Cutters for the Fabric Artist, a Review

I used to think that cutters beyond scissors or rotary cutters were not a necessity in my studio.  Indeed, I was a little snobbish about it.  LOL  But now I would really not like to do without them.  I have both a die cutter and a digital cutter and use them both.

Some years ago I bought the Accuquilt Go! cutter and have slowly added the admittedly expensive dies to my collection over the years.  Quilt shows often have particularly good sales for these dies.  The most important use I make of them is to cut borders, blocks, and bindings. I can cut out a fast simple cuddle quilt in a matter of minutes, truly, and they are accurate and easy.  It enables me to make a wonderful quilt in a couple of days, complete with quilting and binding. It helps me use up some of the fabrics I have laying around, thereby freeing up space in my stash.  I also have a collection of fun shapes..circles, leaves, animals, flowers, and so on…that I have used a lot, particularly when I was putting together kits for teaching and needed a lot of them, and they make a nice addition to some of those fast cuddle quilts. You can cut layers of fabric at once in the Go! cutter and it is an excellent tool for quilters of all stripes. I wouldn’t like to do without it.

I got a Brother Scan and Cut 125e in March for my birthday and now I wonder how I ever did without it, especially for the kind of applique quilting I often do.  The primary advantage of a digital cutter for me, of course, is that I can design my own shapes, or use published patterns, and don’t have to depend on the die shapes that are available or cut intricate shapes out by scissors.  You can only cut one layer at a time, but it will cut paper, fabric of a wide variety, cork, vinyl, plastic, and so on.  You do need several kinds of mats and blades for cutting all those things, and I did find it a little hard to figure out at first, but it is so easy to use now that I have.  I have made several greeting cards for friend and family with it too.  I suspect other brands work as well, and my library has Silhouette cutters available for public use, which I have used.  So you might check at your local libraries.

I have found that the Scan and Cut will cut fabrics with precision in very detailed shapes that are hard to accomplish with scissors.  This is especially good as my aging hands with developing arthritis find such intricate cutting to be harder to do otherwise. In fact even if you don’t find scissors cutting difficult, the cutter is still a fast and accurate way to cut your appliques.  I keep coming up with other ideas for its use.

So recently, over YouTube I learned how to make a stencil with the Scan and Cut and I plan on making some for marking refined and delicate quilting patterns on quilts.  I have not yet tried it, but that opens a world of possibilities for future quilting.  I have gotten pretty good in free motion stitching with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm without marks, but sometimes it is important to have the quilt marked for stitching with attention to detail or when you need symmetry.  It will cut stencil plastic easily, but I am thinking of trying a doubled layer of freezer paper for single or limited use designs and it could be ironed in place for Pounce chalk marking. If I create quilting designs that I think will be useful on multiple quilts, I will cut it from the stencil plastic.

As those of you who follow my work know, I use stitched, raw-edge applique quite a lot.  In the past, I printed out the applique shapes onto printer paper in reverse, and traced the shapes onto the fusible web and cut it out with scissors.  Now, I send the shape to the Scan and Cut, iron the fusible web onto the fabric wrong side, and send it through the cutter. I get it done in a third of the time or less and with greater accuracy.

But what if you wanted to do stitched turned edge appliques?  For that, I turn to the expertise of Kathy McNeil where she demonstrates the method, but I add in the cutter to help out.  She uses a very light weight fusible interfacing precut by hand in the shape of her applique and irons it to the wrong side of her fabric, then cuts around it a little less than a quarter of an inch from the edge of the shape. Then she prepares the applique using glue and appliquick sticks available in her web store.  Here’s a video of that process.  She sews her appliques on by hand.  I would use the machine of course.

So if I start with the applique shape I have drawn or downloaded on my computer, and instead of printing it onto paper and tracing it to the interfacing, I can wirelessly send it to the Scan and Cut from my computer.  The shape needs to be reversed for ironing onto the back.  You can do that at the cutter if you want to before cutting.  Then cut the interfacing pieces and iron them to the applique fabric and continue as she shows with the sticks and the glue.  So if you have a bunch of these appliques, you can cut as many as will fit onto a 15″ x 15″ piece of interfacing (the size of the cutting mat) at one time. It’s quite easy to take the shapes and move them around once they are digitally in your Scan and Cut.  NOTE:  You need to use the low tack mat for the really light weight interfacing by itself.

Sew I have found that having both cutters in my studio is a really nice addition to the tools available for me and they each have their own use and don’t cancel each other’s usefulness out.  They are separate tools with their own uses.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

Capturing An Explosion of New Ideas for Future Projects

Hi everybody!  I think we all need a diversion and some quilting to help deal with the roiling of events in the news lately.  As for me, I have been starting two new projects after my last one that was going to be entirely on painting quilts took a nose dive.  By the way, if you want to know about painting quilted fabrics stay tuned. I will still present these techniques scattered throughout my other projects as needed, but not a whole video series for those techniques after all.  Mostly I have to work on camera placement and filming techniques for painting quilted fabrics. The problem was entirely related to painting while filming.

