Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wishes for Good Tidings and Joy

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quilting Inspiration in Hawaii

A recent family holiday in Hawaii wasn't just an opportunity to postpone winter a little longer, while absorbing and storing as much sunshine and warmth as Canada customs would allow us to bring home, it also provided a whole new chapter of ideas and inspiration for quilting and needlework designs.

On the day of our arrival the evening sky after sunset was magnificent with a vibrant display of lavenders, hot pinks and rich blues. These colours made their way into a number of my earlier quilts, and I still find the combination attractive and magnetic.

Picture perfect orchids were growing everywhere. The petals provide a great example of how a natural colour gradient works.

There were a number of species quite new to me. The ironwood tree below is a dense red hardwood that was used for making tools and weapons in ancient times and is currently planted to create windbreaks. But it's the colours of the trunk that caught my attention.

The Ironwood Tree.

At first, my daughter and I thought that the tree had been painted, but a closer look proved that the colours are quite natural to the tree. I can see this being an inspiration for a background if I ever start another quilt using Gloria Loughman's mosaic landscape technique.

 Close-up of the trunk of an ironwood tree.

The banyan tree, below, which I had seen only in pictures, was quite amazing to see firsthand. The tree sends roots out which grow down into the soil and become secondary trunks. Brought to Hawaii by missionaries from India in 1873, the tree seems to have adapted and thrived in Hawaii's climate because it grows everywhere.

Banyan tree.

One tree can spread over several city blocks with many secondary trunks.

This is one banyan tree that has numerous secondary trunks and has spread across to the other side of the side walk.

Cute little ornamental pineapples grow along the boulevards. This plant was only about 10-12 inches high and the pineapple itself was about 2" long.

It wasn't just the foliage that caught my attention. Some of the hotel decor of the area was also quite interesting. I can see this wall sculpture becoming a boutis design, or maybe applique, or maybe a combination of several techniques?

The pattern on this door would make a great background filler design for FMQ.

And even this little watercolour in our hotel room made me want to find a fabric store in a hurry and start a new applique.

During our stay, my daughter and I managed to find time to fit in a class of traditional Hawaiian applique quilting with the Serrao family. More on that next time.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tis the Season for Hand Stitching

Between now and the New Year, quality, focused time in the "studio" (term used very loosely), will be a rare commodity. Oh well, so it goes. My hands though, which happen to be a perfect fit for a needle and thimble, have promised to make themselves available at a moments notice. Having that promise in writing, (after publishing this post), I have declared November and December "Hand Stitching Season" at the Seams French HQ and expect efficiency and quality performance from it's staff of one. Can you hear the crack of the whip?

In the production line-up are some embroidery projects, as well as 3 or 4 (or more) boutis projects.

Last year's "Stars and Butterflies Baby Quilt" for the Lady H included a pocket on the back of the quilt to hold a collection of falling stars. My intent is to add a wish and a star to this collection annually, on the little lady's birthday.

Thread colours for this star have not yet been finalized, but will likely stay in the range of yellows and golds. However, there's a zip-lock bag of fun little tassel ends in the thread stash that is singing out to me; "how about us..., how about us... ". I'll let the spirit of the moment guide. (Does that count as improv? I'm trying:)

While in the mood for stars, I thought that Little H needed to start the Christmas ornament collection with a star as well. Years ago, I had purchased this silk embroidery floss in Italy and have been looking for a project worthy of it's application ever since. Celebrating the first year of life is about as worthy a project as I can think of. The ornament will be worked on a natural linen using a satin stitch for the center and some variation or other of an outline stitch for the scrolly bits.

I may throw in bits of gold sparkle if it feels right.

A third embroidery project are these 4 little cocktail napkins for my husband. These 4 napkins are cut from a large vintage napkin that I had picked up at an antique market in France. Two of the sides have the original rolled hem finished edge, and on the other two sides, I needle turned a narrow rolled hem trying to match the original.

Since scotch is his favourite, I decided to colour coordinate the monogram with the amber coloured beverage of choice.

The monogram and the surrounding shamrock are being embroidered with a padded satin stitch. I am using a stem stitch for the outline and padding with a closely stitched stem stitch as well. I learned this technique years ago from a French magazine I was reading at the time, and it seemed to work OK for these monogrammed napkins.

Outline stitch and padding in progress.

