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.

12 comments:

  1. I love how your mind thinks of how to solve the hiccups in your quilt. The beading looks amazing.

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  2. You found a great solution! I once got a comment on a show quilt that the border was too wide. So I hand stitched an 1/8" ribbon just inside the binding. Next show I entered, it got first place. I'm sure yours will do better in it's next show too!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I had one quilt where the judge noted that I should strive for more uniform quilting stitches. I just got that quilt back from another show and won Best Machine Quilting for a stationary machine. You never know! Do much depends on the individual judges.

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  3. Do you have some tips on how to block quilts?

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    1. See my post on blocking quilts: http://quiltingsolutions.blogspot.com/2014/06/blocking-quilt.html

      If you have questions let me know and I will try to answer them.

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  4. what if you had not quilted the blue background so densely? would that have made a difference, you think? I like your solution, by the way - it looks cool

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    1. You are right. Less dense quilting on the blue might have helped, but the whole quilt is densely quilted. I tend to do do that! I also wanted the blue to fade into the background and quilting it down tight did that. I just didn't expect the problem with the appliqué. I learn something from every quilt I make!

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  5. I love the solution you came up with with the seed beads. It looks lovely!

    I came to your blog today through a link up, and I wondered if you might be interested in joining in another link up. My mom and I post one each Friday called Crafty Comment Karma, for people to link up any of their crafting, quilting or sewing posts. It's open for the whole week until the next one goes up, so I hope you think about joining us! Link-up located here: http://bit.ly/1FT3LsD

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  6. I'd love to join your link-up. Do you have the code for your button so I can put it on my site? I am a total loss when it comes to code and it is so handy to have it right there on my site.

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  7. I love your solution, the beads truly do give it another dimension and worth those 27 hours of agony. Sure to get an Excellent next time.

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  8. Very nice fix! The beads are so pretty there. I wonder how much of the puff would fix itself with the backing fabric cut out? I'm thinking that on my one fusible-appliqued quilt where I did not cut away the backing this would become an issue (I fused that one all across the shapes instead of "gutting" the fusible before ironing it to my fabrics). I'll need to stick to not-dense quilting around my shapes on that one, I guess, to try to keep the puffiness even all around?

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    1. Lynette, it may depend on your batting. I have done the same kind of appliqué with Quilter's Dream Cotton Select and never had a problem, even with heavy quilting around it. For the quilt in this post I used two battings, one wool and one cotton. Too much for the appliqué.

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