Embellishing Techniques Part 1: Hot Fix Crystals

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:

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the item you are embellishing  flat on the table or ironing board,
  4. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) where you want them
  5. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

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.

Starting and Stopping Thread Work and Quilting

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.

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 Sitdown Longarm

As I’ve said before, I really love my Bernina Q20, Fritz, that I have set up as a sitdown longarm. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups, and one in particular, for sharing things about this machine. I decided I would write a blog (with a bit of humility and a lot of experimenting behind me) about how I set my machine up for quilting, because there are a lot of new quilters out there with this machine who seem to have a lot of questions.  Please understand this is how I work best with MY machine, but I thought it might still be of some value to the newer Q20 owners anyway.

Just so we are all singing from the same page, I have attached a pdf of the manual for reference:

036-0625-2-04_2015-06_Manual_Q20-Q24_EN_GZD_Online

To me, the greatest thing about this is how much control I have of the stitching. There are quite a few things that make an impact on that…the thread, the needle, the bobbin thread, the bobbin setup, and all the neat settings provided on the machine, and then there is the wonderful kickstart.  If you haven’t done the upgrade and don’t yet have your kickstart, I hope you will do so right away.

I had my machine for about a month before I realized it has programs where you can set up all your top tensions, speeds, and stitch lengths for all the modes and save it (see pages 73-74). I have mine programed for different weights of threads. 40 wt polyester, 100 wt silk, and 12 weight cotton. The fourth one is the default settings, so really there are only three you can set and save, but that seems enough to me. I felt pretty dumb when I found this out, because I was resetting everything every time I turned it on.  I have worked out a chart of settings for my own use, so I thought I’d share.  First see pages 29-31 in the manual for a discussion of how they see threads and needles, then see my personal preferences chart

chart for Q20

I have all the attachments available for the Q20, but there aren’t many (thank goodness). I already had the feet that work with my Q20 (see page 22 in the manual), mostly because I collected them while I was learning to FMQ on my Bernina 830 LE, and they fit.  I even have the double needle stitch plate (see page 46 through 49 for threading for double needle stitching)  and the horizontal spool pin necessary for straight wound spools (see page 23).

Here are some good tutorials:

Threading for twin needle work

Bobbin tension check

Preparing to stitch (you probably know most of this, but it’s a good reminder)

Stitching with and without the BSR

One of my many practice pieces. This one shows different thread weights and a little bit of yarn couching.

 

Do I use the BSRs?

Yes, I do use my BSRs and love them (read pages 75-78 for a discussion of the various BSR modes). I have the BSR attachment for my 830 LE, but it is slow and a little cumbersome compared to the fabulous BSRs on the Q20. I use BSR1 for most of my free motion, BSR2 for my ruler work, and manual sometimes for really tiny tiny fmq and some special threadwork, and even if I spray baste a quilt, I thread baste it with BSR 3..so fast, so handy, gives that little bit of extra security.  After years of using a BSR on my Bernina 830LE and now my Q20, I find the manual comes pretty naturally, but I still prefer the BSRs for most things.

It is true that good results from the various modes take practice both to learn what YOU like and to get the best benefits from the different modes.  I think, in fact, that you need to practice as if you are learning a musical instrument…frequently and for at least a half hour at a time, and every now and then a long period of practice. I periodically make a bunch of 20 inch or so practice sandwiches…marking some with grids, some with stencils, and nothing on some.  I use solid colors for the practice sandwich tops so I can really see what I’m doing, but it’s a good way to use up that ugly fabric you wonder why you ever bought on the back of your practice sandwiches, and I use joined pieces of leftover batting for my practice sandwiches too.

A practice piece using, surprisingly, polyester satin with wool batting.

