Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part Two, Collecting the Parts

Sew I got some interesting feedback from some of you on my last post where I discussed obtaining or creating the design and pattern, and thinking through the instructions.  Several of my quilty friends…some of them prize wining quilters and teachers…just dive right in and go.  So I want you to know that this series of blogs is primarily designed to lead people like me who need a plan to work from through building a good fabric art/quilting project.

Personally, I like to work with a plan.  Very often, however, I make so many changes along the way the end result is unrecognizable from the beginning.  But it helps me to approach a new project with a plan in mind.  I will say though that sometimes I get kind of stuck on the pattern making part and in this case I may just go with a loose sketch and not a fully drawn pattern. I know what I want to do in my head, but getting it down into a pattern or plan is often kind of difficult for me, but I like it when I can.  I have friends who can just draw it out on their background fabric and start, or even just cut a bunch of fabric and start.  That would be amazing to have such a skill, but that is not me.  LOL

Sew once you have a project in mind, how do you pick your fabrics?  Do you buy a bundle from a particular fabric line?  Do you shop your own stash?  Do you just go to the store and buy a new set of fabrics?

I have an extensive stash that I have organized more or less by color and fabric type.  So I generally take my pattern I struggled to make, lay it out on my table, and start pulling fabrics from my stash that I think will fit into the quilt.  This is quite a messy process.  I end up with a pile of fabrics on my table, floor, and chair that might work.  Once I get to that insane place, I do a second pull of fabrics.  Then I put away the ones I decide definately won’t work and lay out what I have to work with.  From there I may eliminate a few more.

My idea is to put together my own kit for the project.  Here I will find if I need to buy additional pieces to pull it all together, which is usually the case.  I will say, however, that I frequently do not need additional fabrics.  I almost always need additional notions like stabilizers for embroidered embellishments, or more spray starch, a certain paint color, or a specific kind of cording or yarn to couch on the quilt.  It all depends on my project, but after all these years of collecting and trying to keep things organized I can usually make a nice quilt without buying a lot.  I will occassionally make a comfort quilt just to use up some of my stash and then I have a quilt to snuggle in or give away.  I think the hardest thing for me to keep in stock is the right battings, because I don’t have a lot of storage space for battings and I like different ones for different projects.

Sew here are the steps I take:

  1. Referencing the pattern or drawing I pull from my stash the fabrics that seem to me might work.  If you are new to this or don’t keep a stash, this would be done in the fabric store making a stack on the cutting table and asking them to let it stay there for a bit.
  2. Then I arrange the fabrics in a stack according to color or part of the quilt.  Here is where those small pieces leftover from some great piece of hand dyed fabrics come into play if I only need a small piece to make that flower petal, piece of armour, or leather saddle (yes, I do use leather for leather saddles on my horses).
  3. This arranging with the pattern in hand enables me to remove the fabrics that don’t work either because the color is jarring, the print is simply not right for the quilt, the value change is either too much or not enough, or I don’t like the whole set of fabrics so I put them back and start over.  Yes, I have done that.  Sometimes this fabric selection part can take a considerable amount of tme.
  4. If I’m shopping from my home stash I can determine at this point if I need to purchase more fabric.  If you are at the store, you may find you need to pull another piece and put back a bunch. Sometimes you can get a lot of what you need in a bundle of precuts and save a lot of money.
  5. Sew now I put away all the fabrics I will not be using and usually spray starch and iron the ones I will be using.  I prewash all my fabrics (unless they are not washable for unusual uses) before storing them away, so all I have left is the spray starching and ironing in preparation for use.

Now that I have my fabric bundle/kit put together, it is a good time to pick the threads. Actually, if I’m going to be using a lot of thread changes in my stitching I will just leave the threads in their storage place but check to make sure I have the right ones and that they are sufficient.  In my art quilts I use a LOT of threads…different colors, different weights, different types all for different uses, and over the last few years I have built a very nice thread stash, but I use them a lot so sometimes I have to replace a color.  It can be very frustrating when I am working hard to finish something and run out of a particular thread at an awkward time.  My closest brick and morter fabric store that carries the kinds of threads I like is 45 minutes away, and they may not have the color I want or some such.  So I order my threads online and that takes time, especially if I want to wait for a sale.  I also purchase threads at quilting and sewing events where they usually have a discount, so I try to keep a list of colors I need in my bag when I go to those.  You can save a lot of money on threads if you pay attention to what you use a lot of and what you may need in the future and who is having a sale on those.

