Workshops, Books, and Near Magic

On Workshops

I have one more workshop to teach of my three-part series on basic fabric art techniques.  The last one will be held at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland on 27 October and is on Organic Free Motion Quilting.  The class will quilt a prepared quilt sampler sandwich, and hopefully they will all leave with the same sense that one of my students said about the last class that “this has been a really good class and I feel so much more comfortable with my machine.”

Sew I have all the kits almost prepared, though I still have to put together six more sandwiches that are already cut, marked, and prepared, which should take me only about another hour.

So I have been asked by G Street to return for another round of these same classes next spring, and to add at least one more on ruler work.  I agreed to do that.

Drawing used to digitize the applique project.

On Books

While I was there, my friend and dealer talked me into finishing my 10 Skill-Building Projects for Bernina design V7 software book.  I had nearly finished it when Bernina came out with v8 and put it aside at that time, but I had shown it to her recently.  She said there are lots of people out there who are still using v7.  I decided she is right and maybe I won’t make much money with it, but someone may find it useful.  It does seem too bad to not publish it after all that work. She said then maybe I could maybe buy v8 at a sale price  and do another one for that software.  I’m considering that and think I probably will do that.

But I did open the file for the v7 book to see how much I have to do, and I think I can finish the manuscript in a matter of a few weeks. I only have one more chapter and I have to make one more stitch-out for photographs in addition to whatever I do for the last project.

Sew that made me look at the other book that covers the same fabric arts techniques presented in my three workshops only much more extensively, and that is not too far away from completion either.  And in fact, I even think I have nearly all the samples made that only needs photographing for the book.

I have a third book in the works also on surface design and embellishment…but it’s a ways away from completion.

I’ve been working on these three books off and on for years and it’s high time I get them finished and published.

On Near Magic

I know how frustrating computer software and computerized machines can be sometimes.  I also know that if they work, or if I actually figure out how they work, they can enormously enhane my ability to accomplish things, or accomplish them faster or better.  The more I learn the more I realize it’s nearly magical.  I also know that most of the problems I have with them is because I don’t really know how to use them right or don’t know all the cool things they will do that I can use.

I have been taking a class in Corel Painter this past couple of months and I have learned an enormous amount.  This will be a major help in my design work and it’s lots and lots of fun too.

For some unknown reason I am sometimes compelled to share what I have learned, which is why I am developing workshops, writing books, and sharing this blog.  I am going to add to those the making of videos.  My oldest son has outfitted me with all the equipment I need to do some simple videos and podcasts.  I have been practicing video making so those will happen sometime soon.

It may seem that I am getting in over my head, and am going to be overwhelmed, but while that may be, a lot of the work for quilts, books, workshops, and videos has multiple uses.  If I make samples and develop methods for a book, I can use the same thing in a workshop and video.  I can use my quilts or parts of them as some of the illustrations.  So it’s kind of like working on everything at once.  Magic, see?  Hahahaha

And I haven’t forgotten my show quilts.  Just today I worked on a pattern for one of my planned show quilts.  I won’t share this one until it is mostly done, but just think “trains”.

Sew happy everyone.  Share what you have learned with someone.  Happy new quilting season!

 

Bring on Fall!

I have some fun and interesting plans for the fall and winter quilting season and have been spending nearly all my working time preparing for them for the past couple of weeks.

First of all, I am preparing for my fall workshops at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, beginning with the first one on Saturday, September 22nd at 11 am!  See more about this on my blog from a few weeks ago here.

So I have all my handouts made and the kits for the first workshop. I almost have all the kits for the second workshop and have made progress on the third workshop.  So when you come, you will have a lot of fun and be able to dive right in to our projects.  You just need to call G Street sewing machine department and sign up!  You can sign up for one or all three.  So much fun to come starting in just a few weeks!  I should finish preparations for these this week and be able to get back to sewing and quilting.

Sew my plans for the fall and winter sewing and quilting season are exciting for me.  As you may know by now, I like to run two or three projects at once to keep me from getting frustrated…hopefully all at different stages along the way.

