Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part 4 Trees

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

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

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

Trees for your quilted art

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

Machine Embroidering Trees or Parts of Trees

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

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

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

Trees without the use of digitizing software and embroidery module

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

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

Summer Melody, 2016, 33 x 29 inches.

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

Happy little tree

 

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

Night on the Bayou, 2018

 

Up close

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

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

 

 

 

Keeping On Keeping On With Some Fun Too

I know some of my gentle readers are about to pull their hair out by about now being confined to their homes.  Sew let us all get up and do some stretching and bending.  Ten reaches to the sky, ten toe touches, ten swings from right to left with arms out, and 100 in place marches.  Ten deep breaths and giggle like a kid for ten seconds.  Now!  Grammy BJ (that’s me) suggests doing this several times a day and then get to work or play.  Here’s what I have been working on this past week.

Yes I finally made a bunch of facemasks, primarily for my family and friends.  A lot of my friends have devoted their entire work time to making these masks.  There is a need, and now that the study came out showing the properly made cotton masks using high end “quilter’s cotton” in at least two layers is, indeed, fairly effective (79 percent for the best, but poorly made with poor fabric choice can be virtually no use at all.  A surgical mask is 65 percent effective, and the N95 is 95 percent, jusf for comparison), we no longer have to contend with people saying it isn’t of any use.  Sew if you want to make some for you and your family or more I highly recommend Bethanne Nemesh’s mask method shown here in her video.  I made mine this way.  Here are a few of them (100 percent cotton…cotton fabric, cotton t-shirt ties, and cotton thread are easy to launder and sterilize.  I may be wrong, but I don’t like the idea of a non-woven interfacing.  A third layer of cotton something like flannel might add some additional safety, but the study was looking at a two-layer tight woven quilting cotton):

Sew after I made a bunch of these, I am probably done with mask making, at least for a while.  Now I am very excited about my current projects.  I have four I am currently working on or planning.  Yes, I know that’s a lot for all at once, but I can’t help it that all the ideas came at once.  Hahaha.

My primary project is my Mom’s memory quilt I am centering around five beautiful ten inch crocheted lace squares I found in her workbasket after she passed.  I have made substantial quilting progress recently, and am working on quilting the borders now.

Mom’s lace squares…10 inches of beauty.

  1. Here’s a peak…more quilting is in order here.  I really really love that blue polyester dupioni and off white polyester satin.  They quilt very well and did not break the bank like silk would have.  I think the dupioni is clearly different from silk dupioni, but it does have a rich beautiful texture.
  2. A wool machine appliqued quilting project that includes both samplers for my book I am writing and a larger show quilt using what I am learning as I build this part of the book and its samplers.  My goal is to take true advantage of the magnificent threads and machines we have today to produce wool applique quilts that are at once suggestive of hand applique and shows and teaches the use of advanced stitching by machine.  I will also add considerable amount of beads and possibly other forms of embellishment.  Here’s a little test I have done to determine what may be possible and think about the pattern.

    Just a test

    I have determined to use my accuquilt go! cutter to cut out a bunch of shapes and in real time place them in a good design and add stitching, then make a pattern for the book.  I have this nice tool, as many of you do or many have cutters of some sort, and I think it would be a fun approach, but I also plan on providing enough of a pattern for those who do not have one to make the resulting project.  And yes, it will all be done on black boiled wool because that is what I have on hand.  I am on a tight budget right now.  LOL

  3. My appliqued bed quilt I started some time ago using a beautiful pattern by Sue Nickels.   It’s sort of Baltimore Album like, but all done by machine applique.  I don’t have a picture yet.   This is my relax and stitch project where I don’t have to please a judge and I didn’t have to think of the design.  I am, of course, making my own changes and it will be just for me.
  4. And the fourth project for the near term is a new deep space quilt.  I love doing these.  I have worked out the technique, have all the supplies I need for one, and I take the design straight from one of the NASA photographs they so generously share copyright free, so I only need to put some size and spacing marks on a wholecloth black top and away I go.  I plan on putting how to do this either in my current book on embellishment or in its own book.  So I will be taking a lot of pictures as I go.  In case you are unfamiliar with such quilts, I have two below for you to see.  Both have won ribbons, and the Sky Horse was in the juried Houston show in 2014.

    Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

    Spiral Galaxy No. 3

    These are so much fun to make.  I make them at my sitdown longarm because they are all free motion stitching.

    Sttitching with a reference picture

    And finally, my oldest son Ken who designed Pendragon for me is working on Excalabar design for the next in my ancient manuscript series.  If I manage to get all of these quilts done this year I will be doing very well.  I don’t work as fast as some of my competors in the show quilt world…hahaha.

