Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Machine Quilted Bumble Bee Placemats

Just Buzzing Around

Finishing some "vintage" Phd's (Projects half done) is a quick way to make a bit of a dent in my self imposed goal to "Scrap the Stash" (well, ....., reduce it anyway).

Years ago, when we still spent part of each year in Montpellier, France, these 8 placemats had been cut out and prepped, ready to quilt. But as often happens, the project was interrupted and the materials were "filed" under "Later". Well, "later" finally came this summer and the placemats got done.

To applique the little bumble bees, I used "Appliquik", a light weight iron on fusible, and then machine satin stitched around the wings and body.

The backing fabric is the typical Provencal cotton found in most French markets. The quality isn't the best, but the colours and designs are a happy reminder of those sunny, warm days in "le grand sud".

All of the quilting is free motion. The swirly border is meant to represent the busy buzzing of the bees and the interior "honeycomb" was inspired by Cindy Seitz-Krug's book, "The Grid Design Workbook". The straight lines gave me the chance to practice with my new ruler presser foot.

As there are still many similar Phd's in the stash, there will never be a time where I will have to wonder "what's next?".

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A "Summery" of Quilting

Sew with the Flow

Having started this post sometime in June, it was to be a bit of an update of what was on my stitching list for the summer. As often happens, unpredictable events take us from our routine schedule and force a re-prioritization of plans. Therefore the post never got published, and the motto "sew with the flow" became my daily mantra. A number of the projects below have been completed, progress was made on some, while others were not even touched.

First up on the list of priorities was the whole cloth silk quilt that I'm making for my husband and myself. The design is well under way, and as soon as there is a large chunk of time, I will start transferring the pattern onto the silk. It will not be an easy task, but I'm very anxious to get going on it.
Hummingbirds and gardenias are a major design element.

As are shamrocks.

The top of the quilt is a teal dupioni silk (centre of the photo). On the back will be the dark navy/tealish Northcott cotton that is on the left. The turquoise solid cotton on the bottom right was an option for the back that I decided against.
To see how it would hold up, I pre-washed a meter of the silk, which I am using for the trial pieces. Although there was shrinkage, it's not serious at all and I love how soft and manageable the silk has become. I will definitely be pre-washing the whole 9 yards.

The trial piece has been underlined with a very light fusible interfacing. So far, I'm not crazy about the relief I'm getting with it, even though I'm using two layers of wool batting in some places. Will I regret it if I don't use it?

In my on-going attempt to reduce the stash, I hauled out these 8 placemats that had been cut to size back in France, with applique templates ready to go. The bumble bees are machine appliqued and held in place with a light fusible web along with a satin stitch.

They also gave me the opportunity to practice ruler work with my new ruler presser foot and "Kelly Cline's" machine quilting rulers.

Along with the placemats that had been pre-cut were about 6 more meters of the yellow and white striped fabric, left over from a project in France. Tablecloths were an easy project that used up most of the fabric and became the colour inspiration for the table setting for our "Summer Solstice" party.
As there was still a lot of fabric, I made a second tablecloth for our balcony table.

The Lady H has graduated to a pillow, so new bedding was required, including these flannel pillowcases.

And last but not least, there was a little time to get my Scrap IV Flower Garden quilt from last year stitched together into rows. Another session should have the rows together and ready for sandwiching.

The next post will be a bit of an update on Boutis, which is still very much a priority in my stitching life.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Yukata Quilt: Border and Backing

When I came back from the "Curves and Composition with Yukatas" workshop a few weeks ago, the four quadrants of my quilt top had been sewn together but not finished with a border. Borrowing an idea I had seen in one of Patricia's quilts, I decided a square in a square 3" block would use up some of the scraps, plus add a bit of a "glitzy necklace" frame around the  butterfly.

The idea was to encircle the 1" jewel coloured squares inside a navy border.

When I ran out of the navy fabric, instead of cutting into another chunk of the navy yardage (which has been purchased to be the back of my silk wholecloth quilt), I decided to make a few of the blocks using just the jewel tones. These were casually interspersed around the border.

I tried to add the more colourful blocks in areas of the quilt where the navy came to the edge.

After the border was completed, there wasn't much of the "Yukata" fabric left over, but I managed to get a centre block made with what was left. Although none of the red yukata that I used as sashing on the back is on the front, I had cut into it for the butterfly, but decided against using it there.

And, as you can see, I caved in and did cut into more of the navy yardage to finish the back. Hopefully my quilt shop still has some of that navy on hand so that I can replace what I used for this project.

The quilt is now ready to be sandwiched and machine quilted.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yukata Cottons and Curves

My absence from the "blogisphere" does not equal idle stitching hands. Currently there are  7 or 8 boutis projects on the go, all in various stages of development. Progress (although slow) is being made on my whole cloth silk quilt, there's been a little bit of "scrap busting" happening, and even some fun summertime sewing. Updates on those in future posts.

