Designing New Projects

In addition to my coming YouTube class on Wool Applique and Embellishment by Machine, which I am hopeful will be out in early December, I have begun working on new project designs. Amazingly I don’t really have any UFOs floating around the studio, except my bed applique quilt using a Sue Nickel’s pattern that I have been working on periodically for more than a year.  I would call that more of a work in progress than an unfinished object, though.

What I do have is a very long list of planned fabric art projects that I hope to also include in my youtube video channel.  This has certainly given me a different viewpoint on my project plans when I am considering using the resulting fabric art piece or pieces in multiple ways including not only competition as in the past, but also sharing some parts of the projects on videos and in books.  While I have the concept for a major work for competition underpinning my design thoughts, I also am thinking of pulling some samplers and small works from the same project to include in books and videos.

In the case of the great wool project, I have kind of been working in the other direction of building the samplers, videos, and book first and I am now coming up with a design for a major competitive work using these techniques.  I already know what I am thinking of doing for that, but I haven’t got the design drawn up yet. I have pieces of it drawn, but not the overall design.  So I am working on that.  It’s exciting.

Considering that I want to rapidly launch a number of videos along the way, I am sorting through my long list to figure out the next video/competitive piece project.  I am thinking it should center around free motion thread and decorative elements work and quilting.  It may involve using a preprinted commercial panel, but I am not sure of that yet.  So this is what I am playing around with in my design work right now.  The overall design is always the thing that takes the most time for me.  I know that a lot of fabric artists can just sit down and draw something, but for me it is a struggle.  I have a concept in my mind, but getting it out of there into a form I can use to work on is always challenging.  But it is still lots of fun.

Wool Project and Videos Update:

 

Sampler one part one. Here we have the simple shapes of the sampler in place, ready to begin the second part of embellishment/embroidery.

For contextt…here is my test and practice piece using the same dies. There will be a lot more  special stitching though.

So my dear oldest son Ken saw how I was struggling to get setup to do videos in a massive tangle cords and equipment and he came to my rescue.  He has installed some brackets around my studio so I can quickly attach a camera or a light where I need it. He has given me some instruction on the use of lights and a new light and diffuser. So with all of that, he has reduced my setup work and taken down the time from a full day of setup to a few minutes.  The first video segments I am working with from this are also much better lit and easier to see overall.  It’s amazng the difference careful planning and assistance can make!

Later he is coming over to help me with the audio so, unlike my original video that I removed from YouTube, you should be able to hear it well thorughout (and from his other work to see it as well)!  What a great couple of sons I have!

All week I have been taping segments that will join together to show how its done and I  will do a voice over script.

A box full of simple shapes ready to place on the sampler that I cut with my Accuquilt Go! cutter using five different dies I bought for other projects.

Here are the dies I am using for this overall project.

This has involved my sewing on my ssampler quilted wall hanging that is the subject of the first three videos.  So I am taping a little while I sew, sewing a lot in between, and taping a little more.   I do not think I could do this well in one continuous live presentation like I tried to do with the video I first made.  If I were to go live, it would involve a little live and a little pretaped bits. (My current work jingle: sew a little, film a little, talk a little, sew sew sew) 😄😄😄

Sew happy everyone!  Shortly I will drop the discussion of making the videos and go back to mostly fabric art talk.  I thought you might want to know why I wasn’t producing a lot of fabric art, but that has begun again! Finally!  Cheers.

 

Cosy Sewing Season

I don’t know about you, but I always feel when we cross into November that we have started a new sewing and quilting year.  There is a kind of feeling that it’s time to buckle down and get to sewing and enjoy fall and winter celebrations. This year in particular I feel I need some cozy stitching projects.

I think it is my favorite part of the year from now through the new year.  Then we get to the flowers of spring.  All of this can be used in decisions for  sewing and quilting project as a kind of badly needed peaceful comforting after such a difficult period.   This cozy season can be celebrated even as we continue to deal with the pandemic because we have the distinct advantage as people who sew and quilt of the 21st century of online classes, YouTube videos, and virtual quilt shows. Luckily for this time many of us have a large stash of both fabric and thread (and fabric paints, markers, and crayons). Then I am blessed with a marvelous setup in my studio with my sewing machines, plus I am “retired”  to add to the anticipated fun of this season so I can spend hours a week sewing, quilting, and videoing my progress. Thank the Lord!

Sew what are you doing or planning to do during this sewing and quilting time?

What are your favorite fabrics to work with.  For me, it is difficult to say.  Today’s good quality fabrics all have wonderful properties and if we are fabric artists we can use them all in interesting ways.

Right now I am in a kind of wool period, but make no mistake I am also thinking about and planning on projects that will use silk, cotton, faux leather, and yes, even polyester.

Wool has a depth of character, hides mistakes well, and shapes with steam.  If it is felted wool or felted wool blends it does not even require edge finishing to prevent raveling.  And all in all it provides comfort and warmth if we want to make it into jackets, coats, or other fun items. 

Cotton is so versatile in so many ways.  But mostly I think of two things when I think of cotton…quilts and shirts.  Even if working a quilt top primarily with wool I often pair it with cotton on the back to provide stability and lower the cost of the project, although cotton is almost as high as wool these days.  Cotton is my go to fabric for making shirts and blouses.  I love cotton and always will.

