Tag Archives: Applique

Still a Beginner

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time writing a blog post that was bad — stupid, indulgent, unpublishable. No, not really all that, but sort of a waste of time, and not good enough to simply revise.

I was indulging myself a bit with how long I’ve been blogging, how many posts I’ve published, how many comments.. yada yada. Who cares, really? It was boring even to me. 🙂 But so you don’t think too poorly of me, I was trying to answer a question posed in one of my Facebook groups recently. One of the members asked bloggers, “How do you find the time or inspiration on what to post about?

The short answer to that question is, sometimes I don’t find the time. And sometimes I do. All kinds of things inspire my writing. I write about what I’m interested in. Sometimes that’s projects I’m working on, sometimes it’s design ideas or tutorials, sometimes it’s current events, sometimes it’s things that light my imagination, like a museum trip. Now and then I just whine about something quilting-related. 🙂 I always always have things to write about. The real issue for me is, if I’m spending my time writing, what am I not doing while keeping the blog up to date? It’s hard to allocate my time well.

I am not worried about growing my audience, because I write primarily for myself. No one is paying me to do this. But there are people out there, (hello, people!) and I enjoy sharing with others. I enjoy teaching and try to craft my posts carefully so they are useful in some way to readers. If I truly were just using it as a personal diary, it wouldn’t be the way it is.

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Even though I have a few blog posts under my belt, and have made a few quilts, I’m still a beginner at both. There’s still plenty I don’t know how to do, or haven’t done enough to actually get good at it.

For example, I’ve been working on appliquĂ© projects this year, from simple flowers on the ¡Fiesta! quilt, to all the Hands and Hearts, to the more elaborate Rooster,  to the crazy mask. Each one has taught me more about how to envision shapes in space, how to choose colors and fabrics, and how to attach them appropriately for the purpose.

I’m very much a beginner in this area, both from a technical standpoint and a design aspect. It’s a whole new way of using my brain. I want to be really good! but I’m just not yet. And I need to remember:

When learning something new, be patient.
Allow for your work to look like a beginner’s.
Just keep at it and things will improve.

Here’s my new start on an old project.

I actually started this two-and-a-half years ago, which for me is a really long time. I began it with a sketch, created by drawing and cutting shapes, and then tracing around the shapes to establish approximate position.

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And this is what I said about it at the time: “I’m planning to do old-fashioned needle-turn appliquĂ©, without all the glueing and pressing and fusing and fussing that some of the other techniques use. This will be relatively primitive, both due to my skills and my intention. The colors I’m choosing are joyful, not stuffy. I’ll show you progress as I make it.”

HAHAHA! Yeah, the intention was to use needle-turn appliquĂ©, but then I realized I don’t really enjoy it, and the project would never get done. Not only did I change applique methods, I also changed fabrics for everything but the stems and the paler leaves, which were already stitched down. The first ones I chose were too muted, not strong enough to stand up to their background. The more saturated colors work better than the ones discarded.

The next modification to it will be the addition of a bird in the lower right corner.

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And speaking of beginning, a different member of that same Facebook group asked today about a “scant” quarter-inch seam allowance. A variety of responses were given, from “it doesn’t matter as long as your seam allowance is consistent” to “it DOES matter if you want things to fit.” The best answer included a link to this video, which explains exactly why a good seam allowance matters.

Some other good tips for beginning quilters are here, including in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!

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The Rooster

Sometimes all the what-ifs lead to creative breakthroughs, and sometimes they just set up roadblocks to making. If you chase every possible path, you’ll never get anything done.

After finishing the checkerboard border, I had lots of choices available. The size of the center (center block plus the border) was odd, something like 19.75″,  and it would have been awkward to add a border of regular square blocks at that point. I could have added a spacer border to make a an easier fit, but I wasn’t happy with the sizing that would have required, either. And I would have needed a plan for type of pieced border, so I could choose the spacer border width.

What if, instead of a pieced border, I made an appliquĂ©d one? Then the width wouldn’t matter, except relative to proportions. Yeah, that could work. That begs the question, what kind of appliquĂ©? Something pretty simply, something small to work with the proportions, something in colors already used, or similar enough to them that the color isn’t confusing. Well, I guess that narrows it down…

At least it let me get started. After the dark blue and bronze checkerboard, I wanted an edge of salmon. From a construction standpoint, the narrow border would stabilize the piecing, since the checkerboard squares finish at 1 1/8″. From a design standpoint, it would repeat the color of the rooster’s feet and eyeball, and refer to the background coral (mesh-like print) and the rooster’s comb and wattle. It would brighten the composition with the accent, and give separation from another, darker border.