  • My current quilt project is for my bed, making an applique pattern by Sue Nickels that is really pretty and will add a lot of beauty to my bedroom.  I am about half way through that.  It is not for a show quilt and is just for fun and adding something to my home for me.
  • I am currently working out what my next show quilts will be.  My plans are exciting and two of them involve other people.
    1. My dear friend, student, and what we jokingly call my apprentice Anita has drawn a beautiful scene with a steam locomotive train and gifted it to me for use as a quilt design.  It is full of wonderful things and will be quite fantastic if I can pull it off…trees, rocks, trestles, the locomotive with steam, pulling cars…one with a load of wood. So cool!  Send good thoughts, because this one is a challenge but I plan on starting it soon.
    2. My oldest son, who designed Pendragon, is designing an accompanying piece Excalibur.   Oh I can hardly wait to see his design.  He started earlier but work got so busy for him that he had to lay it aside for awhile.  Things have gotten a little more sane for him now and he thinks he can finish it soon.
    3. Okay, so I am working on my own design(s) also.  I have an array of things I want to do, and am engaged in trying to draw up some of them to choose from for this season.  I am thinking of making one based on polyester satins that I embellish multiple ways to show what can be done with a limited quilt budget (under $100 is my goal).  That design work is not done yet, and I keep oming up with new ideas  with new subjects…I’m currently leaning toward a dark forest with spots of beauty and fun woodland characters, but it could end up entirely something else…spending a little time every day on this.  So it will be a little while before I just get the design sealed down and ready to make.
    4. And then I also want to do another line drawing quilt based on architecture.  I have a couple of possibilities, but I’m still looking.
  • I haven’t forgotten my book.  I have actually made considerable progress on it this summer, and hope to finish it sometime in October.
  • Plus I am wondering just how I can approach the passing on of my many surface design and embellishment techniques.  I have won several ribbons on this aspect of my quilts, and feel I have much to tell you about.  I already have a book outlined and started, but I am thinking of videos.  My son Ken has gotten me all set up to do videos, and I am thinking of making several…some on quilting and some on surface design and embellishment techniques.

I did mention clothes, didn’t I.  I am planning on making a new winter coat this fall.  I found a great pattern that I think I can make with fabrics (and faux fur) I already have..a free and hopefully gorgeous winter coat.  It’s free because I’ve had this fabric for years and properly stored, so it is in great shape.  If you haven’t made an overcoat, it is not really as difficult as making a shirt with a stand collar, really it isn’t.  And using thick winter fabrics is very forgiving, hiding most little mistakes.  I encourage you to try one.  There are some great patterns just out this year.  I also am planning on squeezing in a winter dress suit, yes a pants suit beause my legs just look best that way.  This will challenge me to resurrect my professional tailoring skills, but I have recently lost a couple of dress sizes (though I freely admit that I am still “fat”), and I will make it in a way I can take it up one more size.  I have fabric for that too.

As you see, this year is going to emphasize to myself trying to get all my sewing and quilting done by shopping my stash or keeping costs down while still producing some remarkable pieces.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are planning to do a lot of sewing and quilting this fall and winter or are encouraging your friends and family who do sew to let their lights shine (and help them make time to sew).  Happy September!

 

A Call to Stop Forgery and Design Theft in the Quilting World

I have several friends whose beautiful artistic quilted creations have been “copied,” or attempted to be copied, without permission and without acknowledgement and passed off as their own work.  In the rest of the art world, if an artist had painted, or otherwise crafted, a wonderful work of their own, and someone else had copied it to pass it off as their own, this action would be called “forgery” and would likely be a crime.  We in the quilting world should stand firmly against this kind of activity in our own craft.  I am sure that there are many of my friends who agree with me.

Note that I am not talking about quilts designed with blocks that have been in the public domain for years and happen to end up similar to someone else’s quilt, but I think that should be clear.

It is a wonderful thing to be so impressed by someone’s work that you are inspired to go work on your own piece.  Inspiration does not mean copy however.  And even if you do not copy, but create some similar subject, you need to acknowledge where the inspiration came from.

