A Whimsical Cat Applique

Hi there.  I just digitized this cat applique for my Bernina v7 software book.  I am going to stitch it out later, when I go through the book to test everything.  I really love Dover Pictura, which has the following statement on their website:

“Whether you’re a crafter, craftsman, artist or designer you’ll find something that will excite your eye and inspire your work. Best of all, all of our image collections are royalty (and worry) free. Use them however you’d like as often as you wish.”

Wow!  “However you’d like”!!!!!  Imagine the possibilities! 😀 😀 So I am using their designs for most of the art basis of my Bernina v7 instructions.  Anyway, here’s the art from their American Folk Art Designs collection next to my applique design in Bernina v7 ready to stitch out where I left out some of the details:

Drawing Beside the Applique

Drawing Beside the Applique

For some appliques, I am not real crazy about the thick satin stitch around the edge, or even the alternate blanket stitch.  So I’m going to do a project in the book showing how you can change that.  Can you tell, I’m having fun?  I hope you are.

Sew happy everyone!

Inch by Inch: Updated Tools and Canterbury Knight

Inch by inch I am getting closer to my goals for “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts”, which is my new name for my coming micro-business.  Up until now, it has been a hobby, but I need to make enough money to keep on, and I want to be able to share things I have learned and my journey with my friends.  It will just be a micro business.  I am not going to take in quilting, for instance.  I may do more workshops and lectures, but I’m not going to get into the big circuit that requires a lot of travel.  I want to work here in my studio for the most part with an occasional visit elsewhere.  I plan on selling the how-to books I’m currently writing, a few quilts, some downloadable videos, in-the-hoop embroidery (software), and some print-on-your-own fabric digitally painted appliques…just enough to keep on buying supplies and equipment with maybe a little on the side for fun.

I updated my Bernina embroidery software to v7 this week.  It’s pretty fancy, and it does seem to have a lot of new tools.  It also has a completely different interface and it will take a while to find all the old tools and figure out how to use the new ones, but I think it is going to be a big improvement overall.  I’m going to take advantage of my dealer’s class on the software on the 31st.

Digitizing has become an important part of my quilting artwork.  Nearly every quilt now has at least one thing on it that I drew myself and then digitized myself and embroidered in my Bernina Embroidery module.   I have also been developing a flower quilt using my daughter in law’s wonderful photographs for in-the-hoop applique.  I felt I needed to update from v6.  V6 is a powerful program, but there are some things I believe v7 has that will help me a lot.

For a long time I have recorded my quilting progress with a little Nikon Coolpix pocket camera that I bought about ten years ago.  Most of the photos I share here were taken with that.  Last week, the motor that drives the lens died.  I bought a Nikon Coolpix s9700 to replace it.  It’s very like the old dead camera except that it’s a little bigger (but still fits in a pocket), the zoom is much more extensive in both directions, the macro can be much closer so I can really show stitches, the controls are much more extensive, so I can use manual aperture and other manual or auto settings.  It has several scene settings, like my old one did, so I can get a quick picture, but they are more extensive.  And it has the cutest little pop up flash.  My old camera could do a little video, but this one can do a really nice video…up to 29 minutes long.  I tried it out successfully, setting it up on a tripod and demonstrating how to cut out a fabric square just for practice.  I will be doing a lot more practice over the next few weeks.  Once I get handy at this, and figure out how, I will share some videos with you, and eventually, will make some downloadable videos for sale from my website.

Between all the nice technology, machines, cameras, and computer software I have assembled over the past three years since I retired, and the additional video and audio equipment my son Ken gave me, I should be able to realize my plan of  writing books and making videos to share my techniques and some patterns, embroidery software, and downloadable printable fabric designs from my website by the middle of the year.  Inch by inch I’m getting there.

Canterbury Knight Rides Forward:  I have just completed getting the big central block properly set into the seamless border.  Let me tell you, this was a HUGE struggle.  The fabric of the central block is 100% silk charmeuse…hand dyed…and the appliques are silk/cotton Radiance.  It is slippery, drapey, soft, and decidedly hard to control.  The challenge was to get the central block into the seamless black piece of black radiance in a perfect rectangle and perfectly aligned with the straight of grain of the black radiance.  It has taken me a full week, but I just accomplished this.  It probably would not have been so long if I had done two things…not gotten it in upside down in the first place, 🙂  and used more stabilizer from the beginning.  I ended up stabilizing BOTH the border AND the block.  I used Madeira Cotton Soft tearaway, which I love.  Contrary to its name, it is stiff.  It tears away easily, but stays together until you are ready for it to come away.  I have also found that the little bits that get left in soften when washed.  Perhaps that’s why they call it “Soft”.

