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.

My Uncle and What’s Happening in My Studio

I’ve taken too long to write a new post.  This past month has had its lows and highs.

My uncle Betterton passed a week and a half ago.  He was 91 and was two years younger than my mom.  I had five aunts and six uncles on my mom’s side and one aunt on my Dad’s side and all are gone now, as well as my parents.   Uncle Betterton was one of my favorite uncles.  He was always close with my mom and someone everyone could rely on for help.  He had various tough illnesses the last several years, mild dementia, and is now no longer suffering.  He was a strong Christian.  Like my father, he was a civil engineer, both served in WWII, and he and Dad enjoyed a strong friendship.  My memories of him are sweet and dear and the pain of losing him is softened by his wonderful long giving life and his final release from the difficulties of his last few years.

Sew what’s going on in my studio these days?  My “apprentice” Anita and I finished the church banner celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  The church members apparently love it, and I was really pleased with how it looks.  I have still not gotten a good photo of it, but I will share as soon as I do.  The big community celebration is next Sunday.  I guess this tells you that I attend a Lutheran church.  I do.  It’s five minutes drive from my house and the it’s a lovely church with services not far in liturgical style from the Episcopal church.  I grew up an Episcopalian.  For many years I drove down to Georgetown to go to the historic St John’s Episcopal in Georgetown where Marvin and I both were very active and sang in the choir.  After Marvin passed, I moved to Ashburn, Virginia, and the drive to Georgetown got even longer, so I looked for somewhere closer.  Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church is in my neighborhood…now that’s a luxury I had not had for decades.

I have gotten a start on my next show quilt.  I’m not sure I would call them “show quilts” any longer, except that’s a term many understand.  I like to show them, but my primary goal for these quilts is to make wonderful art, and hopefully sell most of them in the long run.  Everything I make I hope to meet show quilt level, but sometimes show judges don’t seem to understand why the techniques I choose are done the way they are, or how difficult they really are.  Sometimes they seem to see things and remark on them that I simply cannot see, and sometimes I think they don’t see something about my quilts that I think is especially unique and interesting.  Maybe I need new glasses, a flashlight, and a better magnifying glass.  Or maybe I need a microscope.  LOL  So I have found a lot of freedom in reaching for creating beautiful art the best way I can make it and not worrying too much about what a judge might see or not see.  Competition can be rough on one’s ego.  He-he-he

Anyway, back to my latest project.  It’s based on the art piece I bought the rights for one art quilt from the Disney artist Joel Christopher Payne.  It’s set in the Bayou and has interesting trees, and two rather rundown homes with light peaking out through the cracks in the boards.  One is a houseboat, and the other is a shack built on stilts on a platform.  The scene is at night and there is a little pale light filtering through the trees in a way that suggests a heart shape, and there are fireflies.  This is a huge challenge for me, but really, I am enjoying myself so far.

I have the houseboat “built” and the shack about half done.  Yesterday I did a little low and high lighting with Neocolor II pigment crayons.  When you use them with fabric, you can just color it on and then brush it with water to blend it onto the fabric and then heat set it for a permanent color.  Sometimes when I heat set it, it gets lighter so I have to go back and add more color, but it’s a wonderful way to over color an existing fabric pattern to add shadows and lights where you need them or “correct” colors.  In this case, I have three different wood print fabrics that I have backed with Steam-a-Seam II light and cut into board shapes.  I am using these to “build” the shack and the houseboat.

The picture has really big trees that also have some Spanish moss hanging from them.  I have five different tree bark prints that I will use to make the tree appliqués.  They, too will need to be overpainted to get the right look and color,  I am planning on thread painting the Spanish moss on, and probably it will be more than Joel put in his picture because this is a fabric and threads interpretation of his wonderful art piece.

I have obtained some glow in the dark paints and threads to make the fireflies with, and the paint has some additional pigment so it will look good in light too.  I may add crystals to the fireflies for added dimension.

The biggest challenge as I see it is the light that is getting the back light that is coming through the trees and reflecting across the water right.  I am thinking this will have to be done with paint, but I’m still thinking about it.

