Going Beyond My Own Abilities

I love quilted fabric art pieces, in case you haven’t figured that out yet,  They can be as artistic as any great painting and can warm the home and office with their beauty.  The texture can approach three dimensional with different finishes and dents and poufs, and they make you want to go and touch them.  There are so many directions they can take.

I also love using the power of my great machines and my computer to work well beyond my own talents and abilities even as my hands age and can do less. There is much there to take advantage of for creating and enjoying and the additions continue. I even recently bought a new Bernina foot and my dealer kindly mailed it to me.

Learning the techniques, and taking advantage of the various attachments and feet is an important and interesting part of this.

Understanding how the machines respond to fabrics, threads, and quilt sandwiches is a key aspect to getting the maximum advantages out of the machines.

Trying not to get too frustrated when things don’t go well, but instead working through various steps to see what can be done to solve problems is equally important, and perhaps the hardest thing to do.

Learning how to better use various helpful software also adds to how far one can go.

These are the goals for me to continue to reach for this year even after all these years of sewing and quilting using these great tools.  I have concluded there is always more to learn.  And then I also want to get better adding surface design in the form of in-the-hoop embroidery, paints, beads, and crystals to move even further just adds to the enjoyment.  I feel almost like I am just beyond a beginner in this aspect.

Stitched slightly distorted swirl I made using Superior metallic threads on Kaufman Kona black fabric as a test piece playing with some in-the-hoop embroidery I digitized in my Bernina embroidery software just for fun.

Sew even though it is unclear where we will land in our quilting/sewing world after The Great Upheaval, my own name for the pandemic and actions taken, there will always be much to do and learn.  This makes me excited even as I still hang out safely in my studio.  Truth be told, even after we all get through this thing and I can go out more, I will be spending the majority of my time in my studio because I love these activities.  Yes, I will have my friends in finally and go see them, and I will go to brick and mortar fabric stores that may be left, and will delight as I see the rebirth of the industry across the nation.  I hope to go back to shows eventually.  I think we still have some months before this happens.

So I will be making some smaller projects in 2021 but still plan on doing them to quilt show quality even if they never go to a show.  It is the standard that I don’t want to leave.  I will, of course, also make some cuddle quilts and a few clothes this year.

This Week’s Featured Quilt

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on Peppered Cotton. I digitally painted the individual flower appliques and printed them on cotton, and then arranged them in a close approximation of arranging Ikebana with real flowers.  The vase is made from some hand dyed silk I had on hand.  I then appliqued them with Monopoly.  This is the perfect example of what I was just talking about.  I did take a hand Sashiko class from the great Pepper Cory and I loved it, but I have a very hard time hand stitching Sashiko now.  But here I used digitized Sashiko, some of which I digitized myself, and picked threads and fabrics close to what I knew were very Japanese in nature.  Decades ago, I lived in Kanazawa for three years and had some wonderful helpful friends.  This quilt was created while thinking about this time in my life.  You can see a better image of this on my website gallery.  I am still waiting my coming new computer after the great computer crash a week ago, so I must use what is available here on my laptop.  Here’s the link to the gallery page where you can find this.

Sew happy everyone!  Join me in advancing our understanding of what we can do with the machines we have.  Cheers everyone.

 

A Little Delay in My Videos

Hi everyone!  I had really hoped to present the first of my videos this week, but there has been a minor delay from this and that.  I am hopeful for the true launch in a week or two from now.  These things happen especially in this complex technical world.  It is coming.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work on the actual stitching parts of videos two and three, which is also drawing me closer to the completion of a really pretty small wall hanging all in wools.

I thought I would start randomly featuring one of my quilts every blog for you to see…kind of like a slow trunk show.  You have not seen them all, I am pretty sure.  Here is one I made with a Shaheen panel in the middle.  I like the outcome very much.  I used it to try out a lot of interesting quilting ideas. I have this one for sale…it’s $500, down from $1200 because I need to make some space in my quilt storage.  Inquire if you are interested at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com.

Tropical Garden, June 2017 36″ x 51.5″. I hand painted the border.

Sew happy everyone!  Use your quilting and sewing to bring peace to you and joy to your friends and family.  Hugs.

