Monday, May 30, 2016

Boutis Update

Cathedral Window, Silk Jewels and Brush with a Balistic Strawberry

Over the last several weeks, a great deal of my stitching time has been devoted to boutis; there is the on-going stitching on some of the larger projects, other projects where the stitching has been completed, as well as some new designs and patterns in the works. Below are a few of these projects.

Holding a boutis piece up against the light makes the stitching a lot easier to see. Below is the progress so far on my cathedral window.

Cathedral window boutis, held up against the light.

The next photo shows a close-up of the stitching. Aside from the small circles, which will become rosettes, most of the piece is being stitched using a tiny backstitch. The backstitch slows down the process, but it enhances the channels and gives the pattern more definition once corded.

Close up of back-stitch used on Cathedral Window.

A very recent project is a series of silk keepsake box covers. I love the look of silk with boutis, with it's rich and vibrant colours that add a touch of drama to the relief in the finished corded piece. My small collection of silks had been tempting me for a while, so I decided it was time to give them some attention. 

The collection of dupioni silks that I will use for the jewel box covers.

This pattern has been adapted from a previous pattern to accommodate a round top.

The diameter of the pattern is 4 1/2 inches, a little larger than the box to accommodate the shrinkage that occurs because of the close stitching and the cording.

The box is just a paper mache box bought at a local craft store.

Below, the project is stitched and ready to be corded. Using mostly the running stitch, it stitched up quite quickly.

The stitching is more visible on the back. The two rows of broken lines near the perimeter form a pattern called "point de Vauvert". Each little section of the line is comprised of 3 evenly spaced backstitches, where the thread travels between the layers to get from one line to the next.

Working with white fabric is always a bit nerve-racking. Aside from the normal handling that leaves it's mark, fingers do get pricked, coffee can splash, pens can leak, etc. It's always a relief when a project is completed without disaster, as was the case with the butterfly pouch below. Enter a "show and tell" around our dinner table a few weeks ago, where strawberry parfaits had just been served. BIG MISTAKE! In my enthusiasm to regale my friends with boutis lore, (on their request, may I add) my over excited, uncontrolled hands sent my strawberry coated spoon sailing through the air, landing directly on the lower right hand corner of the stitched butterfly pouch below. It seems my hands were not the only things uncontrolled at that point. My poor little 4 legged friend Winston had to have his ears covered. Apparently my choice of words, prompted by the near disaster, were not appropriate for such delicate ears. My most sincere apologies Winston.

The strawberry fell just to the right of the stitched butterfly.

The story does have happy ending however. Immediate rinsing and soaking the stain overnight in a bath of warm water and Orvus soap completely removed it. Whew! Disaster averted, lesson learned and best of all, still friends with Winston.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Scrap Buster II: Winging It

New Blocks and Layout Ideas

Despite other commitments and projects, my scrap II is still in the works and pretty much on schedule. (The goal being 366 scrap blocks this year.)

Without too much cutting required, I managed to make 3 more sets of "winged" creature blocks from this particular collection of pre-cuts scraps.

This swarm of on-point dragonflies just emerged quite accidentally as I was trying to find another way to build a butterfly.

I call these "Kimono Butterflies". There are many images for similar blocks on-line, so I adapted the pattern as best I could to use up my pre-cut shapes.

With the few bits and pieces of left over appliqued 1" quarter circles, a small swarm of "buggy things" emerged.

Because there are so many pre-cut strips left over from the same project as the appliqued quarter circles, I just started sewing them together in sets of 3, knowing (well hoping), that the maths should work out. It has. Hurray! Many have now been cut into 9 patch blocks and there is a stack of them that could become corner stones, (as below), or may yet become blocks in their own right.

Below are a few more layout possibilities. With all of the blocks that this stash of scraps will yield, more then one quilt is likely, especially since these will become kid quilts.

The 9 patch blocks could be sewn together and become the focal point in one of the quilts.

Or they could be the corner stone with a solid coloured sashing joining them. The hand dyed blue fabric underneath happened to be handy for photographing. I will likely try it with a white sashing before I commit to a colour.

Or, if I really feel wild and crazy, I may just sash the blocks with more colour. I'll have to see where the spirit leads.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New Project: Silk Whole Cloth Quilt

Butterflies, Shamrocks, Hummingbirds and Gardenias

Having undergone many rethinks, redraws and reworkings over the last 3 or 4 years, the shamrocks, hummingbirds, butterflies and gardenias have finally found a way to play together on this quilt. Back in 2013 I started experimenting with some ideas on the machine, but then the project got shelved for a few years.  Because the quilt is for both of us, I asked my husband to participate in the design layout. For the last few months it has passed back and forth from my table to his computer and finally, we have come up with something that we can both be happy with. The quilt is a silk whole cloth, 100" x 100" (20" drop on three sides), with the central design layout of 60" x 80" covering the mattress of a queen size bed and will be machine quilted. (More on the layout in a future post).