Canterbury Silk.

And then there is the queen of fabrics that is silk.  Anywhere from rustic raw weaves to magnificent silk dupionis, satins, and brocades. I have a fair bit in my stash and I think I must use it over the next year.  I count silk/cotton blend Radiance as part of my silk stash. It’s so beautiful and I keep it carefully for mostly quilted wall art, but I will make a special blouse from it or line a wool jacket with light weight silk.  Wonderful stuff (as in the proper use of the word “stuff”)

Rayon is something I like the qualities of for clothing, but don’t use it very much.  It has a lot of drape and beauty.  I have a piece or two in my stash and will likely use it for clothing.  But be certain I will wash/shrink it first.  It shrinks dramatically. I once made a beautiful blouse and skirt set and failed to prewash.  I loved it and it shrunk several sizes when I washed it.  That was early in my sewing life.

And gasp!  I love polyesters, especially crepe back satins and polyester dupionis.  The addition of a little polyester in blends can lower the price and add washability and other good qualities to fabrics making them great for nearly everything.  I just made a quilt entirely from polyester, except I backed and bound it with cotton.  Out of Mom’s Workbasket, my most recent quilt. Polyester is made from a natural product…oil…and though it is sometimes called “plastic”, which I suppose it technically is, that is normally intended as an insult and displays a bit of ignorance of the wonderful qualities of polyester fabrics and threads. They seldom bleed their colors, they come in fabulous rich colors, weaves, and colors, they don’t shrink (both a positive and a negative depending).  To add to that they are easy on the budget.  In short they deserve more respect in the sewing and quilting world.

Test sampler I made from polhyester before starting my Mom’s memory quilt.

Oh, don’t forget leathers, and faux leathers and suedes.  I made my youngest son a beautiful faux leather waterproof coat last winter.  He hasn’t worn it much because I didn’t finish it until kind of late in the season. I have seen leather quilts.  I have not seen faux leather and faux suede used in quilts.  I might change that one. I have a beautiful piece of faux suede to make myself a nice jacket.  We’ll see if I can fit it in.

The coat.

So I suggest and plan on myself hunkering down and getting cozy with the sewing machines to use up some of my big stash. It’s a good plan, don’t you think?

Sew happy everyone! Evaluate your stash and plan your sewing season if you haven’t started already.

 

Dealing with Stitching Pull and Video Update

I digitized this olive tree from a non copyrighted photograph and stitched it out on black nylon tulle with wash away stabilizers. I then removed the stabilizers and tore away the visible tulle. What you see here is the tree ready to applique to my quilt Noel. It would have produced a great deal of thread pull had I stitched it directly to the quilt top.

Heavy machine stitching always pulls the fabric and if done directly on a project can leave the surrounding fabric unacceptably ruffled.  Some of this can be dealt with on shrinkable natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool but not so much silk, by steaming the area upside down on a wool ironing mat or a thick pad of towels.  Polyester fabrics will not respond to steam shrinking attempts and is possible to damaged it with the  amount of steam one might try to use.  Really heavily stitched motifs are almost impossible to steam out regardless of fabrics except wool, but it may be possible to  “quilt that out” in some cases though it is not easily accomplished and doing this is very stressful in any case.

Such headaches and fails can be avoided by stitching off-project and appliqueing the finished motif on to the project background.  If you do it right, it is most often very difficult to tell that it is an applique and not directly stitched, but even if you can tell, it is preferable to the pull.

So there are several ways to approach this that usually involve machine work inside a hoop and wash away stabilizer.  I have a relatively large collection of embroidery hoops I collected over the years.  I found most of them can work for machine work, but some are just too wide to easily get under the presser foot.  There are hoops that are designed for working with a machine, and can be used for hand embroidery. I find a 7 or 8 inch hoop works well.  Here are a couple of models I like:

  • three plastic spring hoop set I have had a set similar to this for years, and this may be the same set.  I don’t know for sure, but it works well for free motion embroidery and is thin enough to slide under the foot.  It is also easy to adjust the area in the hoop when you need to without taking it out from under the foot of the machine.
  • three wood traditional style set.  This is .6 inches high,  I think this will happily slide under the foot if you angle it a bit.  I do not have this set myself although I do use a couple of very old wood hoops that I have had around for a while and they are .5 inches wide and work ok with the machine.

Here is the setup for free motion embroidery.  I do also add the Super Slider on the machine to make it work really smoothly when I am using my domestic machine.  I find I really don’t need the slider when I do the embroidery on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, which I find I prefer now that I have that option.

 

Here I am stitching a horse’s tail for my quilt Canterbury Knight using the method described herein.

Here is the tail on the horse on the quilt. There is not enough contrast to see it well, but after it was quilted it showed up fairly well.

Horse with newly groomed tail

And the final finished quilt that has won several nice ribbons.

