Fall Is In the Air

Color Swirl by Kevin Tatum (my grandson) using Corel Painter.

Ever since I was in High School, which was a long long time ago, I have gotten excited when I started thinking about fall and winter sewing and quilting.  This year is no exception.  In fact, having just reorganized my fabric, thread, paint, and notions stashes, and purchased a new Bernina 880 Plus, I am more excited than usual about the projects I have before me this year.

One of the things I always like about going through my studio to sort things out is finding pieces of fabric I had forgotten about or had at least pushed to the back of my to do list.  This is for both clothes and quilts.

When I cleared up my studio this year, I also went through my clothing patterns, pruning out about 75 percent of my old patterns and keeping only those that seem right for me now.  The remaining patterns and fabrics for clothes on hand are inspiring me  to think about making some new clothes. My wardrobe really needs an update too.

When I bought my new machine, I got it at a time when they were providing a gift that includes new feet, some machine luggage, additional embroidery motifs for use in the hoop and a variety of other neat things.  I was able to exchange some of the feet that duplicated those I already had for some new ones.  So now I have a lot of feet that are inspiring ideas for using interesting techniques.

Remember when I talk about all  the things I have found in my studio, I have been sewing since I was five years old and I am 72. I retired in 2012 to be a full time fabric artist.  So some of the things have been hiding for a while from me in some of the closets, in boxes under my bed, and even in plain sight…LOL.  I feel very blessed.  Because of all the things I recently rediscovered stashed away I don’t have to buy anything new for most of the projects I want to make.  I did restock some threads and paints that I anticipate needing.  So I have resolved to myself that for the next year I will attempt to do m work without new stuff.  Now I want to make:

  • a new bag, in leather (I now have feet for use with leather and vinyl and some leather).
  • a new suit, in black denim (I have a stash that includes a fair amount of denim) with embroidery
  • a blue denim jacket
  • a new dress suit in wool with a silk top to go with it
  • a new jacket in raw silk, maybe 2 since I have 2 nice pieces
  • several new tops and use some heirloom techniques  (I have a nice collection of feet to use for this now) and embroider some of them.
  • I also want to make several new show and utility quilts.

It is fairly certain that  I won’t get all of this done this year, but it’s nice to have them on the list to pick from as I do have time.

Clearly I have an exciting and busy time ahead that will last well beyond fall and winter, and I have already started.  I will have to plan my days in order to fit other important things into my life.  I’m excited!  I’m sure the nicely rearrangement of my studio, and my wonderful fleet of machines will help me accomplish a great deal of these projects though.  So I won’t have to buy any new clothes for fall through spring either. I don’t have much in the way of summer fabrics, unless I use my quilting cottons.  LOL

Oh, and last year I made a new dressy overcoat with a “fur” collar using some of the fabrics on hand.  It’s warm and cosy.  So I really do complete a lot of these dream projects.

Messy work table with coat pieces


Progress Report on My Mom’s Memory Quilt

I have made a good start on my Mom’s memory quilt, which is going to also be a show quilt, but I have a long ways to go on it.  It has a large pentagon in the middle of it on which I am appliqueing her needle work.  The pentagon fabric is a lovely medium blue dupioni that sets off the beauty of her crocheted lace.  It’s a pentagon because I thought I only had five of the ten inch squares I found in her work basket, but during the reorganization I found a sixth square.  It’s a slightly different shade of crochet thread, though, so I will find something neat to do with that one.  The color difference is probably why it was in a separate  place.  There are  some more crocheted items, but they don’t work with this quilt.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make a perfect pentagon that has 21 inch sides.  It was a challenge.  A good friend of mine sent me a Corel Draw pattern for one to print in tiled sheets and taped together.  I thought that it would then be easy to get it right, but putting the tiles together that way gave many opportunities for slight variations in the shape.  I had to try it several times until I got it right, but finally succeeded when I started using a lot of rulers to help.

So yesterday I cut out the freezer paper pentagon, cut out the fabric, and then glue basted the edges down.  I checked the edges for straightness and measurements.  It’s very good.  the sixteenth of an inch off I had on the paper pattern disappeared as I worked the fabric from it.  I love how it looks.  I placed the crocheted pieces around  it in a way that forms a star in the middle, just laying them down to see how it looked for now.  (No pictures until its debut show, whatever that will be).

