The Making of “Out of Mom’s Workbasket”

Hi everyone.  I am happily anticipating the fall after this tough hot summer here in northern Virginia. We had a little taste of it this past week although they are predicting the next few days will be back to hot summer weather. In spite of that I have already begun my fall and winter sewing and quilting fun here in my studio.  I have clothes, wall art quilts, a special banner, and videos on my sewing docket for this.  I think I really have to get busy!

I have a quilt that will be shown in an in-person quilt show this week at the Pennsylvania International Quilt Extravaganza in Oak, PA, that runs from 9/16 Thursday through 9/19.   It is my memory quilt for my mother Out of Mom’s Workbasket9/17/2021 UPDATE:  This quilt won third place in Traditional Quilts category!!!   Hooray!!!

Out of Mom’s Workbasket

I used five crocheted blocks that I found in her workbasket after she passed in 1998 and held on to them until I could figure out what to do with them and had time to do it.  I made this quilt last year during the lockdown and it was a wonderful activity for me during this time. Sweet memories of her floated around me as I worked on it.

I used multiple techniques for this quilt just as I have to make a lot of my wall art quilts.  Note that I am not much of a piecer, although I do piece parts of my quilts when necessary.  I do love machine applique, free motion stitching and quilting, and adding embellishments such as machine embroidery, paint, and beads or crystals to my quilts though.  This quilt has all of these techniques.

I machine embroidered this free standing lace star for the center of the quilt.

In the first place, the white fabric is crepe-back satin and the blue-gray fabrics are dupioni.  Well, yes, that’s true, but these fabrics are polyester!  They are dramatically cheaper than silk (or quilting cotton for that matter), and they wash without shrinkage or bleeding of color.  However, the dupioni, which seems lighter than silk dupioni, requires a fusible interfacing to back it.  I used Pellon SF101, a woven fusible lightweight interfacing that remains in the quilt and is very drapable even after fusing. I particularly like the way the dupioni looks and feels and I intend to use it again.  I love the way these fabrics quilt up especially.  I believe my mother, who was a fabulously talented seamstress, would love it.  I once saw her make a gorgeous prom gown for my cousin entirely out of a single color of crepe-back polyester satin with no additional embellishments.  It was styled so beautifully and I still remember it decades from then.  I know a lot of quilters think polyester is not to be used on quilts.  I have had them call such fabrics and polyester threads “plastic”, which is technically correct, but is definitely intended to be an insult to the fabric and threads. There is also a nice batting that can substitute for wool batting and can be easily washed.  I would, however, avoid using all these polyesters on a child’s quilt for a few reasons.  Cotton is necessary for kid’s quilts and nice for cuddle quilts in my personal opinion.  But this is an art piece, and I might also us it as a decorative throw from time to time.  Sew what do you think?

I added things she loved around the quilt..flowers, birds, sewing machine, Peter O’Dog (the scottie), stars, angel, pearls, and so forth.

So I finally figured out that the five 10 inch blocks could be placed in such a way that a beautiful star was formed while drawing on the geometric patterns in the crochet to make a pentagon surrounding the star with crosses pointed outward.

These are the five 10 inch squares of crocheted lace that I found in Mom’s workbasket. They inspired the quilt.

I worked for months to design the quilt from there.  Really, the hardest part when constructing it was to make the blue-gray pentagon that backs the crocheted blocks.  Getting each side and angle to match at just the right size onto a freezer paper pattern took me a full day.  I suspect if I were better at math and geometry it would not have been so difficult, but after four attempts, I finally got a pattern I could use, and then I appli-pieced it into the middle of the off white satin large block.

The central pentagon before the quilt top was constructed.

The second biggest challenge was figuring out how to mark the satin.  The satin is free motion quilted and the birds and leaves are painted in with multiple shades of Setacolor paints. But they required marking the leaves and birds and placements for the  various in-the-hoop patches and direct embroidery.  The big advantage of poly satin over silk satin is that it can be easily washed.  So markers could be washaway.  But here’s the problem…satin weave catches sharp pencil points, satin does not hold chalk marks very long, and wet markers run like crazy on the satin weave. Those facts eliminate nearly all the regular markers I use.  I wrote a blog on Markers for Satin linked here when I figured it out.

Fortunately, I discovered that Crayola had recently come out with washable gel pens.  Sew I tested them on the satin.  They marked a narrow line with a small amount of spreading, but still maintained a clear line.  The test marks of several colors washed away with a little Synthrapol with no problem except the orange, and even that washed away after a second wash.  So I made a pillow top to test all the markings,  paints, and work out some free motion quilting.

