A Quick Wardrobe Update for Fall and Winter

This is a nice jacket pattern I have. I plan to make this one and do the embroidery too.

Sew I recently purchased three nice cotton blend oxford shirts on a very good sale that fit me perfectly 😮 (!) to replace some in my closet that are decidedly worn. Well, they are 15 or more years old, I think!!  I plan on embellishing the new ones with in-the -hoop embroidery and decorative stitching. 🌺

I also have a nice light suede cloth jacket I no longer wear very much but is in great shape and I thought I would alter that down a little bit and embroider that too.  Maybe I will do some yarn couching on it (inspired by Bethanne Nemesh, but different).  This is  all so I can dress in keeping with my fabric artist lifestyle and go out from time to time. 🙃  I might also change the buttons to something more decorative. These will be nice additions to my wardrobe and are a nice fit (my old shirts are a size larger). I seem to be ok with most of my jeans and slacks, though a new pair of dress slacks might be in order.

My current fall and winter work “uniform” is usually a shirt and black jeans plus a sweater when needed. I suddenly realized how surprisingly old my whole wardrobe is, and it looks it too. So I also have plans to make a nice black suede jacket, a denim one, and a light wool slacks suit out of some of the fabulous fabrics I have in my fashion stash under my bed. I have a few beautiful silk blouses I made some time back in good shape.  I think they look nice even a little looser than I used to wear them.  We’ll see how much, if any of this that I will get done.

If only I had a fairy godmother with her magic wand.  LOL

This all, however, must wait for me to finish the Thanksgiving project and a few other things. Are you doing any fall and winter fashion sewing? Are you embellishing it?

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!

Advancing One’s Fabric Artistry

Hi everyone!  I got to thinking a lot this week about what is needed to advance one’s fabric artistry abilities.  This was brought on because one of my best friends is getting a new sewing machine next week.  It’s already in, she just has to go pick it up and has scheduled a class for learning to use it.

For several years now I have been helping Anita learn how to add fabric as a new medium to her already wonderful art and basic sewing skills. She has made amazing progress.  In return, she has helped me reorganize my fabric and thread stash, assembled kits when I made them for classes, worked with me to make church banners (we go to the same church), willingly tested some of my ideas, and generally encouraged me in my current projects. We enjoy our sewing and chatting time together.

Her wonderful old Bernina 1230, which was nearly 25 years old and was originally mine, had the mother board die and they don’t make or have replacements anymore, so she bought a new Bernina 480.  This is a great choice for her because it has a 9mm stitch width with lots of decorative stitches and the harp space is one inch wider than her 1230.  It will advance her work.  Over the next year or so she plans to add some of the accessories that don’t come with it to stretch the usefulness of the already fabulous machine for her kind of work. It will take a Bernina Stitch Regulator, but I think she probably won’t get this for a while. The others include:

  1. The Gold ocher color bobbin case that gives a tighter bobbin tension than the black one that comes with it and is particularly useful for decorative stitching, free motion embroidery, and quilting. I think they should have included this in the initial machine package (do you hear me Bernina?).
  2. A single hole stitch plate for straight stitch accuracy and free motion stitching.
  3. The walking foot which is extremely helpful for a quilter/bagmaker
  4. Multi-Spool Holder: Attaches to the back of the machine and allows the use of threads on cones (cheaper by the yard) and has a telescopic threading rod that also helps manage the threads from metallics and other difficult threads.
  5. Bernina Thread Lubrication Unit: Helps handle metallics and other difficult threads (Rayons, for instance)
  6. Additional Feet:
    1. A quarter inch foot number 96 C with guide or #37 which enables really accurate quarter inch and eighth inch seams to piece things together.
    2. 20c open toed embroidery foot A definite necessity for any fabric artist.
    3. Narrow hemstitch foot (there are five of them of various types which make different kinds of narrow hems. Probably #63 would be my choice. She wants to make some scarves among other things that need narrow hems.
    4. Free Motion Couching foot #43: couch heavy threads, cords, and yarns to the surface of the fabric.  I have also used this as a free motion stitch foot for stitching over uneven surfaces before I got the cup foot.
    5. 39C clear embroidery foot: It is a great foot for decorative stitching and has a small hole for threading cordonet thread or other light cording through to stitch over with decorative stitching.

