Showing posts with label Hand Applique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hand Applique. Show all posts

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Break

Now that all the birdhouses are done for Down in the Garden, I've been picking up a few of my other projects. Yesterday I finished up the piecing on this block of Best Friends Forever:

Although it's pretty cold today, on hot days it's nice to work on smaller, individual blocks like this, so I think I'll be doing more of them over the summer.

I also think that I'm going to unplug this summer, and take a blogging break. The last day of school was this week, and I've been reminiscing about how nice it was to look forward to a completely unstructured summer. I also remember that I used to go home with as many library books as I could! These days I'd rather stitch than read, but I still have a big line up to keep me busy.

Last winter there was steady, behind-the-scenes progress on Jacks and Cats:

All the wool felt pieces are sewn together, and I'm currently working on the back stitched lines for the teeth. The oval Jacks pumpkins will get their stems, vines and leaves once they are appliqued onto the blocks. I'd like to be well along on this by Halloween, although I doubt it'll be finished.

For Slow Stitching Sunday today, I'm going to put a few more stitches in this Dimensions Gold cross stitch design, A Kiss for Snowman:

This one will be finished soon -- just a few more stitches in the background, and all the outlining left to do.

In all the chaos with the basement flooding (we had three floods total last month), some of my new fabrics have been sitting on my sewing table, waiting for things to settle down. Tempting me. Eventually I started cutting them up:

They are the two new summer collections from Connecting Threads, Island Hopping and Batik Paradise. I thought they would be perfect for the cover quilt on Carrie Nelson's book, Schnibbles Times Two, which I've been wanting to make for ages. I put together a few rows, just to see how it works...

With the crosses and the Hawaiian-themed fabric, I'm calling the quilt "Aloha Kisses," The white fabric is from Northcott. Around here it is the same price as Kaufman Kona solids, and I actually like it better. It is smoother, the thickness of the threads is very consistent, and it has a dense, higher thread count that makes it stable and easy to sew. I am very happy with it!

And, of course, Down in the Garden still has plenty of work left to do. Here's the first of those dratted butterflies:

They're a trial, but I know they'll be worth it. They'll probably end up as the key feature of the whole quilt.

So, I don't think I'll have time to be bored this summer! But, I'm not going to schedule anything. And who knows, there may be more new projects as well. Like the kids, I'll be back for sure after Labour Day. If the finishes really pile up (she says optimistically), maybe you'll see me sooner. Our basement problems are half fixed, so there's still plenty left to do there as well.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great summer (or cozy winter if you are down under)! I'll still be around and answering email if anyone needs me. Take care!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Country House Landscaping

Gosh, I see it is almost two months since I last showed this block! It's the centre block for Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. I had to re-sew the roof seam on the machine before I could applique the trees. "I'll just wait until I have white thread in the machine," I thought. Did that happen? No. Finally I threaded the white thread specifically for that one seam. It only takes a minute -- silly, isn't it?

Anyway, it gave me lots of time to mull over the width of the strips for the trees. In the pattern the trees are a little Christmas-y, with stars at the top and an evergreen shape. The tree trunks are thicker than the branches. My version is smaller at 3/4 scale, decidedly summery, and I knew I wanted to change the tree shape and put leaves all the way around the top. Finally I decided to make all the stems everywhere on the quilt the same 1/4" size, using the Clover 1/4" bias tape maker. I like the feathery look to the trees. Plus, with the smaller scale I think consistency with the stems will be cleaner, and help to tie the whole quilt together.

The stems started out pretty wild...

...but they were soon pruned down to size. The leaves are big chunky detached chain stitches, done with four strands of floss, two medium and two light green. When you compare this with the first photo, you can see other changes as well. The doorknob was done in padded satin stitch:

While I was sewing the doorknob, the window above the door started to look too empty. As an experiment, I filled the space with the same motif as the gingerbread along the eaves. It seems like the obvious choice now that it's done, doesn't it?

But after that, the original gingerbread along the eaves looked very dingy, and I became convinced that I had used a different, less white, thread. After another day or so of dithering, I took out the original stitching. The new gingerbread was stitched with four strands of floss instead of the original two strands, and fewer "spokes" in the wheel:

I think it is better. With the heavier thread I thought the colonial knots in the original would be too much. Now that I am looking at the photos, though, the knots looked pretty good, so I may still try them. Without the knots, I did have to add an extra red brick on either side to fill the empty space.