Sew I hope you all have a wonderful week.  Try something new and push to get it as well done as possible.  I have a lot going on in my studio besides this new quilt, so I hope I will get back to my weekly blogs for a while.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two New Digital Quilt Projects

Believe it or not, I have completed all my projects I had going.  Now that the workshop at G Street Fabrics is over (I will be repeating it in the fall), I am going to make two quilts centered around two digital printouts.  I’m hoping to get one of them done by mid July for part two of my Exhibit at G Street Fabrics.

The field of flowers is a photograph by Beth Tatum, my daughter-in-law:

Photo by Beth Tatum, printed on fabric 36″ x 26″

 

The pink flowers I painted in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed.

I painted this one digitally in Corel Painter 17 and had it printed 28″ x 38″.

They came out really wonderful, and I washed them in Synthrapol, rinsing until they ran clear.  There wasn’t much color in the first batch of water and I can’t see any color loss.  So now I can use them in a quilt I will soak when the quilting is complete, which makes marking things  and blocking a lot easier.  I’ll have some embellishments I will add after blocking.

I plan on just sandwiching and quilting the field of flowers photo with  a variety of threads for depth and interest and adding beadwork and some 3D embroidered butterflies.  I might face it instead of binding it.

I plan on adding a double border on the pink flowers.  The inner border will maybe be shaped and appliqued on.  I plan on shortening the flower panel at the top to bring the border down to the vine, and cutting out the top half of the leaves that would be hidden by the border to have them break into the border.  Then I will quilt it with some pictographic flowers, vines, and creatures, also quilting in the flower and leaf textures.  I also am working on designing two or three 3d stumpwork with wire of small birds in
Bernina V7 software to applique on. This is my bigger project, as you might imagine. If this turns out well, this might be a show quilt, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, I have broken down my housecleaning project into small manageable sections and am spreading them out across a couple of weeks.  I did pretty well with this so far.  My upper level is mostly clean, though I have a plan to go through my stash at some point, eliminating some things and slightly reorganizing the fabrics so they all fit back into my storage units.  I’ll do this later, after the mid-July deadline for the second part of my G Street Fabrics exhibit.  I’ll do the main level next week, and David will do his level too (he has a nice “flat” on the walkout lower level that includes his bedroom/office and a nice big living area with his own back deck.  There is a bathroom area that has the rough in plumbing, but I haven’t gotten it finished yet.  Maybe if he has a big hit book, he will do that himself.).

A word about digital fabric art:   It is NOT “cheating” as some quilters seem to think.  For example, it took me s lot of time to paint the pink flowers, and they are fully my own artwork.  Why would that be any less of a “legitimate” quilt than a whole cloth, for instance?  Neither would a photograph that is printed, sandwiched, and quilted as a whole cloth.  I do think there is slightly greater acceptance of the value of digitally printed fabrics than there used to be.  And that is good.  Indeed, am hopeful some of the heated rhetoric about just about everything these days will cool off.  Let’s appreciate one another and their work…traditional, contemporary, modern, and art quilters, white collar and blue collar workers, sharing their Mom’s house while writing wonderful stories for the world to enjoy, making art quilts, plumbing the kitchen, powerwashing your home, managing a business, Democrat, Republican, Independent…cool it everyone.  Life can be wonderful and full of peace and love if we stop the arrogance and heated rhetoric and take a step back to love and appreciation that we are not all-knowing.

Sew happy everyone!  Try your hand at making some digital fabric art if you haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll post more on these projects along the way. Also, I have decided to put the landscape project I tried to start as a kind of block of the month on the backburner.  It needs more definition, and everyone that responded said they were too busy.  I think I am too busy too…LOL.

 

Practicing Free Motion Backtracking

I think my backtracking…you know when you go back over a stitching line…needs a lot of practice.  So I had the brilliant idea of using a design from a coloring book page to practice.  I definitely need to practice on almost a daily basis to get (and stay) really good at quilting.  I got a new coloring book from Dover Publications in their “Keep Calm & Color” series of adult coloring books.  I got in touch with them and found that I can use up to four pages in a single project without further permission even though it is copyrighted.

So I scanned one of the pages into my computer and enlarged it.  Then I printed it out in Corel Draw, which tiles my pages for me.  Several drawing programs or even printer software will do that.  Before I got Corel Draw I used Excel spreadsheet, which also tiles your images for printing.   Anyway, I taped it together and traced it onto my fabric using a light box and Crayola washable markers (trust me, they come out of cotton when washed)., and sandwiched the fabric with batting and a backing.  I machine basted it using my Bernina Q 20’s basting mode BSR3.

