Adventures and Misadventures in My Studio

Wow, what a week in my studio. It was full of both frustrations and accomplishments.  So I thought the picture above, which is something resulting from one of my playful edits in one of my digital art software programs seems about right.  LOL

So anyway, this week I realized I am only a few weeks away from my first quilted art workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville Maryland.  April 12th!  Yikes!  It’s almost here and I’m not ready!  Well, I know what I’m going to teach, because I have given this class once before, and I have the kits figured out…but I frantically found the bag I had left over from the last class to see if I have enough pieces to make any kits at all for the class.  I put together five finished ones ready for use, three that are partially finished, and I need ten altogether.  Yes, it’s just a little class of not more than eight students and not less than three.  Sew I make ten kits..eight for the students, one for me to use in demonstration, and one for oopsies.

A frantic text to my friend Mei-Ling, who is the Bernina dealer there and with whom I am running the class, solved the problem of missing pieces.  She has the thread.  She has the needles.  I shopped my stash and found I have the fabric.  I can print off the handouts.  SO all I need now is time.  Well, in truth, I can do all the things I have left to do for workshop 1 in one day.  I’ll tackle that early next week.  And then I must put together kits for 2, 3, and 4, but they are less difficult and take less time.

There is also the Easter banner my friend Anita and I are making for the church.  It seemed to be progressing very slowly for a while, and I was feeling a little frustrated, but yesterday we got the main top or front together and it is looking fabulous.  We just need to stitch down the embroideries, which are large sets of lilies I edited from an old design and stitched out in the hoop.  There are two sets and each set took about five hours to stitch out, but they look really good.  There were some odd skips of stitching and missed outlines, probably resulting from the wrong setting on pull compensation and other editing errors on my part, but I took them to the machine and free motion stitched the repairs and corrections…so they look great.  We have them glue-basted on to the banner and all we have to do is zig zag them on with monopoly.  The cross, the lamb, and the little applqued banner at the top are all on.  And yes, I will be taking pictures and posting them here for you to see.

So I have been trying to solve the problems related to making instructional videos for posting on YouTube and to give a little taste of some of the things in my Bernina V8 book, Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  I also want to develop a series of videos on quilting using both my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and my Bernina domestic machines.

So I had first to learn to use the software…that was and is a challenge.  But I have succeeded in making several test videos now.  Then I couldn’t get the software to connect to my microphone, but today, I finally figured out where to find the setting on my computer to allow this to happen.  Eureka!

The first voiced video showing how to take a simple design and turn it into a really pretty wreath design on Bernina V8 is really quite funny,  I am thinking I will leave in all my mistakes and backups and fixes along the way because it shows how to overcome things and is much more amusing too.  In the end I managed to crash my computer and will have to take it up again and edit the pieces together.  Gosh I wonder how hard it is to add additional RAM (random access memory), which is what I need to not crash the computer.  I thought I had plenty in my current machine, but when it gets into making videos coupled with advanced software like Bernina, it isn’t quite enough.  Oh sigh.

Anyway, when I finish this first demo I will put a link here so you can find it if you are interested.  Even if you don’t have Bernina software you may find it funny enough to watch it.

Sew now I’m going to work on the sample for my fourth workshop, which is on ruler work with a sitdown machine.

I am so looking forward to getting the workshops prepared, the Easter banner done, and getting back to making quilts.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay tuned for future videos.  Also, would you like a podcast about once every couple of weeks?  I think it would probably be just me talking to you, but once in a while might include a guest?  Let me know.

 

Bunches to Do

This nice drawing is from Dover’s Chinese Designs. Whatever would I do without Dover!

 

Oh, dear readers, you knew it was coming didn’t you?  I have gotten to the place where I am feeling a bit swamped with things to do.  That’s why I have been lagging in my blog writing. It would be ok except I seem not to have time to do my favorite thing right now…work on show quilts.  And I have show quilts that need to be made!!!

Sew I am preparing for a book signing party on April 20th and four classes I will be running at G Street Fabrics in Rockville MD this spring.  Each has handouts that need to be updated or created and kits that need to be assembled.

  1. Fabric Arts 1:  Machine Applique Techniques
  2. Fabric Arts 2:  Feed Dogs Up Quilting (on a Domestic Machine)
  3. Fabric Arts 3: Free Motion Organic Quilting (on a Sitdown Machine)
  4. Fabric Arts 4:  Ruler Work Quilting for Sitdown Machines

The real project right now is for my church, that asked myself and my bff Anita to make a new Easter banner for the church.  I was already swamped, and the addition of this project is a bit of a time draw.  Fortunately, Anita has been working with me for over a year now to learn to use fabric and thread as a medium for her own art.  So she is doing most of the work, though not all, but coming here to do it where I have the machines and tables and paints and bunches of fabric and thread.  LOL.  I am doing a lot of the specialty items, like machine embroidering the words and guiding the methods.