Fabric Art Adventures for the New Year

Here we all are in a fresh New Year!  I hope you had a lovely holiday.  Mine was delightful, lots of family, and full of a lot of planning and thinking about where I want to go from here in my fabric arts, especially while the professional quilting organizations sort out the full impact of the pandemic.  I have a lot of fun planned for the new year that I hope you will find interesting, encouraging, and even join me in some of them.

The new year arrives at an interesting point in my fabric arts.  I have finished my ongoing show quilt (Out of Mom’s Workbasket), and haven’t started a new one. I am close to the end of producing my first three-video series for my refurbished YouTube channel.

Forks in the road

I have put together a plan for the year that includes small fabric art pieces using multiple interesting techniques.  And I am working on some technique workbooks and patterns to sell on my newly updated website.  The show quilt world may take years before it is fully back, and it may be different when it rebuilds, so I am going to focus mostly on small pieces of fabric art for a while to share in videos, books, workbooks, and patterns and possibly for sale.  So here are the main topics for my 2021 focus:

  1. Working with wool (machine applique and embroidery primarily).
  2. Machine embroidery (free motion and in the hoop)
  3. Working with decorative threads, yarns and ribbons
  4. Small landscapes, space scapes, fantasy scapes
  5. Ancient illuminated manuscripts
  6. Heirloom sewing by machine for quilts
  7. Working with fun preprinted panels for fun and presents
  8. Whole cloth pieces (quilting techniques and pictographs)

Sew you can see my creative interests remain the same, it is just how I am hoping to share them that is a little different.   By keeping the pieces small I may actually be able to cover all of the concepts I have for now and you may decide to do similar pieces of your own too.  Smaller pieces are also more saleable I’m told.

Practice painting I did in Corel Painter

Sew happy everyone!  Learn some new skills, refresh some old ones, teach someone to sew or quilt, make some fun projects, and love your studios in this fresh new year.  Have fun in your studio (even if it is the top of your kitchen table)!

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am wishing all my readers the happiest of holidays.  May it be warm and full of love and peace.  I will be picking up my blog in January with my 2021 focus which will have the primary goal of sharing the joy and adventure of creating fabric art, and I will be providing a range of video classes and video tidbits throughout the year.   Thank you for reading my blog.  I am looking for a subscribe app that I can put on the blog as a button and be safe and secure for us.  Blessings on you all.

Hand Stitching and Machine Stitching

I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. It has a special meaning for me because I stitched it during my frequent visits with my mother in the months that lead up to her death in 1998. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it.

I love both hand and machine stitched fabric art.  I do most, or nearly all my stitching by machine now, but that was not always the case.  I have done some rather beautiful, even if I do say so myself, embroidery, cross stitching, and crewel work by hand.  I used to d0 a lot of hand stitching when I made wedding dresses and couture tailored garments decades ago.  But I am now in my 70s and my hands get really tired in short order when I am doing hand stitching.

Besides that, I have wonderful Berninas that can help me do some remarkable things and I love exploring all they can do.  It seems to me possible to not only get an exquisite handmade look for some fabric art using my machines, but also to do some equally exquisite stitching that is clearly done by machine.

“Canterbury Silk”. This quilt won several ribbons in national competitions. All the stitching in this quilt is by machine.

I am not sure how much faster it is to do the stitching by machine, though I am sure it is a little bit.  This is especially the case when I am trying to embellish with specialty threads and decorative stitching.  To do that well, I often need to stitch slowly.  I imagine that there are some of you who can stitch more rapidly with super results, but I totally enjoy the slow stitching around appliques, for instance, or embellishing parts of an especially nice quilted wall art piece. It is as enjoyable to me as the hand stitching ever was.

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015
Sashiko designs machine stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on to Peppered Cottons.  Appliqued with Monopoly. I love how the Sashiko came out on this piece.

High end machine work requires planning, testing, practice, and a fair amount of knowledge, but it is sometimes thought to be less artistic 0r less appreciated somehow than hand done work.  While I love hand work, I disagree with this point of view.  I think both are important and can be exquisite and  admired as something special.  I also think it is wonderful what can be accomplished by machine.

Sew happy everyone!  Have a delightful Merry Christmas!

Detail from “Noel”.

