Stash Busting: Making a Bag

One side of the bag

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

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

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

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

 

Working on a Book, A Couple of Ideas

I haven’t got any real news for you this week, but I thought you might like to hear my musings about my books and a couple of ideas.  I have had a bad cold all week and am beginning to feel better, but it took a lot of energy out of me, so I made almost no progress on anything recently.

Nevertheless, I have not been without some interesting ideas.  About the only thing I did all last week was to reorganize my disorganized transcripts for art quilting into more directed and solid projects.

The first book (or is it books?) will be “Art Quilt Basics”, which will focus largely on design, applique, and quilting techniques to help the artist take the ideas floating around their heads and move them into finished wall art quilts.  It will be short on design and long on construction techniques and quilting. The quilting section is nearly complete, and the applique section is well along the way.  I need to make more samples.  Once I get those completed, then I am hoping my son Ken, who does all my quilt photos, can help me get the photos well done, and my son David, who has his own independent publishing company, will help me get it published.  Sew I am hopeful this will be complete by late fall just in time for Christmas.

The second book “Surface Design and Embellishment for Art Quilts: Sling That Bling” is basically an outline at this point with loads of concepts in small notes here and there, but I am going to use some of my already completed quilts for most of the pictures, necessitating only a few additional sample items.

Now I know there are lots of books out there about quilt making techniques and surface design and embellishment, but only a few of them seem to focus on realizing a piece of wall art in quilt form. I hope I can provide some original concepts and a place to look when you have an idea but don’t know how to get it from a great idea, or even a good design, to the finished project or need a reference for a technique you may have seen before but need instructions or refreshing.

Anyway, in addition to doing a lot of thinking and some limited work on my books, I have also been doing a lot of thinking about a couple of quilts I am going to make.  One of them is to turn into a quilt this piece of fabric I painted digitally and had printed by FabricOnDemand

I painted this one digitally in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed 28″ x 38″.

I bought some darker blue for the border, which I want to use as a base for an Art Nouveau style border.  I have a concept now but I haven’t yet drawn it up.  I hope I can get it drawn before the concept poufs away like a soap bubble popping…LOL.  I think I can.  I’m working on that today.

On Thursday a friend of mine and I are planning on attending Sacred Threads Quilt show, which is only about fifteen minutes from my home.  I am excited about that. 

Sew happy everyone! 

 

 

 

Two New Digital Quilt Projects

Believe it or not, I have completed all my projects I had going.  Now that the workshop at G Street Fabrics is over (I will be repeating it in the fall), I am going to make two quilts centered around two digital printouts.  I’m hoping to get one of them done by mid July for part two of my Exhibit at G Street Fabrics.

The field of flowers is a photograph by Beth Tatum, my daughter-in-law:

Photo by Beth Tatum, printed on fabric 36″ x 26″

 

The pink flowers I painted in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed.

I painted this one digitally in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed 28″ x 38″.

They came out really wonderful, and I washed them in Synthrapol, rinsing until they ran clear.  There wasn’t much color in the first batch of water and I can’t see any color loss.  So now I can use them in a quilt I will soak when the quilting is complete, which makes marking things  and blocking a lot easier.  I’ll have some embellishments I will add after blocking.

I plan on just sandwiching and quilting the field of flowers photo with  a variety of threads for depth and interest and adding beadwork and some 3D embroidered butterflies.  I might face it instead of binding it.

I plan on adding a double border on the pink flowers.  The inner border will maybe be shaped and appliqued on.  I plan on shortening the flower panel at the top to bring the border down to the vine, and cutting out the top half of the leaves that would be hidden by the border to have them break into the border.  Then I will quilt it with some pictographic flowers, vines, and creatures, also quilting in the flower and leaf textures.  I also am working on designing two or three 3d stumpwork with wire of small birds in
Bernina V7 software to applique on. This is my bigger project, as you might imagine. If this turns out well, this might be a show quilt, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, I have broken down my housecleaning project into small manageable sections and am spreading them out across a couple of weeks.  I did pretty well with this so far.  My upper level is mostly clean, though I have a plan to go through my stash at some point, eliminating some things and slightly reorganizing the fabrics so they all fit back into my storage units.  I’ll do this later, after the mid-July deadline for the second part of my G Street Fabrics exhibit.  I’ll do the main level next week, and David will do his level too (he has a nice “flat” on the walkout lower level that includes his bedroom/office and a nice big living area with his own back deck.  There is a bathroom area that has the rough in plumbing, but I haven’t gotten it finished yet.  Maybe if he has a big hit book, he will do that himself.).

