Thursday, January 2, 2014

Shadows and Borders

Happy new year to all!!

After much holiday preparation and merry-making with my family, followed by much babysitting for a malfunctioning washer and then getting rescued by my sweet neighbors and their washer across the street, it was time to figure out the shadow lines on the garrison quilt. After all, there were no shadows in the original photo, due to overcast conditions and the time of day (roughly noon). But because shadows add so much depth to a landscape, I was determined to include some.

Unfortunately, it took days, and far more mental debating than it should have, to figure out where and at what angles those shadows should be. Once that decision was made, the guidelines on the vinyl overlay went from their original neat, orderly appearance...




...to a mess made even worse by the Frankenstein stitch-like markings where I changed my mind about line positions. They're all permanent (drawn with a fat black Sharpie), because I didn't think to try dry-erase markers instead.

(UPDATE 10/14/15: I keep little alcohol pads near the machine to clean gummy fusible off my needle. Well, guess what? The alcohol works great for removing unwanted 'permanent' marker lines on vinyl!)

(2nd UPDATE, 12/6/15: The alcohol pads work fine at first, but after the permanent marker lines have been on the vinyl for several weeks, they are NOT removable with any strength of alcohol, be it isopropyl or ethyl. The lines will fade from black to blue, but that's about it. Apparently, 'permanent' is eventually permanent.)


Anyway, thick dark lines were necessary for the next stage: tracing those lines onto parchment paper.

That's because, although parchment paper works ok for tracing, it's not as transparent as actual tracing paper. On the upside, however, it is on a wide roll and you can tear really long pieces off it. And markers glide very nicely over the surface.

Next, transferring the lines to freezer paper:



Why not trace them onto the freezer paper to begin with? Well, unless you use a light table (or a much bigger light box than I have), you can't see these lines through freezer paper. At least, I couldn't. (I don't even know that you could see them with a light table, as there are multiple layers of fabric in this quilt top, and the light would have to penetrate all of them.)

Regardless, freezer paper works way better than parchment paper for the next step: laying the freezer paper over the fabric you're using for the shadows, in this case a double layer of black organza.

As you can see, the red line drawn around all of the shadow tracings became my cutting line. The black lines--the actual outlines of the individual shadows--will be stitching lines. That gray-black blob is my double layer of organza, quickly cut out right through the freezer paper, roughly on the red line, with a rotary cutter. (I used to never cut paper with a rotary blade--you know the rule about never cutting paper with your sewing shears because it will dull them!--I got over that with the rotary cutter. I even cut coupons with it! After all, you can easily sharpen or change the blade.)
Time to stitch the shadow outlines. After slipping a piece of tear-away stabilizer under the organza layers, I pinned the pattern piece on top of it all. (Note: Never use iron-away stabilizer with sheers, and remember that wash-away stabilizer will require waiting for the fabric to dry before you can proceed.)


Using a free-motion straight-stitch over a slippery mat, a regular size 12 needle and a 100-weight, dark polyester thread (50- or 60-weight would work ok), machine tension set at 2 (which I tested first in the border), I stitched right through all the layers--stabilizer, organza, and freezer paper. This of course perforated the freezer paper nicely, which made it a breeze to tear it all away from the organza. The same goes for the tear-away stabilizer...it tore away beautifully.

The entire piece of organza (two layers now one) was then positioned under the outlines on the vinyl overlay and pinned to the quilt top. Those fine outlines of thread are hard to see here, but easy enough to follow when it comes time to sew the organza down (next step). After all, this thread doesn't get removed--it just gets stitched over--so it needs to blend well with the quilt top.


Stitching directly over my first stitching lines with the same fine thread, I attached the entire piece of organza to the quilt top. Then came the most crucial stage--trimming away the parts that weren't needed, the areas outside the actual shadows. This was done very, very slowly and carefully with a pair of embroidery scissors. I used the kind that are made for trimming threads inside an embroidery hoop, where the scissor blades are angled to lie flat against the fabric as you cut. It made it much easier (and safer) to trim the organza close to the stitching.