 

Sew now I’m having fun stitching the design with repeated lines of stitching along the design, which gives me plenty of practice backtracking.  After I finish the initial design stitching, I will background quilt the rest of the little quilt and I think it will look great if I add lots of beads and other assorted embellishments after it is quilted, washed, and bound.  This might just come out being a nice enough small wall art quilt to add to display in the second part of my exhibit at G Street Fabrics, and I am getting in lots of practice.  We’ll see what I think when it is finished.  So far, I’ve only had to take out a few stitches where somehow it went awry.  I’ll show you a picture when it’s finished.

I think this is a very fun way to get in some quilting practice and encourage you to grab one of those Dover coloring books and give one a try.  They would make a nice present for someone or wall art in that small spot in your home.

By the way, how is your stylized landscape project coming from this blog post?  Have you finished your sun yet and gotten your background constructed or found a nice piece of fabric for the background?  I am planning on publishing part 2 the first week in May.  If you aren’t making one you can just bookmark the blog posts and make one later, or just watch the rest of us have fun with this.

Sew happy everyone!  Try using coloring book drawings for your quilting practice.

 

 

 

A Word About My Art Quilting and Some Early Quilts

                  Fandance by Moonlight. Hoffman Challenge

2008This is my very first show quilt and you can see the scotch tape on my photograph…LOL.  So you can see my professional side of show quilting has grown as well as my quilt making abilities.

As I prepare for my upcoming exhibit of my work at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, one of the things they wanted was for me to provide my Hoffman Challenge quilts, which, if you look at them carefully, you can see my progress as both an artist and a quilter from year to year.  Unlike some of my quilty friends who make a quilt, enter it, and win big, I have struggled, indeed still struggle, to move my art quilting to a truly professional level, but it has been fun along the way. I love making art in fabrics, threads, and paints.  I think my artist side has been a little slower in developing than my quilting techniques, but I’m working on it.

“Equipped to Stand” 2012
Even though I can now see many flaws in both the design and the quilting making techniques on this quilt, I still love it. I would never send this quilt out for show today, but we all learn. They let it into several shows and the judges were sweet about it and their remarks didn’t bash me down to the point I quit quilting.  Unlike this photo, it is square and relatively flat, though I had to undo a lot of it to get a wave out of it.  You can see it was not all that long ago.  I have come a looong ways from here.  If they had torn it apart, I might have quit.

To me, an art quilt needs to have a lot of elements come together to make it good and this is what I am always striving for. Starting with the basic design concept  I draw the concept while considering balance, value, color, placement, perspective, and simply artistic appeal.  I am constantly attempting to learn more about all this through practice, books (some left from art classes in college and some collected over the years), and, more recently, online training.  I’m still trying.

So here is my process for a complex show quilt (not for all of my quilts).

I try to capture the concept that is in my head or the inspirational photo by drawing the picture of the planned quilt on my computer, thereby providing me with a “pattern” .  Here is how I work through this.

  • I use Corel Draw to draw out some elements, like buildings or space ships, and saving them with a transparent background as a .png file, which will import into other packages without a background.
  • I use Corel Painter, a truly powerful digital painting software, to draw the main picture, importing the items from Corel Draw and placing them where they belong.  I size it here and save with iterative painter files and finally as a .jpg.
  • I may go back and forth between Corel Draw and Corel Painter several times because one program is better than another for various things.
  • If I am putting borders on the quilt I will then move to Electric Quilt and set it up with a single block sized properly for my .jpg.  Then I play with the borders until I like them.  This gives me the pattern for the borders.  I save this as a .jpg.
  • I move back to Corel Draw and start a new file (you can’t just open a .jpg in Corel Draw, but you can import one).  I import the design I saved in Electric Quilt into Corel Draw and size  the image to the size I want the quilt to finish.  Corel Draw has a wonderful way of tiling the picture into sizes that match the printer paper with symbols to mark where they join.  I usually print the pattern on a 11″x 17″ paper.  I print one pattern in color and one in gray scale.  I also print the border pattern from EQ7.
  • I tape the pattern together carefully.
  • Then I pin the colored print on my design wall, or tape it somewhere if that is occupied, and sit there looking at it every now and then, wondering how on Earth I am going to accomplish this quilt.  At this point, I take time off from this particular project if I have time.  This is why I usually have some ongoing simple quilt or clothing projects so I can go work on something else while the concept “marinates” in my mind and I talk to myself…sometimes exclaiming “Oh THAT’s what I can try!”  I’m glad my son’s flat is on the lower level, and is not in my studio to hear me, he might be looking for “a place for Mom”, although, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy writer so probably not.
  • I keep a notebook nearby to write down my ideas.