Canterbury Knight

Surprisingly, I found when working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm that the heavily weighted gripper rings designed for quilting work wonderfully as hoops for free motion embroidery when using that wonderful machine.  I don’t have a link for that, but they are available probably for order at a Bernina dealership.  I balked at the price, but waited for a really good sale and I really really like them.  I know you can get a cheaper black set without the open space on the rings for sliding on, but I love the lovely red of the rings as well as the little open spaces.  For these, you just put the layers together and the first thing you do is stitch around the layers  well away from your design to hold them together much as you would do for a quilt sandwich.  These would probably not work well on a domestic machine, even the machines with larger harps, but they are divine on my sitdown longarm for both quilting and embroidery.

https://www.franknutt.co.uk/media/catalog/product/b/e/bernina_gripper_rings.jpg

So I set up my motif build with a layer of heavy clear washaway stabilizer, such as OESD badge master, or Sulky Super Solvy on the bottom, on which I have lightly marked the design guidelines with a Crayola Fine Line Washable Marker.  On top is a layer of nylon tulle to hold everything together even if it isn’t a stand-alone design.   I find when it is finished and I soak away the stabilizer, the tulle can be gently torn along the edge of the stitched motif and not seen at all once appliqued.

If the motif also includes a fill of applique fabrics, I cut the shape and glue them to the tulle with washable glue stick and that is the first thing I stitch around to hold them in place before beginning.  Then I hoop the whole thing together with the inside hoop on top so the fabric/stabilizer bundle is flat on the bottom.

Now I use the same kind of sandwich if I am doing digitized in-the-hoop machine embroidery motifs.  Here’s one I made that way that also went on Noel.

I digitized this star and then embroidered it off the quilt using the method described herein.

After I soak off the washaways and let it almost dry but is still a little damp, I will press it upside down on my wool ironing pad with a light weight cotton ironing cloth over it.  It then can be basted down in place on your project and attached with a narrow zig-zag or free motion off and on the motif using the same thread you used at the edge of the motif.  I usually also stitch inside the motif just a little where appropriate to give it some concept of having been stitched directly in place and highlight some of the shaping.  It doesn’t take much stithing to make it wonderful.

You would be amazed what you can do with this method by just adding that little bit of tulle and over=stitching a tiny bit after placement on the main background. Then  you won’t have the ruffles.  You can also use this method to make some interesting trapunto designs.

Video Update:  My oldest son decided he needed to provide some significant help for my video making and asked me to pull the original video on Wool Applique by Machine.  Don’t worry folks, if you were interested in my videos, they will happen and will be far better than they would have without his assistance.  I will certainly announce the videos when they are available.  This should not be very long from now…maybe a week or two for the first one, but I will let you know.  I have a long list of vlogs and video classes I am planning.

Sew happy everyone!  Go make something wonderful.

 

 

Fine Tuning Fabric Art: Applique Styles

Hi all y’all.  Do you enjoy applique or do you only use it when there is absolutely no other way to get the look you want?  I was surprised several years ago when I attended a major quilter’s class and she introduced me as an applique-er.  After thinking about it, I think she is mostly right.  I thoroughly enjoy applique of several artistic techniques. I select the technique by their complexity, the kinds of fabrics I am using, and the style I want to show.  These include:=

  1. fused or glued stitched raw edge
  2. placed and held in place by veiling and then free motion stitched down.
  3. turned edge glued and blind stitched by machine
  4. applipieced/pieceliqued
  5. In-the-hoop applique

For complex edges, especially, my favorite technique is stitched raw edge applique.  This is where I fuse it down and stitch along the edge using either a narrow vari-overlock stitch (like a hem stitch but it has fewer stitches between the zig-zag stitch) with a Superior monopoly thread or a 100 weight polyester or silk matching thread so it basically disappears. Narrow blanket stitch also works well.  I don’t particularly like zig zag for this, but I know some who do. I also found I cannot get a good result for complex appliques without some kind of adhesive use along the edges.

The Announcer, the Horse, and Bird appliques From Canterbury Knight are all stitched fused edge appliques hand painted by me.

To show off the edges I very much like the blanket stitch using decorative thread picked to show.  I don’t see a difference when doing this using raw edge or turned edge appliques, because the edge is covered with the thread.  The blanket stitch may be either a double blanket stitch if you REALLY want to see it, or a single using a heavier 12 weight thread so it highlights the edges.  This is a particularly good approach if you are having problems with your applique not showing up well because you chose to use fabrics that are close in value or color.  Sometimes I have found it very difficult to carry out the design I have in my head with a clear value difference between the applique and the background. I also can fix this problem with a hidden edge applique technique combined with a straight stitch outline stitched along the edge in a contrasting color decorative thread.

Dad’s House Plan. The house and roof of this quilt were turned edge machine stitched appliqued in most places.

For less complex shapes, I have found the turned edge with the vari-overlock narrow stitch with monopoly or matching 100 weight thread looks very close to turned edge hand stitched applique.  In my case, the machine stitched looks much better.  haha. If you don’t have a vari-overlock stitch on your machine, it is very similar to the blind hem stitch that nearly all today’s machines have in their utility stitch set, it just has more straight stitches between the zigs or zags, so making the stitches shorter overcomes that problem.  I start by turning the edges around either a piece of lightweight interfacing that is going to stay in place, or a freezer paper shape ironed to the back.  I usually find that just grocery store starch I paint on with a small stencil brush works well to hold the turn in place, and then remove the freezer paper before gluing it in place to the background.  One can glue it however, with washable glue sticks, and a lot of applique-ers do that.

Here we have a complex edge that I have starched the turn over with starch onto freezer paper. The next step would be to remove the freezer paper, turn it over and stitch it in place onto the background fabric. You might want to iron the turn down a little more after removing the paper.

