Bailando en la Noche: An Art Quilt by Shelly Stokes



For the past 18 months, I have been working on a major art quilt project. Her name is Bailando en la Noche, or Dancing in the Night. I chose her name because the medallions evoke the swirling skirts of Mexican Folk Dancers under an exuberant night sky.

[Tweet “Check out “Bailando en la Noche” – a new art quilt by Shelly Stokes”]

I’m thrilled that the three panels are complete, have been photographed, are ready to hang in their first show, and an entry sent to the International Quilt Festival in Houston! Can you see me doing my happy dance?

I have shared bits and pieces of this adventure with you along the way, and today I’m excited to pull it all together. Here are some of the highlights in pictures and links to previous posts.


If the medallions on these quilts, look familiar, it’s because they also appear on three of the Kaleidoscope rubbing plates. I arranged the designs in a drawing program, and played around until I was happy with the overall pattern.

I cut the design into three sections, created monster-size graphic files and sent them off to a large format printer at the local office supply store.


Cutting the stencils was quite a chore. At 50” tall, each stencil was nearly as tall as I am. I blew through a bunch of blades, but my trusty craft knife and I got the job done.


About the time that I was cutting out stencils, I learned about Silhouette cutting machines. I promptly placed an order and used it to cut a scaled down version of my stencils. It was incredibly valuable to paint out a test image of the design. I discovered several problems with the design and made a big change to my color scheme based on that test.

For more, see Test A Design With A Silhouette Cutter


As I began painting, it became clear that I was going to have to push my ideas about stenciling to the extremes to get the bold, opaque images I wanted for this project. I spent weeks up to my elbows in paint – and loved every minute of it!

One of the biggest surprises was just how much paint it took to complete the three panels. I used up full size sticks of a dozen colors and big chunks of several others. That’s one way to clean out the paint box!

For more, see Extreme Stenciling With Paintstik Colors


It was a happy day when I could lay the panels on my work table side by side. It was lovely to see the design come together so well. I had to go back and rework sections on the three panels to get the colors to match where the medallions were split, but it all came out quite well.


Then came the embroidery. All ten months of it. Yikes! Part of me can’t believe that I spent almost a year hand stitching on anything – and part of me was amazed that I got it done so quickly.


The fact that I enjoyed the hand stitching was a huge surprise for me. Before tackling this project, I had never had the patience to do hand work. I’m ever so grateful that my friend Jean Back started a Contemporary Stitching group at the local quilt shop – and that I had the good sense to join them!


I would be lying to say that everything went smoothly. There were more than a few detours and bumps in the road. My biggest panic occurred when I made a very bad choice with an embroidery motif. It’s tough enough to pull stitches from fabric, but when you pull stitches from painted fabric, you are greeted with big holes. Lots of big holes.

Thankfully, fabric and paint are pretty forgiving surfaces and I was able to repair the holes. Let’s just consider this our little secret. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!

For more, see Back Up To Move Forward


Here are the three panels of Bailando en la Noche. I smile with delight every time I walk into the studio where she hangs on the design wall. She will make her big debut at the Minnesota Quilt Show in June – and I hope that you will be able to see her at the Houston show this fall.


And here is a closeup shot from the middle panel. The design was created with paint, but the stitching brings it to life. Bailando en la Noche. Dancing in the Night. Are you ready?

[Tweet “See how paint and embroidery can have you Dancing in the Night!”]

Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed “meeting” my quilts. I would love to hear your thoughts. You are welcome to leave a comment below or over on our Facebook page.


  1. Janet on May 28, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Oh Shelly…what a true work of art! Will anticipate blue ribbons wherever you enter your masterpiece and I will be following its show journey for the next several years.

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Thanks, Janet. She’s really quite amazing. Will I see you at the MN show?

  2. Loria Miller on May 28, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Absolutely exquisite! You should be very proud of your accomplishment and yourself. It almost makes me want to try my hand at embroidery again – something I haven’t done in 60 years!

