Hi everyone. I can’t believe it’s already October! I love that it is fall, because it was a hot and somewhat rough summer for me, but it occurs to me that I have several projects I have in mind for fall and for the Christmas/winter season that aren’t even started yet. Yikes! I better stretch my time in the studio a bit more!
I have been working really hard on the complex multi-video two birds project. I am about three fourths of the way. I want mostly to complete the whole project before publishing the first video because I need to make sure the accompanying workbook and pattern with all its techniques are good and actually work with the videos. That will be available from my shop on my website and together with the videos presents a fairly complete class. This class presents a lot of the techniques I have used in the past on some of my show quilts and I think quilters will enjoy making it. Besides, it makes up into a really nice wall or lap quilt that would be a wonderful present or enjoyable quilt for yourself.
Sew, kind of as step one on this project, I uploaded a video that discusses how to turn a line drawing, like a coloring book page, into a pattern similar to my two birds to use in your own designs. I know everyone may not have all the software or want to play with it in that way, but I know some will and may not have thought of using it for that or really know how. If you have Bernina software v8, for instance, you have Corel Draw elements. Anyway, take a look at the video and see what you think.
Here is a picture of some luscious Wonderfil threads (see link on the right). I love their specialty threads and am using a lot of them in my two birds project.
I have a couple of wool applique by machine decorative wall hangings–one for fall and one for Christmas–coming too, if I succeed in getting them all done in time.
In the meantime, I have my right eye cataract surgery on the 14th of this month. I will be glad to get that taken care of. I can see so well out of my left eye now and not well at all out of the right eye.
Then to top off everything, I have clothes I need to make. We’ll see how much of all of this I get done.
The Simplicity pattern from my substantial pattern stash. Note the pants have a simple full elastic waist and no pockets…not what I want, but I have a better slacks pattern. The long sleeve tunic provides a suggestion for the embellishment. I would be adding something more for fun.
I always plan more than I can do it seems. But it is so much to look forward to and have fun with in my studio as we drift into fall and winter.
This coming Monday, August 23rd 2021, I will be having surgery for a cataract in my left eye. I know it is often the case that people have both eyes done within weeks of each other, but my right eye is doing just fine at the moment. I am having a hard time seeing my work lately and so I thought all I needed was a new pair of glasses so I went to my eye doctor and find myself here, preparing for this on Monday. I am looking forward to the result. I have had many people tell me what a great result they have had from such surgery and it does not seem to be a big major disruption in their lives. Still, I would appreciate your prayers for a good result and a quick recovery and thankfulness that this is available to me at this time in my life plus that I have excellent doctors. The lack of good vision has clearly slowed me down in my work. My eye doctor told me I would be happy.
Sew I think it would be fun to make something celebratory. I am thinking it might be time to start a Christmas project, and I promised some of my followers that I would come up with another project for wool applique by machine with embellishment. I am thinking of making a Christmas project, and have already begun working on the design. I still have a bunch of beautiful melton wools and it would be really fun to do one with lots of beautiful stitching with beautiful threads and hundreds of beads, crystals, buttons, and other embellishments…a real decorative piece to celebrate both my improved vision and the Lord’s birth. Maybe I’ll do two–one in wool and one in cotton or silk! LOL
In the meantime, progress is finally being made on the project I am calling “two birds” that will be presented with three videos and a detailed pattern. The pattern is basically done, but it is being tested and the project is being filmed as I make it. It’s more complex than my introductory projects on my YouTube channel, so I want to complete the work on the project before I publish any of the videos.
Sew me and my family advisory team have come up with some ideas for shorter videos to publish along the way that we think people will like. These will be showing up periodically, and, before too long, the two birds project will get there.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio and keep an eye out for my upcoming projects and videos. God bless you all in this perilous time.
I am almost ready to start making and filming a fun new wall quilt that focuses on stitching…both free motion and some with feed dogs up. It also has a small amount of appliques behind some of the stitching and 9 pieces of fabrics to make a simple style quilt background to put all this stitching with some appliques and some paint onto. The picture above is a single tile from a multi-tile downloadable pattern with instructions and supply list. This project was inspired by a page from a Dover Publications coloring book.