    Pendragon
    34 x 45

    Sew happy everyone!  I love you all.  I hope you are keeping busy and making all kinds of fun things in your studio, or cooking, or gardening, or doing all of these things.  God bless you!

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part Three: Tools and Encouraging Words

This nice drawing is from Dover’s Chinese Designs. Whatever would I do without Dover!

A word about today’s situation

Hi gentle readers.  Life is a little crazy right now.  Among all the negatives, there are some positives in all of this…a lot of us have a little more time to spend in our studios working on our quilted art, for instance.  Some get to spend more time with their family members.  Maybe we can even sleep a little later.  We have time to wash our hands and do some praying (prayer at this time is, in my opinion, very important).  My church suggests we pray or sing encouraging hymns while we wash our hands.  I like this idea and am doing that some.

We have an advantage that past such events from history did not have…most of us can learn, shop, communicate, and entertain ourselves using our computers and our streaming services while we stay safely at home.  There is a much stronger understanding in the medical community of what a virus is and how to address it than there was in 1918, for instance.

Also, there is hope.  Many people who have had the virus are getting well.  Research is being done.  Quicker testing methods have just been approved by the FDA and shortly there will be mass testing stations set up in parking lots of several of our major companies, like CVS and Walgreens.  You won’t even have to get out of your car.  They also just announced they have a vaccine ready for testing (this does take time though).  There is an end for this and when it is over the US will have a gigantic party…we will all recover.

But in the meantime, let’s pull op our big girl or boy pants, go into our studios and get to work.  There may be, in the near future, need for some charity quilts.  In fact, there is almost always need for charity quilts, if you want to do that.  Our friends, family, and those around us also need to be cheered up and encouraged.  Quilted art that lifts the spirits can be part of that too.  If you know of a small business related to our craft, I urge you to use them.  Many of them have gone online or will help you via phone.  Boxes can still be delivered to your door (you can always wipe them off with a disinfectant if that worries you and wash your hands after disposing of the box…LOL).

A Look at the Tools of Our Tradecraft

So today I want to address the tools for our quilted art.  We all have them.  Some of us, like myself, are blessed with advanced machines and quilting machines, but even if you don’t have those, there is much that can be done with more basic machines.  I actually see a lot of basic informational help out there for those with basic machines, I also see a need to provide encouragement and instruction for those of us who do have the more advanced machines to use them to their fullest abilities, and learn how to use them well.  I began addressing some of this with my books on Bernina design software, and I am working on a book (or books) on embellishment techniques by machine.

Preparing for our Quilt Quarantines or Even Anytime:

So what will your machine do?  It may be time to make yourself some sample squares to work on, cut some circles, vines, and shapes for applique, and test things out.  So check your studio and actually list out what you have to use and what you may need to order for delivery to your front door:

  • Do you need a new ripper…I’ll bet lots of you are still using the ripper you bought some years ago.  A new sharp ripper is really a blessing.  I buy a new one once a year.
  • Do you need needles (make sure you have the different sizes you like to use..I particularly like 90/14 Top Stitch Superior Needles, 80/12 Top Stitch Superior Needles, and 70/10 Top Stitch Needle the most.  I also have a few 60/8 needles for beading by machine (not something I am good at yet, but I’m working on it).  These are easily ordered online.
  • Ironing:  Clean your irons (there are many techniques for this.  I use Rowenta Cleaning kit I get from Amazon..it really works) and if your ironing board is really dirty and the cover is removable, wash it.  If it is not, do a wipe down (I use Mr Clean Magic Erasers for this…it removes some of the stuff that may stick to fabric, though does not necessarily make it look clean, and steam press it when finished).
  • Rotary Cutters:  Replace the blade in your rotary cutters and order more if you don’t have a stock of replacement blades.
  • Wipe off your cutting board (again with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, though some may have other methods)
  • Dust every surface you can in your studio.  In fact, take out your Clorox wipe (or similar product) if you have it and wipe down your room, your  machine, your keyboards on your computer, your door knobs, your light switches, your phones, etc.)  And wash your hands when done while you sing or pray or quote Lady Macbeth or some such.
  • Clean and oil your machines and replace the needles, if needed. Make them ready to go.
  • Do a little “tidying up” as Pat Sloan likes to say and make your studio ready to go to work.
  • And finally, vacuum the floor.

So next pull out your project plan you developed in part one of this series, or your kit, or that pattern you’ve been wanting to make, and have assembled your fabrics as suggested in part two and prepare them for cutting.

Sew happy everyone, even in these times or especially in these times!  Let’s get to work.  There is much to do.  You may even have the opportunity to teach someone to quilt or sew.  Imagine what we will have done when we come out on the other side of this (and we will come out on the other side).  Please be sure to share online what you are doing.  It will make everyone else happy to see.  The Quilt Show asks that you share pictures and projects on Facebook and use #quiltersquarantine so we can have our neat community throughout this time.  I am doing that.  Hugs everyone…or maybe that is the Star Trek hand gesture…Live Long and Prosper…it does not require physical contact.  😀  Stay well everyone, and if you get it let us know…we will pray for you and prayer is powerful.