Let’s look at this a little bit.  I do not use other people’s quilts for my own fabric artwork (unless I bought a pattern or kit and am using it for my own utility quilt), but I might use someone else’s painting or drawing or photograph.

If I want to use someone’s artwork as an inspiration, or even a design, for  my quilt work, I will not even start it until I have contacted the artist and asked permission.  This has occasionally resulted in my not being able to make the quilt, but there are thousands and thousands of wonderful ideas, artworks, and photographs out there to try again, or even design things from scratch.  Sometimes, this has resulted in my having to buy the rights to use the artwork as inspiration or even the design for the making of a quilt. In addition, even if I obtain the rights to use it, I still feel it imperative to acknowledge the artist.

In the course of my work, I have gotten the following responses to my requests to use their work in some way from the artists:

  • Sure, no problem (the usual answer)
  • You cannot use this on your website (they didn’t read the request and were a little insulting)
  • The rights would cost $600 (I didn’t make that quilt)
  • The right for one show quilt would be $200 and you can’t use the art otherwise commercially (I made that quilt)
  • I make you a present of this design and would be honored for you to use it. (Designs in progress or quilts made)
  • You can use four to ten of the designs in each coloring book for your craft (Dover Publications standard use statement…but you cannot make another book using these designs and sell it.  Make no mistake this is not Copyright Free as many report Dover Publications as being, but is instead permitted use and is Royalty Free.  This doesn’t make much difference to us as quilters, but should be acknowledged).  I have used many Dover elements in my designs when I couldn’t draw it better myself.  I love Dover publications and thank them for their generosity.
  • And finally, when the work is way too old and is now in the public domain and the artists have been gone for centuries, you really don’t have to ask even if some unrelated organization has taken it up and tried to make it theirs.  Public domain means just that.  IF you know who the artist is, however, it would still be nice to acknowledge him or her.  I used elements from eleventh and twelfth century art as the basis for some of my work, but there is no possible way of knowing who the artists were.  We can safely assume they are in the public domain by now.  LOL

Sew join with me in helping to stop the forgery of the fabulous quilts and theft of designs within our quilting world.  Put it in your blogs, make a point of it if you are teaching a class, maybe even put up signs at quilt shows.  I don’t know all the ways, but people need to be made aware that just because it is a quilt does not mean it is free to be copied without request or acknowledgement.  It is like any other fine art and needs to be treated as such.

Sew happy everyone!

Fall Fabric Art Workshops

I am excited about my upcoming workshops I will be teaching at G Street Fabrics in Rockville this fall.  If you are in the area, please sign up and come.  I understand there are still a few spaces.  These three six hour workshops provide the basic techniques I use in building and quilting most of my wall art quilts.  There will only be eight students with each workshop, to give me time to be available for each student and answer questions.

September 22, 11am to 5pm.  Fabric Art Workshop 1: Applique Techniques to make a top ready for quilting.

Kits for the workshops are available for purchase that includes everything the students need for the projects that will enable everyone to complete or nearly complete each project.  For the applique workshop, the leaves, birds, and dog or cat are all precut with fusible on the back. The student gets to put it all together like he or she wants and different edge finishes are taught as well as how one might choose which finish is discussed.  Threads, needles, and other supplies are included as well as the handouts.

The two quilting classes also have kits of premarked sandwiches with everything one needs to plunge right in and start quilting.

October 6, 11 am to 5 pm:  This is the project for Fabric Arts Workshop II: Quilting with feed dogs up.  Kit has premarked sandwich, thread, a needle, and handouts.

The students will learn there are many interesting results that can be obtained with their feed dogs up.  Of course, a walking foot would always be helpful, but will not be required for this class.  It’s a small 20 x 20 sandwich.

 

October 20, 11am to 5pm, Fabric Arts Workshop III:  Free motion organic quilting.  The Kit for the free motion quilting project is a lightly marked sandwich, with a leaf applique ready to start the class.,  It also includes thread, a needle, and handouts.