The next thing to check for your kit collections is all the additional things that make your project work right…the batting, the stabilizers, the embellishments (paints, cords, beads, and so forth), and things you may not think of like thread nets if you use coned threads, fray check if you use that, interfacing if you are backing your light weight fabrics with a fusible, for instance.  I’m probably forgetting something.

So do you have it all together?  Are you ready to start the fun part of actually making your project?  Do you have the right tools?  Oh, I’ll talk about tools in my next blog post.

Sew happy everyone!  Enjoy yourselves while you are picking all the pieces for your next project.  Petting fabrics and admiring thread colors can be a lot of fun.  If you can shop your stash for everything you need on this project you can pretend you aren’t spending anything on it, because once these things are there and settle down into your stash it’s free, right?!  LOL

 

 

 

 

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part One, the Design to Pattern

I realized with some astonishment recently that 2020 is my sixteenth year of making quilted art projects, mostly, but not entirely in the form of wall art quilts.  I have been sewing since since I was five, when my mother began teaching me to sew, followed by years of learning and making my own clothes and helping my mother in her own sewing pursuits.  I retired from my intensive job with the US Government at the beginning of 2012, but I had already been working toward moving to full-time fabric artist upon retirement for a number of years.

Over the years I have learned a great deal.  I have almost always been in a learning mode, because I find it fun.  For me, a terrific development has been provided by generous fabric artists, digital artists and sewing technicians through online informative sewing and quilting sites, video classes, The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and YouTube.  This has enabled me to continue my love of learning new techniques and improvement of my skills while hanging out in my own studio and at a very low cost or even free.

What has all this to do with the title of this blog, you may be asking about now.  Well, I just wanted you to know that I do have a significantly solid and advanced basis to pull from for this series I will be blogging over the next month or so about building quilted projects for fun and excellence.

Sew approaching a new project should begin with a bit of planning and record keeping. Such projects can be divided several ways, but I like the following 10 steps, each of which will be dealt with in their own blog post:

  1.  Designing or Obtaining the Pattern
  2. Collecting the Parts
  3. Checking the Tools
  4. Cutting and Marking
  5. Constructing the Top
  6. Sandwiching Properly
  7. Quilting
  8. Blocking and Squaring
  9. Adding Embellishments
  10. Binding and Finishing.

Designing or Obtaining a Pattern for Your Project

Since I don’t normally use purchased patterns and usually create my own designs, for me that first step of designing frequently takes just under half of the time I spend on a project.  I use my computer heavily in this step.  Here are the computer apps I currently use for this:

  1. Corel Paint Shop Pro 2020 (for processing photographs)
  2. Corel Draw Graphics Suite 2018 (makes very good vector designs and communicates with Bernina Software.  This also helps me create my own pattern, size it, and print it out full size to tape together)
  3. Corel Painter 2020 (for painting.  It’s almost like having real paint,  brushes, and pencil collections with no mess and the ability to erase or add something in the middle layer.  I often start here for concept art)
  4. Bernina Embroidery Software V8.2 (for digitizing or personalizing embroidery designs, and even for some quilting)
  5. Electric Quilt 8 (aids in figuring placements, sizing, yardage, and if I need a traditionally pieced area for my quilt project, this is where I turn).

I won’t cover how to use these drawing packages for this, because I know even if you use digital design programs to help you out, you probably don’t use the same ones I do and they are expensive to gather, take time to learn, and there are lots of really good classes out there on youtube and on the sites where the packages are sold.

Once I have my design, I write out the steps, list the fabrics and threads, list the additional pieces, and think about the tools that will be required.  In other words, I create my own pattern with instructions. You may be surprised to learn that I mostly do this the old fashioned way in my planning notebook, where I glue in samples of the fabrics, write out steps, and keep other important notes as I go along. You can read about how I manage these things in my blog Project Management for Fabric Art from a year ago.  I still do things this way.

