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.