Finished “Leather” Coat, What Is Next, and a Quilt for Sale

I am struck by how much my readership dwindled during this past month as I worked on the “leather” coat for my youngest son.  I think it is informative to me that most of my readers are most interested in quilting, which doesn’t surprise me.  Well, nevermind.  I have finished the “leather” coat and I am going to do some quilting next before I do anymore clothing.  I do want to make a couple of pairs of slacks for me before I go to Road to California in late January.  But I am going to quilt, make a few small Christmas momentos in my embroidery hoop, and maybe a new bag to calm my sewing nerves after this tough project before I resume my clothing efforts sometime early in January.  LOL

The coat.

Well, it was time consuming and tough.  Why was it tough?  Not really because of the “leather” but more because I was tailoring a man’s coat for which I did not have a commercial pattern that fit.

One of the welted flap pockets

I was rusty in my tailoring methodology.  And yes, the “leather” does take more care and time, but it is still relatively easy to sew on.

Detail of collar

My new Bernina 880 plus, Odette, and the feet designed for use with the leather were marvelous.  I had no problems at all with that.  All the problems were mine.  LOL  Did I enjoy this project?  Well, yes.  I felt very happy to re-aquire my tailoring skills and enjoyed the sewing, which was amazingly easier than my decades ago work with leather.  I was only frustrated with my mistakes that cost me time and “leather” and with the time it was taking me.

Lapel detail

Now I have to dig out my studio and put away the scraps and so forth.  Then I have a workshop coming up “Embellish This! that I am teaching at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland on Friday the 13th (!) at 11 am to 3 pm.  It is largely filled, but I think there is another one or two places if you want to come and have a lot of fun. But I am all prepared for that one, so it won’t cost me any more time.

Finally, I put one of my quilts on special sale because need some spending money for my trip to R2CA.  I have reduced the price of this fun quilt to $899 from $1250.  I love this quilt that is centered around an Alfred Shaheen Vintage panel and I quilted on my Bernina Q20 pulling from Bethanne Nemesh’s book Quilted Textures from A to Zen for the textured quilting patterns.  I can provide more detailed photos if you are interested.

Tropical Garden, June 2017 36″ x 51.5″. I hand painted the border.

So contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com to buy this quilt.  We can arrange payments through PayPal.

Sew happy everyone!  Have some fun in your studio this week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working with “Leather” Tips

I am finally in the construction phase of the “leather” coat for my youngest son and it has been a time of learning and relearning. It has also taken me much longer to get here than I thought it would, but as I work, I am remembering a lot of the cool things I had learned decades ago that are helping me now, so I am speeding up.  I have now worked with this faux leather enough to know I really like it.  It has just the right weight, a good hand, and responds well to construction steps.  It is a vast improvement over faux leathers of the past.

Sew here are a few hints if you want to try your hand at working with such “leather”.

  1. I found that my Bohin chalk marker I use for quilting works well for marking.

    Bohin chalk marker

  2. After you get your flat pattern adjusted and a muslin piece fitted (essential) and ready to use, you have to mark each piece one side at a time on the back of the “leather”.  First, cut out the pattern carefully, then weight it down flat on the back of the “leather” and chalk around the pattern.  Cut carefully with scissors or rotary cutter (small rotary cutter will cut around the curves better).  Accuracy of the cutting will make a difference in the finished product.  This process takes about three times or more of pinning a pattern on woven fabric folded in half and then cutting out both sides of each piece together.

    Here’s my pattern on the “leather’ with my “fancy” pattern weights…LOL  Note some of the pieces chalked in ready to cut.

  3. You cannot readily pin the “leather” because the hole stays permanently.  Exception:  I pinned a few places where I really needed help keeping it together for stitching, but making certain the pin holes will be in the seam or hidden some other way.
  4. Clips work really well as a substitute for pinning when working along the edges for most of your stitching needs, and blue painter’s tape works great when you need some help where you can’t put a pin or a clip.

    The collars for this project are constructed with a separate under collar, interestingly shaped collar stands that are added before joining the collar pieces. Here you see the collar stand seam has been top stitched open and the collar pieces are clipped together ready to sew.

  5. You really need a teflon foot for most stitching (see my last post for the feet I am using), but I also have added my clear plastic foot number 34D Bernina that allows me to see the exact placement of the needle when making a bound welt pocket.

    Reverse pattern foot 34D, clear with marks and works with dual feed.

    In the case of the plastic foot, I was using my dual feed and stitching very slowly.  It worked well for this purpose, but for regular stitching at normal it really is best with a teflon foot.

