Part 3: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Threads Can Make All the Difference

Threads are an interesting, and sometimes a little touchy, subject among machine artists.  Lots of us have our favorites and, like me, are what one might call “thread snobs”.  So how do I view threads?

Thread sizes can be used to help with designs.  I love doing line-drawing quilts, even though I haven’t done one lately. For one of my quilts “Perspective in Threads” I used four thread sizes to act like different sized strokes from different nibs on a drawing pen.  I frequently use multiple thread sizes in my quilts.

Perspective in Threads

Perspective in Threads  This picture could really be a lot better!  It is actually nicely squared up, but it doesn’t look like it here, and you can’t really see the contrasts as well as you can in person.

Dad's House Plan.

Dad’s House Plan.  Largely a thread work quilt.  All the landscaping is threadwork, as well as the plans in three different sizes of white threads.

So what do I use and how?

  • 100 weight for microquilting, background work I want to more or less sink into the background, and couching down fat specialty threads.  I also use this for machine stitched raw-edge applique and machine stitched turned-edge applique when I want the applique to stand out and not emphasize the edge.
  • 60 weight polyester for most of my bobbin threads when I am quilting and appliqueing and some piecing.
  • 50 weights for clothing construction and some piecing.
  • 40 weight for machine embroidery and quilting when I want the quilting to show up.  I have found that some 40 weight cottons, such as Superior’s, show up slightly larger than their polyester threads, and that can be used as an advantage when doing line-drawings.
  • 30 weights for top stitching on clothing.
  • 16 and 12 weight for heavy lines and when I really really want the quilting to show up.
  • Superior Thread’s light monopoly for really invisible stitch-in-the-ditch and some appliques.
  • Metallics for metallic needs.
  • Fat specialty threads for bobbin work and couching.

I have found that, for the most part, Superior Threads makes some of the best thread on the market, for almost all of the sized threads above.  I have heard good things about Aurifil, though I mostly use Superior.  I do use Gutterman, Mettler, and So-Fine 50 weights for clothing construction.  And for 12 weights, I have tested several brands–though I haven’t tried Aurifil’s–and find that I get the best results from Sulky 12 weight from those I have tested.  I tried Superior’s relatively new 12 weight.  It’s beautiful, but it is slightly bigger than Sulky and it doesn’t stitch as well in my machines even when I use the largest needles. Sulky 12 weight seems to work just fine, but I’d like to test Aurifil’s.

Jenny Lyon’s recent blog post about testing some of the new threads good for microquilting does a great job of reviewing them, so I won’t review them here.  But I strongly encourage you to go there and read her review.

I was interested to see that a fabulous line-drawing style quilt won a ribbon at Houston this week.  Here’s a picture of that winning quilt.

Mikyung Jang of South Korea, winner of the $5,000 Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry for the quilt "Suwon Hwasung."

In this year’s Houston IQF, Mikyung Jang of South Korea won the $5,000 Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry for this quilt “Suwon Hwasung.”

Sew that really inspires me to try my hand at a new line drawing quilt.  Her work is magnificent, and clearly quite a few cuts above what I have done so far…but I want to try one again.  How about you?

Sew happy everyone!  Try it!  Get a solid color fabric, find a non-copyrighted line drawing you like or make one yourself, blow it up to full size (I will address simple pattern making for your own use in my next part of this), and mark it with Crayola washable markers…then sandwich and stitch away happily.  Please, if you do this, share pictures with me at bettyjo@bjfabricartist.com even if it is only a practice piece.  I would love to share your work here if you would like.

Testing Border Designs

This will be the last blog post I write on making Ken’s special quilt until it is completed, and probably until after it has been debuted at some show in order to keep it for a surprise, but I wanted to tell you how I was solving the border problems.  I will write the posts, but not publish them until then. I will, of course, continue writing blog posts about other topics.

I have been kind of concerned about whether or not I could get the border right for the quilt my son Ken designed for me.  It uses complex Celtic knots and designs.

So this week I managed to get all but one of the corners digitized and tested to stitch in-the-hoop at my Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  While working in the embroidery module, Gibbs rebelled over most of my gold metallic threads, finally accepting Superior metallic.  With some testing and fussing with tensions and needles, coupled with slowing way down to nearly the slowest speed, it decided to stitch out my designs without any further tantrums.  But I don’t much like the way the thread looks, so I am going to test some near-metallic colored threads.