Working with the kickstart:

The kickstart lets you stitch without your foot on the pedal, but is very easy to start, pause, and stop. By doing this, you don’t have an uneven feed of power going to the stitching.  Here’s their guide addendum for the manual for the kickstart:

Zusatzblatt_Kick-Start_EN_13-12-2016_GZD

And here’s a link to a youtube tutorial on using it:  kickstart tutorial

When using just the pedal to make it go, it is unlike a regular sewing machine, or the gas pedal on your car. The pedal on the Q20 sitdown does not make the stitching go faster or slower. The pedal is on or off. Pushed down all the way, you get it fully on. Slightly up, sometimes it skips stitches. If your foot slips off your pedal or you lose concentration, it makes it skip or unevenly stitch. Without the kickstart you have to spend part of your concentrated effort making sure you have that pedal fully and evenly compressed all the time you are stitching. So the kickstart is absolutely the most even way to stitch because it is on at full power, paused, or stopped. It may sound a little intimidating to think of turning on the stitching all the time, but you really are still in complete control. You can still kickstart the pedal and make it pause, or you can press the front of the pedal to exit the kickstart program instantly.  I hope you will try it if you haven’t already.

 

Here are some rulers I used to stitch this border piece (stitched, painted, then pieced into the top, then quilted with monopoly and 100 wt silk)

This spiral galaxy quilt is a whole cloth quilt stitched in its entirety on my Q20 (except for the binding and rod pocket, of course).

Sew with all these settings in mind, I hope you will find your own personal settings…make a chart yourself if you want…and then find that working with your Q20 is just as wonderful as I have.

Pendragon
34 x 45

Stash Busting: Making a Bag

One side of the bag

While I began finally to recover from a bear of a cold–and yes, I am back from the coughing, sneezing, nose-dripping, energy sapping two week long cold finally–I decided to do something kind of fun and gentle that someone else did most of the thinking for me.  So I finally got around to making bag 1 of Rami Kim’s IQUILT online class.  It is entirely made from scraps in my stash.  Even the zipper was something I must have bought nearly a decade ago just for this bag, but I didn’t know it then.  LOL.  The picture at the top is one side.  I really love it.  I added a couple of pockets in the lining that she didn’t have.  I like it so much I think I will use it for my primary bag for a while.

It was a lot of fun, even though I made a lot of mistakes that had to be corrected.  I made the top piece, which is cut in two pieces for both sides.  First you quilt a 14 x 22 inch piece and then you cut out the corners and cut it into half for the zipper.  I cut one corner too big!  😒  So I had to make another top piece.  I had originally used a darker gray, but since I used it up in the first piece, I hunted around and found a similar piece with the same kind of print but it was a lighter gray.  Then I cut the bottom piece of lining in two, like you were supposed to do for the top, but not for the bottom, so I rejoined it with the leftover piece of folded strip like the one that you use down one side of the folded Chotsky ribbons.  But in the end, I think it came out really nice.  Here’s the other side.

In the past, when I made a bag (and I’ve made quite a few over the years), I was never really happy with the handles.  Rami suggests leather handles for the bags, and they solve a multitude of problems.  I went on a hunt for them, and finally found that Amazon sells them in multiple styles and colors and they aren’t expensive.  So I ordered two pair…this gray one and a nice green one for a future bag totally from my stash.  I have a couple of long multi-zippers in a roll from Nancy’s Notions that I can use for that one.  This is so much fun it could get to be a habit.  In the future, though, I hope I am faster and make fewer mistakes.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourself a bag.  Hint:  Be sure to build it right…interface the fabrics, put the right kind of stiff batting, and use the zipper a little longer than required to make it easier.  Adding internal pockets is really easy…just make a lined square piece the right size (figure it out from your pattern, remembering where it will bend or be stitched) and stitch it on while the lining is still flat.  Be sure to measure and center the pockets.  You can even make a zipper pocket fairly easily.  Maybe I’ll show you how in one of my future blogs if you want.  I just made patch pockets for this bag and added a couple of lines of stitching to make a place for a pen and a notebook on one side and just left it with no divisions on the other side.

 

Practicing Free Motion Backtracking

I think my backtracking…you know when you go back over a stitching line…needs a lot of practice.  So I had the brilliant idea of using a design from a coloring book page to practice.  I definitely need to practice on almost a daily basis to get (and stay) really good at quilting.  I got a new coloring book from Dover Publications in their “Keep Calm & Color” series of adult coloring books.  I got in touch with them and found that I can use up to four pages in a single project without further permission even though it is copyrighted.