Sew I don’t address how to square up and bind a quilt, but I do provide references as to where you can get that information.  There is another part of my work that is also not included and that is surface design and embellishment.  However, I started my art quilt career just using the techniques covered here, and learned how to bind off the internet.  I am considering how I might do a workshop in surface design and embellishment, but not sure I’ll do it yet.  I do provide a bit of information on how you can pull together a design for such projects in the course of the workshops.

Come join me.  There are 8 slots per class and some have already been filled, but if you hurry you might get in.  Contact G Street Fabrics  and ask for the Sewing machine department.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to making kits…LOL

 

 

Surface Design, Texture, and Embellishment

I love adding surface design, texture, beads, artistic thread work, yarns, and other types of embellishments to my wall quilts.  I think these things, when well done, can take them to a different dimension turning what may be an already nice pictorial/art piece that would be acceptable for someone’s wall to a treasure of a piece that makes the viewer want to stand and look at it for a long time or makes them happy every time they pass by it.

“Well-done” in this case by no means implies perfect, symmetrical, or formal, but it does mean interesting, the right amount, beautiful, technically  good, or just plain fun.  Sew this is what I strive for, although I suspect I will still be trying to make these things work as I see them in my mind’s eye to the last day of my quilting/fabric art life (which I plan on doing for the rest of my life).  But that’s one of the many things that makes playing in my studio so much fun.  Here are a few examples of such work.

detail from one of my deep space quilts with Angelina Fibers and hot fix crystals over a lightly painted background.

 

I learned early on that I needed to draw some guide lines for the direction of the stitching or I’d get them to be blowing around in different directions. Since the water in this quilt is going to look very calm and reflective, it didn’t make since to have the Spanish moss blowing around much. Here you see some of my marks. Also note that I had to break the stitching on several clumps so it looked like the limb is further toward the back from the viewer.

I painted these borders to go along with the vintage panel in the middle.

Sew this week I bought a needle punch attachment for use on my little Bernina 350.  I particularly like the way this little machine, which I purchased to have a machine to carry along with me to classes and other events needing a machine, is rapidly becoming an essential in my studio too.  It will be my “embellisher” now and I also have found it makes wonderful bobbin work with specialty thicker threadsm and makes perfect piecing possible.  I am kind of excited about this.  I plan on making interesting bits on some of my pictorial quilts, like steam clouds coming out of a steam locomotive, tree barks, fluffly little animals, and other interesting textural areas.  I just got a package of wool roving in a variety of natural colors to try it out with.  I also think I will get some other things that work this way…ribbons, sheer fabric pieces, ????

Sew happy everyone!  Try a little embellishing if you haven’t yet and if you send me photos I will post them if you don’t mind.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartistcom

Software for Your Fabric Art

Practice painting I did today in Corel Painter

Sew my last couple of posts I’ve talked about the need to learn and practice your machine and quilting.  I don’t know about you, but I also use a lot of software in developing my fabric art.  This, too, requires a bit of practice (nice thing to do when I just want to sit down or am still mulling new ideas around)

I truly appreciate those of you who do everything with pencil, paper, or directly on your fabric.  But one of the things that attracts me to fabric art are the related technologies, and also, I not only find I do a much better job of constructing my pieces when I sketch them all out and print a full sized picture or pattern, but it helps me with a wide variety of decision-making along the way.

I turned mostly to art quilting about a year after my dear Marvin passed in late 2002.  So I’ve been at this now for somewhere around 15 years!  This is astonishing to me.  I have also been quite interested in the tech side of fabric arts for even longer, if you take in in-the-hoop embroidery and computerized machines which I have had now for longer than that.  So I have been collecting software related to my fabric art for a long time, and, while it would be overwhelmingly expensive if purchased all at once, I got it over the years and kept it mostly updated, spreading out the costs.

It started small.  I took a class online from the Pixel Ladies who used Photoshop Elements.  I learned that I could print large patterns using Excel spreadsheets and tape them together.  That opened up the idea to me that I could design my own quilts, quilting designs, and even fabrics using the computer and testing all the colors and placements and so forth without any fabric and stitching to undo or waste in the beginning (note that this saves a lot in the cost of fabrics and threads too).