Sew what are these new projects?  Well, one of them, and the next video project, is a second dive into wool applique by machine in which I will be making a pretty scene with a Kingfisher bird on black wool that will be sized for use as a decorative pillow top.  I am nearly finished making the pattern and I will be using my Scan and Cut digital cutter to cut the pieces.  The downloadable pattern will be available on my shop for a small amount and will include both a pdf file for those who do not have a digital cutter and the svg files divided by color for those who do.  I will be providing videos showing how I do them for this project, including the use of my new Scan and Cut.

The second project is a new “show quilt”! Sew there will be a video exhibiting only some of the making of this quilt and there will be no pattern.  I am  making my fourth deep space quilt and as soon as my fabric arrives this week I’m ready to start construction.  I will be using Deep Space II #98 Peppered Cotton designed by Pepper Cory to build the scene, inspired by NASA photos of M51 Galaxy (there are many), which is a spiral galaxy that has a second spiral galaxy farther away and kind of behind it on the edge, making it look like a small spiral is attached to the larger M51’s tail.  Unlike most of the other peppered cottons, this one is not a shot cotton but is yarn dyed intensely black. It makes me happy that the name of the fabric is “Deep Space II”. Thank you Pepper for bringing it to my attention.  I love making deep space quilts.  They are a whole cloth quilt, built entirely with free motion stitching and almost no marking.  It includes a  little paint, a large Angelina Fibers applique, and covered with black veiling, then quilted together in ways that make sense, and adding some free motion embroidery to represent the space dust. After that, I add a lot of hot fix crystals, kind of using the NASA photo as a guide for placement to represent stars. Some of the larger stars or star clusters are sometimes backed with an embroidered representation of the light that shoots out around it from the lens flair often in a cross shape that is highlighted on the NASA photos. This adds to the interest and beauty of the quilt in my humble opinion.

Practicing for making a deep space quilt.

 

I like having two very different style projects going at once because it allows me to move from one to the other when I need a break from some aspect of a project.

Sew this past week I spent a fair amount of time thinking about and updating my Quilt Project Plans spreadsheet for the remainder of this year and into next year.  It is way more than I can possibly do in that space of time perhaps, but it is wonderful to look forward to the near future projects and be able to pick from some of those I have already thought through a lot.  I also keep a handwritten notebook where I describe most of the projects more fully and sometimes keep outlines and notes to help me make them.  I have been doing this for many years.  Way back to when I only did clothing designs and sewing.  It’s sometimes fun to take one of the old notebooks and look through them to see just what I actually made of the many plans that have floated by.  I sometimes pull a long-forgotten project out and make it.

Here are some pages from my Pendragon quilt project that I did complete and that was shown in several prestigious quilt shows, including Houston.  The sample shown here is a test for the upper left corner of the border.

Sew happy everyone!  And remember, sometimes you need to abandon a project and not feel like it is a fail. Doing so can often open up an explosion of new ideas when you realize you no longer have to struggle to complete something that just isn’t working, and sometimes persistence through the challenges helps you to finish works and you come out with a real winner.  Give yourself permission to take the path that works best and be sure to have fun in your studios!

 

“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!

 

 

 

 

Winning the Metallic Threads Battle

Hi everyone!  Sew I saw it again this week.  Someone who is so frustrated with the behavior of their metallic thread in their machine they vowed never to use it again.  But I think it should not have to be like that and I have some suggestions that have been successful for me with my machines.  Admittedly the machine you have may have a different outcome, and I even have some minor frustrations with metallics from time to time, but these are some things to know and try before giving up on metallics.  Afterall, they are sooo pretty when they come out right.

  1. Make sure your machine’s thread paths, both top and bobbin, are fully cleaned and oil the machine.
  2. The needle can make a big difference. Since metallics are usually 40 weight threads, but are flat metal strips wrapped around a core of either polyester, rayon, or nylon, they need a needle with a larger eye than regular 40 weight thread.  I use either Superior 90/14 top stitch titanium needles or Schmetz 90/14 metallic or topstitch needles, which all have a larger eye.
  3. Feel around the machine foot you are using just to make sure there is not burr or other rough place.
  4. I prefer either Superior Metallic Thread, which has a polyester core that doesn’t break as often, but sometimes shreds, or Wonderfil Metallic thread, which has a rayon core that sometimes breaks but doesn’t shred as much.  I have found they both work pretty well, and much better than any of the others I have tried, including YLI, which has a strong reputation but all my machines, especially my 880 plus, tend to reject it. Nevertheless, with care, I have successfully gotten through many embroidery designs with metallic threads and no breakage or shredding.
  5. Lower the top tension.  Do some testing to see if it is right.
  6. Use a lightweight polyester thread in the bobbin that is close in color to the metallic you are using in the top.  This reduces thread buildup and will help clear up a lot of headaches for you.  I even heard of someone having their plastic bobbin break when filling it with metallic thread (which actually is what prompted me to write this blog).  That is probably because it was filling at too rapid a speed,  or it was overfilled, or it was a poor quality metallic, but it works better to use a 60 weight Superior Bottom Line or 80 weight Wonderfil DecoBob threads.  Both are excellent for most of your embroidery and even regular sewing for all types of thread in the top.  You’ll be glad you got this if you do.  I like prefilled bobbins because they are so evenly wound and that is particularly helpful when sewing with a difficult thread.  Most machines will take a prewound of the right size…look in your manual.  But alas, my Bernina 880 plus is such a diva that she requires her own fancy bobbin with silver stripes that has no prewounds available. I love her anyway. Her name is Odette (after the daughter of the founder of Bernina.  She ran Bernina for many years and added many wonderful advances to the machines).