A word about digital fabric art:   It is NOT “cheating” as some quilters seem to think.  For example, it took me s lot of time to paint the pink flowers, and they are fully my own artwork.  Why would that be any less of a “legitimate” quilt than a whole cloth, for instance?  Neither would a photograph that is printed, sandwiched, and quilted as a whole cloth.  I do think there is slightly greater acceptance of the value of digitally printed fabrics than there used to be.  And that is good.  Indeed, am hopeful some of the heated rhetoric about just about everything these days will cool off.  Let’s appreciate one another and their work…traditional, contemporary, modern, and art quilters, white collar and blue collar workers, sharing their Mom’s house while writing wonderful stories for the world to enjoy, making art quilts, plumbing the kitchen, powerwashing your home, managing a business, Democrat, Republican, Independent…cool it everyone.  Life can be wonderful and full of peace and love if we stop the arrogance and heated rhetoric and take a step back to love and appreciation that we are not all-knowing.

Sew happy everyone!  Try your hand at making some digital fabric art if you haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll post more on these projects along the way. Also, I have decided to put the landscape project I tried to start as a kind of block of the month on the backburner.  It needs more definition, and everyone that responded said they were too busy.  I think I am too busy too…LOL.

 

Five Years as a Full Time Fabric Artist: Stash Changes

I’ve been making art quilts now on a serious basis for about 10 years and full time for five! 

It surprised me when I realized that.  While thinking about that and looking at my bulging and dripping over stash storage, I realize that my quilt needs have changed as I developed my styles over the past ten years.

So how has it changed?

I have enormously increased my thread stash over the years, and recently I jaw-droppingly won Superior Threads giveaway of 30 cones of all 30 colors of their new Microquilter 100 weight.  This is a thread I will use a lot and recognized when they introduced it that if it was as good as I expected that I would want a lot of it.  What a nice thing!  Thanks Superior! So I bought  new cone holder to accommodate that.  I store my smaller spools in the plastic drawers where I used to store more fabric.  I would have a hard time adding much thread into my stash now.  I am thankful for this stash and expect to use most of it over the next few years. I use a lot of thread in my wall art quilts.

I had originally stocked in a lot of Oriental fabric prints, story prints, and landscape prints in the strong reds, browns, and blues I really love.

I have increased those fabrics that are either solid or read solid, and I also have large quantity of blacks and whites, and I even have a lot of prepared for dye fabrics.  Truly, I could use bolts of blacks, whites, and solid dark blues.  I recently used up a bolt of black and had to buy some more.

I still love landscape fabrics, and have lots of plans for those.

I originally told myself I would never paint a quilt.  Sew how has it happened that paints, inks, and other fabric markers have grown into a big stash…not huge, but big?  He he he he.

Then there are crystals, beads, and sequins, which I use mostly on space and ancient manuscript quilts with a crystal or two on some of my others.  These are small and take little space, but I use them up rapidly when I make one deep space quilt.  I don’t buy a lot ahead because it is so expensive.  I do watch for big sales in bulk though.

I can’t seem to keep enough stabilizers and battings in stock, since I use them a lot and mostly buy them as I need them, so those spaces are about the same.

I plan on a little stash busting by making a quilt for my bed and maybe a couple of lap quilts for my home and a charity quilt or two from the parts of the stash I no longer anticipate using in professional art quilts.

I will be reducing my stashes throughout this year.  The last time I did this was about five years ago when I retired and started full time, and it held up well, but is once again in need of some attention.

I refuse to let myself add more storage, because I have plenty to keep enough fabrics, threads, and paints to last me the rest of my life! I must reduce what I have to make it all fit again and make room for the few things I need for specific projects that aren’t already there.  This will be an ongoing effort for the next several months, I think…maybe longer.

Sew I am well stocked for quilting and sewing, though I could use more cotton-silk Radiance and a few more neutrals.

With apologies to those of you who are interested, I will be late in my promise for part two of our stylized landscape project next steps.  I have to work through the background to get  pictures and maybe even videos and that is taking longer than I anticipated.  Nevertheless, I will get part two done in this month.