So far, she has developed fine skills and used them for free motion embroidery, hand embroidered baby quilts, appliqued bed runners, quilts for her grand children with free motion quilting, bags, a lovely drapey jacket, table toppers, and a beautiful Victorian ball gown for her grand daughter complete with a perfect fluffy petticoat for it.  I would say she has clearly graduated from a basic sewer to advanced intermediate sewer and intermediate quilter, and is hovering on the edge of tipping the scale into an advanced fabric artist and quilter.  While it is unfortunate her old machine died, this new machine will be a blessing for her.

 

Anita’s lovely granddaughter modeling her beautiful satin jacquard ball gown Anita made for her.

Sew in addition to a good sewing machine, what, in my humble opinion, does it take to become a master sewing artist? It definitely does NOT mean that everything you make is a masterpiece.  Sometimes the pieces are, frankly, not very good. It does, however, mean that you are capable of making a masterpiece and do from time to time and are willing to take the leap to try. Since I am an incorrigible list maker, I have a list of what I think is needed to reach for advanced fabric artist and quilter. It’s an ongoing endeavor and lots of fun to do.

  1. It takes a good understanding of your machine (or machines) and a number of interesting things you can do with it beyond make a seam or a buttonhole and kind of constant testing and trying out of possibilities with it.  Never stop learning.  I am constantly working on this myself. Indeed, I have spent the last six months or so learning things I didn’t know or needed to improve in using my Bernina 880 plus.  I’m sure my sons and daughter-in-law are tired of hearing “wow! Did you know I can do such and such with my machine?”  But I have to tell someone!
  2. Handwork, even if you are, like me, primarily a machine person.  You can turn your understanding of handwork into using your machine for about 90 percent of the time.
  3. It really helps to gain a solid understanding of interfacings, stabilizers, and battings; fibers and their properties; thread types and weights and what they are for; what needles you need for which threads and kind of sewing; markers; and tools available beyond the obvious.
  4. There are always new developments in sewing tools and I am often surprised by what’s available now. The struggle is figuring out what tools are really needed or at least would help speed or improve a frequently needed process and which can be passed over.  I am sort of a gadget/tool fan, so I often have to tell myself “no” firmly when confronted with the purchase of a new tool.  Hahaha. I do have a large collection, but I have been sewing since I was five and am now 75. Plus I inherited both my mother’s and my mother-in-law’s sewing supplies. So the vast majority of my sewing tools have been around for a long while.
  5. But chiefly, it takes allowing yourself to have confidence in your abilities, and a certain amount of willingness for risk taking that comes with realization that one will sometimes fail and have to spend a lot of time unstitching or remaking pieces of a project or start all over using a different direction. It’s part of the adventure.  Also, sometimes, you just have to abandon a project and realize it is ok to do so.  I constantly work on this.
  6. Where I personally need to work the hardest is in my designs.  That is the hardest thing for me because I almost never use someone else’s designs and often have a vision in my mind that may be difficult to get down into a workable pattern or guide either on paper or on my computer.
  7. Piecing accurately.  Even an art quilter needs to piece from time to time. I think I am just fair intermediate piecer.
  8. Speaking of patterns, I am working on improving my professional pattern-making skills to a higher level for use by people who would like to try the projects I present on my YouTube channel, in my blog here, and in books.  I no longer have classes since Covid shut them down and I switched to videos and writing permanently, but I still teach by these methods and one-on-one in person.
  9. There are other things that may add a lot to a project, especially in the embellishment arena, but are not required.  These might include crystals and beads, fabric paints, found objects, charms, 3 dimensional sewing (like butterflies and flowers for instance), machine embroidery–both in-the-hoop if you have an embroidery machine and out of the hoop (even if you do have an embroidery machine).
  10. I’m sure I have forgotten something. Do you have any ideas?

