Thursday, November 21, 2013

Saying Yes to the Dress

This week brings us to downshift number two in the design stage of my free-motion quilting project. (See my post It's in the Details for more about downshifts.)

This time, it's about the dress/gown/coat. And the hair. Several colors of fabric were tested on the quilt, and red-violet seemed to look best for the young lady's dress (let's just call it that from here on in), especially with the hair fabric I'd chosen. More about the hair in a minute.

After tracing the dark areas in the black and white photo onto the freezer paper dress pattern piece, I cut them out with an Exacto knife (leaving all outside edges intact). Then I ironed the pattern onto a test piece of the red-violet batik (below left) and filled in all the open spaces with a black Marvy fabric marker. It worked, with no bleed-over at the edges. I love these markers! It's paint, but it applies more like ink. And you don't even have to heat-set it!

I realize the black looks a little stark against the fabric, but when someone is standing back from the quilt, it will look like natural folds (that's the plan, anyway). So I committed to it and repeated the process on the actual dress piece.

The next step was to put the highlight areas on the dress. Since I didn't have the right color of marker or type of fabric paint for that, I opted to cut them all out of a lavender batik and fuse them onto the dress base, using the photo to check proper positioning. Maybe not the perfect shade, this lavender, but I was determined not to go out and buy more fabric!

After that, all the dress needed was some fancy trim on the sleeves and on the one front opening of her coat (the other being hidden from view). Plus a little detailing with the black Marvy paint marker here and there. Again, the shadows and highlights may seem a little stark at first glance, but when you lay it on the quilt top and step back, it works fairly well. I think I'm ok with it, at least for now.

The hair was easy and fun, especially after figuring out what fabric to use for the clasp. The fabric used for the hair itself might be considered an odd choice by some folks. Anybody care to guess what the fabric's actual intended use is? Be as specific as you can, because the first person to comment and get it right gets a free copy, postage paid, of Joyce Becker's wonderful book, Quick Little Landscape Quilts! (I happen to have an extra.) [Update--we have a winner, Gill in the UK!]

The last thing done to the dress was hand-stitching the lacings with gold metallic thread. Then, finally, hair and dress were fused together. Here's the lady, laid over the drawing for her final fitting.

One more thing. Please don't think, when a product is mentioned by name on this blog, that I'm in any way trying to promote it. I don't work for anyone but myself, but am a firm believer in sharing tips, methods, techniques and product names that work for me. What I will never do again is say anything negative about a product on this blog. (If you think blogs aren't being watched by industry, just say something unflattering about a name brand.) I experienced a failure with one particular product--which turned out to be totally my fault, as I was using it wrong!--and blogged about it. Soon afterward, the manufacturer wrote me, politely, to ask for specifics about how I had used the product. The upshot of it was that I apologized profusely, thanked them for pointing out my error, and took all mention of the product and my experience with it off the blog. Not that I had slammed it or anything, don't get me wrong; I had simply shared my experience. But after that, I decided never to share an opinion on a name-brand product unless my experience with it is a positive one. Lesson learned! So again...I love Marvy fabric markers! :)

Hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Friday blog--just look at those gorgeous photos--Duchess Reigns is back on the machine! Also linking to Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday post. Between her restoration of an antique quilt and a historically significant piece of family memorabilia, this is a very interesting post. Don't miss it. And don't miss the reader hookups below each of those posts; you'll find wonderful blogs there, as well.

Have a great weekend!


p.s. Linda's Landscapes Etsy shop is having a Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. Take 20% off all prices now through December 3rd, simply by using coupon code HOLIDAY20 at checkout!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everything but the Girl

Admittedly, that title has been used before, as the name of a music duo and as a TV movie title. But after gluing down the rest of the pieces this week and putting the quilt top back under the vinyl overlay to test the final fit, the phrase 'everything but the girl' immediately popped into my head...for obvious reasons. She looks a bit ghostly, doesn't she? Not for long, though. I made her hair yesterday and will work on her gown/coat tomorrow.

Um...I see green flower-head pins here. Apparently those two pieces weren't glued down when this was taken!

Things lined up pretty well. Looking at the drawing on the vinyl overlay, you can see where I made a few changes. The little tree in the upper right-hand corner was simplified from the original, and the tree near the garrison window was moved to the left. A couple of bushes in the right-hand corner were shifted upward a bit, and the grassy areas on the right were repositioned. Overall, nothing really major. Then everything was tacked down (free-motion stitched as invisibly as possible near all the raw edges), except for the first few pieces already tacked last week. Now the quilt top can be handled without fear of any pieces peeling back or falling off.

