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.

 

Dealing with Stitching Pull and Video Update

I digitized this olive tree from a non copyrighted photograph and stitched it out on black nylon tulle with wash away stabilizers. I then removed the stabilizers and tore away the visible tulle. What you see here is the tree ready to applique to my quilt Noel. It would have produced a great deal of thread pull had I stitched it directly to the quilt top.

Heavy machine stitching always pulls the fabric and if done directly on a project can leave the surrounding fabric unacceptably ruffled.  Some of this can be dealt with on shrinkable natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool but not so much silk, by steaming the area upside down on a wool ironing mat or a thick pad of towels.  Polyester fabrics will not respond to steam shrinking attempts and is possible to damaged it with the  amount of steam one might try to use.  Really heavily stitched motifs are almost impossible to steam out regardless of fabrics except wool, but it may be possible to  “quilt that out” in some cases though it is not easily accomplished and doing this is very stressful in any case.

Such headaches and fails can be avoided by stitching off-project and appliqueing the finished motif on to the project background.  If you do it right, it is most often very difficult to tell that it is an applique and not directly stitched, but even if you can tell, it is preferable to the pull.

So there are several ways to approach this that usually involve machine work inside a hoop and wash away stabilizer.  I have a relatively large collection of embroidery hoops I collected over the years.  I found most of them can work for machine work, but some are just too wide to easily get under the presser foot.  There are hoops that are designed for working with a machine, and can be used for hand embroidery. I find a 7 or 8 inch hoop works well.  Here are a couple of models I like:

  • three plastic spring hoop set I have had a set similar to this for years, and this may be the same set.  I don’t know for sure, but it works well for free motion embroidery and is thin enough to slide under the foot.  It is also easy to adjust the area in the hoop when you need to without taking it out from under the foot of the machine.
  • three wood traditional style set.  This is .6 inches high,  I think this will happily slide under the foot if you angle it a bit.  I do not have this set myself although I do use a couple of very old wood hoops that I have had around for a while and they are .5 inches wide and work ok with the machine.

Here is the setup for free motion embroidery.  I do also add the Super Slider on the machine to make it work really smoothly when I am using my domestic machine.  I find I really don’t need the slider when I do the embroidery on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, which I find I prefer now that I have that option.

 

Here I am stitching a horse’s tail for my quilt Canterbury Knight using the method described herein.

Here is the tail on the horse on the quilt. There is not enough contrast to see it well, but after it was quilted it showed up fairly well.

Horse with newly groomed tail

And the final finished quilt that has won several nice ribbons.

Canterbury Knight

Surprisingly, I found when working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm that the heavily weighted gripper rings designed for quilting work wonderfully as hoops for free motion embroidery when using that wonderful machine.  I don’t have a link for that, but they are available probably for order at a Bernina dealership.  I balked at the price, but waited for a really good sale and I really really like them.  I know you can get a cheaper black set without the open space on the rings for sliding on, but I love the lovely red of the rings as well as the little open spaces.  For these, you just put the layers together and the first thing you do is stitch around the layers  well away from your design to hold them together much as you would do for a quilt sandwich.  These would probably not work well on a domestic machine, even the machines with larger harps, but they are divine on my sitdown longarm for both quilting and embroidery.

https://www.franknutt.co.uk/media/catalog/product/b/e/bernina_gripper_rings.jpg

So I set up my motif build with a layer of heavy clear washaway stabilizer, such as OESD badge master, or Sulky Super Solvy on the bottom, on which I have lightly marked the design guidelines with a Crayola Fine Line Washable Marker.  On top is a layer of nylon tulle to hold everything together even if it isn’t a stand-alone design.   I find when it is finished and I soak away the stabilizer, the tulle can be gently torn along the edge of the stitched motif and not seen at all once appliqued.

If the motif also includes a fill of applique fabrics, I cut the shape and glue them to the tulle with washable glue stick and that is the first thing I stitch around to hold them in place before beginning.  Then I hoop the whole thing together with the inside hoop on top so the fabric/stabilizer bundle is flat on the bottom.

Now I use the same kind of sandwich if I am doing digitized in-the-hoop machine embroidery motifs.  Here’s one I made that way that also went on Noel.

I digitized this star and then embroidered it off the quilt using the method described herein.

After I soak off the washaways and let it almost dry but is still a little damp, I will press it upside down on my wool ironing pad with a light weight cotton ironing cloth over it.  It then can be basted down in place on your project and attached with a narrow zig-zag or free motion off and on the motif using the same thread you used at the edge of the motif.  I usually also stitch inside the motif just a little where appropriate to give it some concept of having been stitched directly in place and highlight some of the shaping.  It doesn’t take much stithing to make it wonderful.

You would be amazed what you can do with this method by just adding that little bit of tulle and over=stitching a tiny bit after placement on the main background. Then  you won’t have the ruffles.  You can also use this method to make some interesting trapunto designs.

Video Update:  My oldest son decided he needed to provide some significant help for my video making and asked me to pull the original video on Wool Applique by Machine.  Don’t worry folks, if you were interested in my videos, they will happen and will be far better than they would have without his assistance.  I will certainly announce the videos when they are available.  This should not be very long from now…maybe a week or two for the first one, but I will let you know.  I have a long list of vlogs and video classes I am planning.

Sew happy everyone!  Go make something wonderful.

 

 

Fine Tuning Fabric Art Projects: Threads

As many of you know I love decorative threads and I love using them with appliques and in all kinds of machine embroidery and other uses in the course of my fabric art making.  Sew I decided to write a little bit about my favorites and how I like to use them.

