Test Samples Provide Significant Help

Current practice piece

Hi everybody,

For my work, I have found that test samples are indispensable when I am making a significant fabric art project or quilt.

Test and practice piece for my first wool applique by machine project

For my work, test samples are indispensable, especially when I am making an important fabric art or quilting project and I highly recommend them for your work.  I have had some of my students object to the use of the fabric, thread, and time that they take, sew I will tell you how I use mine.

I sandwiched two 24 x 25 inch test samples using the fabric on top that I am using in my main project.

Here is a sample test of borders for my quilt Out of Mom’s Workbasket

The point of these samples is to help me with the borders.  I have divided the sandwiches into three sections and then one of the sections on one of the sandwiches into three blocks, since my border has corner stone blocks.  I expect these two sandwiched samplers to help me do the following;

  • Practice my quilting so I am at my best when working on the finished project
  • Decide on the quilt patterns I want to use on the borders and corner blocks
  • Decide on the best way to mark them
  • Decide on the background stitching I want to use
  • Decide on the thread color, weight, and needles I want to quilt with
  • Decide on the stitch settings I want to use
  • Practice painting the designs to polish my painting skills before using it on my finished quilt, determine if I want them painted at all, and what paints to use.
  • Help prevent problems and mistakes on the main quilt.

If you finish the edges with a binding or serging, they make wonderful pet presents, knee guards for working on your knees in various chores, a sitting pad for a rest on an outdoor bench or step outdoors, and reference aids in your studios.

Here is a stitch out sample of the upper left corner of my quilt Pendragon. I digitized the outline of the ancient design, which needed a lot of fixing, so I had to do a stitchout before putting it on the quilt. I also wanted to try the painting to see how that would go. So I just stapled the sample into the book with notes.

Sew happy everyone!  Try using test samples if you don’t already.  They are worth the time and supplies they take. Have fun in your studios!

 

Welcome Fall with Fun Projects

I don’t know about you, but September always seems to be the beginning of the sewing/quilting season to me.  I get kind of excited wondering what I can make and share in my studio.

I was looking at some of my already published YouTube projects, many of which also have workbooks and patterns available on my site store for little or no cost.  There are several there that will make wonderful Fall and Winter celebratory additions to a home or to make as gifts.

Fall Table Runner

Last year, with the help of my family production team, I made a fall table runner, but we did not get it out until mid November, which was clearly too late.  We realized it, but published it anyway for people to enjoy watching at least.  This year, you might want to look at this, purchase the workbook/pattern/digital embroidery (all in one package) and make it for your Fall celebrations.  It has three how-to videos linked below and the downloadable workbook package below that.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Workbook/Pattern Package

Machine Wool Applique Sampler

Here is the finished wool applique by machine sampler.

This is a fun little project that uses mostly circles and decorative stitching to make a little wall hanging using wool.  It is very like what some of you may do by hand, but is all done by machine with some specialty threads.  I had so much fun doing this and I think you would too.  You can choose your own colors.  It does not have a pattern, but if you watch all three videos you really won’t need one.  You can probably tell it was inspired by Sue Spargo’s fabulous hand stitched wool pieces.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Kingfisher wool appliqued pillow (by machine)

 

This project results in a really delightful decorator pillow for your living room or bed room.  It would make a really nice gift for someone.  Truth be told, I made it with mostly the leftovers from the wool sampler above and a pillow I got from Amazon.  It does have two how-to videos on YouTube and a downloadable  FREE workbook/pattern on my website shop. Links of all below.

Part 1

Part 2

Workbook/Pattern

Sew I hope you will take a look at these projects and even make one or more of them.  It would really help me if you subscribed to my YouTube and watched the projects.  I don’t currently get any money from these on YouTube and very few people have gotten the workbooks/patterns.  It would be fabulous if you did watch them all the way through and provided me with comments and suggestions.  I will also answer your questions along the way if you decide to make one or more of these projects.  Together they are like a virtual class where the instruction is free and the patterns are either free or modestly priced.