I also used my fairly new laser square, designed for builders and carpenters, to make the rectangle as perfect as soft drapy, slippery silk can be.  I marked my central block cutting line with it with a thin chalk line and then cut it out with my rotary cutter.  I then marked the stabilizer along both the cutting and the seam lines for the border.  Here’s a picture of that (ignore the stuff in the background.).  See the red laser line and the level on the laser?  When it is level, it makes a perfect 90 degree angle and marks it for as far out as the table goes.

Using my laser square

Using my laser square

Sew happy everyone!  Learn how to do a new technique or practice one you know!  Inch by inch we can learn the techniques and gather the tools to realize our dreams.  It does not have to be done all at once.

Canterbury Knight: How to Make a Horse’s Tail

Stitching the appliques

Stitching the appliques

After stitching down the appliques, I did some free motion embroidery to make the tail, but it looked like a ghost tail, both because it did not have enough contrast from the background fabric and because it did not have enough stitching.  If I did any more it would have pulled the fabric too much.

The ghost tail

The ghost tail

So I decided to layer a new tail over the existing one by stitching one on black bridal veiling.  I layered two layers of washaway clear stabilizer, on which I had drawn the outline of the tail I needed to make, and covered it with the veiling.  Then I put this in my springform embroidery hoop, set up my machine for free motion stitching,

the setup

the setup

stitching independent tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and stitched a new tail using two different Superior Rainbow threads.

two rainbows

two rainbows

And then I trimmed the veiling applique, soaked off the stabilizer and appliqued the new tail over the old one, using a few more free motion lines similar to those on the tail.  I had to remove only a few stitches from the original ghost tail that did not add to the shape and were outside the appliqued veil tail.  Voila!  A new tail any appliqued horse could be proud of!  😀

Horse with newly groomed tail

Horse with newly groomed tail

In the process, my little faithful Nikon Coolpix 600 pocket camera that I have used for at least a decade now died.  The motor that runs the lens focus appears to be the culprit.  It would cost me almost as much to repair it as to replace it, if it even could be repaired.  I have carried that little light pocket camera almost everywhere I went since I retired.  I use it to keep records of my work, and to make the photographs for this blog. The picture above of the rainbow threads is the last picture it ever took. (Insert “Farewell to my little camera” aria here–those of you who are opera buffs will understand this reference).  So I have to use my lovely big Nikon D200 camera that is kind fo heavy, and definitely not a pocket camera, until I replace it.  Thank the Lord I have a camera though.

Additionally, I have joined the fun with Ricky Tim’s 52 week photography class.  It is decidedly going to be a challenge for me, and my goal is to come out at the end with some fun photographs, but mostly to really learn to use my camera for artistic purposes.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt or take a picture.  God bless you all!

 

 

“Hand Sewing” by Machine

It is my belief that almost every look that hand sewing provides can be duplicated in a reasonable facsimile by machine. No, I haven’t lost my mind. At least, I don’t think I have. 🙂

I hope those of you who are hand quilters and embroiderers are not offended. I truly greatly admire the beauty of beautiful handwork. But I have some arthritis in my hands and in dealing with that I have developed a fascination for making my machine provide equally as beautiful stitching and in some cases take it far enough to make the viewer wonder if–or even be convinced that–they are viewing hand sewing.

I also love some of the looks that only a machine can make, but this is not what I’m talking about in this post.

I just think it is fun and challenging to see what I can do with the concept of “hand sewing” by machine. Recently I have been working on the design of a quilt that uses Sashiko for the background and in the foreground is an appliqued Japanese flower arrangement. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to do all the Sashiko by machine.

Now I have some in the hoop Sashiko designs that are lovely, and I will probably use some of these in this quilt. I have done some stitch-outs of these and they look best with 40 wt embroidery thread such as Superior’s Magnifico or Isacord embroidery threads.

But I want to try some bobbin work using the heavier weight perle cottons that hand Sashiko stitchers would use in order to see if I can make it look even more like the hand work. I will let you know if this works and present some photographs of some of my experiments with this…perhaps in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I am also trying out some turned edge machine stitched appliques using 100 wt matching silks and monopoly and various stitches to see which looks the most like needle turned-edge applique by hand. Lots of other sewists have done work on this and some are really good at it. I just want to play around with it and see if I can get it really good.