After all, this is the outline for painting the design with Setacolor gold paint and finishing with Setacolor Gold Glitter Finish.  I have used these paints for several years now on my show quilts and they are permanent once dried and heat set.  I’ve even washed them with success.  The glitter may need a little refreshment after a couple of years of shipping, folding, showing, folding, shipping, but the underlying gold stays solid and most of  the glitter is still there even so.  I’m fairly certain with ordinary hanging in one’s home or office, and an occasional light vacuuming with a cheesecloth over the end of the vacuum hose, these paints will last for decades.

This is my first test of stitchout 1...small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

This is my first test of stitchout 1…small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint for comparison. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

My biggest problem was getting the long designs on the border that were too big to fit into a hoop and that I thought were too exacting to manage a good multi-hooping of the many hoops required.  So I decided to see if I could get the outline stitching done with good marking and free motion/ruler work on my new sit-down longarm Bernina Q20 (Fritz).

Fritz is a dream.  Fritz does not dislike any of my metallic threads.  Neither does Gibbs, for that matter, if it isn’t working in-the-hoop.  But I practiced on Fritz this time in non-metallics.  Oh my….I set it up in BSR2, which Bernina recommends for ruler work.  Using 7 of Lisa Calle’s wonderful rulers, I have done some practice work.  While I need more practice, I am fairly certain by now that I can make these border pieces.  I have found that Fritz can place each stitch where I want it…it will slow way down, work at higher speed, stop when I stop and start when I start, and all controlled only by how I move the fabric when it’s set on BSR2.  I will note that this can also be done at most any sit-down sewing machine, although perhaps not as easily.

I am pre-stitching the designs, not quilting them in.  I will quilt them after sandwiching the quilt, and will use either Superior’s monopoly or 100 weight silk matching the backgrounds.  This will provide further definition to where the design goes over and under to make the Celtic knots.

So I starched and then backed my test pieces with my favorite stabilizer for embroidery (for that is what this is).  That is Madeira Cotton Stable, which has a light fusible on it, and is 100 percent cotton.  Thereby no hooping is necessary.  This stabilizer can either remain in the border or tear out. I usually tear out most of it and don’t worry about getting absolutely everything before sandwiching.

The top corner design was done at Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done with rulers at Fritz and then painted.

The top corner design was done with Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done using rulers and the Bernina #96 ruler foot with Fritz and then painted.  I left unpainted some of the stitching on the lower left so you can see how it looks before painting.  It needs practice.

I still have to complete the digitizing of the one big upper left block, and when I finish and test that, and dye my PFD Radiance a dark green (which kind of makes me nervous, but they don’t make it the color I want), I will FINALLY be ready to start actually making the quilt top.

This is progress, though it kind of doesn’t seem like it since I haven’t actually started assembling the real quilt yet.  But the time I’m taking to work everything out beforehand I will mostly gain back when I make the quilt and know exactly what to do each step along the way. 🙂

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.  God’s blessings.

 

 

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Using Reference Aids

Since my last blog I have made much greater progress than I anticipated by this time.  I have completed the basic quilting, and I am currently adding the rust colored star  dust streaks that swirl through spiral galaxies.  I was a little worried about this part of the quilt, because the dust swirls in complex ways throughout the overall spiral and there is no way to mark this quilt.

I am happy to say that my method seems to be working, so I thought I would share.  I started the quilt by placing a NASA photo of the galaxy I am using as my model (see my last blog post) in Corel Painter and “tracing” a simple outline of the placement of the spiral arms and then moving it to Corel Draw and printing it full size.  Corel Draw will tile a picture into whatever size paper your printer handles, so you can tape it together and have a full sized pattern to work with.  If you have Bernina V7 design software, and don’t have Corel Draw, you can use the art canvas, which is a version of Corel Draw.  I also have found that Excel spreadsheet will also tile a picture, which is what I used before I had Corel Draw.

spiral galaxy print tiles pic

This shows how Corel Draw has divided the full sized picture into tiles for printing.