The thing to know is that you probably already have most of these things in your virtual tool belt and, like me, mainly just need to learn more in each of these categories.  I find it fun.  Do you?

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and let me know what your fabric adventures are.

Busy Developing New Projects

Test and practice piece using all wool machine applique and embellishment

Hi gentle readers! As the title says, I have been very busy lately developing new projects that I hope you all will fully enjoy when I publish them here and in my YouTube channel.

For the first of these projects…exploring painting on quilted fabric…I will include any additional information that accompanies my video(s) that you might want here on my blog.  So the the entire exploration information and demonstrating videos that result in a handful of painted quiltlets will be free to you.  I am really having fun doing all the prep work for the videos and practicing the techniques and am nearly ready to start “filming” the videos.

For years I have been exploring how various types of fabric paints, artist crayons. and pencils, work with different types of fibers and weaves that are already quilted.  Or rather, I already know more or less how this works so I will be show the matching of the types of paints, crayons, and pencils with the different fabrics to get the best results.  I believe that by doing this, you will be able to take what I share and use it to get the looks you want on your own projects, or at least to explore your own ideas with some success. I am hopeful to get these published in April and May. 

In the process of working out the sampler quiltlets I came up with an idea I want to make for a cuddle lap quilt that I may or may not put into a video if I make it.  I haven’t decided if I can fit it into my work plan or not, but if I do make it, at the very least I will share it here on my blog. It involves in-the-hoop quilting designs coupled with free motion quilting and possibly quilt-as-I-go construction, but I haven’t fully decided on all of that yet.  It’s just an idea at this point.  I will be able to use some of my pretty threads for this project.

Anyway, in addition to working on the painting project hours daily for some time now I have been trying to design some new wool applique by machine projects to present on my channel for fall and winter. One will be quick and less complex and presented sometime soon, and others will be presented across the rest of the year.  But  I am also working to come up with a really good design with dimensional texture that uses the wonderful characteristics of wool for a small very artistic wall hanging. It will be what I think of as 2 1/2 D rather than 3D.  LOL

3D stump work dragonfly I made in the hoop has wire hidden in the stitching on the wings. This was so much fun to make, I want to do more in-the-hoop stumpwork.  Would you like a video on how I do this?

I am thinking, after much consideration, that the background fabric for this textural wall hanging will be on cotton, and the appliques will be wool.  I also am considering adding some couching of  wool yarns and maybe even some wool roving that I would needle punch with the needle punch attachment on my little baby machine, my Bernina 350, which I usually use for piecing and travel, but it also has several attachments I like to use on that machine because it has a 5.5 width maximum stitch that allows some interesting results.  I might also add stump work object that I make in-the-hoop from lighter fabrics.  Anyway, I’m working on a complete design that I am very hopeful will be really beautiful and interesting to watch me make on my YouTube channel.  It would be so delightful if some of you decide to make one yourself because it is so interesting and the result will be lovely.

If I get the design right, it will involve the use of three of my machines…my B350, my Bernina 880+. and my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, but will be doable on a single domestic machine and a hand needle punch tool if that is all one has or wants to use.  For this project, I will be developing a downloadable pattern that I will sell in my website store. This pattern would include svg files for cutting out the appliques using a digital cutter and line drawings for use with scissors.  Anyway, it’s rumbling around in my head and I am working on various designs to come up with the best one.  It should be fun.  I have long known that it takes me longer to design a project and develop the pattern than to make it.  So this project will take some time, consist of multiple videos, and hopefully will be published over the summer.  It would make a wonderful present for someone, even if it is for your own sewing space.