Sew how has your stash changed since you started this activity?  Do you need to reduce or add or both?  I would love to hear from you about this.

The Making of Pendragon

I promised you I would write some posts about the making of Pendragon after it was accepted into its debut quilt show.  Pendragon will be shown in the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival on Feb 23-26.  I am so excited because I am planning on attending this show.  When you read this post, I will probably be there, since I am setting this up for posting on the day I leave for the show.  Because of this, I can finally reveal the finished quilt picture.

Pendragon
34 x 45 Text from “The Legend of King Arthur” by Thomas Percy (1729-1811)

I actually made a few small changes since this picture was taken.  There was some stitching that went on a downhill decline under the lower left of the pictorial center on the top of the black text box.  I spent a whole day frogging (ripping out the stitching) of about five inches of decorative stitching and restitching it. It was worth it.  I think it was the only thing that would stand in the way of a judge who likes the design deciding it is a good quilt.  I’m not sure you can see it here on this web-sized picture, but I also added some interesting quilting below the text in the block.  I had to enlarge the text box just a bit to make the borders I made fit just right.

So here is a web-sized picture of the design that Ken gave me for my birthday last year, along with the threads and fabrics.  I blogged about this gift here.  He gave me the throne room background in a separate full-sized file without banners or people or the table, which I had printed on cotton by Spoonflower.

You can see there are some differences.  The banners are all a little different, the text box is longer than the one shown here to make everything fit together, and the border designs, which were a huge challenge, all have slight differences.  Also, there were three more swords pointing on the table from off-picture knights that I eliminated.

So first of all, I sent out the thrown room to be printed, as I said, and then I tried to dye the prepared for dye cotton/silk radiance he gave me to get that nice rich dark green for the Celtic borders. It came out a very pretty color, but not dark enough.  Here’s a picture of the fabric.  It will make a wonderful green for another quilt, so it isn’t a lost effort (I’m thinking a whole cloth pictograph).

My green dyed Radiance

So I talked to some of my quilting friends, particularly Jerry Granata, who has one specialty of working in unusual fabrics, and bought some (much less expensive) poly satin of exactly the right color of dark emerald green and did some testing.  That is what I ended up using.  I also had some green cotton of the right color that I used to work out the design and way to achieve the Celtic border designs on.  Quilters, I will tell you that getting these borders worked out was one of the biggest challenges of my entire fabric arts career.  I wrote a little about it in previous blogs: One and two and three.

After that, I decided it would be best for me to withhold additional photos and construction information until it actually debuts at its first show, which will be the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in just a week.  I’m so excited.  I decided to go to the show, not only because Pendragon got in, but so many of my quilting friends and mentors will be there.  I’m not taking any classes, but I am going to attend several lectures, try to spend some time with my friends, do some quilt gazing and shopping, and stand by my quilt a bit even if it doesn’t place.  And it may not place.  I love it, but it does incorporate digitally printed fabrics, which is not an altogether accepted method yet, and I am all too aware that my quilting is not traditional in any way and needs to grow.  I plan on showing it as much as I can over the next couple of years regardless of the reception by the judges just because it is a meaningful quilt that I want people to see.  When it finally comes home for its retirement, I plan on giving it to Ken if he wants it.  I am thinking it will also be at my exhibit of my quilts at G Street Fabrics in April or May (I’ll give you the dates when I get them).

Anyway, back to the making of the quilt.  I loved the way the people came out mostly.  I particularly like the queen.  Her dress is a small print with gold that I outlined all the little flowers with gold thread quilting.  I used a matching sheer for the sleeves and actually made tiny sleeves for her arms.  All their hair is free motion thread work.  The guys’ tabards and the little banners all have machine embroidered designs.  The little banners are independent banners that I made, then hand stitched on top of the quilt.

I digitized the mens’ chain mail shirts using some of the powerful software in Bernina V7.  It was a fun challenge and took me several days to make it come out with the appropriate differences that fit their bodies.  Then it was embroidered on black and after applique I added some free motion chain work around them to make them look more real and smooth some of the joinings.  The swords were so challenging to figure out that (after much consideration and discussion with Ken and Beth) I ended up printing the digital design of the swords from Ken’s design and appliqueing them on with monopoly.  Getting the hands properly tucked around the handles was a bit of a challenge, but in the end, I was happy with the swords.  I added black crystals on King Arthur’s sword.   The crowns are free motion stitching using metallic threads with the addition of hot fix crystals.