Now I know many of you don’t want to use the computer designing process, and if you want to design them yourself you would greatly prefer using a sketch book or graph paper and doing math to figure out what you need to make your project, or at the very least use Electric Quilt 8, which is an easy way to produce a good traditional quilt pattern.  This is a good approach, but I do encourage you to scan in your resulting images/designs,  keep a record of your project on your computer, and write out the steps you need to take for your project so you can start with a good pattern with steps to completion already thought through.

Also, there are those who prefer starting with a pattern that has good instructions.  That’s probably why you can make a quilt much faster than I can, and I think this is also a good approach if you have different goals from mine.  One of the keys to this is to use patterns from reliable designers that provide good instructions.

In other words, whichever your approach, the first step is to obtain or create the design with good instructions and project steps already thought through.

For me, I also want to load up my audible books, music, and podcasts to listen to while I work through the construction phase.  My next blog post will discuss building your own kit so you know you have what you need.

Sew happy everyone!  I encourage you to use an ordered approach to your quilted projects, however small or large, and you will really enjoy the process and probably come out with a wonderful result.

 

 

 

Making Christmas Presents…A Comedy of Errors

OK gentle readers, I have completed making four in-the-hoop zip bags using this OESD design, and adding my own embroidery between step three and step four for both Christmas presents and me.  They are generally fairly easy to make, and they all came out just wonderfully.  But I made a comedy of errors while I was making them, to the point that it was downright funny.  Do you ever have days like that in your studio?

OESD’s Zippered pouches…their picture.

Thank goodness, all the errors I made were easy to fix.  Here’s my funny list each error only done once:

  • I forgot to open the zipper on one bag and had to undo the edge seam (while still in the hoop) and move the zipper pull (I opened just a small amount and caught the zipper pull with one of my old dull rippers and pushed it to the center.  Worked great), then I backed up the digital in-the-hoop program so that it restitched the edge seam.
  • I forgot to put the handle into the seam before stitching the back to the front.  I unstitched the seam as I did in the first error and put the handle in the seam and then backed up the program so it restitched the edge seam.
  • I got the back lining that I was stitching in with the back on the inside, so when I turned it the pretty cotton lining was on the outside.  I decided it really looked great that way and left it.  The lining is not suggested in their design, but I decided to add it just to the back.  The front is folded over and provides its own lining that way.
  • I got the zipper pull too close to the edge when I opened the zipper and broke a needle when it went by, or rather didn’t go by.  Sigh.  I replaced the needle, found all the broken needle pieces and moved the zipper pull further toward the center and restitched.

So how many zipper bags did I make?  four.  Did each one have an error?  Yes, listed above. Did they all come out nice…yes!!!

But really, these zipper bags are easy to make…just don’t forget anything.  I should have made a list and checked it off.  I suggest you do that.  I know I will for future little projects like this.

Ok, now I am ready to do the few other small Chistmas gifts I am planning on making, although I might make another one just for me. Maybe I should go back to quilting and just send Christmas cards only, or maybe I’ll quit for the day and hope I get my head on straight tomorrow.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Merry Christmas one and all.

Working with “Leather” Tips

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

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

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

    Bohin chalk marker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Working With “Leather” from the 1970s to Now

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

 

Leather roller foot 55

Teflon zipper foot 54

Teflon dual feed foot 52

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Franken pattern ready to chalk and cut.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem Solving in the Studio 4: Beyond Sewing Supplies

Home office tools, computers, and supplies, as well as building or painting supplies are often problem solvers in my studio.  I figure they are for you too, dear readers, but it seems a good idea to review them in case some of you haven’t tried them yet.

My printer/scanner is a major problem solver for me in my studio.  This was just highlighted to me this week as I was trying to come up with the right quilting plan for the border on my mom’s memory quilt.  I figured out how I want to quilt the rest of the quilt and am excited that I am nearly finished with the top so I can sandwich and get to quilting.  I had a concept in my head of how I wanted to make the border quilting pattern.  I have taken Lisa Calle’s online classes on iquilt, and classes from Bethanne Nemesh, Gina Perkes, and Jamie Wallen at shows.  So I can come up with designs, but getting them drawn like I want and in the right size is always a challenge for me.

Yesterday, though, I drew several designs I wanted to  consider in a small size on letter sized paper with my pencil, scanned them into my computer, took them into Corel Draw (but you could do this with any drawing package or photo editing software you may have).  Then I resized them into the exact size I needed and printed the one I chose and traced the designs on my border.  I think it looks promising. Sometimes I draw these digitally and size them correctly, fixing any problems resizing causes.  It’s such a help.