Sew you may want to know where the third and last video of my two birds project is. My video director and editor has had some minor delays in getting it done as work and life got in the way.  We are hopeful that it will be out sometime in the first week of April. There is a downloadable pattern for this project available for only $5 on my website shop, but as of this writing I have only sold one copy, even though I have almost 400 views of the first two videos.  Since it would be very difficult to make this project without the pattern, I guess my hope that some of my viewers would try to make it themselves has not yet happened.  I am still hopeful that some quilters will decide to do the project and share their results with me so I can show you all.  Maybe they want to see the finish before they decide.  Or maybe people are not aware that it is almost a complete book on how to do this kind of project that they may find informative and interesting even if they don’t make it. It is accompanied by svg files for cutting the appliques.  You don’t have to have a digital cutter though, because it also has the line drawings to cutout the appliques with scissors.  Here are the links to video one and video two.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working with Heavy Threads

Hi everyone.  As those of you who have followed me over time know, I love threads and have written several blogposts on the subject.  This week I have been free motion stitching with 12 weight threads for quite a few hours. What great looks you can get from them and each type looks remarkably different from the others!

Sew am I happy with the work I did this past week?  Some of it looks fabulous, but there is one area I was not happy with.  I have found in the past, however, that if I just keep going it often improves.  I can also add some ink or paint to improve things.  The interesting thing is that this is all part of my next video project.  I think I will use this to discuss what to do when things are not just what you envisioned initially or some such.  I think I can show that the fiber content and the value contrasts make a great deal of difference in the resulting looks for these fabulous threads. By the way, I got that one area much improved and think it will do just fine.

When purchasing such specialty threads, getting excellent quality thread and the right colors are what is paramount for getting a good outcome.  Especially when using heavy threads, the stitching can gnarl up and knot or split if the threads are poor quality.  It is really important to use them with the right needles, bobbin threads, and tensions.  Some of them, especially rayons, require silicone thread treatments to make them behave, such as the pink liquid that comes with some Bernina machines or Sewer’s Aid.  Thread nets also help improve their function if you are using a cone.  Also lower the top tension and lengthen the stitches to make things go well.

For domestic machines, slow down.  I also frequently use these on my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown.  And for those of you who have a Q, here are the settings I use:

  • BSR 1 with 200 idling speed
  • 8 spi
  • 1.75 top tension
  • 180 bobbin tension with the 60 weight Bottom line
  • Kick start function to keep from skipping stitches

For such large threads I use Superior 100/16 top stitch for the regular spots or Schmetz 100/16 nonstick needles for stitching through fused on items like appliques

I love these 12 weight threads, have used them enough to know they are good quality, and each one offers a different look for multiple purposes:

For all of these threads I use a light weight thread in the bobbin such as Superior Bottom Line (a 60 weight polyester), Wonderfil DecoBob (an 80 weight polyester) or, if you only like cotton…a 50 weight cotton.

I am also planning on using even heavier weight specialties on my current project and my next project.  These have to be either couched on or stitched on upside down with the thread in the bobbin and a lighter thread on top.  I have some beautiful 8 weights to try.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and try some heavy weight thread sewing.  It adds so much to your projects.

 

 

 

Fall Project Timing

Hi everyone.  I can’t believe it’s already October!  I love that it is fall, because it was a hot and somewhat rough summer for me, but it occurs to me that I have several projects I have in mind for fall and for the Christmas/winter season that aren’t even started yet.  Yikes!  I better stretch my time in the studio a bit more!

 

I have been working really hard on the complex multi-video two birds project.  I am about three fourths of the way.  I want mostly to complete the whole project before publishing the first video because I need to make sure the accompanying workbook and pattern with all its techniques are good and actually work with the videos.  That will be available from my shop on my website and together with the videos presents a fairly complete class.  This class presents a lot of the techniques I have used in the past on some of my show quilts and I think quilters will enjoy making it.  Besides, it makes up into a really nice wall or lap quilt that would be a wonderful present or enjoyable quilt for yourself.

