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:
- Put on your music or audiobook.
- 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.
- Place the item you are embellishing flat on the table or ironing board,
- Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) where you want them
- Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
I make art quilts now primarily to first show them and then sell them (or give them away). I think that these two goals slightly conflict with each other. I believe most people would find wall quilts wider than about 50 inches just simply too big for most homes or offices today. Normally, smaller is better for sale items. Shows, however, seem to not see it that way, and I kind of understand that, since when they are in the show the impact is increased by the size for the most part. I have been quite surprised, however, when I have made a quilt that is around 50 inches wide, which seems fairly large at home in my studio, and then go to the show to see it in place where it seems really small hanging there. Nevertheless, I think the sizes I end up with are right for the styles and may make them more possible to sell later. So you see, I have a bit of an argument with myself about sizes. Just so you can see, I usually size my quilts to fit within the American Quilting Society’s guidelines because, truly, they are the least flexible. Here are next year’s categories with sizes.
Another consideration is the physical challenge of dealing with large quilts. The older and creakier I get the more difficult I find large bed-sized quilts to make, but it helps that I have a large table for my main machine (Bernina 830LE) and my sit-down longarm (Bernina Q20) with a large table. So I really can work up to about 60 x 60 with no problems. Currently, I am working on my Bayou quilt, which is 60 inches wide and 30 inches long. The original art work I am working with is 30 x 15, so when I enlarged it to a size that would be a good show quilt, I had no choice other than 60 x 30 if I were to keep the aspect ratio the same and meet AQS specifications. Why is that? Well, I want to enter it into AQS Virginia Beach 2018. As you can see, if it is any wider than 60 inches it moves to the large quilts category that has a minimum of 60 inches long. If it is any narrower than 60 inches the length would becomes shorter than the required 30 inches.
Normally, I get the design worked out and decide how I am going to approach making it and then enlarge the design to a showable and saleable size. I kind of aim at 40 to 50 inches wide, which is really a small quilt for most shows, but it also is a nice size for most walls. I might try making a few of the AQS Fiber Art wall quilt sizes this year (24 to 40 inches wide by 24 to 60 inches long). As a matter of fact, most of my Ancient Manuscript series fit within this size, but as you see, not all their shows support this size.
And finally, some consideration must be given to the cost of fabric. If I am making a quilt all in silks, I want to use high quality silk fabric and that is expensive. So smaller is more affordable.
I would love to start a discussion about wall quilt sizes. What sizes do you think are the best, in general, and do you think the shows should set their sizes by specified width and length groups or by either perimeter inches or square inches, which would allow an ancient manuscript that is 27 x 37 into the wall quilt categories that would not be allowed now? Or maybe it doesn’t really matter to you, just so you can make your quilt like you want it. What do you think are the ideal parameters for wall art quilts for home or office?
Sew happy everyone. Make yourself a beautiful piece of fabric art for your wall, or make them for gifts. They make wonderful presents if you know they would fit in the lives of the people you give them to (give that some serious consideration before giving them a quilt). Also, check out my quilts on my website (link at top of this blog). I have revamped my site slightly so you can really see the quilts better. The prices and sizes can also be found there.
The Heavens declare the glory of God…(Psalm 19:1)
Wow! This week with the eclipse and spending that time with my 14 year-old grandson Kevin was soooo special! We had eighty-five percent of the eclipse in a pure clear sky with the birds and the noisy cicadas in the woods behind us. His parents, who are serious astronomy hobbyists, headed down to Tennessee to get in a total eclipse area, but he did not want to spend that long in the car. The traffic for them was aweful and they had to spend an extra night in a motel on the way home, so he clearly made the right choice for him and it gave me and his uncle David a real special time together with Kevin even though it was not total here. I am told Ken got some photos to process of the eclipse. I am looking forward to seeing them.
This comes at an interesting time in my quilting life, because I am trying to line up a couple of new deep space quilts to fill out my space series inspired by the fabulous photos found in the NASA gallery. The pictures have to be copyright free for me. I have tried a couple of times to get in touch with the astronomers whose pictures NASA sometimes shows that are copyrighted and they simply ignore my inquiries. But there are many many magnificent copyright free photos available to use for the basis of new quilts. I will probably also include a couple of space quilts that may use other techniques inspired by Ken’s (oldest son, Kevin’s Dad) and Beth’s (his wife) photography and ideas. I am planning on writing about making space quilts and including all of these in the book. This will probably be a part of my ongoing project of Art Quilt Basics: Surface Design and Embellishment that I hope to get published this year. These quilts are practically all surface design and embellishment with organic, but well planned, quilting. They are very hard to photograph because of all the light reflection, but I leave that to Ken, who does a credible job on it.
So I am currently on the hunt for my next deep space quilt photo inspirations. If you have a favorite, let me know in a comment but do it soon, because I’m going to start working on this next space quilt very soon. 😄
I hope you are all having fun with your art, sewing, or quilting. I’m busy drawing up a couple of new ideas and making sampler quiltlets to include in my book project Art Quilt Basics: Machine Quilting for Art Quilters (this book starts with the very basics for machine quilting (both feed dogs up and free motion) and moves through the process ending with a discussion and ideas specific for art quilters.
Sew happy everyone! Make yourselves a stack of small quilt sandwiches and play. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is…use all your machines. You will benefit by improving your skills and having a lot of fun too. Cheers.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
I am making as many quilts as I can to add to my upcoming exhibit of my quilts at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, to take place sometime in the April/May period. I figure keeping busy is a great way to ignore the news as much as possible, and quilting is such a delightful way to do that.
I had such a lot of fun making my Hawaiian Garden quilt that was focused around the Alfred Shaheen panel that I made for the MQX Exhibit in 2016 and later gifted to my brother and his wife for their special 50th wedding anniversary that I decided to make another one (see design above). Here in this picture of Hawaiian Garden and you can see I will be using a similar border plan for the second AF panel quilt:
I received permission to make the second quilt from Alfred Shaheen‘s daughter, since the first quilt had been made under MQX’s permission they got for the exhibit. His daughter asked that I let my quilt friends know that the panels are very rare and are obviously precious to her. I know that all of us who have made these for MQX are honoring his wonderful art work with our quilts.
I have also been working on the design for a panel quilt where I will be using a printout of the design I painted myself for the central panel. I worked out this plan below in EQ7 using the design I painted in the center. I still have to get the central panel printed. I may add some additional real painting in the border…I have an idea for that, but can’t get it drawn like I “see” it in my head yet. I might just leave it as is.
Both of these quilts will probably not take very long to make, now that I have worked out the designs and have the borders worked out in EQ7 which is very helpful in getting them cut properly. I already have the quilt top cut out and ready to piece together for the Alfred Shaheen panel quilt design shown at the top of this post. I plan on offering both of these new quilts for sale if they come out like I hope.
Sew happy everyone! Make a panel quilt…there are some wonderful panels out there now and they are really fun to make. You sometimes have to block them square first and steam helps too.