All the quilting of the throne room was done with the idea of bringing out a 3D concept.  I am generally happy with that result.

Then I faced the challenge of piecing it together.  The border was in pieces and had to match up square and with the pictorial center.  I should have had the throne room printed slightly larger, because by the time it was quilted and squared up, it was a bit smaller than the intended design.  I dealt with this by adding a bit of black below the text box (to make up for the lengthwise shrinking), where I placed some quilting designs, and slightly narrowing the top and bottom small Celtic border pieces (to make up for the crosswise shrinking).  But in the end, after a few bits of frogging and restitching, it actually came out very square and flat.  I was  ecstatic.  Getting quilts square and flat, especially my art quilts that have so many different types of techniques, stitching, painting, etc, is a huge challenge every time.  This one worked.  I used my laser devices (a laser square and a laser cross hair lamp) to help get it square.  If the judges measure it, and it doesn’t get shifted in any way in the transport and hanging, they will find it a square quilt.

I used Quilters Dream thin poly batting and Hobbs wool batting.  I ended up using 6 titanium top stitch needles on this quilt…I think the gold paint dulled the points quicker.  Constructed on my Bernina 830LE and quilted on my Bernina Q20.  All Superior threads (variety of weights and colors).

Sew happy everyone!  Will I see you at MAQF?  Do you have any questions?

 

Part 2: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers (cont.) and Markers

 

This is the second in my unknown number of parts series of quilting for domestic machine artists.  Several interesting points stood out to me from comments both here and on Facebook following my last blog-post on ruler work for domestic machine artists.  There are a lot of rulers, sometimes called templates, out there for this type of quilting; more keep being introduced; and they are relatively expensive.  There is no way I can test them all, or even all the brands (but if you’d like to contribute to this blog using the PayPal donation button on the lower right, I will happily thank you and apply it to rulers/templates and provide further testing results).

So I suggest if you are just starting out that you buy only a few basic rulers–a good well-marked straight ruler, and a few shapes and curves, or one of those sets.  Then learn to use them, and add them only as you need them for specific projects, which will help focus your ruler collection around the way you work.  In a while, you might want to take an inventory of what you have and see where there are gaps you might need.   I note that this series of blogs have forced me to do such an inventory and I have found some places I need some rulers.  Please pay close attention to the quality and the marking.  These things make a huge difference in your quilting results.

Another thing I hope you will do as you start using rulers is to be patient with yourself and just keep on practicing until you feel comfortable and have reasonably good results.  I hated it when I started using rulers, but I totally love ruler work now.  It’s amazing how easy it feels to me now when I found it really hard at first.  I still am not that great at it, but I do so enjoy it that I think I might get there.

I still haven’t had a chance to borrow my daughter-in-law’s Gadget Girls rulers, but I will and tell you about them when I do.

I also find that I need to mark lines to guide my ruler work.  This might be grids, or a simple line.  It is not full marking of the planned design usually.

A Word About Marking

Everyone has their own marking methods they prefer, and I suspect that is the case with most of you.  I have already mentioned some of this in past blogs, but it is worth revisiting.  I have several products I particularly like.  The choice for markers depends on whether I am going to wet block or wash my quilt after it is complete, what are the fabric weave  and content, and the value (is it light or dark).

  • My favorite marker is Crayola washable markers…the finest point available.  This marker washes out of everything I have tested so far, even if I happen to iron over it.  I only had one time I had to wash it twice, and that was using a brown marker on white tightly woven cotton.  It came out though.  This marker is not very expensive, it stays in place as long as it doesn’t get wet and you can easily see it (I sometimes have a hard time seeing the oft-recommended blue markers).  But it has to be washed out with water.
  • If I’m working on one of my art quilts that have a lot of silk, specialty threads, and other painting on it, I probably will not do more than a spritz of water and steam to block such a quilt.  But regardless the marks have to come off one way or another.
    • Mostly the different chalk markers, mechanical chalk pencils, and so on, tend to work fine, but I do avoid yellow because I had a terrible time getting that out one time, and I’ve seen others say the same thing.  Mostly I remove these with a microfiber cleaning cloth…comes right off.
    • Chalk goes away much too easily for most silks and satin weaves.  I have spent much of my quilting career hunting for a good marker that stays in place on such fabrics while I need it and comes off without washing.  I think I have tried all of the main types and brands on the market.  The ones I found that works the best are the mechanical pencils by either Fons and Porter or Sewline.  These, however, will also often go away well before I’m finished quilting satin weaves, such as Radiance cotton/silk or dupioni silk.
    • I have found one method that works for satin weaves, but is sometimes tedious to remove.  I trace the design on Golden Threads paper and stick it to the fabric with temporary adhesive dots trying to miss most of the stitching lines with the adhesive. Remove by tearing it off and catching resistant places with tweezers.  I have even been known to use this method on very close stitching.  Of course, it takes forever to remove and you shouldn’t use an open toe foot for this, because it gets caught under the paper.  Here is an example…shadows under the steps on my quilt Perspective in Threads.