And of course, there is always my beloved boutis to work on. Working on boutis sends me into my own little land of Zen. Great for traveling.

Below is the progress I have made on my latest pouch, one of the boutis projects currently in the works.

I start from the center and work my way out. 

Stitching in the the center section has been completed.

Progress on the front flap.

November is already more then halfway gone. I'm still hoping for a window of time at the machine before Christmas, but if not, needle and thimble will be the "go to" method of the season.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Rose Window Boutis: Finished" (Part 3)

Light at the end of the Boutis

Although the actual boutis piece is only the small 5" x 5" square in the center of the rose window, it was the springboard for a larger "cathedral tower" wall hanging and was central to it's development. The piece combines 2 of my favourite stitching techniques; needlework by hand and free motion quilting with machine.

Tip to base, the finished hanging measures 31" x 16". Held up against the light, the boutis is illuminated from the back and becomes the focal point of the piece.

The wall hanging consists of 3 sections.

The rose window, (on the white batiste), takes center stage with the boutis it's main focus and the FMQ providing the frame.

Front of the work, highlighting the boutis square.

Back of the work

The complete rose window has been hand appliqued into a light grey fabric, representative of the carved stone often surrounding a cathedral window.

Details of the roof line as well as the surrounding stone tower.

Machine quilting on a darker grey cotton creates the roof line as well as the surrounding stone work. (see above)

Straight line FMQ (see my previous post) has partitioned the lower part of the tower into three smaller towers. (below)

Close up of the lower part of the wall hanging

Completed front

Completed back

I quite enjoy combining different techniques, such as hand stitched boutis and FMQ, in the same project and  I know there will be more like this project in my future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rose Window Boutis: Part 2

Framing with a Machine Quilted Finish

A true-to-tradition work of boutis would be constructed using only hand stitching and would not be combined with any other technique. My choice to frame this little 5" x 5" boutis square with machine quilting isn't intended to compromise the traditional, but rather it experiments with combining the two techniques. It makes a labour intensive, traditional technique like boutis more achievable and likely more appealing to the contemporary quilter/embroiderer. But that's a whole other discussion for another day.

So that, by way of introduction, is what became of my little 5" x 5" boutis square. And since the original design for the boutis square was inspired by a rose window,  I decided to make it the focal point of a larger "cathedral tower" wall hanging. (see my previous post).

Below, with the boutis securely appliqued to the centre of the project, the wall hanging has been sandwiched and is ready to be completed with free motion quilting (FMQ).

For most FMQ, I prefer using the open toe free hand embroidery foot. It gives me the greatest visibility in all directions.

Below, the quilting on the front of the rose window has been completed. When designing for FMQ, I try to minimize stops and starts where ever possible. (Tying off and burying threads is very tedious.) The circular design around the boutis was completed with two continuous stitching lines, one inner and one outer.

Front of work

Back of work

When there are a number of long, repeating straight lines in a pattern that is otherwise quilted with free motion, I prefer to use a ruler and stay with the free motion technique rather then toggling back and forth between feed dog movement and free motion. Free motion with a straight edge allows the quilt to be stitched up or down or side to side, without constantly turning the quilt. Shorter lines can be free handed, but for a long continuous line, I find the results with a straight edge are more satisfactory.

For this technique I switch to the transparent plastic quilting foot which is easier to butt up against a plastic straight edge.

The next 2 photos show the completed centre held up against the light. Notice how the boutis is completely exposed, both in the finished front and the back. When held up to the light, boutis will let the light pass through between the corded channels and in this way illuminates the design. It's this play of light and shadow that is the essence of boutis.

The front of the rose window when held up against light.

Back of the rose window

The completed wall hanging, which measures 31" x 16", was quite easy to manoeuvre in my domestic machine, and it certainly quilted up a lot faster than had it been finished by hand. Handwork, of any type, is still my favourite stitching method, and I remain loyal to it. In this case, the hand work and machine work are intended to complement each other without diminishing the merits of either method.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rose Window Boutis

Design and Assembly

When working with  a smaller project, like the rose window boutis below, there is the ever present question of how to finish it. Regardless of whether I am quilting, embroidering or stitching boutis, I like the piece to serve a purpose; be useful in some way. Averyclaire, quilter and embroiderer extraordinaire, is a Whizzz at creative, beautifully constructed finishes and never seems to run out of ideas. In fact, she runs a little finishing business, where she will finish other people's embroidered work, all with meticulous care and craftsmanship.  But for me, it's always a bit of a quandary.

