Tag Archives: novice quilter

The Cheapskate’s Way to Unique Applique.

28 Nov

You may have noticed that patterns are expensive. They are also not always what you would choose. For instance, suppose that your child likes a particular character from literature or TV. You may not be able to get a pattern for an applique of same but you can probably find a colouring book. How obvious is that and how many people never think of it? I never have used this method but I’m considering it.

The other day I was browsing in a local shop that sells a lot of end-of-line  and remaindered stock and I found a  colouring book featuring snowmen. It is a bit late for this year but I will be making at least a snowman themed wall hanging  next year. In theory I could do it  now but I have a queue of UFOs and  refuse to allow a new project until at least some are finished.

This  book is ‘Colour with Frosty’ from www.holland-publishing.co.uk . This particular book is no longer on the site (probably why it was reduced) but there are lots more. The best place for cheap books is one of the remainder shops like The Works. If you want a closer look than the internet affords they have a store finder from your post code   and you can go along and grab an armful.

There were lots of other animals; bears and penguins for instance but these are the ones I have chosen on the snowman theme.

The Book – I am not sure  it is the actual Frosty the Snowman but that’s what it says on the tin so I’ll go with it.

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Unless you are a McKenna Ryan fan choose pictures with large pieces and no fiddly bits. Having said that, if you see something you really like and it has lots of fiddly bits, have a go. I use the satin stitch method of attaching my appliques and I have not yet found anything too difficult, small or fiddly to deal with (even McKenna Ryan). In fact she has a beautiful new quilt with snowmen too. Have a look. If you like kits her fabrics are lovely.

If you need instructions on applique have a look at the ‘Tips and Tricks’ page on the heading at the top of this page. There are several applique projects with the basic how tos.

One note of caution. The books are someone’s copyright. If you use them for yourself I cannot see there would be a problem, although I am no expert. If you try to sell the resulting quilt, in theory you could get into copyright problems so best not to do it.

Monkey Puzzle Solved and the End of Christmas.

18 Jun

Just an update on the projects featured in the last post.

And  this one.

I had completed the alphabet monkeys for what was going to be a cot quilt. I obviously took my eye off the ball and having put it together with a set of 25 patch blocks, realised that it was a bit on the long and thin size. The only way to proceed was to make it into a full sized quilt for a single bed.

This I did.

DSCN2598_450x600Some Detail.

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Not my usual colours but I think they work quite well.

At the same time I was finishing ‘Chrissie Down Under’ by McKenna Ryan.

I can’t say I am as thrilled as I hoped by the completed wall hanging but at least it is finished.

I think my conclusion is that she does animals and birds very well but the Santa and the Cat don’t quite work. The problem with her patterns is that it is not easy to find a large picture of the finished quilt to see what it will look like.

I did use satin stitch round all the appliques rather than the suggested straight stitching with a poly filament thread. At least I can wash it without it falling apart.Mind you my all singing and dancing newer Pfaff refused to have anything to do with the multiple layers of fabric and glue. Whilst it was sulking I dug out my original Pfaff bought in 1985 and I have to say that it is far superior to the one I bought to replace it when the motor gave up. Nothing to do with the fact the original was made in Germany of course. (sarcy face emoticon) Luckily I decided that the small amount of money I was going to be charged to have a new motor fitted was worth it so I now have my old machine back and this quilt was able to be completed. What I will do with it I am not sure. We may have to move house to get higher ceilings.

DSCN2591_450x600 I love the detail on these birds.

DSCN2592_600x286Fiddly but worth it.

DSCN2593_600x306These may be my favourites.

DSCN2594_600x397This bird presented the biggest challenge with its layers of feathers.

DSCN2595_559x600See the detail.

DSCN2596_252x600Kangaroos and pelicans.

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As I sit posting this I can hear music from the village green. Every year Polperro has a music festival so every afternoon there are a couple of bands performing and then lots more in all the pubs in the evening. The Big Cheese and myself even took in a spot of chamber music on Sunday.

Dyeing to Show You

15 Feb

If you read my last blog you will have seen my first attempts at dyeing fabric. Since then I can’t stop myself. I have dyed a fabric in every colour I bought and some in more than one. Behold.

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I have also started using them in my applique.

This one makes for rather a busy background but you can’t deny it’s colourful.

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You may remember I used some similar fabric in a quilt I made featuring dragons. In fact it was this fabric that started the interest in dyeing my own.

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close up of fabrics.

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In case you were wondering about the clowns, they are from my new quilt pattern. It will be published as soon as I get the time to sort out the printing.

Here’s a preview.

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Bow Acquires Colourful New String.

30 Jan

As if I didn’t have enough  hobbies and hobbies in abeyance I have started down the road to bancruptcy with yet another. I bought some rather beautiful hand dyed fabrics at two separate quilt shows. They are fantastic for applique as each piece of fabric can yield hundreds of variations of colour and texture  rather than having one overall  pattern or colour.