So I scanned one of the pages into my computer and enlarged it.  Then I printed it out in Corel Draw, which tiles my pages for me.  Several drawing programs or even printer software will do that.  Before I got Corel Draw I used Excel spreadsheet, which also tiles your images for printing.   Anyway, I taped it together and traced it onto my fabric using a light box and Crayola washable markers (trust me, they come out of cotton when washed)., and sandwiched the fabric with batting and a backing.  I machine basted it using my Bernina Q 20’s basting mode BSR3.

 

Sew now I’m having fun stitching the design with repeated lines of stitching along the design, which gives me plenty of practice backtracking.  After I finish the initial design stitching, I will background quilt the rest of the little quilt and I think it will look great if I add lots of beads and other assorted embellishments after it is quilted, washed, and bound.  This might just come out being a nice enough small wall art quilt to add to display in the second part of my exhibit at G Street Fabrics, and I am getting in lots of practice.  We’ll see what I think when it is finished.  So far, I’ve only had to take out a few stitches where somehow it went awry.  I’ll show you a picture when it’s finished.

I think this is a very fun way to get in some quilting practice and encourage you to grab one of those Dover coloring books and give one a try.  They would make a nice present for someone or wall art in that small spot in your home.

By the way, how is your stylized landscape project coming from this blog post?  Have you finished your sun yet and gotten your background constructed or found a nice piece of fabric for the background?  I am planning on publishing part 2 the first week in May.  If you aren’t making one you can just bookmark the blog posts and make one later, or just watch the rest of us have fun with this.

Sew happy everyone!  Try using coloring book drawings for your quilting practice.

 

 

 

A Word About My Art Quilting and Some Early Quilts

                  Fandance by Moonlight. Hoffman Challenge

2008This is my very first show quilt and you can see the scotch tape on my photograph…LOL.  So you can see my professional side of show quilting has grown as well as my quilt making abilities.

As I prepare for my upcoming exhibit of my work at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, one of the things they wanted was for me to provide my Hoffman Challenge quilts, which, if you look at them carefully, you can see my progress as both an artist and a quilter from year to year.  Unlike some of my quilty friends who make a quilt, enter it, and win big, I have struggled, indeed still struggle, to move my art quilting to a truly professional level, but it has been fun along the way. I love making art in fabrics, threads, and paints.  I think my artist side has been a little slower in developing than my quilting techniques, but I’m working on it.

“Equipped to Stand” 2012
Even though I can now see many flaws in both the design and the quilting making techniques on this quilt, I still love it. I would never send this quilt out for show today, but we all learn. They let it into several shows and the judges were sweet about it and their remarks didn’t bash me down to the point I quit quilting.  Unlike this photo, it is square and relatively flat, though I had to undo a lot of it to get a wave out of it.  You can see it was not all that long ago.  I have come a looong ways from here.  If they had torn it apart, I might have quit.

To me, an art quilt needs to have a lot of elements come together to make it good and this is what I am always striving for. Starting with the basic design concept  I draw the concept while considering balance, value, color, placement, perspective, and simply artistic appeal.  I am constantly attempting to learn more about all this through practice, books (some left from art classes in college and some collected over the years), and, more recently, online training.  I’m still trying.

So here is my process for a complex show quilt (not for all of my quilts).

I try to capture the concept that is in my head or the inspirational photo by drawing the picture of the planned quilt on my computer, thereby providing me with a “pattern” .  Here is how I work through this.

  • I use Corel Draw to draw out some elements, like buildings or space ships, and saving them with a transparent background as a .png file, which will import into other packages without a background.
  • I use Corel Painter, a truly powerful digital painting software, to draw the main picture, importing the items from Corel Draw and placing them where they belong.  I size it here and save with iterative painter files and finally as a .jpg.
  • I may go back and forth between Corel Draw and Corel Painter several times because one program is better than another for various things.
  • If I am putting borders on the quilt I will then move to Electric Quilt and set it up with a single block sized properly for my .jpg.  Then I play with the borders until I like them.  This gives me the pattern for the borders.  I save this as a .jpg.
  • I move back to Corel Draw and start a new file (you can’t just open a .jpg in Corel Draw, but you can import one).  I import the design I saved in Electric Quilt into Corel Draw and size  the image to the size I want the quilt to finish.  Corel Draw has a wonderful way of tiling the picture into sizes that match the printer paper with symbols to mark where they join.  I usually print the pattern on a 11″x 17″ paper.  I print one pattern in color and one in gray scale.  I also print the border pattern from EQ7.
  • I tape the pattern together carefully.
  • Then I pin the colored print on my design wall, or tape it somewhere if that is occupied, and sit there looking at it every now and then, wondering how on Earth I am going to accomplish this quilt.  At this point, I take time off from this particular project if I have time.  This is why I usually have some ongoing simple quilt or clothing projects so I can go work on something else while the concept “marinates” in my mind and I talk to myself…sometimes exclaiming “Oh THAT’s what I can try!”  I’m glad my son’s flat is on the lower level, and is not in my studio to hear me, he might be looking for “a place for Mom”, although, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy writer so probably not.
  • I keep a notebook nearby to write down my ideas.