I got the missing fabrics this week and they are all washed and ready to go. I am still working on the pattern, but the hard part is done so I will be publishing that for sale at a moderate price on my website store to go along with an undetermined number of free YouTube videos to take people through the project…fun to simply watch, and fun to make with me if you want.
I will be adding a page to this blog site with links to my recommended supplies that apply to ongoing projects. Once it’s there you can just click on “Supply links” above and you can go shopping!
Sew I am excited about making this piece. I will be testing some products I have not used before I make it and will tell you about them as I go. This includes some new specialty threads from Wonderfil Threads I have only briefly used and Sulky’s Sticky-Fabri-Solvy printable self adhesive water soluble stabilizer. I think it could be a real blessing for limiting the amount of marking I have to do for this project and stabilizing the stitching. I might do a 60 second shorts video on my test of all of this just so you can see it even if I decide not to use it for this particular project. Would you like that?
I should be publishing the first parts of this project in a few weeks. We’ll see though. It takes a while to film the making of a complex project like this and get it edited. In any event, I will let you know how it stands with my next blog post. Let me know what you are working on. Do you have any special requests for techniques to discuss? (Please comment here. I love comments because it helps me know if people really view and like my blog efforts here and the comments stay with my blog if I look back on them a few months later for reference).
I am working on the designs for several free motion thread work and couching small quilts. Essentially these are small whole cloth wall quilts done in multiple colors and styles of threads, cords, and yarns. They are pictorial in design and include both free motion thread painting and quilting. I will add some cord or yarn couching and might even add some decorative stitching with my Bernina 880 plus here and there. It’s kind of exciting for me.
Scanned coloring book page before cleaning up and turning into a pattern. This is not one of the four.
Sew what are these planned pieces? They include one scene of evergreen trees in the summer, one scene of trees at night with white winter stylized trees and a night sky both designed entirely by me, and four stylized tropical bird scenes based on scenes found in a Dover coloring book that will be colorful and, yes, challenging to stitch. I am turning them into downloadable pdf patterns to print and tape together ready for tracing onto your fabric. Then I will stitch them out with some additions of quilting designs and embellishments.
I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it. I believe it is possible to replicate crewel stitching by machine to look nearly like hand stitching.
It’s an adventure! And yes, there will be videos on YouTube and workbooks and patterns available on my website shop so you can sew along with me. I am considering the possibility of creating background fabrics for tracing these bird scenes onto that could then be purchased at Spoonflower. I am not sure this will work, but I will let you know if I am successful.
This is from another Dover coloring book, but I think it would make a wonderful piece of crewel work-like piece. Maybe I will add this one to my thread-work projects.
Sew I hope very much a lot of you will join me in these projects that will be presented in July and August, and possibly September. These small wall quilts make wonderful presents or home decor (either one or in groups). I don’t have the final sizes or supply lists yet because I’m still working on them, but I’ll let you know. Mostly I will be using threads from Wonderfil Threads and Superior Threads. I love both brands and they work well together because Wonderfil has some wonderful specialty threads that Superior does not and I have a huge collection of Superior threads in “normal” weights I have collected over the past several years.
If you do one or more of my projects and send me pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org of your projects, I will share them here on my blogs if you would not mind.
I will let you know when the workbooks with patterns and supply lists are available in my shop for each project. Right now, however, you can join me on the deciduous tree in full bloom quiltlet. There is a workbook with pattern and the first of two videos already available. The second video will likely be available next weekend. This is a skill-builder project and I think you would enjoy making it. If you do you would get to practice textured padded applique and broiderie perse by machine that are two great techniques for the fabric artists to have in their tool belts.
My family helped me produce a new video I could never have done on my own for my YouTube channel that is a discussion and trunk show of my experimental quilting. I think you might enjoy seeing it. Here’s the link: video
For years I have thought of much of my work as experimental fabric art, where I try to get certain looks in my quilts and sometimes had to develop a new technique or figure out how to apply a known technique to produce the look I wanted or just to see what something would look like. It has been a bit of a wild ride over the years and so it seemed the thing to produce a show and tell for you all.