Then I traced the pattern onto the black fabric, but that is the sum total of any kind of pattern I could use on this quilt because after the Angelina Fibers and the veiling are placed down, you can’t trace anything, and there really isn’t much more you could make a pattern for anyway.

Sew I have gotten all the fiber applique and nylon veiling completely quilted, using 40 weight black thread and rulers for the basic swirl, monopoly over the fiber applique part and black 100 weight silk over the purely black part. I also embroidered spire star backgrounds for ten stars, using in-the-hoop and gray variagated 40 wt thread.

In order to free motion stitch (is it embroidery or is it quilting?) I have printed several pictures of spiral galaxies that show the rust colored dust swirls fairly clearly.  It actually looks very much like a woody vine.  Anyway, I place the pictures close by or even on the quilt so I can see them frequently and out of my peripheral vision and have begun the stitching that way

Sttitching with a reference picture

Sttitching with a reference picture

This quilt is a homage to the fabulous spiral galaxies sometimes photographed or even envisioned by painters in NASA’s website.  It is not supposed to be any particular spiral galaxy.  I am intrigued by the realization that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy.  Here is a link that talks about that and gives us some idea of where we are in the Orion spur part of the galaxy.  Milky Way link

This is the third of my deep space quilts.  Now that I have developed the techniques for making pictorial deep space quilts I am planning on making more.  I’m not sure how many more or which wonderful space entities I will use for the models.  I hope to develop at least enough to put together an exhibit in some gallery somewhere some year. I have discovered that some space entities work better than others for my quilts.  I have found that those that have more distinct characteristics, those that have more color, and those that stand a better chance of the viewers recognizing what they are looking at seem to be the best models.  Maybe some of the quilts will actually earn some ribbons for me.  That would be wonderful.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you can have some time to create in your studio this week.

Thread Colors Make Magic

Sky colors.

Some of the sky colors after quilting.

I finally finished quilting “Waiting…2”, and I blocked it, though I still need to do a little thread clipping and binding.

During the quilting of the sky, which has been the most difficult part of this whole quilt, the thread colors became very important. The overall magic of the sky grew substantially different in coloring before and after the quilting, but to my chagrin I did not take a before picture.  I did not understand how much difference it would make other than just a good quilting.  I fell into a pattern of sculpting clouds and using thread colors to bring the sky to life.  I already had added some painted colors to the sky, which I used for my guide to thread colors as I worked.  The different thread colors really helped me realize the vision I had in my head for this sky, almost a thread painting.  In the end, I surprised myself when I realized I had used over 30 thread colors of thread, including metallic silver and monopoly, for this quilt!!!  I was as surprised that I had this many good threads in all these colors as that I had used that many on the quilting.  What a happy thing that I have collected these over the past four or five years and kept them carefully, replacing colors as I used them up and adding a color set here and there.

Most of the threads I used on the quilt are Superior Threads…Rainbow, King Tut,  and Magnifico solids, with Bottom Line for the bobbin.  I also have a couple of Isacord solids in there somewhere.  I used gray bobbin thread (except for the monopoly) which goes well with the back, and I made sure the tension was as right as I could get it and I can’t see any gray on the top or any colors on the back where they should not be.  This enabled me to easily change the color frequently.  I did have a couple of incidents where I needed to take out some stitching because I forgot to change settings for the different types of threads.  This is where a little notebook really comes in handy.  I make notes about each type of thread (not each color).

I took almost all day yesterday to get the quilt blocked and marked square (I haven’t yet cut it square, because I put the binding on using the marking before I do that).  I got it all squared up according to my laser square and various other square ruler aids.  Then I measured all the sides and it was 5/8″ longer on one side than the other and equally wide across top to bottom.  Arghh!!!  I ended up erasing all the marks and starting over (twice) until I got it right. It’s a mystery…LOL.  Judges really don’t like it if it isn’t square and neither do I.  I can only think that the considerable bit of trapunto I placed under the cliffs had an effect on the square “measurers”.  It seems the original marks were a little bit off on both the top line and the bottom line.  Anyway, it’s marked square now, lined up to the water horizon line, and I even took out a different color marker to make the final marks clear.  Hooray!  ready to bind.

Sew Happy Everyone!  Have a wonderful weekend and rest of the week. Try a little quilting with color varieties and see what you think.