Look at the shadow under the steps. THat was many lines of thread marked with the paper method.

Look at the shadow under the steps. That was many lines of close stitching marked with the paper method.  I printed the design on the golden threads paper and stuck it on.  It took me hours to remove, but it worked.  I stitched this whole quilt back in 2012.  This was long before I started ruler work.  I used straight stitch and decorative stitches on my Bernina 200E machine (I no longer have this) and marked with Crayola markers, except for the part under the steps.  Today, I would just mark the general areas that need the close stitching and do close together ruler work, so I wouldn’t have any paper to remove.  Here’s a picture of the marking.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

fabric-tracing

Marking in progress for “Dad’s House Plan” also before the days of at-machine ruler work and done with Crayola markers.  As you can see from both of these examples, rulers would have been helpful when I quilted it.

  • It also helps a lot to have some kind of very temporary marker around once you start quilting.  I use either one of those that are air erasable or one of those fatter chalk pencils.  These are handy for as-you-go additional marks, corrections, notes to yourself, and idea changes after sandwiching to the ones you make before you sandwich your quilt.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt…your brother, your child, your neighbor…  Cheers.

A Visit to the “New” Old G Street Fabrics

 

This past week my big Bernina 830 (aka Gibbs), decided he would not sew another stitch until he had his spa treatment.  I would say his “annual” spa treatment, but it had been two years since he had been to the machine vet and I had put on about 1.3 million stitches in that time. Last year, G Street Fabrics where my dealer was had closed two of their stores in the area and drawn back to a single store in Rockville, Maryland.  They recently moved to another building in Rockville.  When I took him there, Mei-Ling Huang, the head of their Bernina section and my same dealer that was in a closer store that closed, showed me around.  I decided to take my camera when I went back to pick up Gibbs, which apparently had only some minor things wrong that Lew, the technician wizard, fixed quickly for me and did the “annual” clean and check, upon learning that I have several quilt deadlines coming up fast.  He fussed at me though about taking so long, pointing out that I have about 460 hours on the machine and suggested I divide the workload with a longarm.  Frankly, I was surprised it was that low.  Thank you Lew!!!!!!!

There is kind of a warehouse feel about the new store, but this may not be a bad thing.  It is much like some stores in New York I have been to that have some great fabrics, trims, buttons, and notions.  Two of the most outstanding things about the new location are the Bernina section, which I will talk about separately, and a bunch of classrooms that have windows and light and look fabulous to teach in.  The selection of fabrics is fairly substantial, though not to the level it used to be in its old glory days over a decade ago, but a good place to go when you are starting a project.  They have a very nice selection of home decorator fabrics, which make wonderful bags, coats, and costume segments, by the way.

The Back Wall of Home Dec Fabrics

The Back Wall of Home Dec Fabrics

One of several home dec lanes

One of several home dec lanes

Their quilting fabrics are ok, but I hope that as they pull themselves out of the hole that they will increase this section substantially.  Nevertheless, you can probably find the quilting cottons you need for a nice quilt project.

Quilting cottons

Quilting cottons

They also have a nice selection of buttons and trims, though substantially smaller than the great old store of yore.  Still, if you need buttons or trim for clothing, you can probably find what you need here.

Button wall

Button wall

Sew did I find the general part of the new G Street to be the fabulous, exciting place that it was in its glory days with its stages where the tailoring and the special occasion fabrics were shown in all their magnificent beauty and the quilting section was wonderful?…no.  Is it still the mecca for fabraholics the world over as it used to be?  No.  But I do think it has the possibility of reaching that place again and the class rooms really offer a wonderful possibility for building the future.  This seems a very good move on the whole for the store.  I found that they do not carry any thread brand I would use in the general store…they need to think about that.  Perhaps they don’t realize that some of us really dislike some of the brands they carry.  They have some wonderful fabrics that make one drool.