The felted wool sheep were the last addition. Two of them are peacefully munching the daisies:

And the one on the far left is looking up... the big blue chicken which will sit on the right chimney. But, the chicken will overlap the top seam, so it is still on hold.

With the trees for landscaping, and the sheep as landscapers, I think the block has really come to life. Given that I started this block on January 2, I am glad to have it done!

Monday, March 30, 2015

MCH Month 3 Finished

Probably for the first time ever, I have finished a block in the same month that it was released! This is Month 3 of Lynette Anderson's 2015 BOM, My Country House. Of course it helps that it was the easiest month so far, and I simplified it further:

Instead of piecing the heart, I just fussy cut it whole from the same red fabric that I used for the house door in Month 1.

I've had the stems sewn down for over two weeks, but then I waffled quite a bit about how to sew down the hexie flowers. Click the photo to see it larger:

I pieced the flowers with 100 wt silk thread, which is completely invisible. But it felt wrong to use the same invisible thread to applique them down. So I had three options:

  1. Sew down the flowers invisibly with the 100 wt silk.
  2. Use cotton thread for the applique, same as the stems and heart. But, should I then change colours for the coral and orange hexagons?
  3. Use perle cotton and a running stitch for the applique, same as I did for Jacks and Cats. But what colour should that be? Yellow, orange, coral, or even black?

I do not believe that an invisible applique stitch is the only right way to applique. Rather, I think it depends on the type of project and how it will be used. In this case there will be a lot of wool applique, which I like to whip stitch down with a single thread of embroidery floss. And I appliqued the stems with cotton and a regular, visible applique stitch, so they would relate to the leaves.

Finally I chose to use pink perle cotton and a running stitch to applique the flowers. I had some size 8 perle cotton in my stash, so I used that, but ideally I think a narrower size 12 would be better. I think the pink blends well with the coral and orange, and it will look nice as a big stitch quilted detail on the heart, once I get that far.

I also waffled about whether to stitch the vein on the leaves, because that is a big commitment for the 48 leaves still to do in Month 2. But, since I went with the perle cotton on the flowers, I decided it would be a nice touch for the leaves. Fortunately, I had the perfect colour in my stash! It is also size 8, DMC 580 perle cotton, and back stitch. And it didn't take long at all.

At 3/4 scale, I was just able to squeeze the 40.5" block into one width of fabric. I still need to finish the trees on Month 1, and then I'm going to move ahead to all the pieced blocks. There's a postage stamp border between Month 1 and Month 2, and I have the idea that it will be more efficient to make the stamps from the leftovers of the pieced blocks. I'm not sure it really is efficient, but I will try!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

House Construction Finished

The main building work on the centre house block for Lynette Anderson's My Country House is now complete:

However, as with many contractors, some of the finish work still needs to be done!

After I finished the bricks and the gingerbread, I had to redesign the windows and door to fit into the new smaller space. The new windows are 1" square, and I decided it would be easiest to reverse applique them in. I used a ruler to draw the windows and door right on the fabric, and then thoroughly basted the blue fabric to the back:

On the front I cut open and appliqued one window at a time:

Lake view!

The door was also reverse applique, but I have no progress photos. After I cut away the yellow fabric from the whole arch, I tucked the red door fabric between the yellow and the blue. This left the blue transom window above the door free, and I just appliqued it all down. It was tricky, which is why there are no photos, but I am very pleased with the outcome:

There will be a gold doorknob satin stitched in the centre of the red circle. The white crosses in the windows are back stitched with four strands of embroidery floss. The original design has embroidered flowers in the transom window, but I like it the way it is, so I will skip that.

Any readers who are also making this project will notice that I ignored the instructions and sewed together the whole block before appliquing the chimneys (and the door). This was by design! My plan was to open up the seam just by each chimney and tuck the seam allowance inside. Then I wouldn't have to worry about placement beforehand.

The chimneys are 1/2" square, and I basted everything well before the final stitching:

With the applique finished, I just have to take out the basting, go back to the machine and re-sew the roof seam.

I did the same thing for the door, so the grass seam will also have to be re-sewn. But, the trees still have to be added and tucked under the grass, so for now that is just hand basted closed. The trees are next!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jacks and Cats Progress

There's been progress on many fronts on my Jacks and Cats Halloween quilt. Last time I showed you all the felted wool cats glue basted and ready to sew. Now they are all sewn together and ready for the next step. Somehow the stitching makes them even cuter!