First of all, for general success be sure when you thread your machines to run the cross wound threads off the top  and the stack wound threads straight out.  Most machines have instructions in their manuals for how to do this.  Also, if using a cone, be sure to use a cone net to make it work evenly.

Perspective in Threads, one of my earlier pieces that, except for the borders, is a whole cloth piece using four different thread weights.

12 weight threads:  These threads are wonderful to use when you want your stitching to show.  Since I am currently on a wool kick, I will start with wool thread.  Wool thread makes beautiful accents for wool appliques, machine embroidery, or Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.  I like Aurifil’s Lana wool blend threads.  I use 100/16 top stitch titanium coated needles by Superior with it and Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton in the bobbin.  These threads are a bit linty, since wool is linty, so you have to clean out the thread path and the bobbin area after every couple of hours of stitching with it, but it provides such a wonderful result.  I also set the top tension lower with this thread and stitch more slowly than I usually do because it has a tendency to break, though not bad if you do these things.  I’m sure these are the reasons thay added the acrylic in an effort to control the downside of wool as a thread.

The Spanish moss in the quilt below were all stitched on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm with Aurifil wool blend thread that I bought in the large 383 yard spools.

Night on the Bayou
59″ x 31″
Inspired by a painting by Disney artist
Joel Christopher Payne
       used  by permission.

 

So I did a lot of testing and find that for stitching with my two domestic sewing machines that a lot of different brands of 12 weight cotton work just fine for feed dogs up sewing, but the one that works the best for me for free motion stitching is Sulky 12 weight cotton.  It has less knotting and other problems as long as I use the same 100/16 topstitch needle and slightly lower the upper tension.  I use Superior Bottom Line 60 weight polyester in the bobbin with 12 weight cotton at the default setting although for heavy decorative patterns or in the hoop embroidery I tighten the bobbin tension one click to the right in my Bernina 880 plus.

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015
Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton. Appliqued with Monopoly.

When I am sewing on my Bernina sitdown longarm Q20, I frequently use Superior’s M Style prewound bobbins, which are also Botton Line.  They are so evenly wound and work very well.  I just make sure I am putting them in the right direction (I usually write Bernina on the right side) and just use them exactly as if I were using a Bernina bobbin I wound.  For my Q20 I set the bobbin tension at about 180 for Bottom Line.

40 Weight Threads: 40 weight embroidery threads are wonderful and they are the thread I use the most for embroidery and quilting.  I use them in both the top and the bobbin when making a show quality quilt, although I also often use Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin too.  For the most part, I use two different 40 weight brands.  I use an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch titanium coated needle with these threads.  These needles stitch much longer than most and if you are stitching through fusible webs, they don’t seem to attract as much of the glue on the needle.  For the most part, default tensions work with these threads.

  • Superior Magnifico poly, Fantastico variegated poly, which are basically the same thread except Magnifico is solid and Fantastico is variegated.
  • Superior King Tut cotton which is matte finish and usually requires the larger 90/14 needle
  • Isacord poly.  I started out embroidering with this thread.  It is very good, but not as shiny as the Magnifico or Fantastico.  It does make a nice quilting thread.

Stitched with Magnifico in a goldish color.

Monopoly

I only use Superior’s Clear Monopoly or black Monopoly It is so thin and strong, and it does not show up shiny like some monopolies.  I understand there are others that are reportedly just as good, but I know this is a successful monopoly.  I use it for stitch in the ditch and applique when I want to hide the stitching.  This works best for me with a 70/10 or 80/12 universal Schmetz needle, which is larger than recommended.  The reason is the point of a universal is not as sharp and if it “steps” on the thread it is less likely to break it than a sharp pointed needle.  It took me a while to learn this one.  Your machine may prefer a different size needle, but I encourage you to use a universal needle.  You have to be a little careful with this thread as it is so very lively and can wrap itself around things in the bobbin and so forth.  It is so very hard to see, but it provides a wonderful result and once you get your machine set up right it sews very well.  I set the top tension really low, even down to 1.0 or 1.5.  I do not put it in the bobbin, so I use Bottom Line with it.  I do not cut it with the machine cutter, but rather pull it out a little further than usual so it doesn’t pull back out of the needle when cut, which I have found it often does otherwise.  I do a little back stitching to tie it off.  You can’t see any thread buildup in that case and it holds it better even than a hand knot.

Metallic Threads

Metallic threads are so beautiful and I confess it has been my greatest challenge in getting it to work well, but I decided to apply the same set up for metallics as I do for Monopoly only I use a 90/14 Superior top stitch needle for success.  I was told to use a Metalic thread needle, but I did not find that as successful.  It may be the way I sew, who knows.  In any event after some testing I find I prefer Superior Metallic threads and I run it through the path on my machines that allows me to use the Bernina thread lubricant, or I just use a thread lubricant on the spool before stitching.  It is really important to test things on a test piece before using any of these threads on your project.

Light Weight Threads

When I don’t want to use a Monopoly for one reason or another, I like to use a 100 weight thread.  These threads make wonderful quilting threads especially when you want to have the quilting sink into the background, do microquilting, or are appliqueing so it looks like hand applique.  My favorites for these techniques are Superior Kimono 100 weight silk thread, and Superior Microquilter 100 weight poly.

I have already mentioned Superior’s 60 weight Bottom Line for bobbin work, but I also have successfully used it as a top quilting thread, a piecing thread, and even to make clothing.  It is strong and pretty.  It also sinks nicely into the background, but spreads a little more color than 100 weight when you are doing microquilting.

When using these threads in the top, I use a Superior 70/10 top stitch titanium coated needle and lower the top tension to about a 1.75 for the silk or 2.25 for the poly.  If you start having trouble with breakage, you might try an 80/12 top stitch needle.