  6. Marking carefully is vital when making welt pockets and don’t try to push yourself when you get tired.  I actually ruined one of the coat fronts late in my sewing day after the sun had gone down, and had to recut that piece and the binding pieces and start over by doing that.  So I suggest you buy an extra length of the longest piece in your pattern to be able to recut if need be.  You can use the leftovers for bags, hats, eye glass covers, and other interesting small projects.  I will be using that ruined piece as part of a bag I plan to make, so it isn’t really lost.  The next day, I got the pockets in really nicely and now I am so confident in making such pockets I will probably start using them on a regular basis again.

  7. I am using a seam roller gadget to “press” the seams open, but that is just temporary and the seams need to be either top stitched down or glued.
  8. I found you can iron on fusible interfacing on the wrong side at a lower iron setting than you normally use, no steam, and with a quilting cotton pressing cloth.  Be careful, press, don’t iron, and test your own “leather” first.  I am using a pellon tailoring interfacing.  Do NOT iron on the right side of the “leather” and I suggest you not try to iron the seams and completed turned pieces either.

Sew I will publish at least one more post on this project showing you the end result.  I am writing this information up into a how-to book including this and other projects.  There is a lot more to tell you about this.

Sew happy everyone.  I encourage you to take a look at the current day vegan leathers and try working with it.  There are a lot of interesting “leathers” out there and they come in different textures and weights.

 

Working With “Leather” from the 1970s to Now

When I recently got my new Bernina 880 plus, I also got a number of intersting new feet, including leather roller foot 55, teflon foot 52D (for dual feed), and teflon zipper foot 54, and other feet and attachments to go with the collection I already had from my erstwhile Bernina 830 that I traded in.  Sew I have a number of interesting projects I want to try that my wonderful studio can now handle that I might have not done before.  One of these is working with leather.

 

Leather roller foot 55

Teflon zipper foot 54

Teflon dual feed foot 52

 

 

 

 

 

As some of you probably know, I have started a project of tailoring a faux leather, aka “leather”, overcoat for my youngest son David, the moderately popular sci-fi/fantasy writer, who is a cute, big and tall man in his early forties.

Decades ago I had my own fashion design and tailoring (real tailoring, not alterations) business in Ithaca, New York.   During that time I did some leather work…making a few bags and re-styling a couple of old fur coats.  I did this on my two machines…a beautiful antique White machine, which I still have, from the early 20th century that has a powerful motor that only has a straight stitch, and my Singer Golden Touch and Sew that was the Singer top of the line at the time before they  went greatly downhill as a machine.  It was a good little machine, but truly insufficient for what I was using it for. But I did not have any special feet that sew smoothly across leather, a dual feed mechanism for keeping the two layers together of slick lining fabrics, for instance, and the buttonhole program that has a simple rectangle for assisting in the making of bound buttonholes.  I didn’t have YouTube to look up reminders on how to do a bound buttonhole or a welted pocket, for instance.

What I did and still do have is a wonderful treasure of a long out-of -print book I found in the library and Marvin later bought from a used book store.  It is called How to Make Men’s Clothes by Jane Rhinehart published in 1975. Years ago when I had my shop in Ithaca, I wrote to her and obtained permission to use her book for instructional purposes and the illustrations in her book as needed in my own manuals. She was delighted, actually. I have yet to write that manual, but I am thinking of doing one now adding leather techniques and updated available supplies. As you see if you click on the link to her book, it is still available as a used book from Amazon.  There are other used book places you can find it…some grossly overpriced.  I highly recommend this book if you want to improve your tailoring abilities (much of it works for women’s tailored clothes too).  I made my dearest Marvin several jackets shortly after we were married using these techniques.  He wore those jackets for most of our life together and said he could throw them in the corner, sit on them, pick them up and put them on and they looked like they had just been freshly pressed.  It is really a construction manual that helps you to “build” tailored clothing from inside out.

Sew now I have a powerful Bernina 880 Plus with feet designed specifically for leather and vinyl work using the dual feed mechanism and a wide harp space in a large cabinet to assist me in keeping things together.

The faux leathers have vastly improved over the years.  The one I bought for this project (I bought a whole 8 yard bolt of 60 inch wide “leather”, which allowed me to get it at a reasonable price per yard, and I plan on making myself a jacket from the remaining fabric) feels almost exactly like the true leather samples I obtained before starting this project and even the back side resembles a smoother version of the back of the real leather.  It has about the same weight as the jacket-weight leather samples.  From a short distance, and maybe even up close, you will not readily be able to identify this as faux leather once I have it sewn up.  Yes, I would really prefer the real leather, but this is a wonderful substitute and is a quarter of the price.  So be aware that if you prefer not to use real leather for whatever reason, you can still make that smart “leather” jacket.  I will say that you might still want to use real leather if you are going for a quilted leather project.  It can take the heavy stitching that type of project requires and I am not sure the “leather” would.  Also I found several good suppliers of leather if you want to go that way…just let me know in the comments.

