Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raw Nerve

Lately I'd been wanting to make a landscape quilt using a different method from my usual one. From my shelf, I pulled one of Cathy Geier's books, titled Lovely Landscape Quilts. These are strip/string-pieced landscapes built on a foundation of fusible interfacing or muslin.

For my initial foray into this method, I decided to use one of Cathy's patterns, included in the book. 

The quilt top is designed in two sections, which suited me fine for ease of machine work. However, me being me (stubborn), it wasn't long until Cathy and I parted ways on the directions. I decided that instead of auditioning strips for the foreground (water and land), I would just wing it (uh-oh!), choosing and fusing strips as I went.

The result isn't horrible, but something tells me that if the strips had been auditioned first, I'd have made better choices. There's too much similarity in tone here.

Lesson learned. For the upper half (mountains and sky), the strips were auditioned first. See what a difference it made? No tonal problems here, or at least not many.

But then there was another departure from Cathy's advice. (Donk!) I decided, despite her warning about using raw-edged strips vs. seamed, to use raw-edged anyway. Because (I figured) being experienced with raw-edged applique, I'd simply add a layer of tear-away stabilizer and zigzag all the strip edges after fusing.

Holy guacamole. Talk about tedious!! 

Yeah, multiply this (above) by about a thousand, and you get the picture. I was SO happy to be done with that step. Not to mention, changing top thread and bobbins to match every strip, because the threads needed to blend. And the raw edges (along with my nerves) were fraying faster than I could stitch them down. Lots of trimming was required afterward. Cathy knew what she was talking about.

Thread colors chosen for the different strips. Yikes!
Next came the sailboat in the pattern. I was happy with my piecing, but couldn't figure out why the sails ended up too big for the mast (you can't tell here, because I chopped off the mast top in the photo). Problem? THIRD departure from the recommended method---I used Cathy's sailboat pattern but fused the raw edges...which means I didn't allow for the 1/4" turn-under on the sails. DUH.

Anyway, it doesn't look too out-of-proportion, and I'll just add more mast with a white zigzag stitch at the top. Gotta do what'cha gotta do.

Next up...the little tulle pieces for the boat reflection on the water. I haven't figured out yet how to get around using the glue powder that is called for in that step (I have none and hadn't planned on buying any), but no doubt will come up with something (that'll probably take me 10 times as long). 

And next time, hopefully, the finished quilt, bordered and bound.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Catch a Wave

This week brought a finish for the turtle quilt (see previous post), including a two-toned binding and a little "bling" for the turtles. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

The water got a little "bling" as well. This pricey, one-yard length of cording was purchased at the Paducah, KY AQS quilt show about 5 years ago. At the time I had no idea what I'd do with it, but couldn't resist the color and the subtle sparkle.

It turned out to be the exact color of the water in this turtle quilt...and even more fortuitous, the exact length needed to follow the sea foam curve across the entire width of the quilt!

(I long ago stopped questioning the wisdom of my quilting Muse. She just knows.)

The cording was couched onto the quilt with a free motion zigzag stitch and a 100-weight (very fine) poly thread.
The turtles' embellishments are subtle, too, and cost me nothing. All I did was get out my late mother-in-law's jar of old buttons and, after auditioning several, sewed one on each turtle's shell. (First time for attaching buttons using my sewing machine...super fast and easy!)

Paint markers and Sharpies were used to shade the legs and heads (and, in one case, conceal the obvious turtle head overlapping one turtle's shell).

And here's the finished quilt, titled Catch a Wave:

(excuse the pins)
A two-toned binding was chosen, because an all-around turquoise emphasized the water too much and cooled the quilt down, while an all-around red-brown warmed it up too much and looked out of place next to the water. But the red-brown definitely makes the turtles "pop" more.

The quilting is a little more obvious in this next photo.

Confession: Several times during the making of this quilt, I wanted to put my bare feet in that water. I guess that's a good sign...of what, I'm not sure. Probably that I need a vacation. :)

'Til next time,

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Save the Turtles

Until two weeks ago, this turtle fabric (click any photo to enlarge) had been teasing me from the fat-quarter shelf for a long time.

The trouble was, I wanted to use the turtles singly. But cutting almost any one of them out would mean chopping off some legs, or even worse, heads!

So a compromise was made. They were cut out in groups, which worked fairly well. (Missing toes simply appear to be covered with sand, which is fine.)

Arranged on a quarter-yard of sand-like Stonehenge (Northcott Mills) fabric, they became little hatchlings, heading as fast as they could go for the ocean (except for one...apparently the rebel in the bunch. We'll see him/her a few photos down).

 This large-scale shallow-water fabric was a very recent purchase, and it was exciting to realize that already I had a use for it. A wavy edge was drawn on tracing paper and cut for the shoreline.

Three rocks were cut freehand from a dark Stonehenge fabric (the same fabric the castle was made from for the seascape panel in my June 9 blog post).

It quickly became apparent that the rocks would need some "grounding"--no floating rocks here.