When I am making one of my deep space quilts, I make the “gas cloud” that surrounds and plays throughout a galaxy from hot fix angelina fibers.  These fibers only stick to themselves and flatten out into a sort of fabric so they don’t stick to the background fabric.  You can’t use a fusible web with it because it shows, nor can you use glue because even if it dries clear you can still see it through the clouds.  So I cover it with black nylon veil and just free motion stitch it into place.  I may pin it a few times, but I don’t even like to do that, because the holes remain if you happen to hit it just wrong.  So I just have to hold it in place and stabilize it with a little of the stitching before I do the free motion embroidery-like quilting. I think this method would work well for a net or lacy applique also.

Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

And then for piecing together areas like adding mountains or suns or other large parts of a pictorial quilt, there is applipiece (Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s term) or piecelique (Sharon Schamber’s term) where the piecing is done using turned edge applque stitched  (as described above under “less complex shapes”) from the top by machine usually using monopoly or very light weight thread and the vari-overlock or blanket stitch and then cutting the area joined from the back down to a little less than a quarter inch seam.  The complex edges require snipping into the edge periodically to facilitate the turning around the shapes).  This is one of my favorite methods when creating a pictorial or other free style design background.

The Storyteller, a Hoffman Challenge piece where the entire background was applipieced/pieceliqued together.

In the hoop applique requires “a whole nother” set of activities and skills beginning with digitizing your design in software or purchasing a commercial embroidery design.  I use this occasionally, but not often.  It usually uses satin edge stitch to sew down the appliques, though it sometimes uses blanket stitch.  If I am going to use satin edge I try to do this in the hoop because the satin stitch can then be digitized to have beautiful miters and properly angled stitching, which is really difficult just using the satin stitch outside the hoop.  It is possible to get a nice satin stitched edge for simple shapes with care in regular nonhoop stitching though.  Then you can add additional decorative stitching in-the-hoop for nice results.

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug in the hoop

You can read more about this method in my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.

That pretty much covers the methods I use for applique.  I am using stitched raw edge applique that has been attached with Steam-a-Seam 2 for my wool applique by machine.  First I am stitching it down with monopoly and then I am doing the decorative stitching around the edges and inside the appliques.  This means I can use the decorative stitches to make the look I want without worrying about whether or not the stitch catches the edge of the wool applique, which I find a big advantage.

Detail showing some of the stitching on my practice wool piece

Sew happy everyone!  Put on some good music or an audiobook and start with a small applique project.  It is fun, but it does require some time to get it right.  Still, by machine is faster, or at least less problematic for arthritic hands than by hand, however beautiful it is.

 

 

Quilt Shows: Take Heart

I remember quilt shows, do you?  Where we gathered together and admired the show quilts, saw our friends, and took classes and bought stuff from vendors?

A haul from one of the quilt shows I attended a few years back.

They seem so far away now.  I do admire how much some of the show people are trying to keep this experience alive by doing virtual quilt shows, and they are fun.  I usually attend and pay the suggested attendance fee, though I haven’t taken a class that way yet.

They are, however, different.  I can see they might stay even after we get back to post-pandemic normal, whatever that is.  I think we will eventually have both in person and virtual quilt shows in the future.  Some teachers seemed surprised to realize that there is a vast quantity of quilters and sewists out there who have never even been to an in-person quilt show and are really happy to have the chance to take a class from a major teacher, see all the quilts in the contest, and have some shopping opportunities from the online vendors.  That’s why I think that will stay even when we do get back to in-person shows.

Stellar Nursery, created in 2009 inspired by NASA photograph “Mountains of Creation”. This was my first quilt (other than Hoffman Challenges) that was accepted in a major show. It was shown in MAQF in 2009. It didnt really dawn on me that year that I could send it to other shows. See, we all have to learn. This hangs over my Bernina 880 plus and sparkles looking for all the world like a space ship window framing out a gallaxy .  I made it on my Bernina 830 I no longer own. I no longer put borders on my deep space quilts, but in the black part of the pieced border I machine embroidered schematics of various constellations in black thread reversed so that when you see the back you see the constellations around the quilt in the right way.  I doubt the judges even figured that one out but I know it’s there and love it all the more for that.

Sadly, several shows, professional quilters, and vendors have permanently closed or already shut down for another year because they could not make ends meet and it looks likely the situation will continue far into 2021.

I guess I am the optimistic sort, however, because even as I am sympathetic to those involved and am very sorry to lose these parts of our wonderful quilting and sewing community, I believe we will rebuild and it won’t be as long as some predict.

In the meantime, I love seeing some of the developments of online classes, and sharing videos, and other opportunities to keep our talents alive and well and growing while we wait the end of the pandemic. I also see some real improvements in the online quilt shows that admittedly were a little rough around the edges when they first started, but seem to be settling into really fun venues now.  I suspect they will improve further.

Originally I was not going to enter online shows, but I changed my mind.  I have a couple of quilts all ready that I would like to exhibit and so why not?  Some of the rules have relaxed allowing older quilts or any size quilts into the shows, for instance.  Some of the photographic presentation online is clearer and you can see the quilting better.  They show all the entered quilts online, not just the winners like they usually do on their websites.  The cost is only the entry fee and not the shipping and nail biting while that show quilt is moving around the country.  So just for fun, I’m going to enter a few here and there to see what happens.