Most of all, however, I loved the Bernina section, which is still in process after the move.  It is in a separate smaller wing of the building. Mei-Ling and her crew have already given it an atmosphere of coziness and inspiration.  She told me that they are still organizing, so I anticipate that it will be downright fabulous in a month or so.  They run their new owner classes in this part of the store.

G Street 1

Walking in to the Bernina section

 

Feet and other notions

Feet and other notions

 

G Street 9

What I really want.

As you probably know, I am trying to sell some of my quilts.  You can see which ones here.  Mei-Ling has generously offered to hang some of these quilts on her walls, so I took three of them there…”Waiting…”, “Quiet Celebration”, and “The Storyteller”.

What do I hope the store will do?  I have a few suggestions:

  • Increase the quilting fabric section, and emphasize it as much as clothing and home dec sections.
  • I didn’t check it out, so I don’t know how this is, but be sure to have a solid and good offering of battings, fusibles, interfacings, and other underpinnings for clothes, quilts, bags, and fabric art of all kinds.
  • Start carrying Superior, Aurifil, and/or Wonderfill threads..in a broad selection of weights and fibers.
  • Emphasize the wonderful class rooms and fill them up.  Carry the threads, fabrics, books, and supplies needed for these classes so once someone learns something they can find what they need there.
  • Remember the store’s legacy and try to reach that again, and don’t try to be another Jo Ann’s or some such.  High quality fabrics with proper pricing (not 25 percent higher  than anywhere else, in other words), draw people in.

If you are near Rockville, I hope you will stop by and see what you think of this “new” old G Street Fabrics for yourself.  Be sure to look in the Bernina section and say “Hi” to Mei-Ling and look at my quilts on the wall. This nice store is about 50 minutes away over heavily traveled highways in heavy traffic, making it a little cumbersome for me to use on a regular basis, but I will certainly continue to go there for my Bernina needs.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have a good fabric store near you.

Working with Peppered Cottons

I just made a quilt using the beautiful Peppered Cotton  These cottons, designed by Pepper Cory, are beautifully colored and have a wonderful soft hand.  They would make marvelous bed quilts that use simple blocks, and I suspect they would be perfect for hand quilting.

I, however, chose to make a piece of wall art with precision machine embroidery using this soft, loose weave cotton because it had the perfect appearance for what I wanted to do.  While the blocks are simple in shape, they have detailed machine emnroidery, and the quilt itself presented some real challenges.

Here’s the quilt:

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

And a detail view:

Kanazawa Memories detail shot

Kanazawa Memories detail shot

 

When I first saw this fabric I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  It reminded me of antique fabrics used mostly by peasants centuries ago in Japan especially in firemen’s and fishermen’s coats, which were layered together and often repaired using Sashiko stitching.  While the peasants would probably have had blue or off white fabrics, these have wonderful colors with a warm feel.

Pepper Cory, who is a friend of mine, told me about The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook (you can find this in the little box of “My Favorite Products” on my sidebar if you don’t have your ad blocker turned on) and it helped me with figuring things out for this quilt  In the end, however, I used commercially available embroidery designs from OESD:  Sashiko 1.

I thought when I started the quilt that, although it was mainly a project for me to work on improving some techniques, that I may end up showing this quilt and ultimately selling it, so I asked OESD if I could use this design set for such a purpose, and was assured that was acceptable.  (It is so important to get such permissions before one spends hours and money on making a quilt you may show or sell, even if you are going to donate it for an auction at church).

But in order to get good machine embroidery results using such a nice soft cotton that is so loosely woven, one needs to back it with a very good stiff stabilizer.  I used tear away Madeira Cotton Stable (you can find it through that little box of my favorite products on the sidebar also), which is temporarily fusible.  I was going to tear it out, but by the time I got it all embroidered and the whole thing pieced together, I liked the way it had softened up just while working with it and the way it helped me with the piecing. So I ended up leaving it in. It is an all cotton stabilizer and I find it softens a lot from working it and when washed..  I could have backed it with a light weight fusible interfacing and used a wash away stabilizer that would have probably done the same thing.   I do love this stabilizer, and have found I can pretty easily tear it out when I want to, but it stays in place until torn.  I use it for a lot of my embroidery.

