“Hand Work” by Machine

I am sure you’ve noticed that there is a recent renewal of interest in embroidery and quilting by hand.  I can appreciate this.  I used to do a lot of it myself.  It looks wonderful and can give the stitcher a sense of meditative happiness and quiet, plus you end up with a beautiful piece to quilt and/or put on the wall, make into a pillow, or frame for a gift.  These are often small and exquisite little jewels that are a great pleasure to make and view.

As wonderful as these are, I am thinking that with today’s machines, specialty threads, specialty feet and attachments, plus a community of sewers and quilters who are constantly developing new techniques, it is possible to create equally exquisite little pieces by machine.  Mind, I am not advocating giving up hand work, just using it as inspiration for some extraordinary stitching by machine, or using both together on a single piece. While this might enable one to make such a treasure in a  shorter space of time, it may not be that much faster, but interestingly challenging in a different way.  Machine work is especially nice if one is facing arthritic or injured hands that make doing the hand stitching difficult or painful. Yes, it will almost certainly look a little different, but the texture and beauty that can be accomplished may be equally extraordinary.

I have two sources of inspiration that has made me want to try this.  Alex Anderson recently ran a free class on The Quilt Show and YouTube called Make It Your Own stitch along lessons.  I watched it.  I did not make one, but I found some of the results truly beautiful.  Trying to make a similar piece  by machine may be very interesting.

The second one is the Royal School of Needlework posts in Instagram. Their work is truly incredible. I am particularly fond of their gold work which is often a combination of couched on gold cord and padded embroidery. But I also love many of their other colored embroidery pieces. Can I approximate the looks of these pieces?  Well, I don’t know, but it is worth a try.  I do know that it is possible to do padded embroidery in-the-hoop, and I have done a lot of couched work on all three of my machines.

I will do a little experimenting first, and then demonstrate some of the techniques on my YouTube channel.  What do you think?  Would you enjoy that? This will take me months before I am ready to record the work, but I will keep you apprised here on my blog of my progress.

The first thing I need to do, and, in fact, am already doing, is to make myself an interesting “library” of stitches I can do on my machines using different threads, different settings, and including the default settings.  This actually came about because I ended up with a small stack of sheets of fabric all prepared for testing decorative stitches that I had put together for a class that I never ran due to the pandemic.  They are nice white on white quilting fabric backed with a stabilizer and I drew in lines and added a selection of needles up in the corner.  I think I will add some darker fabrics and interesting designs that I can get from my Bernina 880 plus.  Once I get this done, I will be better able to decide how to make some of my ideas and draw up instructions or a pattern.  I tell you, it is almost equally as meditative and calming to me to stitch these library sheets as it would be by hand.  I think the key is to not try to rush this project, but to sew at whatever speed it takes to get things to work right.

I am using all kinds of threads and weights I have in my stash, primarily from Wonderfil Threads (a relatively new passion of mine), but also from Superior Threads (which I developed a huge stash of over the years.  It differs a bit from Wonderfil, so they work well together).  I believe my thread stash is bigger than my fabric stash at the moment. When I finally get to the first project, I will give you a list of the threads I use so you can try them if you want.

In the process of putting together the right fabrics for these types of projects I thought you might like to know favorites that I’m sure you would love too that would make great fabrics for such projects (beyond our stand by of high quality quilting cotton).  These include Kaufman Essex Linen, a wonderful linen/cotton blend good for a multitude of sewing projects, and Kaufman silk/cotton Radiance.  Surprisingly, I also found that faux silk polyester dupioni (the 58 inch wide) makes a wonderful choice, but it needs to be backed with a lightweight iron on fusible such as  Pellon SF101 iron on woven interfacing.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Surface Design to Quilted Art

Making Spiral Gallaxy 3 (see below)

You may not know, but I have happily received several delightful and prestigious awards in Surface Design or similar awards over the years. I still find surface design and embellishment to be the most interesting part of making quilted wall art pieces.

The border swirls and leaves were all painted after quilting using Setacolor and Jacquard paints.

Some of my quilts are entirely surface design and quilting, such as my deep space quilts.  These encompass several techniques that often include multiple media pulled together, and are oh so fun to do.

