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)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Scrap Bag Fun

Do you do this?  Accumulate scraps from every project you've ever done, storing them away for some future use that never really comes?   One day you realize that those scraps have to go.
Here is my nemesis.  Yep, a sea of assorted strips, squares, tiny bits and cut offs from the last few years projects.  I am in the process of making charity kennel quilts for the small animals rescued from the storms in the South East from Hurricane Matthew.  This is the purrrrfect use of those strips and orphaned blocks I've had laying around.  Go here to find out more and join the quilt team.   This is my sewing room as it looks most days I work in it.  I am sorting all those scraps to get to the cut strips, ironing them and setting them aside to make the kennel quilts.  

Of course, charity quilts are just one way to use up those scraps.  I peruse my scrap bag whenever I want to try out a new technique and don't want to cut into a nice new piece of fabric.  Sometimes I get so tired of seeing the same piece of Aunt Grace 30's green print that I have to either give it away or (I hate to say it...) I end up trashing it so I don't have to look at it anymore.  It's part of the problem of buying a yard or more of sale fabrics as some sales require at least a yard cut.  
Scraps are also great for those small projects like pin cushions, crafts, scrappy quilts, improvisational piecing and sandwiches for practicing quilt stitch patterns.  
Reserve some time today to spend in your sewing room.  ;o) 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Zentangle - Self Study course

The first time I heard the word "Zentangle", I was curious and wanted to find out more.  For my birthday this year, I asked for this book, which my DS so kindly gave me.  It is a 6 week course in this intriguing technique.  So far I'm on Day 3 which is going very well.   This is not only relaxing and creative, but helps me to open my mind to the art and to keeping a daily art journal as I did years ago (almost 20, to be exact) when I attended City and Guilds-Patchwork and Quilting.   The tile I created today looks like a cushion to me.
Day 3
Honestly, I think anyone can do this method even though it looks complicated.  The book takes it one day at a time and briefly describes the principles of art like shading which can give depth and dimension.   Elaborating on some of the designs can lead to some awesome ideas for patterns and quilting.    The basic concept is to fill every space of the tile with designs using marks, lines, shading, shapes, etc...
Day 1

Day 2
 Each day is a new addition to the marks and you make a new tile everyday, but I have not looked ahead to the next day as I don't want to have a preconception of what is to come, or psyching myself out by thinking "I can't possibly do that", and ultimately giving up.  You can, however, look back on the designs learned from past days to add to the current day's tile.  It's actually encouraged, and I can see that it adds so much to the finished tile.

 Being a quilter and seeing repetitive patterns over and over can be boring. I find whole cloth quilts beautiful in their own right, but again, not my type.   Color, texture, and quilting stitches can break up the monotony, but it doesn't change the repetitiveness.  Sometimes I finish a quilt and am disappointed by it for this reason.  This is why I don't like following a pattern verbatim.  Or I will put a spin on the design or do free hand quilting in my own designs.    The Zentangle method can work on quilt patterns and stitching to fill spaces and bring interest.   I want to test this out on a negative space quilt I have waiting for design inspiration, so this must be what I'm waiting for.  Using the thread in the machine, I will "draw" out my Zentangles to fill the spaces.  
For now, it's break time for my brain and I need to get dinner on.  I will get back to this in the coming days.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Thread Painting Study

Today I am working on an at home thread class project.  It happens to be on thread painting.  The technique uses water soluble medium called "Dissolve 4x Stabilizer" so that you can draw your design onto it, sew over it and dissolve the medium completely with water.  The class was designed by Superior Threads with designer Nancy Prince.  She is an award winning quilt artist from Florida.   The threads used are 100% Trilobal Polyester fiber. Go here to see these threads and brands.  The threads are shiny and they lay very flat.  If you are going for this look, they're great.  For this beginner thread class, they do work very well.   The background fabric I used here is hand dyed cotton.   The background, Dissolve medium and stabilizer are layered in a hoop and sewn over the lines drawn.  Drop the feed dogs, loosen the tension and use a free motion embroidery foot to work your design.  Change colored thread as needed for the top.  The bobbin thread I used is a neutral color light weight polyester "Bottom Line" thread by Superior Threads.  

This is just a small piece that will get cut down and sewn into a postcard.   But, I am finding this technique a little awkward and probably will not use the soluble again.   
I like variegated cotton threads in a couple different thicknesses that tend to give some dimension, depth and texture.  Couching down very thick threads, trims, yarns, and even metal threads add interest to designs.  When I went on retreat 5 years ago in Cumbria, I briefly mentioned this class I took with designer Kate Dowty.   This was an enjoyable liberating class and she was an exceptional teacher.  See her "Pebble Splash" class example here.   As soon as she described her inspiration for this piece, I knew I wanted to put my own view on it.  The representation of pebbles, water, sand, and marsh is represented in movement across the three panels horizontally.  

The elements are sewn onto sandwiched panels and thread painted around each pebble, adding lines of quilting to show movement like water, waves, bubbles for texture, etc...
The backing is layered right sides together and sewn all around leaving the tops of each panel open.  Make a few clips in the curves so they will turn easily, turn the pieces right side out.  The tops can be finished simply by turning in the edges and whip stitched closed, however, I wanted some drama to the tops, so I made a stiff velvet cap for each panel.  The beading is the final elements to be added to the design and some of the beads are sewn trailing off the edges.  I am very happy with this piece and want to do a second design using a different colorway.   ;o)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bread-Making today

Today I'm taking a break from sewing and quilting.  My mother-in-law gave me her recipes years ago so that I could make my husband's favorites.  One of them is this bread loaf.  It has Finnish origins and flavors like Cardamom.  I find bread making rewarding and relaxing.  Before baking, the tops are brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with coarse sugar.  The recipe for Pulla can be found here.
My in-laws used to eat this bread with a little butter and a cup of coffee.  We have it for breakfast, topped with jam or as French toast, or with peanut butter.  It's one of our comfort foods.  So, I make a batch at least once a year and freeze the loaves.