Once I’ve figured out more or less how I’m going to make the quilt, I just jump in.  I first shop my stash to see if I have what I need for this quilt and buy the rest, including fabrics, threads, paints, and other embellishments.  After all my years of sewing and quilting my stash is now such that often I am able to complete a quilt without buying anything, or buying only one item.  It generally takes me nearly half the time of total time making a quilt to get to this point.

  • I have to take one or two elements of the quilt at a time.
  • I make samples and try things until I find what works.
  • I have to figure what must come first…usually working from background forward.
  • I take photos along the way because for some reason I can see mistakes better in a photograph than directly looking at the project.  I think I get too close to it, as they say.
  • I unsew and go backwards when I need to, but try to limit this as much as possible.  Sometimes “mistakes” are actually result in a good new direction.

As I construct the quilt, I pay close attention to how flat and square the project is becoming along the way. It’s ok not to have a square quilt, but it has to be deliberately not square and obviously not intended to be square.  Construction techniques really still need to be right. This often involves my ripping things out for correction, and sometimes even just starting over. I have obtained a laser square and a laser cross-hair lamp to help me with this

I’m not a piecer, but sometimes I have to piece.  “Pendragon” had the main center block, and ten border and text block pieces that all HAD to be square and straight and the border had to be lined up so the designs were straight and in the right place.  This is one of the more challenging things for me, because, did I say it?  I’m not a piecer.  Piecing is much more challenging to me than it must be to traditional quilters, who seem to love it.  I piece when I have to in order to realize my design.  I sometimes use foundation paper piecing when I need a real quilt block, like I did for “Waiting…” and “Drawing Nigh”.  So I’m very happy to have these tools and techniques to help me piece.

Sew once I have completed the top, including any highlighting or lowlighting I do with fabric paints and inks, I sandwich my quilt mostly using basting adhesive and rulers to get the lines that need to be straight and square right and adding some quilting pins because I use a very light amount of adhesive spray on the batting only.  This is my least favorite thing of making a quilt and I find it physically taxing, especially if it has to be on the floor because of size, and I wear a mask and often have to do it over and over again until it is right.

Then I quilt it, bind it, add a pocket, a label, and block it.  My oldest son Ken photographs it at his home in my daughter-in-law’s wonderfully big studio where her longarm and her Bernina 880 resides.  Beth was, afterall, the one who pulled me into quilting after Marvin died because she was sure I would love it.  I’m not sure she expected me to love it as much as I do, and I know she didn’t expect me to move into the art quilt world.  Before this happened, I had made several pieces of fabric art, had sewn for most of my life, used to have my own fashion design and tailoring business, and made my own clothes and some of Marvin’s.  I found art quilting simply unleashed and pulled together all the sewing and art skills I had learned in my life, but I did need to learn a lot before it was any good.

And I’m still learning, experimenting, and moving through art quilting.  Maybe someday I’ll start winning the big ribbons (I have won a few ribbons, but no BOS).

Sew are any of you making our free design art quilt with me introduced in my last blog post?  How’s it coming?  I’m not rushing you.  It will probably be another couple of weeks or month before I get to the next step.  I’m preparing for my exhibit and I figure the first step is a big one.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Make a Stylized Landscape Quilt with Me: Step One

I am making a fun new design-as-you-go stylized landscape quilt with some kind of flying creature and I hope you will try one of these too. For as many steps as it takes (to be determined) I will be providing a blog post to take us through this quilt together.  This quilt is made without first drawing out and printing a full sized design and will be using techniques that I am sure you may wish to try or have tried already.  I am not providing a pattern, telling you what size it will be, or even tutorials for all the techniques needed.  This is a project for us to play together making some wall art.  I will tell you where you can find the techniques, providing the links, and for some parts I will give tutorials, but not all.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, with guidance as to where you can find help.  And if you have a question all you have to do is make a comment on the blog post and I will respond as soon as I can.

