Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sparked Inspiration

I took one of the pictures I posted the other day and made a rough sketch, picturing in my mind what elements I want to convey, textures and techniques to work on including threads and any other elements. 
The sketch is just a rough estimate of where I want to place my elements.  I've drawn the tree larger and forefront so it looks more substantial than in the original picture.  

The next thing is to choose the fabrics in the colorways that closely resemble the original picture, but not exactly and you could actually change any of them or add a different color.  The cream on cream fabric is used as my foundation.  At this point I could have drawn onto the foundation to show where the placement of my elements will go.  However, since this only measures around 11" square, I thought I would just eyeball it.

Then, working from the background out as if it were a 3D form, lay the foundation piece which is cut roughly to your desired size (mine is 11").   Then lay on a piece of Steam-A-Seam 2 (SAS2).  Now, place your background color element, tap down slightly to make it stick.  I used the snippet technique.  This requires no measuring, no specific shapes at all, just start cutting keeping them fairly small overall. I used at least 6 different greens.   The SAS2 product is sticky before ironing and allows you to change position of any shapes before ironing down.   My greens are cut in snippets, no actual shape, although some look like tiny triangles, or size.  The large green area in the center of the background is where the flowers will go with some of the green peeking through.  I could have cut this green piece into snippets as well, but thought this would be easier to manage and place down the flower elements.  

In this picture above, I am showing the addition of SAS2 on top of the large green element for the tree placement and the flowers.  In hindsight I might not have used the Steam-A-Seam 2 product here as stitching through 2 layers of glue is a technical issue, but not impossible.  

Now,  I've placed my tree trunk to the left on top of the SAS2.  I've snipped the flower colors and placed them around the tree almost forming a path.  Take a flat edge (I used my bone tool) and slightly push a few snippets under the trunk edge, just so it doesn't look like a defined line.  

Using a clear or white see thru organza, cut a rough 11" square and place over the piece.  Make sure this is how you want it, you will not be able to change anything after the organza is sewn in place.  Cover the top with a pressing sheet and gently press and hold for 8-10 seconds so the glues will fuse underneath.  Remove the pressing sheet and carefully transfer it to your sewing station.  
Choose what types of threads you want to use.  I used variegated cotton, variegated polyester, and solid cotton threads in 40 weight.   Now, use a piece of batting or wadding of your choice.  I used a product called byAnnie Soft and Stable.  It is used for tote bags and such.

Sew all around the edges to secure the organza.  

Thread paint or sew down as you wish.  I used free motion quilting stitches on the snippets and changed to a walking foot for the tree trunk.

This is as far as I've gotten on this piece, but it is not done.  I am thinking of adding some beading and possibly another element on top, but in the coming days I'll get back to it and play around with it.
As you can see, this is not an exact replica of my original picture, it's merely a representation.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Inspiration in January

January is my least favorite month in the year.  Freezing cold days with a mix of snow and ice storms that seem to last forever even though the days are short.  For me, sleeping is interrupted by the glow of moonlight and snow coming through the windows.  Though I feel rested, coffee is still needed to give me that boost in the mornings.   It should be a good time to stay inside and plan, organize and finish any lingering UFO's.  However, I find myself at a stand still.   

Turning to my pictures, spring blooms cheer me up and give the inspiration I am craving. The carpets of crocus's winding around trees in bright happy colors gives me ideas like scraps of prints in these colors winding through a background of green grass and using thread painting techniques and beads to add interest and texture.  

I love this crocus with the water droplets.  I would like to experiment using threads and/or beads to get the look and depth of the droplets.   Dying, painting or even discharging the dye in a fabric patch would look flat to me, so possibly using trapunto work would make it more visually appealing.

This Hellebore would be a great subject for discharge dying, thread painting, embroidery, and bead work.  

Glancing through these pictures gives me inspiration in not only new projects, but to finish the UFO's I've started.   

I suppose this winter picture could be inspiring, but for me, winter is not my season and I anticipate spring and the promise it brings.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reflecting - Year in review

As this year is coming to a close, I have to reflect back on what I've accomplished.  There's been a lot of starts and finishes I can be proud of.  It seems there are always some things that get put to the side, that can wait for later.  Those always weigh heavier on my mind than the mountain of successes.  Not meaning to emphasize the negative more than the positive, but it does happen.  There's also been times where I just can't get back to it and must purge myself of the entire project.  Whether it was a tangible start or just a thought or scribble in my journal.  Passing on a tangible start to someone else could be a blessing for them, but nothing more than a burden for me.  In other words, you don't have to finish something you've started if it brings you grief.  Let someone else have the joy in it.