I think the most fun I had making this quilt was the machine embroidery pieces and the quilting.  I enjoyed the whole thing in its entirety and I love looking at it now. I don’t know why but it gave me a sense of making her a beautiful wedding dress.  Her wedding dress was nice, but a short pretty dress and she and Dad were married just before WWII and did not have a full wedding.  I think she would have liked this concept. I don’t have a wall big enough for it, so I drape it over the upstairs banister when it is here.  This week though, if you go to the PA Nat’l Quilt Extravaganza, you can see it in person.

Detail showing the angel with the horn. It has crystals and pearls on it.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Machine Applique Can Be Beautiful and Durable

Hi everybody.  The subject recently came up about how to sew stitched raw-edge applique so it can be washed and used without a fraying edge.  I have used these appliques for years now and have found that there are ways to minimize or even eliminate fraying regardless of the stitch I use for the edge.

Canterbury silk. All the appliques in the central block are silk and stitched with narrow matching lightweight thread using a blanket stitch.

First of all, one needs to consider the fabric.  If you are using a relatively loosely woven cotton, it probably would be best to turn the edge even if you are machine stitching it or use a satin stitch with a fray edge treatment, such as fray check if you machine stitch it down.  Most current day high quality quilting cottons, however, are tightly woven enough to withstand a raw-edge applique treatment if the stitching is properly set up and the washing is done on a gentle cycle or by hand.

Night on the Bayou. The big cyprus trees are turned edge, machine stitched and the remaining appliques are fused raw edge. All the applique stitching was machine blanket stitched.

I use a light fusible web to tack down my appliques that usually washes away.  I have also used a simple wash away glue stick and it works too with the right stitch settings.  So for blanket stitch:

  • Set the stitch narrow with a short length.  I use about 1.7 width by 1.5 length on my Bernina 880 plus for most quilting cotton.
  • I move the needle as far to the right as possible.
  • I use an open toed embroidery foot 20D
  • I engage the dual feed to make it really even, but if you don’t have such, stitch at a slow even speed
  • Run the edge of the applique up close to the inside right toe of the foot so that the straight stitch runs close to the edge of the applique in the background and the swing left to right stitch goes into the applique
  • Turn the applique as it curves so the swing left-right stitch points to the center of the circle or roundish shape
  • When turning at a sharp angle, stop as close to the end as possible, preferably with the needle to the right in the background.  Then turn, and begin the stitch pattern by hitting the restart pattern button if your machine has one. This makes a pretty point and seals the sharp shape of the applique down with thread. Don’t fret if you miss it a bit, just get it as close to this ideal as you can.
  • When quilting this type of applique you may wish to use a matching light weight thread or monopoly to blend into the background, or a heavier thread in a dark gray stitched close to the edge to make a shadow-like appearance. It all depends on how you want the end result, so do a test first.

If you do all of this, the result is usually a straight stitch running close to the cut edge of the applique on the background and the left-right stitches close enough together that they help to prevent fraying.  Use this stitch with matching thread when you want your edges to blend into the applique more. If you want the blanket stitch to stand out, see if your machine has a double blanket stitch.  The double blanket stitch is beautiful and pretty completely seals the edges but stands out.

If you are using wool felt appliques, you can use wider and longer blanket stitches and possibly a 12 weight wool thread for a very hand-appliqued look.  You are likely not to wash these items, but felt does not fray in any event.

If you decide you would rather use a satin stitched edge it requires careful even stitching and points and corners require care because this stitch can look fairly amateurish with wiggles and bumpy corners and poorly stitched points. I really prefer to do this by first digitizing it in my Bernina software and then stitch in-the-hoop appliques because it gives a much more professional finish than is easy to achieve otherwise.  However, I have been successful at stitching this with first a narrower satin stitch around the applique and follow that with a slightly wider stitch over the original stitch.  This gives a nicer smoother look.  Use this stitch when you want your edges to stand out.

Detail from Summer Melody, in which all the butterflies are appliqued with narrow satin stitch.

Then there is the time you actually want a little fraying to add to the character of the applique.  For this, I just use a straight stitch close to the edge of the applique in a matching thread.

Regardless of the applique you use, when you wash these quilts use gentle cycle or wash by hand and dry flat and they will last for many years.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and don’t fear the applique.