Do You Already Have A Sewing “Droid”?

This week we celebrated Star Wars day on May the 4th (be with you).  You have to understand, my youngest son is a sci-fi/fantasy writer and my oldest son and his family are all really interested in science fiction, so they probably got it from me.  It made me think…what would it be like to have a sewing droid.  Then I began to wonder if I already have one.  Hahahah.  After all, working with droids appears to be both wonderful and frustrating at times, just as today’s advanced machines are.  And I don’t think they HAVE to be able to walk or roll from their location.  They just have to do what they are dedicated and programed to do with efficiency.

Is R2D2 visiting with Odette?

When I first got my Bernina 880 plus, I thought it was “just” an advanced sewing machine.  I named her Odette, after Odette Uettschi-Gegauf, who was in charge of Bernina from 1959 to 1988, during the time so many major advances were made in Bernina machines. I have had it now for just about two years and have recently taken some time to learn more about what it can do in preparation for a project I am planning.  This project involves testing the limits of making exquisite hand-look embroidery (inspired by antique, highly skilled,  and royal hand embroidery) to come out of my machines using both in-the-hoop and out-of-the hoop stitching, and stitching with my other two machines as well.  I knew it had a lot of power and a lot of functionality, but I hadn’t really learned how to use all the advanced special functions with real confidence. Sew I have been exploring and experimenting with Odette when I had time.

Sklep Internetowy BERNINA - Maszyny do szycia, hafciarki ...

Odette

To me, the most important thing any sewing tool or machine should do well is to make a beautiful stitch, sew with enough power to be able to make bags, jeans, and even sails, as well as handle the most delicate fabrics in a single layer.  It is well if it will do both straight stitches and zig-zag stitches, and drop the feed dogs for free motion stitching.  With these functions alone, you can make nearly anything and do a vast array of embellishment work as well. Odette has really beautiful stitches in every capacity I have used so far.

E. Claire (My B350 named after Edith Claire Head, the legendary Hollywood designer)

I have a little Bernina 350 that I bought as a travel machine, but I find it very useful for other things as well…it does piecing exceedingly accurately in particular, and serves as a back up if I need to take Odette to the spa. I also use it to do needle punch with that attachment.  It does have an extremely small harp space, though, but I did manage to make a few quilts with it nevertheless. Sew if this is all you want, you probably don’t need, or may not even want, one of the multi-thousand dollar advanced machines on the market today and should put good money in a solid functional machine.   I would say one of the biggies are very nice to have, though, but if you have one, you need to spend the time to learn how to use it no matter how many years you have used a sewing machine.  That is imperative.

Odette

For any machine, especially the droids (LOL), you need to keep it cleaned and oiled, carefully threaded, and make sure to use the right needles, the right tension settings, the best threads, and the right feet for your project or you can get really frustrated, and your machine (or droid) will fuss at you by breaking your threads, making a thread nest in the bobbin area, or refusing to sew at all.  I would guess that about 97 or greater percent of the problems a person has with their machine is brought about by not paying attention to these golden rules.  All of us, at times, break these rules because we are tired, or in a hurry, or just not thinking about it.  So don’t!  (I’m talking to myself here).

Earlier today I was watching YouTube videos on multi-directional stitching that Odette will do.  It uses the feed dogs to move not only back and forth, but side to side.  I knew it has that function, but I haven’t used it much.  Mostly I have used the decorative stitches that require its use because they are very wide, but I haven’t really used the ability to take nearly any of its stitches and have it sew them in any direction around the hole plate.  Some of the videos on YouTube make it seem extremely interesting. Plus you can set up some of these stitches in concert with other stitches and sew a highly-interesting wide border that would be beautiful on  quilt or a table cloth, or a little girl’s pretty dress.  Then, you can move such a set of stitches into the embroidery side and use them in the hoop, if you want.  I think I will have to try these things for a more practical use than just play.