So I made a chart some years back for use with my Bernina Q20.  I just updated it this week, and thought I would include it here.  Yes, I am aware there are differences from previous versons of this chart, but I have continued to make adjustments as I learned more.  Your own machines may need adjusting, but the point is that threads of all kinds may need their own special settings for optimal results.  So do some experimenting and testing.  I encourage you to create your own guides and have fun with those fabulous threads.

Sew happy everyone!  Go forth and create something wonderful or just have some fun in your own studiois.

 

 

Upcoming Free YouTube Class

Hi sewists, fabric wizards, and all round lovers of fabric, thread, and maybe paint for making something fun or beautiful.  Do you admire those beautiful wool applique items that are often made all by hand, but would like to try making something similar by machine? I am going to present a free video class with multiple videos on YouTube in the next few weeks (I’ll announce exactly when shortly), and I hope you will join me.

I  am planning on presenting a simple shapes project in wool applique.  It  will be easy and fun, but it requires some complexity of teaching to cover it  adequately so I will be dividing this in three or four video classes on YouTube. This will provide the techniques for making a beautiful small machine appliqued and embellished wool wall hanging to celebrate Fall.

If you want to participate in this, you will want to gather the supplies for this free class.  I am thinking the first video, which I have already shot and am currently editing will be ready some time next week.

Sew here is the list of what you may wish to gather (with links) if you want to make one or two.  Mine is 22 by 25 inches, but you can make yours the best fit for where you want to place it.  It is kind of free style field of flowers using simple shapes and the result will make a nice gift or decoration for the fall season.  You probably have a lot of these supplies already, so check your stash first, but here are some links to what I use if you need to do some shopping.

  1. Background piece…I recommend a yard of melton wool (boiled felted wool) in a dark or deep color:  Black wool (this linked page has other color options); or you can use a solid quilt cotton if desired.  A yard of the wool is 58 inches wide and so it will make two or even three small wall hangings and it has a lovely look when complete. You can also use a less expensive wool blend coating  with real success.
  2. Six or more colors of small pieces of wool felt.  Be sure to include some green if you like green stems and leaves.  I have found precut sets for somewhat reasonable prices in two places and there are several selections for you to choose from. You may have trouble picking because they all look lovely, so maybe buy more and plan on making two.  Here are some suggestions:
  3. Two yards of fusible lightweight interfacing to stabilize the background fabric. Either of these will work.
  4. Steam a seam fusible
  5. A selection of your favorite 40 weight embroidery threads, light weight bobbin thread that matches the background, Superior Monopoly, and 12 weight wool threads (if desired).  I use a wide variety.  Wool thread is expensive, so I suggest you start with the small spools set that will be suffecient for you to do this project and lets you see if you like using it before investing in larger spools.
  6. High quality Sewing Machine needles (these are the ones I use):
  7. Sew check my page Aids and Links at the top of this blog or on the menu if you are reading on a phone.  There you will find a pdf file with simple shapes for wool project that provides patterns for simple shapes if you need them.  Download this and print it.  Or, you can use your simple circles, leaves, and vines you may have in Accuquilt Cutter dies instead if you have these.
  8. A piece of batting that is not very thick large enough for the background piece.  This is a good place to use some of that leftover batting.
  9. Cotton quilting fabric large enough for the back of this little quilt and binding (if desired, though you may wish to do a finish edge with decorative stitching).

I am still very new at making these videos, so that is why I can’t figure out exactly when I will be able to publish them.  My tentative deadline for this is next Wednesday.  Of course, since it is a YouTube video, once it is published you will be able to use it any time and watch more than once.  This first class and the downloads are free, but it would be lovely if you use my links for your supplies.

Sew happy everyone.  Spend some time in your studio.

 

Wool Applique and Other Things

Hi dear readers.  I am pretty excited because I have finally gotten a good start on my wool applique project and have made a decision about what I will work on for my secondary project.

Test and practice piece I made to make some decisions before starting the actual project.

So today I pulled together all the pieces I have had around the studio for a while that are available for my wool project.  I was pleased to find my packages of felt that I had bought some years ago are fine melton wool felt .  These are mostly two unused packages of a variety of colors I bought them from Nancy’s Notions probably 7 or 8 years ago and they are in wonderful shape. They don’t have these now, so I recommend Sue Spargo sets such as the blue set or the red set I highlighted available on Amazon.

Here are the melton wool pieces I will be using for this project. The background reddish brown piece is richer in color than it appears in this picture. It is one of the new pieces I ordered from a tailoring supply place in California. The smaller precuts were purchased years ago in multicolored packs and are also melton wool felt.

I have several gorgeous melton wool pieces in one yard cuts that I ordered about a month ago.  Since the wool applique projects I am making for my book and videos are small, these 60 inch wide one yard cuts will make two or even three of the projects background pieces, a test piece, and are likely to have small leftover bits that can be added to the smaller pieces for the appliques.

Detail showing some of the decorative stitching.

I have also been identifying where to find the supplies for people who want to make these projects themselves.  I will share those with you at some later point once I figure it all out.

A detail from the test piece showing how well the applique is stitched on by machine with almost no visibility of the stitches.

I have some interesting hand woven placemats I bought somewhere sometime years ago and decided they were not going to work for placements for me, but they were really interesting handwoven look.  I don’t know the fiber content though I think it is cotton and wool, and I can’t even remember when or where I bought them. I washed and dried them by machine and they came out in good shape.  They will be an interesting addition for appliques I can use in the future or for the show quilt I am planning on making at the end of the great wool project.  Before I cut them out, they will have to be backed with interfacing and/or Steam-a-Seam fusible, which kind of acts as a stabilizer and will keep them from fraying.  I will show those to you when I figure where and how to use them.

