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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Free Motion Quilting: Placemats

Sanglier, Palm Trees and Sunshine

9 Piggies Dancing! I used free motion embroidery for the sangliers with "Magnifico", a 40 wt. polyester thread from Superior Threads.

Sangliers are wild boars that still run freely in large numbers throughout the French countryside. Symbolizing strength and invincibility, it's image has been immortalized in various art forms through the ages.

Sanglier en bronze

A number of years ago, I was asked to quilt a tablecloth where the sanglier motif was the focal point. The owner of this tablecloth has now requested placemats designed around the same theme. This time, the design should include sangliers and palm trees on warm terracotta coloured fabric. To this, I added a vineyard (what's more French than a vineyard?) where the sanglier might find himself very comfortable.

Below, my new design is tucked into the fabrics that I am using for these placemats. The main fabric (on the bottom) is one of Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry's "Gradations" from Benartex. It was the perfect find for this project. (And, I found it in my stash; even better). The backing (the patterned fabric) and binding fabric are a good match with the "Gradations".


Below are a few options for the layout. The pattern could be centered horizontally with the copper in the center.

The fabric is "Gradations" by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry for Benartex.

Or the shade could change from the darker red to the warmer copper.


In the end, we chose an option with the copper running vertically down the center. (below).

The little piggie was machine embroidered separately, then appliqued onto the main fabric with a 40 wt. embroidery thread from Superior. Using the same heavier embroidery thread, I have quilted around the sanglier and palm tree. The rest of the quilting, the grape vines and background, will be done with a lighter thread that blends into the fabric as much as possible. More on the thread next time.

Sandwiched and pin basted, the placemats are ready for quilting.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Redwork Forest Scrap Quilt

Update: Scrap the Stash 2016

"Redwork Forest" assembled quilt top. ("Paper and Plums" pattern by Alexandra Ledgerwood.)

Early in 2016, I had set out a few goals for myself, one being the intent of sewing a block a day using only scraps. Well, I soon discovered that a block a day was counter productive; the gathering of materials and set up takes too much time on a daily basis for only one block. The problem was resolved by making one day a week a day to focus on the scraps. This has worked out fairly well, and on December 1st the count was 345 completed blocks, in 4 different colour ways.

Scrap 1: "Gone Scrappy" with warm ochres and olive greens, scraps left over from the warm, sunny "Languedoc" days.


Scrap 2: "Winging It" made with bright and colourful baby quilt scraps.


Scrap 3: "Flower Garden" was a project that I had started in Winnipeg in 2004 prior to our move to the west coast and Montpellier. The squares and sashing had already been cut and all that was required was stitching the blocks together. A quick and easy assembly.


Scrap 4: The rich reds and toile de jouy scraps of "Redwork Forest" are another reminder of sun filled, fun filled days in Montpellier. When the flu bug struck in early December, everything, including me, came to an abrupt stop for the rest of the month.


These strip pieced blocks of Redwork Forest were the final set of blocks for the year, and as of the end of January 2017, all necessary blocks for the quilt were completed, taking the total count of blocks for 2016 to 369, a surplus of 3 whole blocks. Yeah me!

I will now work on assembling the blocks of Scrap 1, 2 and 3 into completed quilt tops, but, in the meantime, Scrap 4 just got stroked off the list. Double yeah!!! (Quilting goals to be set at some future date.)



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Seams Baby: Colours and Stripes and Feathers; Oh my!


Not really being able to focus on anything other than the inside of my eyelids during most of December, none of my projects got any attention.

Having to miss my favourite little girls 2nd birthday was likely more painful than anything this flu bug could do to me. I consoled myself with some colourful yarns and knitting needles and somehow managed to get a little scarf together.



Just before the big nasty virus launched it's attack in early December, I did get a few gifts in just under the wire. After hundreds of feathers were cut, stitched and turned over many months, (OK, maybe not hundreds, but lots and lots), there were finally enough for this little Owl doll. Ollie the Owl is a creation of Angela Yosten, from her book "Sew Modern Baby" published by Stash Books of C & T Publishers. With big, round googly eyes and colours galore, it has to fun!

Scads of scraps from previous baby quilts were used up for the feathers.