I decided to try for a finished width of about 1/4″. In retrospect, a flange would have worked well, too, and may have been easier to execute. But this worked well enough. Before attaching, I made sure the center’s corners were good and square. That involved shaving off tiny bits of the pieced checkerboard along the edges. Fortunately they were in pretty good shape. Then I pinned the narrow salmon border with lots of fine pins, so the two pieces were flush along the edges, and they wouldn’t slip away from each other. I stitched carefully to maintain the seam allowance. (And when I add borders, I always backstitch at both ends.)

I had already chosen a blue for the last border. It’s the same color as the blue on the chicken, but rather than a random-looking stripe slashing across it, it has a very fine cross-hatching of black and off-white, suggesting plaid. The regularity of design repeats the regularity in the checkerboard, but of a completely different scale.

I drew a simple shape to appliqué, thinking I could just repeat it a number of times around the edge. After digging through lots of fabric, I chose a dark toffee color with a brown leaf print. I pressed fusible web onto a small piece of it and cut out three of the shape. The shape is either an X or a +, depending on orientation. With the size I cut it, there is only room for it as an X.

Once I had the three samples and auditioned them on the blue border, I decided they took too much attention away from the rooster. I could have gone through a million more what-ifs, everything from what color or width of border to use, what color or shape of appliquĂ©, whether to go back to the idea of a pieced border. The fact is, though, I like it just the way it is. I declare the rooster top “done.”

 

Masks and Faces

Remember my Green Man project? It’s still in process, but not the part of the process that includes actually making anything. Here’s where you saw it last:

Yes, that’s paper and crayons. And that’s about the last I’ve done with it. However, like with other parts of my work this year, I’m learning a lot, reading, trying methods, and looking at other media with new eyes. My new eyes have noticed more faces and masks than ever, and I finally got the point — the Green Man is, in essence, a mask.

You can see faces and masks anywhere, in actual people you know, in your pets, and in flowers, to name just a few. The first quilt I saw incorporating a mask was in a round robin I was in several years ago.

Round robin unquilted top, center by Nancy Rehling.

Last weekend I visited the National Museum of Mexican Art, in Chicago. So much of the art included faces and masks. Here are a just a few. Where I managed to record credits, they are in the captions. Click on any picture to open the gallery.

The variety of ways we express faces is fascinating. These, and a few other things I’ve seen recently, give me all kinds of ideas.

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Just a note — I mentioned in my last post that I haven’t compared types of fusible web, so I couldn’t claim to use the best one. Here is a blog post by Jessica at Sweetbriar Sisters with that comparison. Take a look. If you have comments on the fusibles you’ve used, or have other great ideas of how to appliquĂ© in similar ways, please let us know below! Or tell us about faces or masks you’ve made in quilts or other art.

What About That Rooster?

Joanna commented on my last post that it was an interesting bait and switch, titling the post with “Rooster” but blogging about geese. Yeah, that was not really on purpose. By the time I finished showing you the flying geese quilt top, it seemed like a big enough post already. This one is actually about the rooster.

Though I put a couple of recent photos in Instagram, when you last saw it on the blog, I’d assembled portions of the appliquĂ© but had not fused it all together. Here it is, both before and after being fused to the background fabric. Click either picture to see them bigger. 

It’s worth spending a moment here to talk about execution. Over the last few months, I read a lot of different blogs and tutorials about fused and other machine appliquĂ©. For me it was like reading a lot of recipes for one type of dish, and then making my own plan based on what I’d learned.

Whatever this quilt is when done, it won’t be a cuddle quilt or bed quilt. It’s not likely to ever be laundered. I don’t need to worry about finishing the edges completely with stitching. That gives more flexibility for method. Here are a few bullet points, with whatever commentary applies:

* I used Wonder-Under brand fusible web. Honestly, I haven’t tried more than a couple of brands, so I can’t tell you how it compares to other types of fusible.
* For some of the larger pieces, I cut the centers out of the Wonder-Under before fusing to the rooster fabric, leaving just an outline about 1/2″ wide. That reduced the heft and stiffness of those pieces.
* I fused small components together to make bigger parts (shown in the photo above,) using parchment paper as my pressing sheet. Once the pieces are pressed together, they can be peeled off as a group. Some people recommend Teflon pressing sheets, but I used parchment paper; it worked fine and it’s very inexpensive.
* Previously I’d drawn an outline of the rooster on tracing paper, along with a couple of marks to show where the background seams were. That made it easier to place the big parts when I was ready to fuse to the fabric. However, I purposely oriented the rooster a little less upright than my original drawing. That was easy to do since I hadn’t fused all the parts together yet.

After attaching the full rooster to the background fabric, I tried a lot of ideas for how to frame it. Initially I figured to create a narrow line of dark coral, all the way around, and then bordering that with hourglass blocks. None of the color combinations I tried really rocked me.