It is in many ways a gift to my Mom. It would be so much fun if she were still here to show it to her, but I am having a lovely time making it while thinking about all the great things she taught me and the lovely things she made herself. She did not quilt, but she was a real expert seamstress.  She has been gone now  twenty years, but sometimes I think she is nearby.

Sew happy everyone!  What are your planned projects for this fall and winter?

 

 

 

Exciting New Beginnings

So I’m excited.  Bernina came through and replaced the original Bernina 880 Plus with a new one.  I will get it either Tuesday or Saturday next, depending on several factors.  So I have been working on preparing to start a new show quilt, which is my Mom’s memory quilt incorporating her pieces of crocheted lace I found in her work basket and have held on to for the past 20 years.  It’s time.  I have completed the design, which really took me days and days and days, and have printed it out full size and taped it together (that’s a project, believe me).  It is one of my biggest…59″ x 59″ and will be satin and dupioni and include painting and beads, and ……well, we will see as I go along.

I will also finish my appliqued bed quilt I started a while back using a Sue Nickels pattern I bought from her at MAQF a couple  of years ago.  And clothes…I have tons of fabrics for fall, winter, and early spring clothing and the best patterns I kept from my pattern pruning when I reorganized my studio.

I also have to complete the sampler for my fall workshop on embellishment.

Sew let the sewing begin!   Did I say I am so excited?

Sew happy everyone.  It’s time to start sewing for fall, winter, Christmas, and next year’s shows.

An Organized Functional Studio…Waiting for Machine…Then What?

My computer work station in my studio with colorful bubbles. This is where I do my design work mostly.

This is an odd point in my fabric arts career.  I am between projects and without a main sewing machine as I await my new Bernina 880 Plus to arrive.  It will be another week or two at least.  I still have my little B 350 and my wonderful Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm available, but to add to that I do not have a UFO except for my bed quilt that requires the 880 to finish the top appliques.  I could do this on my B350 if I hadn’t already started some of the special touches on the 830, but it would look too different I think on the narrower width stitch area of 5mm vs 9 mm.  So there you are!  Between projects.

And wonder of wonders with the help of my friend Anita I finished organizing my enormous stash of fabrics, threads, and other stuff related to my fabric art work!  The last time I did this was over five years ago.   Here’s a link to a video walthrough of my studio, if you are interested:  Walkthrough

But I do have a lot of ideas and concepts and even a few designs nearly completed for upcoming projects.  And I am SOOOOOO looking forward to my new machine.  Maybe I should complete those nearly finished designs, cut them out in preparation, and also work on my books.  That’s a great idea, except I came down with a little cold yesterday (Sunday July 6) and am sneezing or nose blowing every few minutes.  Sigh.  I absolutely intend to get over it really soon and get back to work!!!  Meanwhile I will look at videos on YouTube and The Quilt Show.

Sew the second half of this year looks to be really fun and maybe a little sparkly.  You all KNOW how I love sparkly things.  Here’s a sparkly fashion show that makes me think a black and gold and sparkly quilt would be really fun to make!  Fashion Show

Sew happy everyone!  Get your studio sorted out and have some FUN!  You’ll be amazed what you find stashed away in the corner of that shelf.

 

New Machine, Managing Stash

Quilting on my 830 in my studio

OK gentle readers, many of you already know that I had a major crash of my wonderful old Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  I had it for eight years.  I used it a huge amount, especially since my full time retirement at the first of 2012…hours and hours.  It suddenly had problems in the bobbin area and I took it to my terrific Bernina tech Lew.  He is one of the best  He gave it a full service and adjusted a few things and got it back to work, for all of five minutes after getting home (it stitched out a nice couple of test stitching pieces at the store beautifully).  So I took it back and he managed to get it working again. 

I came home and got my little Bob Ross Cherrywood Fabric challenge quilt completed.  Then I made a shirt for my son for his sci-fi/fantasy writers’ conference down in Chattanooga where he is now.  But I made it on my little Bernina 350, which I use for taking with me places.  I also use it for several specialty sewing techniques and attachments I don’t particularly want to use on the big machine, like needle punch and the ruffler.  But I was wanting to give it a good little workout (machines are better if they are used at least a little bit, but perhaps not as much as I used Gibbs…LOL). 

