A Book, Christmas, and Thoughts about 2019

Hi Gentle Readers.  I hope you are having a lot of fun and sometimes actually managing to get into your studio or wherever  and play or write, or whatever you do for enjoyment and relaxation.  I have almost gotten my book Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v7 Effectiveness ready to publish.  I still have to take two photographs and insert them, plus come up with the cover and the front material.  Sew I’m thinking this will be available sometime in January 2019 for you to purchase from Amazon.  I am self-publishing this book through Amazon’s KDP print on demand company with the valuable assistance of my sons and daughter-in-law.  It is about 90 pages long and jam packed full of illustrations and step-by-step instructions that, if you do them all, will leave you with considerable improvement in your proficiency in digitizing in-the-hoop embroidery in this software.

Yes, I know that v8 is already out.  But one of my best friends convinced me that there are enough people still using the v7 design software, or that have it and never could figure it out, that it is worth publishing anyway.  And then…I plan on doing an updated book for Bernina v8.  Hopefully, I can get that out before they come out with v9!!!

Formatting the book for publication to KDP specifications has taken me considerable time, but it is mostly done.  I hope to completely finish and do a final read over by the end of the year at the very least.  Maybe somebody will buy it.  That would really make me happy.  And yes, I have permission from Bernina to do this.  Well, actually, they said I don’t need their permission as long as I don’t claim it is through Bernina that I am doing this.  But not wanting to get into trouble with one of my favorite companies I asked.

Believe it or not I am ready for Christmas.  I have all my shopping done, and David (my youngest son) and I got all the decorations up already.  There have been years I didn’t get them up until the day before Christmas Eve, back when Marvin was alive and we did a lot of singing for Christmas.  Some years when the kids were small, and we did a lot of singing, we didn’t get our Christmas shopping done until a few days before Christmas.  Back then, at least, the malls had great sales at that time and we found everything we wanted despite the lateness of the time.  Now I just do it all online and it saves enormous time.

Memories float up as I open the Christmas decorations and the time approaches to celebrate the Lord’s birth.  Marvin and my parents have all departed this earth along with many of my favorite cousins, and all my twelve uncles and aunts. So it is a sweet time of happy musical memories, full of sparkle and light.  I fully believe in the hereafter you see, and sometimes believe I can feel their presence too.  I love Christmas and its memories.  My kids live nearby and my only grandchild, Kevin, is 15 this year and he is nearby too.  I am truly blessed.

I have started to wonder what 2019 will bring for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts.  I know I have four workshops I am going to teach at G Street Fabrics in April and May.  I am going to Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in late February/early March, and I have plans for other books and other quilts.  I have “Night on the Bayou” in Road to California in January, and I have entered that one and “The Wizard’s Duel” in several additional shows, so we will see what happens there.

I am thinking of giving up competition quilting in 2020.  I have spent much time and effort doing these quilts and won a few ribbons, learned a huge amount, and want to share what I have learned.  I get frustrated when I get annoying or confusing feedback from the judges, and also when I get great feedback and no ribbon.  Both happen.  I don’t blame the judges.  They are faced with a huge job and little time to do it in. I have gotten some wonderful feedback that helped me improve a quilt or my next quilt too.  I still have not won a really top ribbon yet.  That is kind of a goal of mine I would still love to reach.  At this point, I normally (but not quite always) get into the shows I enter, and I sometimes win a lower level ribbon.  Is it still worth it to spend the time, money, shipping, anxiety, and so forth entering shows, or should I concentrate on writing and making quilts and samples for the books and maybe even come up with some that will sell?  I don’t know.  I have a few more show quilts I want to make, and will decide then, or I may just veer off and make quilts I would love to make that are really off the wall and only enter them if they end up something that might really work and not if they are not there.  I also am making a bed quilt for my bed.  It’s high time I get rid of that old box store coverlet I have had for decades.

I am already experimenting with a variety of additional techniques that can help me produce some interesting looks…like yarn and cord couching, 12 wt thread stitching, developing quilts using some of those fabulous fabric panels, and seeing if I can make my digitized in-the-hoop embroidery produce some unusual things…three dimensional insects or animals, for instance…or maybe needle punched bears roaming a deep woods, or discover ways to use my machine in other ways to create hand looks.  But what would I do with it if I don’t compete?!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Take your work to the next dimension and have fun doing it!  Merry Christmas!!!!!