Once I’ve figured out more or less how I’m going to make the quilt, I just jump in.  I first shop my stash to see if I have what I need for this quilt and buy the rest, including fabrics, threads, paints, and other embellishments.  After all my years of sewing and quilting my stash is now such that often I am able to complete a quilt without buying anything, or buying only one item.  It generally takes me nearly half the time of total time making a quilt to get to this point.

  • I have to take one or two elements of the quilt at a time.
  • I make samples and try things until I find what works.
  • I have to figure what must come first…usually working from background forward.
  • I take photos along the way because for some reason I can see mistakes better in a photograph than directly looking at the project.  I think I get too close to it, as they say.
  • I unsew and go backwards when I need to, but try to limit this as much as possible.  Sometimes “mistakes” are actually result in a good new direction.

As I construct the quilt, I pay close attention to how flat and square the project is becoming along the way. It’s ok not to have a square quilt, but it has to be deliberately not square and obviously not intended to be square.  Construction techniques really still need to be right. This often involves my ripping things out for correction, and sometimes even just starting over. I have obtained a laser square and a laser cross-hair lamp to help me with this

I’m not a piecer, but sometimes I have to piece.  “Pendragon” had the main center block, and ten border and text block pieces that all HAD to be square and straight and the border had to be lined up so the designs were straight and in the right place.  This is one of the more challenging things for me, because, did I say it?  I’m not a piecer.  Piecing is much more challenging to me than it must be to traditional quilters, who seem to love it.  I piece when I have to in order to realize my design.  I sometimes use foundation paper piecing when I need a real quilt block, like I did for “Waiting…” and “Drawing Nigh”.  So I’m very happy to have these tools and techniques to help me piece.

Sew once I have completed the top, including any highlighting or lowlighting I do with fabric paints and inks, I sandwich my quilt mostly using basting adhesive and rulers to get the lines that need to be straight and square right and adding some quilting pins because I use a very light amount of adhesive spray on the batting only.  This is my least favorite thing of making a quilt and I find it physically taxing, especially if it has to be on the floor because of size, and I wear a mask and often have to do it over and over again until it is right.

Then I quilt it, bind it, add a pocket, a label, and block it.  My oldest son Ken photographs it at his home in my daughter-in-law’s wonderfully big studio where her longarm and her Bernina 880 resides.  Beth was, afterall, the one who pulled me into quilting after Marvin died because she was sure I would love it.  I’m not sure she expected me to love it as much as I do, and I know she didn’t expect me to move into the art quilt world.  Before this happened, I had made several pieces of fabric art, had sewn for most of my life, used to have my own fashion design and tailoring business, and made my own clothes and some of Marvin’s.  I found art quilting simply unleashed and pulled together all the sewing and art skills I had learned in my life, but I did need to learn a lot before it was any good.

And I’m still learning, experimenting, and moving through art quilting.  Maybe someday I’ll start winning the big ribbons (I have won a few ribbons, but no BOS).