Let’s begin:

I am using some interesting techniques available online at Iquilt and Craftsy.  But you don’t have to take a class for this project, just follow along.  If you have Electric quilt 7 and know how to do foundation paper piecing you, or you already know how to make a compass block, you can do this without additional classes.

For this fun project there are several objects we will need to make and obtain.

  1. Challenge–Make The Sun:  This can be either a simple quarter of a large circle of fabric to applique on a sky or one quarter of a sun compass block or a smaller full stylized star block in your choice of sun colors for your imaginary world.  For my quilt I am using the star block that Karen K. Stone teaches in “English Paper Piecing by Machine” found on iquilt here.  It’s very similar to a regular compass block, but has some interesting differences.  If you watch the sales, you can almost certainly get this class on a very good sale.  But there are a lot of beautiful choices for a star to represent our own star, the sun.  Here are some I found on Electric Quilt 7 that would be great choices with some color changes.  The outside large piece, or the background pieces need to be made from the same fabric as your background sky piece (see below), or you can use the curve to applipiece or piecelique (whatever you call it…it’s just joining the two pieces in an applique manner) it directly into the background sky.  I will provide a little tutorial of this in my next blog related to this project.  So just hold off on attaching the star/sun to the background sky.
  2. These blocks were all found in Electric Quilt 7 and would work very nicely. You can change the colors, of course, however you want them.

    In addition you could draft your own compass rose. I found this fascinating method on The Quilt Show that uses a really neat drafting device available from  Renea Haddadin’s website here.  I don’t have this device, but it really looks useful far beyond the drafting of a compass rose.

  3. Put together the background:  For this you will need a full width of ombre gradiated fabric that will be one third of the length of your finished quilt, or just a plain piece of fabric that looks like a sky to you.  You can paint this, buy this, or construct this with strips of various pieces of fabric.   You just have to size the sun appropriately to fit in the upper left corner of the scene.  Two thirds of your quilt will be mountains and maybe water or grass somewhere in there.  If you want to make this easy, you can use a simple white or off white or even light brown or green for the lower two thirds of your quilt background, giving you a background to applique mountains and rivers and plants onto.  Remember, this is a design as you go quilt and is meant to be just for fun.
  4. Wait to applique the sun in the upper left corner of your background until my next blog when I will be discussing applique techniques.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Go forth and make a sun and gather the background pieces or even make the simple background.  The next part will deal with appli-piecing the sun into the sky, and making the mountains and other parts of the foreground.  Then there is a part for making plants, and finally we will make some kind of flying creature for our scene, which may take several parts.  I plan on following this with a series of blogs focusing on embellishing and quilting.  I am not calling this a “block of the month” or anything, but I am planning this to stretch across several months…not sure how many.

Sew happy everyone!  Do some thinking about this…join me in the adventure and make your own wall quilt just for fun and to stretch your design techniques a bit.

On MAQF, Antiques, and Tutorials

MAQF

I just came home all inspired by a delightful few days at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival where I had “Pendragon”.  I put together some of my pictures from the show.  Here is a link to the picture file:  Smugmug/MAQF 17

I stayed a day longer than I usually do for this show and it gave me lots of time to see every quilt, take all four lectures I was interested in and see the Show and Tell that I usually miss.  I also did a lot of shopping.  Well, afterall, my 70th birthday will be this coming Friday on March 3rd, so I gave myself some presents…threads, new rulers (a set of circles and a set of ovals), and one of those spinning cutting mats among a few additional small items.

The loot from the show

Pendragon did not place, but I believe it to be mostly because the theme of the show was modern quilting and that quilt has nothing to say that is even remotely modern quiltish.  I still believe it is a ribbon worthy quilt, so we will see what it does in the future. I decided to see if they would include it anyway because I sort of consider MAQF my main show.  It is within driving distance and I have relatives in the area, so going there is always a treat for me.  I did get some nice comments from the judges:

Your original design effective in telling your story; Embroidery well executed; Piecing well done; Quilting motifs compliments the design; Quilt hangs flat and square; Back of quilt should be free of loose threads and lint” (note:  I sticky rolled it and examined it with my big magnifying lamp when I packed it…lint may have happened on their end.  That backing fabric I used was a little lint grabbing…not using that again).