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Other Things

Hi everyone.  I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and my readers.  I was thinking about it the other day as I was pressing a section of the (seemingly never-ending project) overcoat.  I dug out my special pressing things I have had for years for use in making clothing…my ham, my sleeve pressing board, my shaped wood pressing piece.  I haven’t used them for a couple of years and I am grateful I did not get rid of them because of that.  I am grateful for my machines and my wonderful inspiring studio, no matter that it is a bit of a mess.

My thoughts today are also with those who have lost so much in recent disasters both hurricanes and fires.  I  just want to hug you all and wish you all a speedy  and full recovery.  I am trying to figure out the best approach for helping.  I don’t have a lot of cash to contribute and I know rushing to send stuff is sometimes more of a problem than a help in the end.  For now, I’m doing some praying and watching for what, if anything, I can do.

Sew how is my overcoat coming?  Well, I have completed the outer shell and am almost finished with the lining that includes the fur collar.  To me, the biggest challenge is getting that fur collar installed in the coat.  Sewing with this thick fur is not the easiest thing and requires some special techniques even it if is “faux” fur.  I think that will happen tomorrow afternoon or Monday.  Then I will be practically done except for hems and buttonholes, so it is looking like I will make my Thanksgiving deadline.  After that…back to quilt making and book writing, and I am looking forward to it.  The coat has been more of a project than I anticipated largely because of the challenging fabrics.  The fabulous wool is, nevertheless, loosely woven in a way that closely resembles hand woven fabric.  the fur collar is fabulous faux fur, but sewing with it is also challenging.  Nevertheless, I will be happy to have this beautiful coat.  It is going to be a little snug, but since I am in the process of losing weight I think that is the way it should be fitted at this time.  It will serve me well for several years even as I go down in size (I can move the buttons and I made the sleeve/side seems such I can take them up fairly easily).  My next fashion sewing project will be with well-behaving fabrics!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Have a wonderful time this week!

 

 

 

Report on Quilts Back Home from PNQE

Last Tuesday my two quilts that were in Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza came home.  As you probably know by now Wizards’ Duel got a blue ribbon as Best Interpretation of Theme and Night on the Bayou did not place.  PNQE is a Mancuso show and they usually provide comments that are often helpful and sometimes just a little depressing.  This time, I got wonderful comments on both quilts and I wanted to share with you, gentle readers.

Wizards’ Duel

For this quilt I placed it in the Innovative category.  They don’t have an all art-quilt or all pictorial quilt category.

(E=Excellent S=Satisfactory N=Needs Improvement NA=Not Applicable)

I got all Es for their set items:

DESIGN

  • Artistic Impression/Graphic Impact
  • Use of Design/Pattern in Quilt Top -balance, proportion, scale – balance, proportion, scale
  • Use of Color & Fabric – pleasing, value contrast, scale of fabric
  • Degree of Difficulty
  • Quilting Design – enhances top, is sufficient
  • Innovation/Creativity

WORKMANSHIP

  • Piecing/Applique – precision, stitches, shadow-through
  • Quilting Technique – even stitches, making stops and starts

Best Features of this Quilt (handwritten comments)

Visual impact of radiating center. Very innovative use of embellishments.  Good interpretation of theme

Areas that needs improvement (handwritten comment)

Nothing!

Ok, so I don’t think I have ever had a quilt where judges’ comments are provided that actually said “Nothing!” for areas that need improvement.  Here is where I have often managed to save a quilt to go on to other shows that made them place.  Indeed, this very quilt was shown at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival and my quilting and treatment of the rocks was called down as needing improvement. So I improved them between shows, and it clearly paid off.  Sometimes I disagree with judges’ comments and in such cases dismiss the comment.  This would be when my artistic opinion conflicts with theirs, but I have also gotten really good and helpful advice from such suggestions.  Judges for this quilt were Augusta Cole and Marjan Kluepfel

Night on the Bayou

For this quilt I placed it in the Wall Quilt category and the grade sheet had the same categories and grading system, except the judges wrote in G=Very Good and gave me all Gs on all the categories!!!  Harrrumph!  Not only did they choose the nonexistent G for all the categories, their grades seemed to compete a bit with their comments. See what you think.