Spiral Gallaxy 3…a wholecloth quilt with large Angelina Fibers applique, black veilling, a little background paint, lots of threadwork and quilting, and tons of hot fix crystals.

So what do I mean when I say Surface Design and Embellishment?  There may be a more formal definition among professional artists, but I personally mean anything outside the norm that is added to the fabric during construction of the piece or even a mostly finished piece to enhance the look or complete the design.  This might include paint, decorative thread-work, lace, Angelina Fibers, beads, buttons, crystals or found objects, and even dimensional applique.

Hawaiian Garden. The central panel is a vintage piece by Albert Shaheen. I made this as a challenge piece for MQX show in 2016. I pulled the border design from the panel and quilted, then painted the borders. I gave this to my brother and sister-in-law for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

To me, surface design is like play.  Over the next several months, I am planning on providing some demonstrations on my YouTube channel presenting some of my techniques and products I use.  The first of these will be painting on a previously quilted piece.  The various fibers and fabric weaves respond differently to the selection of the painting product. Over the years I have accumulated a nice variety of these products and kept them replaced when used up or dried out, although recently it did hurt my feelings to find I had a large percentage of my Setacolor fabric paints that had dried out.  I don’t know why they did (I’m kidding), since they were only 8 or so years old and mostly less than a quarter of the jar left…LOL. So I threw a bunch out and rearranged what I have left to use for this project.  I think I have not been making enough wall art over the past couple of years, probably because life got in the way for a while, but I am back now to full time work and feeling pretty good for an ancient fabric artist.

For the most part, the products I use are basically machine washable in cold water once heat set with an iron.  Some do require a medium, such as GAC Fabric Medium or drug store pure Aloe gel, to make them permanent or even to make them behave right on fabric.  I plan on doing a test or two for you to show the results on this blog.  My goal has always been to use the product that helps me create the look I want without changing the hand of the fabric and that can be washed when needed.  I want to be able to wash a quilt even if it is going to be a piece of wall art only.  You’d be surprised how dirty a show quilt can get when it has been shown in multiple shows or hung for years. But they don’t need to be washable frequently in hot water, like you would if you are making a snuggle quilt for a child, for instance. I would not recommend painting such a snuggle quilt.

Anyway, I have been making a set of small quiltlets with spaces in them to paint and I am just about ready to start filming this work.  It will be fun for me, I’m sure.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

 

 

Busy Developing New Projects

Test and practice piece using all wool machine applique and embellishment

Hi gentle readers! As the title says, I have been very busy lately developing new projects that I hope you all will fully enjoy when I publish them here and in my YouTube channel.

For the first of these projects…exploring painting on quilted fabric…I will include any additional information that accompanies my video(s) that you might want here on my blog.  So the the entire exploration information and demonstrating videos that result in a handful of painted quiltlets will be free to you.  I am really having fun doing all the prep work for the videos and practicing the techniques and am nearly ready to start “filming” the videos.

For years I have been exploring how various types of fabric paints, artist crayons. and pencils, work with different types of fibers and weaves that are already quilted.  Or rather, I already know more or less how this works so I will be show the matching of the types of paints, crayons, and pencils with the different fabrics to get the best results.  I believe that by doing this, you will be able to take what I share and use it to get the looks you want on your own projects, or at least to explore your own ideas with some success. I am hopeful to get these published in April and May. 

In the process of working out the sampler quiltlets I came up with an idea I want to make for a cuddle lap quilt that I may or may not put into a video if I make it.  I haven’t decided if I can fit it into my work plan or not, but if I do make it, at the very least I will share it here on my blog. It involves in-the-hoop quilting designs coupled with free motion quilting and possibly quilt-as-I-go construction, but I haven’t fully decided on all of that yet.  It’s just an idea at this point.  I will be able to use some of my pretty threads for this project.

Anyway, in addition to working on the painting project hours daily for some time now I have been trying to design some new wool applique by machine projects to present on my channel for fall and winter. One will be quick and less complex and presented sometime soon, and others will be presented across the rest of the year.  But  I am also working to come up with a really good design with dimensional texture that uses the wonderful characteristics of wool for a small very artistic wall hanging. It will be what I think of as 2 1/2 D rather than 3D.  LOL

3D stump work dragonfly I made in the hoop has wire hidden in the stitching on the wings. This was so much fun to make, I want to do more in-the-hoop stumpwork.  Would you like a video on how I do this?