I was so engrossed in that part of the project that I forgot to take photos until after the trimming was finished. It was a little nerve-wracking, but a lot of fun to see the actual shadows emerging. Here on the right is the quilt top with the trimmed shadows (minus the girl--whose shadow had to be incorporated right along with the others).
Speaking of the girl, I retrieved her freezer-paper pattern (again, I never throw these away until the whole quilt is finished) and used it to cut a piece of wool batting. The plan is to make her a bit more dimensional than the rest of the elements on the quilt. Here's a side view, pinned:

You can also see what I mean about her shadow having to be planned in conjunction with the others, as hers actually merges with the shadow of one of the trees. And now, she and her batting go back in the drawer, along with the embroidered shrubs that won't be attached until later.
At this point it was time to plan the borders. I haven't bordered a quilt for a while, preferring binding alone on my last few projects, but this one seems to need it, with the hillside on the right and the ground falling away on the left. Not to mention the fact that the viewer is actually looking down somewhat on the girl and the flagstone walk. Something is needed to tie all these elevations together, so that the viewer doesn't feel as if he or she is hovering in mid-air or about to fall off the mountain.

The inner border fabric was already decided weeks ago (see the reddish-brown strips hanging in the photo just before the girl's photo), but the charcoal gray that I wanted for the outer border was nowhere to be found in my fabric stash. So, it came in the mail the other day--not by magic, mind you (I wish). It had to be ordered. We have exactly one quilt shop left in this city, miles away, and I figured my chances for finding precisely what I needed there might be pretty slim.

Here it is, ready for pressing. I love that it has leaves in it, but that they're so subtle.

So today I sewed the borders onto the quilt top.


The left-hand borders will have to be ripped out and re-positioned. Somehow I miscalculated (like I've never done that before!), and one end turned out too short, the other too long. Ah, well. It's one of those Zen things I get to do now and then, while watching Retro TV. But already I feel more grounded when looking at the quilt top, so hopefully these borders are going to work.

The funny thing is, this border color combination was used in a quilt I made in 2010, titled The Tower. So I have to ask myself why this particular combination might work well for both of these quilts. 


All I can come up with is, there's a reddish-brown tree in both quilts (and reddish-brown eagles in one of them), and both the tower here and the garrison above are cut from the same stone fabric. Any other clues? Anyone? Please chime in with a post if you see something else that might explain the correlation.

This last photo reminded me that it's a good thing to keep notes and photos on your projects to refresh your memory as far as what has worked for you previously (and what hasn't). Especially as The Tower is gone now (sold), so...all I have is a photograph. Hmm, sounds like a good song lyric.... :)

Update: Just hooked up with Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday post...you won't believe what all she's accomplished this week while on vacation! Great inspiration for the new year. Check out her reader links, too. Also hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup, where she is starting the ball rolling on her new 2014 quilt-along project. There's also a wonderful idea included in her post, involving coloring books. Read it to find out more, and check out her reader links, too.

A fantastic weekend to everyone, and a blessed 2014!

Linda

19 comments:

  1. This is absolutely fascinating reading how you do this. I have never had luck using sheers but your tip about using the tear away stabilizer intrigues me. Thank you for sharing your process. It is truly an amazing quilt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, thank you! The first time I tried this on one of my quilts, I was just plain scared, but it has worked beautifully all three times I've used it. I just had an aha moment here....I'm thinking this may be tulle instead of organza....I need to go back to the fabric store and find out (it's been in my drawer for a while). That said, the two of them can't be that far off in their respective properties. I think one is just a little finer than the other.