Odette has a function that enables you to design your own decorative stitch.  I played around with it a little, but not used it much.  This function seems extremely possible for my “near hand embroidery” projects.  All these things take time, of course, and testing.  Testing is so important.  You can even move these designs into the embroidery side for in-the-hoop accuracy.  Then you can take any decorative stitch and have it stitch around a shape!

One of the most amazing things I learned recently in Bernina’s set of four “Embrace the Rhythm of Your 880” webinars they put out a few months back, is that the B880 dual feed mechanism has its own motor that allows you to set the speed slower or faster than the regular feed dog.  It is the only Berninas that have this advantage, by the way. So if you are working on two kinds of fabric, for instance, like a fluffy fabric on one side and a plain cotton on the other, you can set it to move the fluffy fabric at a different speed to account for the differences.  Together with the presser foot pressure adjustment, it allows you to sew your minky-lined jacket together without stretching, unwanted gathering, or other problems.  I’m not sure how I will use this function, since I am not planning on a minky-backed quilt anytime soon, but perhaps it will come into play in some of my ideas of stuffed embroidery…not sure, but worth some experimentation.

Sew, do you have a sewing droid and not know it?  I suspect most of the major brands top of the line have many functions that might make it qualify. This is why it is important to talk to your machines, since it may make them happier. LOL

Sew happy everyone and have fun in your studio!

 

 

“Hand Work” by Machine

I am sure you’ve noticed that there is a recent renewal of interest in embroidery and quilting by hand.  I can appreciate this.  I used to do a lot of it myself.  It looks wonderful and can give the stitcher a sense of meditative happiness and quiet, plus you end up with a beautiful piece to quilt and/or put on the wall, make into a pillow, or frame for a gift.  These are often small and exquisite little jewels that are a great pleasure to make and view.

As wonderful as these are, I am thinking that with today’s machines, specialty threads, specialty feet and attachments, plus a community of sewers and quilters who are constantly developing new techniques, it is possible to create equally exquisite little pieces by machine.  Mind, I am not advocating giving up hand work, just using it as inspiration for some extraordinary stitching by machine, or using both together on a single piece. While this might enable one to make such a treasure in a  shorter space of time, it may not be that much faster, but interestingly challenging in a different way.  Machine work is especially nice if one is facing arthritic or injured hands that make doing the hand stitching difficult or painful. Yes, it will almost certainly look a little different, but the texture and beauty that can be accomplished may be equally extraordinary.

I have two sources of inspiration that has made me want to try this.  Alex Anderson recently ran a free class on The Quilt Show and YouTube called Make It Your Own stitch along lessons.  I watched it.  I did not make one, but I found some of the results truly beautiful.  Trying to make a similar piece  by machine may be very interesting.

The second one is the Royal School of Needlework posts in Instagram. Their work is truly incredible. I am particularly fond of their gold work which is often a combination of couched on gold cord and padded embroidery. But I also love many of their other colored embroidery pieces. Can I approximate the looks of these pieces?  Well, I don’t know, but it is worth a try.  I do know that it is possible to do padded embroidery in-the-hoop, and I have done a lot of couched work on all three of my machines.

I will do a little experimenting first, and then demonstrate some of the techniques on my YouTube channel.  What do you think?  Would you enjoy that? This will take me months before I am ready to record the work, but I will keep you apprised here on my blog of my progress.

The first thing I need to do, and, in fact, am already doing, is to make myself an interesting “library” of stitches I can do on my machines using different threads, different settings, and including the default settings.  This actually came about because I ended up with a small stack of sheets of fabric all prepared for testing decorative stitches that I had put together for a class that I never ran due to the pandemic.  They are nice white on white quilting fabric backed with a stabilizer and I drew in lines and added a selection of needles up in the corner.  I think I will add some darker fabrics and interesting designs that I can get from my Bernina 880 plus.  Once I get this done, I will be better able to decide how to make some of my ideas and draw up instructions or a pattern.  I tell you, it is almost equally as meditative and calming to me to stitch these library sheets as it would be by hand.  I think the key is to not try to rush this project, but to sew at whatever speed it takes to get things to work right.