Threads for Your Stash

threads 2

 

Many of my quilting and sewing friends have often expressed the wish that a local fabric store would carry the threads they like to use.  I was asked yesterday to provide a fabric store in the area that currently only carries Gutterman, Mettler, some YLI, and Isacord with my suggestions for threads I wished they would carry.  Now I realize my own needs in threads may differ from others, but I don’t use any of the ones they carry except for Isacord because of the way they perform with my machines.  So I have been doing a bit of a survey on Facebook and The Quilt Show and by direct contact to find out how my own choices in threads match theirs.

I have several theories of thread use that I have developed over my many years of sewing and quilting. There is much to know about threads and my thread stash is almost as large as my fabric stash these days. Here is what I provided them and what they are best for.  There is still time to make adjustments to this if you all have suggestions.
For piecing, some machine quilting, and several applique methods one needs a very thin strong thread that does not leave a lot of lint in your machine and the colors are sure not to run or fade.  These also work if you are a hand piecer, quilter, and appliquer.  For quilting thread choice depends on what you are trying to achieve.  For all of these, there are some great threads, and no way could any single store carry them all.  I put an asterisk in front of the ones I think are most important to add at first.
Aurifil:  *50 wt. cotton…neutrals and colors as much as  you can stock
                40 and 30 wt cottons for embroidery and decorative stitching  in colors.
Superior
    *60 wt. Bottom Line…polyester…for bobbins, piecing, quilting, heirloom sewing, machine applique  as many colors as you can stock.   
    *50 wt. MasterPiece…cotton…for piecing, quilting, heirloom sewing
    *50 wt. So Fine…polyester, in as many colors as you can stock..for piecing, quilting, and fashion sewing (most popular in my survey)
    40 wt. King Tut…cotton…colors for quilting and machine applique when you want it to show
    40 wt. Magnifico colors for shinier embroidery  and quilting when you want it to show
    40 wt. Rainbows for quilting, embroidery, and machine applique  I use these a lot
    100 wt. Kimono silk
    12 wt. Sew Sassy…for redwork, quilting when you really want it to show, and decorative stitching
    Razzle Dazzle..for couching and bobbin work..I use this a lot
    Metallics  just the basic golds, and silver
    *Monopoly extra fine polyester low lustre clear.  Try it you’ll like it.
Fil-Tec 40 wt. Glide…a large percentage of professional longarmers recommend this.  I have never used it.
Wonderfil also has a great reputation and is used by some leading quilters, but I have not had much experience with it except for their metallics, which work in my machines much like Superior’s.   They do have an 80 wt polyester that I have one spool of and it seems to do well for bobbins and in place of silk.
And my favorite hand quilter, a leading hand quilter in the country and a great quilt historian, highly recommends Presencia threads.  I use the thicker ones of this for bobbin work, couching, and hand embroidery and they are wonderful. 
I have had a terrible time using most monopoly threads, and generally don’t like the way they look because I can see the shine and it looks like plastic to me, but Superior has come out with one I really like…the only problem I have with it is seeing it well enough to thread the machine (you have to hand thread the needle).  That is Superior’s extra fine polyester clear.  It sews really well in my 830 too if I use a 75 needle and lower my top tension.  A lot of quilters like monopoly because they don’t have to worry about color choices.  I only use it when I need to hide my stitching as much as possible (stitch-in-the-ditch), for machine applique when I’m trying to look like hand applique and don’t have a matching color in 100 wt silk,  and when I have to cross a lot of colors and don’t want to compete with the design.  I use it in the bobbin also when I do this.
Metallics have always been problematic for me.  I have tried nearly every brand, and there are only two I have found work well for me…those are Superior Metallics and Wonderfil, which perform about the same.  I have also used Finca Metallics with success, and they are really beautiful.  The tension settings make a huge difference in how these work.  I found, contrary to everything any of the thread people say, that INCREASING the top tension is necessary to make it work well in my 830, and REDUCING the top tension in my 350 and 1230 and using polyester in the bobbin.  Cotton bobbins will not do with metallics hardly at all.  I do not use any other metallics, because they just are miserable in their performance in any of my machines.  Some recommend Yenmet, but I have not been happy with it, and I have some of it in my stash.  It seems to work ok in my old Bernina 1230 and my little B350, though, but my Bernina 830 doesn’t like it at all.
I do use Isacord a lot for my machine embroidery.
So there you have it.  I really appreciate the excellent responses I got on my questions.  Wouldn’t you love a fabric store that carries these threads?
Sew happy everyone.  Teach someone to sew, or learn a new technique yourself in 2016.