Additional detail stitching. I am saving a library of these stitches as I have them set in the files on my Bernina 880 Plus. I have had this machine for about a year now and the more I use it the better I like it. It’s amazing.

Sew I have made a couple of decisions  for studio activities for the future.  I plan on making a new deep space quilt as my second project to work on for when I need a break from the wool project.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 one of my deep space quilts.

I always want two projects going at once to give my mind and sewing muscles differing things to do from time to time.  The neat thing is that deep space quilts are made almost entirely free motion with angelina fibers, a little bit of painting, and hot fix crystals.  That means it will mostly be done in Studio Fritz the room where my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown machine (Fritz) resides.   While the wool project will mostly be done in Studio Gibbs where my Bernina 880 plus  (Odette) lives and where my cutting/painting/whatever island is.  I also plan a bit of needle punching with my little Bernina 350 for which I have the needle punch attachment. That, too, will be part of my book and video projects.

A Word About the Future of the Craft of Sewing

Okay.  I know I said two decisions.  The second one is to figure out the direction for my work for the future. I decided I don’t want to do online live classes like on Zoom, but I will do some hopefully enjoyable videos and put them on YouTube.  I have been and still am a studio artist and this is my main focus.  I did do some local classes at G Street Fabrics, and was kind of considering entering the larger teaching circuit, but that avenue is no longer available at the moment. I had found it so much work and it barely paid me back for the work and expenses I invested in the classes.  I loved it and glad I had the experience, but I won’t be returning to in person teaching.

While I still very much wish to share what I have learned, I am going to do this by writing books and making videos and perhaps the occasional trunk show if invited.  I will continue to work in my slow way toward these goals.

I don’t know if the quilt shows will fully come back for years.  I am going to still make professional show-quality art quilts, and capture the making of them in videos and blogs and books.  If the in-person shows come back, I will then have some to enter just for fun, but I’m not going to stop making them.  I don’t know what I will do with them beyond that and giving them away here and there or selling one every so often and enjoying them myself.

Don’t worry when you hear of shows closing and people changing their current paths in the quilting or sewing world.  The sky is not falling. There even appears to be some new interest in sewing and quilting brought on by people making masks and experimenting with sewing during the pandemic. Sew if you have the opportunity, teach someone to sew even if it is remotely.  As Becky Thompson on her YouTube Vlog Power Tools with Thread likes to say “Go sew something!”

Repurposing Sewing Patterns and Die Cut Shapes

Hi readers!  Yes, I am done with my mom’s memory quilt except for completing the hand sewing on of the butterflies.  They are taking a while.  I am very pleased with the quilt both front and back now, and if there is no show to enter it into this fall, I will go ahead and post pictures of it, which I have yet to take. But for now I am hoping to enter it first into the Mancuso show in Pennsylvania in September.

I was chatting with a friend of mine this week and we agreed that we both need new summer clothes…simple tops and simple pants made from pretty durable fabrics.  I took a look at the pattern sites and was horrified at all the ruffles and dresses straight out of the hippy Woodstock era that are definately not for me. But I did find just what I wanted in my own pattern stash and I realized some of them are still available online.  It might surprise you but I found a couple of particularly nice patterns in the “uniform/scrub” category.  I purchased McCall’s M6473.

Here is the pattern made up into scrubs.

But in looking at the line drawings accompanying the pattern, I realized they are exactly what I was looking for and, made in the right fabrics and adding some embellishments I would have the summer patterns I wanted…quick, easy, and stylish.  These are just right for my daily life.  Take a look.

The pants have a dual waistband with a smooth front and elastic sides and back and really fun pockets. All three versions of the top are perfect canvases for some interesting fancy stitches, embroidery or appliques to spice them up. These tunics are nice and loose but not pregnancy tops.

I also found in my pattern stash a Simplicity pattern I have had for some time, Simplicity 2371, that has a lot of the same characteristics, though I think the scrub pants are a little better.  I will do all the size testing/fixing on the scrubs slacks and make a couple of pair of those out of some nice sturdy knit fabrics I have for that purpose that I bought at least over a year ago.  But I will probably make some version of the long leeved tunic on th Simplicity pattern.

The Simplicity pattern from my stash. Note the pants have a simple full elastic waist and no pockets…not what I wanted exactly. But the long sleeve tunic provides a suggestion for the embellishment. I would be adding something more.

Now as I was browsing through my pattern stash I saw a plethora of bag patterns, my vintage pattern collection, and some really gorgeous jackets and suits for dressier, colder times.  I have the fabric for most of that too.  Yes, my clothing stash, though carefully trimmed, is still quite wonderful.  I will make at least one nice winter suit for this year, but mostly I am still losing weight, but not very fast, still…I want to save some of the nicer fabrics for later.  I already have some really nice summer dressier clothes.  Some of these I made and some I bought and I have kept them pretty much altered to my size as I have gone down.  So mostly I need casual summer clothes for daily wear in my studio and some nicer pieces for fall and winter.

Sew all of this clothing sewing I will fit in here and there between my quilting projects.

This made me think about how I was going to approach my wool applique project.  I have a lot of Accucut Go! dies with flowers, leaves, birds and animals, and decorative shapes.  I think I will simply cut out a lot of them in multiple colors after I back the small wool and other similar pieces  I have with a fusible and play around with making a hands on design.  Many of these have patterns with them and were designed for specific things, but I am breaking up the sets and making a bowl full of these pieces.  I also need to figure out some vines and stems, and I am thinking I may have to draw up another animal shape or two.  This should be a fun project and will result in a small sampler, a book, and a show quilt.