Recently I organized my cupboards of fabrics and patterns.  I've discovered things tucked away and shuffled around that I've had for years.  Not just a stash of fabric, but the many notions I have, like buttons, velcro, DMC floss, tiny silk roses, snaps, bits of foil, etc, etc, etc... It may be time to purge myself of these things and move on.  Will I be able to part with them?  Hmmm, will have to ponder that for a while, but not linger on about it for too long.  There's always Murphy's law.  The moment I need something for a project, I won't have it any longer.  So, that's why I'm in this predicament, boxes and drawers full of odd bits and pieces.

OK, enough rambling.  Here is my year in review for 2016....

"Orange Slices" table runner using circle tool
T-Shirt quilt + tutorial on binding a quilt
Valentine quilt
"Green bricks" Baby quilt
"Bird on a wire" small art thread painted quilt
"In the Woods" post card snippets technique and thread painting
"In the Midst of Chaos" sister quilt of "Garden Ladder"
Biscornu book weights with quilt stitches and beaded edges
Eric and baby portrait quilt
Dad's portrait multi-embellished 
Dad's portrait
Improv top (not finished)
Multi-medium post card with beads
Post Card Thread Study
Blue jean rug finished #2
College quilt for Clemson graduate
Baby quilt
Cheater quilt finished with beads and stitching

Not pictured are 12 TQPM (The Quilt Pattern Magazine) quilts for small pets finished and mailed to a kennel in need after hurricane flooding in South Carolina.  
Also not pictured, Ornaments table runner, a Christmas gift for my DS.  
A tangled stitched book cover, also a Christmas gift and a tangled and stitched luggage tag.  

Wow, when I look back at the year in pictures like this, it really does put everything in perspective.  
Here's to 2016 and looking forward to 2017....CHEERS everyone!  :o)  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hand Stitching - brings memories


           My studio is clean now.  Yep, even my shelves are straightened up and weeded out for donations/charity quilts.  Not a week ago, there were scraps, strips and orphan blocks littering the floor.  On my wipe board, there's a list of UFO's, starts and donation quilts to make/finish.  But, I want to dial down and work on some hand stitching.   Using a machine to do all the work makes me feel like I am just speeding through trying to get it done and out of the way for the next.  So, slowing down, making my brain work will not only make me appreciate the piece more, but help me keep a perfect precise stitch.   Felt is wonderful to work with.  It's easy to stitch through and you don't need a seam allowance or to turn it inside out.  The felt ornament above was hand stitched and only took about an hour from start to finish along with a short coffee break.

          When I started quilting over 33 years ago, I didn't have a sewing machine so all my stitching was hand done.  In those days, my fingers ached and bled.  I was used to getting small blood stains out of my blocks with my saliva.  Sounds gross, but believe me, it's the best way to get blood out of fabric.  It took me years to complete a twin size quilt.  First cutting templates, marking with a pencil adding 1/4" seam allowances.  Finally cutting the hand drawn shapes out with scissors, yes, even simple squares were drawn out and cut.  There was no such thing as a cutting mat or rotary cutter.  My teacher was a patient person giving us personalized attention when needed.

          The class project was a sampler wall hanging using polyester batting.  It was horrible stuff.  Lumpy and thick looking which doesn't hang quite right.  But, having said all this about that first project, I look back on it as a great learning experience.  You have to start somewhere.   There's some problems with this first piece, sure.....but, the seam allowances are perfect, the corners and joins are perfect, the points are perfect and the quilting stitches are.....not so perfect, but hey, it was the first project, and the one thing my teacher always said was "practice makes perfect".   I did practice, and practice, and practice, but my quilt stitches were just OK, not wonderful or perfect.  Probably embarrassing is a better word.   I did a lot of stitching in the ditch.

          About 20 years ago, I decided to learn machine quilting.  It took a couple quilts to really get the hang of it, but no where near the hours of practice that hand quilting takes.  Looking back on it, I could have easily just given up on quilting altogether, but it's a feeling of accomplishment every time I finish something no matter how large or small the project is.  It's a good feeling.  ;o)


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tangled Biscornu

I checked out this book from our public library.   After opening to the first few pages, I knew this was going to be a great beginner's approach to zentangling a quilted project.  The tangled doodles in one chapter are easy and fun to practice.  The small projects to apply the tangles are easy and can be completed in hours using the step by step instructions.  I was intrigued by the biscornu, however instead of making a pin cushion, I stuffed the center with pebbles and poly beads to make it a weight to use in my sewing room.  So, how are these made?  Biscornu is a french word roughly translated to irregular shape.  They are traditionally made with aida cloth and cross stitched with elaborate patterns. However, when I saw these on the cover of this book, I just had to find out if it was something I wanted to do.  