Sew I got down to the top stitching around the edge and buttonholes.  I decided to do those on Gibbs.  First of all, all three of the thread sensors said I had problems with my thread and bobbin, so I turned them off.  Then the auto buttonholer messed up several buttonholes.  I managed to get the messup out (hard to do if you have ever tried it), and I used the manual buttonhole buttons to complete them.  Then I tried to do the topstitching.  I got three stitches along and Gibbs hung up (like before) with the gears of death.  I cleaned it, rethreaded and oiled it and tried again…again, the gears of death.  Just to make sure, I rethreaded it one more time and still got the gears of death.  I concluded that Gibbs has reached the end of its professional life. Even if Lew got it going again, it would not take the high level of work I put on my machines any longer.  Lew had told me that he thought there were signs that the mother board was failing, in addition to the bobbin case hook assembly probably needs to be replaced, he was pretty sure .  I am fairly certain he was right.

Well Gibbs, thank you for waiting until Bernina offered a great trade in deal for all 830s and 820s, and in the month they also are including a great package of gifts with it and a 60 month with no interest.  I traded for a Bernina 880 plus, which I will likely get in a couple of weeks from now.  It was a fortuitous timing on Gibbs’ part.  In human terms I think Gibbs was probably approaching 100 if you think about the hours and number stitches I have put on that machine….LOL…of course, that is just speculating.  Lew said I had an exceptionally large number of stitches on the machine.

* * * * * * * * *

So while I’m waiting I decided to address my huge studio storage of my stash and notions issue that has gotten increasingly messy and overfilled in the past five years since I did this last.  My dear friend Anita, who is an artist in her own right, and my student/apprentice came over and helped me for a full day of sorting through the fabrics.

We threw away two big bags of unusable scraps, filled another big bag for Anita to take away, go through and keep what she wants, and get rid of the rest somewhere.  But of course we didn’t finish.  She is coming back tomorrow afternoon for another session. 

Today, I am going through my threads and organizing those as much as possible, and sorting through my clothing and accessory patterns to try to reduce my three and a half filing cabines full of patterns I have collected for at least the past 15 years.  I want to eliminate enough patterns so I only fill one filing cabinet with them.  Then I can use them to store things like stabilizers, interfacings, other notions, and bag making supplies.  I have a lot of these things…Sigh.  So that will empty several of the drawers in my oak cabinet that I want to use for really special fabrics like my silks, satins, and so forth. 

It is my hope to end up with empty storage spaces.  This way, I can maybe even keep things in order for at least the next five years (I’m a realist…I know this will have to be repeated sometime down the road).

This way, when the new machines comes home, we can launch right into productivity.  I was really upset at the expense right at first, but now I believe the new machine will be a great blessing.  I developed many of my techniques on Gibbs and pretty much literally wore it out.  I now have a Bernina Q20 for my quilting and free motion embroidery.  I will still be using the new machine for feed dogs up quilting and zig-zag free motion, which can be done with the new BSR that is included in the package.  I suspect the old one I had with Gibbs, which goes back with him, is near being worn out itself.  It also comes with a new embroidery module and the old one goes back with Gibbs.

Sew I will likely be able to use the new machine for much longer if I don’t trade it in for the next top of the line in four or five years from now–which I might–since I have split off the major part of the quilting to my Q20 and some specialty attachments and activities to my B350.  I suspect there are a lot of new advances I will also like.  Despite my disappointment over Gibbs, I am really getting excited about this refreshment of my studio all ready for new quilts, book and workshop samples, and a few other projects.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines work without problems for years and years. 

 

Project Management for Fabric Art

Since I retired in 2012 to become a full time studio fabric artist, I have found a need to develop a system to keep things organized for time and technique management. Initially, I felt that taking time to keep records cut into my creative time and resembled work too much.  After all, I was here to have fun and make fabric art, right? 😄

Lately, I have added teaching local workshops and for several years have been working on writing several books.

So I found it necessary to figure out a way to keep up with all of this.  In fact, the multi-faceted system I came up with saves time and reduces stress, and some of it is kind of fun. Without records I would spend a lot of time figuring out where I was within a project, what was next, and making mistakes I would not have made if I had notes I could refer to.  This is especially important if there is an interruption in a specific project and I have a gap of time, or if I am working on more than one project at a time, which I often do (a show quilt, an approaching teaching session, a bit of writing, and even something just for me like clothing or my current bed quilt project).