I am thinking, after much consideration, that the background fabric for this textural wall hanging will be on cotton, and the appliques will be wool.  I also am considering adding some couching of  wool yarns and maybe even some wool roving that I would needle punch with the needle punch attachment on my little baby machine, my Bernina 350, which I usually use for piecing and travel, but it also has several attachments I like to use on that machine because it has a 5.5 width maximum stitch that allows some interesting results.  I might also add stump work object that I make in-the-hoop from lighter fabrics.  Anyway, I’m working on a complete design that I am very hopeful will be really beautiful and interesting to watch me make on my YouTube channel.  It would be so delightful if some of you decide to make one yourself because it is so interesting and the result will be lovely.

If I get the design right, it will involve the use of three of my machines…my B350, my Bernina 880+. and my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, but will be doable on a single domestic machine and a hand needle punch tool if that is all one has or wants to use.  For this project, I will be developing a downloadable pattern that I will sell in my website store. This pattern would include svg files for cutting out the appliques using a digital cutter and line drawings for use with scissors.  Anyway, it’s rumbling around in my head and I am working on various designs to come up with the best one.  It should be fun.  I have long known that it takes me longer to design a project and develop the pattern than to make it.  So this project will take some time, consist of multiple videos, and hopefully will be published over the summer.  It would make a wonderful present for someone, even if it is for your own sewing space.

Sew you may want to know where the third and last video of my two birds project is. My video director and editor has had some minor delays in getting it done as work and life got in the way.  We are hopeful that it will be out sometime in the first week of April. There is a downloadable pattern for this project available for only $5 on my website shop, but as of this writing I have only sold one copy, even though I have almost 400 views of the first two videos.  Since it would be very difficult to make this project without the pattern, I guess my hope that some of my viewers would try to make it themselves has not yet happened.  I am still hopeful that some quilters will decide to do the project and share their results with me so I can show you all.  Maybe they want to see the finish before they decide.  Or maybe people are not aware that it is almost a complete book on how to do this kind of project that they may find informative and interesting even if they don’t make it. It is accompanied by svg files for cutting the appliques.  You don’t have to have a digital cutter though, because it also has the line drawings to cutout the appliques with scissors.  Here are the links to video one and video two.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding Paint to Quilts

Hi everybody!  My Two Birds Project, video one and the workbook with the pattern are published! Video Two will come in February and Video Three in March.  There will likely be some additional smaller videos out in February and March also.  Please watch them, and, if you haven’t already, subscribe to my YouTube channel.  It’s free and doesn’t ask any questions or pester you after you subscribed.  Here’s the link to the video: Two Birds Video

And here’s the link to the pattern with workbook if you want to join me in making one for yourself (it is only $5):  Two Birds Pattern

Sew I had the idea that it might be a good idea to make a set of five small quiltlets of different fabric types and use commercial embroidery on them that would look nice with the addition of painting.  I plan to use several different types of paints, inks, and markers that I have hanging around my studio in order to compare the paints and the way they work with the different fabrics.  That way I can reference them when I am making a quilt to decide which paints I need to use.  That’s what I’m working on now.

Test sampler I made before starting my Mom’s memory quilt.  I Quilted it first and then painted the bird and the flowers.

Hawaiian Garden:  I quilted, then painted the borders.

I think this will be a fun project.  I will video it so you can see what I do and write a blog or two about it also.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

Happy 2022! Looking Forward to a Good Year

We made it through 2021!  Hooray!  Happy New Year everyone!  I am taking a positive approach for 2022…expecting it to be a good year full of light, love, peace, and productivity! So what’s first up for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts?

I talked a little about this in my last blog post.