    prewounds of multiple sizes

  7. Sew slowly!  If your machine has a speed control, slow it way down for stitching and in-the-hoop embroidering with metallic threads. It takes longer, but is so rewarding.
  8. Lubricate the threads.  My Bernina 880 plus and Q20 longarm both have a thread lubricant path and a pink liquid that came with them specifically for this reason, but my little Bernina 350 does not.

    I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church.  It’s made with metallic threads.

    So I will use the lubricant path and pink liquid as described in my manuals for the two larger machines and use something like Dritz Sewers Aid for the smaller one.

    • When using the thread lubricant path, loosen the tension slightly, because I have found it adds a little tension on its own.
    • When using the lubricant for a machine that doesn’t have a prescribed path, run a line of the lubricant down the side of the thread spool on three or four sides and hand rub the spool until it is fairly well distributed.  Then thread the machine.
  9. Metallic thread is very “lively” and has a strong “memory” that makes it keep a curl when it comes off the spool.  So if you use a thread stand with a tall thread guide you can set it behind your machine and bring the thread up and over into your thread path.  This allows the thread to relax a little before it enters the thread path.  You can also take advantage of cones of thread using these too.  I do this when using it with my little B350 that I take with me to places like a class at a quilt show, but my two big machines both have tall thread guides built in.  So consider what your machine does and adjust accordingly.  Wonderfil has a gadget called a “Thread Tamer” that will do a lot of this for you.  I haven’t got that yet, though I think I probably will. It looks very helpful and interesting.
  10. Lengthen the stitch length a little.  If you are using an in-the-hoop design, your machine may have an adjustment you can make to do this for such designs or lower the density.  It not only will make the thread behave better, but will show up more metallic as it stretches further between stitches.  A lower density is very helpful in dealing with metallic threads too and, if carefully set, can look better than full density.  But not all machines will do this.  Make some simple in-the-hoop test and see what it looks like.
  11. OK, this last idea is something I haven’t tried yet but intend to.  Wonderfil just came out with a thread managing invention called The Ultimate Thread Dispenser that fits on most machines.  I think it looks very much like it will make a difference for metallics and the other painful, but totally beautiful thread worth the struggle, and that’s rayon embroidery threads.  It’s not very expensive, so you may want to order one. Here’s a link to their video talking about it, if you are interested.

Sew most of us love the look of beautiful metallic embroidery, but many of us have been totally frustrated with thread breaks, thread tangles, and so forth.  It’s worth trying things to see if you can make your machine decide to cooperate with you and use the metallic.  Perhaps if you talk to your machine nicely it will also help.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Keep trying new or even difficult things and 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.

 

Keeping a Good Eye On My Work

This coming Monday, August 23rd 2021, I will be having surgery for a cataract in my left eye.  I know it is often the case that people have both eyes done within weeks of each other, but my right eye is doing just fine at the moment.  I am having a hard time seeing my work lately and so I thought all I needed was a new pair of glasses so I went to my eye doctor and find myself here, preparing for this on Monday.  I am looking forward to the result.  I have had many people tell me what a great result they have had from such surgery and it does not seem to be a big major disruption in their lives.  Still, I would appreciate your prayers for a good result and a quick recovery and thankfulness that this is available to me at this time in my life plus that I have excellent doctors.  The lack of good vision has clearly slowed me down in my work. My eye doctor told me I would be happy.

Sew I think it would be fun to make something celebratory.  I am thinking it might be time to start a Christmas project, and I promised some of my followers that I would come up with another project for wool applique by machine with embellishment.  I am thinking of making a Christmas project, and have already begun working on the design. I still have a bunch of beautiful melton wools and it would be really fun to do one with lots of beautiful stitching with beautiful threads and hundreds of beads, crystals, buttons, and other embellishments…a real decorative piece to celebrate both my improved vision and the Lord’s birth.  Maybe I’ll do two–one in wool and one in cotton or silk!  LOL

In the meantime, progress is finally being made on the project I am calling “two birds” that will be presented with three videos and a detailed pattern.  The pattern is basically done, but it is being tested and the project is being filmed as I make it.  It’s more complex than my introductory projects on my YouTube channel, so I want to complete the work on the project before I publish any of the videos.

Sew me and my family advisory team have come up with some ideas for shorter videos to publish along the way that we think people will like.  These will be showing up periodically, and, before too long, the two birds project will get there.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and keep an eye out for my upcoming projects and videos.  God bless you all in this perilous time.