I also bought Bernina design software when I got my Bernina 200E (I later traded it in for my 830 LE).  I think it was v5 at that time, but not certain.  I skipped everything until I got version 7.0.   I am going to skip the v8 update to save some money because I don’t think the update has sufficient advancement that I use (this does not mean it wouldn’t work for you) on 7.0.  It took me a long time to learn how to use that and very well.  It has some remarkable functions.  I did though, and even nearly finished a book I was writing on learning this program.  It was very close to being done for self publication when they came out with the update, which points out why writing books on software is not particularly the way to go for me.  I take too long to learn it before I can write it.  LOL

From there, I bought Corel Draw, because I found the Bernina software uses a limited version and I wanted all the bells and whistles.  I also added Electric Quilt somewhere along the way years ago.  And then I bought a Wacom drawing tablet that came with a back version of Corel Painter.

Sew there you go….I was off and running and haven’t stopped since.  I’m still learning all this software and probably will always be.  I have found it cheaper to keep it updated at least every other version than let it get old and needing to buy the whole package.  Besides, Corel, especially, gives you some really good buying opportunities once you become their customer, and if you watch carefully, you can often get the updates for much cheaper than the retail price.

Anyway, the point of this is that this year, the year I wasn’t going to buy any new software (heh heh),  I ended up updating everything (except Bernina software), including my Wacom tablet (my old one was 14 years old and had just decided to retire…i.e., it became a paper weight).  And then my son David hooked up his old smaller monitor for me so I have two monitors (really terrific advance and it was free).  So now I have  at my finger tips (and yes, I share it with some of my friends when they come over):

  • Corel Painter 2019 (for painting and fabric design)
  • Corel Draw 2018 (for illustrative drawing, pattern making, and digital work with Bernina design software)
  • Bernina Design v7 (for in-the-hoop embroidery)
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro (for photo editing similar to Adobe Photoshop…I like it better)
  • Electric Quilt 8 (for figuring out how to use a pictorial piece with borders, for designing utility quilts)
  • And several related smaller pieces that came with these items to make them work best.
  • The latest Wacom Intuos Pro tablet with really nice artist’s pen that came with it.  It works with all the above like having a pencil or brush that responds to pressure and turns in some of the programs.

I like Corel because you don’t have to subscribe to it. It also is very powerful, and I can use all the pieces together, and it has great webinars and other tutorials to help you learn it.

So to make a quilt design I might dress up a photo in Photoshop Pro and send it over to Corel Draw for turning pieces into patterns (maybe I liked a flower in the picture, but nothing else), and then to Corel Painter to use as inspiration for fabric pieces and concept design, then put it all together back in Corel Draw where I make a full sized printout or printouts (prepping a fabric file to send to the fabric printing company for larger pieces, for instance).  Then I would maybe design embroidery elements (like lions on the vests in Pendragon or the small wall hangings on the wall).

Now that I have this terrific design setup, for which I am very grateful, I am working to learn it better and practice it more, because I have a ton of ideas how to use all of this.

  1. I am writing a book (or is it three books) on Fabric Art skills that covers everything from the design phase through the making skills, surface design and embellishment, and finishing. It includes patterns, samples, and quilting designs in it (them), and I am hopeful of getting it out by the end of September (but don’t hold your breath).  I’m sure you can see the need for such a setup for this.
  2. In the process I have learned how to make to-size patterns you can print on your regular printer and tape together.  So there will be some of those coming also.
  3. I have already started using digital painting printed on fabrics in my show quilts.  Pendragon has a back castle wall and all the faces that were printed on fabric and used in the construction of the quilt (along with a plethora of other techniques).  I also used a considerable amount of small in-the-hoop embroidery pieces that I digitized myself in Bernina software.

    Pendragon, 34 x 45.  This quilt has been selected for the juried show at IQA Houston this fall.  I’m so excited.