Thanks to my family for their help and encouragement both for the videos and the quilting. There are some fun things on the way.
Textured appliques can be derived from using a combination of techniques. Such appliques can add major interest, even take center stage, on an art quilt and I find them really fun to do and a little challenging to figure out what needs to be done. The detail shown in the picture above started off as white basic quilting cotton that I washed and steam pressed. Then I traced the applique outlines on the fabric using my light table, painted with artists water soluble crayons, backed the applique itself with wool batting, quilted (I think of this as “prequilting”), backed with fusible web, cut out closely to the applique, fused it down. Then I and edge stitched it to the top. After the quilt top was completely ready, I sandwiched the quilt with a double bat of wool on top and 80/20 cotton/poly on the bottom and did some more stitching to improve the look of the appliques. I was particularly trying to help show muscles and shapes on the dragon and so I added more paint highlights, this time with iridescent Shiva sticks.
Here’s a little closer picture of the dragon so you can see it better.
That’s just an example, but I have used a lot of other techniques to get textured appliques for my work. I’ll probably do a video on this…maybe within my upcoming tree series. They need a lot of texture.
First of all, I am celebrating today, because my youngest son David just released his latest novel (click on the book to find it)! Congratulations to him.
Setting up for free motion quilting or thread play
While my communiques (blogs, vlogs, and YouTube videos) are intended for everyone who wants to play, regardless of their machines, sometimes I also address some quick specifics for working on Berninas. Please don’t stop reading when you come across those if you are not a Bernina owner, because you might find some of what I say interesting anyway.
I have three Berninas: a Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, a Bernina 880 Plus, and a Bernina 350. I also have a simple older BabyLock serger. I am truly grateful to have this collection of machines I obtained over the years through trade ups, gifts, and so forth. This is a wonderful set of machines for me to play with here in my studio. It’s like playing inside my own wonderland with favorite toys. But it does require practice, sometimes research, testing tools and techniques, and (gasp!) reading my manuals to get the most from this stable of machines. So I want to share what I have learned from this.
Setting Up For Free Motion
The setup for free motion on these machines is relatively simple.
If you don’t have a Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR attachment) or want to work without it, simply put on a darning or quilting foot like foot #73, #24, #29 or #9. Drop your feed dogs.
If you have a Bernina stitch regulator attachment that works on your machine, attach it and set it for your chosen BSR mode. BSR1 runs smoothly and constantly, idling with a little stitching, which is great for smooth free motion quilting and free motion embroidery. The idling allows you to stitch several stitches at the corner of a sharp turn in addition, which makes a nice turn. BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start, so you may prefer this setting. I find with this attachment I have to use a slightly shorter stitch length and not sew too fast for best results.
One of the interesting things you can do with this BSR attachment, is free motion zig zag with stitch regulation, which can’t be done on a sitdown longarm with a stitch regulator. This can provide some unique thread play opportunities and looks.
For most domestic machines you probably won’t need to make any adjustment in tension from the default for normal threads. For specialty threads, however, you may need to lower or raise the top tension to accommodate specialty thread weights and types. It’s a good idea to do a test using similar fabrics and write down your changes before working on your project piece.
When doing free motion it helps a lot to have a slick supporting surface, so I use a silicone mat, such as a Supreme Slider. I tape mine down with that indispensable studio tool blue painters tape because I have ruined more than one mat by stitching it to the back of my project. I have repaired them a bit with clear packing tape if they aren’t too badly torn. Yes, I know the stickiness returns if you rinse the back, but you have to remember to do that periodically and also the heavier and larger your quilt the more likely it is to dis-attach from the table and get caught in the stitching.
A queen sized Supreme Slider taped down with blue painters tape at my old Bernina 830 LE (I traded it for my 880 Plus last year). This works well and is easy to remove when you need to.
Setting Up the Q20 and the Q16 sitdown longarms
These machines are built for free motion quilting and free motion thread work and truly you can dive right in just as they are. But there are a few things that are helpful to know to make your free motion stitching work better. Note that I have had my Q20 now for nearly five years and I love it.
