Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's OK to be Lazy - Occasionally

Yes, I was lazy last week.  I didn't write a post.  Summertime is unpredictable even though my children left the nest long ago.  There is yard work to do.  I have trays my mother painted with Early American Design that have become damaged with use.  I need to repair them in the summer when the weather is warm because I must varnish in the uninsulated garage instead of in my tiny home.  Fruit is ripe and jam must be made when the time is right.  It waits on no sewing project.  I generally sew every day for 2-3 hours, but have not been able to do that for the last couple of weeks, let alone blog.  I had a visitor from Scotland so we hiked and he chiseled a crack in two of my genealogical brick walls.  Had to work on those of course.

Lastly, the sewing of my Phoenix bird hit a snag.  Do you ever make a quilt that goes perfectly from start to finish?  Grrrr!  I don't.

TIP:  Start your quilting in the middle even if the sandwich is well secured.

The bird itself turned out great.  I started on its belly in the center and worked the wings out from there.  When I got down to the tail feathers, I got so excited to work on them that I just simply didn't think it through and began with the outside feathers and worked in.  Thread painting is so dense that it redistrubutes fabric as it fills.  Here is what I got:

Extra fabric arising like the Himalayas 
All kinds of mountainous rumples arose within the confines of the feathers.  What to do?  The fire helped a little, but the photo shows it unfinished because I thought I had better bulldoze the hills first in case I had to rip out the flames.  I tried McTavishing, but it wasn't enough so I took it out and settled for small pebbles with a curlique in the center hoping that lots of stitches would eat up the extra fabric.  They did as you can see below:

Heavy quilting black on black - click to enlarge.
Mostly that did the trick, but the area does not lay perfectly flat.  I think and pray that I can flatten it during the blocking process.  If not, it will still be a nice quilt, but not show fodder.  If not, I will consider it part of a heavy duty lesson in thread painting.

TIP:  All is not lost, ever.  It is all in how you look at it and whether or not you learn from your mistakes.  After all, it is just a quilt.  Your life cannot be ruined by a quilting error.  Your psyche may get temporarily dampened, so take a break, take a hike, make some jam, clean up the sewing room.......

As I write, I know I have more extra fabric to contain, but it is getting better as I work it out.  The fires are complete so I continue with black on black pebbles that take a magnifying glass to see what I am doing.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thread System

How do you arrange your thread?  Is it convenient?  My daughter has hers in a cupboard on the other side of the room (at least it was when I was last there).  I have seen studios where a spool of thread does not appear out in polite company.  I have seen studios where spools of thread line the walls.  I even built myself a thread holder 30 years ago that held my Coats and Clark spools on the wall above my sewing machine.  I didn't need much then for clothing construction so it wasn't very big, but I had a 4' x 8' cutting table.  Now I have no cutting table because the ironing board will do, but I have become a thread-aholic with no wall space.

My thread is organized by type (cotton, polyester, silk) and to some extent by brand (Isacord, Bottom Line).  They reside in thread boxes purchased at big box stores.  Unfortunately, one box does not fit all so I have four or five boxes of differing sizes.  I know where everything is, usually, but these boxes are a pain to get into when I am engulfed in a quilt leaking out everywhere from under the sewing machine.  I continue to check out storage options whenever I am out.  Will there ever be a perfect system?

My biggest complaint is that there is no way to store bobbins with their individual thread spools.  The spool holders in boxes designed for thread are too fat to hold a bobbin.  Even the cute, folding, wooden spool holders at Joann's have no place to put a bobbin with the appropriate thread.  Besides, I have no room for one of those.  Thus, in addition to finding my thread, I have to hunt through my bobbin donuts, which I try to separate by donut color denoting thread type, but those sneaky bobbins are gregarious with all thread cultures and get mixed up anyhow.