Sew you see, you don’t have to use the patterns or pieces like the original designer intended, and you can often find just what you want by opening your creative mind and looking further at the designs and giving them some thought.

So next I will start two new quilting projects…the wool applique one and a more complex art quilt design in one of my ongoing series.  This second half of the year promises to be much more fun than the first half.  I am hoping and praying that in spite of the darkness of the hour in the country, the light will begin to shine through and clear away the dark.  Like the hymn that has been buzzing around my head for at least a week “Morning has broken, like the first morning…”  Remember, morning starts at the darkest part of the 24 hours.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourself something fun just for you.

 

 

 

Risk Taking in the Studio

Test sampler I made before starting my Mom’s memory quilt.

When I make a show quilt I have a variety of steps that can be a little bit scary, even if they are also fun. I have to take the risk or I would never accomplish the things I want to do. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I pretest, when I am actually working through the quilt project, things come up that are unexpected and must be either corrected or otherwise dealt with.  I am currently trying hard to finish my Mom’s memory quilt, which proves my point.  It has been a real challenge from the start and seems even more so the closer I get to the end.

Sew I finished the loooooooooong period of heavy quilting, unquilting, quilting, unquilting, quilting.  Each part of the quilt had a different sort of quilting that required much thought and practice, but even so, I have not been as happy with it as I had hoped.  I have been working on this quilt for mny hours over the course of a year.  The top looks really pretty good, but I am not as happy with the back.  Still, I love the quilt.

Today, I have been painting the flowers and birds on the white satin that I spent mnths quilting.  The painting is going fairly well on the top, but a few spots have soaked through to the white back.  I think I have control over that now and will not have any more soaking through, and if so, I can use the upper corner where that happened as the place to put the additional label I have planned for all along that will give a little bio and a picture of my mom.  I don’t think I can get away with more thanone of those, however…lol.  So if I do have more trouble with soaking through, I will have to color the back flowers and leaves using something that I know won’t soak through like fabric crayons, which would look nice, but I would rather not do that.  Hopefully I will be able to complete the painting without additional problems of the paint soaking through (I got my brush too wet).   Before I started this I made the sampler above and had no problems with the paints soaking through.  I have painted after quilting on many quilts, and I am pretty sure it was just that I got my brush too wet. Sigh!

Earlier this week we (or rather my son David, who is in control of  our washer that is on his level in our townhome..lol) washed the quilt to get the Crayola washable gel pen markings out of it and set it up for blocking.  I  had told him to wash it on the hand wash cycle with cold water and Wooolite.  It did not entirely come out.  I have to say I was stressed over that.  But anyway, he rewashed it another time using the same directions and more of it came out but not all.  So I suggested warm wash with Synthrapol, and then it all came out.  It also did not damage it in any way and looks fabulous overall.  The quilt has a double bat with an 80/20 bat on the back and a wool bat on the top.  I had done a bunch of testing of the Crayola washable gel pens before I marked the quilt top using the same fabric.  But when I did the test I washed it out with Synthrapol, not Woolite, and I only dried it a few hours and ironed it instead of having it sit in the fabric a year.  So I suspect that is what the difference is, but it might just have been the warm water or the third wash. The point is, it came out and it was a great help while it was in the quilt. I would most certainly use it again even if I have to wash my quilt several times.  But I kind of think just one wash in warm water with the Synthrapol would have done the job.

Oddly, the part that I was most worried about when washing/blocking…the appliqued on crocheted ten inch lace blocks my Mom made…came through the wash without a bit of trouble and they even look refreshed and truly beautiful.

I had originally thought this quilt would end up a little over 60 x 60 inches, but all the quilting drew it in to about 58 x 58 in the end.  I haven’t bound it yet, but that’s what I think it will end up.  It will, therefore, be a small wall quilt in whatever shows it is in, if they will even let it in, or if they even open.

Sew you see, when I make a show quilt, there are lots of things that can and often do go wrong.  What I have found is that I have had to develop a set of approaches to fix problems when they happen, or criteria to help decide when I can let it go and stay as it is.  Afterall, I am not a machine.  I do not make perfect quilts.  I think small flaws can actually add to the beauty and magic of a quilt. I’m not sure judges agree. But sometimes, I may even have to let it go and not enter them into shows.  I think this one will be ok for entry.  We’ll see when I’m done. I am sure those keen eyed judges will see every little flaw and tell me about them if they provide feedback.  They always do.  Hahahah.

In addition to binding, I still have the painting and to add lots of pearls to the quilt. Some of those pearls are possibly going to be Swarowski hot fix pearls, but I have to test that first, because my quilt top is made from polyester crepe back satin and polyester dupioni…it’s gorgeous.  It quilted beautifully, but I will have to test to see if the hot fix pearls go on ok without a hitch, and stay, and don’t melt or burn the fabric.  I once slightly burned a silk dupioni quilt in one spot with the hot fix crystals I started to add.  I ended up glueing the crystals all on, which I found I didn’t like doing at all.  Later on, I learned that I could use the transfer tape to help apply the crystals.  It holds them in place and provides a bit of heat protection of the fabric when I used the hot fix applicator.  So I am hopeful I can use the hot fix pearls for this quilt.  But it is another risk, and the last thing I do to complete the quilt I have spent so many hours on for a year now.

I am planning on making slightly smaller art quilts for a while.  They might actually sell better, since people may be able to find spaces on their walls for them.  But I will continue to do those risky techniques that make the end quilt look so fabulous.  I hope you will too.