So, a light source was decided upon and "shadows" were drawn on tracing paper and thread-traced (by machine in free motion, with clear thread) on blue-green tulle.

(Another piece of tracing paper was used on the back to stabilize and protect the tulle. The tracing paper tore off surprisingly well.)

The tulle shadow was then cut out with a "seam allowance" of roughly an inch, and sewn in place on the water (with one shadow edge tucked under the rocks) by stitching over the previously thread-traced lines, again with clear thread. The seam allowance was then removed by very careful trimming close to the stitching lines.

However, I wanted parts of the rock surfaces to be above water. So, other shapes were cut from white tulle, to be laid completely over the green shadows as well as the parts of the rock that were underwater. The same method was used to attach the white tulle.

The results were fairly satisfactory:

Here the quilt is pin-basted and ready to go on the machine:

But just before quilting it, it occurred to me there should be evidence of other creatures in the water, partly for added interest and better composition, but also for scale---meaning, I wanted some way to show that the turtles were freshly hatched and therefore very small.

Three of the easiest patterns I could think of to draw were a starfish, a sand dollar and a shell of some sort. Fortunately it wasn't hard to find suitable fabrics in my stash. These were embellished with nothing more than Sharpie markers, and fused to the quilt top, using my mini-iron (after removing a few basting pins to position them).

I thought about putting white tulle over them to emphasize their being underwater, but opted to skip the tulle and simply make sure my quilted water lines showed clearly over each applique.

Then it was time to quilt the sand. Darker, closer lines were stitched on the shadowy side of the turtles, and lighter ones on the lighter side, both in YLI variegated threads.

Here's the rebel I mentioned earlier--the only one going in a different direction.
There's one in every family. :)
At this point, the quilt looked like this:

I wasn't unhappy with it, but not entirely happy, either. It needed something. And even as it came to me, my mind was already fighting it. After all, enough effort had already been made on this piece, in my opinion, what with the tulle and all. But no, deep down, I knew that a few hours were going to be added anyway--because what this quilt really needed was some sea foam at the edge of the water. Ay-yi-yi.

Just kidding about the two-thousand pins. But there were a lot of them.

Out came a long, narrow piece of scrap polyester batting...and about two- thousand pins.

And more white tulle (not shown).

The batting was stretched, torn, shaped, and generally beaten into submission, pinning as I went, before it was then unpinned, covered with the tulle and re-pinned, one little section at a time.

The tulle was stitched with about an inch overlap on the sand side as well as on the water side, and trimmed very close to the stitching lines. Then the actual foam line on the sand was stitched, making the foam puff up to look more real. Three more flowing, wavy lines of stitching were spaced across the foam.

So, long story short, the difference made by this extra work was this (you'll have to scroll very quickly back and forth between the next two photos):

Next comes steam blocking (which makes the quilt hang much straighter and with even more "poof"), then trimming and binding. Then comes labeling and sleeving--is that a word? Anyway, the choice for binding color has been narrowed down to either a rust color or a teal. The teal seems to make the water look cooler and more inviting, but the rust makes the turtles "pop" more...and they are the stars of the quilt, after all (sorry, starfish). Also considering embellishing the turtles with some beads and/or metallic thread. We'll see.

Next time, the finished quilt, already titled "Catch a Wave."

Happy almost July!


Friday, June 16, 2017

From "Scribble Drawing" to Fabric

This week the "scribble drawing" piece (see original post) was finished. It was both fun and challenging (mostly in choosing the right fabrics). And what a mess was made to put it together!

Here it is in progress, using the vinyl overlay for placement...

Notice the extra "seam allowance" for the purpose of overlapping pieces.
...and here's the finished (but unbound) piece next to the original drawing, titled Fish out of Water.

This fish is definitely out of water, and discombobulated at that. Gills, eye, body, tail and fins are all there--
just not where you'd expect. The distant waterfall also serves as a teardrop from the eye.
No batting was used, so no real quilting was done. Superior MonoPoly was used to stitch the raw edges to the buckram base--which is so stiff you can't quilt it at any rate (I did test it).

Would I do a project like this again? Probably not, unless I could quilt it. That's half the fun of it, after all. But at least my curiosity is satisfied. Anyway, it has a binding now...

...and is hanging (with bits of masking tape, lol) on the stairwell wall. VVHH calls this piece my Picasso, so the stairwell must be my gallery, haha.

UPDATE: Today, three days after my post, I found my "Picasso" on the stairs. So much for masking tape!  :)

On to the next project...although there a couple of UFOs (unfinished objects, for any non-quilting readers) hanging around. We'll see.

'Til next time,


Friday, June 9, 2017

Panel Quilting and Embellishment

This week, a finish for the Artworks Aqua Nuance Digital Panel my friend Janet gave me for Christmas (see post dated 5/11), the first ready-to-quilt panel I've ever used without cutting up for something else. These are still available at a couple of online quilt sites, by the way.