My machine also has cross stitch on it and I haven’t played around with it very much yet, but I think I will try that also. In addition, I have learned to do some digitizing with my in-the-hoop embroidery using Bernina v6 software that looks very close to hand stitching. I just bought v7 upgrade as a Christmas present to myself and am waiting for it to come in.

I think this is really fun. I hope to share a lot of the results and ways to accomplish them with you in a couple of books I am already working on and plan to complete in 2015 and some bits here on my blog.

Sew happy everyone. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas all!

Playing in My Studio: Combining Multiple Techniques

I really love taking the different techniques I have managed to gather over the decades and apply them to make an art quilt, a decorated vest, or a beautiful bag. Since my retirement a couple of years ago I have spent a lot of my time learning and perfecting new and old techniques with the goal of being able to call on anything to produce the look I want. In my quilt “Waiting…”, for instance, I used drawing, paper piecing, regular piecing, applique, trapunto, fabric painting, digital art printed fabrics, thread painting, free motion quilting, and embellishment.

Waiting...

Waiting…

So whether you are a traditional, contemporary, art, or modern quilter, I encourage you to gather your techniques and tools and put them all together to realize your own masterpieces. It’s really fun to not be limited by not knowing how to do some technique and you can end up with some delightful items while you learn. While it’s always nice to have a face-to-face class with an expert, one of the nice things today is there are many sources for learning these techniques online, sometimes with accompanying books.

First of all, If you haven’t already, I suggest you spend the modest amount of money to buy a membership on The Quilt Show and watch the shows, the classes, and the videos that accompany the BOM (Block of the Month) even if you are not making the BOMS. This has been a big resource for me in improving my quilt making, learning about who are the major quilters in the world today, and being inspired when I get discouraged.

Secondly, I discovered that Nancy Zieman has many of her Sewing With Nancy available free to watch on Wisconsin Public Television online website, many of which relate to quilting, but in fact, most any kind of sewing relates to quilting.  Also, you can purchase her dvds with accompanying books from Nancy’s Notions.

Sharon Schamber has dvds available now on some of her techniques from her daughter’s website that she used to have on a downloadable website. I subscribed to that website that is now defunct, and downloaded and watched everything available, even the long arm ones. I fortunately still have them.  Some of the videos seem a little primitive in format, but her techniques are wonderful. I particularly recommend The Quilt Fairy, which shows a painting method that has stood me in good stead for many places on my show quilts.  Now that brings up another point.  Fabric painting has different styles and materials just like applique or piecing, and each one has its place and learning as many of them as you can is helpful.  On “Waiting…” I used Sharon Schamber’s method presented in The Quilt Fairy to put the lowlights and highlights in the woman’s dress and cape.  I used my own computerized digital painting to paint her face and hands and printed them on fabric and appliqued them.  I used watered down Setacolor fabric paints to wash paint the sky fabric as demonstrated by Mickey Lawler show number 1305 on The Quilt Show.  Her hair is thread painted, which is another key technique especially useful for art quilts.  While I developed my own technique for this, it closely matches that shown by Nancy Prince on show number 1004 on TQS.

 

finished detail as shot 2

Wind-tossed woman showing the high and lowlights on her clothing, her digitally painted face and hands, her thread painted hair, and a little embellishment.

 

tatum-detail-waiting-AQS

The clipper ship has wool batting between the sails and the quilt. Together with the dual bats (one 80/20 and one wool) I used in the quilt itself, this provided a wind look behind the sails.

If you are going to be at AQS Charlotte in July, my quilt “Waiting…” will be in the show and you can go see it for yourself.  It may not place.  I have had it in two shows so far and it did not.  One judge at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival thought my borders were too large.  Another judge at HMQS really didn’t like it.  She didn’t like my color choices, my overall design impact, and my quilting.  But hey, to each his own, right?  I would make it in the same colors today even after that critique, and I happen to like what I call “organic” quilting for a story landscape quilt like this.  The winners for that show are magnificent quilts, I will say.  Nevertheless, I am honored to have my quilt show in the big shows even without a ribbon.

I want to show you one other quilt, because it has a heavy dose of in-the-hoop machine embroidery, which isn’t used in Waiting…,  that I digitized myself and also motifs I used from my Bernina software that I enlarged and painted after it was quilted.