Free motion is always better when the supporting base is slick and the fabric can slide easily. There are some very large silicone mats available for these machines, where you cut the square carefully around the BSR/Bobbin square area (whatever do you call that?!!!).
Some people like using these extra large silicone mats with their sitdowns, I don’t have one. I spray the table before each project with Sullivan’s silicone spray, and wipe it fully dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. But before I spray it, I cover the BSR/Bobbin area under the needle and the vent area at the back of the machine with blue painter’s tape to prevent the spray from going down into the machine works. Alternatively, you can spray into the cloth and wipe the table but I think you get a little less silicone on the table that way (not scientific, just an opinion). From personal experience I know the spray works very well.
These machines have two BSRs built in which provide excellent stitch regulation.
BSR1 constantly runs and has a speed setting to make it cruise along easily at the pace you like. I use it for most of my free motion quilting and all of my free motion embroidery. I like to start off with a relatively slow “idle” speed of 250 to 300 and will raise that if I need to. The machine will run very fast if you want it to.
BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start. I use this mostly for ruler work.
BSR3 is a basting stitch with multiple stitch lengths to choose from. I use it a lot for larger quilts. I will spray baste the sandwich and then do some large segments of thread basting. This is especially good for your masterpiece or show quilting that will take a long time just to keep everything in good placement.
Then there is manual setting that does not engage the BSR, of course, but it does have a speed control on it so you can set it at a comfortable pace for you. I like this for micro-quilting, but I don’t use it for much else. It is smooth running and quieter and makes it easy to do those tiny bubbles for instance, but I still prefer the BSRs for most of my quilting. It’s a personal preference. Some people prefer this mode for everything, but if you are new to the machine, I urge you to try the BSRs first. They are wonderful.
I often get the question about what thread will the Berninas use. All my Berninas will work well with almost any good quality thread. I just have to be sure I have the right needle, tensions, stitch length, and the speeds set up right for that.
Keeping notes on how you set things up is always helpful, but these machines have four savable programs for various thread settings, which is really nice. Once you set it all up like you like it, you can save it and even tell it what thread and needle it is for in the naming of the programs.
I like to use the kickstart feature, which allows me to free motion stitch/quilt with a very steady power feed. This helps me relax while stitching and eliminates most stitch skips and the like, without my foot on the pedal. This is because the pedal is basically on/off and if you don’t keep your foot fully down it might skip a stitch, though not usually.
For using the kickstart, get your BSR mode chosen and make sure you are all set up, then kick the pedal at the heel and the machine will sew until you press the pedal at the front to stop it. I love it. You don’t have to concentrate on anything other then where you place your stitching once you get used to it. Here’s a youtube with cute fluffy slippers on using it:
And last, but not least be sure to set your bobbin tension to match your thread in the bobbin. I use mostly Superior Bottom Line in my bobbin…even mostly their prewound M sized bobbins, which are Bottom Line…and set my tension to 180 using the Towa Guage that comes with the machine. The Bernina default setting is 220, but I find you really need to adjust per thread size. If you somehow didn’t get one, be sure your dealer gives you one. It’s not like a domestic…it’s a real longarm.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio. I hope you found this helpful. I will be posting my next video probably this weekend. Cheers.
Wool sampler prototype piece part one. Embellishment will be presented in part two and quilting and finishing in part three.
Wool applique and embellishment is a great tool in a fabric artist’s quiver. There’s nothing else that provides the rich, warm, depth that real wool fiber does. It can make all the difference in achieving the artistic look you want. In my artist’s eye it compares to working with thick oil paints while cotton or silk is like watercolors. Both are beautiful but achieve totally different looks. Both require different techniques to get the best results.
So using a small project in wool applique I am finally launching my first video set in my YouTube channel. Here is the link to the new video. I have plans for multiple videos on my channel this year, and have just revamped my studio to include the things I need for producing them. So I would love you to subscribe to my channel and enjoy my videos just as a matter of interest or especially to join me in working through the projects you like. See the handout and pattern pdfs on my Aids and Links page here on this site for you to download and print out. Then go to my YouTube video here.