Here's the original, which was so beautiful I was almost afraid to touch it, let alone embellish it or even pierce it with a needle!

But I did, first adding a few elements to the top and then quilting it fairly densely with a low-loft poly batting and lots of different threads. So here's the finished quilt (click to enlarge):

Here are some close-ups (click on any of these photos to enlarge). The rocks came from a Wind and Waves fabric by Wilmington Prints.

The seabirds came from free stock photos at a website that doesn't even require attribution for end use. I cropped them in my photo program, printed them on a Jacquard Inkjet Fabric Sheet, and fused them to the quilt top.

The boulder directly above was cut freehand from a Stonehenge fabric by Northcott. (Note: The boulder became necessary, after the castle, rocks and ship were added, to stop the viewer's eye from wandering off the quilt--which mine did.)

The ship was cut from a curtain panel I found at Goodwill for two dollars. It did need some tweaking (see post dated 5/11).

The castle was designed and made (see post dated 5/11) from yet another Stonehenge fabric.

Lastly, here's a photo of the quilt lying on a table, which seems to be the only way I can get quilted texture to show up well in a photo (the studio lighting is from east and west windows only, at the ends of a long, narrow room. It's a constant battle, which I try to fight with several Ott Lites.)

Next time: Adventures with turning my "scribble drawing" (see post just previous to this one) into a piece of fabric art. Ay-yi-yi...


Friday, May 26, 2017

In (and Out of) the Water

This week the seascape digital panel (see last post) is on the machine.  (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

The water is being quilted with Sulky's holographic thread, giving it just the right amount of sparkle. I love this thread, which comes in several colors, and never seems to break as long as low tension, low-to-moderate speed, and a fine (lightweight) bobbin thread are used.

Wanting a break from increasingly dense stitching, I opted to try something that's been stewing in my head for a while: rendering a color-pencil drawing in fabric.

This is my working color copy, which had to be pieced and taped.
The original was a little too big for the scanner.

This started out as a "scribble drawing," if anyone remembers those from school decades ago (do kids still do that?), and it evolved into an abstract drawing titled "Fish out of Water."

For anyone too young to be familiar with the phrase "Fish out of Water," it refers to someone who is completely out of his/her element or comfort zone. (As you can see, this fish is out of its element in more ways than just being landlocked.)

Step 1 was to copy the drawing (in black and white) in poster format on the printer, 2 sheets x 2 sheets, and splice them on the back with transparent tape (first trimming some margins and overlapping others to match up the fronts).

[The drawing board is like a big clipboard, available at any art supply store.]

Step 2, using large tracing paper--which conveniently comes on a roll--or regular tracing paper taped together, to trace the drawing's outlines with a black Sharpie.

Step 3, retracing the outlines from the tracing paper (the black-and-white printer copy is removed but kept for reference) onto freezer paper, and then cutting out the separate sections of freezer paper to use as pattern pieces.

Step 4, carbon tracing the outlines--yes, more tracing!--onto a base fabric (in this case, buckram--a canvas-like fabric used to stiffen drapery headers).

Step 5, retracing the outlines on a piece of clear vinyl (see next photo).

[At this point you might be wondering, why so much tracing? Well, if you don't have a light box large enough or a glass-top table under which to put a light, and you're not willing to tape things up on a back-lit glass door to trace vertically, extra tracing is what you wind up doing. The thing is, I don't mind it that much--it's kind of relaxing.]

Step 6, positioning the base fabric (again, buckram here) as the bottom layer (I use the clips at the top as well as pieces of masking tape all around).

Step 7, matching the outlines on the vinyl overlay to the outlines on the base fabric, and then firmly clipping or taping down the top edge only of the vinyl. (Fabric pieces will be slipped in under the vinyl and positioned on top of the base.)

Step 8, choosing fabrics and cutting out the pieces by using the freezer paper patterns (ironed with the plastic/shiny side down onto the right side of the fabric). The fabrics can first be stabilized with paper-backed fusible web or fusible interfacing on the wrong side---or they can just be glued down directly on the base. (For curved pieces, I strongly suggest stabilizing, as the pieces may otherwise stretch and pucker when glued.) Of course, if paper-backed fusible web is used, the pieces will eventually be iron-fused to the base instead of glued.

To avoid gaps, a bit of a "seam allowance" needs to be cut outside the pattern lines wherever another piece is going to overlap (note: pieces are glued down beginning with the furthest in the scene and ending with the nearest, and trimmed or overlapped accordingly). I cut these "seam allowances" with pinking shears to avoid a hard line from showing through the overlap.

Unfortunately, though, once those "seam allowances" are glued/stuck down, they hide parts of the carbon-traced lines. That is why the traced lines on the vinyl overlay are necessary. It is the only way to assure accuracy in positioning the fabric pieces after some of the base lines get hidden.

Overall, the process is less time-consuming than it sounds. It probably took me longer to write about it than it does to do it. :)

Next time I hope to have all the pieces tacked down with mono-poly thread, and the seascape fully quilted.

Have a great weekend!