The Storyteller...now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The Storyteller…now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The phoenix and dragon in front of the sun is the story she is writing.  The word on her tablet is “Betty” in Japanese Katakana.  I drew and painted her on my computer myself, printed her on fabric and appliqued her down.  After that I added some highlights with real paint.  Then I drew and digitized the tree trunk myself from scratch.  It was a bear to stitch.  I stitched it out twice on a piece of brown fabric.  It required two hoopings on my jumbo hoop on my Bernina 830 LE, and then I turned the edge of the brown fabric behind the stitching and appliqued it to the quilt.  Even though the tree trunk was tough to do, I like it so much I am planning on using this kind of tree trunk in a deep dark forest quilt that I am planning, which will have a beam of light making it through the trees to a color-filled spot on the forest (perhaps the ruin of a beautiful little church with the light shining through the stained glass window to the floor of the forest where flowers are blooming.  It’s been in my head for a long time now.

I am telling you all of this because I am thinking of writing a book about some or all of these techniques.  I am working on a book proposal now, but I can’t share much about this with you because of the publisher rules, who understandably does not want things published before the book gets published.  I have temporarily put aside the Bernina book because I understand that many of my frustrations have been dealt with in the latest v7 software upgrade, but I need to obtain this product before I can see for sure.

Sew happy everyone!  And pull those techniques together–even hand quilting and embroidery–to realize your dream quilts.

 

Whan That Aprille: The words section

I am currently in the process of stitching down all those little applique pieces on the red section of my little Chaucer quilt. I’m about halfway through that and my shoulders and neck are kind of hurting now, so I thought I would stop for a bit and work on the words section. Think of this as a page in a Medieval illuminated book. The red part is in the upper center and below that is the verse in a Medieval style text box. The border around the edge is probably still going to be black, but will be quilted in metallic threads (I think…may change my mind on that). I did a mock up of what I am thinking as far as the text box. I am planning on trying a tea-dye on some white silk/cotton Radiance and will try adding some additional aging with a very thin bit of watered down brown Setacolor inks. Here are the words I am going to include. I am going to try to digitize this in Bernina v6 so I can get it embroidered in the hoop.

text box for web

The “W” has to be fabulous and I will probably color it somehow (I’m thinking fabric markers). I have one choice in the mock up, and here are 4 more. If I use the first one, I will probably not use the mermaid somehow, but I kind of like the rest of it. With that in mind which one do you like? (Reference as “Mockup”, Top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right)

Whan Ws

Just so you get the idea for the look I’m kind of going for, I thought I’d include this example–I probably will add a decorative border down the side, and maybe even the man on the horse…in keeping with the Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales…if it doesn’t fight too much with the red floral center, which represents the opening prologue:

Chaucer_ellesmere

Anyway, as you can tell I am adding a bit of difficulty to the overall quilt, but I think it should be splendid if I can only realize the vision I have in my head. Then there is the matter of quilting it…. 😯

Sew happy Everyone! 😉

Whan That Aprille: Machine Applique

Fused and Ready to Stitch

Fused and Ready to Stitch

I have all the appliques cut and fused down. They are made from silk/cotton blend Radiance that I purchased at a quilt show. The appliques are tiny with little pieces, so I was able to do all of them from the 10 inch squares I bought in a collection of colors. I even have enough left to do a second quilt like this.

I love doing machine stitched appliques both fused stitched raw-edge, like I am doing here, and turned edge, machine stitched. Since these are so tiny with complex edges, I decided on the stitched-raw edge for this quilt. The stitch I use depends on the look I am going for. In this case, this folk-art influenced quilt works well with the blanket/applique stitch. Note that satin stitch, double blanket stitch, and some decorative stitches also work well. Here’s a little example, and I do mean LITTLE!  The flower here is a little more than one inch across.


stitchin-begun
It always interests me how I can miss problems when I’m looking at what I have done, but see them when I photograph them. I had a little tension trouble when I did the black perle cotton number 8 bobbin work at one point. I thought I had found it all and fixed it already, but here you see I missed a couple of spots:


Photo-test
Sew remember to use the photography test for your own work.  I’ll fix this.

I am experimenting with a new setup for my stitched-raw edge applique because it is SO SMALL and requires so much turning to keep the blanket/applique stitch at the right angle. I took an old super slider I had that was a little worn around the stitch hole and cut it so my feed dogs are exposed. I think this will help me move the quilt top around easier and more accurately. You see the disadvantage, though is I have to change thread colors a lot for this quilt, which means taking it up and putting it back every bobbin color change.  I’ll let you know if it makes enough positive advantage to use it despite the thread changes.

New-setup

Sew happy everyone, and happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there.

