Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"My Madonna"....UFO finished

My good friends Barbara Curiel and Debra Spincic have been working on a joint project called "The Madonna Idea" for a few years now, each making their own quilts about the Madonna and collaborating on some too. They have a blog where you can see them here. They are wonderful.

When Debra and I first "met" online over four years ago, I emailed her my favorite image of the Madonna and she made a gel transfer print out of it for me. In February of 2006 I started working with it at the annual quilt retreat I attend at Point Bonita.

This is as far as I got, appliqueing all the elements by hand....

For some reason I was experimenting with laying out my quilt and embellishing it directly onto batting as my foundation. I can't remember why I thought that would be a good idea, but I do remember not liking it.
After I got home from PB, my Madonna waited almost four years for me to finish Her.

This is what I started with a few days ago.

And here it is, completed. She is 15" X 20 1/2".
I wanted the embellishments to be lavish but very understated. You have to come close to really see them...a metaphor, perhaps, for our inner approach to Her.

Here are a few detail pictures, though.

This is supposed to suggest a rose window in a least, that is what it meant to me.

I enjoyed drawing from my collection of lace motifs and doilies, sometimes layering one over part of another.

I'm so glad this is's going to hang in my room at last.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Needlepunch Flower Pin... A Tutorial

Continuing my experiments with the Dancing Needle, I made a couple of flower pins to give as last minute Christmas gifts. Or maybe I'll call them "New Year's Gifts"...yes, that's better!

I took pictures along the way so you could see how the process went. My biggest pleasure and discovery is that needlepunch allows for combining all kinds of fibers...and we crazy quilters definitely have big stashes of those to draw from.

There are 15 pictures in all, with the captions below each picture.

This is my initial "gathering" for one of the flowers. As you can see, fibers range from sewing machine thread to unspun thick silk to silk habotai meant for rotary cutting into 1" strips.

Using my smallest needle punch, I used three threads at once for the center of the flower, starting with the outline of the shape I wanted to fill in.

Nice! Along the outer edge of the circle I had taken out the darkest thread, so it looks lighter. Lots of fun color play is possible with this stuff!

Switching to a larger needle and increasing the length of the loops, I added unspun silk thread. Texture is another big variable to play with using this technique.

Fast forward....4mm and 7mm silk ribbon have gone on, along with more unspun silk. Here I am adding the silk habotai. I could have gone wider with the strips if I'd wanted to; this huge needlepunch still had plenty of "room" in it.

I was working on a blue and white flower, too. This picture is to show that you can add detail using fine threads after the fact of getting the bulky ribbon punched in.

Fast forward again. I've felted some silk and wool fibers onto green cotton flannel for my leaves and cut them out. The Timtex circles on the left are cut out to fit the backs of the flowers.

Here I am making a running stitch around the perimeter of the flower's base fabric, using beading thread for strength.

I pulled on the thread and it gathered pretty well. A few extra stitches here and there tightened things up.

The leaves have been embroidered and wire sewn onto their backs so they can be shaped. In this picture I have sewn on a backing of lightweight silk, leaving the bottom open. I trimmed the silk, turned the leaves, and sewed them onto the timtex on the backs of my flowers.

Two more Timtex circles were cut out and a pinback glued to each one.

I made slits in the ultrasuede to poke the ends of the pinback through, and then glued the ultrasuede onto the Timtex and to the back. Then I sewed this to the back of the flower, covering the ends of the leaves and giving a nice finish.

I also added a few beads around the edges of the leaves on this one.

So here is one of could look great pinned to a black scarf...

This one I imagine worn on the lapel of a jean jacket...

I could keep playing with these but I have a UFO calling to's been waiting for five years and the time is right. You'll see!.....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vintage CQ...Flowers #29 and #30

Got them all done by Christmas!

#29 was another experiment with the Dancing Needle. This time I loaded it up with four 4mm silk ribbons at once, to get some very dense loops.
Really, it is so easy to achieve this much detail in almost no time at all.