Sew happy everyone!  Take heart.  This is not permanent.  There are even some good things happening out there right now.  Do you have a fabulous older quilt you never got entered because you missed a deadline, for instance?  Now may be the time to fix that. Just get some good photographs (pin them to the design wall or hang it on a curtain rod and light it well, then snap away with lots of photographs using slight differences of settings and then pick the best or hire someone).  Cheers!

Fine Tuning Fabric Art Projects: Threads

As many of you know I love decorative threads and I love using them with appliques and in all kinds of machine embroidery and other uses in the course of my fabric art making.  Sew I decided to write a little bit about my favorites and how I like to use them.

First of all, for general success be sure when you thread your machines to run the cross wound threads off the top  and the stack wound threads straight out.  Most machines have instructions in their manuals for how to do this.  Also, if using a cone, be sure to use a cone net to make it work evenly.

Perspective in Threads, one of my earlier pieces that, except for the borders, is a whole cloth piece using four different thread weights.

12 weight threads:  These threads are wonderful to use when you want your stitching to show.  Since I am currently on a wool kick, I will start with wool thread.  Wool thread makes beautiful accents for wool appliques, machine embroidery, or Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.  I like Aurifil’s Lana wool blend threads.  I use 100/16 top stitch titanium coated needles by Superior with it and Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton in the bobbin.  These threads are a bit linty, since wool is linty, so you have to clean out the thread path and the bobbin area after every couple of hours of stitching with it, but it provides such a wonderful result.  I also set the top tension lower with this thread and stitch more slowly than I usually do because it has a tendency to break, though not bad if you do these things.  I’m sure these are the reasons thay added the acrylic in an effort to control the downside of wool as a thread.

The Spanish moss in the quilt below were all stitched on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm with Aurifil wool blend thread that I bought in the large 383 yard spools.

Night on the Bayou
59″ x 31″
Inspired by a painting by Disney artist
Joel Christopher Payne
       used  by permission.

 

So I did a lot of testing and find that for stitching with my two domestic sewing machines that a lot of different brands of 12 weight cotton work just fine for feed dogs up sewing, but the one that works the best for me for free motion stitching is Sulky 12 weight cotton.  It has less knotting and other problems as long as I use the same 100/16 topstitch needle and slightly lower the upper tension.  I use Superior Bottom Line 60 weight polyester in the bobbin with 12 weight cotton at the default setting although for heavy decorative patterns or in the hoop embroidery I tighten the bobbin tension one click to the right in my Bernina 880 plus.

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015
Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton. Appliqued with Monopoly.

When I am sewing on my Bernina sitdown longarm Q20, I frequently use Superior’s M Style prewound bobbins, which are also Botton Line.  They are so evenly wound and work very well.  I just make sure I am putting them in the right direction (I usually write Bernina on the right side) and just use them exactly as if I were using a Bernina bobbin I wound.  For my Q20 I set the bobbin tension at about 180 for Bottom Line.

40 Weight Threads: 40 weight embroidery threads are wonderful and they are the thread I use the most for embroidery and quilting.  I use them in both the top and the bobbin when making a show quality quilt, although I also often use Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin too.  For the most part, I use two different 40 weight brands.  I use an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch titanium coated needle with these threads.  These needles stitch much longer than most and if you are stitching through fusible webs, they don’t seem to attract as much of the glue on the needle.  For the most part, default tensions work with these threads.

  • Superior Magnifico poly, Fantastico variegated poly, which are basically the same thread except Magnifico is solid and Fantastico is variegated.
  • Superior King Tut cotton which is matte finish and usually requires the larger 90/14 needle
  • Isacord poly.  I started out embroidering with this thread.  It is very good, but not as shiny as the Magnifico or Fantastico.  It does make a nice quilting thread.

Stitched with Magnifico in a goldish color.

Monopoly

I only use Superior’s Clear Monopoly or black Monopoly It is so thin and strong, and it does not show up shiny like some monopolies.  I understand there are others that are reportedly just as good, but I know this is a successful monopoly.  I use it for stitch in the ditch and applique when I want to hide the stitching.  This works best for me with a 70/10 or 80/12 universal Schmetz needle, which is larger than recommended.  The reason is the point of a universal is not as sharp and if it “steps” on the thread it is less likely to break it than a sharp pointed needle.  It took me a while to learn this one.  Your machine may prefer a different size needle, but I encourage you to use a universal needle.  You have to be a little careful with this thread as it is so very lively and can wrap itself around things in the bobbin and so forth.  It is so very hard to see, but it provides a wonderful result and once you get your machine set up right it sews very well.  I set the top tension really low, even down to 1.0 or 1.5.  I do not put it in the bobbin, so I use Bottom Line with it.  I do not cut it with the machine cutter, but rather pull it out a little further than usual so it doesn’t pull back out of the needle when cut, which I have found it often does otherwise.  I do a little back stitching to tie it off.  You can’t see any thread buildup in that case and it holds it better even than a hand knot.