 

Differences in Threads Are Helpful for Fabric Art

In a recent conversation with my Daughter-in-law Beth while we were looking at one of my ongoing quilt projects and discussing how I might make something look right using different weights of threads, it occurred to me that the use of thread in fabric art requires a different set of considerations than for other types of sewing and even for other types of quilting.  That being the case, and the fact that I frequently use differences in the broad array of great threads now available to accomplish certain looks, I decided to share my viewpoint on this subject.

Recently, my thread stash has grown to be almost equal to my fabric stash.  In fact I am getting simpler with my fabric needs, and more complex with my threads as I grow as an art quilter.

Here are some basic things to know about threads (a lot of you may already know this, but bear with me):

  • The higher the number the thinner the thread.
  • Polyester thread may melt if overheated with your iron, but just require a little care to prevent that.  Polyester comes in many different lusters and qualities and some are more susceptible to melting than others.
  • Rayon thread is usually the shiniest, although there are some polyesters that are also prettily shiny.  Rayon has a higher tendency to fade or run and shrink when washed.  I actually had a quilt nearly ruined when a dark brown thread decided to run when I blocked my quilt.  High quality rayons, however, will usually not run.
  • You can use up to 12 weight in your machine if you use a large needle (I use a 100/16 top stitch/embroidery need for this).  Adjust your needle size to your thread size.
  • Thicker threads need to be used either for bobbin work or for couching, but are still great options for certain looks.  I used Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle for bobbin work to do the horsehead outline in “Sky Horse” (see my last post).
  • The quality of monopoly threads vary widely.  My favorite is Superior’s new reduced sheen lightweight thread.  It sews beautifully (using a 60/8 or 70/10 needle) and virtually disappears on the fabric.
  • The standard weight for sewing clothing is 50 weight (using 80/14 needle) and most machines are calibrated for this weight thread.  This means you may have to adjust the tension for higher weight (thinner)  and heavier weight (thicker).  The thing to take away from this is that it is OK to adjust your machine tension for both the top and the bobbin.  You only need to figure out how to put it back to the default setting BEFORE you do any changes (like a tiny dot of red ink or reading the manual).
  • 90/16 embroidery/top stitch needle does great for 40 wt threads.

Sew how do I use this information?

  • I have a small notebook where I keep notes on threads, usages, settings.  At some point I’m going to put this info together to share, although your machine may need different settings.
  • I frequently “draw” with my machine stitching as if my project were an ink drawing.  My best example of this is my quilt “Perspective in Threads” that is basically a whole cloth quilt with a border.  The main lines were 12 weight cotton, and the fills were varied as needed with the tiniest being the section under the stairs in 100 wt silk.  I used four different weights in this quilt (I don’t have a great picture of this quilt at the moment…it’s being rephotographed).
Perspective in Threads - This quilt was recently juried in to Houston's Tactile Archetecture special exhibit and will be in the Houston show and traveling for a year thereafter.

Perspective in Threads – This quilt was juried in to Houston’s Tactile Archetecture special exhibit 2014.

  • I use the various thread lusters to enhance the look I’m trying to achieve.  For instance, hair should have a slight luster and have a moderate variety of colors in the same family.  I find Superior’s Rainbow to work best in this situation.  See her hair below where I used two different variegated threads.