I remember the older faux leather.  It was too shiny, too stiff, and in a year or so it would crack and peal.  The back was not as good either.  You could tell from a distance it was not real leather.  I used it for Ithaca opera costumes (I was the chief costumer for several of their operas back when I lived in Ithaca) from time to time…not fun to work with.

When I worked on the leather projects of the past, I used tissue paper under my needle, and I just tightly held the sides together and stitched slowly.   Now I use clips to hold the sides together, stitch normally with the dual feed engaged, and have even better results.

When I worked on the leather projects in the past, I glued down the seam allowances and hammered them flat with a wood mallet on a towel.  The glue was a heavy goo similar to that gooey paper cement only worse.  It smelled too.  Today they have a double sided leather strip and I got some white leather glue, actually from the same manufacturer that made the old gooey junk.  What an improvement!  Now I use the double sided tape or the much nicer white leather glue and my little wood wall paper roller to make a nice flat seam.

When I worked on the leather projects in the past, I avoided top stitching as much as I could because I almost had to hand crank my machine stitches to make them go through all the layers (try keeping that straight!).  Today, I don’t mind it at all because the machine stitches right through all those layers with no problem.

Sew for my current coat project, I could not find a pattern that fit my tall nobly-shaped son.  They do not have big and tall men tailored clothing patterns published by any company that I could find.  They absolutely need to fix that!!!!  The closest I came was a couple of costume coats for cos-play, and even those still would not have fit well.  So I ended up taking a Burda pattern, a McCall’s costume pattern, some instructions from How to Make Men’s Clothes, and Frankensteined a sloper together for him.

The Franken pattern ready to chalk and cut.

Then I made a muslin fitting shell…one that did not quite work but headed me in the right direction, and one that did work after that.  Then I transfered all the corrections to the flat sloper pattern and have chalked the pattern while weighting the pattern on the back of the “leather” (one side at a time) and have cut out the “leather” with my newly sharpened big scissors.  I know you can also do this with a small-blade rotary cutter, but it requires a bigger mat than I have and the scissors work well.  I have an idea the rotary cutter would work best on true leather.  I still have another 18 pieces of interfacings, linings, and pocket bags to cut out before I start construction.

Here’s my pattern on the “leather’ with my “fancy” pattern weights…LOL…I should make myself some nice pattern weights, but who has the time?!

I have, however,  made a sample to see how my machine uses it, practice the seam finishing, and so forth.  What a dream!  I may be doing a lot more in this “leather”.  But I really do want to get back to my quilting. So I am thinking I can make a practice welted pocket in a square piece big enough to later use on a bag.  That way if I ruin it, I can try again without ruining the coat.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new you haven’t tried before, or something you did long ago in the past that was more difficult than it would be today with today’s machines and products.  Now…back to cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wardrobe Analysis, Slopers, Muslin Test Garments, and a Fashion Fabric Stash

It’s November!  I have a plan for November.  Now I know my topic is usually related to the art of quilting, but I decided I seriously need to do some garment sewing for a bit, delaying some of my quilting plans while I do.  I have a really beautiful collection of fall, winter, and early spring fabrics stashed in three under bed storage units and in my blanket box I had built to match my bed some years back.  I also recently added a full 8 yard bolt of faux leather, and three pieces of fabric suitable for dress slacks for me. It’s literally been a decade or more since I replaced or added significant clothes to my wardrobe, and my son needs a new coat.

Over the past few years I have lost a couple of dress sizes although I am still quite a large woman with long arms, a smallish waist, and big hips.  So purchased clothes seldom look good on me, though a few simple styles can serve.  I also have worn out most of my old collection of nice shirts and slacks I used to wear to work even if the style and fit is still ok. Then there is the fact that I am now a fabric artist, retired from government work, so even if it was still serviceable, my wardrobe doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore.

Analysis of my current wardrobe tells me that the addition of several nice pairs of slacks, a few simple jackets, and some tops would make the rest of it work (I no longer wear dresses and I have black jeans, blue jeans, some nice sweaters and just a couple of shirts).

Now I know from having once had my own fashion design/tailoring business long years ago that once one gets a perfectly fit pattern for slacks, I can make a pair in less than a day.  At my top speed at that time, I could make a beautifully finished pair of well fitting slacks in an afternoon, including the cutting.  The big problem with that is getting the pattern perfectly fitted. So the first step is to get a sloper (or basic slacks pattern) flat fitted from measurements and then make up a pair of muslin test slacks.  After that I will make any changes to the test slacks and adjust the flat pattern.  That is step one.  Then I can zip through the three pairs of slacks.  I might make my poly/wool pants I have stashed away and add a simple cute jacket to get a nice dressy suit for winter…but maybe in December.