Sew are any of you making our free design art quilt with me introduced in my last blog post?  How’s it coming?  I’m not rushing you.  It will probably be another couple of weeks or month before I get to the next step.  I’m preparing for my exhibit and I figure the first step is a big one.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Make a Stylized Landscape Quilt with Me: Step One

I am making a fun new design-as-you-go stylized landscape quilt with some kind of flying creature and I hope you will try one of these too. For as many steps as it takes (to be determined) I will be providing a blog post to take us through this quilt together.  This quilt is made without first drawing out and printing a full sized design and will be using techniques that I am sure you may wish to try or have tried already.  I am not providing a pattern, telling you what size it will be, or even tutorials for all the techniques needed.  This is a project for us to play together making some wall art.  I will tell you where you can find the techniques, providing the links, and for some parts I will give tutorials, but not all.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, with guidance as to where you can find help.  And if you have a question all you have to do is make a comment on the blog post and I will respond as soon as I can.

Let’s begin:

I am using some interesting techniques available online at Iquilt and Craftsy.  But you don’t have to take a class for this project, just follow along.  If you have Electric quilt 7 and know how to do foundation paper piecing you, or you already know how to make a compass block, you can do this without additional classes.

For this fun project there are several objects we will need to make and obtain.

  1. Challenge–Make The Sun:  This can be either a simple quarter of a large circle of fabric to applique on a sky or one quarter of a sun compass block or a smaller full stylized star block in your choice of sun colors for your imaginary world.  For my quilt I am using the star block that Karen K. Stone teaches in “English Paper Piecing by Machine” found on iquilt here.  It’s very similar to a regular compass block, but has some interesting differences.  If you watch the sales, you can almost certainly get this class on a very good sale.  But there are a lot of beautiful choices for a star to represent our own star, the sun.  Here are some I found on Electric Quilt 7 that would be great choices with some color changes.  The outside large piece, or the background pieces need to be made from the same fabric as your background sky piece (see below), or you can use the curve to applipiece or piecelique (whatever you call it…it’s just joining the two pieces in an applique manner) it directly into the background sky.  I will provide a little tutorial of this in my next blog related to this project.  So just hold off on attaching the star/sun to the background sky.
  2. These blocks were all found in Electric Quilt 7 and would work very nicely. You can change the colors, of course, however you want them.

    In addition you could draft your own compass rose. I found this fascinating method on The Quilt Show that uses a really neat drafting device available from  Renea Haddadin’s website here.  I don’t have this device, but it really looks useful far beyond the drafting of a compass rose.

  3. Put together the background:  For this you will need a full width of ombre gradiated fabric that will be one third of the length of your finished quilt, or just a plain piece of fabric that looks like a sky to you.  You can paint this, buy this, or construct this with strips of various pieces of fabric.   You just have to size the sun appropriately to fit in the upper left corner of the scene.  Two thirds of your quilt will be mountains and maybe water or grass somewhere in there.  If you want to make this easy, you can use a simple white or off white or even light brown or green for the lower two thirds of your quilt background, giving you a background to applique mountains and rivers and plants onto.  Remember, this is a design as you go quilt and is meant to be just for fun.
  4. Wait to applique the sun in the upper left corner of your background until my next blog when I will be discussing applique techniques.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Go forth and make a sun and gather the background pieces or even make the simple background.  The next part will deal with appli-piecing the sun into the sky, and making the mountains and other parts of the foreground.  Then there is a part for making plants, and finally we will make some kind of flying creature for our scene, which may take several parts.  I plan on following this with a series of blogs focusing on embellishing and quilting.  I am not calling this a “block of the month” or anything, but I am planning this to stretch across several months…not sure how many.

Sew happy everyone!  Do some thinking about this…join me in the adventure and make your own wall quilt just for fun and to stretch your design techniques a bit.

On MAQF, Antiques, and Tutorials

MAQF

I just came home all inspired by a delightful few days at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival where I had “Pendragon”.  I put together some of my pictures from the show.  Here is a link to the picture file:  Smugmug/MAQF 17

I stayed a day longer than I usually do for this show and it gave me lots of time to see every quilt, take all four lectures I was interested in and see the Show and Tell that I usually miss.  I also did a lot of shopping.  Well, afterall, my 70th birthday will be this coming Friday on March 3rd, so I gave myself some presents…threads, new rulers (a set of circles and a set of ovals), and one of those spinning cutting mats among a few additional small items.