  4. So I am currently working on trying to figure out a design for my next show quilt using this setup.
  5. And finally, well maybe only finally for now, I am thinking of developing a fabric run to assist pictorial/landscape fabric artists and submitting it to fabric companies to see if I can get someone interested in my ideas.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Sew what did I learn from all of the years working with these technologies?  Learn the software, keep it updated more or less, you can skip at least every other update unless they give you a great deal and have a lot of improvements, practice, and use it to help you save money of fabric, thread, and accompanying items, and it can really help you improve over the years…you can keep your records of your struggles too for future reference.

Sew happy everyone!  If you have design software, it can really open new ideas and opportunities for fabric art if you spend a little time learning and practicing them.  Blessings everyone!

 

 

A Short Slowdown in Art Quilting Adventures

In my last blog I talked about the need to practice quilting.  I should have also mentioned that it is very helpful to plan ahead for your projects and how and what you will practice.  Truly, at least half of my “planned” projects fall to the wayside as I pursue other ideas.  In fact, though, I often incorporate those original concepts into the projects I finally decide on.  Also, sometimes, I go back and pick a project concept up that I thought had not made the cut because I couldn’t figure out how to do it, or it was not a technique I wanted to use.  This happens when I later learn a new way of doing things, or  figured out just how it really needed to be created.  Sometimes these solutions just come to me while I am doing something simple and am engaged in thought.

Over the course of my sewing/quilting year, I sometimes end up with having finished several things I was working on all at once and then have to spend a little while working through what I may do next.  I have finished my Bayou quilt, and I have gotten the workshops mostly ready, although I still need to work on the kits, but I have until late September for the first one.  Sew I’m at that point right now, although I am still doing some work on my three book efforts.  Even those, though, I am rethinking and wondering just how I should pull those together.  Maybe it will be one larger book.  Not sure yet.

I’m still sewing though.  I’m working on an applique bed quilt using Sue Nickels beautiful pattern I purchased from her at MAQF earlier this year.  It’s my “down-time” project because I find stitched raw-edge applique fun and relaxing, and not particularly challenging, especially since this quilt is just for me.  It will not be a show quilt.  Still, I am exploring some decorative stitch use as I stitch some of the shapes down.   It is, after all, time for me to replace that old box store “quilted” coverlet I have had for decades and have a quilt like a quilter should have on their bed.

This does not mean that I don’t have several ideas in the works, but all three of them involve another artist to help me come up with the concept drawings, and I am waiting on those.  I am working on my own drawings also now, but haven’t settled yet on what is next.

Time to clean?  Ich.  But really I need to clean. LOL  Oh, I know…time to practice!  🦊🦋🏡😄

Sew happy everyone.  Take some time to practice and plan, and maybe just a little time to clean.

 

 

 

 

Fireflies, Workshops, Quilt Names, and Other Stuff

 Yes, Virginia, I am alive!

So sorry to have been away for such a long time.  I have been working hard up until last Friday when I came down with some kind of aweful stomach thingy that hit me like a truck.  I’m all better now, though taking it easy for a few more days, but it did cut into my work schedule.

Before that, I was finishing up my latest show quilt..the Bayou quilt that I have not yet named.  I still have to put the crystals on the fireflies, and get professional photos of the quilt, but here is my little snap I took with my small camera:

So do you have any suggestions for the name?  Here are some ideas…I don’t know that I like any of them;

Home on the Bayou, Bayou at Night, Among the Cyprus, Cyprus Night, Cyprus Shelter, Bayou Night Lights, Bayou Cyprus, Bayou Summer Night, Summertime Night on the Bayou, Fireflies at Play (they will show up better with crystals), Night among the Cyprus.

I was disappointed with the supposedly glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.  It does have some nice pigment in it, and looks kind of nice enhancing the lights, but it doesn’t really glow in the dark very much. So the fireflies are the most disappointing, and I have obtained the tiniest little yellow and slightly orange hot fix crystals to enhance all the painted fireflies.  Otherwise the quilt is complete except for a label.  I even have the rod pocket on it.  I plan to try to debut it at Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza this coming fall. I have no idea where I will send it after that, but I will send it elsewhere for about a year or more.  This quilt has taken me a great many hours.  I don’t have any idea how many.