So, how to finish this little 5" x 5" boutis square. Since the inspiration for the initial boutis design was a rose window,  I thought, why not make it into a wall hanging of a larger rose window, with machine quilting framing the boutis.

One of the things that I love most about Europe is it's multitude of historical buildings, of which most are still very much in use today. Cathedrals, in particular, provide a huge source of design inspiration for me. From floor to ceiling, inside to out,  they hold a treasure trove of motifs and patterns. So consequently, a large portion of my photographs are of churches and cathedrals. Rose windows, in particular, fascinate me and seem to have become a recurring theme when I'm designing my boutis. One of the reasons is that the patterns in these windows easily lend themselves to boutis design.

Below is a photo of a rose window taken in Paris a number of years ago. It was seeing this particular window for the first time that I had the idea it could easily be translated into a pattern of channels required for stitching boutis. Ironically, this building is not even a cathedral, but rather it is Paris City Hall in the "premier arrondissement". Never mind that, the rose window is still beautiful.

That rose window became the springboard for the original 5" x 5" boutis piece, as well as the quilting design that will frame the boutis.

My initial design process.
Included are 2 photos of actual cathedrals.

Below is the final quilting design, (a loose interpretation of the original). The blank square in the center of the circle is where the boutis will be reverse appliqued into place.

The inner circles were drawn prematurely and should not be there.

Below, the quilting pattern has been traced onto some white batiste, and the boutis square has been reverse appliqued into the center.

The back of the boutis is trimmed to 1/4 inch. It will be sandwiched between the layers of batting and backing.

Next, the entire circular window is reverse appliqued into a gray fabric, which will form the stone tower for my rose window.

Both the front and back of the boutis should be visible in the finished product. Therefore, batting and backing are aligned with the front and a 5 " square is cut out of both materials where the back of the boutis will remain visible. The backing fabric encloses the batting and is appliqued to the back side of the boutis.

When all 3 layers have been attached to the boutis, the rest of the quilt is sandwiched, pinned and ready for machine quilting. More on that next time...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada.

Wishing everyone a great weekend in your part of the world. 

Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Boutis Round Up

Projects in Progress

Even though the summer was filled with many activities and other types of sewing and quilting, boutis was never far from my mind, and it even found it's way into my hands from time to time. (Which sadly, was not a regular occurrence.) However, I did manage to work on each of the 4 different projects below. Little by little.

1. Le Mireille (design by Francine Born)

"Le Mireille" which is from a kit designed by Francine Born, is my long term study of traditional boutis design and technique. The goal that I have set for myself for this project is to experiment with different threads as well as with a variety of the "boutis sanctioned" stitches. As I work my way through the quilt top, I also hope to do a little research on the symbols and motifs used in the design.

Other then a few spaces intentionally left unstitched for now, the centre motif is complete.

Below is a close up of the stitching so far, showing an outline stitch and a back stitch.

2. Les Capucines (design by Francine Born)

Started in the summer of 2013, on our way home from France, this little piece has since become a traveling companion. Because of it's compact size, it's an easy project to tuck into a small travel bag and work on in airplanes, trains or cars. Progress (dependant on how often I travel) is slow but steady.

The whole piece is being stitched with the back-stitch. Originally the vertical channels around the border were to be just a running stitch, (which speeds up progress) however, it wasn't until I had stitched about a a third of the way around the perimeter with the back stitch that I realized I had not switched stitches. Bummer! Ah well, progress will be a little slower, but other then that, no serious harm done.

3. Boutis Butterfly Pouch - Take 2 (my design)

This is a variation of the previous boutis pouch that I made in the spring. It's the same basic tri-fold design, only a little larger, and with a variation of the motifs.

A few areas will be a highlighted with an outline stitch or a back stitch, but most of the pouch will be stitched using the basic running stitch.

4. Rose Window Boutis (my design)

When working with smaller projects, it's always a problem trying to decide how to finish them. This little 5" x 5"  block was originally intended to be a pin cushion, however, I found it a little too large to be practical.

After considerable humming and hawing, I decided that it would be incorporated into a larger wall hanging. Below it has been set into the background fabric, ready for a little FMQ. More on this project next time.

Throughout the fall and winter,  I will be working on all of these boutis projects and posting individual updates as the work progresses.