Fusible interfacing and machine applique quickly took care of the details.

Ollie dressed for the party.

With a number of new babies in the family this past year, I stitched up several more Owl towels using up some of the left over feathers.

Left over feathers came in handy for the owl's head.

The face was machine appliqued using a fusible interfacing which softens up nicely after washing.

A coordinated binding, machine stitched on both sides, finished the towels quickly and easily and off they flew to meet their new little owners.

3 sets of towels with handy bath mitts for mom and baby.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Whole Cloth Silk Quilt Update


It seems I blinked a couple of times and 2016 was gone. How did that happen?

Since my last post, there has been very little activity on the Seams French assembly line. Several nasty versions of flu bugs have kept me pretty much out of commission for most of December and the early part of January. Preset goals and deadlines became meaningless when the only thing that mattered was having enough cough meds and tissues in the house. Vulnerability should never be underestimated.

With some wind back in my sails, I decided to start up 2017 by pulling out my whole cloth quilt design that had been shelved since last April.

For a quilt like this, I like to preplan and draw in fairly detailed FMQ lines for focal motifs. I love this part of the process and can get completely lost in it.

Completed FMQ butterfly design.

When designing, I rely on a lot of different resources. Our collection of photos is fairly large and is my first source for ideas and inspiration. Books, art, the internet, etc. are all great references as well and I use them all.


For this quilt, I seem to be drawn to the Arts and Crafts Movement (1880's Britain), to Art Nouveau (1890 - 1910) through to Art Deco (1920 - 1940).

The butterfly got a touch of the diva from Erte, a fashion illustrator from the Art Deco period.

"Erté: Art Deco Master of  Graphic Art and Illustrator", by Rosalind Ormiston: Flame Tree Publishing, London 2014

Another illustration from the same book.

Alphonse Mucha inspired this little hummingbird.

Here she is in progress.

Completed hummingbird.

Below is a trial run of FMQ on some gardenias, inspired by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement

"William Morris: Artist, Craftsman, Pioneer" by P. Ormiston and N.M. Wells; Flame Tree Publishing, 2010 London

The general design layout of the quilt has been printed out to full size, 100" x 100". It's basically a map of all of the elements, with details to be reworked individually


My Notre Dame Rose Window design has found it's way into the background of this quilt along with a scattering of shamrocks.


I have not set many "SeamsFrench" goals for this year, but finishing this quilt this year is a priority for me. It has been on the back burner for far too long so it's definitely time. Updates will be posted.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Scrap Buster IV: Redwork Strip Trees


My 4th and last scrap quilt of the year uses up most of the reds and neutrals in the scrap stash, much of which had already been precut into strips.


Early in the year, soon after I started this adventure of improv quilting with scraps and stash reduction, I realized how seriously out of my comfort zone the exercise was taking me. To the rescue came several books. Among them is Alexandra Ledgerwood's book, "Improvising Tradition" which focuses on using precut strips.  By clarifying her process of "pairing improvised elements and techniques with traditional designs and methods", she has calmed some of the fear and chaos that improv quilting brings to my mind.


Because so much of my scrap stash is precut strips, I found the book particularly appealing. Her pattern "Paper and Plums" with the 12 1/2 inch equilateral triangles was perfect for all of the red and neutral strips in the stash.


The strips are sewn into 12 1/2 inch widths and then cut at precise 60 degree angles. That's a lot of stripping.


I did have to dip into the larger stash to top up the strips, but for the most part, these strips were all left overs from previous projects. Looking at the red blocks now, I'm not crazy about the toile de jouys in the mix, (I find the light background quite jarring), but because the main purpose of this exercise is to use up all scraps, they went into the blocks.

The quilt requires 32 full triangles in red as well as 6 half triangles. I'm about half way there.


The neutral triangles are completed; 31 full and 8 half.


My cumulative block count for the year is 345 to date, which leaves 21 blocks to complete before year's end. Here's hoping that I find the time!

In the meantime, we're battening down the hatches and hunkering down for a second weather system moving in overnight and bringing in colder temps and more snow.  Earlier in the week, this was taken from our balcony.



This amount of snowfall is unusual for this town and Vancouver really slows down with any amount of snow, so I might just get an extra day at the machine this week.