The loot from the show

Pendragon did not place, but I believe it to be mostly because the theme of the show was modern quilting and that quilt has nothing to say that is even remotely modern quiltish.  I still believe it is a ribbon worthy quilt, so we will see what it does in the future. I decided to see if they would include it anyway because I sort of consider MAQF my main show.  It is within driving distance and I have relatives in the area, so going there is always a treat for me.  I did get some nice comments from the judges:

Your original design effective in telling your story; Embroidery well executed; Piecing well done; Quilting motifs compliments the design; Quilt hangs flat and square; Back of quilt should be free of loose threads and lint” (note:  I sticky rolled it and examined it with my big magnifying lamp when I packed it…lint may have happened on their end.  That backing fabric I used was a little lint grabbing…not using that again).

Pendragon
34 x 45

A New Page Is Turned

Now, however, I am turning a page on my work.  From here I am focusing on the quilt work itself, and on figuring out how to pass on what I have learned even as I maintain my studio artist status (not a lot of travel, a little teaching within driving distance, writing books and creating tutorials), rather than so much focus on the competition work. I will still enter shows, and still plan on making show quilts (they teach me a lot and give me a chance to stretch my work), but it’s an attitude and work flow adjustment in my studio that is on this nice new page in my life.   You can see more about this in one of my past blogposts here.

On Antiques

There are lots of definitions of “antique”.  The one I like the best for this discussion is “an object such as … a work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age.”    Tomorrow (Friday, March 3rd), I will be 70 years old.  I am a work (in progress) maybe even a “work of art” and have considerable age. I think every human being has high value…so there you are.  I could probably be called “an antique” fabric artist.  I feel physically great (have also lost some weight recently and hope to lose more) and I believe I am as mentally alert as ever (always a little daphy).  Many of my ancestors lived well into their hundreds.  I have a wonderful plan for my future and my kids are nearby.  My studio is well stocked, and my fleet of machines is wonderful and in good working order.  I’m excited about the future.  Thank the good Lord and I hope you will continue to join me on my quilting journey.

On Tutorials

One of the things I am going to begin on this blog post is a regular short tutorial (every week or month?).  This week’s tutorial is answering a question I got a lot at the show…how I made the chain mail on my characters in Pendragon using Bernina v7.  I haven’t yet gotten v8, but I suspect this would work there also.

Digitizing Chain Mail for Small Applique (Or using special fills to create what you want)

I wanted to make the characters’ chain mail shirts look right, and decided the best approach was to digitize the chain mail in my Bernina v7 software and embroider it in the hoop.  This took me a while to discover how to do it.  I think I spent two or three days on figuring this out, but I just did a chain mail heart shape and took snap pictures for this tutorial all in about three minutes.  So I thought I’d share this with you in case you wanted to create something special with interesting fills and shapes.  Using Bernina v7 software:

  • Draw a closed shape…you can put the picture in the art canvas side and trace it on the embroidery side
  • Right click on the object and bring up the Object Properties dialogue box.

    Draw shape and in object properties box make these selections (sorry the text box got cut off, but that’s what is said more or less).

 

    These are the selections I made..sizes will depend on your own project size and requires a little experimentation to get it right.

 

  • I had to turn my shirts upside down and move them around to get the wave fill to match where the parts of the wave needed to be to show the expansion and contraction of the chain…like a shirt on a beautifully muscled knight. 😀  I also gave each shirt their own color to help me figure out which belonged where when complete.  I embroidered them all in Superior Fantastico 5169..a silvery variegated gray on black fabric.  I cut them out close to the embroidery and glued them on with Roxanne basting glue and blanket stitched the edges in the same thread to give them a finish.

So there you are.  I can see this method working for a wide variety of appliques and purposes.  The software is so flexible, but finding out how to do something you want to do that is a little different can take time.

Finished chain mail in place

On Upcoming Events:

  • For the month of May and a couple of weeks into June, G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, is hosting an exhibit of my quilts.  I will have one day where I will provide a walking lecture tour of my approximately 15 quilts that will be placed around the store.  I’ll let you know when that is.
  • In June, I will be providing a workshop on machine quilting at G Street.
  • My quilt “Drawing Nigh” will be at AQS in Lancaster, PA, March 20-April 1.  If you attend and see my quilt, let me know.

Sew happy everyone.  Focus on your creative projects to have the most fun, put in your best effort, learn a little bit, and share, and don’t let it stress you out.  I would really appreciate comments.