But last week, I participated in an energetic, productive, fun-filled quilting workshop in La Conner, Washington called "Curves and Compositions with Yukata cottons".

La Conner, WA is a pretty little waterfront town, half way between Vancouver and Seattle.

The five day workshop is organized and taught by Patricia Belyea of OKAN Arts. Patricia imports and sells vintage Japanese textiles called "yukata" cottons, around which we based the designs for our quilts.

Patricia Belyea of OKAN Arts.

"Yukatas" are 15" wide, hand-dyed cottons, traditionally used to make summer kimonos.

Passionate about these textiles, Patricia has an amazing collection that she sells from her home shop in Seattle. The rich, jewel like fabrics will dazzle you with their vibrant colours and draw you in like a magnetic field.

Some of these fabrics were in the pop up shop set up next to the workroom. It's the best kind of candy shop, no calories!

A sampling of the colourful yukatas that came home with me.

She also has yukatas in the traditional indigo and white ...

... as well as indigos that Patricia over-dyes to create more subtle tones.

During the five day workshop two projects were created. Participants were encouraged to move beyond our comfort zone and incorporate these vibrant prints into compositions of our own design using Patricia's technique for "no-fail" piecing with curves.  

Project A focused on creating a four quadrant quilt top.
Although most chose a traditional four block square layout,....

... the layout of the blocks was up to the individual quilter.

Chris composed her blocks to create a continuous design that flowed lengthwise.

Gin's final layout is still to be determined, but I like this kimono-like shape that she had up on her design wall.

Project B (see Patricia's example quilt below) took the concept of curves into a larger composition. We had all brought fabrics from our home stash and were encouraged to incorporate it into the quilt top along with the yukatas.

Patricia's example quilt for the second project.

By week's end, we had designed two quilts, all in various stages of completion. Many of the participants went home with two finished quilt tops. Sadly, not all of us were that efficient.

My project at week's end. (Insert heavy sigh!)

Two of the participants, who had taken the course last year, were given further instruction on piecing tighter, more complex curves. They learned a technique for inserting a curved ribbon into the finished quilt top (below). The results were amazing; there was no puckering in the top and it lay perfectly flat.

Rose completed this striking quilt during the week, using Patricia's technique to insert the tightly curved, narrow ribbon into the finished top.

To see more of the quilts from the workshop, check out Patricia's blog. And while you're there, take a look at some of the other exciting things her blog has to offer. If you ever plan a trip to Japan, her website is a great resource for everything from quilting info to the practicalities of travel to Japan. And if you're ever planning a trip to the Pacific NW, consider participating in this workshop.

Patricia's carefully planned schedule for the week anticipated all of our needs and requirements and provided an environment conducive to productivity and fun. Everything about the week was delightful, from the energetic productivity in the classroom, to the easy going camaraderie between the quilters. Coming home with a finished quilt top is a bonus.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Favourite Free Motion Quilting Books

When I first started dabbling with machine quilting in the late 90's, it was a quick means to a finished quilt. The machine quilting was very basic and simple. It was utilitarian and nothing more. It was after I became acquainted with Diane Gaudynski's work, that the amazing world of free motion quilting opened up for me. Seeing her incredible quilts, with their flawless execution and elegant designs inspired me to pursue this technique with a renewed excitement.

Both of her books, "Guide to Machine Quilting": American Quilter's Society, 2002 and "Quilt Savvy: Gaudynski's Machine Quilting  Guide": AQS, 2006 are still my first "go to" resources for everything related to machine quilting.

"Guide to Machine Quilting" covers every possible aspect of machine quilting, from managing that great big bulk in a domestic machine, to controlling and coordinating machine speed with hand movement, to detailed descriptions on perfecting precise, intricate stitches, and everything in between.

 "Quilt Savvy", Diane's second book, is more of a quick reference guide, but it's complete with detailed, close-up photos of her work. Both books are constant companions at my machine.

When I saw Diane Gaudynski reference Cindy Seitz-Krug's book: "The Grid Design Workbook": American Quilter's Society, 2016 book in her latest blog post, I wasted no time to get a copy of it. I have not been disappointed. Although fairly new in my library, Cindy's techniques and ideas have already had an influence in my designs.

Cindy describes a logical, simple way to make sense of background filler space in a quilt. Her step by step instructions make the process easy to follow and to adapt to any design.

You can see some of her amazing work on her website "Quintessential Quilting".

And while you're there, check out Cindy's new on-line class, which is airing very soon. 
In her latest blog post, she discusses the problems relating to thread tension. Well worth a read.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Seitz-Krug

Photo courtesy of Cindy Seitz-Krug

Another more recent addition to my reference library is Bethanne Nemesh's book, "The Fast and the Fancy: Feathers for Freehand Quilters": www.whitearborquilting.com, 2016

For some reason, I have found feathers intimidating. The graceful, elegant flow of feathers seen in quilts such as Diane and Bethanne create, don't just happen. It takes a lot of practice to make them seem so perfectly effortless. It's with good reason that Bethanne has won so many awards for her amazing quilts.

