Friday, February 29, 2008

Outline Stitch with the Needlepuncher

This is probably obvious to you experienced needlepeople out there...but for me it was an "aha" moment in the middle of the night...
I wanted to embroider around the lettering of my little Spring piece, but the thought of how long it would take wasn't that appealing.
So....why not try using my needlepunch? The loops would go to the back, leaving a nice even row of stitching on the front.

I had to use a hoop, and it took me a little practice to get the tension right. But once I had some rhythm, this was really fast!

Here is how it looked from the back...very unstable. These stitches could be pulled out in one zip.

So I fused some fusible woven interfacing over the loops. For extra security, I could have layered some fusible web in between the back of the embroidery and the fusible more layer of glue wouldn't have hurt. I would do that next time. Still, this should work o.k.

This looks for all the world like a hand-done backstitch!

A few more elements and stitches were added, and now I am ready to stretch this over foam core.
What a fun project!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sewing Room Clean-Up

Since Tuesday morning I have been engaged in literally emptying out my sewing room, cleaning all the surfaces, reorganizing my stash, books, etc, weeding out the no-longer EVER to be used items...dragging some of that to the burn pile, running other stuff downstairs....
Dang, it was exhausting!
But I am so proud of my work I have to show you....

Believe it or not, this was toward the end of the process. I decided to dump all my crazy quilt fabrics (the cottons are another issue) and re-sort them according to color...not by fabric type, as I had had them before.

I did not bother folding them, as I always just dig through the bins when I am piecing anyway, and they always end up looking like this. But I did get reacquainted with everything I have, so I have a refreshed mental map of my stash.
I told my husband, "I am never buying fabric again!" and he said, "Can I get you to record that statement?"

Here the bins are stowed. To May the Cat this was all very exciting activity.

Now isn't this inviting?
The books are all my beading, ribbonwork, embroidery, and crazy quilt books...a ton of quilting books got moved into the guest room (formerly Max's room. Putting my stuff in there I think makes it official that it is not really his room anymore. But he's moved out anyway so it's all good...) The drawer bins have my crazy quilt scraps...those little pieces that are IMPORTANT and are sorted by color as well. On the right are buttons, patterns, inkjet printing supplies....There is a ton of machine thread in a big box below the books. You can tell I don't use that stuff like I used to. Up above are the hand-stitching thread bins and bead drawers; lace, trims and more threads up top. New supplies awaiting my attention are on top of the scrap drawers...

Art supplies, journal and CD stash, dolls, current correspondence....

And look what I found wedged behind a cabinet....Oh dear.....

So now I can breathe in here. The floors and table tops are bare and clean, just waiting for experiment #4 on the embellisher.

This is where I sit and do my handwork...and blog to you all, too! The embellisher now has its very own corner.

On the other side of the room is my old drafting table that now serves as my machine piecing/ironing area. That pile of fleece in the corner of the table is where May sleeps when she feels like keeping me company. It is the best spot in the whole house.
How do cats do that?

Before I start anything new though, I want to finish up my "Spring" piece...I can't quite leave it alone.

I just want to sharpen it up a little bit...I've added some beads and stitching so far...

After all this cleaning I think I deserve a mocha from the Washougal Coffee Corner, don't you? And I don't mean non-fat, and I do mean add the whipped cream....

May can hold down the fort while I'm gone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Embellisher Experiment #3: Granddaughter's Flower Garden

Oh, this one was so much fun. But to understand how it came about, first a little back story....

Here is a picture of this year's Silent Auction at Point Bonita. Everyone brings quilt-related items that they wish to pass on, bids are written on the slips of paper next to each item until the bidding time is up, and all proceeds go to charity. Some great stuff shows up every year, and the bidding wars get quite intense as the last few seconds are counted down.
This year there were some vintage Grandma's Flower Garden blocks that just spoke to me, I had no idea why. Fortunately, the lady I was bidding against and I decided to cooperate: we would split the blocks (there were 300 of them) and not bid the price up further. This worked like a charm and we were quite smug with the deal we got...we each paid $20.00 for 150 hand pieced Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks from the 1930's.

And here they are. They are lovely but I can't imagine how boring they would be to make, much less set together. When Barbara Brackman saw them, she commented, "That is why quilting died out in the mid 20th Century..."
They were made by a very proper Methodist lady sewing on her porch after church on Sunday afternoons, this is what I was told.

She could have very well looked a lot like this lady, also a proper Methodist woman. She is my grandmother. She was busy banging out hymns on the piano after church; she didn't sew, but if she had, I like to think she would have made blocks like these.