Some of my videos are simply sharing my work with you and are there for your viewing pleasure.  I am working on one like that now where I am currently making a new show quilt and showing bits and pieces here and there as I do so.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

Using Decorative Stitches for Quilted Textures

It is possible to accomplish some amazing quilted textures and designs using a variety of stitches with your feed dogs up.  This is particularly the case if you are blessed with a machine with 9mm wide stitches and even more-so if your machine will do sideways stitching for extra large motifs. I was recently reminded of this in my recent presentation at Suzzie’s Quilt Shop in Manassas Virginia where I showed and talked about my quilts.  For that I pulled out my two architectural quilts where I used decorative stitches and straight line walking foot quilting a lot.

Some machines provide precise information as to the width and length of a decorative stitch, and are somewhat adjustable. Here is a screen shot from my B880 plus simulator with a flower motif that uses sideways motion to achieve a bigger design.  I learned that it is important to keep a flexible clear plastic ruler with both inches and metric for figuring how to use such motifs.  Here you see 41.6 mm wide (about 1.45 inches) by 72.2mm (about 2.85 inches).  Many of these extra large stitch designs are not adjustable, so in this case, I would probably try to accommodate the design by slightly adjusting the size of the fabric I was going to use if at all possible.  Therefore, it helps to plan out the use of such designs before you plunge in.  I am thinking of making a small whole cloth quilt project of some sort just to show off what can be done.

 

This is big enough to be a nice quilting motif in multiple repeats down the middle of a sashing, for instance.

This would make a lovely quilting stitch down a narrow sashing, for instance, or the center of a larger design.

But I have also used more ordinary stitches in rows, even curved rows (such stitches will curve well, and you can even adjust the width while stitching on my Berninas, and probably other brands) to build up the texture of an area to look like stucco or rock face or some such:

For textured areas, choose geometric patterns that would fit together well in rows sewn closely together.

This method was what I used for some of the walls in this architectural quilt.  Note that I had to curve and narrow the decorative stitch design and place them close together. Also it wasn’t perfect, but still looked nice.

From Perspective in Threads, (the colors are off in this picture, but you can see the stitching) entirely done with threads…some decorative stitching, some straight line sewing using a walking foot, and some free motion — stitched in four different thread weights (12, 40, 50, and 100).

 

This is more detail from the same quilt, and is closer to the correct color than the first detail shot. Look at the wall surrounding the back arch that looks kind of like stucco.  That is rows of decorative stitching.  The shadows under the steps are simply well-placed rows of straight stitches.

If you do landscapes or small pictorial renderings and want a nice field with flowers and grass, for instance a stitch design with small flowers stitched with variegated threads might just be what you need. This is just a 9.0 mm width and a 15.7 mm (.62 inches) length design.  Rows of this spaced closely together would work.

This shows stitch 128 choice.

I did something like this (I don’t remember the exact stitch, but it might have been this one) in the yard on the rendering of the house on “Dad’s House Plan”.

Sew it is possible to get some wonderfully appropriate and detailed quilting on your domestic sewing machine if you are not comfortable with free motion stitching, and even if you are.  Sometimes, it is just the right texture that you need and can obtain with those decorative stitches.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new with decorative stitches and have fun in your studios.  I plan on going back to a blog every couple of weeks again.  Please comment, pay a visit to my YouTube.  Cheers.

Landscape Quilt Techniques: Mountains and Evergreen Trees

Hi everybody!  I cannot believe it is March already!!!  I am currently working on a small landscape wall art quilt with mountains and evergreen trees that includes the writing of a workbook with pattern, hand cutting or svg cutting files for use with a digital cutter, and a set of videos for my YouTube channel.  I am loving this project!  A couple of family members came up with the concept and I knew as soon as I saw it that I would love doing it and how to do it.  It involves prepared turned-edge applique-piecing by machine, stitched raw edge applique, yarn couching and big thread free motion stitching.  It will be a lovely size for wall art in a home or office–somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 x 20 inches.  I hope some of my followers will do this project once it is available and really enjoy it.

So far, I am about half way through the construction and filming but I am not sure when it will be published.  The workbook and pattern set are also nearly finished and that will be available in my shop on my website.

Way back in May of 2021, I presented the first of my landscape quilting techniques sampler piece and promised more.  I was astonished to realize it has been so long since that was published!!!  Here’s the link for the first of two videos for this project:  Landscape Quilting Deciduous Trees Skillbuilder.  Yes, it was early in my adventure in my YouTube channel and that shows, but the techniques are solid and fun, and the promise was  real.  I believe we (me and my family production crew) have come a long ways in our production of such projects and videos in this time.  This project included stitched raw edge applique, broiderie perse, and free-motion quilting with 40 weight and 12 weight decorative threads. The quilting and decorative stitching is found in the second video:  http://Landscape Art Quilting Part 2  So this will be the second in my Landscape Skill-building series.  I hope to have a few more in the future.