Four squares are cut 4" for the white one and 6" for the black one.  Layer 2 solid color  same size squares on top of a batting/wadding square.  Sew all around leaving an edge open to turn right side out.  Layer the last pair of same size squares right sides together on top of another batting/wadding square.  Sew around all edges leaving an opening and turn right sides out.  Sew openings closed and iron lightly.  You can choose to eyeball your design or draw directly on top of the solid color sandwich for your tangled stitching.  Using a contrasting thread, sew your design.  Just remember to use a light handed pencil line, or use a disappearing marking tool.  I chose to eyeball my designs.  To get the irregular shape, you mark the center edge line of each side, so the 4" is marked at the 2" center on all 4 sides.  Now with wrong sides together, hand sew one corner to the center mark taking small tight stitches.    This will make a corner, so turn the piece and sew the next edge from the center mark to the next corner.  Keep going around the piece until you come to the last 2 edges to sew closed.  Stuff with your preferred materials.  Sew the edges closed.  Your stitches will be visible, but you can use a decorative thread to show off the stitches, or cover them with trims or beads.

 To finish, I added beads which are hand sewn to all the edges.  Now I use them as paper weights and book weights in my sewing room so I never lose my place in a book or pattern again.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In the Midst of Chaos - Finished

I've finished this wall quilt with a black binding and simple random curvy intersecting line quilting stitches using Superior Threads Rainbows thread in a variegated green color.   The quilting lines were achieved by starting in one corner and imagining where I wanted to end up (somewhere opposite), using the selected thread, 14/90 topstitch needle and a walking foot on a medium speed setting.  I didn't use a free motion foot, although you can, but I wanted to try it out with the walking foot to see if I could control the stitching line better than the free motion technique.  It worked better than I anticipated even with some of the lines being very curvy.   Not perfect in a couple spots, but not noticeable either with just a few bumps in my stitching line, which was purely my impatience.  

I love the way the stitching looks on the back and reminds me of tracks made in fresh snow.  Or how ice skating lines look on ice rinks.   If you've never done this kind of free stitching, I would say you have to try it out.  It's like doodling on paper, but you guide or "draw" with your machine needle.  If you think you've made a mistake, just keep adding lines and it won't look like a mistake in the end.  Don't stress out about not following a planned pattern.  Put your favorite music on and enjoy the freedom that flows from your creativity.    :o)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In the Midst of Chaos - Improv

In my last post I was sifting through my scrap bag.  I came across some orphan blocks and cut pieces from an improvisation project 2+ years ago.  The quilt I made was called "My Garden Ladder" which is on the right side bar of my blog page.  It was fun, but a little limiting as you are suppose to limit your color choices and stay away from wild prints.  Well, when I found the prints pictured above in my scrap bag and couldn't resist, I just had to revisit the improvisational piecing ideas only this time I still had a few boundaries, but didn't "plan" the whole quilt top layout.   The orphan blocks were placed onto my design board first, then strips cut roughly with scissors in different widths were placed around the blocks.  The large blue wild print was cut into rough squares and strips were sewed to 1, 2, 3 or all 4 edges.  You could mix it up or make them all the same, but I chose a completely mixed up and random order.  Composing the top by making rough squares sewn together to make rows, then sewing the rows together like a traditional quilt top.  Before sewing together the blocks and rows, I took a few digital pictures and made a few changes in layout.  This top only measures 20"X 35" and now I am contemplating borders or no borders.  I haven't thought about how I will quilt it yet, but since there is a lot going on in the wild fabrics, I will probably keep it simple either straight lines or wavy intersecting lines.

Wow, what a difference now in the amount of scraps left in my scrap bag.  Some scraps are too small to sew into blocks or even use for applique, so I may save them for a future small quilt using tiny cut bits under organza and thread painted over the top. Just like the post card quilt above (I have posted about this one before).  It will take a little time, but separating them into zip bags by color will help me save time later.  

The kennel quilts went in the mail last week, but I still have some cut strips leftover.  I'll save them for a future project.  Possibly more improv.  ;o)