So, thinking I would probably wash the quilt when I was finished, I prewashed all the Peppered Cottons in cold water AFTER I serged the cut edges of the fabric before I cut it.  Such a loose weave really needs to have the edges serged before washing or you could lose a large bit of raveling.  If you don’t have a serger, you should stay stitch the edges prior to washing.  Indeed, this is a good way to approach any loosely woven fabric.  I serge the edges of silk dupioni just to store it in my stash because it ravels so badly.  I think that Peppered Cotton is not quite as bad, but when machine washed it would be bad.   This step saves lots of headaches.

The other thing I did for piecing this fabric was to use half inch seams instead of quarter inch.  In spite of the fact that this was initially a mistake in my cutting of the blocks, I found it much more stable overall that way.  Although when I did the moon, I did only a narrow turned edge…maybe even less than a quarter of an inch…but it was around a piece of freezer paper and I used a lot of spray on starch that I sprayed into the top of my starch can and painted on with a stiff little brush, then ironed the edge around the moon pattern.  I then glued the moon to the background and stitched around it with a short applique stitch using monopoly.  This worked really well and looks great.

After that I cut out the background behind it, I appliqued the Japanese flower arrangement onto the top.  I got the flowers by painting them digitally using Corel Painter and printed them on Electric Quilt fabric (Find them in “My Favorite Products” box)

I added an extra layer of wool batting just under the moon because I wanted the flowers to have a slight trapunto appearance.   Then I sandwiched with wool batting overall and a pretty quilting cotton print for the back, giving it all a lot of stability.

Everything went really well for the quilting of the central theme and the background using monopoly over the embroidered background and closely color matched 100 wt silk for the moon.  I did use a heavier weight 40 wt cotton to quilt the little creatures around in the moon.

Then I got to the borders.  I failed to back the borders or the binding with anything except the wool batting and backing.  It stretched during the quilting and binding.  You can read about my struggle with that in this post if you want.

To wrap up, when using Peppered Cotton, or any soft, loosely woven cotton you need to:

  1.  serge the edges of your yard goods before you prewash them.
  2. prewash the fabric in cold water with like colors.
  3. iron with some spray starch on the wrong side
  4. back with a stiff stabilizer for any machine embroidery
  5. back with fusible light weight interfacing for accurate piecing results and to reduce stretching when quilting.
  6. a cold water soak and blocking after completion is important to make the quilt square and flat. (You can steam it flat and square if you just don’t want to wash it and it’s a wall hanging).
  7. enjoy the quilt…it feels soft and cuddly and has a dynamic lovely look.

In the end, I am really happy with this little quilt and have decided to try to show it before I offer it for sale, mainly so some of my friends who live elsewhere can see it.  I don’t  think it will win any ribbons, but I think it might get into the shows, and that makes it really fun.

Sew happy everyone.  Try making a nice cuddly bed quilt with some Peppered Cottons, and, if you dare, make some blocks or a wall quilt that requires some precision.   Or you could make a fisherman’s coat to wear on cold wet days out on the sea.  Cheers.

Working With Different Fabric Types

I have almost finished my Ikebana/Sashiko quilt, and had some difficulties toward the end that were my own fault, but which reminded me that over the years I have learned a great deal about fabric properties and how to work with them to get results I want. Sometimes, I don’t succeed, but almost always it is because I skipped a step or substituted another technique to try it out.

In this case, I failed to back the border with the same fusible interfacing I backed the blocks with in the central section.  I thought I could get away with this because I was using a temporary spray adhesive attaching it to the batting.  It didn’t work.  The border stretched, the stitching looked horrible, and it wasn’t the machine’s fault.  I ended up cutting the border down to only 3/8″ wide plus the part to be covered by the binding.  Even the binding became very challenging at that point to get it on straight and true.  But I have succeeded, I think, although I still have to stitch down the back of the binding by hand.  If I had fused the interfacing to the border fabric, it might have had a very different outcome.  In the end, however, I think I like the narrow edge of green fabric better than the wider border would have been, even if I had succeeded in what I was trying to do.

This made me think to share this little chart I worked out for my own use that I think you may find interesting.  I leave it to you to determine brands and content of the stabilizers and interfacing.

Fabric chart

What do you think about this?  I’d love to hear from you.

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.