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Thank you, Loria. I appreciate your note. I am proud of these pieces. They turned out better than I dared hope. 🙂

  3. Marlene Clausen on May 28, 2015 at 11:18 am

    A stunning Latin beauty! Best of luck. I know I’d vote her Best of Show.

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Thanks, Marlene! I be one happy camper if the judges agree with you. But that’s up to them. No matter what anyone else thinks, they are MY best of show. That’s all that really matters.

  4. Angela Grasse on May 28, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Absolutely stunning!

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks, Angela. It has been great fun.

  5. Marie on May 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Shelly, I have followed you for years — I’ve bought and used your stencils
    for my silk kimonos and I’ve bee simply amazed at your inspired work. Bailando en la Noche is shockingly beautiful You’ve created something really beyond the beyond.
    Like the painter, Turner, you see into the depth and meaning of a color, a shape
    and their overall story and purpose. This is not just a quilt, it’s an experience.
    Your blogs make me feel like I know you personally. Thank you!

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you for your lovely comments, Marie. I’m so glad you enjoy this piece. For me, it has been an amazing experience. I can only hope it has the same effect on those who see it.

  6. Rebecca Muir MacKellar on May 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Shelly, This is magnificent! I am very impressed.
    I also feel quite let down when a big project is finally done. I just finished a large bed quilt that was quite tricky to put together and hard to quilt on a home sewing machine. I could not wait for it to be done and then I was at a real loss of what to do next. I am still a bit at a loss, but after a week I am ready to sew again.
    I am taking your paintstick class still and I am having reasonable success. I wonder how you get your stenciling to look so vibrant and dark with paint sticks? I have done some stenciling on my own and I like it, but my samples do not seem as dark as this quilt does. Any hints?
    Congrats, hope you get in. Just entered myself, Becky

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks, Becky! I had a couple of down days, but I’m back to being excited. Ideas for a new series are popping into by head now that there is room for them to catch my attention.

      For stenciling, follow the link in the blog post to the article on Extreme Stenciling. There will be a “part 2” class later in the year to cover stenciling, shading, and other paintstik techniques that we didn’t cover in Totally Textured.

  7. Jane Lillestol on May 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Stunning, Shelly! I can hardly wait to see it “up close and personal.”
    Truly an inspiration to those of us who are trying to get our creative juices flowing!

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks, Jane! It’s lovely to hear from you. Be sure to let me know when you will be in Alexandria this summer!

  8. Colleayn Klaibourne on May 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    These are amazing! The color and designs are beautiful. Did you get it printed on special paper to do the big stencils? Very nice!

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Great question, Colleayn. When I took the files to the printer, I had them print on a heavy weight paper rather than the standard paper. It was a bit expensive, but worth the extra cost as the paper held up through all the cutting and painting quite well. If I remember correctly, the printing for the three sheets was about $60 each. (Plus taxes, of course.)

  9. Kelley on May 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    This is simply stunning!! What a wonderful quilt you’ve created.

    • Shelly on May 28, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you Kelley! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos.

  10. Joan Sheppard on May 29, 2015 at 5:40 am

    This is truly wonderful, Shelly and so inspiring! I’ll never see it in ‘the flesh’, so thank heavens for the internet and ‘The Best of British Luck’! as we say! Joan

    • Shelly on May 29, 2015 at 10:09 am

      It’s great to hear from you Joan. The internet is truly a marvelous thing –– allowing us to share the things that make us happy around the world.

  11. Pam on May 29, 2015 at 8:27 am

    This quilt leaves me speechless with all of the beauty this quilt contains. A sure winner!

    • Shelly on May 29, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Thank you, Pam. It has been a pleasure to watch it come to life as I stitched.

  12. Sue on May 30, 2015 at 7:18 am

    It is stunning!! You created a show stopper and I hope to see it in person at a show near me! Best of luck in Houston!

    • Shelly on June 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks, Sue. I’m not sure how widely she will travel. I sent her off to St. Paul today for the MN Quilt Show. I’m like a new mom, very overprotective and a little paranoid. Whenever I ship my quilts, I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I get a delivery confirmation message.