Best Features of this Quilt (handwritten comments)

  •  Absolutely LOVE the moss hanging from the trees!! Beautifully executed
  • Well chosen quilting designs enhance visual texture of tress vs water vs sky
  • Splotches of orange lights prevent monotony from happening

Areas that needs improvement (handwritten comments)

  • Some surface distortion noted [I can probably fix this with a new and better blocking and hopefully dryer and cooler weather for future shipping…I think it was caused by the hot very humid weather for shipment, coupled with the heavy yarn and thread treatments]
  • Perspective is good but not quite perfect [uhhh…artistic opinion and I submit that art quilting in particular is never “perfect” anywhere. She might have been more impressed if I had been able to get more moonlight filtering through the trees as my friend who attended the show suggested.  I’ll see if I can accomplish that before sending it out again. For the most part, the paint just sinks into the quilt on this fabric]

Sew what do you think about this?  I was really pleased, even with the comments on the Bayou quilt.  I was not pleased with having a whole scale special grade that was less than “excellent” on all the categories and that then conflicted with some of the comments. I can only think at least one of the judges is a person who has a really hard time rating anything as “perfect”.  I can guess which judge this came from, but will not say.  The judges for this quilt were Dierdra McElroy and Bobbie Bergquist

If you look up all four judges you will find that none of them are art or pictorial quilters.  They are all four traditional and a couple specialize in hand quilting, which should tell you something about how far they had to stretch their view of quilts to make a judgement call on the art and pictorial quilts and therefore, I think they did a fine job.  All four of them.  It’s a hard job when faced with such fabulous quilts throughout a national or international show.

Sew overall, I am happy, and now believe both quilts have the potential to bring in some nice ribbons from future shows.  I’m going to have to do some choreography in placing them.  Houston rejected Wizards’ Duel, but that was before I fixed the rocks.  I think perhaps I need a new set of pictures for both of them.  Pictures make a big difference in what a show will take.

Sew happy everyone! I wish you fun in your studio or office and that you be surrounded with love.

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

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.

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part One

I don’t know why, but recently I realized my design and making of a pictorial quilt has fallen into a multi-step method that can be shared with my readers. I suspect that most pictorial quilters work much the same, but each of us develops our own methodology and here is mine.  It might work for you if you are interested in making such quilts.

Work from the background forward. Here I am appliqueing on the pieces.

Sew what do you do when you have a picture you want to make into a quilt…either you drew it yourself, you took a photo, you bought or were gifted the rights from another artist, or you bought a royalty free design from somewhere like Dover that grants permission to use it for artistic purposes (be careful to read the permision statement)?

Plan by taking apart the project in your mind and writing down notes about how you plan to approach it.  If you have worked in digital drawing programs like Corel Draw, Corel Painter, or Adobe Photoshop, for instance, you know you can divide a project into layers and work on each layer one at a time.  You may also know that you need to think from background to foreground in how you approach a design.  It’s the same here.

  1. Print or draw a full-sized quilt plan.  I say “plan” rather than “pattern” because sometimes that’s all it is…just a full sized picture of what you want to make.  But it functions kind of like a pattern. My current project is a Bayou quilt using another artist’s (Joel Christopher Payne, a Disney artist among other things he does) picture for inspiration (though I am using it for inspiration and a guide rather than trying to copy his work).
  2. Study your picture and analyze it for challenges, needed fabrics, techniques you might use.  This quilt has many challenges.
    • It’s dark and details are hard to see
    • It has lots of old wood and cyprus trees and water at night, making texture really important and values more difficult.
    • I am planning on adding more Spanish moss and creating a slightly lighter pictorial quilt than his wonderful picture
    • It has a lot of plays of light shining through the trees, playing out on the water, and fireflies.
    • There are lots of water plants around the Bayou scene.
    • Almost half of the work on this quilt is to be free motion yarn couching, free motion embroidery, and other embellishment work.
    • This quilt background will start with extensive applique work.
    • After the applique there will be a small amount of highlighting and lowlighting with various fabric paints.
    • After the appliques are in place and some of the paint work then I will start with the couching and free motion embroidery work.
    • I have figured out how to deal with the light playing on the water, but I am still not sure about the light coming through the trees…maybe veiling, which is on order.
  3. Along the way you may decide to use some trapunto to give some additional depth to your work.  In this case, I will be adding a layer of wool batting behind the tree trunks, the cabin, and the old house boat.
  4. Building such a challenging pictorial quilt for me sometimes involves testing a technique on a scrap first and then working that part on the quilt, but sometimes I have to change my mind on how I will approach a particular part of the quilt.
  5. Then I have to do the sandwiching, squaring, and quilting that every quilter has to do.

So I now have all the appliques on and have done some of the highlight/lowlight work.  It’s ready to start the couching and free motion embroidery.  This picture is taken from standing over a table, so it isn’t front on like I’d like.  This is like layer two through ten of a 32 layer digital drawing…lots of work left to do…it’s kind of a background at this stage.  LOL  And besides, this is just a small part of it…it’s 60 by 30 inches overall…at least that’s what I’m hoping for in the end.

