Tag Archives: Applique

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 appliqué in similar ways, please let us know below! Or tell us about faces or masks you’ve made in quilts or other art.

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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 appliqué 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 appliqué. 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 appliqué. 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 fiancée. 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 appliquéd 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 appliqué 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

 

Day 32 — Landscape Quilt Workshop with Cathy Geier

Since I posted last, I finished assembling and quilting the graduation gift quilt. That took a lot of pressure off, though it still needs binding, one of today’s tasks.

Besides that, I had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend with a surprise visit from my son, who lives on the west coast, and the daughter and her children who live near us. While traveling across country on Friday, Son made an unexpected stop near St. Louis. Since he was only a few hours away, he rented a car and drove up. ❤

Monday’s guild meeting checked one more item off my list, leaving more feeling of time and space for the next several days.

And yesterday, I took a workshop, getting back into the stream of trying new ways to tell stories with quilts. Our guild presenter and workshop leader was Cathy Geier, a landscape artist from Wisconsin. This link is for her gallery and this one is to her blog. The work on her gallery page shows a variety of styles and a range of complexity. In her blog she describes process in detail, as in this recent post on a complicated new project.

Her project for the workshop was much simpler, appropriate for beginners in this kind of quilting. We were to create the majority of a woodlands landscape in a whole three hours. She explained how to use her techniques and materials to arrange elements of tree trunks, background shrubbery, and leaves.

Cathy provided a fat quarter of background fabric, and six other fabrics for the remainder of the scene. She showed how to use plain ol’ acrylic white craft paint, the kind that comes in a small plastic bottle, to add “light” to one side of the pale tree trunks, and a silver metallic Sharpie to add shade and contour on the other side. The dark trees used that silver Sharpie to make pale streaks, and brown and black markers to make dark ones, to give bark texture. Shrubs and flowers are cut with “messy cutting,” a way to create unstructured, organic-looking shapes. She reminded us that the back of the fabric sometimes is the better side to use. After basic lessons on foreground/background placement for perspective, those pieces are glued to the background with glue sticks. She brought a big box of various markers she uses to add or subtract color, and a big bag of crayons for same. Leaves are added last, using a leaf print and fusible web.

I don’t have leaves fused in place yet, but you can see a few of them for the effect.

From her samples, it was easy to see that the finishing (borders, quilting,) make a big difference in the final look. In truth, this isn’t a three-hour project. But it is doable by beginners, and it was a fun lesson in this type of appliqué and design.

Day 28 Flowers for the Fiesta

I’m having a hard time keeping up! I have about five blog posts to share with you, once I get the chance to write them. My hundred-day project has me hopping and my imagination burning brightly with ideas to try next. My granddaughter graduates from high school in a few days, and times a’wastin’ on getting her gift quilt done. There are guild duties in arrears, people to see, places to go. And it’s finally SPRING!! Nice enough to enjoy being outside a bit.

Alrighty, that little breathless whinefest done, I’ll move on to showing you my latest work on the 100 Day Project. As mentioned before, I have set aside a few weeks (100 days) to experiment with my quilting. There is one actual THING (the graduation quilt) to make in that time. But mostly, I am just trying stuff. My intention is to learn to be a better storyteller with my quilts. They, at their best, should evoke a story for the viewer, or at least for their owner. Though stories don’t have to be told with either words or pictures, there is some efficiency to that. One way to add pictures to quilts is with appliqué, so that is the method I am working on most. There are a lot of different appliqué techniques, and each one has strategies that contribute to success. Since I haven’t done a lot of appliqué, each method I try requires working through the process to learn some of those strategies.

Here is another lesson. I took a perfectly good quilt top and decided to add some decoration. A couple of weeks ago I showed you Fiesta!

I liked it. It was fun, it was easy, it was quick. But in truth, the great big green setting triangles? A little much. I wanted them broken, or something. I wanted them to not look like a baseball field. Seemed like this was a worthy subject for more experimenting.

There were two reasons I named it Fiesta! One, the bright colors are happy, like a party. Two, the colors remind me of Fiestaware dishes. Both the party and the dishes are casual, and any relief from the green had to be casual, as well. I sketched a couple of designs and decided to start with one, and maybe add the other.

While investigating methods of machine appliqué, I stumbled on a Fons & Porter video with McKenna Ryan. Ryan demonstrates how to assemble the components of a complex block. Her wall-hanging quilt uses raw-edge appliqué and has tiny details. My Fiesta! is intended as a lap quilt and needs to be washable; raw-edge appliqué isn’t appropriate, but a lot of the method worked just fine for me. Please see her video for an easy explanation of her methods.

In my own process of creating and attaching the appliqué motifs, I found these tips (learned now and in other work) helpful.
* For larger components, cut the center out of the fusible web prior to adhering it to the fabric. Leave about a quarter inch of web inside the drawn line. This will make the shape less stiff when stitched to the fabric.
* When you cut the fabric into shapes with fusible web adhered, turn the fabric rather than turning the scissors.
* If you have small pieces that are completely on top of larger pieces, like my flower centers, adhere them and stitch them to the larger piece before assembling.
* Assemble overlapped components prior to placing them on the quilt surface. You can use a Teflon pressing sheet as shown in the video, or you can use parchment paper just as well. Once the components are joined and cooled, you can peel them off your pressing sheet and move it as one unit to the fabric.
* For ease of stitching, appliqué the motif to the smallest piece of quilt top fabric you can. In other words, stitching my flower sets to my quilt top would have been far easier if I’d stitched it first to the green setting triangles, and then set the center and finished assembling the top. As it was, my quilt top is about 62″ square, and it was okay for fitting through my sewing machine arm. Any larger would have been pretty hard to work with. Smaller would have been much easier to work with!
* When stitching down the whole motif, do the elements that are underneath first, so the stitching on the upper pieces covers their starting points.
* Switch to straight stitch (from the satin stitch I used) to travel from one place to another. Then cover that straight stitch with your newly started line of satin.
* If you need to work on stitching over several sessions, make a note or take a picture of your machine settings so the stitches are consistent each time. (My machine doesn’t have a save function for that.)

I created my flower sets, and adhered them and stitched them to my quilt top one at a time, so manipulating the top wouldn’t loosen the motifs prior to being stitched down.

I tried a variety of stitches and stitch lengths, settling on a narrow satin stitch. I also tried different presser feet and various thread types. Though my 50 wt piecing thread, Superior’s So Fine, works well for weight, there is no sheen to it. A spool of something shinier in red was much prettier. The very-shiny tri-lobal Glide thread I used for one of the blue flowers was a bit hard to manage.

The addition of flowers on this quilt top helps break up the wide fields of green. On the whole, the design is not great for multiple reasons. One of those is that there are NO OTHER flowers on the quilt, so it doesn’t suit completely. However, the appliqué helps soften the sharp lines of the center, and I like it better now than I did before. It is done now. 🙂

This was a great lesson for me, both in how much I learned and in being pleased enough with the outcome.