This is supposed to be a marigold...the leaves were cut from silk that had been dunked in a 1 part glue/2 parts water solution. This acts to prevent the fabric from fraying, but the fabric is still cut and sewable. Easy peasy.

#30 was made from a lace motif hand dyed by Nicki Lee. I love her soft colors. I cut it up and rearranged things a bit, and added some small wired rim ribbon bells....

The biggest challenge with this 30 block series has been to fill that black diamond space in different ways. I think there were about four basic variations...

Now I get to play with arranging them all and then I will sew them together at last. I'll have to add more fly stitching to the new seams of course. That should take awhile...good busy work for airplane rides, of which there will be many for me in the coming year.

Meanwhile, after it is sewn together I will start making a new set of blocks to go around this center section. The ones from last summer didn't cut it! But that's fine, because I love to sew blocks.....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dancing Needle Experiment

A reader named Allison left a comment on my last post that got me thinking...her point was that the Dancing Needle would go through a lot of 13mm silk ribbon to make a flower, implying that that could be pretty expensive.

So I thought, "Why not make my own "ribbon" out of 1/2" strips of very light weight silk? I know, we are veering into rug hooking territory here. Silk ribbon is in a class by itself, no doubt about that but still, there must be other ways to dance with that needle....

Different gauges of needles are required for different kinds of fibers. They make really tiny needlepunches, smaller than what I have here, for very fine fibers and detailed work.
I thought I'd try combining a few kinds and sizes of fibers for my flower experiment.

Also the length you set the depth of the needle in the needlepunch determines the length of the loop you will get. So that's another variable to play with.

With my rotary cutter I made these 1/2" strips of both silk chiffon and silk habotai. There is 4mm silk ribbon, 6 strand silk floss, and a combination of three finer threads that I wound together on an empty spool...

Here's a close up of the strips. Nothing fancy. They were cut with the grain, not on the bias. I'll bet one of those wavy edged rotary cutter blades would add some nice texture here...but no, that is a toy I don't have!

Here is my flower in the hoop, on green linen. Click so you can see it better...
Lots of potential here...and it doesn't have to cost a lot!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vintage CQ...Flower #28

First I need to report about Andy's reception to "Love by the Moon" last week-end.
He showed me a picture on his phone of the beach where he and his gal love to walk....and it looked exactly like the beach in the piece I made. And I hadn't seen the picture.
We both thought that was pretty cool. He was happy.

On to my first adventures with the Dancing Needle....

(Sorry this picture is a little blurry.)
You can see I painted the center of where the flower will be..the color is much richer on the other side of the fabric. I used a slightly open weave linen to accommodate that huge needle. You have to try and poke it between the threads of the weave so you don't just destry the fabric as you punch. This fabric worked great.
I started with an inner ring of 4mm silk ribbon and then added two rings of the 13mm ribbon. That stuff from RiverSilks holds up so well.

Here it is still in the hoop. Such fluffiness!!!!

The extra fabric has been trimmed with an inch of margin all the way around, then tucked to the back and tacked into place.

When I placed it on a sample block, alas, it was too large.

So I made a smaller one. But first you have to see how I made some little leaves to go with it.

This is some of the Mokuba ribbon I love so much. I've gathered it by pulling out a thread on one edge of the ribbon.

Then I got out my handy dandy and indispensable Thread Zapper to seal the cut ends of the ribbon. You push that button on the side and it heats up that little wire tip. (There's a AA battery in there.) You just run it over the cut edges of the ribbon and it seals them right up, with a satisfying wisp of smoke.

The sealed ends won't ravel and hold the gather in place. Very slick! (I just Googled "Bead Smith Thread Zap" and you can find it on Ebay here.)
So then I made a lot of these, using up almost a yard's worth of ribbon, and sewed them onto my block. Over them went my smaller, pre-made needle punched flower.