I am using all kinds of threads and weights I have in my stash, primarily from Wonderfil Threads (a relatively new passion of mine), but also from Superior Threads (which I developed a huge stash of over the years.  It differs a bit from Wonderfil, so they work well together).  I believe my thread stash is bigger than my fabric stash at the moment. When I finally get to the first project, I will give you a list of the threads I use so you can try them if you want.

In the process of putting together the right fabrics for these types of projects I thought you might like to know favorites that I’m sure you would love too that would make great fabrics for such projects (beyond our stand by of high quality quilting cotton).  These include Kaufman Essex Linen, a wonderful linen/cotton blend good for a multitude of sewing projects, and Kaufman silk/cotton Radiance.  Surprisingly, I also found that faux silk polyester dupioni (the 58 inch wide) makes a wonderful choice, but it needs to be backed with a lightweight iron on fusible such as  Pellon SF101 iron on woven interfacing.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Surface Design to Quilted Art

Making Spiral Gallaxy 3 (see below)

You may not know, but I have happily received several delightful and prestigious awards in Surface Design or similar awards over the years. I still find surface design and embellishment to be the most interesting part of making quilted wall art pieces.

The border swirls and leaves were all painted after quilting using Setacolor and Jacquard paints.

Some of my quilts are entirely surface design and quilting, such as my deep space quilts.  These encompass several techniques that often include multiple media pulled together, and are oh so fun to do.

Spiral Gallaxy 3…a wholecloth quilt with large Angelina Fibers applique, black veilling, a little background paint, lots of threadwork and quilting, and tons of hot fix crystals.

So what do I mean when I say Surface Design and Embellishment?  There may be a more formal definition among professional artists, but I personally mean anything outside the norm that is added to the fabric during construction of the piece or even a mostly finished piece to enhance the look or complete the design.  This might include paint, decorative thread-work, lace, Angelina Fibers, beads, buttons, crystals or found objects, and even dimensional applique.

Hawaiian Garden. The central panel is a vintage piece by Albert Shaheen. I made this as a challenge piece for MQX show in 2016. I pulled the border design from the panel and quilted, then painted the borders. I gave this to my brother and sister-in-law for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

To me, surface design is like play.  Over the next several months, I am planning on providing some demonstrations on my YouTube channel presenting some of my techniques and products I use.  The first of these will be painting on a previously quilted piece.  The various fibers and fabric weaves respond differently to the selection of the painting product. Over the years I have accumulated a nice variety of these products and kept them replaced when used up or dried out, although recently it did hurt my feelings to find I had a large percentage of my Setacolor fabric paints that had dried out.  I don’t know why they did (I’m kidding), since they were only 8 or so years old and mostly less than a quarter of the jar left…LOL. So I threw a bunch out and rearranged what I have left to use for this project.  I think I have not been making enough wall art over the past couple of years, probably because life got in the way for a while, but I am back now to full time work and feeling pretty good for an ancient fabric artist.

For the most part, the products I use are basically machine washable in cold water once heat set with an iron.  Some do require a medium, such as GAC Fabric Medium or drug store pure Aloe gel, to make them permanent or even to make them behave right on fabric.  I plan on doing a test or two for you to show the results on this blog.  My goal has always been to use the product that helps me create the look I want without changing the hand of the fabric and that can be washed when needed.  I want to be able to wash a quilt even if it is going to be a piece of wall art only.  You’d be surprised how dirty a show quilt can get when it has been shown in multiple shows or hung for years. But they don’t need to be washable frequently in hot water, like you would if you are making a snuggle quilt for a child, for instance. I would not recommend painting such a snuggle quilt.

Anyway, I have been making a set of small quiltlets with spaces in them to paint and I am just about ready to start filming this work.  It will be fun for me, I’m sure.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

 

 

Winning the Metallic Threads Battle

Hi everyone!  Sew I saw it again this week.  Someone who is so frustrated with the behavior of their metallic thread in their machine they vowed never to use it again.  But I think it should not have to be like that and I have some suggestions that have been successful for me with my machines.  Admittedly the machine you have may have a different outcome, and I even have some minor frustrations with metallics from time to time, but these are some things to know and try before giving up on metallics.  Afterall, they are sooo pretty when they come out right.

