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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Boutis Christmas Ornaments

Celebrating the 1st Advent with Boutis

Just in time for the season, I finished these three elegant little boutis ornaments designed by my friend Karen at Averyclaire NeedleArts and available as a kit in her ETSY shop. Using only a running stitch, these ornaments come together quickly and easily following Karen's clearly written instructions.

Included in the kit are all materials required to finish the project, including three different colours of yarn. From time to time, a hint of colour may be added to boutis by cording the channels with a coloured yarn instead of the traditional white.  I chose to do the first ornament below, "Noel", using only red yarn for the cording.

The snowflake is done in the traditional white on white.

The colours of yarn included in the kit are white, red and green. The last ornament has been corded with all three colours.

There are a number of ways to finish the edges of a boutis piece. The most common, and the method I used on the first two ornaments, is a narrow rolled hem invisibly stitched to the back of the piece. Another technique frequently used on smaller projects is the buttonhole stitch, which I have used in this last ornament below.

The ornaments are available in a kit which includes the 3 patterns with clear, concise instructions, fabrics, thread, yarn, needles and finishing ribbon. The little crystal on the ribbon was my own addition. Because they do whip up fairly quickly, there's still time to get them done for Christmas.

Further information on these kits can be found at Averyclaire NeedleArts.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Boutis Solstice Stars

A Pocketful of Starlight

When the lovely Lady H (grand daughter extraordinaire) made her debut into the world on the winter solstice of 2014,  the quilt to mark her arrival was filled with a galaxy of stars to wish upon.

To make sure she never runs out of stars upon which to wish, on each winter solstice another star will be added to the collection. The label on the back of the quilt was made into a little pocket; a place she can safely keep these wishes and promises.

Winter Solstice Star 2014
Her arrival was marked by a quote from William Shakespeare.

Year 1 (below) was celebrated with beading and hand embroidery.

Winter Solstice 2015.

Year 2 is coming up very quickly, and boutis will mark this years celebration. Some beading and embroidery will very likely will likely find it's way into the design as well.

Made with a fine Swiss batiste it will have a white top and ochre back with gold embellishments.

Below is a variation of the same star set into a circular border of "point de vauvert", (the same pattern surrounding the perimeter of  the saffron rose window shade). A little too large for the "pocket", this white on white boutis ornament could swing in a window like a dream catcher, or it could  be a new addition to the Christmas tree.

These stitch up fairly quickly, so there's a good chance they will be finished on time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Saffron Boutis Window Shade

This saffron window shade is the second version of my Parisian rose window boutis. As in the first wall hanging, this one is also framed with free motion quilting.

When I originally designed the pattern, I made two versions of it. One on a white batiste, which became a wall hanging, and the second on this ochre coloured batiste.

Using the same technique of reverse applique for finishing, I framed it with a 1/2 inch brown border before being setting into the background.

Because this piece will be illuminated from behind, to do it justice I felt it should have another section of boutis, where light from the window could work it's magic. I made a smaller version of the same pattern, using only the center  rosette. This was also framed with the brown border.

This done, I felt it needed even more definition so I added another saffron border before placing it into the lighter yellow background fabric which would be finished with machine quilting.

With the top completed, the batting was placed on the wrong side, keeping the areas beneath the boutis free. To keep the batting from shifting during construction, I basted it into place close to the edge of the circle before layering the backing fabric on top.

Keeping the boutis exposed, the backing fabric was centered over the boutis and hand appliqued into place.

The back of the finished window shade, measuring 14" x 25", shows both areas of the boutis exposed.

And here at last with front side up, (below), the completed shade is hanging in a window allowing the light to work it's magic. As you will notice, the lower rosette was stitched onto a different type of cotton batiste. Although the 2 fabrics looked almost identical in colour as I was working with them, the difference in quality became very apparent against the window. The top rosette was stitched on a better quality, finer fabric than the lower rosette. But that having been said, I don't mind the richer, deeper gold that shines through the lower boutis.

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, (, 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.