My daughter-in-law Beth, who is also a quilter and a computer professional, suggested I look into www.Trello.com, which is a free organizational program designed for businesses. I find this program very easy to use and set up.  It helps me keep up with project ideas and a general overview of where I am on each project, and you can put in a check list.  It’s especially nice when I am doing a project with another person. Beth and I set up a team “Board” of Tatum Quilters so we could share projects.  We haven’t done much in that direction, but we still talk about it from time to time…LOL  So you might want to check it out.

While Trello helps me keep up with my ideas and plans for quilts, I found I need more detailed information and some of that doesn’t fit into a computerized file.  So I also have my big black low tech notebook.  I use this from the very beginning of a project and also keep other information in it. I write up ideas, make a general overall plan, keep tiny samples of fabrics, lists of threads, and other supplies, and put records of everything I need in this book for keeping my project together. The following images may give you an idea for your own notebook.

Here I have the original design of the Renaissance banner my BFF Anita and I made for the church last year. This is her original design.  I added notes, and a list of the fabrics I ordered for the project.  I just stapled her original drawing in to the notebook since it fit.  If such a design doesn’t fit, I sometimes fold it one or two times and staple it in.

 

So here is the finished design after I put it into the computer and drew a pattern for us, making a few changes we discussed along the way. On the right side is a plan for making the quilt from start to finish, which we checked off as we completed it.  I just printed a page size of the pattern and stapled it in on one page.

 

Sometimes I just staple drawings into the book to keep them from getting lost. This is my train project I am about to start working on.  The one on the left is a copy of the drawing my BFF Anita did for me to use for this, and the one on the right has a few scribbly additions I did thinking about how I might make it.  I have pages after this with a brief list of steps to make this quilt and have space for notes on stitches, settings, etc. for my machine work.

 

Here I have the samples of the fabrics and a list of the threads for Pendragon. Ken (oldest son) and Beth (his wife) gave me this wonderful addition to my stash along with the design for Pendragon that Ken drew. Pendragon was such a major project requiring many advanced techniques I had to develop or had never used it has ten pages in my black book that includes all kinds of things related to it.

 

Here is my trial of the upper left corner of Pendragon. I digitized the outline of the ancient design for stitching just the outline in the hoop, which needed a lot of fixing.  So I had to do a stitchout before putting it on the quilt. I also wanted to try the painting to see how that would go. So I just stapled the sample into the book because I liked it and didn’t want to throw it away.  If you look hard, you can see on the right a very loose sketch of how the quilt pieces fit together.

If you’d like to learn more about Pendragon, I have several blogs in which I included the making of this extensive project.  The testing of borders and the making of Pendragon.  So as you see, I also keep what you might think of as progress reports in this blog.

You might think that would be enough record keeping, but when I started doing show quilts that went to several shows, and sometimes had multiple quilts out for shows or exhibits, I found I had to make sure I knew where they were or were going.  I needed to be careful that I didn’t enter the same quilt in a show that was being held at the same time another show that I had entered was held, or enter it into this year’s shows when they had already been shown or rejected from another year’s show (Just as a matter of principal, I never reenter a show that has rejected my quilt previously even if they accept this kind of entry).  And I found I can’t enter another Mancuso show if the quilt has received a ribbon in another Mancuso show.  So it became a kind of choreograph of the dance of the quilts.

I take care of this with a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with two spreadsheets.  One keeps up with what shows that I am interested in and the deadline dates.  The other spreadsheet keeps up with what has been where or entered where, with a simple asterisk if it placed in that show.  I include an example of my workbook here.  I don’t know if it will work on your computer or if it is anything you might want, but it was easy to include if it works for you and you are into show quilting.

Quilt Show List example

Sew there you are.  Yes, it is a complex four part system, but it also works well for me and so I wanted to share it.  Believe it or not, it saves more time than it spends to do this, especially after getting started with it all, and it really helps keep down the stress factors in my busy busy studio. One more thing, I put on my calendar when a quilt has to be shipped once they are accepted into a show.  I have occassionally waked up and wondered if I had missed a deadline, only to be happy to find I had not by looking on my calendar.