I've also prepped the pumpkins (Jacks). At the end I had an extra set of eyes! I guess the cyclops pumpkins threw off my count:

I remembered early on that the Roxanne Glue-Baste-It is not enough to hold everything together while I stitch, especially since I don't like to use too much. So you can see that I've added a few basting stitches as well. The pumpkin stems, vines and leaves can't be added until the faces are stitched onto the backgrounds.

Speaking of backgrounds (nice segue, eh?), I've sewn eight of the fifteen circles:

I really like those moody dark ones!

After the circles, the next layer is a wonky starburst, which I decided to make from my fall coloured homespuns. They are horrible to work with! Too loose and stretchy by half. But, they do look pretty nice:

I thought these stars would be the perfect opportunity to try out some running stitch applique:

I first saw this technique in Piece O'Cake's book, Applique with Attitude, and I've been waiting several years now to try it. It is stitched with #12 perle cotton, the edges are turned, and the inner corners all have a little crow's foot to hold them down. I love the way it looks! Plus, it feels surprisingly sturdy, and I don't think it will fray. I won't be cutting away the background, though.

However, I still need more practice with it. My stitches got smaller, tighter, and closer to the edge as I went around the star. It was not an improvement! I will probably have to back out some of the last stitches.

Here's an idea of how it will all go together:

It's a bit of a fibre lover's dream, this quilt! The mix of textures, colours and patterns is very satisfying.

In all, I think I am still less than half way, but I'll probably pack it up for a while now. I think I've had my fill of fall colours, because for the past couple of days I've had the most incredible craving for flowers!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Caribbean Blue

Sometimes, when the sun hits the lake at the right angle on a day like today, it almost looks like a Caribbean blue. Almost? Well...

There decide. This is Willemstad, Curaçao, and the photo is courtesy of this website. Willemstad is the inspiration for a new project that has totally jumped the queue despite my best efforts to suppress it. This pile of fabric has been sitting on the corner of my sewing table for over a week now:

It is clear that I won't get anything else done until I deal with it. Although it was published in 2005, I just bought Home Sweet Home by Barb Adams and Alma Allen a couple weeks ago after I saw a finished version of the quilt over on the Den Haan & Wagenmaker's blog here. So I have some "Double Dutch" inspiration to blame! Did the Dutch blog give rise to the Willemstad connection? Maybe. All I know for sure is that I really wanted to use a supersaturated blue background, and some bright Caribbean colours:

The weather forecast for Toronto is well below freezing all next week, but I'm hoping these colours will keep me warm! Now that I've bowed to the inevitable, I'm hoping to get the houses blocked in quickly. I needed a real applique project, after all. Wasn't it one of my New Year's resolutions? ;)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

First Embroidery for L'Herbier

I spent a challenging but rewarding day yesterday working the first embroidery for my new L'Herbier embroidered wall quilt. Yesterday I wrote at length about my process for preparing the applique circle prior to starting the embroidery. "The final test," I said, "will be the embroidery." I am so glad that I didn't go ahead with all the circles before starting the embroidery!

It was brutal. The muslin is far too tightly woven for ribbon embroidery. I dug out my grippy rubber thimbles, and you can see I managed, but I can't do all 16 embroideries that way. Live and learn! I will have to find something else with a looser weave for the backing.

But otherwise, everything else worked perfectly! With the two layers appliqued together, there was no problem at all with them shifting around. It was easy to hold, stable, and stayed flat. I did not use a hoop at all, as it turned out.

This was my very first time doing ribbon embroidery. Maybe it will be better with a different backing, but it is not as fast or fun to stitch as I expected. I do have to admit, though, that the ribbons are pretty. They pick up other colours from their surroundings, which gives them a lot of depth. The flowers are made with 7 mm ribbon and a single-wrap French knot. Then you go back and squish it down with a bead. Simple but effective!

The stems are worked with fine wool and embroidery floss held together. I was interested to learn that in French, all the small stems are called "ramifications." It's a good visual for the meaning of the English word too!

The main stem is 8 strands of thread held in a chenille needle. I thought that was hard to stitch, but the ribbons proved to be far, far worse. The last two stitches on the stem are done twice to give some extra thickness to the base. It is a nice effect that I will remember for other projects!