  • I will soon be presenting the first in a three-part series of videos coupled with the publishing of a workbook with pattern for the Two Birds Project.  The first part is completely filmed and being edited, and the workbook is fully written and being edited.  The two remaining videos are filmed all but the short openings and I need to record the voice-over scripts for them. It will be a fun set for my followers and I’m excited to get to this point.
  • I am working on putting together a wool applique by machine project. Wait until you see what can be done with these techniques and materials! It’s really going to be fun!
  • I have worked up a production plan for the first part of the year that includes show quilts (to fit within my architectural, ancient manuscript, and deep space genres), applique projects (both wool and other fabrics), and multiple shorter technique skill project videos that I think you will enjoy. There may be other things too along the way. Plus a little bit of clothes sewing.

I got a fun addition to my studio for Christmas, a Brother Scan and Cut DX.  I have been spending the last several days learning all about it and how best to use it.  It adds lots of new possibilities and a great help for the applique quilts for sure, but I can also make some quilting stencils and other things I am thinking about.  I now have both the Applique Go! with a nice collection of dies to help me cut multiple layers of fabric for snuggle/quick-to-make quilts and the Scan and Cut for cutting digitally created shapes for more complex individual applique designs among other things…how wonderful.  Truly, except for wishing I had more space and storage (doesn’t everyone?), I have a marvelous studio for designing, quilting, and stitching adventures complete with the video equipment well set up for filming them.  And yes, I also have significant help from my delightful family.  Oh, and don’t forget, I have newly improved eyesight to help with all of this!  I am totally thankful both to my kids and my Lord for all of this.

Sew I am making a kind of fresh move in my YouTube channel, pattern making, and books now at the beginning of 2022.  Last year  seems like kind of a rehearsal and learning period for me.  So I’m excited.  I hope to get a lot of new subscribers/readers and provide significant content you all will enjoy.  I love sharing my work with you.

Let me know if there is a particular subject you want me to cover either in comments here or on my videos on YouTube.  I will see what can be done.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!

 

Fall Project Timing

Hi everyone.  I can’t believe it’s already October!  I love that it is fall, because it was a hot and somewhat rough summer for me, but it occurs to me that I have several projects I have in mind for fall and for the Christmas/winter season that aren’t even started yet.  Yikes!  I better stretch my time in the studio a bit more!

 

I have been working really hard on the complex multi-video two birds project.  I am about three fourths of the way.  I want mostly to complete the whole project before publishing the first video because I need to make sure the accompanying workbook and pattern with all its techniques are good and actually work with the videos.  That will be available from my shop on my website and together with the videos presents a fairly complete class.  This class presents a lot of the techniques I have used in the past on some of my show quilts and I think quilters will enjoy making it.  Besides, it makes up into a really nice wall or lap quilt that would be a wonderful present or enjoyable quilt for yourself.

Sew, kind of as step one on this project, I uploaded a video that discusses how to turn a line drawing, like a coloring book page, into a pattern similar to my two birds to use in your own designs.  I know everyone may not have all the software or want to play with it in that way, but I know some will and may not have thought of using it for that or really know how.  If you have Bernina software v8, for instance, you have Corel Draw elements.  Anyway, take a look at the video and see what you think.

Here is a picture of some luscious Wonderfil threads (see link on the right). I love their specialty threads and am using a lot of them in my two birds project.

I have a couple of wool applique by machine decorative wall hangings–one for fall and one for Christmas–coming too, if I succeed in getting them all done in time.

In the meantime, I have my right eye cataract surgery on the 14th of this month.  I will be glad to get that taken care of.  I can see so well out of my left eye now and not well at all out of the right eye.

Then to top off everything, I have clothes I need to make.  We’ll see how much of all of this I get done.

The Simplicity pattern from my substantial pattern stash. Note the pants have a simple full elastic waist and no pockets…not what I want, but I have a better slacks pattern. The long sleeve tunic provides a suggestion for the embellishment. I would be adding something more for fun.

 

I always plan more than I can do it seems.  But it is so much to look forward to and have fun with in my studio as we drift into fall and winter.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

Machine Applique Can Be Beautiful and Durable

Hi everybody.  The subject recently came up about how to sew stitched raw-edge applique so it can be washed and used without a fraying edge.  I have used these appliques for years now and have found that there are ways to minimize or even eliminate fraying regardless of the stitch I use for the edge.