Just a little inspiration.
Summer is starting to wind down and I'm going to miss these blooms.  Our temperatures are very hot in the daytime hours.  I will stay inside and do some evaluating and cleaning of my studio.  That will set me up to start the next project.  Have a great summery day.  ;o)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Down By the Sea Postcard quilt

Postcard size thread painted quilt swap.  The theme for this is "Down by the Sea."   At first, I had no ideas.  After some brainstorming and sketching, I came up with seashells.  Using a white background, I painted it all over with inktense sticks.   They are water soluble which blends and makes a watercolor effect.  I used pigma permanent pen for the seashells tongue twister on the right side.  The first element was the scallop shell in the center.  I used a photograph and printed it onto canvas.  The next elements were the words I tore from a magazine.  I added them to my background with diluted white glue.  Let it dry, then laid all the elements out.   I cut the top and wadding to size  and layered them for the thread painting.  Thread painting really brings the elements to life and makes everything stand out.    The beads were added after all the other elements and before it was backed and zigzag finished.

The backing looks goofy here because I erased all the info printed to protect privacy.   Just to show that this is how I drew out the back.  The backing is a tan colored cotton fused to the quilt top and wadding.
This postcard is going overseas to its recipient, so I will put it in a bubble wrap envelope to protect it.  DH really liked this one, he didn't want me to send it off.  I will make him one so he doesn't feel left out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Moonlit Night

A nice moonlit night for inspiration.  
As the evening wore on, the moon moved near the power lines, so I couldn't resist taking some photos.  It was really beautiful and I am seeing a small piece of work here.  This would be a good subject for fabric painting and/or thread painting.   

  Years ago I started a post card series of quilted pieces I called "Postcards From the Edge", which were journal pieces of places we have been, so I'm adding this piece based on that series.    The sizes of these postcards vary.  
 The photos were printed and placed in a collage.  I also wanted to add a bird, so I drew that out as well.  
I used Inktense sticks to paint the background onto white cotton fabric.  They are water soluble and blend nicely.   I layered the background over the batting piece.  Using a pigma pen, marked where the moon was placed with a circle smaller than the actual moon piece.  Using a ruler, I marked where the power-lines went.  

Now, moving on to the shapes (moon, power lines, and bird).    The moon is an applique circle shape with slight gray colors shaded in random areas.  I drew a circle on the reverse side of the white fabric, sewed an interfacing on the drawn line and cut it out.  Cut a slit in the center of the interfacing, clipping close to the sewing line and turned right side out.  To lightly shade the moon, I used water soluble pencil in a gray color.   I ironed the shape and top-stitched it in place over the background.   Then I started thread painting over my marked lines for the power lines and bird.   

I cut a backing to cover my threads, but you could have sandwiched it in the beginning and stitched.  To finish, I zig zag stitched all the edges.  It turned out well and am happy with the colors.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Valentine - UFO

Remember this one?  It's been lurking in my UFO basket for nearly 9 years.  Time to pull it out and work on it.  My thought when I began it years ago, was to add more borders and some wording in the border.  I called it "Conversation Hearts" as the applique heart blocks have embroidered sayings in the center.  Just like the conversation heart candies.

 I got tired of it.  Trying to think past the business of the center and bringing some elements out to the border, it was just hard to concentrate on, so it ended up on the bottom of the basket until just the other day.  I pinned it up on my design board and sat across from it and stared at it for a while.  Dug out all the bits and pieces left over, then it slowly came to me.

I knew I wanted the words, "Be My Valentine", I just wasn't sure how I would arrange so few words around the entire border.  My bits and pieces were minimal so I couldn't make more words.  Why not bring the heart shape out into the border?  There was just enough pinks to cut some hearts out.  When I applique, I use a fusible and an interfacing on the reverse so that the stitching doesn't tunnel on the top.  The "interfacing" I used are clothes dryer sheets (used and saved).  Iron them flat onto the back of your applique shape and it will "stick" to your fabric if you sew around it right away.  I didn't have to use pins to hold it in place.  After you've stitched around the shape, just trim away the dryer sheet from the reverse close to the stitching.  Since the dryer sheet is very soft and fine, you could leave some of it attached, especially if your applique shape is really small, don't worry about trying to cut out every bit of it.

So this is the layout I liked the best.  I like the effect, the white in the border was needed to rest the eye from all that is going on in the center.  The wording and hearts pull the theme out of the center.  I don't want to add anymore confusion to it so my quilting will be an invisible thread in a simple design, probably large hearts and loops, free hand/free motion of course.

I have posted a step-by-step approach to binding a quilt here.  I want to add that instead of using a piece of cardboard for your binding spool, you could use an empty heavy cardboard roll from clingfilm or foil, and a little piece of 2 sided tape to hold the end to the roll.  Using the roll, it will be easy to unroll the binding while sewing and not leave any crease marks.

Instead of the binding being a tangled mess.....Use this to roll the binding to store until you need to sew it onto the quilt top.

The binding is ready to go and the top is now completed, but this is where I have stopped for now.  The next step is sandwiching, but it will have to wait a day or two.  I am just so happy to get this far on it.  No longer stalled on the design, it's decided and done, that alone feels like a big accomplishment.  And, there's a big void in my UFO basket!  ;o)