Friday, February 21, 2014
So, as you can see, my embroidered wall quilt L'Herbier is back on track. In the last post I'd had a challenging day stitching the ribbon embroidery through the two tightly-woven layers of fabric in the circles.
In the introduction to one of my silk ribbon embroidery books, one of the recommended tools is an awl, so you can "pre-drill" the holes for the ribbon. After the first day, I remembered that I have one!
A year or two ago I bought this for $1.99 at a hole-in-the-wall fabric store that mainly sold lycra and sequins for costumes. I recall that I thought it would come in handy one day. It sure has! Today's stitching was a piece of cake.
I'm so relieved! The muslin lining was otherwise so nice and useful, with a great hand, that I really didn't want to give it up. So now it can be full steam ahead! Whew!
Thursday, February 13, 2014
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
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:
- Some of the embroidery that will go in the circles is quite heavy, with beads, etc. So, a backing is required.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Now, what do you think I should do with these?:
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Here is my first new project for 2014 (Highlands Houses was started in 2013). L'Herbier was the 2010 BOM designed by Nathalie Méance of La Fée Pirouette. I saw it advertised in the back of Quiltmania and contacted Nathalie, who kindly agreed to include me in the distribution. It has been "maturing" in my stash for over three years! But this year my plan is to unite my quilting and embroidery projects more, so this project is finally ready to uncork!
The embroideries feature a wide range of threads, ribbons, beads and sequins, and the fabrics are lovely too. All the fabrics are "shot" -- with different colours in the warp and weft threads. The grey and charcoal background fabrics are a slubby linen, and it looks like the circle fabrics include some silk, cotton and rayon:
I think the main obstacle for me on this project was constructing the blocks. I blenched when I saw the templates:
But these are misleading, because in the instructions Nathalie suggests that you construct four patch blocks, and then reverse applique in the finished embroideries. Now that I've realized how easy applique is, I have decided to applique the circles on top of the four patch blocks, and then do the embroidery.
The BOM materials include a very stiff butter coloured stabilizer to use behind the embroidery, but I can't imagine leaving that in the quilt. Maybe it softens after washing, but you know me, I have to wash everything before I stitch due to the chemicals. So I am going to back the embroideries with plain muslin. I have been lining my BFF blocks with muslin, which has worked very well, so I plan to do exactly the same thing for this project.
Today I strip pieced the 16 four patch blocks:
You can see how nice the textured fabric is. But, I knew it was going to fray, so I cut the squares large. I sewed with a 3/8" seam allowance, and then I zig-zagged all the edges!
I know it seems painstaking, but each block will be both appliqued and embroidered, so they will be handled a lot. When I'm ready to assemble the blocks I'll trim off the zig-zagged edge.
You can still buy a complete kit for L'Herbier at La Fée Pirouette's website. The 2014 BOM, featuring embroidered Dresden plates, also looks amazing. And, Nathalie has a beautiful new book out from Quiltmania, which is extremely tempting. "One at a time," I tell myself! Nathalie speaks very good English, but both the BOM and the book are written in French. (Update - no, I am wrong, the book is both English and French.)
I am dying to start the applique, but I have a backlog of housework to do tomorrow. Then again, maybe the laundry can wait until Saturday...