After that, it went back on the design board, where I tested some black organza pieces for shadows. It took a while to decide where my light source should be. The source photo (see my post, Line by Missing Line) was shot on a completely overcast day around noon, so there were no visible shadows anywhere. What finally decided me on the light source was this juxtaposition of nearly-horizontal lines (the shadows) with vertical lines (just about everything else on the quilt!):

And what amazes me is how much more dimensional the image becomes (compare the photos below) with only three little organza test-pieces pinned on. Shadows make such a difference!

That's about it for this week. Hoping to have the young lady finished next week and tacked down on top of some permanent shadows.

Hooking up with Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday post--boy did I get a shot of inspiration there today! Also linking with Leah Day's FMQ Friday. Like me, she's piecing and designing instead of actual quilting just now. Remember to click on the reader hookups below each post to see what some quilters are up to.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Stuck Behind Bars

Glue sticks rock. Imagine what landscape quilting would be like if we were using the traditional squeeze bottle of school glue...or worse yet, the giant jar of school paste (more of which I ate than actually used on my art projects in grade school--that stuff was dang yummy. Good thing it wasn't toxic, too!).

Point being, this week alone, the innards of 4 glue sticks disappeared into my landscape quilt. Granted, only the edges of the fabric pieces are slathered with the glue, but even at that, it's surprising how fast the stuff goes. (Hence my husband's reaction, as usual, to hearing that we need to buy glue sticks today. It basically goes, "What, again??? We're keeping Elmer's in business!!")

So yep, lots of gluing went on this week, as well as more detailing (see last week's post, It's in the Details). The garrison went from this:

To this:

It took about 3 hours--cutting, fusing, shading with Sharpie markers, and sewing two layers of black organza onto the side of the building (the top layer of which I later cut partly away--it just looked too dark when the piece wasn't in bright light, as it is here). Haha, no escape now for that mysterious man--he's literally stuck behind bars!

After the garrison was glued down and dry, it didn't seem to stick all that securely. Time to take the quilt top to the machine and tack all those pieces down, before adding more on top of them. I used to use clear monofilament for the tackdown--quick and invisible--but my dealer thought it best to avoid using it, for the sake of the tension discs, unless absolutely necessary. She suggested Invisafil, a 100-wt. poly thread. It works great. It does show a tiny bit, but only close-up, and most of it will be covered later by the quilting thread.

Then the quilt top went back on the table, under the vinyl overlay again, re-fastened with paper clips at the table edges. It smoothed out and realigned nicely. Time for more gluing, yay! Sure, that's pretty much a preschool activity, but it's relaxing and so much fun to see those pieces go down on the background fabric. Things moved faster from this point, and probably will until it's time to add the young lady. She's not even cut out yet; in fact I still haven't decided on fabrics for her hair and her coat. I may have to shop for those. That should be fun!

A few more pieces were added yesterday. They'll have dried by now, so I can glue some more today (that is, after grocery shopping, paying bills, balancing the checkbook and a couple of laundry loads. You  :-/  Can't complain, though, as my time is mostly my own. The kids are grown and I'm very lucky to be able to work at home.). Looking very much forward to free-motion stitching this landscape--first embroidering some weeds and ferns on the stabilized quilt top, and then quilting each element according to its individual form, outlining stones, stitching tree bark, etc.

Also, last Sunday my friend Janet invited me over to dye in her garage--scarves, that is. And since I'd never done this before (the sky in the quilt above was painted, not dyed), it was the perfect opportunity to take along some PFD cotton. It was a lot of fun, and although the fabrics didn't turn out quite like I'd planned, that was half the fun of it--not knowing what anything would look like until it was over and rinsed out.

Since I'm whoopin' it up for all the gluing, detailing and dyeing that got done this week, here's a hookup to Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday. She's already got a major Christmas gift well on the way to being finished. Also linking to my favorite free-motion blog, Leah Day's FMQ Friday. She's stitched some beautiful new designs and is planning her group project for 2014. Remember to check out their awesome reader hookups at the end of each blog.

Before signing off: Last week I posted a rear-view photo of our cat Zoe watching a squirrel outside the door. Here's a nice portrait of Zoe alongside my late mother-in-law's much-prized (and much-used) 1962 Singer awesome workhorse of a machine.

Have a wonderful weekend and stay warm--or cool, depending on where you are! :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's in the Details

You know that expression, 'The devil is in the details' (which came from the expression 'God is in the detail'--no 's' in the original). Well, this week, details are what it's all about. More on that in a minute.