For my son David’s “leather” coat, I already have a sloper pattern and need to make a muslin fitter test for that before I add the style touches and make the coat.  That will probably take me a week or week and a half to make his coat.

Faux Leather..looks good. Has a nice weight. When I finish sewing it, one may not readily be able to tell it isn’t real leather. Real leather was out of my budget.

I recently flat fitted the cutest McCall’s jacket pattern to make a denim jacket out of some of the on hand denim.  It has places for adding some interesting embroidery.  I’m not going to make a test muslin for that, mostly because it has a lot of style ease in the pattern and also because I have a whole lot of denim, and since I have had it for a long time, I figure it is about equal to the cost of the muslin.  I buy my jeans from Lee Jeans, which has a style that fits me well surprisingly.  I may take a pair and add some corresponding embroidery at the bottom of the blue jeans, thereby giving me an attractive  blue denim suit to wear when teaching or even go to church or some such.  This will probably take me less than a week.

This is the denim jacket pattern. I will do the embroidery too.

Then I will make myself a faux leather jacket, for which I have a pattern that I already know fits me, though I still think I will make a muslin fitter before I cut the leather, since it cannot be unstitched even the slightest because of the holes from the stitching.  Leather…faux or real…has to stay like you sew it!  This is a more complex jacket and will probably take me a week to make.  This will be fun.  My new machine came with some feet designed to sew on leather/faux leather.

I have a stack of blouse/top fabrics that will make nice year round tops and also a piece of  black faux suede to make an elaborately embroidered, but otherwise simply styled jacket to wear for Holidays or some such (I’ll make this for Christmas, but not until December).  I just ordered a couple of new tops patterns that look fairly simple to make.  I’ll make those across the next year with one every once in a while.  So I am not counting them on my initial wardrobe redo timing.

Sew my initial wardrobe update seems to me to be doable by the beginning of December, especially since I am still quilting my Mom’s memory quilt, which is coming along nicely.  Don’t forget, I made myself a beautiful overcoat last year that has a faux fur collar and I love it.  It also told me I still love making clothes, but doing them right and carefully fitting them.  This wardrobe update will be using on hand fabrics and thread.  I probably have all the interfacing and other additional notions I may need.  So the entire cost of this year’s update will be really low and I will end up with a wonderful wardrobe.  I will construct most of the items so I can take them up as I lose more weight. I am, of course, planning on embellishing,  embroidering, and adding some interesting style touches for most of the new clothes I make (not the slacks). That’s what makes constructing my own clothes so much fun. I’m excited.

Meanwhile, I have made a very nice start to the quilting of my Mom’s memory quilt.  I will work these things together.  This makes it really fun for me in my studio.  I also have gotten mostly ready for my next workshop I am teaching at G Street Fabrics on 15 November…Embellish This! in which we embellish a fabric panel I designed that makes a 15 inch by 15 inch square suitable for a pillow top or wall hanging (Christmas present?).   That class is going to be a lot of fun and not a lot of stress, plus you end up with a very nice selection of decorative threads you can use for Holiday embellishment (purchased kit $45, worth at least twice that much).  So I encourage my local friends to sign up.  I think there is still room in this class.  Call G Street and ask.

So I have a plan in addition to continuous periodic work on my Mom’s memory quilt:

  • November sewing
    • David’s “leather” coat
    • My three slacks
    • My denim jacket
    • My “leather” jacket
  • December sewing
    • My “suede” embroidered jacket for Christmas
    • My wool suit????
    • A new bag from leftover “leather” and “suede” together
    • A simple top or two

Will I finish all of this?  I’m thinking I actually might with careful planning with no additional costs.  That way I will save a lot of money and have a good wardrobe for my current lifestyle.  Then I can get back to focusing on quilting full time.

Happy sewing everyone!  Make yourself some lovely garment or garments to make you happy, but I encourage you to make a muslin fitting test piece before you cut your expensive fashion fabric if you do not already know the pattern fits.  Then you can make the same pattern with different style touches with several fabrics…stack them up, cut them out, embellish them, make them all at once!  Then let me know how it went.

 

 

 

Sew Happy with My New Machine

I have been blessed with a really fine new Bernina 880 Plus, aka Odette.  I have been doing a lot of work with the machine since I got it all settled down and I learned its little ins and outs.

I have been working on a quilt in  memory of my Mom.  Mom was a great beauty, a fabulous sewist. a woodworker, had been a nurse, and a home decorator.  She was a wonderful mother and wife during her life.  She taught me to sew and knit. This quilt is a hug and a bow to her sparkling memory.  I’m really enjoying working on it as I remember all the wonderful things she taught me and shared with me.