      Delete
  2. Oh, check this tracing paper out, it is good quality and comes on a roll
    http://www.danielsmith.com/Item--i-159-080-004

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holy cow, thank you so much! I guess I should have known that tracing paper was available in a roll, not to mention a larger size than my little 8-1/2 x 11 tablet (which has mysteriously gone missing), but I never checked it out. One of the things I don't like about parchment paper is that when I want to tape it to something or tape something to it, nothing sticks, of course, since that's what parchment paper is all about! LOL Thanks again, I am heading off to order this roll of tracing paper now!

      Delete
  3. Happy New Year Linda!

    You are making fantastic progress. At the outset you said you imagined this scene to be in England. Your colours and total atmosphere are spot on. Looking at the tower reminded me of this lookout tower on a cliff path near to us, built by a family of sugar importers who used to go up there to watch for their ships returning in the estuary bound for Bristol.
    http://clevedonconservationvolunteers.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/picture-2.jpg

    Your pictures are so realistic!

    Love,
    Muv

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Muv, thank you so much. Of course I'd love to travel and take photos to better ensure more realism, but it isn't practical in my situation, so it's very, very encouraging to read your perspective on my quilts. Makes me want to start designing my next one! And what a wonderful image you've painted in my mind with the story of the sugar importers. I can't wait to check out the url, in fact I'm off to do that now. Thanks again~~ Love, Linda

      Delete
    2. (2nd reply): Oh wow, that photo is just beautiful...so romantic and old-world. Knowing I can't use other people's photos without permission, I nonetheless find my designs at times inspired or influenced by them. Then again, I suppose all design of any kind is based on what we observe around us, consciously or not. Back to stare at that lovely photo again.....

      Delete
    3. Hello again Linda,

      I had a nice stroll along the path in that picture on Tuesday. I took a picture from a spot only a few yards further up the same path and it will be on my blog on Sunday.

      Linda, any time you want to use one of my pictures, just let me know. I am surrounded by soggy old England and can see Wales from our attic window...

      Love,
      Muv

      Delete
    4. Muv, this made my day! Photos by a person who lives there would mean so much more than a tourist's photo or a 'stock' photo. Oh, to be in those surroundings...all my life, I've fantasized about living in the British Isles. Thank you so much for offering!

      Delete
  4. I love reading your posts. I learn so much! All keepers. Thanks for sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're more than welcome, I love sharing, partly because it keeps me on task, but mostly because I've learned so much from others and want to pay it forward. Thank you for reading the posts!

      Delete
  5. Thank you for sharing/showing the steps you used to achieve these great effects. This is truly going to be a fabulous quilt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suzanne, thank you very much. I'm more than happy to share things that have worked so well for me. I'm thinking this method came from one of the books on my shelf; just need to figure out which one!

      Delete
  6. I think using the brownish red with the blackish gray as borders tends to draw the eye to the actual piece......kind of a zeroing in point. That's what I noticed when looking at the sea scape scene. Hope you can make sense of what I saying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh good, Rhonda, I'm so glad you see it that way. Apparently that's how it worked for me, too. I wonder why, though. It would sure be nice to know exactly what is making our eyes respond in that way. We'd save a lot of time choosing border fabric if we could arrive at some sort of precise color formula relative to the colors that are in the scene. Thanks so much for commenting on this!

      Delete
  7. Just amazing Linda! I love how dimensional the girl is, and those colors - WOW! Your quilts really pull viewers in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Leah, thank you, you don't how much that means to me, having learned so much about free-motion stitching from YOU in your videos, blogs, and Craftsy classes. Even when I just need to chill, that's where I go to decompress. Thanks so much!

      Delete
  8. Hello Linda wanted to give you a little tip i learned awhile back .. if you use a erasable marker over the top of a permanent marker on most things it will take the permanent marker off ,, This quilt is awsum . i am just learning how to fmq and to see this quilt makes me even more inspired to keep trying ..thank you so much for showing this .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Theresa, and thank you for that great tip!!! Oh, FMQ is so much fun. I hope you stay with it and enjoy it for years to come!

      Delete

Comment moderation has been enabled merely to prevent spam. Your comment should show up within a day or two. Thank you for your patience.