Of course, I also occasionally print fabric pieces for some of my wall art quilts, even if I have a background piece printed by Fabric on Demand or Spoonflower.  For instance, for PendragonI painted and printed the heads (all bald heads…loL…I added the hair with stitching later), as well as the swords.

Pendragon
34 x 45

I used Scotch Magic tape yesterday to hold some free standing lace motifs in place while I stitched them onto the quilt top with monopoly thread.  This tape is a wonderful help in in-the-hoop embroidery work because it will hold things in place while being stitched through and then easily tear off leaving nothing behind.  I learned about this from a Sewing with Nancy show and thought I would try it, and found it works very well.

I have reported in my previous blogs about using various pens and pencils, such as Crayola washable markers and gel pens or colored pencils for marking fabrics.

I know all of you by now must have a roll of blue painter’s tape in your studio.  It makes a great marker for straight stitching, holds designs in place at the light table for marking with no sticky left behind, holds a super slider mat for that little additional security to keep it in place, and so forth.

For me, one of the hardest things to do is square up my quilts.  Last year I bought a laser square, used for tiling in the building industry.  It helps a lot getting a square corner.  I did find I need to place it on something to match the height of the quilt top to make it work right (magazines or rulers seem to work for me).

I’m sure there are a lot more such items from outside the traditional sewing items to help us problem solve in our studio.  I invite you all to add a comment with your favorite item you found to work with in your studio that came from outside the sewing/quilting world.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio this fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem Solving in the Studio 3: Free Motion Couching

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Problem Solving Tools 2: Markers for Satin

Marking satin for quilting and placement has been a BIG barrier to making some quilts.  I want to make several quilts using polyester crepe-back satin and have been working on figuring out all the techniques that come with this.

First I made this sampler pillow top, in which I figured out what batting and backing to use, what paints to use, what background quilting I wanted for one of my projects, and markers.  You can read more about this in Satin Sampler blog below, but there is more to know about the marker.

When I refroze the sampler, the marks came back and then I soaked it with Dawn and Oxiclean all day long (9 hours).  the marks did NOT go away at all.  The marker test failed (I have ironed away the marks in the photo above).

Sew I thought about this a bit and began to wonder if there were any pens that were designed to wash out of clothing or go away with water for kids to use.  When I searched for such pens online, I came across Crayola’s Washable Gel pens.  So I ordered a package from Amazon and yesterday I ran a test on the markers.  To my delight, my test worked!  The pictures aren’t great, but here they are.

Before (note the clear marks that are smooth and thin. The ink did not spread at all.  The ink glided over the satin without pulling the weave of the satin like pencils do:

Here is the after picture.  I washed it in cold water with Synthrapol by hand (with a three minute soak).  The ink you see is a Sharpie to keep up with what the sections were…one was not ironed, and one was ironed.  There is not one bit of the gel pen marks.  Today I froze the fabric for a while just to make sure the marks would not return.  This is the result…no marks:

For me and the projects I want to do this is a HUGE breakthrough.  I can now proceed in marking my current project and design the others. I will note that one of my quilty friends said he had used this pen and had them bleed some splats, and some of the colors were less washable than others.  He also noted that if you accidentally get water on it it may spread like watercolor. He lives in California and his water may be different or some other difference.  I have not used this much either, and he probably has. Also, I have not tested this on cottons or silk. So I don’t think I can fully recommend this marker yet–perhaps in the future after I use it more–but I am going to use it.  Even the occassional splat (that washes out) is greatly preferable to the pulling from a pencil that occurs when trying to mark satin that way.  Therefore, I suggest if you are going to use this that you run a test on your particular fabric and wash with your water with Synthapol before marking your quilt.

One of the cool things about my sampler is that the paint was untouched by all the attempts to remove the marks…it survived it all.  The paint is a combination of Jacquard’s Lumiere paints and Setacolor paints that were dried and heat set.  I also like the general concept for the background quilting.

Sew happy everyone!  Remember to test your techniques and products before investing those hours into your project.