Sew happy everyone!  Take a plunge and try your own pictorial wall quilt.  Be patient with yourself and realize almost every problem can be overcome in achieving your vision.  Sometimes the problems are really a blessing…they give you new ideas.

Embellishing Techniques Part 3: Learn All You Can and Use It Well

Okay readers, I am all fired up and my studio is spotless and ready to go.  There isn’t even a chipmunk in my studio (my facebook friends will understand this comment).  After attending Birds of a Feather, and then Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, and then spending a lot of time getting rid of a chipmunk and cleaning my studio, it was some time before I was able to start using the explosion of inspiration that filled my head and heart for the future after such inspiring quilting events and spending the MAQF with my friend Mei-Ling who also inspired me.

* * * * *

So to continue the Machine Embroidery pointers…I decided I really have to finish and publish my book on Surface Design and Embellishment, which includes among other things both in-the-hoop embroidery and free motion embroidery, to say all I want to say.  But I did want to give you a little list of things to research on your own and to think about.

  1. Learn about stabilizers..there are lots of them out there and they all do different things.  Sometimes you need more than one at once.
  2. It is possible to remove machine embroidery that messes up without damaging your fabric sometimes, but not always.  I got a little electric trimmer for this purpose and it works most of the times if the fabric on which the embroidery is placed is sturdy enough.

    Summer Melody: I made a big mistake when I embroidered the bunnies on the path. They were sideways!!! So I got the Wahl clipper/trimmer and removed the embroidery and redid the bunnies. There was a small hole that I made trying to remove it without the trimmer, but it was covered by the new embroidered bunnies.

  3. If you are using a commercial design, and you have digitizing software, such as Bernina’s, it’s a very good idea to load it into the software and take a good look at how it is stitched.  You can often correct the designers mistakes, resize it, choose different fills, and make different thread selections before you use it…do this to a copy, not the original…and then do a stitchout before placing it on your main project.
  4. Realize that free motion thread painting is also a good option, but requires practice and understanding of thread density and how that affects your fabrics.  This requires its own blog post (and chapter in my book).
  5. Even decorative stitching available on your machine just to go on that beautiful new blouse you are making often requires proper stabilizing and thread to fabric considerations.
  6. You can use decorative stitches within a pictorial wall hanging or to enhance applique and pieced projects.  It’s very exciting and there is much to learn and try out.
  7. This kind of work takes time, thread, stabilizers, and practice but the results can be really rewarding.

* * * * *

Use what you already know how to do in interesting ways and spend some of your precious time learning and practicing.  One excellent idea that some quilters have suggested is to make simple utility, charity, and baby quilts for your learning and practicing.  I think this  is a wonderful idea, but you DO need to do SOME simple practice you are going to throw away or put into your reference notebooks.  I do suggest you don’t let the practicing and learning take over all your sewing and quilting time though.  Make yourself make that masterpiece quilt or  important project.  It’s all about balance in the studio, but be brave!

Suggested project:  Steps to a tree wall-hanging with birds and flowers.  With this wall-hanging, either find a coloring book tree or draw a simple tree and choose by the look you want what techniques, fabrics, and threads to use.  For instance, 1.  Make the background: the background could be pieced, appli-pieced (or pieceliqued..same thing), or painted or all of them to get the background you want.  2.  Make the large part of the tree trunk and large limbs…use appliqued woody fabric, couched on yarn, or paint, then free motion couch or embroider the small twiggy parts of the tree.  3.  Add the leaves…use free motion machine embroidery, appliqued leaves, or digitize leaf sections you embroider on black netting with washaway stabilizer and applique in place.  4.  Add the birds and flowers…use commercial embroidery for in-the-hoop embroidery machines, sizing appropriately, or applique by hand, or paint and then applique.  5. Sandwich and quilt…use monofil polyester to in-the-ditch and around-the appliques stabilizing, then either quilt using your walking foot or free motion stitch the quilt, block, square, and bind.  Please send me a photo to include in a blog post if you make a wall hanging inspired by this idea.

 

 

 

Embellishing Techniques Part 1: Hot Fix Crystals

My close friends and competitors…sometimes one in the same…know that I love embellishing my art quilts.  Some quilts simply call for embellishments and, when this is true, I use them generously.  This subject recently came up in a Facebook conversation and so I thought I would run a series of three or so blog posts, not necessarily one right after the other, on my embellishment techniques.  You may have others or your techniques may vary, but these are mine.  I’m always looking for new ideas though, so comment freely please.