Overall, I am trying to get faster and better in the videoing and the production of patterns and workbooks.  It’s a stretch but I enjoy having a creative challenge as I reach my 76th birthday this Friday, March 3rd!!!!  I anticipate many years still in this creative endeavor, and am increasingly employing the high tech tools in my studio to help overcome some of my aging factors that make hand sewing, for instance, and other things involved in fabric art more difficult.  Age should not be a limiting factor in creative pursuits.  Here’s an amazing performance of a 100 year old ballerina that highlights my point:

Ballet video:

I have also started making a new deep space show quilt based on a fabulous NASA photo.  At least I hope it will come out good enough to be a show quilt.  This will be my fourth space show quilt.  I am filming some of that as I work through it, but it is not intended for a tutorial, just some fun videos.  This type of quilt is almost entirely made at my sit down Bernina Q20 longarm in free motion.  The galaxy is made from Angelina Fibers and nylon veiling.  I really like this kind of quilting.  It’s like playing and dancing to me!  Here is my third deep space quilt, which won a couple of ribbons in its show life, although these are difficult to photograph:

I am hopeful I will get some good ideas from my “production crew” on how to best video my new space project.  Cameras have a hard time dealing with such reflective sparklies.

And no, that’s not all I am working on, in case you are wondering, but we will chat about these later in the year when I am closer to getting them up and running for you to see.

Sew happy everyone!! Young, old, and in between, have fun in your studios!

 

 

 

 

Studio Fun Begins for 2023

Hi everyone!  I have been working hard lately on pulling together some projects for this year of varying degrees of complexity.  I say “complexity” rather than “difficulty” because I have found over the years that many of even the most complex projects are not much more difficult than some one might call “simple” or “easy.”  They may take longer, but it is mostly a matter of going one step at a time and continuing to move forward in carrying out the project.  This is true for both making quilted fabric art and sewing or even tailoring complex clothing.

Of course, one does need to know what to do at each step and how to do it even for less complex projects.  That can be addressed by reading pattern instructions, testing techniques and products, watching videos, taking classes, talking with other fabric artists, and not getting discouraged when you need more help.

This past few weeks I looked over my stash, and I then added a few pieces of new fabrics to my stash:  a piece of silk dupioni and a piece of Kaufman Radiance silk/cotton to go with it.  Then I also added several pieces of solid colors of Peppered Cotton–designed by Pepper Cory–for some experimentation, demonstration, and fun that go together but I haven’t quite figured it all out. I also have had to buy some batting for future projects for the first time in a couple of years.   I guess I have done more quilting than I realized.  I think I am pretty much swupplied for quilting for the whole of this year.

It has been quite a long time since I bought new fabrics…maybe three or four years.  I used to have a very large stash, but have used up a lot in those years and also found places to give some of my fabrics to lower the volume.  These are fabrics I am not going to use.  Though I loved the fabrics I gave away, they didn’t fit my plans for the next year or so and I needed to empty some storage spaces for future projects.  I gave them to my friend Anita who took most of them and made a beautiful quilt for the quilt drive for Ukraine.  She has a new Bernina 480 and it is a bit small for a large quilt.  The Lutheran World Relief, however, wanted a 60″ x 80″ quilt, which is really quite large for her domestic sized machine.  So she made it by a quilt-as-you-go method, which gave a bit of relief on managing the size up until the last bit. She used the method described by Nina McVeigh in this little Bernina video:

Bite size quilting

 

The back of Anita’s quilt is as fun as the front

The front of her quilt has lots of beauty to discover.

This quilting method gave her the opportunity to learn how to deal with her new machine, practice both feed dogs up and free motion quilting, and make this big quilt.  I understand the last bit was kind of tough to get it through the machine. It might not be big for some of you who have larger machines or longarms on a frame, but for her machine it was gigantic.  She did a great job and shipped it off.  Personally, I think it looks both interesting and comforting and whoever gets it will surely appreciate it. She decided she will probably make smaller charity quilts in the future for other organizations that can use them.  But I believe she managed to keep some of those beautiful Japanese themed fabrics for projects of her own.  Thank you Anita for doing this.