I am hoping we are all able to begin to come out of our homes and are still stay well.  Just like a show quilt, risks are required if we are to accomplish anything good.  I personally don’t think we as a country can stay away from work for much longer without the entire world economy collapsing, which is also a massive threat to peoples’ lives, health, and overall well being…even more threatening than the Covid 19.  But we can take precautions as we go out, wearing our pretty face masks we probably all made or had made for us and washing our hands, using sanitization methods in our houses, cars, and places of business, and keeping our distance for a while.  There has been much progress in understanding this thing and how to treat it and they are still moving forward.

Sew happy everyone!  Make something fun.

 

 

A Sunny Mother’s Day and Considering Next Steps in My Studio

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone.  Yes, many of you are mothers and grandmothers, but I know a couple of you who have no children but provide much learning and support to us quilters and sewists in motherly fashion.  So Happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers (even the guys).   My oldest son Ken has already called to talk with me, and my youngest son David, who shares my home with me, is going to cook a steak dinner tonight.  Lovely!

My side yard

It’s gorgeous here in Ashburn, Virginia.  About 65 and totally sunny with not a cloud in the sky.  I just spend about an hour out back enjoying it all.  The back of my house looks out into a small woods, just thick enough so I can’t see over to the next part of the neighborhood and thin enough so developers won’t come and build back there.  The wildlife is delightful that live there…birds of several varieties, bunnies, turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, and even foxes.  I feed the birds so I can see them and they pay me back by keeping down the gnats and flies and singing to me.

My youngest son David on the upper deck.

Sew I had hoped to finish the quilt I am making in memory of my wonderful mom, but though I have made great progress, I still have a ways to go.  I have finished the quilting on the central part of the quilt and am working on the borders.  I put freeform feathers on the bottom border, and I plan on doing the same on the top border.  I got some new stencils and am have marked a beautiful vine with leaves coming down both sides.  Since I quilt everything to death, except my snuggle utility quilts, I have a lot of quilting to go yet.  And then I will have to wash it to remove the markings, and paint some of it.  So there is much to do still.  I had thought it would not be pretty enough on the back to be a good show quilt, but I just turned it completely over and was surprised to find it is beautiful.  Yes, there are flaws, but it is still beautiful.  The flaws don’t seem to show much on the front.  Some of them will be removed, others will maybe go under a label or two (I’m thinking of writing a little biography of my mom in a simple text label in addition to the who made it when and so forth label).

What’s Next?

Sew I am close enough to being done with Mom’s quilt to think about what my next major project will be.   I actually have three going now.  One is my own personal snuggle quilt for my bed using Sue Nickles applique blocks that I just use to work on when I want to do something that is just relaxing sewing, one is a fairly extensive project of wool applique by machine that I am simultaneously writing a book about.

I have found that there is a slight bit of room in the art quilting world for books that people with advanced machines may want to have.  There are a lot of how to quilting books for beginners, piecing books, and yes, even some advanced art quilting books, but I think while there are some books out there for people with all these wonderful stitches and feet and other attachments, that area might still have room for some skill building books for using these advanced machines many of us have.  Wool applique by machine is my first of these skill-building books I am working on (I just bought a second camcorder and will be making videos too).

Another book I am thinking of is multiple deep space quilts using a variety of methods in homage to the magnificent deep space scenes you can find many of on NASA’s website that are copyright free.  Here I have some credentials in the quilting world, because I have won several nice ribbons on my deep space quilts and I have many more to make.  So I thought this would be a good book and already have it underway using photos I took while creating some of these quilts.  I plan on making several more, some step outs and some small ones to sell for people who may want one of these for their wall, or to give as a gift.  Of course, I will be producing show quilts from this project also, giving my work double, or even triple use (I will be making some videos too).

Sttitching Spiral Quilt 3 with a reference picture.  I gave this quilt to Ken and Beth.

I guess maybe that is all I can do this year, but it doesn’t stop me from planning other quilts, and thinking about how I can incorporate them into books and videos.  I may speed up, and some of these books are nearly written and only need a few samplers. so it might not be as overwhelming as it sounds.

I would love for my readers to tell me what they want me to teach by book and video (I am not going to do much travel for a while), realizing that I have been sewing for more than sixty years, having even once owned my own fashion design business, and quilting since 2009, with ribbons and other awards to my name.

One of my most prized awards that may sound unrelated, but is not, is a simple honorable mention I won in Kanazawa Japan decades ago.  I studied Ikebana there, receiving my fourth year Sogetsu School Ikebana certificate, the next one, had I continued, would have been a master certificate.  While there, I entered a flower show and made an arrangement using great big sunflowers, chrysanthemums, and swooping curls of broomstick.  It won an honorable mention.  Theoretically, it was anonymous.  But there were some magnificent arrangements there.  It’s something I have never forgotten. Nor have I forgotten a single bit of my training.  I have sketch books with some of my arrangements too.  A flower arranging quilt would be fun.

Kanazawa Memories, with machine stitched sashiko and a fabric Ikebana arrangement I made by printing individual flowers on fabric and appliqueing them into an arrangement.  I lived in Kanazawa Japan for three years as a young woman.  I no longer own this quilt.

In the stitching/sewing world, I can probably teach almost anything except piecing and hand sewing.  I can do those things, but only at about an intermediate level, whereas clothes, tailoring, and now art quilting, I consider myself to be at an expert level in many of the techniques.  Please comment and send me your questions or suggestions either here, on Facebook or send me an email/message, realizing it will be a while before I get the answers to you, unless it is a simple answer I can put on my blog.  Also, what do you think of my planning to write books for people with higher tech machines?

