Sunday, October 25, 2015

More Marking Methods

Last week I wrote about marking every little line for the pumpkin seed pattern, but different designs require different treatment depending on their complexity and the quilter's expertise.

This quilt of mine requires a lot of interesting background quilting.  It certainly isn't boring, but I have spaces that need to be filled with designs that will remain decorative but unobtrusive.  With that in mind I have made them regular and repetitious but (hopefully) engaging.  Each design fills a relatively small space and in order to sew them nicely I feel compelled to provide guidelines, but I don't need to mark every line.  There are multiple ways to do that depending on the design, so here is what I have done.  My marks today are with a pink pen which has ink that disappears gradually in air and all the way with water.

I am quilting the quilt completely and then sewing a thread-painted bird onto it.  The background is painted with Intense pencils before quilting, but I did not paint in the areas that will be covered by the bird, leaving those areas plain white.  However, I will still be quilting in those spaces so that the back of the quilt will not have big, un-quilted blotches behind the bird.  [The following photos do not adhere to any consistent scale so ignore the size differences]

The first items that need marking are 1-inch circles in which I am stitching a sunburst with curved rays.  I found I needed a grid to keep an even number of rays coming out of the center in a regular manner.  The red is drawn with micron pen and intended to be permanent.  I will not be quilting on that red line.  You can see how I marked the grid.  I free motion quilted the inner circle and then the eight rays in the manner of the blue line, moving from the center to the outside red circle in a curve and backtracking back to center, then moving on to start the next ray at the next gridline on the center ring.  They are not perfect, but they are close and reasonably regular, which I like.  Read on to see the next photo, which shows a bunch of them completed.  I will stitch pebbles
around the sunbursts eventually.

Sunburst grid
Next I have some rows of triangles,which I am filling with free motion straight lines.  I marked a few lines in each triangle to help me keep the lines as straight as possible.  Since this photo is taken of an unpainted area I used blue marker for the triangles.  The stitching will show on the back so it needs to look right.  Straight lines are not easily done with free motion, but these are too short to mess with a walking foot and turning the quilt a jillion times.  With practice it is possible to learn do them pretty evenly, and as I mentioned last week they don't have to be obsessively perfect to look nice.
Guide lines in the triangles
Finished sunbursts and triangles
The last areas to fill are some yellow rows that are only 1-inch deep.  I decided to do feathers, but I wanted to keep them fairly regular so I made a pattern of the curve I wanted for the spine, and cut it from a double layer of freezer paper (shiny sides ironed together).

Freezer pattern for feather spine.
Feather spine
I love doing feathers and do not need to draw them out so I will free-motion stitch them along the spine.  If  you are not comfortable with free feathers, they could be drawn with a marker too.

TIP:  Last week a comment was made about marking with Frixon pens.  They seem magical as the marks disappear with heat from an iron or hair dryer.  I want to warn you that these pens are made for paper and not for fabric.  Their behavior on fabric was unintended, unplanned and not guaranteed.  The problem with them is that if your quilt gets cold or is shipped somewhere in freezing weather the pen marks will reappear.  It is clear that although the ink becomes invisible, it remains in the fabric in some form.  In many cases this is not a problem, but at least be aware.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Monday, October 19, 2015

To Mark or Not to Mark

There once were days when I worried so much about how to mark a quilt for quilting.  I wanted every line and every stitch marked on my quilt top.  I soon decided I would have to change my thinking because marking just doesn't always work.  The disappearing ink disappears.  Chalk rubs off.  Washable blue markers become permanent if you accidentally iron them.  Some markers don't show on dark fabric, others don't show on light fabric, and nothing shows on busy prints.  Tissue paper rips and freezer paper is too stiff.  Never fear it does work itself out with experience, but there is no right answer that covers all situations and personal preferences.

So then the problem becomes, "Do I really need to mark?"  As usual the answer is, "It depends!"  I wanted all the answers packed into neat compartments that would be tailored to every occasion.  Yeh, right!!!  However, I now recognize the situations where I need to mark and where I am comfortable doing truly free-form, free motion quilting.  You will too as you move along and gain experience, and each one of us has different needs and capabilities.

I am currently doing the pumpkin seed design in a 1/2 inch grid.  This is a nice size, but there is not much room for error if it is to look nice, so I am taking the time to mark every line with a disappearing ink pen, which has a relatively sharp tip.  I find it a lot easier in a tight space to have lines to follow.  My ink drawing is free-hand and not perfect, but I am more confident with a pen or pencil than with the needle in these small spaces.  My stitching isn't perfect either, but I like to think the imperfections are fewer and less noticeable when I mark in this situation.

Marking with air-disappearing pen

TIP:  Many experienced quilters say that your quilting does not have to be computer perfect.  In fact I have often read that it is better, more organic, more real if it is not so exact. There is nothing wrong in striving for perfection, but don't be too hard on yourself when you fall a little short.  You will improve with every quilt.  After all you are only human, and sometimes you might have to rip (shhhhh!) and that's OK too.

Here is the stitched result.  It gives such a pretty, almost architectural texture that will not distract from the main event, which will be the Phoenix bird.  The black lines of the grid are done with a black micron (permanent) pen and are part of the intended background "painting."

Pumpkin seed design quilted
I leave you to ponder your quilting while I spend my time doing an awful lot of pumpkin seeds.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Do you ever have times when the sewing just isn't getting done?  I love to sew and find it therapeutic, satisfying, challenging and gratifying, but once in awhile it just doesn't happen.  Maybe I am solving a problem.  Maybe I am not enthusiastic about the next task (ripping, basting).  Maybe life gets in the way and I don't have time.  Maybe my sewing room is too much of a mess.

I found myself in No-Sew-Time this week.  I finished the background for my Phoenix, I got it sandwiched and pinned all ready to start quilting.  Although excited to get started, I sometimes set myself other tasks, which my inner genie says must get done first.  Quilting will be the reward.  So, I tackled the mess in my sewing room since I could hardly move in there anyway.  I put away all the papers and paper patterns.  I went through the memorabilia boxes, repacked them and sent them off to new residential space.  I separated fabrics and scraps that had taken over the bed.  I made swags for my bedroom windows.  I went through my closet and took a load to the Thrift Store.  Finally I did the long avoided:  I cut down three T-shirts that were too long and hemmed them (they have only waited three years or more get the treatment).  Now I have new T-shirts without buying any.  Now I can move in my sewing room.  Now I can find the bed.  Now I can start quilting tomorrow.

TIP:  Really?!!!  I found this on Facebook.

I welcomed three quilts home last week from the show circuit.  The one below spent a lot of time in the inner regions of my skull before I actually put my ideas into Illustrator.  Eventually I came up with the design and figured out how to do it.  Not every step went smoothly, but it all came together in the end.  There are some glitches and of course the judges found them, even some I didn't know were there, but I still love the quilt and enjoyed doing it.  It mirrors the beautiful designs of the Mediterranean where nearly every surface is intricately decorated.  I pieced, appliquéd, beaded and painted.  The little stars at the bottom are stenciled with gold Tsukineko ink.   I quilted it on my home machine.

Mediterranean Mélange
Up close
Sew a happy seam this week.