Sew happy everyone!  Try making a show quilt or a master quilt, even if you don’t want to show it.  You might want to keep your own records, with lots of pictures along the way (oh and yes, I have computer files with folders by the year for quilts made in that year.  Yes, I back up everything).  It will be fun to look back on it or if you want to remember how in the world you did that technique on that quilt some years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Fabric Arts Adventures

Background fabric design for use in upcoming quilt

This has been a busy and interesting month so far, and the end of the month promises to be just as unique.  First of all, I want to tell you about the background fabric piece pictured above.  I spent some time (more than a forty hour week) painting this design I wanted to use for a background, to which I will be adding a lot of objects, including trees, rocks, train trestle, train, steam clouds as appliques.  But I painted it digitally in Corel Painter and sent it off to be printed full size by Fabrics on Demand, which has a wide selection of fabrics and does a good job.  I’ve used them before.

So after about a week I got word that they had printed the fabric and shipped it.  I waited, waited, decided I would have to contact them because it had been weeks and no fabric.  In the meantime, we had a snow week, with an 11 inch snow followed by very cold weather.  Then we had a thaw.  Just as I was about to contact the company, my son brought in a wet package that he had found on the side of the front porch under a bush.  Yes it was my fabric.  It had apparently been blown off the porch under the bush and covered in snow and ice.  We might not have found it until even later if the cold weather had continued.

The fabric was in a plastic envelope and carefully packed, but it was totally soaked.  I washed it in the washing machine, thinking that I normally would have hand washed it with Synthrapol detergent, since it was a custom printed piece.  So I wasn’t sure how it would come out.  But it is totally beautiful.  The colors are strong and lovely and the piece is clearly not going to bleed or shrink now as I use it in my quilt.  My friend Anita was amazed at the piece.  She is an artist herself but is new to the fabric art world.  I could tell she is excited to consider that she might be able to turn her art into a piece of fabric. She would have to take a good picture or scan of her art since she doesn’t work digitally in order to get it into fabric in this way, but that works too.

Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8

Okay readers, I have been working full-time for several weeks now just to update my Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 to a new book for Bernina V8, and I have finished the basic manuscript, sent it to my Beta readers, and designed the cover.  I am looking to have this out by the end of February.  So if you have either V7 or V8, I think you will find working through the projects of these books will provide you with a solid understanding or improvement in your use the software to go forward and make some wonderful in-the-hoop embroidery designs.  You can make what you want for your projects.  These books are designed so if you work through the book the later projects build on what you learn in the earlier projects.  Additionally, you will end up with some fun small items…mug rugs, a color wheel, a needle book, and a bunch of nice designs to use in other ways.

I’m very happy to be more or less finished with this Bernina software books project.  I have more or less been working on this for several years now.  It’s not that the projects are that hard, it was the difficulty of figuring out what should be presented and in what order to help fabric artist that still has the program in the box or has only used it a little because it was a little confusing, or that may not know how much is really there.  It is an amazing software…almost magical.  It has tools to help you get where you need to be, but it does not do a good job of telling you what tools are there.  The reference manual is well presented, but you may not know what you don’t know and you don’t know where to look.  The books are not exhaustive in covering all the tools, but they are enough to give you a real feel for what you can do with the software.

Just as I neared the finish of the first book for V7, Bernina came out with the updated V8, so I put it aside.  But my dear friend Mei-Ling Huang, who is also my Bernina dealer, encouraged me to go ahead and put out the V7 book, because there are a lot of sewists out there still using that software.  And then she pushed me a little to also write the updated V8 version.  I truly don’t think these books would be finished without her encouragement.

Sew now that I have completed these two projects and have gotten my fabrics for the next several show quilts and workshop samplers and kits, I have to straighten up this studio!  It’s a mess!

I’m so excited about the work I have in store for the future.  I made a list of things and put a date I wanted to get them done by, just so I can figure what I need to work on next and next and next.  Let’s get to quilting and embroidering!

I also am thinking about what book I should write next.  I have found that self-publishing through Amazon KDP is not too difficult for me to manage.  I want to get what I know out for people to use. I have learned a great deal in the past sixty plus years of sewing and art work.  Maybe the next one will focus on surface design and embellishment.  I have won several prizes at major shows based on my work in this field.  But I have to get to quilting first.  Just need…to….quilt!

Sew happy everyone!  There’s a fabulous bunch of tools and supplies out there to make some wonderful fabric art.  Teach someone to sew or quilt or try something new yourself!

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.

 

 

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

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.