I added another row of 4mm ribbon by hand around the outside edge of the flower after it was sewn on. It just seemed like it needed it.
The beads in the center add a little sparkle and keep the flower secured into place.
The green detached chain stitches on either side just added some air.

Here's a close-up of the flower...

Couldn't you just fill up a whole quilt with these? I could!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vintage CQ...Flower #27

What a great technique it is for creating three dimensional flowers. For Flower #27 of the Vintage CQ I decided to try needlepunch with 4mm silk ribbon.

Because I couldn't ''punch'' directly onto one of my blocks (you have to keep the punching surface very taut in a hoop and the block was too small for that), I punched into a tightly woven cotton black fabric that I could then applique onto my block.
The above picture shows three flower centers punched with 6 strand cotton floss...with the needle punch adding the 4mm silk ribbon.

Here is how it looks on the other side of the hoop. Those ribbon loops were so quick and easy to form!

And here is the finished block:

I stitched on some of that pre-fab leaf trim you can buy (after I dunked it into some "Sulpher Green" Dye-Na-Flow and let it dry).
Then I cut out my three flowers, folded under the margin of black fabric around them, and stitched them into place.

This block is so top heavy and wonky! Really, it must have been one of the first ones I made, as the black star is so asymmetrical. I tried to compensate for that with the shape of the flower...I just didn't want to redo the whole block at this stage of the game! (My bad....)

My dear friend Freda B has lent me the use of her "Dancing Needle". It is a needlepunch tool especially designed for using WIDE 7mm and 13mm ribbon.

This tool looks positively lethal, doesn't it? We used to give our cows IVs for milk fever with needles that were not nearly this big!
But it could make a really awesome Vintage Flower #28.... We'll try that next!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Love by the Moon...Finished!

There wasn't much more to do, really....I zigzagged the seams between the fused Hanna ribbons in the border, sewed down the moon as well...added some teeny tiny beads to the stars to fill them in just a little...put a serif of sorts on the "L"s.....and added a sun. Though it is pretty low key and not the main focus, it did need to be there.
I stretched it over foam core and put a nice finished back on it. I wrote an article on how to do this for CQMagOnline a few years can find that here.

So here we have it....

I hope Andy and his girl both like it...and that they enjoy plenty more love by the moon....;-)

Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions, too! Landscape quilts are so fun....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Love by the Moon...Day 4

Thanks for your very kind comments regarding this little piece! It's been a lot of fun to work on...

One of my quilt buddies actually called me long distance this morning to tell me how much she liked it....and that she hoped I wasn't going to put flowers all over it!
I thought that was so funny....

....but I am trying to figure out how to emphasize the "Live by the Sun" part of the equation...and had thought some growing things (yes, flowers) in the yellow border could do that. I'll just have to see.

Meanwhile, I got the lettering on. It will probably be jazzed up a little but for the most part it is done, using a beaded backstitch.

And I do want to add some more stars....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Love by the Moon...Day 3

The borders are on, and until they are filled in with their writing and other stitching, they look kind of strange.
Often, we must proceed on faith at this stage of the game....

The size is now 13'' X 16''.

Next comes the writing, done in beads along the wide borders. It is howling and freezing outside, so it is a good day to spend beading....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Love by the Moon...Day 2

I'm so glad you will join me for this project as it goes along this week!

Andy is also the funniest kid in the family. A typical Andy move...
For his graduation from h.s., each graduate was to choose a short quotation or dedication for the school principal to read aloud as the graduate walked solo down the aisle to get the diploma. Nice idea, isn't it?
Have you ever tried to say "Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat..." twenty times in a row, really fast? Try it.
That's what Andy had his principal read as he danced down the aisle....

I got the basic beach scene laid out and sewn down yesterday, after studying many pages of ''moonlit beach'' on Google Images....

This is about 8'' X 11''.

But then I just had to go shopping for beads and ribbons for the borders and writing. I mean, this has to be just right!
The Button Emporium in Portland is my favorite store and I just love Marvis, who owns it with her husband. They have the best selection of Hanna silk ribbons around, also wired edge ribbon, which is getting hard to find in good colors. I got some fancy silver seed beads from Dava Bead and Trade on my way into downtown. A most pleasant excursion it was.