Mom (Zephana Bivens) in her woodshop at 78.

So my design for Mom’s memory quilt has a considerable amount of in-the-hoop embroidery in it.  Some of the embroidery designs came with my new machine, were some I had purchased or collected  in the past, and two of them I purchased just for this quilt.  In spite of when I got them, all the designs are from OESD and are amazingly well digitized and have stitched out wonderfully on my new machine.  I am so impressed with how beautiful the stitches are, how they don’t overly pull, and how wonderful they look when done.  I have three more to go, each requiring about two hours to complete.  Then I will sandwich, quilt, paint, wash and block, bind, and add crystals and pearls.

Mom, Dad, and my brother Pat before I was even on the way.

I also have done some additional sewing just to see how the machine works, testing all the attachments.  I got some special feet designed to work with leather and vinyl.  Just this week I bought enough beautiful faux leather to make my youngest son, the writer who shares this house with me, a coat and myself a jacket.  I’m excited about this project.

One of the things that came with my new machine is Bernina’s Big Book of Feet. I have been reading through it while babysitting the embroidery module doing its work.  I find I have most of the feet, since I had a Bernina 830 prior to this one and had collected them across the eight years and I got some new ones that came with the deal.  It’s so exciting when I can do and I will be sewing a lot of clothes and home decorating items over the next year as well as the planned show quilts on my list to explore some of these interesting techniques.  I’m thinking I might make some of the clothes as wearable art and enter them into shows also.  Maybe I will make a few bags and hats too.

Mom and me in May 1967. I am showing off the dress I made.

How exciting!  Will I get it all done?  Probably not, but it will be fun trying.  After nearly three months of working to get a good new machine following the breakdown of my 830, and another couple of weeks learning Odette’s ins and outs, I have concluded I have the best machine I have ever had.  It sews evenly, beautifully, and smoothly.  I foresee many years of exciting new projects ahead. Knock on wood!  LOL

I’m currently writing a book about embellishment that will include several sampler projects, just to fill in my spare time…hahahaha.  (Also, I am going to teach a class at G Street sometime in November on embellishment).

Embellish This! workshop sampler for November 2019 class.

Sew happy everyone!  Take time to learn what your machine can do.  Even some of the more basic machines will help you do some remarkable work if you take the time to explore it, but especially if you have a more advanced machine….take that time to read the manual, and try some new techniques to enhance your sewing.  It will give you lots of happiness in the process and with the items you make.

Problem Solving in the Studio 3: Free Motion Couching

One of the things I have really been enjoying experimenting with lately is couching by machine.  Couching, or laid work in which cords or yarns are laid onto a fabric and attached using small stitches, reaches back into history at least as far as the llth century, usually gold cording.  Of course, that was by hand and gloriously beautiful.

I have been working on a book on embellishment and one of the techniques I will be covering in the book is couching.  Or rather, several of the techniques I am discussing are several different types of couching by machine.  Our machine companies have developed or are developing couching feet designed to help us apply interesting cords and yarns to the surface of our projects by machine.  Like many things, though, success in this endeavor requires a bit of practice.

 

This is the start of a small sampler of winter trees that I am making. The largest tree is couched on sports weightyarn, using foot number 43 on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm. The next largest tree on the right uses a thinner baby fingering yarn and so I used the ruler foot 72 with the largest of the three couching inserts. The silver tree in the center back is couched on Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle decorative heavy thread, the thinest of the bunch, that I couched on using the smallest insert in the ruler foot 72. This was pure fun to do.

I also used free motion couching using Bernina 43 foot for my quilt Night on the Bayou, which will be in this year’s Houston IQF show.  Isn’t that terrific?  No, it will not be winning a ribbon, but I’m very happy to have it in the show nevertheless.

A close up of the Night on the Bayou showing the tree limbs I couched on with yarn using foot 43. I also couched on the bushes and grasses growing in the water (not shown here).

Sew there are some problems I have had sometimes especially in free motion couching.

Normally, I use either Superior Thread’s wonderful Monopoly thread or a 100 weight matching (to the yarn or cord) silk or poly thread to couch the thread on.  I use a small 70/10 needle.

When I first started trying this, I had trouble with the thread breaking periodically, especially the monopoly.  Then I saw someone, and I cannot remember who or where, say that using a universal needle helps prevent thread breakage for monopoly threads.  Sew I tried it and found a 70/10 or even a 60/8 universal needle actually does make a big difference. Lowering the top tension also makes a difference.  My biggest problem is getting these small needle eyes threaded with thread I can barely see. It just takes magnification and time. for me to do that.