Pendragon
34 x 45

A New Page Is Turned

Now, however, I am turning a page on my work.  From here I am focusing on the quilt work itself, and on figuring out how to pass on what I have learned even as I maintain my studio artist status (not a lot of travel, a little teaching within driving distance, writing books and creating tutorials), rather than so much focus on the competition work. I will still enter shows, and still plan on making show quilts (they teach me a lot and give me a chance to stretch my work), but it’s an attitude and work flow adjustment in my studio that is on this nice new page in my life.   You can see more about this in one of my past blogposts here.

On Antiques

There are lots of definitions of “antique”.  The one I like the best for this discussion is “an object such as … a work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age.”    Tomorrow (Friday, March 3rd), I will be 70 years old.  I am a work (in progress) maybe even a “work of art” and have considerable age. I think every human being has high value…so there you are.  I could probably be called “an antique” fabric artist.  I feel physically great (have also lost some weight recently and hope to lose more) and I believe I am as mentally alert as ever (always a little daphy).  Many of my ancestors lived well into their hundreds.  I have a wonderful plan for my future and my kids are nearby.  My studio is well stocked, and my fleet of machines is wonderful and in good working order.  I’m excited about the future.  Thank the good Lord and I hope you will continue to join me on my quilting journey.

On Tutorials

One of the things I am going to begin on this blog post is a regular short tutorial (every week or month?).  This week’s tutorial is answering a question I got a lot at the show…how I made the chain mail on my characters in Pendragon using Bernina v7.  I haven’t yet gotten v8, but I suspect this would work there also.

Digitizing Chain Mail for Small Applique (Or using special fills to create what you want)

I wanted to make the characters’ chain mail shirts look right, and decided the best approach was to digitize the chain mail in my Bernina v7 software and embroider it in the hoop.  This took me a while to discover how to do it.  I think I spent two or three days on figuring this out, but I just did a chain mail heart shape and took snap pictures for this tutorial all in about three minutes.  So I thought I’d share this with you in case you wanted to create something special with interesting fills and shapes.  Using Bernina v7 software:

  • Draw a closed shape…you can put the picture in the art canvas side and trace it on the embroidery side
  • Right click on the object and bring up the Object Properties dialogue box.

    Draw shape and in object properties box make these selections (sorry the text box got cut off, but that’s what is said more or less).

 

    These are the selections I made..sizes will depend on your own project size and requires a little experimentation to get it right.

 

  • I had to turn my shirts upside down and move them around to get the wave fill to match where the parts of the wave needed to be to show the expansion and contraction of the chain…like a shirt on a beautifully muscled knight. 😀  I also gave each shirt their own color to help me figure out which belonged where when complete.  I embroidered them all in Superior Fantastico 5169..a silvery variegated gray on black fabric.  I cut them out close to the embroidery and glued them on with Roxanne basting glue and blanket stitched the edges in the same thread to give them a finish.

So there you are.  I can see this method working for a wide variety of appliques and purposes.  The software is so flexible, but finding out how to do something you want to do that is a little different can take time.

Finished chain mail in place

On Upcoming Events:

  • For the month of May and a couple of weeks into June, G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, is hosting an exhibit of my quilts.  I will have one day where I will provide a walking lecture tour of my approximately 15 quilts that will be placed around the store.  I’ll let you know when that is.
  • In June, I will be providing a workshop on machine quilting at G Street.
  • My quilt “Drawing Nigh” will be at AQS in Lancaster, PA, March 20-April 1.  If you attend and see my quilt, let me know.

Sew happy everyone.  Focus on your creative projects to have the most fun, put in your best effort, learn a little bit, and share, and don’t let it stress you out.  I would really appreciate comments.

The Making of Pendragon

I promised you I would write some posts about the making of Pendragon after it was accepted into its debut quilt show.  Pendragon will be shown in the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival on Feb 23-26.  I am so excited because I am planning on attending this show.  When you read this post, I will probably be there, since I am setting this up for posting on the day I leave for the show.  Because of this, I can finally reveal the finished quilt picture.