Sew, kind of as step one on this project, I uploaded a video that discusses how to turn a line drawing, like a coloring book page, into a pattern similar to my two birds to use in your own designs.  I know everyone may not have all the software or want to play with it in that way, but I know some will and may not have thought of using it for that or really know how.  If you have Bernina software v8, for instance, you have Corel Draw elements.  Anyway, take a look at the video and see what you think.

Here is a picture of some luscious Wonderfil threads (see link on the right). I love their specialty threads and am using a lot of them in my two birds project.

I have a couple of wool applique by machine decorative wall hangings–one for fall and one for Christmas–coming too, if I succeed in getting them all done in time.

In the meantime, I have my right eye cataract surgery on the 14th of this month.  I will be glad to get that taken care of.  I can see so well out of my left eye now and not well at all out of the right eye.

Then to top off everything, I have clothes I need to make.  We’ll see how much of all of this I get done.

The Simplicity pattern from my substantial pattern stash. Note the pants have a simple full elastic waist and no pockets…not what I want, but I have a better slacks pattern. The long sleeve tunic provides a suggestion for the embellishment. I would be adding something more for fun.

 

I always plan more than I can do it seems.  But it is so much to look forward to and have fun with in my studio as we drift into fall and winter.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

A Show-and-Tell of My Experimental Quilting

knight detail from “Equipped to Stand”

My family helped me produce a new video I could never have done on my own for my YouTube channel that is a discussion and trunk show of my experimental quilting.  I think you might enjoy seeing it.  Here’s the link:  video

For years I have thought of much of my work as experimental fabric art, where I try to get certain looks in my quilts and sometimes had to develop a new technique or figure out how to apply a known technique to produce the look I wanted or just to see what something would look like.  It has been a bit of a wild ride over the years and so it seemed the thing to produce a show and tell for you all.

Thanks to my family for their help and encouragement both for the videos and the quilting. There are some fun things on the way.

Sew happy everyone!

 

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.

 

Fine Tuning Fabric Art: Applique Styles

Hi all y’all.  Do you enjoy applique or do you only use it when there is absolutely no other way to get the look you want?  I was surprised several years ago when I attended a major quilter’s class and she introduced me as an applique-er.  After thinking about it, I think she is mostly right.  I thoroughly enjoy applique of several artistic techniques. I select the technique by their complexity, the kinds of fabrics I am using, and the style I want to show.  These include:=

  1. fused or glued stitched raw edge
  2. placed and held in place by veiling and then free motion stitched down.
  3. turned edge glued and blind stitched by machine
  4. applipieced/pieceliqued
  5. In-the-hoop applique

For complex edges, especially, my favorite technique is stitched raw edge applique.  This is where I fuse it down and stitch along the edge using either a narrow vari-overlock stitch (like a hem stitch but it has fewer stitches between the zig-zag stitch) with a Superior monopoly thread or a 100 weight polyester or silk matching thread so it basically disappears. Narrow blanket stitch also works well.  I don’t particularly like zig zag for this, but I know some who do. I also found I cannot get a good result for complex appliques without some kind of adhesive use along the edges.

The Announcer, the Horse, and Bird appliques From Canterbury Knight are all stitched fused edge appliques hand painted by me.

To show off the edges I very much like the blanket stitch using decorative thread picked to show.  I don’t see a difference when doing this using raw edge or turned edge appliques, because the edge is covered with the thread.  The blanket stitch may be either a double blanket stitch if you REALLY want to see it, or a single using a heavier 12 weight thread so it highlights the edges.  This is a particularly good approach if you are having problems with your applique not showing up well because you chose to use fabrics that are close in value or color.  Sometimes I have found it very difficult to carry out the design I have in my head with a clear value difference between the applique and the background. I also can fix this problem with a hidden edge applique technique combined with a straight stitch outline stitched along the edge in a contrasting color decorative thread.