Although I have several, I got to thinking how useful it would be to have  variations of variations ad infinitum. The rest, as they say is history. I had a bit of an expensive hicccup at the beginning, choosing the wrong type of fabric but even that wasn’t a disaster, just a teaching aid.

My first mistake was to believe the wording on a fabric supplier’s site that stated that it’s RFD (ready for dyeing) fabric was the best it had ever seen. On the strength of that I bought a quantity. I would probably have been happy with the results if I hadn’t had the hand dyed fabric I had bought at the shows with which to compare it. The colours were bright but the finish on the fabric was letting them down. They looked dull when I wanted vibrant.

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Over Christmas myself and Daughters numbers one and two did quite a bit of dyeing of fabrics but we were definitely underwhelmed with the results. I searched the internet to find out how other people tackled the problem. and found several answers and a reasonable consensus on the best way to go about things.

First of all I discovered that mercerised cotton is a better way to go. The treatment of the fabric means that the surface is less hairy and the  fibres absorb the dye better, thus providing the required vibrancy.

I also discovered that it appears that keeping the dye bath warm for as long as possible gives better results. For someone who works from a cellar that is decidedly nippy at this time of year this could be regarded as essential information.

The picture below was taken in said cellar and still you can see the difference.

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The other thing that became apparent was that the way the fabric dyes also varies with the different fabric/methods. There is less of a flat colour with the mercerised cotton. See how the pattern is varied on the bigger sample below.

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To an applique addict this type of fabric is the answer to so many problems.

I used the first fabrics I dyed to finish off my latest design. It is actually a Christmas wall hanging so it’s a bit late or a bit early depending how you view it. The design is actually from daughter number one and interpreted by yours truly.  I am particularly pleased with the fabric I used for Rudolph. It wasn’t planned but turned out to be perfect.

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First the elf that has lost his clothes and the friend that thinks it is hilarious.

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Not quite fiddling whilst Rome burns but something equally dangerous.

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Seasoning greetings.

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Above an inebriated Rudolph.

Below it doesn’t pay to sleep with idle hands in the vicinity.

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At the moment I am working on some clowns using the more vibrant mercerised cotton. I will post pictures to show the difference. I will also do a tutorial based on the things I have learned. Watch this space.

The Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs of Chrissie Down Under.

6 Dec

I have finally started my Mckenna Ryan quilt. I think the one I have chosen – Chrissie Down Under – is probably one of the better ones for my purpose. It is a personal opinion but, art quilt or not, I cannot get my head round the idea of not actually sewing the shapes permanently onto the backing. The advice is to vacuum rather than wash but I guess that depends on how long you intend to use the quilt and, in the case of the Christmas one, whether it will suffer from storage or sticky fingers. I had ideas of ignoring the instructions and satin stitching the pieces on but there are so many layers on some of the pieces that I fear my Pfaff will rebel as it always does given too much bulk to deal with. I think the main problem is the layers of glue from the fusible web but whatever it is it may scupper my plans.

I would also say that these are not patterns for a beginner. This is not because they are complicated, although they are. If you have the determination and the discipline to practise and a modicum of common sense then I think most things in applique are possible. My main contention with this , and presumably her other patterns, is that they are printed on both sides of the pattern sheet. This may not seem a problem if you have not tried tracing them off but if, like me, you like to use a lightbox, it is very frustrating. It is not as if they are cheap and there is therefore a need to save paper to save money. It is not impossible to trace the pieces off but it is unnecessarily frustrating trying to sort out what is the outline of the piece being traced and having to turn the light box on and off in order to determine which side of the pattern it is on. As such it might put a beginner off applique in general.

Despite the above I have just spent a pleasant couple of days tracing and fusing  blocks, at the same time  listening to  the new J.K. Rowling on my iPod. Whilst this would not be any good in the tradition of Dunbar of Catch 22 fame who liked to stay as bored as possible in order to live longer, the combination of the two makes the day fly past. Luckily this is not a problem as I have so many quilts still to make that I will have to live for ever in order to complete them or die in the attempt.

Here are the first three laid out ready to stitch. Having traced the shapes and fused them onto the various fabrics, if you follow the numerical or alphabetical order of the pieces they are actually easy to construct.

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I have not bought the fabrics recommended for the quilt partly because I have far too much fabric already and partly because I want to put my own stamp on it.

I will post the rest as I do them and show what method of attaching the shapes to the background I adopt in the end.

Having a Masked Ball

1 Nov

Aren’t these just the bees knees? When I saw them over on Tiramisues  blog I just had to have a go. I survived  30 years in Africa, amongst  other places and whilst there were a couple of close calls and not all the memories are happy ones, I have always had a fascination with some of the artefacts, particularly masks and I am always looking for different embroideries so these definitely appealed. I don’t think they are all necessarily African masks but that matters not a jot.

