My close friends and competitors…sometimes one in the same…know that I love embellishing my art quilts. Some quilts simply call for embellishments and, when this is true, I use them generously. This subject recently came up in a Facebook conversation and so I thought I would run a series of three or so blog posts, not necessarily one right after the other, on my embellishment techniques. You may have others or your techniques may vary, but these are mine. I’m always looking for new ideas though, so comment freely please.
My love for embelishments started decades ago when I had my own fashion design and tailoring business when I designed and my shop made formals, wedding dresses, and costumes for operas, dancers, and skaters. Back at the beginning of that business, I hand sewed or glued most of my embellishments on. Today I will hand sew some things still, but I use a lot of hot fix crystals and machine techniques that I will talk about in future posts.
When I first started using hot fix crystals years ago I bought one of those wand style irons. I still use it by the way, but I’m thinking of replacing it and maybe I can get one that doesn’t flip off the table and land on the carpet and I have to race to pick it up before it burns it…hoping not to burn myself in the process. It’s supposed to pick up the crystal and you can then place it down, but it never really worked well that way. Sometimes it would pick it up and hold on to it, so I had to get a straight pin and pry it out.
So I started placing the crystal down where I wanted it and placing the wand iron on top of it. If I was lucky, the crystal would end up in the right place (though I found I could move it slightly if I worked quickly enough). Sometimes the wand would flip the crystal out of place like a tiddly wink and it would go spinning through the air landing who knows where. Sometimes I ended up slightly burning the area around the crystal. And sometimes I ended up burning myself trying to prevent all these things.
And THEN, a friend of mine directed me to hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! I think it was invented for people who make those crystal designs for people to put on their clothes. But anyway, here are the steps I use with it:
- Put on your music or audiobook.
- Cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
- Place the item you are embellishing flat on the table or ironing board,
- Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) where you want them
- Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
- Gently and carefully lower your transfer tape piece down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
- Now here you have a choice. You can either use your regular iron set hot and without steam or the wand iron. I found the wand iron makes the crystals more secure for the most part but takes longer.
- So with the wand iron heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs
- tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
- medium ones require about 20 counts
- larger ones require more…30 seconds to 40 counts to be really secure.
The transfer tape acts as a pressing cloth, protecting the fabric to which you are attaching the crystal from burns by the wand. It also holds the crystals in place so they don’t go flipping off into never never land. If it gets just a little out of alignment, you just move the tape…the crystal stays on the tape until it is fully glued down and then releases with no problem. This means you can pick up your tape slowly to check if you’ve missed one or if it needs more time.
Another way to approach it is to place lots of crystals on the tape upside down to the sticky side and just move the tape around and place the crystals on one by one. This is a particularly good method for clothing and other shaped pieces when you are having a hard time getting them flat for crystal placement.
Now if I can only stop my hot wand from falling off the table that would be good. Maybe I can find a new one at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival that I am going to this year with my good friend Mei Ling…I’m so excited. I’ll let you know if my quilt gets in. Will I see you there?
Sew happy everyone! Help each other out, encourage other quilt artists…both the beginners and the very advanced. Even the big winners sometimes need encouragement.
By the way, I have many of my quilts for sale on my website. You can see them here. I really want to go to Houston and keep on writing this blog and that is where the money would go. If you are interested in one of my quilts, contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com Or, if you just want to help support the continuance of the blog, see the donate button. But please keep reading my blog even if you don’t…I understand.
Sew it’s been a while. I’ve been enormously busy finishing my quilt for the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival…and yes, I finished and I’m now working on my little Milky Way “You are Here” mini. It’s only about 20 x 20 inches and it’s for my part of the space exhibit at MQX. All of my deep space quilts will be there and this is just a little fun piece to show where we are in our home galaxy.
There are a lot of opinions out there in fabric art/quilting land about how to best start and stop your thread. Do you bury it? Do you stitch small stitches and cut close? Do you back it up and cut close? The answers to these questions can frustrate anyone dealing with this issue. Some quilters have no problems with it because they’ve already decided just what they are going to do and do it the same all the time. I however have a plethora of ways to get going and stop.
For the most part, I hate to bury knots. On my show quilts, especially, I stitch very densely in many areas, and sometimes there simply is no way to get that knot fully under the top without problems. Also, I’m not convinced it really holds down the thread any better than other methods. So I analyze what I’m working with and so forth to decide what to do. Let me just say at the start, that if I am making a utility quilt…baby, give away, cuddle on a cold night…I will back stitch or stitch a short stitch close cut. It just takes the rough and tumble better than buried knots. I’m sure there are those who will disagree with me about this, but I stand by it after 65 years of sewing. So here is how I handle this issue for wall and show quilts:
- Thicker threads, such as 12 weights and some 30 weights almost require burying in some form because they just show up at the end. Maybe I will just bury them without a knot and carry the thread through the quilt fairly far using a long basting needle. If it works out in my overall quilting, I bury the thicker thread and stitch over the end in my background quilting, but that doesn’t always work.
- Very thin threads of 50, 60 or 100 weight can easily just be cut close after some close stitching…say 15 stitches per inch (spi), so I never bury those.
But what about those 40 weights and specialty threads, such as monopoly and metallics? Well, it has been my experience that these very lively threads WORK better and stay better with a careful back trace stitching and then cut close. I am not sure judges will agree with me, but the thing is, such lively threads WILL come up from a bury even when knotted if certain directions of friction are encountered in the handling of the quilt for shipping and hanging and unhanging. If stitched carefully enough, a backtrack is virtually unnoticeable, except you can probably see it with a magnifying glass and a flashlight. (Did you know that some judges look st your quilts that way?) But I decided my metallics will be backstitched and close cut since they go through a lot when sent to shows. If you decide to do this, go really slowly when you backstitch and get it as exact as possible.
The 40 weights are the problem because they aren’t easily determined. Some of them, such as Superior’s Magnifico and Sulky’s rayons are really shiny and show up everything, especially with a high contrast. So in that case, I will probably bury them with the long thread no knot method if I can bring myself to do it. LOL. Some of them, such as Superior’s King Tut, a cotton thread, will melt into the background when the contrast is low. They do well with a short stitch close cut ending.
Sew the answer then is either to quilt so well and planned that you NEVER have a start or stop (LOL) or to test the starts and stops before setting out on quilting that special project and decide how you are going to approach it. Also, always be flexible as you go, because when you are quilting certain places you can change your mind.
Sew Happy Everyone! May your dreams be met, your life be full of love and simply lovely!
By the way, I need some funds to help me keep my dreams for 2018 going, so I am hoping to sell several of my quilts this year to finance my attending the Houston show and keep me in stitches (LOL) and make room in my house for more. You can see which ones on my website gallery…just scroll over the quilt and you can see the price and size. Contact me if you are interested in one and maybe we can work something out that suits your budget. I’ve instituted a lay away plan for the quilts. If you don’t want to buy a quilt but do want to help, there is a donate button on this blog if you are so inclined and the funds will all go to financing my trip or keeping this blog going.