I just made a quilt using the beautiful Peppered Cotton These cottons, designed by Pepper Cory, are beautifully colored and have a wonderful soft hand. They would make marvelous bed quilts that use simple blocks, and I suspect they would be perfect for hand quilting.
I, however, chose to make a piece of wall art with precision machine embroidery using this soft, loose weave cotton because it had the perfect appearance for what I wanted to do. While the blocks are simple in shape, they have detailed machine emnroidery, and the quilt itself presented some real challenges.
Here’s the quilt:
And a detail view:
When I first saw this fabric I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. It reminded me of antique fabrics used mostly by peasants centuries ago in Japan especially in firemen’s and fishermen’s coats, which were layered together and often repaired using Sashiko stitching. While the peasants would probably have had blue or off white fabrics, these have wonderful colors with a warm feel.
Pepper Cory, who is a friend of mine, told me about The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook (you can find this in the little box of “My Favorite Products” on my sidebar if you don’t have your ad blocker turned on) and it helped me with figuring things out for this quilt In the end, however, I used commercially available embroidery designs from OESD: Sashiko 1.
I thought when I started the quilt that, although it was mainly a project for me to work on improving some techniques, that I may end up showing this quilt and ultimately selling it, so I asked OESD if I could use this design set for such a purpose, and was assured that was acceptable. (It is so important to get such permissions before one spends hours and money on making a quilt you may show or sell, even if you are going to donate it for an auction at church).
But in order to get good machine embroidery results using such a nice soft cotton that is so loosely woven, one needs to back it with a very good stiff stabilizer. I used tear away Madeira Cotton Stable (you can find it through that little box of my favorite products on the sidebar also), which is temporarily fusible. I was going to tear it out, but by the time I got it all embroidered and the whole thing pieced together, I liked the way it had softened up just while working with it and the way it helped me with the piecing. So I ended up leaving it in. It is an all cotton stabilizer and I find it softens a lot from working it and when washed.. I could have backed it with a light weight fusible interfacing and used a wash away stabilizer that would have probably done the same thing. I do love this stabilizer, and have found I can pretty easily tear it out when I want to, but it stays in place until torn. I use it for a lot of my embroidery.
So, thinking I would probably wash the quilt when I was finished, I prewashed all the Peppered Cottons in cold water AFTER I serged the cut edges of the fabric before I cut it. Such a loose weave really needs to have the edges serged before washing or you could lose a large bit of raveling. If you don’t have a serger, you should stay stitch the edges prior to washing. Indeed, this is a good way to approach any loosely woven fabric. I serge the edges of silk dupioni just to store it in my stash because it ravels so badly. I think that Peppered Cotton is not quite as bad, but when machine washed it would be bad. This step saves lots of headaches.
The other thing I did for piecing this fabric was to use half inch seams instead of quarter inch. In spite of the fact that this was initially a mistake in my cutting of the blocks, I found it much more stable overall that way. Although when I did the moon, I did only a narrow turned edge…maybe even less than a quarter of an inch…but it was around a piece of freezer paper and I used a lot of spray on starch that I sprayed into the top of my starch can and painted on with a stiff little brush, then ironed the edge around the moon pattern. I then glued the moon to the background and stitched around it with a short applique stitch using monopoly. This worked really well and looks great.
After that I cut out the background behind it, I appliqued the Japanese flower arrangement onto the top. I got the flowers by painting them digitally using Corel Painter and printed them on Electric Quilt fabric (Find them in “My Favorite Products” box)
I added an extra layer of wool batting just under the moon because I wanted the flowers to have a slight trapunto appearance. Then I sandwiched with wool batting overall and a pretty quilting cotton print for the back, giving it all a lot of stability.
Everything went really well for the quilting of the central theme and the background using monopoly over the embroidered background and closely color matched 100 wt silk for the moon. I did use a heavier weight 40 wt cotton to quilt the little creatures around in the moon.
Then I got to the borders. I failed to back the borders or the binding with anything except the wool batting and backing. It stretched during the quilting and binding. You can read about my struggle with that in this post if you want.
To wrap up, when using Peppered Cotton, or any soft, loosely woven cotton you need to:
- serge the edges of your yard goods before you prewash them.
- prewash the fabric in cold water with like colors.
- iron with some spray starch on the wrong side
- back with a stiff stabilizer for any machine embroidery
- back with fusible light weight interfacing for accurate piecing results and to reduce stretching when quilting.
- a cold water soak and blocking after completion is important to make the quilt square and flat. (You can steam it flat and square if you just don’t want to wash it and it’s a wall hanging).
- enjoy the quilt…it feels soft and cuddly and has a dynamic lovely look.
In the end, I am really happy with this little quilt and have decided to try to show it before I offer it for sale, mainly so some of my friends who live elsewhere can see it. I don’t think it will win any ribbons, but I think it might get into the shows, and that makes it really fun.
Sew happy everyone. Try making a nice cuddly bed quilt with some Peppered Cottons, and, if you dare, make some blocks or a wall quilt that requires some precision. Or you could make a fisherman’s coat to wear on cold wet days out on the sea. Cheers.