But I have a new embellisher, right?
Catherine Smith was kind enough to send me some reprints of articles by the Japanese fiber artist, Nobuko Ema. This talented lady uses the embellisher to applique cut out printed flowers...
Now this is talking my language, big time. I have done a TON of appliqued flower collage quilts, but always using the technique of free-motion machine zigzag with clear thread. With the embellisher, you get a different look, but wow is it fast. No thread required.

So I laid out the beginnings of my collage, using those Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks as elements to applique. Why not? For my base I have used that all cotton drapery lining that usually serves as batting for my crazy quilts. I like how it functioned here.

Here everything has been felted around its perimeter.

I have a stash of old quilt blocks...I dug through them to find a block for the center, thinking it would tie in with the flower blocks. I felted some flowers onto it too, also to help the composition. Then I free-motion machine quilted everything down.
I do not often machine quilt but I enjoyed this very much.

After the fact, I decided there should be some background fabric around my wreath, so I could square this up. Next time I would lay out my collage on the fabric over the drapery lining. We live and learn. But that fuzzy edge that the beige toile made when felted along the edge of the wreath was kind of cool, too.

Fast forward....after the background was felted in place along the edges, it too got machine quilted. Then I had to add some lace, a little embroidery, a few beads, a printed border and some piping....

Here is a detail....

Granddaughter's Flower Garden
19" X 19"

I could not stop working on this, once I got started. It was just so much fun. There are so many, many possibilities with this new toy...I mean, tool!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Embellisher Sites of Interest

Thanks for your kind comments on the little landscape! I just had to tweak it after I posted it yesterday; there's a picture below.
But first I want to share a list of Embellisher sites of interest, sent to me by Catherine Smith, a lady who teaches the use of the Embellisher at the very store where I purchased mine. She and I plan to get together in a few weeks...we only live an hour apart.
Anna VanDemark has also sent me some check out her lovely site. You will recognize some of her quilts, national award-winner that she is....and Jules has posted two links to Christopher Nejman and here. He is exuberant with his Embellisher, that guy!
Catherine, Anna, and Jules...thank you so much.

Here is the list: (this site is especially dangerous) (so is this one)
(this is a book by Valerie Campell-Harding and Maggie Grey)

These are enough to get us going, I do believe.

And here is "Germination", tweaked. I filled out some my little rows of emerging plants, and added those leaves to my bushes. Now it's done!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Second Embellishment Project... A Landscape

Come on, sun!!! You can do it, you can actually shine here in February!..

...and actually mostly stay out, all day! See that blue sky up there? It still exists, wonder of wonders.
It is so good to get outside after weeks and weeks of cold and rain. And look what I found...

Marty's daffodils! Yes, they are poking up and getting ready to welcome spring at last.
Now, what does this have to do with my Embellisher experiment #2?
I have wanted to combine crazy quilting and landscape quilts for some time now. I have a long way to go before I get a handle on it, but in the meantime, it is time to start exploring, esp. with my new love, the Baby Lock Embellisher. What I am seeing outside is inspiration....

I thought I would create individual fabric "swatches" that I would piece into a block of sorts.

Just experiementing like mad. This is wool merino roving about to get felted onto the base of cheapo felt I was trying out.

Here are two chunks, ready to piece together on the sewing machine.

Another chunk in the making. I love what the Embellisher does to silk velvet...just puckers it all up, which we all know is what it really wants to do.

Whoops, busted a needle felting that ribbon over the seams on the right there. Dang it. I should have just couched that by machine.

Add a horizon line and you have a little landscape.

Some of you might have seen this coming. Embellishers were made for creating skies, I just know it.
So, fast forward to the piece as it stands now. It is hard for me not to develop it further, but I have to keep trying new things so I will let this stay as it is, at least for now. I added a bunch of chunky hand embroidery to see how it worked with the felted fabrics. It was pretty fun. There is potential here.

12" X 14"
As I said, there is more I could do with this, like fix those upright shrubby things with some baby leaves all over it, etc.
Well, maybe I will during the Oscars. Just for the heck of it!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

First Day with my new Embellisher

It was with great excitement and no small amount of trepidation that I approached the Embellisher this morning armed with a pile of materials. How was all this going to work? What do I do here?
I decided to make a collage about spring. The weather forecast for the US heartland today is just so cold and icy...I thought some flowers would be nice for us all!

I have to say....this machine felting is a whole new ballgame. It is REALLY fun.