Many iterations of color later, I left the room. While Jim and I had dinner that evening, I tossed out some questions. You know, what if? What if I don’t use a narrow border of coral? What if I don’t use a narrow border at all? What if I just put one wide strip border around it and call it done? What if …

One question seemed worth pursuing: what if I made a checkerboard border? What if I used three layers of checkerboard, like 9-patches? Or maybe simpler, just 4-patches? Again I auditioned colors. I chose a bronze batik (used in many other projects, and I’ll be very sad when it’s gone) and the same blue print used for the rooster’s head.

The finished patches are 1 1/8″ squares. Rather than work with the tiny pieces individually, I used strips of blue and bronze, cut along the grain for better stability. If you cut across, width of fabric, you can get substantial bowing of the pieced strip.

That’s my progress so far.

Hands and Hearts — A Quilt From the Whole Family

Do you remember this piece? I made it in April as a “sketch,” just something to try forming shapes and colors and lines into a picture in appliquĂ©. It’s a representation of a Claddagh ring. The traditional Irish symbol represents love (heart,) loyalty (crown,) and friendship (hands.)

The pretty heart in the middle was printed like that from fabric I bought eleven years ago. I drew the hands and crown from the basic Claddagh ring symbol. And then I encircled it with a ring of batik. It is all on a black Kona cotton background.

At the time I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, or if I would do anything more. I considered the possibility of creating a small wedding gift for Son and his fiancĂ©e. But I didn’t have a plan.

 

Then about a month before the wedding, I started hankering to make that gift. I thought it would be meaningful to represent the closest family members in a personal way. Including Jim and me, our daughters’ families, and the bride’s parents and sibs’ families, there are 20 of us. Because there were already hands in it, I wanted to use a handprint from each. That required swift help from the bride’s family, as well as from our daughter who lives far away.

I asked for a photo of each family member’s hand, on a piece of white copy paper with all the edges showing. That would allow me to standardize the sizes to scale them as needed. Either hand, left or right, would do just fine. Here is my hand.

I cropped the images to standardize size around the paper, and Jim cleaned them all up to create a good outline for each, and to remove the wrists. (OW!)

He and I agreed on a size as compared to the hands in the Claddagh ring, and as they would appear on my monitor, and we re-scaled them all to that. I flipped each image and then traced each hand as it appeared on my monitor (basically as a light box) onto a separate piece of fusible web.

I’d already decided to use a different fabric for each of the family units (Jim and me, bride’s parents, older daughter and family, etc.) There were six different families, and six different fabrics used for the hands.

Besides manipulating the hand images, there also was the matter of the Claddagh ring. First, the pretty pink heart in the center somehow picked up a minor stain. Second, it was appliquĂ©d on a relatively small piece of fabric. I wasn’t sure how big the quilt would be, but knew I needed more than the 15″ or so that the ring was on. Also, I thought the green batik ring by itself was a little stark, and I wanted to add leaves around it to create a wreath. Ultimately, I redid the Claddagh ring completely on a new background, large enough to contain whatever else came next.

I zigzagged the ring with leaves and the other components of the Claddagh symbol down to the background before dealing with the 20 hands. Then I began arranging the hands. Jim had already done a mock-up in Photoshop for me, so I had a pretty good plan to use. I put the parents’ and siblings’ hands in the first ring around the Claddagh, and then organized the sibs’ partners and children in the outer ring.

Here are a few pictures of the process as it developed. One of the families has seven members, so distributing those hands in a balanced way led many of the other decisions. Also, the tiny hands were paired with larger ones. Even when all the hands were in place, there were gaps that looked awkward. I filled them with more hearts cut from the same fabric as the center heart. Finally, I drew Celtic knots to add to the corners. Click on any picture to open the gallery. 

I knew that I wouldn’t stitch all the hands down with the domestic machine, as I was afraid that manipulating the fabric so much would loosen the adhesive and make the whole piece look worn and tired. Instead, I did raw-edge appliquĂ© around the hands and across the palms when I quilted.

Besides the appliqué-quilting on the hands, I also did a small free-hand design within the black background, and once I got it off the frame, I went back to the domestic machine to zigzag the Celtic knots into submission.

Rather than applying a basic double-fold binding, I faced it with black to give the edge a smoother finish. When it was all done, I used a black Pigma pen on the muslin backing to write the names on each of the hands, and complete the labeling with the name of the quilt, the bride and groom, and the wedding date. Again, click either photo to open the gallery and see larger. 

I love that the quilt comes from the contribution of all the family members, and that Jim worked so closely with me on its design. The style is unique, maybe even quirky, certainly bordering on folk art. It’s also very personal, just as intended.

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My running list of finishes for the year:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty
5. The Old School House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Where Are the Birds? (landscape tree quilt)
8. ¡Fiesta!
9. Hands and Hearts
10. Shirt