Canterbury silk. All the appliques in the central block are silk and stitched with narrow matching lightweight thread using a blanket stitch.

First of all, one needs to consider the fabric.  If you are using a relatively loosely woven cotton, it probably would be best to turn the edge even if you are machine stitching it or use a satin stitch with a fray edge treatment, such as fray check if you machine stitch it down.  Most current day high quality quilting cottons, however, are tightly woven enough to withstand a raw-edge applique treatment if the stitching is properly set up and the washing is done on a gentle cycle or by hand.

Night on the Bayou. The big cyprus trees are turned edge, machine stitched and the remaining appliques are fused raw edge. All the applique stitching was machine blanket stitched.

I use a light fusible web to tack down my appliques that usually washes away.  I have also used a simple wash away glue stick and it works too with the right stitch settings.  So for blanket stitch:

  • Set the stitch narrow with a short length.  I use about 1.7 width by 1.5 length on my Bernina 880 plus for most quilting cotton.
  • I move the needle as far to the right as possible.
  • I use an open toed embroidery foot 20D
  • I engage the dual feed to make it really even, but if you don’t have such, stitch at a slow even speed
  • Run the edge of the applique up close to the inside right toe of the foot so that the straight stitch runs close to the edge of the applique in the background and the swing left to right stitch goes into the applique
  • Turn the applique as it curves so the swing left-right stitch points to the center of the circle or roundish shape
  • When turning at a sharp angle, stop as close to the end as possible, preferably with the needle to the right in the background.  Then turn, and begin the stitch pattern by hitting the restart pattern button if your machine has one. This makes a pretty point and seals the sharp shape of the applique down with thread. Don’t fret if you miss it a bit, just get it as close to this ideal as you can.
  • When quilting this type of applique you may wish to use a matching light weight thread or monopoly to blend into the background, or a heavier thread in a dark gray stitched close to the edge to make a shadow-like appearance. It all depends on how you want the end result, so do a test first.

If you do all of this, the result is usually a straight stitch running close to the cut edge of the applique on the background and the left-right stitches close enough together that they help to prevent fraying.  Use this stitch with matching thread when you want your edges to blend into the applique more. If you want the blanket stitch to stand out, see if your machine has a double blanket stitch.  The double blanket stitch is beautiful and pretty completely seals the edges but stands out.

If you are using wool felt appliques, you can use wider and longer blanket stitches and possibly a 12 weight wool thread for a very hand-appliqued look.  You are likely not to wash these items, but felt does not fray in any event.

If you decide you would rather use a satin stitched edge it requires careful even stitching and points and corners require care because this stitch can look fairly amateurish with wiggles and bumpy corners and poorly stitched points. I really prefer to do this by first digitizing it in my Bernina software and then stitch in-the-hoop appliques because it gives a much more professional finish than is easy to achieve otherwise.  However, I have been successful at stitching this with first a narrower satin stitch around the applique and follow that with a slightly wider stitch over the original stitch.  This gives a nicer smoother look.  Use this stitch when you want your edges to stand out.

Detail from Summer Melody, in which all the butterflies are appliqued with narrow satin stitch.

Then there is the time you actually want a little fraying to add to the character of the applique.  For this, I just use a straight stitch close to the edge of the applique in a matching thread.

Regardless of the applique you use, when you wash these quilts use gentle cycle or wash by hand and dry flat and they will last for many years.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and don’t fear the applique.

 

A New Stitching Adventure

Birds at Play Detail from Pattern

Hi gentle readers,

I am almost ready to start making and filming a fun new wall quilt that focuses on stitching…both free motion and some with feed dogs up.  It also has a small amount of appliques behind some of the stitching and 9 pieces of fabrics to make a simple style quilt background to put all this stitching with some appliques and some paint onto.  The picture above is a single tile from a multi-tile downloadable pattern with instructions and supply list. This project was inspired by a page from a Dover Publications coloring book.

I got the missing fabrics this week and they are all washed and ready to go.  I am still working on the pattern, but the hard part is done so I will be publishing that for sale at a moderate price on my website store to go along with an undetermined number of free YouTube videos to take people through the project…fun to simply watch, and fun to make with me if you want.

