I am thinking my dear readers are possibly at the stage of thinking “will this never end” concerning our stay-at-home orders. At first we were kind of shocked, then a bit scared, then ready to gung ho make face masks or whatever we could do, then start learning things, and now, after all of that, we are still here. Still at home. Still going to be at home for weeks yet. Sigh. Oh, my, will this never end! Well, yes, it most certainly will. Then we will have to pick up our alternative busy life styles where we will wish to goodness we had a little more time to quilt or sew. Well, I won’t because I am retired and blessed to be working in my studio full time now anyway. But I will have things to do outside of my studio and things that pull against my getting projects done.
Sew now that you have made your face masks or are coming to the end of that project, what are you working on or planning on working on? (As an aside: Quilted Art for me includes art quilts, traditional and contemporary quilts, quilted clothing, and quilted bags and other three dimensional items.) If you are like me, you have more than one project going, or at least going on in your head. Do they include trees? I love making trees.
Trees for your quilted art
I love adding trees to my pictorial quilted art pieces, but I’m thinking that trees can be a really neat thing to add to lots of types of quilted art such as a jacket or skirt. I didn’t realize until recently that I have learned or even developed many ways to come up with trees over the years, mostly made as embellishment items using thread painting, yarn couching, and applique and I thought I would share some of them with you. The really neat thing about making trees for fabric art is they are so forgiving. They don’t require precision, but they do require looking at real trees and seeing what you can learn from them using your imagination. Are they straight? Are they interestingly textured? Are they spooky? Are they happy little trees? Do the leaves read as a a bunch or individually or both? What is the color of the trunk? Try drawing the tree out first.
Machine Embroidering Trees or Parts of Trees
This tree is the stitchout from an olive tree I digitized in my Bernina software on wash-away stabilizer. I placed a tree photo in the art side and traced it by hand digitizing it in the embroidery side of the software (for further information on how to do this kind of digitizing, see my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8). The same could possibly be done by drawing it onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer and free motion embroidering it. I have done that too, but could not find a good picture. In both cases I would advise using a layer of black nylon veiling under the stitching to hold everything together off the quilt and then appliqueing it on. One of the cool things about digitizing it this way, is that you can get the coloring very close to the photograph, the texture of the tree trunk close to how it really should look. I used this tree on several Nativity quilts I have made. That’s the other thing, if you digitize it in your design software, you can restitch it for another project later on.
Here is the first tree trunk I ever digitized and embroidered out. It required a double hooping and I missed the connection just barely, so I free motion zig zagged the connecting place and you can’t see where it was. In fact, I have even forgotten where it is and cannot figure it out even with close examination. So even if you make a mistake like that, you can sometimes fix it on the spot without having to redo the whole thing. I stitched it out with a variegated thread. Here is the whole quilt “The Storyteller”.
But even though in this quilt, the tree trunk makes a happy tree, when you look at the stitchout design by itself you can probably readily see that the same trunk would make a really fun spooky tree where you could place a raven or an owl for Halloween. So working out these things in digizing software gives you lots of additional options that can save you a lot of time on other projects.
Trees without the use of digitizing software and embroidery module
So sometimes I want to just applique my trees down. In this case, I usually use steam-a-seam 2 and free cut out with scissors the tree trunks and limbs and even leafy sections without a pattern. Then I iron them on the top and use a single narrow blanket stitch with a close matching thread color to permanently attach them. It’s so much fun!!!!
Here’s a quilt where all the trees are made that way. The texture of the trees is added when quilting. This was really fun to make.
And sometimes you can make a rather cool evergreen tree freehand with a combination of yarn couching the trunk with Superior monopoly thread and heavy 12 weight wool/acrylic Aurifil thread free motion embroidery for the tree’s needles. Here is the one I made on my failed Bob Ross contest quilt. I made this quilt while my wonderful old Bernina830, which I did a great deal of heavy work on for 8 plus years, was failing, and so many things went wrong in my studio during that time. I am not surprised it did not make the contest, but I still love the tree I made for it here, which I made entirely freehand on my Bernina Q20 as kind of a reprieve from my B830 problems. I now have a new Bernina 880 plus to take the 830s place and I love it. So production in my studio is at full speed lately. I suggest if you want to make such a tree that you make a practice first. It requires a fairly substantial stabilizer under the tree area of the top because all that stitching draws it in and makes a problem without it. I used Madeira Cotton Stable that I get from Nancy’s Notions on the whole quilt top. It tears away later, and, since it is cotton, it will soften when washed. I marked only one line representing the main trunk to keep it tilted just as I wanted. It hardly matters what you mark it with because the mark is completely buried with yarn. I did all of this before sandwiching the quilt.
and then you can combine applique and free motion yarn couching and other thread work to come up with some rather dramatic trees. In this case, I appliqued the big cyprus trunks and then did a lot of shading using fabric paints to give the tree trunks the right round shape. The tree limbs were couched on with wool yarn, and the spanish moss was free motion stitched using 12 wt Aurifil wool/acrylic thread. I premarked straight lines down for the spanish moss with chalk before stitching, because it takes a fair amount of concentration to keep it from drifting sideways in an unatural way.
And lastly, I was just playing around one day and here you see the resulting winter scene with the trees using both couching for some, 12 weight thread for others, 40 weight polyester, and even 40 wt metallic for others. It is the kind of practice piece I suggest you try if you are new to making trees with free motion fibers. As for all these quilts with heavy amounts of stitching, be sure to back it with a heavy stabilizer that either tears off or washes off to help with the draw in of the stitching. I recently finished this as a little quilt sampler, but don’t have a picture of it yet but you can see the thread work here.
Sew happy everyone! God bless you in this holy week and have fun in your studio while you await the end of the quarantine. Have a blessed and happy Easter Sunday.