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you get to go out and enjoy the great beauty of spring or fall wherever you are.

 

 

 

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Thread Decisions

I don’t know about you, but my thread stash has grown to equal or beyond my fabric stash over the past few years.   I think this is caused by my many ideas for quilted art.  I have learned that the different weights and types of threads can make a huge difference in the success of the finished project.  Additionally, a lot of my quilted art projects have a lot of thread art that livens them up.

Sew I am currently trying hard to finish up the quilt I am making in my Mom’s memory using those beautiful 10 inch crocheted lace blocks as the center.  I just changed threads from a beautiful blue Superior 40 weight Magnifico, which is a polyester thread with a lovely sheen that matches my border fabric, to a Superior monopoly, which I truly have a very hard time seeing.  I am using Monopoly in the central pentagon where the five chrocheted blocks are.

This small quilt sampler has seven different thread types.

Now my Bernina machines sew well with this thread, but it took me a while to learn how to get that to happen.  After much trying and crying, I finally found that it works best with an 80/14 Universal needle.  If I use the top stitch needles I normally use for quilting, the needle will eventually “step on” the thread and break it.  It also requires the significant lowering of the upper thread tension and I use it with a 60 weight polyester bobbin thread (Superior Bottom Line). This thread is a very lively thread and requires threading to control it as much as possible.  I use the thread paths that cross the little pad with the pink silicone liquid, otherwise known as the thread lubrication unit.  This also adds a little tension to the top thread, and requires and additional little bit of tension lowering, but it holds it in the thread path really well and I am able to use it with hardly a bother.  I do this for both my Bernina 880 plus and my sitdown longarm Bernina Q20.

thread lubrication path on my Bernina Q20.

Thread Lubrication Unit on my Bernina 880 plus.

Thread lubrication path on another Bernina. They look a little different for each of the Bernina machines that has one.

For my little B350, my travel machine, it doesn’t seem to need as much control, but the thread path isn’t as long, and I figure that is why.   Happily these adjustments also work well with any 100 weight thread I use (I use both polyester and silk for various things).

My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head. Even for this more simple machine, I do samplers before beginning to stitch a project. Circles make nice samples.

Deciding what threads to use on a project requires, once again, some testing and practice.  This is one of the big reasons I always make a practice quilted piece before I actually begin my main project.  The questions to ask that can only be answered with a little testing include:

  1. Do I want the stitching to take a front place in the overall design?  If so, use a heavier contrasting thread, even if the contrast is only one or two steps away from the fabric.  If not, use a lighter thread that matches as closely as possible the fabric, or even use a monopoly if I am stitching over a variety of fabrics in a small area (or, in this case, over hand crocheted lace).
  2. Is the stitching going to hide down in the seam or along the edge of an applique in stitch-in-the-ditch.  Or is the stitching echoing along the edge to highlight the applique or some element in the fabric, for instance.  Sometimes, like a halo, I might want the thread to be slightly or even strongly contrasting for this purpose.  The only way to tell is give it a try.
  3. What type of fabric is the stitching going on?
    • Right now, I am planning a substantial wool applique project that will include the writing of a large chapter in a book (or breaking into its own book), and will result in several samplers, the book project, and a separate show quilt.  This project requires decorative threads.  I am planning to use a variety of threads…primarily 12 weight wool/acrylic blend thread by Aurifil with a 50 weight cotton in the bobbin for most of the stitching at default tension settings with a longer stitch length, but also 40 weight Magnifico and Isacord embroidery threads, and metallic threads for some places.  These are all hopefully going to enhance and showcase the project.
    • For most of my cotton quilted projects I use the combination of 100 weight threads to sink into the background, and 40 weight embroidery threads to show the stitching.  But sometimes, I need additional types for a special thing.  I sometimes use 12 weight cotton thread by Sulky, which I have found runs smoother through the 100 weight top stitch needle with less mess on the back than other brands.  I tried a lot of brands before I settled on this one.  I have a lot of Superior 12 weight cottons that I sometimes use, but only my Bernina 880 plus and my little B350 seem to be ok with that.  My Q20 makes knots on the back with it no matter how I set the tensions and so forth. It might be the way I stitch.  Who knows.  Anyway, I usually use the Bottom Line with that in the bobbin and set the top tension just a little looser than normal to accommodate the width of the thread passing through the tension discs.

So you see, there are lots of considerations that make the thread choices successful.  Batting types and fabric densities, and yes, even the weather have an impact on these decisions.  That is why one really does need to make a small test piece, using the same fabrics, battings, needles, and so forth to practice on before stitching on your main project.  I write them down in my book I keep on projects, so I can return to these settings when needed.  It is truly helpful.  Also, be patient with the thread changes if you are stitching your masterpiece quilted art project especially.  They make a big difference.

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016. This quilt had 32 thread changes in the sky alone.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay healthy and have some fun in your studio while we are all still under house arrest quarentine.  And even after we are able to get out and move around, I hope you don’t abandon your studio.  Hugs!

 

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part 4 Trees

The flowers and new spring growth are everywhere. I love this area at this time of year. I processed this picture of a nearby redbud (I think that’s what it is) as a “dreamscape”.  Not sure I caught the feeling right, but still…it’s pretty.

I am thinking my dear readers are possibly at the stage of thinking “will this never end” concerning our stay-at-home orders.  At first we were kind of shocked, then a bit scared, then ready to gung ho make face masks or whatever we could do, then start learning things, and now, after all of that, we are still here.  Still at home.  Still going to be at home for weeks yet. Sigh.  Oh, my, will this never end!  Well, yes, it most certainly will. Then we will have to pick up our alternative busy life styles where we will wish to goodness we had a little more time to quilt or sew.  Well, I won’t because I am retired and blessed to be working in my studio full time now anyway.  But I will have things to do outside of my studio and things that pull against my getting projects done.