  1. Make sure your machine’s thread paths, both top and bobbin, are fully cleaned and oil the machine.
  2. The needle can make a big difference. Since metallics are usually 40 weight threads, but are flat metal strips wrapped around a core of either polyester, rayon, or nylon, they need a needle with a larger eye than regular 40 weight thread.  I use either Superior 90/14 top stitch titanium needles or Schmetz 90/14 metallic or topstitch needles, which all have a larger eye.
  3. Feel around the machine foot you are using just to make sure there is not burr or other rough place.
  4. I prefer either Superior Metallic Thread, which has a polyester core that doesn’t break as often, but sometimes shreds, or Wonderfil Metallic thread, which has a rayon core that sometimes breaks but doesn’t shred as much.  I have found they both work pretty well, and much better than any of the others I have tried, including YLI, which has a strong reputation but all my machines, especially my 880 plus, tend to reject it. Nevertheless, with care, I have successfully gotten through many embroidery designs with metallic threads and no breakage or shredding.
  5. Lower the top tension.  Do some testing to see if it is right.
  6. Use a lightweight polyester thread in the bobbin that is close in color to the metallic you are using in the top.  This reduces thread buildup and will help clear up a lot of headaches for you.  I even heard of someone having their plastic bobbin break when filling it with metallic thread (which actually is what prompted me to write this blog).  That is probably because it was filling at too rapid a speed,  or it was overfilled, or it was a poor quality metallic, but it works better to use a 60 weight Superior Bottom Line or 80 weight Wonderfil DecoBob threads.  Both are excellent for most of your embroidery and even regular sewing for all types of thread in the top.  You’ll be glad you got this if you do.  I like prefilled bobbins because they are so evenly wound and that is particularly helpful when sewing with a difficult thread.  Most machines will take a prewound of the right size…look in your manual.  But alas, my Bernina 880 plus is such a diva that she requires her own fancy bobbin with silver stripes that has no prewounds available. I love her anyway. Her name is Odette (after the daughter of the founder of Bernina.  She ran Bernina for many years and added many wonderful advances to the machines).

    prewounds of multiple sizes

  7. Sew slowly!  If your machine has a speed control, slow it way down for stitching and in-the-hoop embroidering with metallic threads. It takes longer, but is so rewarding.
  8. Lubricate the threads.  My Bernina 880 plus and Q20 longarm both have a thread lubricant path and a pink liquid that came with them specifically for this reason, but my little Bernina 350 does not.

    I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church.  It’s made with metallic threads.

    So I will use the lubricant path and pink liquid as described in my manuals for the two larger machines and use something like Dritz Sewers Aid for the smaller one.

    • When using the thread lubricant path, loosen the tension slightly, because I have found it adds a little tension on its own.
    • When using the lubricant for a machine that doesn’t have a prescribed path, run a line of the lubricant down the side of the thread spool on three or four sides and hand rub the spool until it is fairly well distributed.  Then thread the machine.
  9. Metallic thread is very “lively” and has a strong “memory” that makes it keep a curl when it comes off the spool.  So if you use a thread stand with a tall thread guide you can set it behind your machine and bring the thread up and over into your thread path.  This allows the thread to relax a little before it enters the thread path.  You can also take advantage of cones of thread using these too.  I do this when using it with my little B350 that I take with me to places like a class at a quilt show, but my two big machines both have tall thread guides built in.  So consider what your machine does and adjust accordingly.  Wonderfil has a gadget called a “Thread Tamer” that will do a lot of this for you.  I haven’t got that yet, though I think I probably will. It looks very helpful and interesting.
  10. Lengthen the stitch length a little.  If you are using an in-the-hoop design, your machine may have an adjustment you can make to do this for such designs or lower the density.  It not only will make the thread behave better, but will show up more metallic as it stretches further between stitches.  A lower density is very helpful in dealing with metallic threads too and, if carefully set, can look better than full density.  But not all machines will do this.  Make some simple in-the-hoop test and see what it looks like.
  11. OK, this last idea is something I haven’t tried yet but intend to.  Wonderfil just came out with a thread managing invention called The Ultimate Thread Dispenser that fits on most machines.  I think it looks very much like it will make a difference for metallics and the other painful, but totally beautiful thread worth the struggle, and that’s rayon embroidery threads.  It’s not very expensive, so you may want to order one. Here’s a link to their video talking about it, if you are interested.