The inspiration for the design started with a ceramic butterfly that we have had since we were married. (A photo of it is in the link above). She's a bit of an awkward, asymmetrical little thing, so I took some liberties with my interpretation. I hope she doesn't mind too much!

Gridded vellum is great to work on because it can withstand a lot of erasing and redrawing. Below is a progression of the butterfly as it developed.

First take on an upper wing ....,

... and lower wing.

Final results on the wings.

Completed pencil drawn butterfly.

Below are the options of dupioni silks for this quilt. The main body of the quilt will be the teal"ish" colour of the little sample scrap on the top of the pile. This had to be ordered in at a local silk shop in town and has not yet arrived. From the other colours in the pile, I may choose one of the "coppery"/gold"ish" fabrics to applique tiny morsels of accent into the pattern. Verdict's not in on that one yet. Some of the fabric will be used as my practise pieces which, if successful, will be used as pillow coverings.

Next week, I hope to trace the butterfly onto one of these fabrics for a trial run of materials, battings and threads.

My completed drawing of the butterfly. As you can see, I still left her pretty asymmetrical.

Let the fraying begin!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cathedral Window Boutis: In Stitches

The second boutis "Cathedral Window" that I started back in February is well under way.

(To get the right lighting for photographing white on white is almost impossible, (very frustrating) so I have included two variations of the same photo, hoping that the pattern will be visible on at least one of them.)

Just as in machine quilting, when stitching boutis, the first step is to stabilize and secure the major design lines, working from the center out. So, starting at the center rose, all of the large arches and channels radiating from it were stitched first.

Black and white photo of the entire design.

Colour image of the same photo.

Next, I continued with the first inner row of half arches, working the short, middle bar towards the rosette, and then on to the smaller arch.

From there, each following segment in the circumference will be stitched sequentially.

Some of the most impressive antique boutis quilts that I saw in France were stitched only with "point arriere" (a tiny backstitch). When I first had the opportunity to see these stitches close-up, I was completely blown away by the perfection of the stitch, both front and back. The meticulous stitches were tiny and consistent and it was difficult to fathom that these stitches were in fact hand made, not machine stitched, but Madame Nicolle, the proprietor of the "Maison du Boutis" in Calvisson, France, assured me they were the real deal. With those quilts as my inspiration, I have decided to stitch the entire cathedral window, other then the rosettes, with the "point arriere". This stitch does slow down the process, but as with everything, practice will improve the speed and consistency, and I'm up for the challenge.

I'm using a Gutermann hand quilting cotton thread with a size 10 Bohin quilting between needle.

The front of the work, showing a close-up of the backstitch.

The back of the work, showing the underside of the backstitch.

For the time being, I'm stabilizing the rosettes with a running stitch. Once all other  stitching in the piece has been completed, I will work a "point de rosette" (a needle lace rosette) into each circle. This will be my first attempt at this delicate pattern, but while in France, I had the opportunity to learn to make this rosette from one of the women in the boutis group that I participated in. Hopefully the notes I made and the pics I took will help me remember her instructions. There will be practice runs first!

The very first knotted thread that I pulled into the work made a tear in the batiste. Nooooooo!!!! The fabric is more delicate then I had anticipated. Thank goodness I had decided on the "rosette". It will completely cover the damage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Scrap the Stash II: Winging It

Since the beginning of the month, I have been quite happily stitching on my second "scrap the stash" quilt for the year which I have called "Winging It". 

After finishing the quilt below in 2012, ....

"Flight of Fancy" finished in January of 2012.

.... I had a lot of pre-appliqued quarter circles, pre-cut squares and as always, lots of strips left over.

A box full of strips left over from a number of baby quilts.

There are 3 different sizes of machine appliqued quarter circles.

And, a variety of pre-cut squares.

Some of these squares I have been re-cutting into smaller pieces.

These prepared pieces lent themselves quite easily to evolving into butterflies, so they became the first block for "Winging It".

Adding the centre strip for the body makes these butterflies a little different from the ones in the original quilt (see top photo).

Once I had used up the majority of the sizes and shapes of appliqued quarter circles required to form the above butterfly, I played with the other pre-cuts from this particular stash of scraps and have come up with a few other shapes of winged creatures.  By recutting the larger quarter circles, and the addition of some of the smallest quarter circles as well as the smallest square precuts, ....

.... I managed to squeak out 3 more birds from the same grouping.

I have 32 blocks finished for the month of March, including 2 other styles of "winged creatures". More on that and some layout ideas next time.
Time to focus on boutis and other quilting for a while.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Scrap the Stash: "The Scrappler"

Blocks 35-61: The Scrappler

Time-out! Someone or something needs to go for a nap. "The Scrappler", as I have named this unruly, tenacious compilation of strips, stripes and wonky, has had me out of my comfort zone long enough for the time being.