If you are interested in making and donating a quilt for this effort, here is the pdf file with all the instructions. They accept quilts of many levels, but they must be 60″ x 80″.  Please read the instructions before beginning.  5708

Sew the first thing I have done this year is develop a list of projects I really want to do someday, but it was waaaay too long!!!!  So I looked really hard at the list and knocked it down to a shorter list that is still too long.  Then I concentrated on about four longer-project quilts getting all the pieces together drafting the patterns or guide sheets, digitizing some embroidery, and, if needed, drawing up some applique shapes.

I also have about ten short tutorial projects.  All of these are for my YouTube videos.  I am sure I will drop some of these as I work out the logistics and draft the patterns, but it’s one way I have to deal with my over-stuffed idea space in my brain.

idea space in my brain…lol

I also am calling on my talented daughter-in-law, Beth, to help me draw some of the landscape sketches I need for basing some of these.   This should keep me busy for quite some time.  LOL

I’ll let you know what they are when I get each one ready to go.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio in 2023!

 

 

 

 

Decorative Stitching Fun with Metrics

I don’t know about you, but I love fancy stitching with my machine.  I enjoy having so many beautiful decorative stitches available on my machine. I used to just pick a stitch and went with wherever the machine started it and stopped when I got to the end of where I wanted it without worrying too much about whether it was at a good stopping place in the stitch pattern, thinking I couldn’t do anything much about it.  I just hoped the decorative stitch would finish at a nice spot when I got to the end. It usually looks pretty that way, but it can be better.

Recently it dawned on me that my machine, a Bernina 880 plus, provided me with some interesting tools to get the pattern precisely placed and spaced perfectly. With a little research I found that most Berninas have many (not all) of the same tools I have to work with on this and provide “total stitch control”.  Even my machine doesn’t have all the tools for all the stitches probably because they don’t work well for a particular design.  But they are still adjustable.

Amazingly, I have had Berninas for many years and only just started paying attention to using the metric measurements as a feature because of a little YouTube on Bernina International by Silvain Bergeron about making napkin rings from Cork fabric that highlights this feature. So I thought I would tell you what I learned after playing with this because maybe you haven’t thought much about it either.  Even if you don’t have a Bernina, maybe your machine has something similar, I don’t know what’s available on other brands, so check it out. Now don’t misunderstand, I am not a Bernina rep or ambassador or have any connection to Bernina other than I am simply a lover of the machines and want to share when I find something fun and this is fun. I have had Bernina machines for more than 35 years.

So to illustrate this, I made a few screen captures of the steps using the simulator for my machine.

Step One:  Measure the length you want your decorative stitches to be on your fabric piece using mms rather than inches. I know…I’m an inch person too, but the metrics are easier for this process.  I use this really inexpensive ruler that is clear and flexible (can be bent around a curve on its edge, for instance).  It’s helpful to know that in general, one inch is 25 mm.  I am pretending that I need the length to be 60 mm long. Here’s a link to the ruler:

Ruler

Or if you are figuring for stitching around a circle, here’s a link to a PiDay circumference app you can just fill in the mm of the radius or diameter and it will tell you the circumference. Circumference of a Circle Calculator  If you are doing decorative stitching around a circle that you know the circumference, you may wish to do the adjusting of the size of the stitch set on the sewing side and then save it (only one repeat).  Then move to the embroidery side and pick the shape function.  Maybe I will do that on another blog.  It took me a while to figure that one out.

Step Two:  Pick your decorative stitch.  I’m going to use #406 on my 880 plus,  and I think it is a common stitch that most machines will have.  Then check the information on the screen as to the length of the stitch.  It is 13 mm long.  I need it to be 15 mm long so I can do 4 repeats and come out with my 60 mm length.

Step One:  If I just stitched it as is, my decorative design would stop somewhere in the middle of one of the triangles.  Click on that mm length.

Step Three:

You will now see this dialogue box that allow you to adjust the length. Note that the plus and minus will move it longer or shorter and you need to look at the number on the left of the stitch picture because to get the size, not the number on the button which is in inches.  Here it says “15.2” mm.

Step four:

Now touch the “i” button to bring up this dialogue box. And pick the button with the triangle and the two arrowheads at the top and bottom.