Pendragon
34 x 45 Text from “The Legend of King Arthur” by Thomas Percy (1729-1811)

I actually made a few small changes since this picture was taken.  There was some stitching that went on a downhill decline under the lower left of the pictorial center on the top of the black text box.  I spent a whole day frogging (ripping out the stitching) of about five inches of decorative stitching and restitching it. It was worth it.  I think it was the only thing that would stand in the way of a judge who likes the design deciding it is a good quilt.  I’m not sure you can see it here on this web-sized picture, but I also added some interesting quilting below the text in the block.  I had to enlarge the text box just a bit to make the borders I made fit just right.

So here is a web-sized picture of the design that Ken gave me for my birthday last year, along with the threads and fabrics.  I blogged about this gift here.  He gave me the throne room background in a separate full-sized file without banners or people or the table, which I had printed on cotton by Spoonflower.

You can see there are some differences.  The banners are all a little different, the text box is longer than the one shown here to make everything fit together, and the border designs, which were a huge challenge, all have slight differences.  Also, there were three more swords pointing on the table from off-picture knights that I eliminated.

So first of all, I sent out the thrown room to be printed, as I said, and then I tried to dye the prepared for dye cotton/silk radiance he gave me to get that nice rich dark green for the Celtic borders. It came out a very pretty color, but not dark enough.  Here’s a picture of the fabric.  It will make a wonderful green for another quilt, so it isn’t a lost effort (I’m thinking a whole cloth pictograph).

My green dyed Radiance

So I talked to some of my quilting friends, particularly Jerry Granata, who has one specialty of working in unusual fabrics, and bought some (much less expensive) poly satin of exactly the right color of dark emerald green and did some testing.  That is what I ended up using.  I also had some green cotton of the right color that I used to work out the design and way to achieve the Celtic border designs on.  Quilters, I will tell you that getting these borders worked out was one of the biggest challenges of my entire fabric arts career.  I wrote a little about it in previous blogs: One and two and three.

After that, I decided it would be best for me to withhold additional photos and construction information until it actually debuts at its first show, which will be the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in just a week.  I’m so excited.  I decided to go to the show, not only because Pendragon got in, but so many of my quilting friends and mentors will be there.  I’m not taking any classes, but I am going to attend several lectures, try to spend some time with my friends, do some quilt gazing and shopping, and stand by my quilt a bit even if it doesn’t place.  And it may not place.  I love it, but it does incorporate digitally printed fabrics, which is not an altogether accepted method yet, and I am all too aware that my quilting is not traditional in any way and needs to grow.  I plan on showing it as much as I can over the next couple of years regardless of the reception by the judges just because it is a meaningful quilt that I want people to see.  When it finally comes home for its retirement, I plan on giving it to Ken if he wants it.  I am thinking it will also be at my exhibit of my quilts at G Street Fabrics in April or May (I’ll give you the dates when I get them).

Anyway, back to the making of the quilt.  I loved the way the people came out mostly.  I particularly like the queen.  Her dress is a small print with gold that I outlined all the little flowers with gold thread quilting.  I used a matching sheer for the sleeves and actually made tiny sleeves for her arms.  All their hair is free motion thread work.  The guys’ tabards and the little banners all have machine embroidered designs.  The little banners are independent banners that I made, then hand stitched on top of the quilt.

I digitized the mens’ chain mail shirts using some of the powerful software in Bernina V7.  It was a fun challenge and took me several days to make it come out with the appropriate differences that fit their bodies.  Then it was embroidered on black and after applique I added some free motion chain work around them to make them look more real and smooth some of the joinings.  The swords were so challenging to figure out that (after much consideration and discussion with Ken and Beth) I ended up printing the digital design of the swords from Ken’s design and appliqueing them on with monopoly.  Getting the hands properly tucked around the handles was a bit of a challenge, but in the end, I was happy with the swords.  I added black crystals on King Arthur’s sword.   The crowns are free motion stitching using metallic threads with the addition of hot fix crystals.

All the quilting of the throne room was done with the idea of bringing out a 3D concept.  I am generally happy with that result.