finished detail as shot 2

  • I found that Superior’s Glitter pretty much matches the qualities of Angelina Fibers.  So if you are trying to match that, it works well when you use a 90 top stitch/embroidery needle and loosen the top tension way down (see that little bit in the top of the wave in the picture above). I used both that and monopoly for that.
  • Glitter also shows well when you want to add bling. Longer stitches show both glitter and metallic threads blingier than shorter stitches.
  • Around those rocks in “Waiting…” and for much of the rock quilting (see the picture above), I used Superior’s Rainbow.  I also appliqued them with the double blanket stitch because I wanted the edges to stand out and look like separate rocks as much as possible.  I loved the look…not sure what anyone else thinks about it.  It’s what I’m planning to do with my current project, which is the second in this series and something of a remake of it with quite a few changes (she has her daughter with her, and there is a small lighthouse in the background scene, for instance).
  • However, I used 100 weight black thread with my deep space quilt Angelina Fiber applique.  I have found if you match the background with fine weight thread it makes a very nice look (see my last blogpost).
  • For my latest quilt “Kanazawa Memories”, in which I did a great deal of Sashiko stitching, I used King Tut by Superior.  That is a 40 weight cotton thread and does well when you are trying to create a hand or antique looking stitching by machine.
Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015

  • But the quilting for the moon was different.  For the flowers I used Superior monopoly for appliqueing, 100 wt. Kimono silk for quilting the actual flowers and for the fill on the moon, King Tut for the little critters around in the moon to give them a little more character and make them stand out just a little.
Kanazawa Memories detail shot

Kanazawa Memories detail shot

Sew back to my original comment…Beth and I were discussing how I could make a light house beam look right and we came out with using 12 wt toward the outside pointing down and using 100 weight toward the top outside pointing upward and something in between, like King Tut perhaps, toward the middle all in slightly different tones of yellow, if I can find all that and if it works (I’ll have to experiment with that first).  This should result in a more intense beam down toward the ocean and more disappearing beam toward the top toward the sky.  The lighthouse will be up on a hillside and fairly small and should not “take over” the scene.

See?

Sew happy everyone.  Please comment  with your thoughts or questions.  Cheers.

 

A Fun Quilty Week

This has been a quilt-filled week, starting last Sunday when Beth, my daughter-in-law, and I went to see the Sacred Threads quilt show together. We had a lot of fun. The quilts were interesting and, in many cases, moving. I took a lot of pictures, but I am only including the picture I took of Vikki Pignatelli, the founder of the show, standing in front of one of her quilts, because one of the white-gloved women told me I could only take photos for my personal use. Her story about why and how she started the show was fascinating. You can hear it on The Quilt Show Number 102 even if you are not yet a member. You can sign up for a free membership.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

I have been waking up a little earlier than normal during the week just to squeeze in a little work in my studio before my grandson arrives for the afternoons. This has enabled me to get my Ikebana on a Sashiko background quilt top completed, except for the borders, which I plan on putting on later today. I got my order from Superior Threads just in time for the weekend. Here it is, on the quilt ready to stitch. I went through my stash and discovered one more piece of Peppered Cotton in a nice green, just right for the border and binding. I want to quilt some sort of leafy vine around the quilt in the border.

Blue thread

I hope to get the border marked, the stabilizer pealed off the back, the quilt sandwiched and start the quilting this coming week if things work out well. I have all the quilting worked out in my head, so we’ll see how it goes.

Then I’m looking forward to starting my next quilting adventure…a new version of my quilt “Waiting…”, as the second in that series. I have many changes I want to make to that quilt, which I am planning as a show quilt for next year’s shows. Speaking of shows, I have to send off my two Canterbury quilts this coming week…one to Houston and one to AQS Chattanooga.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun this week!

Canterbury Knight: How to Make a Horse’s Tail

Stitching the appliques

Stitching the appliques

After stitching down the appliques, I did some free motion embroidery to make the tail, but it looked like a ghost tail, both because it did not have enough contrast from the background fabric and because it did not have enough stitching.  If I did any more it would have pulled the fabric too much.

The ghost tail

The ghost tail

So I decided to layer a new tail over the existing one by stitching one on black bridal veiling.  I layered two layers of washaway clear stabilizer, on which I had drawn the outline of the tail I needed to make, and covered it with the veiling.  Then I put this in my springform embroidery hoop, set up my machine for free motion stitching,

the setup

the setup

stitching independent tail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and stitched a new tail using two different Superior Rainbow threads.

two rainbows

two rainbows

And then I trimmed the veiling applique, soaked off the stabilizer and appliqued the new tail over the old one, using a few more free motion lines similar to those on the tail.  I had to remove only a few stitches from the original ghost tail that did not add to the shape and were outside the appliqued veil tail.  Voila!  A new tail any appliqued horse could be proud of!  😀