Whan That Aprille: Begin Again

new-fabric-stitching-web

 

Sew!  I completed the in-the-hoop embroidery on the new piece of wine red dupioni.  I had digitized this from my design and it required five jumbo hoopings for Gibbs (my Bernina 830 LE) to stitch it out.  I have a problem getting those alignment marks they put in there in good places. As far as I know, there is no way to adjust the placement of them, so I ignore them.  This requires that I print out the full sized template from my software, tape it together, mark where the hoops go and the center mark for each hoop, and cross my fingers as I hoop them.  For the most part, I am usually successful, but it requires close watching and sometimes a large amount of adjustment.  For some reason when I get the hoop placement just right so everything is green in the computer (that means they fit in the hoop and the whole design is covered), and then save it to the USB stick, it isn’t the same when I sneaker net it to Gibbs, and is often totally off.

Nevertheless, I generally manage to get it to line up by some finagling, and often have nothing out of place.  This one was tricky though because of that long central trunk vine curving up through three hoopings.  So I got it a little bit off, but just in one spot and I think I can fix it ok using a satin stitch (out of the hoop).  It’s quite narrow, but here’s a close up of the misalignment, and it also shows that one black berry was not stitched fully (it came outside of the hoop on Gibbs despite being in the hoop on my computer, and so I just let it go…to fix that later too:

misalignment-web

 

Anyway, I’m very happy overall with the embroidery, and the next step, after I fix those small errors in the embr is a lot of bobbin embroidery from the back using # 8 Perle Cotton.  Once that is completed, I will start on the appliques.  I have so many lovely colors of Radiance 10 inch squares and a few larger pieces from which to make the appliques.  I think the hooping was the most stressful part of making the quilt top, so I’m glad that is behind me.   I have to embroider the words, but thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I have a new idea for how to go beyond this central part of the quilt that places the words better and will also make them easier to embroider.  Hopefully I can fit them all in one hoop!

I know I  will have to do a dramatically wonderful job of quilting this, and I am planning on marking it pretty fully once I figure out how to quilt it.  I’ll be asking you all for suggestions once I have the top finished.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sew happy!

 

Now that Sky Horse Is Complete…

Detail from Sky Horse
Detail from Sky Horse

As some of you know, I finished Sky Horse and sent in my application to try to get it into IQA Houston this year.  I am not posting a full photo of it until after its first show debut, but thought since I had spent many hours archiving the old blog and figuring out the new blog that I would celebrate by posting a picture of the horsehead itself.

I also decided not to use the start I made on my little Jacobean birds-in-a-tree that I am using with opening words to Chaucer’s prologue to The Canterbury Tales embroidered around the border.  Now I am fully aware that the two periods of history in which Chaucer lived and wrote, and the Jacobean period are separated by several hundred years, but somehow the birds in a tree with all the flowers embroidered on silk seemed just right for Chaucer’s “Whan that Aprille”, which is the name of the quilt.  And besides, I am embroidering and appliqueing the quilt by a modern high-tech computerized sewing machine, and plan on adding buttons and beads and maybe some hot fix beads.  It’s going to be quite an elaborate little quilt.  It clearly is way away from my normal style of quilting, but will be using the same techniques.  You have probably seen my design before, but here it is in case you haven’t:

 

Whan That Aprille Design

Whan That Aprille Design

 

You may not be aware, or perhaps you are, that decades ago I had my own fashion design business during which I designed and made a number of elaborate wedding dresses and special occasion dresses.  I worked a lot with silk, and embroidery, and beads.  I would have LOVED to have had the equipment I have today to work with.  So in its way, this little quilt is a nod to that period of my life when I lived in Ithaca, New York, my children were little, and I did a lot of singing, sewing, gardening, and fashion design.

Well, let me tell you…that first piece of silk that I embroidered the vine on was just poor quality.  I washed it and found it ran and ran and it had way too many slubs, so that it looked almost like raw silk, and clearly was not going to take the heavy amount of work I have to do to accomplish this quilt.  Plus, I decided I wanted a darker shade of red.  So I put it aside and am starting afresh on a gorgeous dark red dupioni that I already tested for color fastness, and even though all dupionis are slubbed, this one is much more refined.  Besides, that other fabric was going to fight me the whole way.  You know, you can tell these things when you start to work with a piece.  You can’t tell the problems in this picture, but you can see it is not the darker red I wanted:

Original piece

Original piece

Sew sometimes you have to start things over…blogs, quilts, plans for the future…either to keep moving forward or to make things come out right in the end.

Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to restore the list of those subscribed to this blog, so if you want to receive an email when I post a new blog, PLEASE resubscribe.  Thanks!

Sew happy everyone!