If you do any amount of machine embroidery you will know that not all digitisings (is that a word?) are equal. Some stitch out beautifully and some, what can I say – don’t. These particular ones come into the  category of ‘beautifully’. They start with a line of stitching which frames the design and  in effect tacks the fabric to the background.

This was an added bonus for me because it meant I could hoop stabiliser and float the fabric on top without worrying about it moving during the stitching.

This meant I didn’t need such a large piece of fabric because I didn’t need to allow for the hooping nor did I have to work out why the machine was telling me the designs were bigger than they were. (It was telling me an untruth.)  It also gave me a use for the absolutely ginormous hoops that came with my machine. Having had them for over two years without using them I was glad to find they aren’t wasted. The frame is literally just a tack down and it is loose so that it can be removed after stitching.

The  colour charts look as if they have lots of colours but in fact you can use as many or as few as you like. I averaged about 5 colours but you could really go to town on the psychedelics if so inclined. If you have never done any machine applique before it may appear a bit daunting but all you have to do is read through the charts before starting and all becomes clear.The charts supplied make it easy to understand.

I used the diagram printout produced by my software to trace pieces roughly the size needed but as long as the fabric  covers the trace line stitched for each shape it doesn’t really matter unless you are trying to preserve fabric.

For each applique shape the pattern stitches an outline onto which the roughly cut fabric piece is then placed. You can see the stages in the chart above. Look at the main head shape and you will see there are four stages to its completion. The first is to define the shape, the second to stitch the fabric in place the third defines the path the satin stitch will take and the fourth is the satin stitch itself.

Defining the shape.

Placing the fabric.

The fabric is then trimmed close to the line, preferably with a pair of duckbill scissors like these. They make the trimming so much easier and with less likelihood of snipping the threads. This is obviously done without removing the fabric from the hoop as you need it to stay in the same place, although you can remove the hoop from the machine to make it easier.

Trimming.

Ready for Stitching. Ignore the fact it is a different mask. the same principles apply.

The next stage may be the satin stitch that fixes the piece permanently to the background or this stage may be done later with other satin stitch, depending on the design.

I did a test firing so to speak to see how the designs and colours work so I used roughly the same colours as the originals so that I was only worrying about one thing at a time. I shall probably end up doing several versions now I have the measure of it. If you want to see how they all look on a plain background go over to Tiramisue’s blog  (link in the first paragraph above) or her Etsy Page where you can see the whole range and buy the designs if you want to.

This was the first one I tried with a plain background on a stiff fabric so that all conditions were ideal.

Isn’t he a handsome fellow.

Closeup of the stitching .

I have done the rest on a print to show a different way.  I chose a fabric that reminds me of the threatening sky of a tropical thunderstorm. I kept the black for the base of the masks to stand out from the busy background.

Here is the first one with the tacking frame still on. This could be a good guide to square up the blocks too. The design allowed for another piece of fabric in the central part of the design (see the chart above) but I decided just to outline it with satin stitch. With the blue one with the big horns  below I have added the extra layer of  purple fabric.

Here is a close-up.

An even closer up showing the ”beads’ on the alternative version of this mask.

Some more

Imagine the fun you could have making a wall hanging and adding beads and jewels and 3D bits and pieces.

If you fancy a set of these as pictures or a wall hanging or quilt you can get the designs  from Tiramasue’s  Etsy page.

Check your hoop capabilities as they are all large designs.

Here is the finished article.

Sock It To The Baby

12 Oct

As promised in my last blog , herewith pictures of the quilt with the girl sock monkeys. Both quilts come from appliques demonstrated in the blog before that. I divided them into two quilts. These links have links to the original digitising pages.

I decided to keep this one simple too. The appliques have enough character and a design that was too complicated might take away from them. I stayed with plain 2.5″ strips and used the leftover bits for the second border and binding. ‘Waste not, want not’ as my Mother never used to say. It is also nice and bright as only parents like pastels. Babies like bright, stimulating colours. For those that hate matching seams there are a lot less of those to contend with too.

To finish it off –  the label for the girl’s quilt from another Designs by Juju design.

The label for the boy’s quilt.

If you compare the boy’s quilt you will see that it is possible to get two entirely different quilts from the same basic designs.

 

Monkeys From The Emerald Isle.

6 Oct

I decided to divide the monkeys from my last blog into two sets, boys and girls. Conveniently there are six of each. With the first one I decided to do a variation on an Irish Chain.  If you want to do a traditional tried and tested one see this link for methods .

The link above shows you how to do three different Irish Chains – single,

Double,

Triple.

Mine used 10″ monkey blocks (cut 10.5″) and 2″” squares (cut 2.5″).