Horse with newly groomed tail

Horse with newly groomed tail

In the process, my little faithful Nikon Coolpix 600 pocket camera that I have used for at least a decade now died.  The motor that runs the lens focus appears to be the culprit.  It would cost me almost as much to repair it as to replace it, if it even could be repaired.  I have carried that little light pocket camera almost everywhere I went since I retired.  I use it to keep records of my work, and to make the photographs for this blog. The picture above of the rainbow threads is the last picture it ever took. (Insert “Farewell to my little camera” aria here–those of you who are opera buffs will understand this reference).  So I have to use my lovely big Nikon D200 camera that is kind fo heavy, and definitely not a pocket camera, until I replace it.  Thank the Lord I have a camera though.

Additionally, I have joined the fun with Ricky Tim’s 52 week photography class.  It is decidedly going to be a challenge for me, and my goal is to come out at the end with some fun photographs, but mostly to really learn to use my camera for artistic purposes.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt or take a picture.  God bless you all!

 

 

“Hand Sewing” by Machine

It is my belief that almost every look that hand sewing provides can be duplicated in a reasonable facsimile by machine. No, I haven’t lost my mind. At least, I don’t think I have. 🙂

I hope those of you who are hand quilters and embroiderers are not offended. I truly greatly admire the beauty of beautiful handwork. But I have some arthritis in my hands and in dealing with that I have developed a fascination for making my machine provide equally as beautiful stitching and in some cases take it far enough to make the viewer wonder if–or even be convinced that–they are viewing hand sewing.

I also love some of the looks that only a machine can make, but this is not what I’m talking about in this post.

I just think it is fun and challenging to see what I can do with the concept of “hand sewing” by machine. Recently I have been working on the design of a quilt that uses Sashiko for the background and in the foreground is an appliqued Japanese flower arrangement. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to do all the Sashiko by machine.

Now I have some in the hoop Sashiko designs that are lovely, and I will probably use some of these in this quilt. I have done some stitch-outs of these and they look best with 40 wt embroidery thread such as Superior’s Magnifico or Isacord embroidery threads.

But I want to try some bobbin work using the heavier weight perle cottons that hand Sashiko stitchers would use in order to see if I can make it look even more like the hand work. I will let you know if this works and present some photographs of some of my experiments with this…perhaps in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I am also trying out some turned edge machine stitched appliques using 100 wt matching silks and monopoly and various stitches to see which looks the most like needle turned-edge applique by hand. Lots of other sewists have done work on this and some are really good at it. I just want to play around with it and see if I can get it really good.

My machine also has cross stitch on it and I haven’t played around with it very much yet, but I think I will try that also. In addition, I have learned to do some digitizing with my in-the-hoop embroidery using Bernina v6 software that looks very close to hand stitching. I just bought v7 upgrade as a Christmas present to myself and am waiting for it to come in.

I think this is really fun. I hope to share a lot of the results and ways to accomplish them with you in a couple of books I am already working on and plan to complete in 2015 and some bits here on my blog.

Sew happy everyone. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas all!

Working With Hot Fix Fibers (Angelina Fibers)

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of "Mountains of Creation".  My first deep space quilt.

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of “Mountains of Creation”. My first deep space quilt.

I have made two deep space quilts that used large “appliques” of Angelina Fibers…or holographic fibers that make a “fabric” when ironed together and their sister fibers that do not iron together.  I used these fibers to try to represent the exquisite colorful gas clouds pictured in NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescope photographs.  I also have used this product to represent foamy tops of waves on a stormy sea on other quilts.  I believe they would also make wonderful steam clouds from a steam locomotive, wings of butterflies, dragon flies, fairies, or angels.

Working with the fibers is not really difficult, but I have discovered some things that make them work better for my purposes.  First of all, one cannot simply place a pile of fibers down and iron them flat if they are to look right. It’s more like painting with your fingers.