By February 29th, I had 60 blocks made from this first set of scraps. Since my goal is 366 for the year, (readjusted when I realized it's a leap year), I'm on schedule. Because I wanted to eliminate as much trimming and waste as possible, I let the scraps dictate the form the blocks would take.

Below is the last set of blocks I made from this particular conglomeration of scraps. By this time, there had been a lot of trial and error with colour placement and piecing ideas and I'm happier with these results then with the earlier blocks.

Made only from strips, this is the last set of blocks I made from this particular bunch of scraps.

The trial and error method started with these first two sets of blocks (next two pics below). I don't mind the sometimes on and sometimes off wonky log cabin blocks as much as I dislike the green and gold 4 1/2 x 11 1/2" rectangular blocks, but both left me feeling seriously frazzled and out of control. There is too much irregularity in the blocks, from the contrasting sashing to the irregular angles of the piecing. The effect is jarring and chaotic.

I tried a number of different layout possibilities, but I'm really at a loss as to how to use them. They desperately need some calming solids between and behind them to quiet the noise. Perhaps the best thing would be to make two separate quilts from these first two types of blocks, using them more as an accent rather then the focus of the quilt.

Many of the scraps in the stash are excess strips from prior projects, so for the next 3 types of blocks, including the 6" x 6" blocks in the first photo on the post, I focused on the strips.  These results leave me a little less frazzled and I feel that I can make them work together.

"Hexied" triangles

There are still plenty of scraps left in these colours to make more blocks of any type to build a final layout.

Diamond stripes cut on point.

Below are some ideas of how I might build the final layout.
Starting with the hexies......

Adding the 6" x 6" square blocks ........

Making a point with the diamonds.....
Filling in with a select few of the longer rectangular blocks.

There is still a lot of thought and play needed before I'm ready to commit these scrappy little blocks into a quilt top, but for now we, (the blocks and I), need a break from each other. So nap time it is for the green and gold!

As frustrated as I was with this first scrappy mess, it has not deterred me from the challenge of improv quilting. My second Scrap Buster is already well under way. This next one is starting out with a basic plan and an idea of where it's heading. The scraps will still dictate the blocks, but with a few more controls in place. In the meantime, the process is still fun and I intend to see it through to 366 blocks by the end of 2016.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Boutis Cathedral Window: Prep

Prepping, Marking and Basting

Boutis is traditionally worked on a good quality white cotton batiste. A good quality batiste is lightweight, finely woven, and semi sheer. These characteristics make it perfect for boutis.   It has a silky, buttery texture that the needle loves to glide through and makes it easier to obtain tiny stitches. Because of the translucence of the fabric, the black marker lines of the pattern are visible without the use of a light box.
I purchased this particular piece at the Musée La Maison du Boutis in Calvisson, in the south of France, a number of years ago and had been saving it for a special project. 

The design is quite visible underneath the batiste without the use of a light box.

Two equal size pieces of the batiste are cut to accommodate the size of the design allowing a generous border for easy hooping. For the bottom piece, I used a different batiste. It's still just as closely woven, but not quite as fine. Strength is important because a lot of stress is put on the backing fabric during the cording process. For this type of work, the batiste is never pre-washed. This would cause the fabric and the yarn to shrink unevenly when washing the finished piece in the final step.

Before securing the fabric to the tracing surface, it is folded into quarters to mark the center cross hairs. I add a quick basting stitch over these finger pressed lines for better visibility. Next, the batiste is centered over the motif and taped into place, keeping the fabric taut and square. The basted cross hairs are a helpful reference in keeping the piece square at all times. Because I didn't need the light box to trace this pattern, I taped everything to my cutting mat, which allowed me to turn the project to make tracing easier.

The pattern has a sheet of white paper underneath it to make it more visible.

Below are my drawing tools.
Depending on the size of the channels, (traditionally 4mm, but I prefer 1/8"), I use either a metric or an imperial ruler to draw the double lines. Compass and circle template are invaluable because of the many circles in this piece. After a  lot of trial and error using various different marking pens, I have come back to the basic fabric marking mechanical lead pencil. It may be a little harder to wash out at the end of the project, but it gives me the most accurate line and when it's been washed out, it's gone.

Once the tracing is completed, it's ready to be sandwiched. The two pieces are taped to a flat surface, wrong sides together, keeping the traced design on top. At this stage, it's very important that both pieces are square and have the straight of grain running in the same direction. The basted cross hairs help to achieve this. I also mark the straight of grain on each piece.

Although not required, I prefer to cut the bottom piece slightly larger then the top.  Just an old habit from sandwiching quilts!

It's then basted in the same way we would baste a quilt, from the center out, alternating between the lengthwise and crosswise grain. Normally I baste every 2 inches, but I basted this one about 1" - 1 1/2" apart to reduce the risk of shifting the fabrics.

Stitch ready! I'm looking forward to a lovely day of stitching and Netflix tomorrow. Oh yeah, and maybe the "Academy Awards".