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Here is a list of the supplies with links that I will be using in this first project to which I have added links to help you in your shopping for the supplies:
1 yard of background fabric. I am using all wool Melton, which I had in my stash. Since the price of wool has skyrocketed since I filled my stash with it, I suggest using a melton wool blend for this, which is less expensive and still has a lot of the same characteristics and depth of beauty. Here’s another link at B. Black tailoring supplies, which is a fabulous store that has things that are difficult to find elsewhere. A solid color quilting fabric would also work but will not provide the same deep sense of richness.
There is another option. Use wool clothing that is no longer worn, or that you find in a thrift store, or use pure wool fabrics you have stashed under your bed in those storage boxes you put your clothing fabrics in. You may have had it for a decade and still haven’t made that garment you bought it for, like me. Cut the clothing so you get the largest pieces from them and wash your wool in hot water with some detergent in your washing machine and dry it in your dryer. This provides some amount of felting and cleans the fabric. It is also possible to dye this. It requires all three elements…hot water, agitation, and detergent, to make it do a bit of felting the fibers together. It does need to be pure wool for this to work well. The resulting fabric is also easy to dye in your washer.
One package of lightweight woven fusible interfacing sufficient to cover the yard of background fabric, such as Pellon SF101 Shapeflex
One pack of precut melton wool felt pieces in a variety of colors for flower heads and a pack of a variety of green pieces for stems and leaves. You will probably have enough felt pieces for a couple of small wall hangings or other wool applique projects. Be sure to save all the leftovers for small applique uses elsewhere. Please don’t use craft felt not made with any wool. The comparison is like using paper to fabric. You can use wool blend felt, but pure wool really makes a big difference in how this looks.
Aurifil 12 weight wool blend thread (small spool collection) or (large spool collection..the best value by the yard) or three or four colors of the large spools. If you prefer to use a 12 weight cotton as a slightly cheaper alternative I recommend Sulky 12 weight cotton, for this project, it will still look beautiful, just different and not quite as close to hand done that the wool thread will provide. I have even successfully used 40 weight all poly embroidery threads, and I sometimes have mixed them across a project in order to get particular looks or colors. The wool adds a depth of beauty and is probably what most hand stitchers would use. You should do some testing to see how they look.
universal 80/12 needles if you choose to use monopoly thread for your appliques. I found the Schmetz super non stick needles really helps with dealing with the fluff from wool combined with the fusible web.
1 piece of backing fabric about 25 x 25 inches (for the back of this small quilt) This is a good thing to pull from your existing stash.
Small piece of lower loft batting about 25 x 25 inches. I am using 80/20. This is a good place to use leftover batting from a larger quilt project.
And whenever I use fusibles, I like to have on hand this effective iron cleaning kit good for multiple cleanings that I have successfully used for years: Rowenta Iron cleaning kit
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While you can print the pattern out and use it to cut out your appliques, I did cut all my appliques using my Accuquilt Go! machine, which I really like for such projects. I have had mine for some years, collecting dies a bit at a time, and use it a lot for circles, rectangles, strips, bindings and borders and projects such as this. In my opinion, it is well worth the investment required. I can cut out a simple snuggle lap or crib quilt of squares and a border (prestarched) with a few fun appliques to snazz it up (backed with steam-a-seam 2) in ten minutes (after the fabric is pressed with starch) and make the quilt top all in the same day. Everything is nice and accurate too, very unlike it looks if I do my own cutting. Hahaha.
I used the following three dies for this project and it only took a few minutes for all the shapes I needed with some leftovers:
Go Circle (1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″) it’s so hard to hand cut good circles. These are beautiful. If you can only get one dye set for this project, this might be it.
I love quilted fabric art pieces, in case you haven’t figured that out yet, They can be as artistic as any great painting and can warm the home and office with their beauty. The texture can approach three dimensional with different finishes and dents and poufs, and they make you want to go and touch them. There are so many directions they can take.
I also love using the power of my great machines and my computer to work well beyond my own talents and abilities even as my hands age and can do less. There is much there to take advantage of for creating and enjoying and the additions continue. I even recently bought a new Bernina foot and my dealer kindly mailed it to me.
Learning the techniques, and taking advantage of the various attachments and feet is an important and interesting part of this.