Part 4: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Making Your Own Pattern

chinese-bird-1

I make all the patterns of my designs myself for my own use.  I do this using multiple programs on my computer and, even though I know many of you don’t have these programs, I thought it would be a good thing to provide you with some ideas on how this works, and maybe you can come up with your own solutions.  For my purposes a “pattern” is a full sized print out of the design for my wall art quilts and either detailed measurements or block print outs or foundation paper printouts for utility (simpler and more traditional) quilts. I divide my quilting into two types, and each type has subcategories.  This helps a lot in figuring out exactly how I need to approach making the pattern.

  • Wall Art Quilts (made at show quality level even if not entered into shows) are:
    1. Quilts that cannot be washed or marked at all, such as deep space quilts
    2. Quilts that I plan on washing and/or wet blocking, such as many of my pictorial, landscape, and line drawing quilts made in cotton.
    3. Quilts that I may have prewashed the fabric and marked with erasable markers, but don’t think they could be washed when completed, such as my Ancient Manuscript series that has a lot of metallic painting and is often made in silks.
  • Utility/Snuggle Quilts…These quilts must all be washable, so I prewash all the fabrics and wash when complete.
    1. Simple and quick quilts, such as lap/baby/wheelchair quilts I sometimes use for charity quilting or a seasonal throw in my home.
    2. Somewhat more complicated quilts for using in my home or presents, but are for laps, beds, babies, pets, tables, etc…not intended for wall hangings.

For my utility/snuggle quilts, which are something I need to make quickly, I almost always design these in Electric Quilt 7.  This is a wonderful program for making more traditional quilts.  So I will just use the EQ7 block printouts and will also print a picture of the quilt in color and make notes by hand where I feel I need to.  (I also use EQ7 for helping me design borders for some of my show quilts by placing design files in place like a photo).  EQ7 provides not only the templates or measurements for all the pieces, it will also provide printouts for foundation paper piecing and tell you how much fabric you need for each color.  I love EQ7.  I sometimes cut these out with my Go! cutter, which makes it quick and accurate, and also provides some fun appliques to liven them up.   Even so, I work out the plan in EQ7.

For my wall art quilts, I do a relatively complete design of how I want the quilt to look in my drawing software.  This sometimes takes as long as constructing and quilting the quilt, or even longer, but it is both fun and worth it.  I really love using Corel Painter and Corel Draw in concert for this purpose.  These programs, together with my Wacom tablet, work something like painting or drawing  with paper and pencil or brushes to come up with a really good idea of how the quilt will look.

It allows you to get the colors right, easily fix mistakes, check how the values work, change sizes of elements within the design without messing up everything else or having to start over, and “see” what the quilt will probably look like if you make it.  If you work in layers, you can change the background if you don’t like it, move a tree from one side of the drawing to another, change the colors of the mountains, make the sky stormy if you started with sunny or vice-a-versa, play with angles and in Painter, there is even a Kaleidoscope function and a plethora of wonderful interesting brushes.

I am, right now, working on painting a whole quilt that I am planning on sending off to get a full size fabric print that I can then sandwich and quilt and embellish.  So if you have design software, I encourage you to take the time to learn how to use it if you haven’t yet.  I’m still learning.

However, when I started designing art quilts, I didn’t have these drawing packages and so I just sketched it out using pencil and paper, scanned it into the computer, and printed it out full size using Microsoft Excel.  Excel will accept the changes of size you want, divide it into page-sized tiles that you can print, cut, and tape together.  It’s a good system that nearly all my readers would be able to do even if they don’t have design software.

using-excel-for-full-pattern-print

Working with Microsoft Excel to divide a pattern into tiles.

Then I added Corel Draw, Corel Painter, and Bernina design software.  Bernina software not only allows you to digitize an embroidery design, but it uses a limited version of Corel Draw on the art canvas side.  So if you have that, you have some design software. Corel Draw will help you draw some interesting pictures or use photographs for a basis, and will allow you to print your design in tiles in a very exacting way.  You can even move the design around so the tiles split at more convenient places as needed.

