Bunches to Do

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

 

Oh, dear readers, you knew it was coming didn’t you?  I have gotten to the place where I am feeling a bit swamped with things to do.  That’s why I have been lagging in my blog writing. It would be ok except I seem not to have time to do my favorite thing right now…work on show quilts.  And I have show quilts that need to be made!!!

Sew I am preparing for a book signing party on April 20th and four classes I will be running at G Street Fabrics in Rockville MD this spring.  Each has handouts that need to be updated or created and kits that need to be assembled.

  1. Fabric Arts 1:  Machine Applique Techniques
  2. Fabric Arts 2:  Feed Dogs Up Quilting (on a Domestic Machine)
  3. Fabric Arts 3: Free Motion Organic Quilting (on a Sitdown Machine)
  4. Fabric Arts 4:  Ruler Work Quilting for Sitdown Machines

The real project right now is for my church, that asked myself and my bff Anita to make a new Easter banner for the church.  I was already swamped, and the addition of this project is a bit of a time draw.  Fortunately, Anita has been working with me for over a year now to learn to use fabric and thread as a medium for her own art.  So she is doing most of the work, though not all, but coming here to do it where I have the machines and tables and paints and bunches of fabric and thread.  LOL.  I am doing a lot of the specialty items, like machine embroidering the words and guiding the methods.

Easter banner concept drawing

In case you didn’t know, I now have published both Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 and Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  So if you have one of these programs for digitizing your in-the-hoop embroidery, you might find this of interest.  I beg you, please, if you buy the book and like it, please please write a review on Amazon.  It does not have to be very long…just a single sentence or a couple of sentences.  Reviews really help the authors.  So far I have a single review on both books.  Much appreciated, but I need more.

                                New book!!!

Sew I am preparing to do a book signing at G Street on April 20th, and plan to show some demo videos of the software.  This has taken me a considerable bit to learn how to do these videos…live screen capture, editing the resulting videos, trying to get them right.  I will post these on my new YouTube channel (Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts), when I get them complete.

And the fourth workshop listed above for G Street..the ruler work..is not fully designed yet.  I have been working on making a sampler and made much progress on what I want to show and teach, but it isn’t done yet!!! Yikes!!! It also will provide a kit with a little quilt sandwich, premarked with some guidelines.

Show Quilts…what am I doing, or trying to get time to do? 

  • The Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics.. Due July 1st.  I have the fabric, I have a design concept…will I get the time?  It’s small, so that helps, only 20 inches by 20 inches, but it will need a bit of time.
  • A train quilt with a steam locomotive to showcase a number of interesting applique and embellishment techniques. No real deadline, but I would love to finish it in time for the fall Mancuso show in Oak Pennsylvania.  Deadline is sometime in August.
  • A stack of other interesting, fun, hopefully beautiful, other ideas I won’t discuss right now.

So to top it all off, I am working on another book..the first in a series of Quilted Art Techniques books.  My concept right now…subject to change, of course…is for three books talking about techniques…one on building the top, one on quilting the quilt, and one on surface design and embellishment.  The challenge for these is to provide a way forward for quilted art without just being the same-old same-old that is already out there.  That’s a big challenge, but I also still think there is room for me to present my techniques in a way that will help artists and/or quilters to accomplish a vision they have in their heads but haven’t been able to do until now, or were had not yet figured out the steps to take.

Sew happy everyone!  I have not abandoned my hope to do a weekly or more blog post talking about adventures in fabric art.  Have fun in your studio, even if it is just a small space! 

 

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!

Happy 2019! Let’s Make this a Wonderful Year!

I always love the beginning of a new year.  It is like turning a page on a well-worn journal that may not have worked out like we wanted and finding a crisp new space to fill with fabulous adventures. As some of my long-term readers probably realize, I like to publish my creative goals in my blogs and then see how much of them I can accomplish.  It’s a challenge!

For 2019 I have four avenues for fabric and thread play planned and the timing has worked out so I am at the beginning of them all, which makes it all the more exciting.

  1. Landscape quilts, using a variety of applique techniques, threads, couched yarns and roving I hope to develop  pictorial quilts with a lot of dimension. I don’t know how many of these I will make, but I have two already planned–think “train” and the little Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics…and I hope to make more.  I am thinking of developing a book on these techniques along the way, now that I know I can publish my own highly-illustrated books with some degree of professionalism.
  2. Experimental quilt(s), developing a couple of wild ideas I have had floating around for a while.  These include first of all polyester crepe-back satin which will also include some in-the-hoop embroidery that I digitize myself on Bernina design software V8 and develop a Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8, as an update to my new book on v7, that will be coming early in January. And secondly, seeing what I can do with some of the really beautiful commercial panels available and/or develop some background panels of my own for sale.  Both of these things offer real possibilities for quilters with limited budgets, time, or confidence. Blogs will be coming.
  3. Workshops, that I will be teaching a repeat to the ones on developing fabric art that I taught at G Street Fabrics this past fall and will be adding a basic ruler work workshop…all scheduled for April and May already.  I am all ready for the first three except for making a few additional kits, and I still have to make the sample and kits for the ruler workshop…one week of preparation should do the trick.
  4. Videos showing especially working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and possibly more.  I have all the equipment, and this week I successfully went through the whole process to come out with one really terrible video, but I now know the process and will be practicing until I get it all just right.  I hope to share these as inspiration for people here on my blog.