A Little Soapbox  Rant:

See the source image

With the efforts I put into my own show quilts in mind…I was just watching Craft in America.   The episode they showed today was talking about craft as a livelihood.  They featured Gee’s  Bend quilters among other artisans.  Their quilting style is beautiful and carries on a tradition I am very happy to see in the country.  But I found myself wondering if Craft in America ever had or ever would feature quilt artisans that use contemporary quilting methods and styles (even those who do it all by hand), make exquisite jewels of quilts contemporary, modern, or traditional, or artists that use quilting as their medium sometimes using many techniques in one project.  I somehow doubt it because many responsible for producing such shows, or writing articles about quilts, seem to think the development of quilting, styles, techniques and the craft itself stopped at the water’s edge of the late 19th century.  They probably are not even aware of where the quilt world has flown over the past few decades.  Have they even attended one of the national or international quilt shows?  Do they even know it is a thriving industry economically and deserves attention?  And indeed, it is not just the media that is unaware, as those of us who quilt are well aware.  How often have I told someone I quilt, and they said their [grandma, great grandma, aunt] used to quilt [back when they were alive or physically able].    And finally, I hope you will read Joe Cunningham’s blog Calvin Klein and Me discussing this issue way better than I am here.

Sew what am I working on now?

Feed Dogs Up workshop sampler

Well, right now I’m writing a blog post…but my current project set is to make the samplers, handouts, and kits for three Fabric Arts Workshops I am going to lead at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland this fall.  They are fairly basic, but are designed to provide a suite of techniques that can be used to make quilted fabric art and, of course, some quilting techniques.  They do not include piecing.  I am not a piecer. G Street has quilters who lead some really nice piecing workshops.  So here are my workshops:

  • Fabric Arts Workshop 1:  Applique Techniques — Saturday, 22 September 11 am to 5 pm
  • Fabric Arts Workshop 2: Feed Dogs Up Quilting on a Domestic Machine — Saturday, 6 October 11 am to 5 pm
  • Fabric Arts Workshop 3:  Free Motion Organic Quilting at a Sitdown Machine –, 20 October 11 am to 5 pm

If these go well, I might take them on the road to shows and guilds within a four or five hour driving distance from Ashburn, VA, or just try to do them locally (within an hour’s drive).  I might also add one or two more complex workshops to these.  The nice thing is that some of the work I am doing for these can also be used in the books I’m writing.  Maybe I’ll even be able to publish one of my books before the workshops this fall.

But fear not, I am also making some quilts, just at a slower pace.  I am making a bed quilt (shock!) for myself using a Sue Nickel’s applique quilt pattern.  I have only just begun working on a new design for one of my Ancient Manuscript series quilts.  Actually, truth be told, I have only come up with the idea and haven’t really started the design.  Happy National Sewing Machine day! (this is 6/13/18).

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on?  Let me know.  Send me pictures. Make comments.  I really want to hear from you.  Hopefully, now, I am back to making about a blog a week or more.

 

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.

Threads

Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.

I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well.  So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle.  When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full,  and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff.  I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles.  I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent.  It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20).  I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.

The Spanish moss here is Aurifil’s Lana wool/acrylic 12 weight thread.

When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly.  I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right.  Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle.  I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle.  I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does.  I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread.  This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord.  It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears.  In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt.  I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it.  I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right.  I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.

The gold Celtic border was outlined first with gold thread, then painted with gold paint, but it had no over and under view until after it was quilted with Monopoly thread. I will be using this technique again.

Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small.  Still it is exciting to work with.  My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees.  I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs.  It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character.  acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills.  I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later.  I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work.  She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there]  and her blogs.

For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight.  This thread seems to call for a small needle also.  I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through.  I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12  topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas.  This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low.  I  am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.

Sttitching on the space dust on one of my deep space quilts using 40 weight variegated Fantastico by Superier.  The background stitching you see here was done with 100 weight Kimono silk.

Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using.   Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle.  My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut.  King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle.   I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason.  I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.

Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.

Sew happy everyone!  Try out all those wonderful types of threads.  Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you.  Then make a sampler.

 

 

 

 

 

Embellishing Techniques Part 3: Learn All You Can and Use It Well

Okay readers, I am all fired up and my studio is spotless and ready to go.  There isn’t even a chipmunk in my studio (my facebook friends will understand this comment).  After attending Birds of a Feather, and then Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, and then spending a lot of time getting rid of a chipmunk and cleaning my studio, it was some time before I was able to start using the explosion of inspiration that filled my head and heart for the future after such inspiring quilting events and spending the MAQF with my friend Mei-Ling who also inspired me.

* * * * *

So to continue the Machine Embroidery pointers…I decided I really have to finish and publish my book on Surface Design and Embellishment, which includes among other things both in-the-hoop embroidery and free motion embroidery, to say all I want to say.  But I did want to give you a little list of things to research on your own and to think about.

  1. Learn about stabilizers..there are lots of them out there and they all do different things.  Sometimes you need more than one at once.
  2. It is possible to remove machine embroidery that messes up without damaging your fabric sometimes, but not always.  I got a little electric trimmer for this purpose and it works most of the times if the fabric on which the embroidery is placed is sturdy enough.

    Summer Melody: I made a big mistake when I embroidered the bunnies on the path. They were sideways!!! So I got the Wahl clipper/trimmer and removed the embroidery and redid the bunnies. There was a small hole that I made trying to remove it without the trimmer, but it was covered by the new embroidered bunnies.

  3. If you are using a commercial design, and you have digitizing software, such as Bernina’s, it’s a very good idea to load it into the software and take a good look at how it is stitched.  You can often correct the designers mistakes, resize it, choose different fills, and make different thread selections before you use it…do this to a copy, not the original…and then do a stitchout before placing it on your main project.
  4. Realize that free motion thread painting is also a good option, but requires practice and understanding of thread density and how that affects your fabrics.  This requires its own blog post (and chapter in my book).
  5. Even decorative stitching available on your machine just to go on that beautiful new blouse you are making often requires proper stabilizing and thread to fabric considerations.
  6. You can use decorative stitches within a pictorial wall hanging or to enhance applique and pieced projects.  It’s very exciting and there is much to learn and try out.
  7. This kind of work takes time, thread, stabilizers, and practice but the results can be really rewarding.

* * * * *

Use what you already know how to do in interesting ways and spend some of your precious time learning and practicing.  One excellent idea that some quilters have suggested is to make simple utility, charity, and baby quilts for your learning and practicing.  I think this  is a wonderful idea, but you DO need to do SOME simple practice you are going to throw away or put into your reference notebooks.  I do suggest you don’t let the practicing and learning take over all your sewing and quilting time though.  Make yourself make that masterpiece quilt or  important project.  It’s all about balance in the studio, but be brave!

Suggested project:  Steps to a tree wall-hanging with birds and flowers.  With this wall-hanging, either find a coloring book tree or draw a simple tree and choose by the look you want what techniques, fabrics, and threads to use.  For instance, 1.  Make the background: the background could be pieced, appli-pieced (or pieceliqued..same thing), or painted or all of them to get the background you want.  2.  Make the large part of the tree trunk and large limbs…use appliqued woody fabric, couched on yarn, or paint, then free motion couch or embroider the small twiggy parts of the tree.  3.  Add the leaves…use free motion machine embroidery, appliqued leaves, or digitize leaf sections you embroider on black netting with washaway stabilizer and applique in place.  4.  Add the birds and flowers…use commercial embroidery for in-the-hoop embroidery machines, sizing appropriately, or applique by hand, or paint and then applique.  5. Sandwich and quilt…use monofil polyester to in-the-ditch and around-the appliques stabilizing, then either quilt using your walking foot or free motion stitch the quilt, block, square, and bind.  Please send me a photo to include in a blog post if you make a wall hanging inspired by this idea.