Sew most of us love the look of beautiful metallic embroidery, but many of us have been totally frustrated with thread breaks, thread tangles, and so forth.  It’s worth trying things to see if you can make your machine decide to cooperate with you and use the metallic.  Perhaps if you talk to your machine nicely it will also help.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Keep trying new or even difficult things and have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Paint to Quilts

Hi everybody!  My Two Birds Project, video one and the workbook with the pattern are published! Video Two will come in February and Video Three in March.  There will likely be some additional smaller videos out in February and March also.  Please watch them, and, if you haven’t already, subscribe to my YouTube channel.  It’s free and doesn’t ask any questions or pester you after you subscribed.  Here’s the link to the video: Two Birds Video

And here’s the link to the pattern with workbook if you want to join me in making one for yourself (it is only $5):  Two Birds Pattern

Sew I had the idea that it might be a good idea to make a set of five small quiltlets of different fabric types and use commercial embroidery on them that would look nice with the addition of painting.  I plan to use several different types of paints, inks, and markers that I have hanging around my studio in order to compare the paints and the way they work with the different fabrics.  That way I can reference them when I am making a quilt to decide which paints I need to use.  That’s what I’m working on now.

Test sampler I made before starting my Mom’s memory quilt.  I Quilted it first and then painted the bird and the flowers.

Hawaiian Garden:  I quilted, then painted the borders.

I think this will be a fun project.  I will video it so you can see what I do and write a blog or two about it also.

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.

 

 

 

A New Stitching Adventure

Birds at Play Detail from Pattern

Hi gentle readers,

I am almost ready to start making and filming a fun new wall quilt that focuses on stitching…both free motion and some with feed dogs up.  It also has a small amount of appliques behind some of the stitching and 9 pieces of fabrics to make a simple style quilt background to put all this stitching with some appliques and some paint onto.  The picture above is a single tile from a multi-tile downloadable pattern with instructions and supply list. This project was inspired by a page from a Dover Publications coloring book.

I got the missing fabrics this week and they are all washed and ready to go.  I am still working on the pattern, but the hard part is done so I will be publishing that for sale at a moderate price on my website store to go along with an undetermined number of free YouTube videos to take people through the project…fun to simply watch, and fun to make with me if you want.

I will be adding a page to this blog site with links to my recommended supplies that apply to ongoing projects.  Once it’s there you can just click on “Supply links” above and you can go shopping!

Sew I am excited about making this piece.  I will be testing some products I have not used before I make it and will tell you about them as I go.  This includes some new specialty threads from Wonderfil Threads I have only briefly used and Sulky’s Sticky-Fabri-Solvy printable self adhesive water soluble stabilizer. I think it could be a real blessing for limiting the amount of marking I have to do for this project and stabilizing the stitching.  I might do a 60 second shorts video on my test of all of this just so you can see it even if I decide not to use it for this particular project.  Would you like that?

I should be publishing the first parts of this project in a few weeks.  We’ll see though.  It takes a while to film the making of a complex project like this and get it edited.  In any event, I will let you know how it stands with my next blog post.  Let me know what you are working on.  Do you have any special requests for techniques to discuss? (Please comment here.  I love comments because it helps me know if people really view and like my blog efforts here and the comments stay with my blog if I look back on them a few months later for reference).

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!

 

A Book, Videos, Sons, and A New Project Idea

 

Books

My youngest son David, the author who shares my home with me and helps me in so many ways, will release a brand new book within a few days.  It’s the third book in his Law of Swords fantasy series.  I have read it and it’s terrific.  Truly, I think each book he writes is better than the last one and this one is no exception.