Working through Bethanne's tutorials has given me more confidence and ease when designing and stitching feathers. Bethanne teaches a logical sequence in the creation of feathers, from simple and straightforward, to intricate and formal, to whimsical and fun.

Below are a few of my rather pathetic attempts to implement her technique on paper. As you can see, much more practice is needed with needle and thread.

Aside from "The Fast and the Fancy", Bethanne has a number of other books that are well worth a read. All are available through her website. Like many in this business, Bethanne is generous with sharing her expertise, so  I was delighted to see that she has a new book, "Quilted textures from A to Zen". It is sure to become another favourite.

Check out Bethanne's amazing quilts on her website, White Arbor Quilting and Design".

Sunday, April 2, 2017

And this Little Piggie was Free Motion Quilted All the Way Home

I'm happy to say that the "Sanglier" placemats are done and 8 happy little piggies are nibbling their way through a sunny vineyard all the way to their new home.

The eight 13 1/4" x 17" placemats were quilted on a domestic machine using only free motion. 

The sanglier was machine embroidered separately first, then appliqued to the quilt top prior to sandwiching.

To highlight the palm tree, I used embroidery thread for the quilting.

A close-up of a corner shows where the colour of the thread changes with the colour gradations of the fabric as described in the previous post.

The cross hatch grid was achieved with free motion and the use of a ruler. Even though I currently don't have a presser foot designed for ruler work, this is a much faster way to stitch straight lines than using a walking foot. I used the plastic FM quilting foot that came with my machine and it works fairly well, but I have no doubt that a presser foot designed for the purpose of ruler work would be more efficient as well as more accurate. New presser foot coming soon.

Top of the placemat.

Underside of the placemat.

These placemats were great a great warm-up session for my whole cloth silk quilt which is next on my list. Although the quilting design isn't finished for it yet, I'm very anxious to get at it and hope to get started on some trial pieces very soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Free Motion Quilting: Tension and Thread

Ah yes, this thread tension thing. Just thinking about it makes me break out into hives and my hair stand on end. I've read books, manuals and tutorials. I've watched tutorials. I've spent hours trying different threads and techniques, but each free motion experience requires an individual approach and many experiments. Balancing the thread is unique to each project depending on all the variables the materials present; fabric, colours of fabric, type of batting, needle make and size, thread type and weight, etc. and of course, that all important element of "zen-ness".

Using an ochre thread on the top and a deep red in the bobbin for these placemats didn't make the balancing act any easier, but, the first 2 samples below show that success was eventually achieved. The top thread and bobbin thread finally balanced.

Balanced on the top side ...

... and finally on the underside of the sample.

The next 3 photos show the progression of the different threads and tensions as I went through the trial process. On the top side, the stitch was good with most variations (see below). I prefer using a lighter weight thread, such as Aurifil, Superior's "So Fine" or a silk for the top thread and Superior's "Bottom Line" (a 60 wt. poly) in the bobbin. Superior's "Kimono silk", used for the bottom two petals of the center leaf, would have worked fine, but I didn't have the right colour nor the time frame to wait for an order.

The underside was a very different story. Because I like my threads to disappear into the fabric when quilting, I needed two very different colours for the top and the bobbin. My normal bobbin thread for FMQ has been Superior's "Bottom Line", and that's what you see below. It balanced nicely with the silk thread, (the bottom 2 petals of the grape leaf).  But the other top threads didn't fare well with the Bottom Line.

Bobbin thread was consistent for the grape leaf. Top thread varied.

So I played around with different threads in the bobbin, all with disappointing results. After much experimentation, frustration and tension, the left side of the feather on the sample below finally balanced with a plain old Guttermann 50 wt. poly in the bobbin. The bobbin tension also had to be seriously tightened, which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end, but I did it and it worked. I had settled on a "Mettler Metrosene" ( a 50 wt. polyester glide) on the top and the Guttermann 50 wt. poly in the bobbin. Yowzaa!!!

Balance is finally achieved on the left side of the feather on the sample.

Because of the gradations in the fabric, I used two different colours for the top; an orangy saffron and a rusty red.

The Mettler sews up like a much finer thread and it blends into the fabric quite well. I had not used it for FMQ before this.

Top of placemat. The Sanglier and palm tree were embroidered with Superior's Magnifico (top) and Bottom Line (bobbin). The combination of those two threads worked well with free motion embroidery.

There were no further problems while stitching and the tension issue seemed to disappear almost completely. I quite enjoyed stitching with the Mettler and am happy with the results. As for the happy state of "zen-hood", that may take a while longer.

I still prefer the look Superior's Bottom Line creates and will likely go back to it for my next FMQ project, but this time the Mettler and Guttermann did the trick.