Sew now that you have made your face masks or are coming to the end of that project, what are you working on or planning on working on?  (As an aside:  Quilted Art for me includes art quilts, traditional and contemporary quilts, quilted clothing, and quilted bags and other three dimensional items.)  If you are like me, you have more than one project going, or at least going on in your head.  Do they include trees?  I love making trees.

Trees for your quilted art

I love adding trees to my pictorial quilted art pieces, but I’m thinking that trees can be a really neat thing to add to lots of types of quilted art such as a jacket or skirt.  I didn’t realize until recently that I have learned or even developed many ways to come up with trees over the years, mostly made as embellishment items using thread painting, yarn couching, and applique and I thought I would share some of them with you.  The really neat thing about making trees for fabric art is they are so forgiving. They don’t require precision, but they do require looking at real trees and seeing what you can learn from them using your imagination.  Are they straight?  Are they interestingly textured? Are they spooky? Are they happy little trees?  Do the leaves read as a a bunch or individually or both?  What is the color of the trunk?  Try drawing the tree out first.

Machine Embroidering Trees or Parts of Trees

This tree is the stitchout from an olive tree I digitized in my Bernina software on wash-away stabilizer. I placed a tree photo in the art side and traced it by hand digitizing it in the embroidery side of the software (for further information on how to do this kind of digitizing, see my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8).  The same could possibly be done by drawing it onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer and free motion embroidering it. I have done that too, but could not find a good picture. In both cases I would advise using a layer of black nylon veiling under the stitching to hold everything together off the quilt and then appliqueing it on.  One of the cool things about digitizing it this way, is that you can get the coloring very close to the photograph, the texture of the tree trunk close to how it really should look.  I used this tree on several Nativity quilts I have made.  That’s the other thing, if you digitize it in your design software, you can restitch it for another project later on.

Here is the first tree trunk I ever digitized and embroidered out.  It required a double hooping and I missed the connection just barely, so I free motion zig zagged the connecting place and you can’t see where it was.  In fact, I have even forgotten where it is and cannot figure it out even with close examination.  So even if you make a mistake like that, you can sometimes fix it on the spot without having to redo the whole thing.  I stitched it out with a variegated thread.  Here is the whole quilt “The Storyteller”.

But even though in this quilt, the tree trunk makes a happy tree, when you look at the stitchout design by itself you can probably readily see that the same trunk would make a really fun spooky tree where you could place a raven or an owl for Halloween.   So working out these things in digizing software gives you lots of additional options that can save you a lot of time on other projects.

Trees without the use of digitizing software and embroidery module

So sometimes I want to just applique my trees down.  In this case, I usually use steam-a-seam 2 and free cut out with scissors the tree trunks and limbs and even leafy sections without a pattern.  Then I iron them on the top and use a single narrow blanket stitch with a close matching thread color to permanently attach them.  It’s so much fun!!!!

Here’s a quilt where all the trees are made that way.  The texture of the trees is added when quilting.  This was really fun to make.

Summer Melody, 2016, 33 x 29 inches.

And sometimes you can make a rather cool evergreen tree freehand with a combination of yarn couching the trunk with Superior monopoly thread and heavy 12 weight wool/acrylic Aurifil thread free motion embroidery for the tree’s needles.  Here is the one I made on my failed Bob Ross contest quilt.  I made this quilt while my wonderful old Bernina830, which I did a great deal of heavy work on for 8 plus years, was failing, and so many things went wrong in my studio during that time.  I am not surprised it did not make the contest, but I still love the tree I made for it here, which I made entirely freehand on my Bernina Q20 as kind of a reprieve from my B830 problems.  I now have a new Bernina 880 plus to take the 830s place and I love it.  So production in my studio is at full speed lately.  I suggest if you want to make such a tree that you make a practice first.  It requires a fairly substantial stabilizer under the tree area of the top because all that stitching draws it in and makes a problem without it.  I used Madeira Cotton Stable that I get from Nancy’s Notions on the whole quilt top.  It tears away later, and, since it is cotton, it will soften when washed.  I marked only one line representing the main trunk to keep it tilted just as I wanted.  It hardly matters what you mark it with because the mark is completely buried with yarn.  I did all of this before sandwiching the quilt.

Happy little tree

 

and then you can combine applique and free motion yarn couching and other thread work to come up with some rather dramatic trees.  In this case, I appliqued the big cyprus trunks and then did a lot of shading using fabric paints to give the tree trunks the right round shape.  The tree limbs were couched on with wool yarn, and the spanish moss was free motion stitched using 12 wt Aurifil wool/acrylic thread.  I premarked straight lines down for the spanish moss with chalk before stitching, because it takes a fair amount of concentration to keep it from drifting sideways in an unatural way.

Night on the Bayou, 2018

 

Up close

And lastly, I was just playing around one day and here you see the resulting winter scene with the trees using both couching for some, 12 weight thread for others,  40 weight polyester, and even 40 wt metallic for others.  It is the kind of practice piece I suggest you try if you are new to making trees with free motion fibers. As for all these quilts with heavy amounts of stitching, be sure to back it with a heavy stabilizer that either tears off or washes off to help with the draw in of the stitching.  I recently finished this as a little quilt sampler, but don’t have a picture of it yet but you can see the thread work here.

Sew happy everyone!  God bless you in this holy week and have fun in your studio while you await the end of the quarantine.  Have a blessed and happy Easter Sunday.