Metallic Threads

Metallic threads are so beautiful and I confess it has been my greatest challenge in getting it to work well, but I decided to apply the same set up for metallics as I do for Monopoly only I use a 90/14 Superior top stitch needle for success.  I was told to use a Metalic thread needle, but I did not find that as successful.  It may be the way I sew, who knows.  In any event after some testing I find I prefer Superior Metallic threads and I run it through the path on my machines that allows me to use the Bernina thread lubricant, or I just use a thread lubricant on the spool before stitching.  It is really important to test things on a test piece before using any of these threads on your project.

Light Weight Threads

When I don’t want to use a Monopoly for one reason or another, I like to use a 100 weight thread.  These threads make wonderful quilting threads especially when you want to have the quilting sink into the background, do microquilting, or are appliqueing so it looks like hand applique.  My favorites for these techniques are Superior Kimono 100 weight silk thread, and Superior Microquilter 100 weight poly.

I have already mentioned Superior’s 60 weight Bottom Line for bobbin work, but I also have successfully used it as a top quilting thread, a piecing thread, and even to make clothing.  It is strong and pretty.  It also sinks nicely into the background, but spreads a little more color than 100 weight when you are doing microquilting.

When using these threads in the top, I use a Superior 70/10 top stitch titanium coated needle and lower the top tension to about a 1.75 for the silk or 2.25 for the poly.  If you start having trouble with breakage, you might try an 80/12 top stitch needle.

So I made a chart some years back for use with my Bernina Q20.  I just updated it this week, and thought I would include it here.  Yes, I am aware there are differences from previous versons of this chart, but I have continued to make adjustments as I learned more.  Your own machines may need adjusting, but the point is that threads of all kinds may need their own special settings for optimal results.  So do some experimenting and testing.  I encourage you to create your own guides and have fun with those fabulous threads.

Sew happy everyone!  Go forth and create something wonderful or just have some fun in your own studiois.

 

 

Upcoming Free YouTube Class

Hi sewists, fabric wizards, and all round lovers of fabric, thread, and maybe paint for making something fun or beautiful.  Do you admire those beautiful wool applique items that are often made all by hand, but would like to try making something similar by machine? I am going to present a free video class with multiple videos on YouTube in the next few weeks (I’ll announce exactly when shortly), and I hope you will join me.

I  am planning on presenting a simple shapes project in wool applique.  It  will be easy and fun, but it requires some complexity of teaching to cover it  adequately so I will be dividing this in three or four video classes on YouTube. This will provide the techniques for making a beautiful small machine appliqued and embellished wool wall hanging to celebrate Fall.

If you want to participate in this, you will want to gather the supplies for this free class.  I am thinking the first video, which I have already shot and am currently editing will be ready some time next week.

Sew here is the list of what you may wish to gather (with links) if you want to make one or two.  Mine is 22 by 25 inches, but you can make yours the best fit for where you want to place it.  It is kind of free style field of flowers using simple shapes and the result will make a nice gift or decoration for the fall season.  You probably have a lot of these supplies already, so check your stash first, but here are some links to what I use if you need to do some shopping.

  1. Background piece…I recommend a yard of melton wool (boiled felted wool) in a dark or deep color:  Black wool (this linked page has other color options); or you can use a solid quilt cotton if desired.  A yard of the wool is 58 inches wide and so it will make two or even three small wall hangings and it has a lovely look when complete. You can also use a less expensive wool blend coating  with real success.
  2. Six or more colors of small pieces of wool felt.  Be sure to include some green if you like green stems and leaves.  I have found precut sets for somewhat reasonable prices in two places and there are several selections for you to choose from. You may have trouble picking because they all look lovely, so maybe buy more and plan on making two.  Here are some suggestions:
  3. Two yards of fusible lightweight interfacing to stabilize the background fabric. Either of these will work.
  4. Steam a seam fusible
  5. A selection of your favorite 40 weight embroidery threads, light weight bobbin thread that matches the background, Superior Monopoly, and 12 weight wool threads (if desired).  I use a wide variety.  Wool thread is expensive, so I suggest you start with the small spools set that will be suffecient for you to do this project and lets you see if you like using it before investing in larger spools.
  6. High quality Sewing Machine needles (these are the ones I use):
  7. Sew check my page Aids and Links at the top of this blog or on the menu if you are reading on a phone.  There you will find a pdf file with simple shapes for wool project that provides patterns for simple shapes if you need them.  Download this and print it.  Or, you can use your simple circles, leaves, and vines you may have in Accuquilt Cutter dies instead if you have these.
  8. A piece of batting that is not very thick large enough for the background piece.  This is a good place to use some of that leftover batting.
  9. Cotton quilting fabric large enough for the back of this little quilt and binding (if desired, though you may wish to do a finish edge with decorative stitching).

I am still very new at making these videos, so that is why I can’t figure out exactly when I will be able to publish them.  My tentative deadline for this is next Wednesday.  Of course, since it is a YouTube video, once it is published you will be able to use it any time and watch more than once.  This first class and the downloads are free, but it would be lovely if you use my links for your supplies.

Sew happy everyone.  Spend some time in your studio.

 

Simple Shapes for My Wool Project

Sew earlier this week I got everything ready to make my first video and then discovered I was missing a cord to connect the little monitor I need to my Sony Handicam camera.  Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think identifying cords needed in the computer world is the easiest thing to do,  Thank GOODNESS I have my own family geek squad.  Hahaha.  My son David helped me to identify what I needed and looked through our huge collection of cords, but we didn’t have the right one.  So I ordered it and it is supposed to come today. If it comes, I hope then to get my first video on YouTube sometime next week.  I don’t know how long this whole video making and editing will take me, but my tentative plan is to put one up a week at first.