Step five:

Now you have this dialogue box where you can adjust the size by percentage and also balance the stitch density.  This is particularly useful for working with specialty threadweights. First adjust the percentage until you get 15.0 in the design length (or whatever you want for your project).  Then adjust the density.  If you are using a 12 weight thread, for instance, you want to lower the thread density…and if you are using an 80 weight you want to raise the density.  For most threads at 50 weight, leave it at the default until you do a trial stitchout.

Now you have the right length for four designs for every 60 mm length.

You should do a test stitchout on scrap fabric with a good stabilizer to see how this works before stitching on your project.

Sew this all takes more time and effort to describe than it is to do it, but understanding what is available can help you get that decorative stitch just wonderful on your blouse front, placemat, around a wall hanging, a teenager’s snuggle quilt, on a new bag, and on and on.  It makes things much nicer than just stitching out the default size of the decorative stitch and stopping wherever it stops.  People may not figure out why it looks so beautiful, but they will know it does.

Sew happy everyone!  Try a little adjustments using the metrics and the calculator on your phone and have fun in your studio.

 

 

 

Advancing One’s Fabric Artistry

Hi everyone!  I got to thinking a lot this week about what is needed to advance one’s fabric artistry abilities.  This was brought on because one of my best friends is getting a new sewing machine next week.  It’s already in, she just has to go pick it up and has scheduled a class for learning to use it.

For several years now I have been helping Anita learn how to add fabric as a new medium to her already wonderful art and basic sewing skills. She has made amazing progress.  In return, she has helped me reorganize my fabric and thread stash, assembled kits when I made them for classes, worked with me to make church banners (we go to the same church), willingly tested some of my ideas, and generally encouraged me in my current projects. We enjoy our sewing and chatting time together.

Her wonderful old Bernina 1230, which was nearly 25 years old and was originally mine, had the mother board die and they don’t make or have replacements anymore, so she bought a new Bernina 480.  This is a great choice for her because it has a 9mm stitch width with lots of decorative stitches and the harp space is one inch wider than her 1230.  It will advance her work.  Over the next year or so she plans to add some of the accessories that don’t come with it to stretch the usefulness of the already fabulous machine for her kind of work. It will take a Bernina Stitch Regulator, but I think she probably won’t get this for a while. The others include:

  1. The Gold ocher color bobbin case that gives a tighter bobbin tension than the black one that comes with it and is particularly useful for decorative stitching, free motion embroidery, and quilting. I think they should have included this in the initial machine package (do you hear me Bernina?).
  2. A single hole stitch plate for straight stitch accuracy and free motion stitching.
  3. The walking foot which is extremely helpful for a quilter/bagmaker
  4. Multi-Spool Holder: Attaches to the back of the machine and allows the use of threads on cones (cheaper by the yard) and has a telescopic threading rod that also helps manage the threads from metallics and other difficult threads.
  5. Bernina Thread Lubrication Unit: Helps handle metallics and other difficult threads (Rayons, for instance)
  6. Additional Feet:
    1. A quarter inch foot number 96 C with guide or #37 which enables really accurate quarter inch and eighth inch seams to piece things together.
    2. 20c open toed embroidery foot A definite necessity for any fabric artist.
    3. Narrow hemstitch foot (there are five of them of various types which make different kinds of narrow hems. Probably #63 would be my choice. She wants to make some scarves among other things that need narrow hems.
    4. Free Motion Couching foot #43: couch heavy threads, cords, and yarns to the surface of the fabric.  I have also used this as a free motion stitch foot for stitching over uneven surfaces before I got the cup foot.
    5. 39C clear embroidery foot: It is a great foot for decorative stitching and has a small hole for threading cordonet thread or other light cording through to stitch over with decorative stitching.

So far, she has developed fine skills and used them for free motion embroidery, hand embroidered baby quilts, appliqued bed runners, quilts for her grand children with free motion quilting, bags, a lovely drapey jacket, table toppers, and a beautiful Victorian ball gown for her grand daughter complete with a perfect fluffy petticoat for it.  I would say she has clearly graduated from a basic sewer to advanced intermediate sewer and intermediate quilter, and is hovering on the edge of tipping the scale into an advanced fabric artist and quilter.  While it is unfortunate her old machine died, this new machine will be a blessing for her.

 

Anita’s lovely granddaughter modeling her beautiful satin jacquard ball gown Anita made for her.