Using Corel Draw to print into tiles

Using Corel Draw to print into tiles

 

Also, you can print the pattern in black and white, which lets you see how the values work in a design and saves colored inks.  Here is the first version of the design I made for Canterbury Knight.

Printsnap

And here is the quilt I made using the pattern above, but I changed the horse and castle to my own drawings rather than using the Dover ones I had in the original pattern (the horse above was the one used in an eleventh century illuminated manuscript, I just made it less oddly bent and showed a different style of horse and I changed the original castle a fair amount):

Canterbury Knight - F - 2015 web

Currently, I am playing with producing accurate PDF file patterns for some of my designs so I can share them.

Sew happy everyone!  Draw a quilt design one way or another and print it out full size.  Then you can make your quilt.

 

Part 3: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Threads Can Make All the Difference

Threads are an interesting, and sometimes a little touchy, subject among machine artists.  Lots of us have our favorites and, like me, are what one might call “thread snobs”.  So how do I view threads?

Thread sizes can be used to help with designs.  I love doing line-drawing quilts, even though I haven’t done one lately. For one of my quilts “Perspective in Threads” I used four thread sizes to act like different sized strokes from different nibs on a drawing pen.  I frequently use multiple thread sizes in my quilts.

Perspective in Threads

Perspective in Threads  This picture could really be a lot better!  It is actually nicely squared up, but it doesn’t look like it here, and you can’t really see the contrasts as well as you can in person.

Dad's House Plan.

Dad’s House Plan.  Largely a thread work quilt.  All the landscaping is threadwork, as well as the plans in three different sizes of white threads.

So what do I use and how?

  • 100 weight for microquilting, background work I want to more or less sink into the background, and couching down fat specialty threads.  I also use this for machine stitched raw-edge applique and machine stitched turned-edge applique when I want the applique to stand out and not emphasize the edge.
  • 60 weight polyester for most of my bobbin threads when I am quilting and appliqueing and some piecing.
  • 50 weights for clothing construction and some piecing.
  • 40 weight for machine embroidery and quilting when I want the quilting to show up.  I have found that some 40 weight cottons, such as Superior’s, show up slightly larger than their polyester threads, and that can be used as an advantage when doing line-drawings.
  • 30 weights for top stitching on clothing.
  • 16 and 12 weight for heavy lines and when I really really want the quilting to show up.
  • Superior Thread’s light monopoly for really invisible stitch-in-the-ditch and some appliques.
  • Metallics for metallic needs.
  • Fat specialty threads for bobbin work and couching.

I have found that, for the most part, Superior Threads makes some of the best thread on the market, for almost all of the sized threads above.  I have heard good things about Aurifil, though I mostly use Superior.  I do use Gutterman, Mettler, and So-Fine 50 weights for clothing construction.  And for 12 weights, I have tested several brands–though I haven’t tried Aurifil’s–and find that I get the best results from Sulky 12 weight from those I have tested.  I tried Superior’s relatively new 12 weight.  It’s beautiful, but it is slightly bigger than Sulky and it doesn’t stitch as well in my machines even when I use the largest needles. Sulky 12 weight seems to work just fine, but I’d like to test Aurifil’s.

Jenny Lyon’s recent blog post about testing some of the new threads good for microquilting does a great job of reviewing them, so I won’t review them here.  But I strongly encourage you to go there and read her review.

I was interested to see that a fabulous line-drawing style quilt won a ribbon at Houston this week.  Here’s a picture of that winning quilt.

Mikyung Jang of South Korea, winner of the $5,000 Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry for the quilt "Suwon Hwasung."

In this year’s Houston IQF, Mikyung Jang of South Korea won the $5,000 Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry for this quilt “Suwon Hwasung.”

Sew that really inspires me to try my hand at a new line drawing quilt.  Her work is magnificent, and clearly quite a few cuts above what I have done so far…but I want to try one again.  How about you?

Sew happy everyone!  Try it!  Get a solid color fabric, find a non-copyrighted line drawing you like or make one yourself, blow it up to full size (I will address simple pattern making for your own use in my next part of this), and mark it with Crayola washable markers…then sandwich and stitch away happily.  Please, if you do this, share pictures with me at bettyjo@bjfabricartist.com even if it is only a practice piece.  I would love to share your work here if you would like.