I will be adding a page to this blog site with links to my recommended supplies that apply to ongoing projects.  Once it’s there you can just click on “Supply links” above and you can go shopping!

Sew I am excited about making this piece.  I will be testing some products I have not used before I make it and will tell you about them as I go.  This includes some new specialty threads from Wonderfil Threads I have only briefly used and Sulky’s Sticky-Fabri-Solvy printable self adhesive water soluble stabilizer. I think it could be a real blessing for limiting the amount of marking I have to do for this project and stabilizing the stitching.  I might do a 60 second shorts video on my test of all of this just so you can see it even if I decide not to use it for this particular project.  Would you like that?

I should be publishing the first parts of this project in a few weeks.  We’ll see though.  It takes a while to film the making of a complex project like this and get it edited.  In any event, I will let you know how it stands with my next blog post.  Let me know what you are working on.  Do you have any special requests for techniques to discuss? (Please comment here.  I love comments because it helps me know if people really view and like my blog efforts here and the comments stay with my blog if I look back on them a few months later for reference).

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

Preparing for Thread & Couching Projects

I am working on the designs for several free motion thread work and couching small quilts.  Essentially these are small whole cloth wall quilts done in multiple colors and styles of threads, cords, and yarns.  They are pictorial in design and include both free motion thread painting and quilting.  I will add some cord or yarn couching and might even add some decorative stitching with my Bernina 880 plus here and there.  It’s kind of exciting for me.

Scanned coloring book page before cleaning up and turning into a pattern. This is not one of the four.

Sew what are these planned pieces?  They include one scene of evergreen trees in the summer, one scene of trees at night with white winter stylized trees and a night sky both designed entirely by me, and four stylized tropical bird scenes based on scenes found in a Dover coloring book that will be colorful and, yes, challenging to stitch. I am  turning them into downloadable pdf patterns to print and tape together ready for tracing onto your fabric. Then I will stitch them out with some additions of quilting designs and embellishments.

I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it. I believe it is possible to replicate crewel stitching by machine to look nearly like hand stitching.

It’s an adventure!  And yes, there will be videos on YouTube and workbooks and patterns available on my website shop so you can sew along with me.  I am considering the possibility of creating background fabrics for tracing these bird scenes onto that could then be purchased at Spoonflower.  I am not sure this will work, but I will let you know if I am successful.

This is from another Dover coloring book, but I think it would make a wonderful piece of crewel work-like piece.  Maybe I will add this one to my thread-work projects.

Sew I hope very much a lot of you will join me in these projects that will be presented in July and August, and possibly September.  These small wall quilts make wonderful presents or home decor (either one or in groups).  I don’t have the final sizes or supply lists yet because I’m still working on them, but I’ll let you know.  Mostly I will be using threads from Wonderfil Threads and Superior Threads.  I love both brands and they work well together because Wonderfil has some wonderful specialty threads that Superior does not and I have a huge collection of Superior threads in “normal” weights I have collected over the past several years.

If you do one or more of my projects and send me pictures at www.bettyjo@bjfabricartist.com of your projects, I will share them here on my blogs if you would not mind.

I will let you know when the workbooks with patterns and supply lists are available in my shop for each project.  Right now, however, you can join me on the deciduous tree in full bloom quiltlet.  There is a workbook with pattern and the first of two videos already available. The second video will likely be available next weekend. This is a skill-builder project and I think you would enjoy making it.  If you do you would get to practice textured padded applique and broiderie perse by machine that are two great techniques for the fabric artists to have in their tool belts.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Show-and-Tell of My Experimental Quilting

knight detail from “Equipped to Stand”

My family helped me produce a new video I could never have done on my own for my YouTube channel that is a discussion and trunk show of my experimental quilting.  I think you might enjoy seeing it.  Here’s the link:  video

For years I have thought of much of my work as experimental fabric art, where I try to get certain looks in my quilts and sometimes had to develop a new technique or figure out how to apply a known technique to produce the look I wanted or just to see what something would look like.  It has been a bit of a wild ride over the years and so it seemed the thing to produce a show and tell for you all.

Thanks to my family for their help and encouragement both for the videos and the quilting. There are some fun things on the way.

Sew happy everyone!