Sew in addition to a good sewing machine, what, in my humble opinion, does it take to become a master sewing artist? It definitely does NOT mean that everything you make is a masterpiece.  Sometimes the pieces are, frankly, not very good. It does, however, mean that you are capable of making a masterpiece and do from time to time and are willing to take the leap to try. Since I am an incorrigible list maker, I have a list of what I think is needed to reach for advanced fabric artist and quilter. It’s an ongoing endeavor and lots of fun to do.

  1. It takes a good understanding of your machine (or machines) and a number of interesting things you can do with it beyond make a seam or a buttonhole and kind of constant testing and trying out of possibilities with it.  Never stop learning.  I am constantly working on this myself. Indeed, I have spent the last six months or so learning things I didn’t know or needed to improve in using my Bernina 880 plus.  I’m sure my sons and daughter-in-law are tired of hearing “wow! Did you know I can do such and such with my machine?”  But I have to tell someone!
  2. Handwork, even if you are, like me, primarily a machine person.  You can turn your understanding of handwork into using your machine for about 90 percent of the time.
  3. It really helps to gain a solid understanding of interfacings, stabilizers, and battings; fibers and their properties; thread types and weights and what they are for; what needles you need for which threads and kind of sewing; markers; and tools available beyond the obvious.
  4. There are always new developments in sewing tools and I am often surprised by what’s available now. The struggle is figuring out what tools are really needed or at least would help speed or improve a frequently needed process and which can be passed over.  I am sort of a gadget/tool fan, so I often have to tell myself “no” firmly when confronted with the purchase of a new tool.  Hahaha. I do have a large collection, but I have been sewing since I was five and am now 75. Plus I inherited both my mother’s and my mother-in-law’s sewing supplies. So the vast majority of my sewing tools have been around for a long while.
  5. But chiefly, it takes allowing yourself to have confidence in your abilities, and a certain amount of willingness for risk taking that comes with realization that one will sometimes fail and have to spend a lot of time unstitching or remaking pieces of a project or start all over using a different direction. It’s part of the adventure.  Also, sometimes, you just have to abandon a project and realize it is ok to do so.  I constantly work on this.
  6. Where I personally need to work the hardest is in my designs.  That is the hardest thing for me because I almost never use someone else’s designs and often have a vision in my mind that may be difficult to get down into a workable pattern or guide either on paper or on my computer.
  7. Piecing accurately.  Even an art quilter needs to piece from time to time. I think I am just fair intermediate piecer.
  8. Speaking of patterns, I am working on improving my professional pattern-making skills to a higher level for use by people who would like to try the projects I present on my YouTube channel, in my blog here, and in books.  I no longer have classes since Covid shut them down and I switched to videos and writing permanently, but I still teach by these methods and one-on-one in person.
  9. There are other things that may add a lot to a project, especially in the embellishment arena, but are not required.  These might include crystals and beads, fabric paints, found objects, charms, 3 dimensional sewing (like butterflies and flowers for instance), machine embroidery–both in-the-hoop if you have an embroidery machine and out of the hoop (even if you do have an embroidery machine).
  10. I’m sure I have forgotten something. Do you have any ideas?

The thing to know is that you probably already have most of these things in your virtual tool belt and, like me, mainly just need to learn more in each of these categories.  I find it fun.  Do you?

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and let me know what your fabric adventures are.

Embellishing Your Projects, Part One

Sky Horse from 2014. This quilt won several ribbons and was shown at Houston IQF in 2014. It is inspired by NASA photos of the Horsehead Nebula.

Hi everyone,

I was just listening to Dee’s Saturday Sampler (TQS) talking about adding hot fix crystals to quilts.  Now she did a nice presentation.  But there were a few points that I would like to add.  I have lots of experience doing this across the years, especially for my deep space quilt series and Christmas quilts.  Also, I add a few crystals for many other types of quilts. Even though I wrote about this in a blog back in 2018, I thought it was time to revisit this technique and update what I said back then.

Stellar Nursery, my first deep space quilt using NASA’s “Mountains of Creation” pictures.

 

My love for embellishments 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.  Now I mostly use hot fix embellishments, including Swarowski crystals, hot fix pearls, and different shapes.