After a great trip to visit with family last week, it was back to work on piecing the free-motion castle garrison quilt. The first thing to do was trace the line drawing of the enlarged photo onto a vinyl overlay.

The second thing was to press the foundation fabric smooth, secure it to the table with masking tape on the side edges, and fasten both the fabric and the vinyl overlay to the table with large clamp-type paper clips along the top and bottom edges.

When working on the upper half of the quilt top, I take the top clips off and gently lay the vinyl back on itself, leaving the bottom clips firmly in place. When switching to work on the lower half, the top clips go back on and then the bottom clips come off. This way the vinyl never shifts. If you had to reposition the vinyl overlay every time you test-fitted or glued a quilt piece onto the foundation fabric, your layout would become increasingly 'off' because of the overlap allowances on most of the quilt pieces. (Imagine putting together a badly cut puzzle, where some of the pieces just 'sort of' fit together. Pretty soon you'd have a mess on your hands.) Also, can you imagine how long piecing the quilt would take?

By the same token, when working on the left or right side of the quilt, I remove the top and bottom clips from that half of the quilt--again, leaving the other clips (on the other half, top and bottom) in place.

By the way, the mailing tube in this photo serves more than one purpose: it keeps the vinyl from taking a crease when you fold it back out of the way, and it's a quick way to roll the vinyl smoothly back into place before positioning the next quilt piece. Also, the vinyl will stay cleaner and is less likely to be stretched the least bit out of shape than if you smoothed it back out with your hands each time. Not that it stretches easily--this is not lightweight vinyl, but I'd rather be cautious.

The background (sky) pieces went down quickly, as did the following five garrison pieces in the above photo. Then came what I think of as the first downshift, a stage where things slow considerably--the detailing stage. Remember, you're working from back to front with these pieces, layering and overlapping as you go. Some of those overlaps will partly cover areas of other pieces, so the details in those particular areas will need to be in place already. Other details, those which aren't going to be overlapped at any point, can be saved for later, after they're already glued down on the quilt top. However...'s usually much easier to detail a piece by working with it separately (off site) at another table (or better yet, your ironing board--especially if any fusing is involved). In the photo at left, for example, was the next element to go on the quilt after those first few fast and easy pieces: the tower. It needed arrow slits and a doorway, as well as some architectural interest near the battlements. All of this was done at the ironing board (along with a small cutting mat and rotary cutter) and some lightweight double-paper-backed fusible. Oh, and the freezer-paper pattern pieces that were traced off the enlarged photo. In the photo below, the tower is mostly done (some thread details will be added during quilting) and has been glued to the quilt top. The main garrison piece will eventually overlap the tower on the right side.

Fabric markers were used, too. Now, that could have been done later, after the quilt was completely pieced, but here's the problem with that: if you screw up with the markers (and believe me, I've done it) you may have to make a whole new piece, or part of a piece. If the whole thing is already glued to your quilt-top when this happens...well, you get the picture. Make life easier on yourself. Do all the detailing you can, including markers and paint, before the piece goes on the quilt top! (Note: That is, unless the detail is something very delicate that really needs to be saved for last to keep from scraping it or knocking it off the quilt altogether. That's a different story!)

Next up was piecing the iron-barred window. The original choice for the window's interior is lying next to the iron, along with a second tried-and-rejected piece. This Northcott Stonehenge fabric (the one under the freezer-paper pattern) looked promising, so I tucked the man's silhouette in there to see the effect. They say the third time is the charm; maybe that's true. So this week I'll fuse the man down, then make the iron bars and fuse them on top of him...ha, no escape after that!

Off subject: Returning from my sister and brother-in-law's farm last Sunday, after my niece's wonderful outdoor Halloween party with two bonfires and a hayride, we brought Indian corn and pumpkins back with us to decorate our front porch. Well, you can see how long they're going to last. This shot was taken this morning. Poor Zoe (our youngest cat). Her entire demeanor, as she observes this relentless all-day destruction, fluctuates between helpless outrage and utter disgust. (That's when she's not openly attacking the glass door to get at her rodent tormentor.)

In all honesty, if the squirrel weren't eating our outdoor décor, he'd be eating the peanuts I throw out for him every couple of days. (Maybe that makes me a sadist where our frustrated cat is concerned, but it gives her something to do, even if it does get her dander up, and the squirrel is so fearless of her that he hops right up to the glass and puts his front feet up on it just to freak her out.)

Hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Friday blog, and Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday blog for fresh inspiration and motivation--not only from their own blogs, but also from the blogs of the readers who are linked below each one. Need a boost of quilting mojo? I promise, you'll get it there!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy this beautiful season!