Sew I got all ready to make the first item for my book/video wool project.  It is called “Simple Shapes” and it is a small wall hanging, and I really invite you to join me in making one yourself.  I will be providing all kinds of help here and even videos demonstrating it.

For several years now I have had an Accuquilt Go! cutter, and have, over the years, collected a fair number of their dies.  I find the dies are wonderful for this particular kind of project, and also I cut all my bindings and borders on it.  It’s much more accurate than I am…LOL.

I also use it to cut my 8 inch blocks I use for cuddle quilts.  I used it when I work with my grandson, who made a couple of simple quilts with my help several years ago, and he was able to cut his own quilt pieces safely.  It’s just a very helpful tool in my studio.  Yesterday it took me only about half an hour to cut out all the pieces I need for this, and most of that time was because I am backing them with Steam-a-Seam  fusible before I cut them, and I had to get that ironed on.  This makes the wool feed through the cutter so nicely and hold the pieces nicely in place.  I have other methods to do this too, but this one is my favorite.

However, if you don’t have a cutting machine and don’t want to buy one right now but want to follow along with me and try your own hand at wool applique by machine, I have made a pdf pattern with simple shapes that you can download and use.  You can find the pdf file on my Aids and Links page on this blog (see the links at the top of this blog).  I know you could draw your own, but why bother, since I have them all put together in the free pattern. They are not necessarily the same as those on my dies, but close enough.

Sew I cut out a bunch of shapes from fun several colors of the wool felt I talked about in my last blog.  As I promised, I also looked around and found you can get satisfactory quality sets from Amazon if you want to make one of these wall hangings yourself.  I would love to see you join me in this fun project. I recommend you get four sets and you will have enough for several projects. Just click on the links below.

I also found a melton wool blend in black that would make a nice background, or you can use a nice solid color quilting cotton for the background. If you get a single yard the wool, it is large enough to make two or even three small wool projects, because these are small little jewels of projects and the yard is 58 inches wide. These would make nice Christmas or other celebration presents.

Sew now that I have all these simple shapes cut out  I will arrange them in a flower arrangement of some sort.  Follow this blog in the future to see what to do.  Note that I also cut some stems and vines about 1/4 inches wide and some leasves shaped from the felt that are not on my pdf but I did use the stems and leaves die on the Accuquilt site also.

I will talk more about what to do with all these shapes in future blogs, but you might guess if you look again at my last blog where I show a lot of the test piece I did.  I will be demonstrating this on my video, assuming I am successful in getting that done.  LOL  I will be linking to my video in my next blog probably.

Test and practice piece

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt or at least encourage sewists and other fabric wizards you know.  Even the most advanced folks need encouragement.  Sending you all hugs!

Wool Applique and Other Things

Hi dear readers.  I am pretty excited because I have finally gotten a good start on my wool applique project and have made a decision about what I will work on for my secondary project.

Test and practice piece I made to make some decisions before starting the actual project.

So today I pulled together all the pieces I have had around the studio for a while that are available for my wool project.  I was pleased to find my packages of felt that I had bought some years ago are fine melton wool felt .  These are mostly two unused packages of a variety of colors I bought them from Nancy’s Notions probably 7 or 8 years ago and they are in wonderful shape. They don’t have these now, so I recommend Sue Spargo sets such as the blue set or the red set I highlighted available on Amazon.

Here are the melton wool pieces I will be using for this project. The background reddish brown piece is richer in color than it appears in this picture. It is one of the new pieces I ordered from a tailoring supply place in California. The smaller precuts were purchased years ago in multicolored packs and are also melton wool felt.

I have several gorgeous melton wool pieces in one yard cuts that I ordered about a month ago.  Since the wool applique projects I am making for my book and videos are small, these 60 inch wide one yard cuts will make two or even three of the projects background pieces, a test piece, and are likely to have small leftover bits that can be added to the smaller pieces for the appliques.

Detail showing some of the decorative stitching.

I have also been identifying where to find the supplies for people who want to make these projects themselves.  I will share those with you at some later point once I figure it all out.

A detail from the test piece showing how well the applique is stitched on by machine with almost no visibility of the stitches.

I have some interesting hand woven placemats I bought somewhere sometime years ago and decided they were not going to work for placements for me, but they were really interesting handwoven look.  I don’t know the fiber content though I think it is cotton and wool, and I can’t even remember when or where I bought them. I washed and dried them by machine and they came out in good shape.  They will be an interesting addition for appliques I can use in the future or for the show quilt I am planning on making at the end of the great wool project.  Before I cut them out, they will have to be backed with interfacing and/or Steam-a-Seam fusible, which kind of acts as a stabilizer and will keep them from fraying.  I will show those to you when I figure where and how to use them.

Additional detail stitching. I am saving a library of these stitches as I have them set in the files on my Bernina 880 Plus. I have had this machine for about a year now and the more I use it the better I like it. It’s amazing.

Sew I have made a couple of decisions  for studio activities for the future.  I plan on making a new deep space quilt as my second project to work on for when I need a break from the wool project.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 one of my deep space quilts.