I am very excited about all this. It may seem too much, but I don’t think it is given how I hope to build quilt projects together with books, blogs, and videos, getting multiple uses out of the same work with only a small addition of work. We’ll see…(oh! and I also will be continuing the work on my appliqued quilt using a Sue Nickel‘s pattern I am making for my bed, but that’s just for relaxation and fun).

I was inspired to tackle improvements in my landscape quilts first by Bethanne Nemesh’s videos on yarn couching on her own quilts, then by the success I had in using yarn couching for tree limbs and 12 weight wool threads on my Night on the Bayou quilt for producing Spanish Moss, and finally by my purchase of the Bernina attachment for my little Bernina 350 that does needle punch.  So I am going to put all this together with the applique quilting and embellishment techniques I already do and see what comes out.

I was also interested in how well a little testing of the leftovers of the crepe-back heavy satin I used for my coat did in quilting that I feel I need to make at least one and possibly more quilts using this product.  I think it offers some great possibilities and it’s a lot cheaper than the now-discontinued silk/cotton Radiance.  The every day quilter with a limited budget may find this a wonderful way to go. We’ll see, and I will write about it, at least in my blog if not a whole book.

Sew happy everyone.  Peace and love be yours as we begin 2019. Encourage those around you. Let’s make this a wonderful year full of peace, love, and yes, fun! May God bless you and yours.  Let the celebrations begin!

Workshops, Books, and Near Magic

On Workshops

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

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

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

Drawing used to digitize the applique project.

On Books

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

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

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

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

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

On Near Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fall Fabric Art Workshops

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Surface Design, Texture, and Embellishment

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Software for Your Fabric Art

Practice painting I did today in Corel Painter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

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

Threads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Two: Making a Tree

One of the most fun I have when making a pictorial quilt is making trees, mountains, rocks and water scenes.  Making these wonderful natural landscape items do not require perfect lines and matched points.  So each kind and size of trees I need to “grow” on a quilt may require a different technique and plan.  I have to consider the distance, the species, where the light is coming from, and then decide how to make them.  Here are a few examples:

Here the trees surround the house. For these trees, I digitized them on my Bernina Software (even the tiny trees have little leaf shaped leaves, though I think that is lost a bit to the viewer because of the size). I then stitched them out on black nylon veiling with wash-away stabilizer and free motion appliqued them onto the quilt top with matching thread.

 

This small tree is the stitch out from an olive tree I digitized in my Bernina software on wash-away stabilizer. I placed a tree photo in the art side and traced it by hand digitizing it in the embroidery side of the software. The same could be done by drawing it onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer with Crayola washable marker and free motion embroidering it. In this case I would advise using a layer of black nylon veiling to hold everything together.  The advantage of black nylon veiling is that it can be cut very close to the embroidery (without cutting through the stitching) and the little bits left tend to disappear when you applique it on…often covered with applique stitching. Note that when you soak away the stabilizer, the Crayola marker goes away also.  This happens to be laying on a paper towel, in case you are wondering.

 

Here you see the trunks of some big Cyprus trees in my current ongoing project. I cut the applique shape from different types of commercial woody type fabrics. So then I did highlighting and lowlighting with Shiva oil paint sticks and a stiff brush, then heat setting with my iron (covering it with a paper towel to absorb excess oil paint. I plan on adding a layer of wool batting behind the trees to give them a little more depth because the trees require considerable stitching to make the base look like the Cyprus, but this is how I started these trees.

So the Cyprus trees appear to have windy limbs that seem smaller than such a massive tree trunk would have.  I decided to couch the limbs on with wool yarns and then free motion embroider the Spanish moss.  Here are two pictures of the progress so far:

Here you see some of the limbs on the different trees with some Spanish moss.  I did a lot of looking at Spanish moss photos before I did these so I could figure how they should look. These seem to me to be coming out ok.

 

I learned early on that I needed to draw some guide lines for the direction of the stitching or I’d get them to be blowing around in different directions. Since the water in this quilt is going to look calm and reflective, it didn’t make since to have the Spanish moss blowing around much, though they don’t have to be exactly the same, but close. Here you see some of my marks for future stitching. Also note that I had to break the stitching on several clumps so it looked like the limb is further toward the back from the viewer.  I need to keep it pretty close to the same proportions as the top part, so drawing lines is helpful.

Sew I’ll show you the whole trees when they are done.  That will be a while now because they need to be quilted, and maybe a little more highlighting, to get the full impression.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you decide to put some trees on your quilts and relax…they are fun to make.

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.

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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.

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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.