I am so proud and excited about this because David had to overcome a series of major difficulties (starting with a computer crash that somehow took both his regular data and all his backups in one event that included years of research, databases, and even bunches of writing.  Even the very skilled professional data recoverers were unable to get the data back.  He now has a new and better computer setup with all kinds of backups so it is unlikely to happen again. This and a handful of other obstacles has delayed his books for several years beyond the expected.

Now, though, he is rapidly producing what I am sure are wonderful writings right and left.  There is this book, as well as a requested short story for an anthology are written and nearly out the door, and he is diligently working hard on the second book in his sci-fi space series too with plans of completing that one by the end of the year.  Please wish him well on these endeavors. He is now a full time author without a secondary job so success is imperative. I’ll let you know when the new one is actually available for purchase.

My Videos

With a great deal of assistance from my oldest son Ken, the second in my video series about embellished wool applique by machine, is likely to be published early next week (there will be a blog for that one with a second downloadable handout).

I ask you please to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already.  This is a great help to me with YouTube.  I need a minimum of 1000 subscribers and lots and lots of views before I can sign up for the small monetary return to support this work.  If you don’t know, “subscribe” is like “follow” on other sites and doesn’t sign you up for anything more than letting you know the videos are there.  You have to be logged on to Google or YouTube to subscribe and then to make a comment there or ask a question.

Ken is doing the video editing at least until I get my new computer (which has been delayed “because of Covid”).  I hope it gets shipped within a day or so, but in the meantime Ken is editing and publishing my videos for me.  He is so professional at this. I will have to try really hard to match that level when I finally get my computer and take back a lot of this work.  The third video will probably be out about two weeks later.  It is my plan to publish a video about once every two or three weeks for now.

In case you are wondering, all on my own I “film” the parts where I am at the machine and you only see my hands, and Ken helps with the part where you see my face.  Ken has, in fact, set it up so I can eventually do that part of the filming too, but I really like having his directing and filming with his fancy camera.  He does, however, have a job and a family.  LOL But he came to my rescue with microphones and  brackets and lights and instructions and editing.

My Idea for the Next Project

Ok.  The wool applique set will be done soon, so what am I going to do next?  Well, I have a long list of techniques and projects that I am considering on presenting in 2021. Only a few are wool based.  The videos on my YouTube site are and will be continuously free.  However, I am planning on offering downloadable workbooks and sometimes patterns to go with them for a reasonably low price (on my new website shop) that you can purchase to use with the videos.  This will hopefully help underpin the video work, which so far has required considerable investment.

Sew I have given it a lot of thought and decided the next subject will be “Trees”.  This will be really fun, but I leave it to you to wonder…what will BJ do with trees?  Later…I’ll tell you later.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and try making/learning something new that makes you stretch every now and then.

 

Wool Applique by Machine with Video Demos

 

Wool sampler prototype piece part one. Embellishment will be presented in part two and quilting and finishing in part three.

Wool applique and embellishment is a great tool in a fabric artist’s quiver. There’s nothing else that provides the rich, warm, depth that real wool fiber does. It can make all the difference in achieving the artistic look you want. In my artist’s eye it compares to working with thick oil paints while cotton or silk is  like watercolors. Both are beautiful but achieve totally different looks.  Both require different techniques to get the best results.

So using a small project in wool applique I am finally launching my first video set  in my YouTube channel. Here is the link to the new video.  I have plans for multiple videos on my channel this year, and have just revamped my studio to include the things I need for producing them. So I would love you to subscribe to my channel and enjoy my videos just as a matter of interest or especially to  join me in working through the projects you like.  See the handout and pattern pdfs on my Aids and Links page here on this site for you to download and print out.  Then go to my YouTube video here.

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Here is a list of the supplies with links that I will be using in this first project to which I have added links to help you in your shopping for the supplies:

1 yard of background fabric.  I am using all wool Melton, which I had in my stash.  Since the price of wool has skyrocketed since I filled my stash with it, I suggest using a melton wool blend for this, which is less expensive and still has a lot of the same characteristics and depth of beauty. Here’s another link at B. Black tailoring supplies, which is a fabulous store that has things that are difficult to find elsewhere.  A solid color quilting fabric would also work but will not provide the same deep sense of richness.