I always want two projects going at once to give my mind and sewing muscles differing things to do from time to time.  The neat thing is that deep space quilts are made almost entirely free motion with angelina fibers, a little bit of painting, and hot fix crystals.  That means it will mostly be done in Studio Fritz the room where my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown machine (Fritz) resides.   While the wool project will mostly be done in Studio Gibbs where my Bernina 880 plus  (Odette) lives and where my cutting/painting/whatever island is.  I also plan a bit of needle punching with my little Bernina 350 for which I have the needle punch attachment. That, too, will be part of my book and video projects.

A Word About the Future of the Craft of Sewing

Okay.  I know I said two decisions.  The second one is to figure out the direction for my work for the future. I decided I don’t want to do online live classes like on Zoom, but I will do some hopefully enjoyable videos and put them on YouTube.  I have been and still am a studio artist and this is my main focus.  I did do some local classes at G Street Fabrics, and was kind of considering entering the larger teaching circuit, but that avenue is no longer available at the moment. I had found it so much work and it barely paid me back for the work and expenses I invested in the classes.  I loved it and glad I had the experience, but I won’t be returning to in person teaching.

While I still very much wish to share what I have learned, I am going to do this by writing books and making videos and perhaps the occasional trunk show if invited.  I will continue to work in my slow way toward these goals.

I don’t know if the quilt shows will fully come back for years.  I am going to still make professional show-quality art quilts, and capture the making of them in videos and blogs and books.  If the in-person shows come back, I will then have some to enter just for fun, but I’m not going to stop making them.  I don’t know what I will do with them beyond that and giving them away here and there or selling one every so often and enjoying them myself.

Don’t worry when you hear of shows closing and people changing their current paths in the quilting or sewing world.  The sky is not falling. There even appears to be some new interest in sewing and quilting brought on by people making masks and experimenting with sewing during the pandemic. Sew if you have the opportunity, teach someone to sew even if it is remotely.  As Becky Thompson on her YouTube Vlog Power Tools with Thread likes to say “Go sew something!”

Looking Forward to Some Sewing and Quilting

Hi y’all.  I have pretty much figured out the video making puzzle and have all the things lined up for that, and now I need to do some additional work on the fabric art projects I am planning to use for my videos before I can start this up.

So, with a lot of happiness, I decided I will spend the whole next week at least just “working” on fabric art.  I will be taking progress photos and probably small snatches of videos as I do this, of course, but mostly I will be playing in my studio with fabrics and threads.  I’m so glad I don’t have a deadline!

The question is, what am I going to work on now?  Well, I have the wool applique by machine project and I also want to start up one of my many planned items I already designed in the free motion/quilting arena.  It should be fun and I hope very soon to share the fun with you in my planned videos on YouTube.

One of the things I have found really fun while I was working on the video equipment was to watch old Sewing with Nancy shows.  I think I have found nearly all of them now to watch on my tv or computer monitor.  Pfaff has put her original older ones on YouTube where she used Pfaff machines (search for Pfaff Talk and you will probably see it there).  They nicely bunched all the parts of a subject into one longer video, which is nice. In searching for “Sewing with Nancy” on my Roku, I also found I could place a PBS link on my Roku that has the Wisconsin PBS collection of her shows they have.  They are organized by season going back to about the time she switched away from Pfaff to the BabyLock that her company owned.  I believe that almost covers her entire production, though there may be more.  There is a huge wealth of great shows between these two sources and I have been having a lot of fun having that on while I worked.  She was an amazing woman who gave us sewists a lot.  I miss her though I only met her briefly once at a quilt show.

Sew I am taking a full break today.  I sold one of my two cars yesterday to one of those companies that buys cars, because we were having trouble keeping the battery charged and running since we used it so little.  They gave me a fairly good deal on it.  Both my son and I work from home and we simply don’t need more than one car between us.

That was an almost surreal adventure.  I found I had a flat tire when I got there. It drove fine all the way there except I had noticed a little bumpiness at one point that I chalked up to the road. David was driving the car I sold, and on the way the EZPass in that car decided it was time for the battery to quit working and he had to stop and pay the toll with a credit card, and then I got there and realized I had left my wallet behind!  I never do that.  But I had put it down to grab my mask and forgot to pick it back up.  So we got the AAA to come and fix the tire, which apparently is not damaged in any way, and we discovered the other car had a low tire too!  Odd, don’t you think?  Suspicious?  He pumped up that tire too, which also did not appear to be damaged and David drove me back to pick up my wallet and we went back and completed the sale.  It was trying and tiring, but we came home all safe and sound.

Sew after a tough week that also included having my dishwasher die and getting a new one installed on Wednesday, as well as the real work of figuring out all that video equipment, and then to be topped off with the difficult day yesterday, I decided to just goof off today and pick up again tomorrow after church (I watch our church service online, even singing the songs, giving the responses aloud, and so forth. That helps make it more real).

Despite it all, this difficult week ends up with a nice new dishwasher, a check for the car, and my video equipment and methods figured out and ready to use with charged batteries and downloaded manuals on how to use the equipment, and I even made progress on learning the editing software.  Thank the Lord!

Sew happy everyone!  I’m really ready for some time playing with fabric and threads.  How about you?