Out of Mom’s Workbasket. This quilt won Third Place in the Traditional category in Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival 2021. I did not show it elsewhere because it is white and precious to me. I used hot fix pearls across the quilt.

I recently replaced my hot fix crystal wand.  It works very well for me especially when I use hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! It works also with digital cutters that make hot fix crystal designs, such as the Brother Scan and Cut, but you need the Rhinestone Starter Kit to go with it for that. I do not have this kit, so I have not tried making them.

Sew here are my steps for adding hot fix crystals to a quilt.

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. With your craft or old scissors, cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
  3. Place the item you are embellishing  flat on the table or ironing board.
  4. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  5. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) on a section of the quilt in the pattern you want them .
  6. Lower your transfer tape piece carefully down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
  7. Grab a large ceramic cup  or dish to put your hot wand into.  I think the cup works a little better than the dish shown here, but either one works better than those little stands that comes with some of them.
  8. With the wand iron, heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs.  You can move the whole tape with the crystals on them a little bit as you need them.  Hold it firmly in place and tap your toe, or count slowly.
    • tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
    • medium ones require about 20 counts
    • the larger ones require more…30 to 40 counts to be really secure.
    • the shaped ones do best with a small iron flat on the tape.  I did have one iron get too hot on the tape once and it melted a piece of the tape!  I only had it happen once and that iron died shortly thereafter, so it may have been operating badly on the way out.

The transfer tape does not melt and 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 and replace the tape if so.

Another way to approach it is to place multiple crystals on the tape upside down with the crystals 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.

I like to shake the quilt when all the crystals are cool to see if anything falls off.  Sometimes it does, but now is the time to find out.  So just put the crystal back down and cover it with the tape and re-iron.  Occasionally, a crystal does not seem to have adequate glue, so you can throw that one away and use another one, or use glue to affix it.

These crystals and pearls really add some loveliness to your projects.  They are washable and durable, especially if you shake the item to make sure they are fully attached.  Some say it is possible to get carried away with such crystals and pearls.  Some quilt police types feel they should never be on  your quilt.  I say, it’s your quilt.  Add the sparkle you want and ignore them and enjoy your blinged out piece.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!!!

 

 

 

“Hand Work” by Machine

I am sure you’ve noticed that there is a recent renewal of interest in embroidery and quilting by hand.  I can appreciate this.  I used to do a lot of it myself.  It looks wonderful and can give the stitcher a sense of meditative happiness and quiet, plus you end up with a beautiful piece to quilt and/or put on the wall, make into a pillow, or frame for a gift.  These are often small and exquisite little jewels that are a great pleasure to make and view.

As wonderful as these are, I am thinking that with today’s machines, specialty threads, specialty feet and attachments, plus a community of sewers and quilters who are constantly developing new techniques, it is possible to create equally exquisite little pieces by machine.  Mind, I am not advocating giving up hand work, just using it as inspiration for some extraordinary stitching by machine, or using both together on a single piece. While this might enable one to make such a treasure in a  shorter space of time, it may not be that much faster, but interestingly challenging in a different way.  Machine work is especially nice if one is facing arthritic or injured hands that make doing the hand stitching difficult or painful. Yes, it will almost certainly look a little different, but the texture and beauty that can be accomplished may be equally extraordinary.

I have two sources of inspiration that has made me want to try this.  Alex Anderson recently ran a free class on The Quilt Show and YouTube called Make It Your Own stitch along lessons.  I watched it.  I did not make one, but I found some of the results truly beautiful.  Trying to make a similar piece  by machine may be very interesting.

The second one is the Royal School of Needlework posts in Instagram. Their work is truly incredible. I am particularly fond of their gold work which is often a combination of couched on gold cord and padded embroidery. But I also love many of their other colored embroidery pieces. Can I approximate the looks of these pieces?  Well, I don’t know, but it is worth a try.  I do know that it is possible to do padded embroidery in-the-hoop, and I have done a lot of couched work on all three of my machines.

I will do a little experimenting first, and then demonstrate some of the techniques on my YouTube channel.  What do you think?  Would you enjoy that? This will take me months before I am ready to record the work, but I will keep you apprised here on my blog of my progress.

