Saturday, March 1, 2014

Home, sweet home!

I have just returned from a wonderful week at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy which was held at the lovely Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Without a doubt, I had the most wonderful students ever in a full and then some class.  These women were attentive, focused, funny, and kind. We had a blast!  Here they are with their blocks in progress.

We used a number of techniques to address the challenges of this block.  The complex stem was done using the needle turn method with a little back basting twist.  The grape leaves were completed by lightly fusing them to the background and blanket stitching the edge in silk floss.  The strawberry leaves, strawberries and multi-petaled rose were all done using the prepared edge method.  The strawberries and rose were padded in the process.  The rose was completely prepped using unit, or off block, construction. Then we practiced stitching the hummingbird wings.  Phew!  That was a bunch of stuff to absorb!  Now, they're ready to complete their blocks at home.

My students were exposed to many methods for appliqué and, hopefully, learned that certain methods work for certain situations.  For example, using prepared edge for that long skinny stem would be like wrestling an octopus.  But preparing the edge for the strawberries, which are made of silk and padded, helps control the fabric.  Some think of this as torturing the fabric -- I think of it as not torturing myself when I'm sewing.  

As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. My preferred method for the last couple of years has been prepared edge appliqué, which I learned from Jeanne Sullivan. Yes, there is quite a bit of prep involved with cutting templates and pressing the edges that some consider kindergarten craft activities.  And others do not like using starch or glue.  My blocks get washed once the appliqué is complete and, even living in bug filled Florida, I've never had a problem.  The extra prep time pays off in the results and the relaxing nature of stitching the appliqué.

Needle turn is not foreign to me.  My quilt, "Love's Horizon," was completed using needle turn and won a major ribbon in the National Quilter's Association show in 2013.  But I have come to prefer prepared edge appliqué for several reasons:  I can place a number of pieces on the background at once and see how things are looking, particularly my color choices.  I can check the level of contrast in the block and make sure that the design can be seen.  My block becomes very portable and my thread is not constantly catching on pins.  My sewing time is much more relaxed because the stitching is all that's left to do.  My points are already pointed, the curves are turned, and it's no stress stitching.  My students love it!  As Elly often says, "Your way is the right way." 

Appliqué for everyone is my motto!  We all have our favorite methods just as we prefer a certain needle or thread.  Is one method superior to another?  I don't think so.  The superior method is the one that works for you and brings joy to the process.  Find that method and run with it! This isn't rocket science and it's supposed to be FUN! 

Thanks again to my students for being such an inspiration. And hugs to my assistant extraordinaire, Barbara Carper.  Your friendship means so much to me!

My sweet Stella is happy I'm home, but she needs to pout a little about me being away.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


You must think I’m a slacker!  Honestly, I’m not.  I'm just very slow at times and have a tendency to flit from project to project.  Now, if I actually finished some of the distractions I've flitted to, well, that would really be something!  But I don't have anything to show you except my tulip wreath.  Finally, Finally Finished!  This is pretty much straight forward appliqué -- lots of leaves and tulips.  The thistle leaves are random feather stitch.  I cross hatched the base of each thistle and stitched a tiny French knot at the crosses.  The center petals of the bright pink tulips are examples of fussy cutting.

Here's the block, way back in September, when I was checking my leaf selection.
Lots has happened since then.  For one thing, we had a very wet summer in North Carolina and it was a banner year for thistles and goldenrod in the very early Fall.  So, I had to put some thistles in this block to remember a walk (Ha! more like a 5 mile hike!) I took at Moses Cone Park with my dear friend, Patsy.

Now that the holidays are over and we've survived, it's time to get down to business.  That means KITS!  I am well underway putting together kits for The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy.  
I tidied things up for the photo.  My sewing room is pretty much a disaster area at the moment and Stella doesn't approve.

I will get back to stitching soon and have made a New Year's resolution to post more often.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Busy as a bee!

Blogging took a back seat to stitching for most of the summer.  It was slow going at times, and there were a few distractions along the way, but I'm happy to show you my beehive block, completed just this morning.

There were a few anxious moments wondering if it would all come together.  Sometimes one's vision just doesn't become a reality.  In the case of this block, I was pleasantly surprised. 

I meant to take photos at each step of this block's construction but, once in stitching mode, the best laid plans...
Here is a first photo, taken on July 19 when I was at the very beginning with stems and leaves.
Then came some flowers about a week or so later.

This is the block with the appliqué complete on August 21st.  I worked on some small projects during that month but the beehive was mostly front and center.  It's interesting to compare a block before and after embellishments are added so here they are next to each other.

I have to say the tendrils and sprigs were starting to make me a little crazy, but I persevered.  

When I finish a block, I'm always thankful for the generous encouragement of fellow appliqué devotees:  Elly Sienkiewicz who introduced me to this Baltimore journey;  Cynthia Williford who instilled a love of embellishment;  Jeanne Sullivan who taught me prepared edge appliqué;  and Patsy Lastra, my sister friend, who gives me her honest opinion always and helps me get unstuck.  These are just a few of the women I've been so fortunate to meet because of appliqué.

Well, back to the sewing room!  I need to figure out what's next!  Happy stitching to you!  

From my garden, a David Austin rose called Carding Mill