Easter banner concept drawing

In case you didn’t know, I now have published both Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 and Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  So if you have one of these programs for digitizing your in-the-hoop embroidery, you might find this of interest.  I beg you, please, if you buy the book and like it, please please write a review on Amazon.  It does not have to be very long…just a single sentence or a couple of sentences.  Reviews really help the authors.  So far I have a single review on both books.  Much appreciated, but I need more.

                                New book!!!

Sew I am preparing to do a book signing at G Street on April 20th, and plan to show some demo videos of the software.  This has taken me a considerable bit to learn how to do these videos…live screen capture, editing the resulting videos, trying to get them right.  I will post these on my new YouTube channel (Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts), when I get them complete.

And the fourth workshop listed above for G Street..the ruler work..is not fully designed yet.  I have been working on making a sampler and made much progress on what I want to show and teach, but it isn’t done yet!!! Yikes!!! It also will provide a kit with a little quilt sandwich, premarked with some guidelines.

Show Quilts…what am I doing, or trying to get time to do? 

  • The Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics.. Due July 1st.  I have the fabric, I have a design concept…will I get the time?  It’s small, so that helps, only 20 inches by 20 inches, but it will need a bit of time.
  • A train quilt with a steam locomotive to showcase a number of interesting applique and embellishment techniques. No real deadline, but I would love to finish it in time for the fall Mancuso show in Oak Pennsylvania.  Deadline is sometime in August.
  • A stack of other interesting, fun, hopefully beautiful, other ideas I won’t discuss right now.

So to top it all off, I am working on another book..the first in a series of Quilted Art Techniques books.  My concept right now…subject to change, of course…is for three books talking about techniques…one on building the top, one on quilting the quilt, and one on surface design and embellishment.  The challenge for these is to provide a way forward for quilted art without just being the same-old same-old that is already out there.  That’s a big challenge, but I also still think there is room for me to present my techniques in a way that will help artists and/or quilters to accomplish a vision they have in their heads but haven’t been able to do until now, or were had not yet figured out the steps to take.

Sew happy everyone!  I have not abandoned my hope to do a weekly or more blog post talking about adventures in fabric art.  Have fun in your studio, even if it is just a small space! 

 

Digital Fabric Arts Adventures

Background fabric design for use in upcoming quilt

This has been a busy and interesting month so far, and the end of the month promises to be just as unique.  First of all, I want to tell you about the background fabric piece pictured above.  I spent some time (more than a forty hour week) painting this design I wanted to use for a background, to which I will be adding a lot of objects, including trees, rocks, train trestle, train, steam clouds as appliques.  But I painted it digitally in Corel Painter and sent it off to be printed full size by Fabrics on Demand, which has a wide selection of fabrics and does a good job.  I’ve used them before.

So after about a week I got word that they had printed the fabric and shipped it.  I waited, waited, decided I would have to contact them because it had been weeks and no fabric.  In the meantime, we had a snow week, with an 11 inch snow followed by very cold weather.  Then we had a thaw.  Just as I was about to contact the company, my son brought in a wet package that he had found on the side of the front porch under a bush.  Yes it was my fabric.  It had apparently been blown off the porch under the bush and covered in snow and ice.  We might not have found it until even later if the cold weather had continued.

The fabric was in a plastic envelope and carefully packed, but it was totally soaked.  I washed it in the washing machine, thinking that I normally would have hand washed it with Synthrapol detergent, since it was a custom printed piece.  So I wasn’t sure how it would come out.  But it is totally beautiful.  The colors are strong and lovely and the piece is clearly not going to bleed or shrink now as I use it in my quilt.  My friend Anita was amazed at the piece.  She is an artist herself but is new to the fabric art world.  I could tell she is excited to consider that she might be able to turn her art into a piece of fabric. She would have to take a good picture or scan of her art since she doesn’t work digitally in order to get it into fabric in this way, but that works too.

Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8

Okay readers, I have been working full-time for several weeks now just to update my Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 to a new book for Bernina V8, and I have finished the basic manuscript, sent it to my Beta readers, and designed the cover.  I am looking to have this out by the end of February.  So if you have either V7 or V8, I think you will find working through the projects of these books will provide you with a solid understanding or improvement in your use the software to go forward and make some wonderful in-the-hoop embroidery designs.  You can make what you want for your projects.  These books are designed so if you work through the book the later projects build on what you learn in the earlier projects.  Additionally, you will end up with some fun small items…mug rugs, a color wheel, a needle book, and a bunch of nice designs to use in other ways.

I’m very happy to be more or less finished with this Bernina software books project.  I have more or less been working on this for several years now.  It’s not that the projects are that hard, it was the difficulty of figuring out what should be presented and in what order to help fabric artist that still has the program in the box or has only used it a little because it was a little confusing, or that may not know how much is really there.  It is an amazing software…almost magical.  It has tools to help you get where you need to be, but it does not do a good job of telling you what tools are there.  The reference manual is well presented, but you may not know what you don’t know and you don’t know where to look.  The books are not exhaustive in covering all the tools, but they are enough to give you a real feel for what you can do with the software.

Just as I neared the finish of the first book for V7, Bernina came out with the updated V8, so I put it aside.  But my dear friend Mei-Ling Huang, who is also my Bernina dealer, encouraged me to go ahead and put out the V7 book, because there are a lot of sewists out there still using that software.  And then she pushed me a little to also write the updated V8 version.  I truly don’t think these books would be finished without her encouragement.

Sew now that I have completed these two projects and have gotten my fabrics for the next several show quilts and workshop samplers and kits, I have to straighten up this studio!  It’s a mess!

I’m so excited about the work I have in store for the future.  I made a list of things and put a date I wanted to get them done by, just so I can figure what I need to work on next and next and next.  Let’s get to quilting and embroidering!

I also am thinking about what book I should write next.  I have found that self-publishing through Amazon KDP is not too difficult for me to manage.  I want to get what I know out for people to use. I have learned a great deal in the past sixty plus years of sewing and art work.  Maybe the next one will focus on surface design and embellishment.  I have won several prizes at major shows based on my work in this field.  But I have to get to quilting first.  Just need…to….quilt!

Sew happy everyone!  There’s a fabulous bunch of tools and supplies out there to make some wonderful fabric art.  Teach someone to sew or quilt or try something new yourself!

Happy 2019! Let’s Make this a Wonderful Year!

I always love the beginning of a new year.  It is like turning a page on a well-worn journal that may not have worked out like we wanted and finding a crisp new space to fill with fabulous adventures. As some of my long-term readers probably realize, I like to publish my creative goals in my blogs and then see how much of them I can accomplish.  It’s a challenge!

For 2019 I have four avenues for fabric and thread play planned and the timing has worked out so I am at the beginning of them all, which makes it all the more exciting.

  1. Landscape quilts, using a variety of applique techniques, threads, couched yarns and roving I hope to develop  pictorial quilts with a lot of dimension. I don’t know how many of these I will make, but I have two already planned–think “train” and the little Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics…and I hope to make more.  I am thinking of developing a book on these techniques along the way, now that I know I can publish my own highly-illustrated books with some degree of professionalism.
  2. Experimental quilt(s), developing a couple of wild ideas I have had floating around for a while.  These include first of all polyester crepe-back satin which will also include some in-the-hoop embroidery that I digitize myself on Bernina design software V8 and develop a Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8, as an update to my new book on v7, that will be coming early in January. And secondly, seeing what I can do with some of the really beautiful commercial panels available and/or develop some background panels of my own for sale.  Both of these things offer real possibilities for quilters with limited budgets, time, or confidence. Blogs will be coming.
  3. Workshops, that I will be teaching a repeat to the ones on developing fabric art that I taught at G Street Fabrics this past fall and will be adding a basic ruler work workshop…all scheduled for April and May already.  I am all ready for the first three except for making a few additional kits, and I still have to make the sample and kits for the ruler workshop…one week of preparation should do the trick.
  4. Videos showing especially working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and possibly more.  I have all the equipment, and this week I successfully went through the whole process to come out with one really terrible video, but I now know the process and will be practicing until I get it all just right.  I hope to share these as inspiration for people here on my blog.

I am very excited about all this. It may seem too much, but I don’t think it is given how I hope to build quilt projects together with books, blogs, and videos, getting multiple uses out of the same work with only a small addition of work. We’ll see…(oh! and I also will be continuing the work on my appliqued quilt using a Sue Nickel‘s pattern I am making for my bed, but that’s just for relaxation and fun).