I haven't solved all the storage problems, but I designed a thread holder for temporary use, which sits on the ironing board next to the sewing machine.  It holds thread and bobbin together so I can easily find what I need for the current project.  Of course, this holder is too tall for any of the plastic boxes, but I may be able to work on that.  Back to the drawing board!  For Isacord cones you can purchase a base, which locks the cones down and fits nicely by twos in a storage box, but can come out to play when desired.

My temporary thread system
Do you have any great ideas for storing thread spools and bobbins together?  I am open!

Sew a happy seam this week.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Appliqué Problem and Solutions

Here is the promised post on why I had to briefly quit work on the Phoenix.

I recently finished an art quilt with lots of complex design in it.  In the center is a Mariner's Compass among other things.  In each corner around the center is a complex baroque-style appliqué reminiscent of the intricate designs of the Middle East.  I applied the appliqué with gold, metallic blanket stitch.  It looked so nice before quilting and I was very pleased.  Then I quilted the quilt with two batts - wool and cotton.  This made the quilt very heavy, but the central motifs are puffy, pretty, and fully filled.  The appliqué, on the other hand, looked rumpled and ugly to my eye.  I didn't know what I could do about it, but I put it in a show anyhow.  The judge said the appliqué was "very good," which was like getting a "B" grade.  Not too bad, but I would have preferred an "excellent."

In the quilting process I stitched around the appliqué before doing the filler design, as is recommended.  I didn't notice the buckling until later after blocking the quilt, and I almost cried. My beautiful appliqué didn't look so beautiful anymore.  What to do?  Before I tell you what I did I will explain what I might have done early in the process, or rather what I will think about doing next time.

Rumpled Appliqué
*I like the double batting everywhere except the corners.  I could have cut away the wool under the corners only.  I am sure the appliqué would have laid flatter and the corners would have receded behind the other motifs.  It might have been a nice effect.

*Trapunto?  The appliqué is probably wrinkled because the dense background fill squeezed the unquilted fabric.  I don't know that trapunto would work since the extra batting would have to push up from behind the background fabric into the appliqué motifs.

*I could have cut away the blue fabric from behind the appliqué leaving a narrow seam on all those curves before layering the sandwich so the batting could push up and fill the motifs.  This would be dicey since I did not secure the appliqué with a straight stitch before doing the blanket stitch so the narrow seam might not be dependable.

*I could have secured the appliqué first with a straight stitch, which I have never done before.  I don't know how it would look.  Worth testing!

*I could have finished the appliqué with satin stitch and then cut away the back.  My old machine had a poor satin stitch so I would not have attempted it then.  My new machine does a beautiful one so I am ready to learn how to do it well.

I finally came up with two reasonably viable options:

*I thought of machine quilting narrow echo lines inside the appliqué.  How's that for insane?  I was afraid to do that with my brand new machine because I have not done enough free motion quilting on it to know its idiosyncrasies, especially the touch of the foot pedal.  Uneven stitches would be very noticeable.

*I finally decided to hand stitch tiny, gold seed beads all over the appliqué, 1/4 inch apart.  Once I found the beads and bought needles I used a slightly off-white Bottom Line thread and spent 27 hours sewing on tiny, little beads.  The beads evened out the fullness into a more uniform look.  In addition, the gold beads make it sparkle.  They are not noticeable from a distance, but they are very obvious and attractive up close.   The appliqué metamorphosed from a rumply, bumply error into carefully embellished,  planned texture.  I am sooooooo happy!

Beaded appliqué - click to see large.
TIP:  You may dread the extra work, but going that extra mile is usually worth it.

The judge also noted that some of my border lines (there are several) were not straight to her satisfaction, so after the beading was done, I soaked the quilt and re-blocked it.  Every line in the quilt has been pinned into absolutely straight submission (it didn't take much!).  Live and learn.  Tomorrow the pins come out.  I have applied to another show and will hear in a few weeks if this quilt gets juried in.

TIP:  The judges' comments are not meant to hurt.  Take them to heart and learn to make better quilts. I have learned how to improve and enhance my work by showing my quilts.  Try it!  You don't have to start big - try your local quilt guild show or the county fair.

Sew a happy seam this week.