Then I faced the challenge of piecing it together.  The border was in pieces and had to match up square and with the pictorial center.  I should have had the throne room printed slightly larger, because by the time it was quilted and squared up, it was a bit smaller than the intended design.  I dealt with this by adding a bit of black below the text box (to make up for the lengthwise shrinking), where I placed some quilting designs, and slightly narrowing the top and bottom small Celtic border pieces (to make up for the crosswise shrinking).  But in the end, after a few bits of frogging and restitching, it actually came out very square and flat.  I was  ecstatic.  Getting quilts square and flat, especially my art quilts that have so many different types of techniques, stitching, painting, etc, is a huge challenge every time.  This one worked.  I used my laser devices (a laser square and a laser cross hair lamp) to help get it square.  If the judges measure it, and it doesn’t get shifted in any way in the transport and hanging, they will find it a square quilt.

I used Quilters Dream thin poly batting and Hobbs wool batting.  I ended up using 6 titanium top stitch needles on this quilt…I think the gold paint dulled the points quicker.  Constructed on my Bernina 830LE and quilted on my Bernina Q20.  All Superior threads (variety of weights and colors).

Sew happy everyone!  Will I see you at MAQF?  Do you have any questions?

 

Christmas, Advent, Blogs, and Magic

I am astonished to see that it has been nearly a month since I published my last blog post.  In general, I try to publish once a week every weekend, but sometimes I get caught in that time vortex where each week is but a day and each day but an hour…you know the ones I mean.  I am just bobbing my head up from the latest whirl as I prepare for Christmas and work to complete some deadlines.

I am waiting on a wish list from my most difficult of all family members to buy a gift for (my oldest son Ken), and if he doesn’t give me one he gets a gift cirtificate.  But other than that I have completed my Christmas shopping.  I have not yet even started decorating for Christmas.  I celebrate Christmas, the birth of my Lord,  from Christmas Eve through 6 January.  I also celebrate Advent as a time of preparation and reflection.  So for me, having the house decorated by about December 20th or so is just about right and in tune with the preparation part of Advent.  Yet, the other night I was driving home from being out and saw my whole neighborhood is bright with beautiful Christmas lights.  So I think for my neighbors we will endeavor to get our outdoor lights up this week.

My youngest son, David, is under a heavy set of deadlines for his writing.  He has been asked to contribute a novelette for a collection of stories that is due by the end of the month, and he has to get it to his editor by the 15th.  So I am putting off decorating until he gets that manuscript to his editor. He is a necessary part of this endeavor.  After all, someone has to go up that ladder to get the decorations down…LOL.

He also has been asked to be a guest author at a writing/fantasy/sci fi conference (Raven Con in Williamsburg, Virginia) in April, and he has the third book in his Law of Swords series close enough to completion that he wants to get that one published in time to have it in hand for the conference.  So snatching a bit of his time here and there is really difficult.  But I’m excited for him.  His writing is downright magical.

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If you haven’t read any of his books, I encourage you to do so even if you don’t normally read fantasy, because they are full of romance, intrigue, and adventure and are so very well written. They would make great Christmas presents too, and talent as deep and wonderful as his is needs supporting.  So please buy a book and see what you think.

I have not forgotten the blog this past month.  I have been struggling to write a post about the magic of combining today’s wonderful drawing and painting software with fabric art and specifically with art quilting.  But I think I’m going to put that one aside because I just can’t get it put together like I want.  But believe me, it’s worth the time and money spent to obtain and learn such technologies as Corel Draw, Corel Painter, Bernina Design software, Electric Quilt, and any photographic editing software.  With it, you can paint in the computer and print on fabric.  You can design in the computer and print a full sized design.  You can design your own fabric and have it printed.  You can draw a whole quilt and have it printed full sized on wonderful fabric and quilt it. You can digitize your own embroidery items and stitch it out on your embroidery machine.

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You can just draw something wonderful and print it out full size and replicate it on your free motion machine (even a treadle machine if that’s how you roll). It’s so exciting and wonderful that it’s almost magical.

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And so what are my deadlines, you wonder.  Ahhhhh….that’s a good question!  Maybe I’ll tell you some of them next time.

Sew happy everyone!  I bet you have some kind of artistic software lurking around your computer somewhere.  It’s time to learn to use it if you haven’t already as part of your quilting and/or sewing adventure.