My love for embelishments started decades ago when I had my own fashion design and tailoring business when I designed and my shop made formals, wedding dresses, and costumes for operas, dancers, and skaters.  Back at the beginning of that business, I hand sewed or glued most of my embellishments on.  Today I will hand sew some things still, but I use a lot of hot fix crystals and machine techniques that I will talk about in future posts.

When I first started using hot fix crystals  years ago I bought one of those wand style irons.  I still use it by the way, but I’m thinking of replacing it and maybe I can get one that doesn’t flip off the table and land on the carpet and I have to race to pick it up before it burns it…hoping not to burn myself in the process.  It’s supposed to pick up the crystal and you can then place it down, but it never really worked well that way.  Sometimes it would pick it up and hold on to it, so I had to get a straight pin and pry it out.

So I started placing the crystal down where I wanted it and placing the wand iron on top of it. If I was lucky, the crystal would end up in the right place (though I found I could move it slightly if I worked quickly enough).  Sometimes the wand would flip the crystal out of place like a tiddly wink and it would go spinning through the air landing who knows where.  Sometimes I ended up slightly burning the area around the crystal.  And sometimes I ended up burning myself trying to prevent all these things.

And THEN, a friend of mine directed me to hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! I think it was invented for people who make those crystal designs for people to put on their clothes.  But anyway, here are the steps I use with it:

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. Cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
  3. Place the item you are embellishing  flat on the table or ironing board,
  4. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) where you want them
  5. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  6. Gently and carefully lower your transfer tape piece down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
  7. Now here you have a choice.  You can either use your regular iron set hot and without steam or the wand iron.  I found the wand iron makes the crystals more secure for the most part but takes longer.
  8. So with the wand iron heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs
    • tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
    • medium ones require about 20 counts
    • larger ones require more…30 seconds to 40 counts to be really secure.

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

The transfer tape acts as a pressing cloth, protecting the fabric to which you are attaching the crystal from burns by the wand.  It also holds the crystals in place so they don’t go flipping off into never never land.  If it gets just a little out of alignment, you just move the tape…the crystal stays on the tape until it is fully glued down and then releases with no problem.  This means you can pick up your tape slowly to check if you’ve missed one or if it needs more time.

Another way to approach it is to place lots of crystals on the tape upside down to the sticky side and just move the tape around and place the crystals on one by one.  This is a particularly good method for clothing and other shaped pieces when you are having a hard time getting them flat for crystal placement.

Now if I can only stop my hot wand from falling off the table that would be good.  Maybe I can find a new one at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival that I am going to this year with my good friend Mei Ling…I’m so excited.  I’ll let you know if my quilt gets in.  Will I see you there?

Sew happy everyone!  Help each other out, encourage other quilt artists…both the beginners and the very advanced.  Even the big winners sometimes need encouragement.

By the way, I have many of my quilts for sale on my website.  You can see them here.  I really want to go to Houston and keep on writing this blog and that is where the money would go.  If you are interested in one of my quilts, contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com  Or, if you just want to help support the continuance of the blog, see the donate button.  But please keep reading my blog even if you don’t…I understand.

Starting and Stopping Thread Work and Quilting

Sew it’s been a while.  I’ve been enormously busy finishing my quilt for the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival…and yes, I finished and I’m now working on my little Milky Way “You are Here” mini.  It’s only about 20 x 20 inches and it’s for my part of the space exhibit at MQX.  All of my deep space quilts will be there and this is just a little fun piece to show where we are in our home galaxy.

There are a lot of opinions out there in fabric art/quilting land about how to best start and stop your thread.  Do you bury it? Do you stitch small stitches and cut close? Do you back it up and cut close?  The answers to these questions can frustrate anyone dealing with this issue.  Some quilters have no problems with it because they’ve already decided just what they are going to do and do it the same all the time.  I however have a plethora of ways to get going and stop.