Dad’s House Plan. The house and roof of this quilt were turned edge machine stitched appliqued in most places.

For less complex shapes, I have found the turned edge with the vari-overlock narrow stitch with monopoly or matching 100 weight thread looks very close to turned edge hand stitched applique.  In my case, the machine stitched looks much better.  haha. If you don’t have a vari-overlock stitch on your machine, it is very similar to the blind hem stitch that nearly all today’s machines have in their utility stitch set, it just has more straight stitches between the zigs or zags, so making the stitches shorter overcomes that problem.  I start by turning the edges around either a piece of lightweight interfacing that is going to stay in place, or a freezer paper shape ironed to the back.  I usually find that just grocery store starch I paint on with a small stencil brush works well to hold the turn in place, and then remove the freezer paper before gluing it in place to the background.  One can glue it however, with washable glue sticks, and a lot of applique-ers do that.

Here we have a complex edge that I have starched the turn over with starch onto freezer paper. The next step would be to remove the freezer paper, turn it over and stitch it in place onto the background fabric. You might want to iron the turn down a little more after removing the paper.

When I am making one of my deep space quilts, I make the “gas cloud” that surrounds and plays throughout a galaxy from hot fix angelina fibers.  These fibers only stick to themselves and flatten out into a sort of fabric so they don’t stick to the background fabric.  You can’t use a fusible web with it because it shows, nor can you use glue because even if it dries clear you can still see it through the clouds.  So I cover it with black nylon veil and just free motion stitch it into place.  I may pin it a few times, but I don’t even like to do that, because the holes remain if you happen to hit it just wrong.  So I just have to hold it in place and stabilize it with a little of the stitching before I do the free motion embroidery-like quilting. I think this method would work well for a net or lacy applique also.

Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

And then for piecing together areas like adding mountains or suns or other large parts of a pictorial quilt, there is applipiece (Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s term) or piecelique (Sharon Schamber’s term) where the piecing is done using turned edge applque stitched  (as described above under “less complex shapes”) from the top by machine usually using monopoly or very light weight thread and the vari-overlock or blanket stitch and then cutting the area joined from the back down to a little less than a quarter inch seam.  The complex edges require snipping into the edge periodically to facilitate the turning around the shapes).  This is one of my favorite methods when creating a pictorial or other free style design background.

The Storyteller, a Hoffman Challenge piece where the entire background was applipieced/pieceliqued together.

In the hoop applique requires “a whole nother” set of activities and skills beginning with digitizing your design in software or purchasing a commercial embroidery design.  I use this occasionally, but not often.  It usually uses satin edge stitch to sew down the appliques, though it sometimes uses blanket stitch.  If I am going to use satin edge I try to do this in the hoop because the satin stitch can then be digitized to have beautiful miters and properly angled stitching, which is really difficult just using the satin stitch outside the hoop.  It is possible to get a nice satin stitched edge for simple shapes with care in regular nonhoop stitching though.  Then you can add additional decorative stitching in-the-hoop for nice results.

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug in the hoop

You can read more about this method in my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.

That pretty much covers the methods I use for applique.  I am using stitched raw edge applique that has been attached with Steam-a-Seam 2 for my wool applique by machine.  First I am stitching it down with monopoly and then I am doing the decorative stitching around the edges and inside the appliques.  This means I can use the decorative stitches to make the look I want without worrying about whether or not the stitch catches the edge of the wool applique, which I find a big advantage.

Detail showing some of the stitching on my practice wool piece

Sew happy everyone!  Put on some good music or an audiobook and start with a small applique project.  It is fun, but it does require some time to get it right.  Still, by machine is faster, or at least less problematic for arthritic hands than by hand, however beautiful it is.