There is another option.  Use wool clothing that is no longer worn, or that you find in a thrift store, or use pure wool fabrics you have stashed under your bed in those storage boxes you put your clothing fabrics in. You may have had it for a decade and still haven’t made that garment you bought it for, like me.  Cut the clothing so you get the largest pieces from them and wash your wool in hot water with some detergent in your washing machine and dry it in your dryer.  This provides some amount of felting and cleans the fabric. It is also possible to dye this.  It requires all three elements…hot water, agitation, and detergent, to make it do a bit of felting the fibers together.  It does need to be pure wool for this to work well. The resulting fabric is also easy to dye in your washer.

One package of lightweight woven fusible interfacing sufficient to cover the yard of background fabric, such as  Pellon SF101 Shapeflex

One pack of precut melton wool felt pieces in a variety of colors for flower heads and a pack of a variety of green pieces for stems and leaves. You will probably have enough felt pieces for a couple of small wall hangings or other wool applique projects.  Be sure to save all the leftovers for small applique uses elsewhere. Please don’t use craft felt not made with any wool.  The comparison is like using paper to fabric. You can use wool blend felt, but pure wool really makes a big difference in how this looks.

Aurifil 12 weight wool blend thread (small spool collection)  or (large spool collection..the best value by the yard) or three or four colors of the large spools.  If you prefer to use a 12 weight cotton as a slightly cheaper alternative I recommend Sulky 12 weight cotton,  for this project, it will still look beautiful, just different and not quite as close to hand done that the wool thread will provide.  I have even successfully used 40 weight  all poly embroidery threads, and I sometimes have mixed them across a project in order to get particular looks or colors.  The wool adds a depth of beauty and is probably what most hand stitchers would use. You should do some testing to see how they look.

1 black 12 weight Aurifil wool thread or Sulky 12 weight cotton for outlining.

1 spool of Superior monopoly or multiple colors matching the applique fabrics of light weight threads such as 6o to 100 weight polyesters or silks. I used both the monopoly and 100 weight threads.

2  packs of fusible web. I used Steam a Seam2 for my project and it works well.

1oo/16 top stitch needles

universal 80/12 needles if you choose to use monopoly thread for your appliques. I found the Schmetz super non stick needles really helps with dealing with the fluff from wool combined with the fusible web.

1 piece of backing fabric about 25 x 25 inches (for the back of this small quilt)  This is a good thing to pull from your existing stash.

Small piece of lower loft batting about 25 x 25 inches.  I am using 80/20. This is a good place to use leftover batting from a larger quilt project.

Bohin mechanical chalk pencil to mark the wool with, if needed.

And whenever I use fusibles, I like to have on hand this effective iron cleaning kit good for multiple cleanings that I have successfully used for years: Rowenta Iron cleaning kit

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While you can print the pattern out and use it to cut out your appliques, I did cut all my appliques using my Accuquilt Go! machine, which I really like for such projects.  I have had mine for some years, collecting dies a bit at a time, and use it a lot for circles, rectangles, strips, bindings and borders and projects such as this.  In my opinion, it is well worth the investment required.  I can cut out a simple snuggle lap or crib quilt of squares and a border (prestarched) with a few fun appliques to snazz it up (backed with steam-a-seam 2)  in ten minutes (after the fabric is pressed with starch) and make the quilt top all in the same day.  Everything is nice and accurate too, very unlike it looks if I do my own cutting.  Hahaha.

I used the following three dies for this project and it only took a few minutes for all the shapes I needed with some leftovers:

Go Circle (1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″) it’s so hard to hand cut good circles.  These are beautiful. If you can only get one dye set for this project, this might be it.

Go Round Flower

Go Stems and Leaves 

Sew happy everyone!  Let’s get started.  Please feel free to ask questions using comments here or on the YouTube channel.