Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Happy Dance, Finally!

My latest block is finally, finally finished!!  Picture me doing a happy dance!  

This block took me a while to finish, but here it is at last!  Maybe it was all those blueberries.  I counted them repeatedly and the number (68!) never got any smaller!  And there were some interruptions and interludes along the way:  summer visitors, setting up this blog, adventures in design.  It feels good to be done!

This block is my design inspired by an antique quilt attributed to Mary Simon.  The dogwood branch is a new element and I'm pleased with the flowers.  Sometimes, you can draw something but that doesn't mean it will look the way you envisioned it when translated into fabric.  The light dogwood flowers are a pale pink batik; the darker ones are an Oakshott cotton.  The embroidered lines that give the flowers their dogwood look are done in stem stitch using one strand of silk floss.  The centers are French knots, 2 wraps in 4mm silk ribbon.

Here is what the block looked liked before embellishments and the hummingbird.

The moral of the story:  Don't let the blueberries get you down!  

Have a happy stitching kind of day!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.
                                                   --Charles Dickens

Don't forget!!  Registration for The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy begins tomorrow!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Techniques for a complex stem

My current favorite method for doing appliqué is prepared edge.  I was a dedicated needle turner until I took a class from Jeanne Sullivan.  As most of us do when we learn a new technique, I’ve modified what I learned in Jeanne’s class to my own comfort zone.

Lately though, I’ve been working on a block that has a rather complex stem.  I could probably wrestle this stem into submission and prepare the edge but I would be standing at the iron way too long.    So, I return to needle turn and reassure myself that I can still do it.

The first step is to prepare a template of the stem and press it to the fabric.  Trace around the outside of the template with your favorite marking pencil.  My favorite is the Sew Line pencil, which comes in several colors. In the picture below, the stem on the left is completely appliquéd.  The one on the right still has the template on it to guide correct placement. 

Use tiny appliqué pins to secure the piece in place.
Remove the template.

At this point, you could begin to appliqué by cutting away along the traced line of the stem leaving a 3/16” seam allowance – a scant ¼” or a healthy 1/8” – which ever way you choose to think of it.  Cut away a 2" section of fabric, appliqué it, and repeat.

I add a step at this point and baste down my stem using the back basting method.  I do this for a few reasons: 1) I always snag my thread on the pins which slows me down and tends to aggravate me a bit; 2) I’m more certain that the stem will stay in place; 3) without the pins, the work seems more portable to me because I can easily fold it.

To baste the stem, use a #8 embroidery needle and quilting thread in school bus yellow.  Baste on the traced line in such a way that you take small stitches in the fabric leaving a longer visible thread on top.  Back basters do this because the large needle and heavier thread perforate the fabric and make it easier to turn under.  I think they’re right!

Once the stem is basted, remove the pins.  Begin to cut away the excess leaving your seam allowance and needle turn the edge about 2” at a time.  You do this in sections because the excess fabric also helps to hold the shape in place.

This will sound like too much preparation to some of you and that’s totally understandable.  I do it for the reasons mentioned above and because it gives me the best result.  It takes me about 20 minutes for the basting step but that extra time is worth it to me because it makes the stitching so much more relaxing.