 

A Website Update and the Wool Applique Project

Hi everyone.  Well, I completed the update on my website and am reasonably happy with it.  I did not yet put the store in operation because I still am working on the downloadables I am planning to sell there.  My goodness I have been busy!

A digital design I created last year. It seems like winter to me with snowflakes that look like butterflies…LOL.

I have been having fun though.  This week I am embellishing my wool applique by machine sampler with decorative stitches using 12 weight Aurifil wool blend thread.  I have been really enjoying figuring out which stitches to use on each applique and how to set them.

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

Since I used Steam-a-Seam 2 fusible for the appliques, and they are felted wool going on to Melton boiled wool background using wool thread, there is a lot of fluff!  So the fluff stuck to the needle and filled the bobbin area.  I just cleaned out the bobbin when my machine complained about the bobbin and it was just fine.  But I had just gotten a package of Schmetz super non stick 90/14 needles.  Now one needs that size needle for 12 weight threads, and I was using a Superior top stitch, which is a fine needle that I use for most of my work, but the fluff from all this wool was continuously climbing up the needle and had become problematic.  So I tried the non-stick needle and was astonished at how the fluff on the needle just went away!  The stitching went forward with no further problems other than stopping every now and then to clean out the bobbin area, which isn’t very hard to do. My bobbin sensor lets me know when it cannot “see” anymore.  LOL

Truly I encourage you all to try some embellished applique by machine.  Realize it isn’t very fast, in fact it is kind of slow when properly done, but it is beautifully satisfying to do and just plain fun!  So keep it small for your first projects! In another week or maybe  a little more, I will have the first of my embellished wool applique by machine videos up and running.  I will tell and show you what I have learned about this technique.  I invite you to join me in making a sampler of your own.  I know you will enjoy it.

Next week I will post a list of supplies for the project with links of where you can get them and I will also put a pdf downloadable handout here for you to use too.  This class and downloads are free. I do, however, have plans for presenting many other techniques and projects by video where the project workbooks and patterns will be available for sale on my new website shop.  I hope to keep the videos free, but we will see how that goes.  Keeping the videos free will depend on how many subscribers I get to my channel and how many people buy the downloadales.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you are enjoying a Happy Hanukkah and Christmas season.  It’s my favorite time of the year. Blessings everyone!

 

 

300th Blog Post! and Other Things

This is my 300th blog post here!  Sew I thought it was a good time to talk about several things planned for the near future related to my little micro business.

I am rebuilding my website and will be adding a little shopping cart that I am planning to use just for downloadable files, such as workbooks, patterns, and other downloadable aids for sewing and quilting.  I am almost done with the new website and hope to introduce it to you very soon.  The shop will be added a little later.

Now the main website is different from my blog, just in case you are wondering.  This blog will remain the same at least for some months.  Eventually, I am hoping to move this over to the blog space that comes with my website upgrade, but I don’t want to lose my older blogs.  If you haven’t done so for a while or ever, scroll back through my blogs.  You have to do it by the month by going to the archives box and selecting the month.  But you will find there are a lot of things you may find helpful in my blog archives.

Perhaps I will instead of moving the blogs, pull the more useful information from them and put them into a book or books with a bit of editing, and then start a totally new blog.  What do you think?  I would love to have your input on how to handle this.

In the meanwhile, I am still working on getting my videos going on YouTube.  The first set of three or four videos on Wool Applique by Machine are nearly done and will be posted by the end of December.  I have a long list of video subjects I am planning on developing.  For this first set, there will be free handouts for download from here, but for the next of them there will be a mix of workbooks and patterns for a small cost from my main website shop I am setting up, and the occasional free downloads will still be from this blog.

Of course, all of this is centered around my continued quilted fabric art work (multi-use work..LOL).  Once I get over the hump of setting all of this up, and I am almost there, then I will be able to go back to mostly sewing and quilting and designing, but just using a lot of it for my videos.  It has been a bit of a bear getting it all set up, but I have had a great deal of help from my sons.

So 2021 looks to be really exciting for me and my studio, and I hope for all of my readers.  Here is a little list of some of the subjects I am thinking about for the first half of 2021.