For the most part, I hate to bury knots.  On my show quilts, especially, I stitch very densely in many areas, and sometimes there simply is no way to get that knot fully under the top without problems.  Also, I’m not convinced it really holds down the thread any better than other methods.  So I analyze what I’m working with and so forth to decide what to do.  Let me just say at the start, that if I am making a utility quilt…baby, give away, cuddle on a cold night…I will back stitch or stitch a short stitch close cut.  It just takes the rough and tumble better than buried knots.  I’m sure there are those who will disagree with me about this, but I stand by it after 65 years of sewing.  So here is how I handle this issue for wall and show quilts:

  • Thicker threads, such as 12 weights and some 30 weights almost require burying in some form because they just show up at the end.  Maybe I will just bury them without a knot and carry the thread through the quilt fairly far using a long basting needle.  If it works out in my overall quilting, I bury the thicker thread and stitch over the end in my background quilting, but that doesn’t always work.
  • Very thin threads of 50, 60 or 100 weight can easily just be cut close after some close stitching…say 15 stitches per inch (spi), so I never bury those.

But what about those 40 weights and specialty threads, such as monopoly and metallics?  Well, it has been my experience that these very lively threads  WORK better and stay better with a careful back trace stitching and then cut close.  I am not sure judges will agree with me, but the thing is, such lively threads  WILL come up from a bury even when knotted if certain directions of friction are encountered in the handling of the quilt for shipping and hanging and unhanging.  If stitched carefully enough, a backtrack is virtually unnoticeable, except you can probably see it with a magnifying glass and a flashlight. (Did you know that some judges look st your quilts that way?)  But I decided my metallics will be backstitched and close cut since they go through a lot when sent to shows.  If you decide to do this, go really slowly when you backstitch and get it as exact as possible.

The 40 weights are the problem because they aren’t easily determined.  Some of them, such as Superior’s Magnifico and Sulky’s rayons are really shiny and show up everything, especially with a high contrast.  So in that case, I will probably bury them with the long thread no knot method if I can bring myself to do it.  LOL.  Some of them, such as Superior’s King Tut, a cotton thread, will melt into the background when the contrast is low. They do well with a short stitch close cut ending.

Sew the answer then is either to quilt so well and planned that you NEVER have a start or stop (LOL) or to test the starts and stops before setting out on quilting that special project and decide how you are going to approach it. Also, always be flexible as you go, because when you are quilting certain places you can change your mind.

Sew Happy Everyone!  May your dreams be met, your life be full of love and simply lovely!

By the way, I need some funds to help me keep my dreams for 2018 going, so I am hoping to sell several of my quilts this year to finance my attending the Houston show and keep me in stitches (LOL) and make room in my house for more.  You can see which ones on my website gallery…just scroll over the quilt and you can see the price and size.  Contact me if you are interested in one and maybe we can work something out that suits your budget.  I’ve instituted a lay away plan for the quilts. If you don’t want to buy a quilt but do want to help, there is a donate button on this blog if you are so inclined and the funds will all go to financing my trip or keeping this blog going.

 

Decided to Make an Additional Show Quilt

I’m working on a new show quilt with a January 23rd deadline.  I started it too late, so it will be a bit of a race to finish on time.  But the thing is, I am really having fun making it.  I am making it mainly so I have something to enter into Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival because I suddenly realized I had nothing for that show and I have already made arrangements to go to it.  I won’t be sharing pictures or descriptions about it until after its debut.  I put aside the Bayou quilt I am making for a while, because the deadline for it is months later next summer.  This new quilt is going together mostly just from my idea and directly on the quilt, because I wanted to keep the design time very short.  I just made a concept sketch and plunged in, using fabrics I already had on hand and, surprisingly, I have already made a fair amount of progress.  I had an interesting idea for it that required one piece of fabric I didn’t have, so I ordered that.  Everything else is on hand.  So there you go, I have already greatly shortened my usual design time and eliminated the shopping time for this quilt.  This probably means I will finish it, although it is touch and go.  I’m keeping anything about what it is like quiet because I want to give it the best chance possible.  Now that I have been playing around in the quilting community for a while I find I know a lot of the judges, as is the case for MAQF.  They also frequently know my quilts.  I’m sure this is true with other show quilters out there.  Maybe I can make one that they won’t recognize as mine. 

A quilt project like this makes it hard to write blog posts on a regular basis.  Additionally, the Bayou quilt also has some restrictions on sharing pictures of it for the most part until completion, at least.  Nevertheless, trust me when I say it is all fun right now. I’ve gotten both quilts fairly well started and over some of the beginning problems I had for both of them. 

A Question for my readers:

Over the decades I have accumulated a lot of sewing and quilting knowledge.  I’ve sometimes thought I am a techniques collector just for the heck of it.  LOL.  Sew my question to my readers, assuming there are any, is what would you like me to blog about? I can provide some short tutorials, answer how to questions, and talk about quilty things.  I will use your responses to write my blogs while I’m working on these two quilts.  Please respond.

Sew happy everyone!