 

 

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part One, the Design to Pattern

I realized with some astonishment recently that 2020 is my sixteenth year of making quilted art projects, mostly, but not entirely in the form of wall art quilts.  I have been sewing since since I was five, when my mother began teaching me to sew, followed by years of learning and making my own clothes and helping my mother in her own sewing pursuits.  I retired from my intensive job with the US Government at the beginning of 2012, but I had already been working toward moving to full-time fabric artist upon retirement for a number of years.

Over the years I have learned a great deal.  I have almost always been in a learning mode, because I find it fun.  For me, a terrific development has been provided by generous fabric artists, digital artists and sewing technicians through online informative sewing and quilting sites, video classes, The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and YouTube.  This has enabled me to continue my love of learning new techniques and improvement of my skills while hanging out in my own studio and at a very low cost or even free.

What has all this to do with the title of this blog, you may be asking about now.  Well, I just wanted you to know that I do have a significantly solid and advanced basis to pull from for this series I will be blogging over the next month or so about building quilted projects for fun and excellence.

Sew approaching a new project should begin with a bit of planning and record keeping. Such projects can be divided several ways, but I like the following 10 steps, each of which will be dealt with in their own blog post:

  1.  Designing or Obtaining the Pattern
  2. Collecting the Parts
  3. Checking the Tools
  4. Cutting and Marking
  5. Constructing the Top
  6. Sandwiching Properly
  7. Quilting
  8. Blocking and Squaring
  9. Adding Embellishments
  10. Binding and Finishing.

Designing or Obtaining a Pattern for Your Project

Since I don’t normally use purchased patterns and usually create my own designs, for me that first step of designing frequently takes just under half of the time I spend on a project.  I use my computer heavily in this step.  Here are the computer apps I currently use for this:

  1. Corel Paint Shop Pro 2020 (for processing photographs)
  2. Corel Draw Graphics Suite 2018 (makes very good vector designs and communicates with Bernina Software.  This also helps me create my own pattern, size it, and print it out full size to tape together)
  3. Corel Painter 2020 (for painting.  It’s almost like having real paint,  brushes, and pencil collections with no mess and the ability to erase or add something in the middle layer.  I often start here for concept art)
  4. Bernina Embroidery Software V8.2 (for digitizing or personalizing embroidery designs, and even for some quilting)
  5. Electric Quilt 8 (aids in figuring placements, sizing, yardage, and if I need a traditionally pieced area for my quilt project, this is where I turn).

I won’t cover how to use these drawing packages for this, because I know even if you use digital design programs to help you out, you probably don’t use the same ones I do and they are expensive to gather, take time to learn, and there are lots of really good classes out there on youtube and on the sites where the packages are sold.

Once I have my design, I write out the steps, list the fabrics and threads, list the additional pieces, and think about the tools that will be required.  In other words, I create my own pattern with instructions. You may be surprised to learn that I mostly do this the old fashioned way in my planning notebook, where I glue in samples of the fabrics, write out steps, and keep other important notes as I go along. You can read about how I manage these things in my blog Project Management for Fabric Art from a year ago.  I still do things this way.

Now I know many of you don’t want to use the computer designing process, and if you want to design them yourself you would greatly prefer using a sketch book or graph paper and doing math to figure out what you need to make your project, or at the very least use Electric Quilt 8, which is an easy way to produce a good traditional quilt pattern.  This is a good approach, but I do encourage you to scan in your resulting images/designs,  keep a record of your project on your computer, and write out the steps you need to take for your project so you can start with a good pattern with steps to completion already thought through.

Also, there are those who prefer starting with a pattern that has good instructions.  That’s probably why you can make a quilt much faster than I can, and I think this is also a good approach if you have different goals from mine.  One of the keys to this is to use patterns from reliable designers that provide good instructions.

In other words, whichever your approach, the first step is to obtain or create the design with good instructions and project steps already thought through.

For me, I also want to load up my audible books, music, and podcasts to listen to while I work through the construction phase.  My next blog post will discuss building your own kit so you know you have what you need.