You need the following tools:

  • sheets of either a teflon pressing cloth or a saved sheet of backing paper from fusible webbing (note the hot fix fibers only stick to themselves and the bottom of your iron…you can work directly on your ironing board, though I cover mine with backing paper).
  • an iron
  • a pointy something, like a chop stick or a bamboo cooking skewer or a sewing awl to move the fibers around.
  • a hard pressing surface works better than a well-padded ironing board
Set up ready to start

Set up ready to start

Working with very thin layers, I laid the fibers on a backing paper and arranged them as much like I wanted them as possible with such a lively set of fibers, and carefully placed the teflon sheet over the top.

Really thin layer

Really thin layer

Blues change color the most

Blues change color

Sometimes, sliding the pointy thing under the pressing sheet, I made a few adjustments.  I then  ironed over the sheet, drawing the iron across slowly but steadily and without stopping.  That is all it needs to turn it into a “fabric”.

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Here are some of the other things I learned about it:

  • If you iron the fibers too long….and that may be just a few more seconds…it will darken.  This can be useful if you are making a dark nebula, for instance, like the Horse Head.
  • They tend to change colors a bit.  Blue fibers are the hardest to keep their colors.
  • Not all Angelina Fibers are hot fix, but if you are going to cover the fibers with a nylon veiling and sew down, you can use them if they are the color you need by sandwiching them between a very thin layer of the hot fix crystal colors.
  • Work like you are finger painting…round shapes, good for cloud puffiness, are best done in circular motions with your fingers, and carefully laying the pressing sheet over them and pressing. ‘
  • You can kind of comb the fibers with your fingers and the pointy thing if you need them to stretch out sort of straight.
  • The only way to get a hard edge is to make a flat sheet of the fabric and then cut it.  If you want a soft edge (in appearance), don’t cut it, but pull it straight out flat with your fingers until it  tears  off in order to fit into your desired shape.
  • Once the fiber is made into a fabric, this fabric cannot be pulled into any additional shape…there is absolutely no stretch.
  • Sometimes it is possible to remove a layer if you haven’t over-melted your fibers together and don’t like what you have done.

 

layer ready for horsehead

layer ready for horsehead

If you are working out a pattern of some sort, you need to realize you will not be able to mark it except perhaps with a soft chalk marker that will just go away while you are working with it.  I worked on black fabric and printed out a smaller picture of what I was trying to accomplish in color.  Laying it next to my work, I referenced it.  I did mark approximate sections within the nebula on my black fabric using a chalk for sizing purposes.

The resulting artwork should not be washed after completion, so you have to be aware of that during the entire time.  It is possible to block your quilt by laying it on the floor and spritzing it with a fine mist of water, but do not wash it in your washer.  Also, once quilted, don’t pull your quilt too forcefully to try to block it.  So I use a quilt sandwich somewhat larger than I need and square it up by cutting rather than blocking.  The blocking is so it lays nice and flat.

I also printed the horsehead full sized and cut it out like a pattern.  This enabled me to cut out the horsehead part of the nebula by holding it together with the fiber applique before applying it.

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber "painting"

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber “painting”

The background needs to be completed before you start adding the Angelina Fibers.  In the case of the Sky Horse, I painted some of it first, sandwiched the quilt, spray basting it together, then laid the appliques on the background and covered them with black nylon veiling.  Black veiling virtually disappears in this case.  Then I placed my pressing sheet over that and did a light ironing to join all the appliques together.  Once I did that, I pinned it together with safety pins and did the quilting.

Horsehead layer in place

Horsehead layer in place

I used both black 100 wt silk thread and Superior’s Glitter.   This thread looks almost like the Angelina Fibers and works well for special places, such as the horse’s head.  I heavily quilted it.  Once it is quilted together with the nylon veiling it is much less fragile and I found it went through the shipping to and from and the showing at the Houston show with no apparent damage at all.  Before it is quilted, though, it is kind of easy to crease it.

You can't mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

You can’t mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

When used as just a small accent on a quilt, you don’t necessarily need a veiling, but you do need a heavy amount of quilting.  I found that Superior’s Glitter works very well for this also, since it looks like the fiber, but it sews easily.

Tatum_SkyHorse_Full 2014

Sew there you go….that’s how I work with  Angelina Fibers.  It’s harder to describe than it is to do, sew give it a try.  I’d love you to let me know how you find working with it yourself and if you have any tips to add.

Sew happy everyone!