 

 

Satin Sampler

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

* * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

 

Making Samplers

I am writing a book on embellishment techniques and have a plethora of samplers to make for this book.  I will also be using examples from some of my show quilts.  One of the projects in my book includes  several samplers teaching how to make trees using couching and a variety of interesting decorative threadwork.The starry night in the winter forest scene above is almost complete.  I still have to bind it and add hot fix crystals in the sky.  But I thought I would show you what I have on this little sampler, which I stitched on with no premarking.  This is such a fun activity to just sit down with a small quilt sandwich and play.  Initially I had planned just to practice and test some tree making in preparation for this sampler, but I liked it and decided to just trim it down and make it one of the samplers.

  • The two front larger trees are couched on sport weight yarns using a couching foot #43 on my Bernina Q20 and white 100 weight Microquilter by Superior Threads with Bottom Line in the bobbin. (Q20 settings: net on the cone, bobbin tension 180 with a magic silicone bobbin washerover the spring, top tension 1.50, threaded across the silicone gadget with the pink liquid, 80/12 universal needle (note…for small thin 100 weight and monopoly threads the universal needles work best, because the top stitching needles I normally use tend to “step on” the thread and break it instantly.  This is true whatever machine you us).
  • The middle tree, though you can’t tell in this picture, is sparkly silver Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle by Superior that I couched on also with the couching foot #43 using a silver Superior metallic thread in the top (same settings except top tension is 3.0 and needle is 90/14 titanium top stitch Superior).
  • Then I free motion stitched the two smaller back trees using Aurifil 12 weight wool/acrylic blend thread and a 100/18 top stitch needle (Bottom line bobbin set as above, top tension 3.0, spi 9, bsr1,  100/18 top stitch titanium Superior neeedle, threaded as normal, stitched slowly, use a tooth cleaning threader to thread the aurifil thread through the take up bar hole and the needle).  Clean and oil your machine after using wool blend thread.
  • After that, I free motion stitched with Superior metallic thread the lines showing the hilly shapes, ruler stitched the moon shape, and painted the moon with Setacolor paints.
  • Then I used 100 weight black Microquilter (set as in the first dot section) and did a simple stipple all over the quilt and outlined the trees.

I encourage you to try such a sampler.  It can make either a neat Christmas decoration once all the crystals are placed on it, or you could add a halloween pumpkin or owl applique for Halloween.



Progress on Mom’s memory quilt:

Now that I have it all designed, I decided I had to make a sampler to practice everything especially on the satin part of the quilt where I will have pictographs of flowers, birds, and embroidered items that are related to Mom’s interests.

So I managed to get all the marks out of the test piece when I used the heat away pen after a four hour soak and a cold water wash in Synthrapol and finally a reironing to take away the last of the marks, which were very light at this point.  I then refroze it thinking they would come back but they did not.  I will retest this on the sampler when I am finished with it.  This is the kind of treatments you have to do when your fabrics or thread colors bleed onto your quilt, so I do not recommend the use of these pens except in very rare circumstances and after much testing.  I plan on making a decorative pillow for my bed with this sampler.

Sew I thought the hardest part would be to quilt the pictographs, but I found that to be really fun and, while time consuming, they were fairly easy to do at a slow stitch with my Q20 using BSR1, spi 12, and Magnifico 40 wt thread by Superior, and a 90/14 top stitch titanium needle with top tension 3.5 and bottom line in the bobbin at 180 tension.  Now I am working on figuring out the background, but first I will be doing really really tiny scribble stitching for about a quarter inch out from the edges of all the pictographs with 100 wt thread to set them apart and make them look like trapunto.

I am using a double bat on this quilt (80/20 thin bottom and wool on top), a cotton backing, a beefy polyester crepe backed satin and two colors of polyester dupioni.  But the only pictograph quilting is only on the ivory satin.  Here are the sampler pictographs.  I think it is coming along really well, but I am puzzled about what kind of background I am going to put on the white.  I am thinking of using walking foot stitching with some simple decorative stitches on my 880 plus in some kind of grid work, but I am not sure yet.  One thing at a time on this project. LOL  It’s hard to see in this picture, and it looks like there is more problem with fabric management than there is, but here is the sampler so far.

Sew happy everyone!  Take some time to play on some samplers that you might want to use or just throw out later.  It gives you the freedom to try things you might be hesitant to do on a full quilt project.  Cheers.