  • Wool Applique by Machine Techniques Sampler
  • Advanced Wool Applique Wall=hanging Project
  • Cotton and silk applique techniques and when to use what technique
  • Fabrics of several types and their properties when making fabric art
  • Embellishment threads, ribbons, roving, beads, and findings with machine work and how to get the best results
  • Free motion and in-the-hoop embroidery and using it well
  • Start with a fabric panel and end with a piece of exquisite embellished fabric art
  • Sit down longarm videos  (free motion embroidery and quilting, using rulers, mixing things up)
  • Bernina Q20 specific videos (short videos)
  • Some Bernina V8 specific videos
  • a bunch of really short technique videos.
  • I am thinking about doing some  real tailoring videos and workbooks. It’s something I know well and I think is something others would find interesting.
  • and on and on…not much if anything about piecing.  But there are a ton of piecing videos out there by real experts.

I don’t really know what I will do in what order.  Part of the fun for me is moving through the things I know that I want to share by using the projects I want to work on myself.  I don’t have deadlines, and I don’t plan on setting them, but I will let you know when they are ready to do.

Sew happy everyone!

 

Embellishing Appliques by Machine

I have been having fun in my studio this past few days while I worked on my wool applique sampler.  I got all the pieces appliqued and have started the fun part of adding decorative stitches to turn them from simple shapes into interesting flowers.

As an example, here is one of the flowers appliqued and ready to embellish.  I used a combination of all wool felt and wool blend felt.

 

Here is the same applique after I added some decorative stitching using wool blend 12 weight Aurifil thread.

I may decide to add more stitching to this particular flower. It was helpful to me to see it in the photograph.  Somehow pictures of my work gives me a different perspective.  I may decide, instead, however, to use some free motion quilting to add more details to this flower.

Here is a little closer view of the flower heads and flower stem that I also embroidered with some decorative stitching.

Sew it is a layered process, and while I have a general idea of what it will look like when finished in my mind’s eye, I make adjustments and changes from my original concept as I go.

In any case, I find this phase of the project really fun as each addition changes the appliques and I see my original concept emerge into reality.  The last thing I will do before sandwiching and quilting it is to add some patches of grass and maybe a bug or animal around in the grass.  The quilting should also make its own addition to the overall interest of this little wall hanging.  I am considering how to finish the edge.  Should I bind it in cotton or edge stitch it with some heavy weight specialty thread, or even try out that yarn couched edging that Nina McVeigh demonstrated in one of the Bernina videos on The Quilt Show?

One of the useful little bits I learned in the process was how well the Schmetz Super non stick needles helped solve the problem I was having with the wool felt that I had fused on with Steam-a-Seam 2 sticking to the needle. It was getting balls of felt fuzz climbing up the needle until I switched needles.  Then I had no more problem with that so far.  I was rather astonished.

I’m not sure you can really see the various stitches in this picture, but you can see how I added the numbers of the stitches just above each stitchout.

I made a little test piece to help me decide which decorative stitches I want to use. I also tested the way I stitched them out.  For this I used the machine automatic knot it will stitch out if you ask it to both at the beginning and the end.  I also stitched them with a specific number of repeats and then just stitched using a slow set of the speed and the start button, rather than the foot pedal.  This allows for the machine to stitch out a very even pace, which makes decorative stitches more beautiful.

So when I set it up to go around those circles, I set it to stitch one repeat without turning (basically hands off), and then turn the fabric before doing the next repeat. It makes for a very nice embroidered stitch, almost like good hand embroidery, especially when using a nice thick thread like Aurifil Lana wool blend 12 weight thread.

One thing I learned about working with all this wool and wool thread is that I need to clean my machine a lot more often because both the fabric and the thread produce lint down in the bobbin area of the machine. It is well worth it though, because it is lovely.

I have a long ways to go before I finish this sampler, but I am really having fun with it. I am also video taping here and there as I go.

Sew happy everyone.  I encourage you to try your hand at wool applique by machine.  In just a few weeks I will come out with my three part video class on YouTube that will use this very sampler and the techniques I am talking about here.  I will have a free downloadable handout here to go with it.  That effort is progressing nicely finally.  I decided to produce all three videos before I posted the first one. Cheers everyone.  Happy Advent!

 

 

 

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.