I was inspired to tackle improvements in my landscape quilts first by Bethanne Nemesh’s videos on yarn couching on her own quilts, then by the success I had in using yarn couching for tree limbs and 12 weight wool threads on my Night on the Bayou quilt for producing Spanish Moss, and finally by my purchase of the Bernina attachment for my little Bernina 350 that does needle punch.  So I am going to put all this together with the applique quilting and embellishment techniques I already do and see what comes out.

I was also interested in how well a little testing of the leftovers of the crepe-back heavy satin I used for my coat did in quilting that I feel I need to make at least one and possibly more quilts using this product.  I think it offers some great possibilities and it’s a lot cheaper than the now-discontinued silk/cotton Radiance.  The every day quilter with a limited budget may find this a wonderful way to go. We’ll see, and I will write about it, at least in my blog if not a whole book.

Sew happy everyone.  Peace and love be yours as we begin 2019. Encourage those around you. Let’s make this a wonderful year full of peace, love, and yes, fun! May God bless you and yours.  Let the celebrations begin!

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!!!!!

 

Projects Completed, Looking toward 2019

Sew I finished my overcoat and it looks fabulous, fits well, and is even flattering.  It also is much warmer than I thought it was going to be, so I am all ready for what is expected to be a colder-than-usual winter. I haven’t got pictures yet, but I will and post them.

I finished! Ready for the next project.

The past few days my son David and I have been preparing the house for Christmas decorating.  In other words, we have been cleaning and David put together a nice small drop leaf table we are going to use to put our kind of short Christmas tree on and then, after Christmas, he will be using it for his chair side table.  It’s really quite pretty hardwood and seems perfect for the use we are planning for it.  I totally love Christmas.  It always warms my heart and it has a lot of sparkle.

Announcing the beginning of Advent! From Canterbury Knight.

I also have finished writing the manuscript for my book “Ten Skill Building Projects for Bernina V7 Embroidery Software”.  My dear friend and Bernina dealer Mei-Ling Huang convinced me to go ahead and complete the book since I almost had it finished because lots of people are still using v7.  So I have.  I am now working on putting it into book format using Corel Draw and will publish it through Amazon.  That project will take me a while, but sometime early in 2019 I will publish this book with the help of my son David, who has his own small press.  It may be published under Fennec Fox Press (David’s publishing company), but we are still deciding if this is the best way to do this.

So I bought Bernina v8 and plan to write a similar book for that version.  It may be mostly the same, just updated, though I might find something really fun in the new version that I want to use.  I think I can put that book out in 2019 also, not too much later than v7 book.

I will tell you that I feel greatly relieved to get these two big projects finished, and I will be really happy to get the house decorated, probably tomorrow.  I will be delighted to return to more quilting and less other things.  First of all, I am going to do a small project using couching and needle punch for practice and a sample  I am also working on a couple of ruler quilting practice samples. And yes, I already have several quilts in mind to use these particular techniques, and so this is part of preparing to launch into those.

One of the nice little bits of news is that Night on the Bayou has been accepted into Road to California 2019 in January 24-27.  I’m considering going.  My brother lives in San Diego and offered to put me up for a visit and drive up for a day trip to see the show if I can scrape together the round trip ticket funds. We’ll see what happens.

Limbs and spanish moss closeup.

Competition at this show is really keen.  It’s probably as high as for both Houston IQF and AQS Paducah.  So it would be a surprise if it ribbons.  Nevertheless. Joel Christopher Payne, the artist whose beautiful piece “Delights of the Bayou” inspired this quilt lives just 45 minutes away and said he will go to the show to see it.  I hope he really does, though I know he is a very busy person.  I think he would be amazed with the art of the quilts at the show.

Sew happy everyone!  Have a marvelous Christmas/Holiday season.  I celebrate from the first day of Advent through the twelve days of Christmas ending on January 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Fabric Art Workshops

I am excited about my upcoming workshops I will be teaching at G Street Fabrics in Rockville this fall.  If you are in the area, please sign up and come.  I understand there are still a few spaces.  These three six hour workshops provide the basic techniques I use in building and quilting most of my wall art quilts.  There will only be eight students with each workshop, to give me time to be available for each student and answer questions.

September 22, 11am to 5pm.  Fabric Art Workshop 1: Applique Techniques to make a top ready for quilting.

Kits for the workshops are available for purchase that includes everything the students need for the projects that will enable everyone to complete or nearly complete each project.  For the applique workshop, the leaves, birds, and dog or cat are all precut with fusible on the back. The student gets to put it all together like he or she wants and different edge finishes are taught as well as how one might choose which finish is discussed.  Threads, needles, and other supplies are included as well as the handouts.