The first thing I need to do, and, in fact, am already doing, is to make myself an interesting “library” of stitches I can do on my machines using different threads, different settings, and including the default settings.  This actually came about because I ended up with a small stack of sheets of fabric all prepared for testing decorative stitches that I had put together for a class that I never ran due to the pandemic.  They are nice white on white quilting fabric backed with a stabilizer and I drew in lines and added a selection of needles up in the corner.  I think I will add some darker fabrics and interesting designs that I can get from my Bernina 880 plus.  Once I get this done, I will be better able to decide how to make some of my ideas and draw up instructions or a pattern.  I tell you, it is almost equally as meditative and calming to me to stitch these library sheets as it would be by hand.  I think the key is to not try to rush this project, but to sew at whatever speed it takes to get things to work right.

I am using all kinds of threads and weights I have in my stash, primarily from Wonderfil Threads (a relatively new passion of mine), but also from Superior Threads (which I developed a huge stash of over the years.  It differs a bit from Wonderfil, so they work well together).  I believe my thread stash is bigger than my fabric stash at the moment. When I finally get to the first project, I will give you a list of the threads I use so you can try them if you want.

In the process of putting together the right fabrics for these types of projects I thought you might like to know favorites that I’m sure you would love too that would make great fabrics for such projects (beyond our stand by of high quality quilting cotton).  These include Kaufman Essex Linen, a wonderful linen/cotton blend good for a multitude of sewing projects, and Kaufman silk/cotton Radiance.  Surprisingly, I also found that faux silk polyester dupioni (the 58 inch wide) makes a wonderful choice, but it needs to be backed with a lightweight iron on fusible such as  Pellon SF101 iron on woven interfacing.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Surface Design to Quilted Art

Making Spiral Gallaxy 3 (see below)

You may not know, but I have happily received several delightful and prestigious awards in Surface Design or similar awards over the years. I still find surface design and embellishment to be the most interesting part of making quilted wall art pieces.

The border swirls and leaves were all painted after quilting using Setacolor and Jacquard paints.

Some of my quilts are entirely surface design and quilting, such as my deep space quilts.  These encompass several techniques that often include multiple media pulled together, and are oh so fun to do.

Spiral Gallaxy 3…a wholecloth quilt with large Angelina Fibers applique, black veilling, a little background paint, lots of threadwork and quilting, and tons of hot fix crystals.

So what do I mean when I say Surface Design and Embellishment?  There may be a more formal definition among professional artists, but I personally mean anything outside the norm that is added to the fabric during construction of the piece or even a mostly finished piece to enhance the look or complete the design.  This might include paint, decorative thread-work, lace, Angelina Fibers, beads, buttons, crystals or found objects, and even dimensional applique.

Hawaiian Garden. The central panel is a vintage piece by Albert Shaheen. I made this as a challenge piece for MQX show in 2016. I pulled the border design from the panel and quilted, then painted the borders. I gave this to my brother and sister-in-law for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

To me, surface design is like play.  Over the next several months, I am planning on providing some demonstrations on my YouTube channel presenting some of my techniques and products I use.  The first of these will be painting on a previously quilted piece.  The various fibers and fabric weaves respond differently to the selection of the painting product. Over the years I have accumulated a nice variety of these products and kept them replaced when used up or dried out, although recently it did hurt my feelings to find I had a large percentage of my Setacolor fabric paints that had dried out.  I don’t know why they did (I’m kidding), since they were only 8 or so years old and mostly less than a quarter of the jar left…LOL. So I threw a bunch out and rearranged what I have left to use for this project.  I think I have not been making enough wall art over the past couple of years, probably because life got in the way for a while, but I am back now to full time work and feeling pretty good for an ancient fabric artist.

For the most part, the products I use are basically machine washable in cold water once heat set with an iron.  Some do require a medium, such as GAC Fabric Medium or drug store pure Aloe gel, to make them permanent or even to make them behave right on fabric.  I plan on doing a test or two for you to show the results on this blog.  My goal has always been to use the product that helps me create the look I want without changing the hand of the fabric and that can be washed when needed.  I want to be able to wash a quilt even if it is going to be a piece of wall art only.  You’d be surprised how dirty a show quilt can get when it has been shown in multiple shows or hung for years. But they don’t need to be washable frequently in hot water, like you would if you are making a snuggle quilt for a child, for instance. I would not recommend painting such a snuggle quilt.

Anyway, I have been making a set of small quiltlets with spaces in them to paint and I am just about ready to start filming this work.  It will be fun for me, I’m sure.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!