This piece is 11" X 12". The lettering, which is hand-couched silk yarn, went on last and took as long as the rest of the piece put together, altogether about 4 1/2 hours. Click on the photo for a better view.

I'm going to be doing several more small studies along these lines over the next many days...and I'll show in-progress shots so you can see the stages they go through. But for now, here are a couple of details.

Collage has always been fun for me, and that is really what this process is, layering elements.

Those are some vintage silk flowers first felted on with a bit of silk roving (which acted as a kind of fiber "glue")...and then the center was tacked down again by hand with a flower sequin and a bead.
In a way, this "felted" collage could be looked at like a pieced crazy quilt block...the background for all kinds of handwork to bring it to a more complex focus...but I want to keep cranking out studies for awhile before I let myself do that.

If you are curious, here is how it looks from the back. The flowers were "felt appliqued" (I just made that term up) with no threads of course...the barbed needles of the Embellisher just pushed the edges of one fabric in through the layer(s) of fabric below it. The yarns and fibers I laid down like lines show up more on the back here than the felted applique does.

I have a request...if any of you know of good felted embellishment links, could you leave them in the comment section, or email me? Thanks...

I have a feeling I am in for a beautiful friendship with this new machine....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"K is for Kreinik"....Finished!

...well almost finished. I need to hear from the Creative Director at Kreinik to learn if she wants this piece stretched over foam core or finished like a little quilt.

But the stitching is done! Have a look...

"K is for Kreinik"
15" X 15"

There was the usual last minute tweaking, adding different bits of fabric to the corners, etc. to try and get the composition more focused. Here are some final detail shots...

It was fun continuing that line of scalloped fans from the vertical left border over to the bottom horizontal one.

That first set of needlewoven leaves...I added the needlewoven fan under them to break up that soft green batik patch, which was too big. Embellishments can always be used to compensate for piecing errors...I do that constantly. But would it ever cause me to plan out my piecing better beforehand?
What do you think?

The lettering here came out a little light....I still have so much to learn about this whole waste canvas lettering concept. Still, it's o.k.
This whole piece of course has nothing but Kreinik threads on it. It was really a pleasure to "get to know" them, and all the different stitching properties those threads have.

Now....I get to play with my new toy!!! I traded in my prize sewing machine from the $100,000 Quilting Challenge for a Baby Lock Embellisher Emb7. Yes, Freda's machine got under my skin and I just had to have one. But no family cash flow was involved! Stay tuned for some experimenting... ;-)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ira's Leaf Tutorial...Trying it Out

Thank you all for your very kind comments re my "I Remember 17" Take It Further piece for February! The beautiful image by Sandro Botticelli, which was used in the print by P & B textiles that is in the center of the block, was so inspiring...

But now I am back to work, finishing up my project for the Kreninik Thread Company. I definitely have a leaf thing going these days, so decided to try out Ira's first leaf tutorial. (She has a second one, on how to make 3 dimensional leaves that are not attached to the fabric, posted here. ***Waving to Ira in Israel, thank you!!!***)

Step 1. My parchment paper is pinned in place where the leaves will go on. Here I am using a template for drawing my shapes. I like not having to draw on the fabric.

Step 2. The "warp" is stitched into place, through paper and fabric. (Don't you just love that early morning light?)

Step 3. Once the "weft" thread is brought through the fabric and paper from the back, it is needlewoven on the surface, not going through to the back until the entire leaf is done. I am using Kreinik Silk Mori floss here, by the way.

Step 4. The paper was fairly easy to tear out. I used a tweezers to pull the paper out from beneath the woven leaf, being careful not to pull on that floss, as it would separate and get wonky very easily if I did.

Step. 5 This was an assessment step! I found the edges too wobbly, not finished enough. I wasn't crazy about the tension irregularities in my weft either. So I decided to add one more step to clean things up. (This is no reflection on Ira's method, but due to my thread choice and the large size of the leaf shapes, I think.)

Step 6. So a chunky chainstitch went around the leaves to define the shapes and unify them a bit more. They are still a bit funky, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Here you see them in the context of the overall composition. At this point they dominate a little too much; it's now too heavy in the upper left corner. But the lower right just needs some extra color....I am thinking about adding some beads here. It happens every time, doesn't it? You just know they will spread all around the border.

But this afternoon I am off to Washougal High School's Fashion Design class to give the girls a trunk show of some of my get them excited about embellishing and the possibilities of handwork, hopefully.
When I told Chad I would be there today, he said, "As Axel Rose says, Mom, 'Welcome to the jungle!' Only it's MY jungle."
So I'll get to see some current 17 year olds up close and personal......