Hines                                                                                                 Home   Guide  


An Interview with Anna Grossnickle Hines  for the Greenwillow Catalog spring 2003

How did you decide to use quilts to illustrate

When I read this story written by my friend Betsy, I could immediately see the changing sky done in fabric. She liked the idea, so I decided to give it a try. My first attempts were okay but left people wondering why I didn't just paint the illustrations. I found it challenging to show the beautiful sky and still tell the story of the father and son. When I came up with a solution to this problem, I felt I could tell the story in fabric better than in any other medium.

How did you solve the problem?

Painting these scenes in my usual way, I would have been limited to one vantage point for the entire scene. If I had chosen a close-up view of the figures, the sky would not have been visible. If I had moved back to show the sky, the figures would have been quite small and distant. With quilts I realized I could use blocks, not traditional blocks seamed together on every side, but inset or overset blocks. I love the way some quilters use elements from one block tying in or overlapping another, so what is foreground and what is background becomes ambiguous. I could put the text in one block and close ups of the figures in another, while still keeping that wonderful changing sky in the background. Some elements in the foreground or background could blend into the blocks, overlapping them, so the parts are all interwoven into a dynamic whole.

The fabrics in Whistling, especially for the sky, are striking. How did you find them?

I went, with my mother, to my first big quilt show. I was happily buying fabrics with Whistling in mind, when I came to the exhibit of quilts by Jo Diggs. Jo does beautiful appliquéd landscapes bathed in glowing light. I was mesmerized. Jo told me about some of the fabrics she used, particularly the SkydyesTM by Mickey Lawler.

I ordered and received some of Mickey Lawler's SkydyesTM fabrics. The colors were beautiful, but they were sprinkled with sparkles. I was afraid that would be a problem for reproduction, so I contacted Mickey. I sent her a storyboard with thumbnail sketches. She found the time to paint a piece of fabric that went from deep blue to beautiful rose. She also sent two other pieces: one with golden glowing tones, and another with pale blues, lavenders, and pinks. With these and my growing fabric stash, I was excited. Choosing fabrics and shapes that could pull the light and color through the pictures was such fun!

Would you describe the step-by-step process of making these quilts?

First I sketched out the images, and traced the lines onto a piece of muslin. Then I laid out all my fabrics, arranged by color from dark to light. Piece by piece I selected the fabric for each hill, rock, tree, and bush, keeping the whole book in mind as I worked.

I traced a pattern for each piece of the picture onto freezer paper, cut it out, ironed it plastic side down onto the chosen fabric, and cut the fabric. I laid the pieces puzzle fashion onto my muslin guide and when they were all cut out, began doing the appliqué, which consists of sewing one layer of fabric on top of another. I started with the sky, and then the hills in the background, the water, the rocks along the edge, and so on, layer by layer. Using thread to match each fabric, I sewed by hand. The freezer paper helped hold the shape of the fabric as I worked, then pulled off easily.

Sometimes I'd decide to change a piece and go back to the fabric stash or even to stores to look for something that worked better. Once all the pieces were appliquéd in place I added detail-stars, hair, facial features, sparks from the fire, rays on the sun--with embroidery.

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