The two quilting classes also have kits of premarked sandwiches with everything one needs to plunge right in and start quilting.

October 6, 11 am to 5 pm:  This is the project for Fabric Arts Workshop II: Quilting with feed dogs up.  Kit has premarked sandwich, thread, a needle, and handouts.

The students will learn there are many interesting results that can be obtained with their feed dogs up.  Of course, a walking foot would always be helpful, but will not be required for this class.  It’s a small 20 x 20 sandwich.

 

October 20, 11am to 5pm, Fabric Arts Workshop III:  Free motion organic quilting.  The Kit for the free motion quilting project is a lightly marked sandwich, with a leaf applique ready to start the class.,  It also includes thread, a needle, and handouts.

Sew I don’t address how to square up and bind a quilt, but I do provide references as to where you can get that information.  There is another part of my work that is also not included and that is surface design and embellishment.  However, I started my art quilt career just using the techniques covered here, and learned how to bind off the internet.  I am considering how I might do a workshop in surface design and embellishment, but not sure I’ll do it yet.  I do provide a bit of information on how you can pull together a design for such projects in the course of the workshops.

Come join me.  There are 8 slots per class and some have already been filled, but if you hurry you might get in.  Contact G Street Fabrics  and ask for the Sewing machine department.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to making kits…LOL

 

 

Surface Design, Texture, and Embellishment

I love adding surface design, texture, beads, artistic thread work, yarns, and other types of embellishments to my wall quilts.  I think these things, when well done, can take them to a different dimension turning what may be an already nice pictorial/art piece that would be acceptable for someone’s wall to a treasure of a piece that makes the viewer want to stand and look at it for a long time or makes them happy every time they pass by it.

“Well-done” in this case by no means implies perfect, symmetrical, or formal, but it does mean interesting, the right amount, beautiful, technically  good, or just plain fun.  Sew this is what I strive for, although I suspect I will still be trying to make these things work as I see them in my mind’s eye to the last day of my quilting/fabric art life (which I plan on doing for the rest of my life).  But that’s one of the many things that makes playing in my studio so much fun.  Here are a few examples of such work.

detail from one of my deep space quilts with Angelina Fibers and hot fix crystals over a lightly painted background.

 

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 very calm and reflective, it didn’t make since to have the Spanish moss blowing around much. Here you see some of my marks. 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 painted these borders to go along with the vintage panel in the middle.

Sew this week I bought a needle punch attachment for use on my little Bernina 350.  I particularly like the way this little machine, which I purchased to have a machine to carry along with me to classes and other events needing a machine, is rapidly becoming an essential in my studio too.  It will be my “embellisher” now and I also have found it makes wonderful bobbin work with specialty thicker threadsm and makes perfect piecing possible.  I am kind of excited about this.  I plan on making interesting bits on some of my pictorial quilts, like steam clouds coming out of a steam locomotive, tree barks, fluffly little animals, and other interesting textural areas.  I just got a package of wool roving in a variety of natural colors to try it out with.  I also think I will get some other things that work this way…ribbons, sheer fabric pieces, ????

Sew happy everyone!  Try a little embellishing if you haven’t yet and if you send me photos I will post them if you don’t mind.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartistcom

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.

Threads

Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.

I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well.  So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle.  When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full,  and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff.  I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles.  I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent.  It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20).  I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.

The Spanish moss here is Aurifil’s Lana wool/acrylic 12 weight thread.

When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly.  I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right.  Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle.  I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle.  I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does.  I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread.  This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord.  It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears.  In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt.  I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it.  I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right.  I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.

The gold Celtic border was outlined first with gold thread, then painted with gold paint, but it had no over and under view until after it was quilted with Monopoly thread. I will be using this technique again.

Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small.  Still it is exciting to work with.  My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees.  I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs.  It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character.  acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills.  I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later.  I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work.  She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there]  and her blogs.

For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight.  This thread seems to call for a small needle also.  I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through.  I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12  topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas.  This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low.  I  am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.

Sttitching on the space dust on one of my deep space quilts using 40 weight variegated Fantastico by Superier.  The background stitching you see here was done with 100 weight Kimono silk.

Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using.   Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle.  My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut.  King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle.   I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason.  I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.

Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.

Sew happy everyone!  Try out all those wonderful types of threads.  Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you.  Then make a sampler.

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part 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.