Now I am set up for Day 3's work. I do have to get the sunshine in there that's the challenge, to evoke both the sun and the moon in this small space here.

I'm really going to try not to put any flowers in this but there are no guarantees....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Love by the Moon"...Day 1

My nephew Andy is a force of nature. How many stories I could tell you about him! From his childhood he was a complete heller who broke more stuff and went to the E.R. the most of any of the kids...he pushed my buttons like a Master, causing me to scream dire threats at him, which he thought was funny (he did say, "Aunt Allie is the worst cousin ever.") He almost died as a young teen from an allergic reaction to a vaccine that resulted in his having to endure a bone marrow transplant. Yes, we almost lost him...
He blew off high school but managed to graduate anyway due to a clerical error in his favor.
Andy... So much untamed energy.
But so much heart.
Sometime along the way he made up his mind to become a fireman. So he channeled that incredible will of his and:
--went to his local Community College, got his EMT, and then went through the Fire Academy
--drove ambulance in South Central LA to pay for school and gain experience. He told his mom once, "Yeah, it was a brains in the hands week-end...."
--graduated from a Paramedic program last spring gaining the top class honor of "Best in the Field" (meaning, if you have a heart attack, you want Andy as your first responder).
--Laughed at the impossible job market and got hired by his local fire department, straight out of school.
His first day on the job he saved a baby's life. That's Andy.

This picture was taken the day he graduated from Paramedic school. He's 22.

So he called me yesterday.
He's in love.
He is commissioning me to make the Christmas present he wants to give to his new girlfriend. "I want to score major points with this one," he told me.
She has a saying she loves, "Live by the sun, Love by the moon"...and I guess they've enjoyed some special moonlit nights on the beach. So that's what my commission piece is about: the beach at night, with those words on it.
"I trust you, Aunt Allie, do whatever you want...."

Luckily for both of us, I have a window of free time over the next week, so today is Day 1 on "Love by the Moon".

This is where I am at the very beginning.
I'll be posting my progress at the end of each day, so stop by if you like....

Next week-end I will be delivering it to Andy in person in San Diego. Maybe I won't be the worst cousin ever anymore!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vintage CQ...Flower #26

California poppies are a favorite around here, the way they reseed themselves everywhere and are one of the earliest sources of bright color in the spring.
I've been making this flower for a few years, too....but never tried it on this small a scale. It was fun!

I started by creating the leaves on water soluble stabilizer, just using embroidery thread in a straight stitch on my Juki sewing machine with the feed dogs down.

For the petals I fused two pieces of silk together with some heavy weight Steam A Seam fusible web. Fusing the fabrics does tend to reduce fraying along the edge when you cut it.
See how nice the leaf came out, after I washed the stabilzer away?

And here they are blooming.
I added a little shading to the leaf with some gel pens.

Four more flowers to go! Then I get to sew them all together....

Crazy Quilt Class With Me

I wanted to let you know....
If you live near Battleground, WA this message is for you. And by "living near" I use that term loosely... A very kind reader of my blog has organized a private crazy quilt class with me and a few of her friends and there's one space left. (There will be 7 students in all.) She lives near Salem, OR... and that's quite a ways from Battleground! The class will be held in a newly built private home with lots of light and space.

It will be a three part class, each day running from 9 a.m. til 4:30 p.m. on three Saturdays, each a month apart, beginning in February. Class 1 will cover different ways to construct blocks; Class 2 concerns crazy quilt embroidery; Class 3 will explore 3 dimensional embellishment, especially flowers. Each student will be creating her own project with my guidance.

If you are interested, email LISA ENCABO at and she'll send you all the details. Please put "crazy quilter" or something like that in the subject line, so your email doesn't get deleted. Thanks!

Battle Ground is in the upper right of the map.