I am very pleased with how the leaves turned out. Aren't they elegant? They are just ribbon stitch with the 4 mm green ribbon, and angled blanket stitch for the burgundy veins. The designer, Nathalie Méance, has such creative ideas! Looking ahead, I can see many interesting combinations in the other embroideries too. Soon, I hope!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

L'Herbier Applique

The day after my last post, I did take a run at the applique on my new project L'Herbier, and I was quite pleased with the result, but I didn't take any photos of the process. Yesterday I did a second one, and I think I got carried away with the photos! But, I have never seen this exact combination of techniques anywhere else, so I might as well show all the details. Be warned, this will be a long post!

First, why am I going to all this trouble? There were quite a few considerations:
  1. Some of the embroidery that will go in the circles is quite heavy, with beads, etc. So, a backing is required. 
  2. I decided on a muslin backing because a) I prefer not to use a fusible stabilizer in a piece that I want to last a long time, and b) with my chemical sensitivities I need to wash everything before I work with it, so nothing with a lot of starch or sizing would work.
  3. The kit came with just the bare minimum of fabrics for the circles, and then I had to wash it as well. So I really couldn't do the embroidery without sewing it into the blocks first, because the pieces would be too small to hoop, and finishing the edges to prevent fraying would leave them even smaller.

These light card 5" circles from Paper Pieces, one of my favourite stores, are what made this whole idea come together. Although the circles in the pattern are about 5.5", I reduced them slightly to 5" so that I would have a comfortable seam allowance to work with.

To help centre the circle on the four patch blocks, I started by carefully pinching the four compass points on the circle.

Then I used a hole punch to make holes for the pins to go through later.

For the fabric, I cut 6" squares of both the top fabric and the muslin lining.

The top fabric and the muslin are layered together, and the prepared circle is lined up so the folds follow the grain line. Lining up the grains is not strictly necessary, but it seems to follow naturally from the process, so I thought I may as well do it.

To start the basting, I took at tack stitch at one of the folds in the paper, and then ran a loose running stitch through both layers of fabric, but not through the paper, about 3/16" outside the edge of the circle. I made a second tack through the paper at the next fold, and pulled the running stitch tight to gather it around the paper.

Here's a close up of the basting. On my first circle I used some old polyester thread for the basting, but I found that it was too stretchy to hold the two layers of fabric firmly. This time I went with the same strong cotton quilting thread I used for my yoyos (embarrassingly long ago).

Here you can see that the only threads visible on the front of the circle are the tack stitches at each fold. I continued with the running stitch and tacks at each fold all the way around.

Now the basting is finished. I leave the wide seam allowances in place until after I take the circle to the ironing board and steam press a crisp edge all the way around. That way I don't burn my fingers!

After ironing I trim the seam allowance down to about 3/8". After the applique is finished I will trim it again to about 3/16".

Then I repinch the fold lines at the compass points to help position the circle on the block. Even though the paper has been ironed, it "remembers" the original folds.

The folds at the compass points are lined up with the seams in the block background.

The circle is pinned down through the holes that were punched in the paper circle. You can feel them through the fabric, so you know where to put the pins.

Now I was finally able to sew! I was careful to catch both the top fabric and the muslin in the applique stitches. I admit it was heavy going!

I used 50 wt cotton sewing thread and a Clover embroidery needle for the applique. I have been using an embroidery needle for all my heavier English Paper Piecing, such as the Best Friends Forever blocks. I find it is easier to thread, easier to hold, and sharp and strong enough to pierce several layers of fabric.

In this photo you can just see the line of applique stitches around the edge of the circle. When the stitching is finished I trim away the backing fabric behind the circle. That's when it's particularly nice to have the cardboard in there, so you don't cut through the top fabric!

The backing is trimmed to about a 3/8" seam allowance. There was a lot of bulk in the seam allowance, so I graded it by trimming the muslin and top fabrics down to 3/16". It lies wonderfully flat!

The paper circle, though, is completely mangled by the time you are done. Most of the damage is done by the steam iron, but I like using the steam so the fabric edge stays crisp while you applique

The final test will be to see how the block holds up for the embroidery. That's next! I want to make sure it's all good before I prepare any more blocks.

Now, what do you think I should do with these?:

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