Sew happy everyone!  I encourage you to use an ordered approach to your quilted projects, however small or large, and you will really enjoy the process and probably come out with a wonderful result.

 

 

 

Looking Forward to 2020

Happy New Year everyone and God’s blessings on your lives for the new decade!

I have a lot of fun plans for 2020.  As I usually do, I have almost certainly planned more than I can accomplish, but there is always the offhand chance I will actually get them all done and that would be grand.

As many of you may remember I made big plans for clothes making in November.  Read all about it here in my past blog.  But November was basically eaten up with my making of my son David’s “leather” coat, which, albeit successful in the end, required a lot of unexpected time while I polished up my rusty tailoring skills from decades ago, fixing several big mistakes, and taking my time doing a good job on the coat with the great feet and machine I had to sew it with.  If you missed it, you can see the end results in this blog.

But I still need some new clothes for myself.  Fortunately, most of the fabric I have for this update is four season fabric.  So I am going to scatter this sewing across the year.  Besides, I am hoping to lose some more weight so it would be a good idea to go kind of slowly in this wardrobe revamp project.

In the meantime, I hunted through some of the older jackets and shirts I had stored away I used for work that I haven’t worn for a while because they got too tight, but now they are nice and lose.  Some even require taking in.  The first thing I did last week was take a tan faux suede jacket I had but never wore much because it was just too boring, and embroidered the back and fronts with some really pretty steam punk designs in blues.  The designs include an old style sewing machine, an owl, and a bunch of gears and swirls.  They came from this OREA set of designs.  It really improved it and I will be using these designs elsewhere.  I also found the long dress that goes with it.  I don’t really wear dresses anymore, but it is also made from the same nice faux suede and I might make a bag or something to go with the jacket or I might just wear it as is, adding maybe some embroidery on it too, but I doubt I will do that.  In any event, I am not planning on buying new clothes in 2020, because I can make the ones I have work and can make some new ones while I continue to lose weight.

I think I have what I need ready to go now for my trip to California to see my brother, sister-in-law, and the Road to California show we are going to together.  It was a wonderful gift from my SIL.  We have a lovely relationship and I really am thrilled with this trip.  I will also get to see my nephew and his family.

Sew once I get back to my studio what are my plans?  Since I usually work on two quilts at a time, this year I will work on one quilt and one garment at a time for a while.  I like working two projects to give me some changes in muscle and eye activities periodically without losing a lot of time.

Sew in addition to my clothing plans I have an exciting plan for show quilts, books, and maybe some additional items for sale.  Right now, I am quilting my Mom’s memory quilt.  I have made a significant start in the quilting, but I have a long ways to go.  I really enjoyed returning to quilting this past week.

I made a list to pick from  the other day for 2020 show quilts.  I was thinking four quilts, and ended up with nine on the list to choose from.  I am fairly certain I won’t get nine show quilts made this year…hahahahaha.  Here’s a short list of some of the ones I am considering making.

  1. Mom’s memory quilt already well along the way
  2. A strata landscape quilt with embroidered and beaded fossils
  3. A steam locomotive train scene using the fabric I digitized and had printed for the background
  4. A new ancient manuscript quilt (probably Excalibur)
  5. A new deep space quilt
  6. An ancient map with a ragged edge
  7. A deep ancient forest that shows off my couching and thread painting
  8. Several landscape quilts based on my daughter-in-law’s beautiful travel and flower pictures
  9. A wool applique quilt with interesting decorative stitches and heavily beaded.

Plus I am writing two books, which require samples.  I am about halfway through the one on embellishments and have the one on quilting for art quilters outlined and started.

I will do what I can and not try to push myself too hard this year…just sew along and enjoy myself along the way.  But I would really love to get it all done.  Great fun in my studio.

Sew happy everyone!  I would love to know what your plans for the new year are, at least to begin the year.  Enjoy your New Year’s Eve and Day!