Understanding how the machines respond to fabrics, threads, and quilt sandwiches is a key aspect to getting the maximum advantages out of the machines.
Trying not to get too frustrated when things don’t go well, but instead working through various steps to see what can be done to solve problems is equally important, and perhaps the hardest thing to do.
Learning how to better use various helpful software also adds to how far one can go.
These are the goals for me to continue to reach for this year even after all these years of sewing and quilting using these great tools. I have concluded there is always more to learn. And then I also want to get better adding surface design in the form of in-the-hoop embroidery, paints, beads, and crystals to move even further just adds to the enjoyment. I feel almost like I am just beyond a beginner in this aspect.
Sew even though it is unclear where we will land in our quilting/sewing world after The Great Upheaval, my own name for the pandemic and actions taken, there will always be much to do and learn. This makes me excited even as I still hang out safely in my studio. Truth be told, even after we all get through this thing and I can go out more, I will be spending the majority of my time in my studio because I love these activities. Yes, I will have my friends in finally and go see them, and I will go to brick and mortar fabric stores that may be left, and will delight as I see the rebirth of the industry across the nation. I hope to go back to shows eventually. I think we still have some months before this happens.
So I will be making some smaller projects in 2021 but still plan on doing them to quilt show quality even if they never go to a show. It is the standard that I don’t want to leave. I will, of course, also make some cuddle quilts and a few clothes this year.
This Week’s Featured Quilt
Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on Peppered Cotton. I digitally painted the individual flower appliques and printed them on cotton, and then arranged them in a close approximation of arranging Ikebana with real flowers. The vase is made from some hand dyed silk I had on hand. I then appliqued them with Monopoly. This is the perfect example of what I was just talking about. I did take a hand Sashiko class from the great Pepper Cory and I loved it, but I have a very hard time hand stitching Sashiko now. But here I used digitized Sashiko, some of which I digitized myself, and picked threads and fabrics close to what I knew were very Japanese in nature. Decades ago, I lived in Kanazawa for three years and had some wonderful helpful friends. This quilt was created while thinking about this time in my life. You can see a better image of this on my website gallery. I am still waiting my coming new computer after the great computer crash a week ago, so I must use what is available here on my laptop. Here’s the link to the gallery page where you can find this.
Sew happy everyone! Join me in advancing our understanding of what we can do with the machines we have. Cheers everyone.
I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. It has a special meaning for me because I stitched it during my frequent visits with my mother in the months that lead up to her death in 1998. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it.
I love both hand and machine stitched fabric art. I do most, or nearly all my stitching by machine now, but that was not always the case. I have done some rather beautiful, even if I do say so myself, embroidery, cross stitching, and crewel work by hand. I used to d0 a lot of hand stitching when I made wedding dresses and couture tailored garments decades ago. But I am now in my 70s and my hands get really tired in short order when I am doing hand stitching.
Besides that, I have wonderful Berninas that can help me do some remarkable things and I love exploring all they can do. It seems to me possible to not only get an exquisite handmade look for some fabric art using my machines, but also to do some equally exquisite stitching that is clearly done by machine.
“Canterbury Silk”. This quilt won several ribbons in national competitions. All the stitching in this quilt is by machine.
I am not sure how much faster it is to do the stitching by machine, though I am sure it is a little bit. This is especially the case when I am trying to embellish with specialty threads and decorative stitching. To do that well, I often need to stitch slowly. I imagine that there are some of you who can stitch more rapidly with super results, but I totally enjoy the slow stitching around appliques, for instance, or embellishing parts of an especially nice quilted wall art piece. It is as enjoyable to me as the hand stitching ever was.
Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs machine stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on to Peppered Cottons. Appliqued with Monopoly. I love how the Sashiko came out on this piece.
High end machine work requires planning, testing, practice, and a fair amount of knowledge, but it is sometimes thought to be less artistic 0r less appreciated somehow than hand done work. While I love hand work, I disagree with this point of view. I think both are important and can be exquisite and admired as something special. I also think it is wonderful what can be accomplished by machine.
Sew happy everyone! Have a delightful Merry Christmas!