The other problem I have sometimes is stitching off the thread when doing a curve or circle, leaving the stitches in the right shape and the yarn hanging there.  To make this better, I have found from experimentation that it is a matter of making sure to provide sufficient looseness of the yarn or cord feeding into the foot and stitching slowly enough.  I pile on a bit of loose cord/yarn onto the fabric and watch to make sure it doesn’t feed a loop into the foot, stopping and adding more cord/yarn as it uses up.  If the yarn/cord feeds in with even a small amount of too much tension, it will pull it out of the stitch path.

For the most part, this is fixable if you take your time by going back and stitching over it, using a stiletto or bent tweezers pulling the cord/yarn into place while you slowly restitch over the yarn, following the stitching now on the fabric.  Alternatively, you can remove the yarn beyond the skipped area by pulling gently on the stitched down part and clipping the thread.  But if there is enough looseness of yarn, and you sew slowly enough in the first place, you probably won’t miss the yarn/cord in the first place for the most part.

Of course, like every really good technique, you need to practice.

A word about practice and testing:  I know it takes time to test and practice techniques and products, but it can save you a great deal of time later and even the ruination of your project.  Keep a notebook and staple samples into it and write up what you did.  That way, next time you use the same kinds of items to do the same thing, even if it is months down the road, you just have to look up what you already did and proceed straight to your project.

Do I sound like an annoying nagging teacher now?  LOL…well, maybe I am.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you try couching and have a lot of fun with it.  I have lots of plans for using this technique in future quilts.

 

Satin Sampler

OK.  I have been working out a satin sampler to test markers, techniques, threads, paints, and background designs for several projects, one being my Mom’s memory quilt.  The cool thing about this is that I am making it with polyester crepe back satin.  It has a lovely beefy hand and I wanted to test it for future projects.  Why?  Partly because I can get a 58 inch wide piece for about $5 per yard for a lighter hand up to $8 a yard for a heavy satin instead of the $17 to $40 a yard for 43″ wide fabric, and partly because there are some wonderful colors available in the polyester that don’t run when washed.  I am using the heavy polyester crepe back satin for this sampler.  I will be making it into a pillow top for my bedroom since I can tell I will like it when finished.

Sew I have layered it with a cotton backing, and a double bat of Quilter’s Dream 80/20 select loft on bottom and Quilter’s Dream wool on top.  I marked it with a heat-away gel pen (see my blog on marker testing for this satin) that I do not recommend unless you are prepared to go through a removal process that requires much effort and time.  This ink returns when frozen (such as in the airplane when you check your luggage or ship it someplace). Also, my marker testing is incomplete, because I want to finish the sampler, freeze it, and completely test the removal process again on this sandwiched piece. I am quilting it with 40 weight Superior Magnifico and, where needed, 100 weight microquilter.

I painted this sampler with a combination of Setacolor and Jacquard Lumier fabric paints in order to get the colors I wanted.  Their steadfastness will also be tested in the freezing/washing test.

Here is a little look at my work on this little sampler thus far.  I am really having fun with this.  While most of the stitch work has been on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, some very small amount was done on my new B 880 Plus machine, just to see how it quilts.  LOL

 

 

So my conclusion about good quality polyester crepe back satin as a quilting fabric…it works, it’s beautiful, and it both paints and quilts well.  I do back it with a very light weight pellon fusible to make it behave well.

* * * * * * *

Something I didn’t tell you all earlier is that just after I got Odette all sorted out with a new machine from Bernina because the first one seemed to have a serious problem, I made a mistake in threading it and got a huge glob of thread nest in it that I could not remove myself.  So I had to take it in to the dealer to get it fixed.  It made me weep. I was really gloomy when I found that Lew, the magical tech guy, was out for two weeks and so I had to wait.  He fixed it almost imediately when he got back and I got it safely home on Tuesday and have done considerable sewing and embroidery on it since then.  It is clearly a wonderful machine.  It was my mistake, and I have since figured out what I did wrong (with Lew’s suggestions).  I didn’t want to whine again or have people tell me I was wrong to buy it in the first place because their prefered brand works so much better they think.

Anyway, that meant that I was without my main sewing machine for nearly three months with the exception of a day or two twice!!!  So I did a lot of sewing on my little Bernina 350 and a lot of free motion work on my Q20, and a lot of non-machine prep work for future projects, and stacked up quite a bit of work for the new machine.  I will, therefore, be missing a few deadlines I had tentatively planned on.

I have begun attacking the stack of work and have been having a huge amount of fun and the icy fear of further machine problems has begun to melt away over the past week.  In addition to some “regular” sewing, I did some in-the-hoop embroidery last week that came out so perfect and beautiful that I was nearly weeping again, this time in joy.  You should know that I seldom cry for anything much, and am known as a “tough old bird” as one of my former colleagues told me.  But this machine saga seems to have loosened a few tears from me.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines play well with you for many years.  Hugs to you all!