Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Start Me up and Let me Sew

Scrap III: Flower Garden

Having taken Scrap II, "Winging It", as far as I could with that particular set of scraps, it was time to decide on the next stash buster quilt.

Knowing that I would have very limited time for actual sewing throughout the spring and summer, I looked for something quick and easy to stitch together. Although technically Flower Garden is in the category of "unfinished project" as opposed to being from the official scrap stash,  it still helps achieve my goal of stash reduction.

Flower Garden: A sampling of the 4 patch blocks, roughly laid out and set on point.

Back in the winter of 2005, as we were already preparing for our move to France, I decided to participate in one last class with my small quilting group. The pattern for this quilt top is a simple 4 patch block separated by sashing and set on point.

At the time, the 35 - 40 calicoes and small floral prints that I chose for this quilt were all cut into 4" squares. There were hundreds of 4" squares. The 1" beige sashing had also been cut to the different lengths required. And that's as far as I got this quilt in 2005.

In the meantime, my daughter used some of these squares to hand piece a baby quilt when she was pregnant, adding her own creativity and more fabric into the mix.

Choosing to keep to the original intent, I stayed with small florals and pastels,  and divided them into darks, mediums and lights.




Assembly has been very quick. (Thank goodness). Each block consists of four - 4" squares separated by the beige sashing.

4 patch block with sashing

These blocks are then set on point and stitched to each other. It really doesn't get much easier than that.

4 blocks set on point

To date, I have 101 completed Flower Garden blocks, with another 24 that will be stitched by next week Monday. With 61 blocks from "The Scrappler" and 105 blocks from "Winging It", it takes my total stash buster blocks to 291 blocks this year. Next week Monday happens to be the 291st day of the year, (according to my count). So, much to my surprise, I'm still on track to complete 366 blocks this year.

That leaves 75 more blocks to stitch for 2016. Time to choose the next stash buster project.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Embroidery of Boutis meets the Great Lakes Region EGA

"The Embroidery of Boutis" is a direct translation of the term, "la Broderie de Boutis". As a quilter, I have thought more in quilt related terms when it comes to boutis, however, as it's name suggests, the French consider boutis more in terms of embroidery. So how very appropriate that a group of embroiderers would be interested in learning more about this French technique.

For about the last 6 months, my attention has been focused on writing a basic instruction manual for boutis and creating kits for a few of my designs.  After I had finished my first cicada needlebook, I wrote some basic instructions for it and asked my friend Karen, (averyclaire.org), to "test drive" the pattern and instructions. Karen and I had met on-line a number of years prior to this through our mutual interest in boutis. Not only has she done a beautiful job in recreating the pattern herself, her feedback on the instructions has been extremely helpful for the rewrite and it's final version.  (Well, current version; everything seems to remain a work in progress in my life!)

The final version of the instruction manual for "La Cigale Needle Book".

When Karen showed the members of her local EGA (Embroiderers Guild of America) the completed needle book, there seemed to be interest in learning more about the technique. Eventually, this interest lead to the two of us teaching a class on boutis to some of the members of the Great Lakes Region EGA this past September.

Between the two of us, we spent the greater part of the late spring and summer prepping for this class. Because the class was held near Karen's home, we had all materials shipped to her well before the date of the class. Thanks to Karen's efforts, our kits were beautifully packaged and greeted the participants as they arrived for the class.

Karen even had the kits appropriately wrapped in fleur de lis tissue paper.

Below is the project we used to teach this class. The needle book is first completely stitched by hand, then each channel is individually corded with a cotton yarn.

Completed needle book.

All materials necessary to complete the needle book were included in the kit.

The open needle book.

We began the class by relating a bit about the history of boutis and the importance of symbolism and French culture in it's design. Time constraints didn't allow for much actual stitching, so we focused on outlining and demonstrating the basic principals and techniques specific to boutis. Being pros, these ladies will not have any difficulty completing the pattern on their own time.

Prior to the class starting, Karen, far right, is displaying some of our examples of boutis.

Each kit contained a gift of a lavender sachet, an example of Karen's beautiful handiwork.
Aside from embroidery, quilting and her interest in boutis, Karen also has a finishing business where she finds creative settings for her customers finished embroidery pieces. Her perfection and meticulous workmanship keep her sewing table well supplied with embroidered pieces others have sent her to be finished.

Lavender sachets were included in each kit.

Karen has designed a set of three boutis Christmas ornaments (below) which are available in a kit from her Etsy store. Three of these kits were given away in a draw at the class.

Karen's Christmas ornaments.

My rose window pattern was also packaged into a kit and three of these were given away in the draw as well.

Rose Window Boutis

I used a variation of the same rose window pattern on a red silk dupioni to cover the keepsake box below.  Karen not only finished the box for me, but she also very graciously wrote a set of instructions for it which she will allow me to use in my kit for this pattern.

Silk Rosette Boutis keepsake box.

This "Rose Window" kit and the "Silk Rosette" are not quite ready for sale, but I hope to have them up before long. The cicada kits are ready for sale and currently available by contacting me via email through my blog.

Another project keeping me busy these days is getting a new website up and running along with an Etsy Shop. More on that next time. 

Meeting Karen in person was certainly a highlight of the experience for me. We enjoyed working together and look forward to continuing our on-line collaborations and most of all, our friendship.

Left to right: Karen (averyclaire) and Elizabeth (seamsfrench) after the class.

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.