Note if you are changing the size to suit your blocks – you need to start and finish with the same row. e.g the blue one above starts with two plain and three nine patch on the first row and the last row is the same. If you don’t do that the pattern will not be complete. The same goes for the patterns across. Symmetry is the key to success. As I had 6 boy and 6 girl appliques I had to do another one as I needed 7. Rows 1, 3 and 5  – 1 applique, rows 2 and 4 -2 appliques. I chose one from the jumbo summer collection as the nearest thing to a baby. He looks as if he is wearing a babygro.

Over all I was quite pleased with the result . I have done a different but still simple version for the girls. . The appliques have enough character of their own to carry the quilt.

Introducing the boys.

Here’s the extra little chap.

Here is the centrepiece.

And again.

Some more quilted monkeys.

The label using one of the plain embroideries in a small size.

I have finished the girl quilt too but you will have to wait a while before I show you.

Now – Designs by Juju have brought out a sock monkey applique alphabet. There is no hope for me. I have lots of ideas on using this so watch this space.

More Treasures from the Sock Drawer

30 Sep

I spent the afternoon flicking my wrists trying to dislodge fragments of fabric from my finger ends.  That is what you get when you decide to do a bit of digitised machine applique . However, it uses up the bits of fabric I can never quite throw away and the results are very pleasing. I have various collections of Sock Monkey applique designs from Designs by Juju but the first one I am trying is the jumbo baby collection. I like the fact that the Juju designs get all the fabric bits out of the way at the beginning so that once that is done the embroidery can be left to its own devices. A plus if, like most embroiderers your machine only has one needle is that, because the fabric is all placed at the beginning the first 10 or so stages can all be done with the same colour in the needle which means you don’t have to keep re-threading it. The satin stitch is digitised to do each colour in one hit too which is another plus.

In case you have not done this type of embroidery I should explain that the reason for my sticky fingers was spray glue. It is the easiest way to hold the scraps of fabric in place whilst the machine stitches over them. You can buy a temporary glue that stays sticky just long enough to do the job of holding the fabric in place. You can also buy a special glue stick if you don’t want gluey surfaces. Lots of paper on surfaces and spraying well away from any machinery are also to be recommended.

I spread A3 sheets of paper over the table on which I am going to  do the glueing. This has the added advantage that no wiping is required and the paper can be folded up and disposed of and a fresh sheet put down when it gets too sticky. Butchers paper or brown paper would also work but I would think the print on newspaper might be a problem.

This is going to be a fairly basic tutorial so experts feel free to skip to the pictures.

If you like the idea of the sock monkeys but not the sticky bit then Juju does straight embroideries too.  Here is one of them.

They are well digitised and stitch out perfectly.

Here is a link to some of the embroideries. Otherwise just put ‘sock monkeys’ in the search on the home page and there are a raft of them.

Back to the applique. The designs come in different sizes, usually two different ones with each download. For this tutorial I am using the ‘Jumbo’ designs that come in 6″ x 10″ and 8″ x 8″.    I am using 8″ x 8″ as it ends up the largest and if I’m doing jumbo I might as well go the whole hog.

First I downloaded each design onto the software on my computer and sent it to the machine. I then called up the design sheet which prints out the actual size of the finished design. This allows me to use it as a template from which to trace all the relevant pieces for the design. I have a light box which makes life easier.

The colour charts that come with the designs only show the stitching so I found it useful to print off the pictures of the finished appliques from the web site so that I could see where fabric was needed.

Digitised appliques start with a line stitched round the area where the first piece of fabric is to be laid down. This line is visible on the pattern printout so I used this to trace the shape of the pieces to be cut from fabric. I traced each piece and cut it out close to the line but making sure there was enough to be caught under the satin stitch when it was stitched. These designs have a nice wide stitch which helps.

Always use  stabiliser under the fabric.  I used two layers of medium weight tearaway stabiliser and hooped it with the fabric and the designs stitched perfectly on patchwork weight cotton fabric.

Before hooping I find the centre of the fabric so that it can be centred  on the machine. If you cannot choose where the hoop sits on your machine you have at least some indication of where the centre is so that you can get it as near the correct position as possible whilst hooping.. You can of course just use a very large piece of fabric but that’s a bit extravagant, fabric prices being what they are these days. I marked it with a pin but unless you want to damage the needle if not the machine, remember to remove it before setting the machine going. You could use a faint pencil or fading marker mark instead if you do not like living dangerously.

The design first stitches a line to show where the first piece of  fabric goes. Cut the piece slightly bigger than the template traced from the design printout. Spray with temporary spray glue to hold it in place and press gently  on to the marked area.

The second stage then tacks it down. With these designs this is repeated until all the fabric is tacked down ready for the satin stitch.

If you need to trim the fabric use a pair of very sharp scissors. If you do the trimming as each piece is added you just need to trim it close the the line. If you wait until the end you risk cutting the satin stitch.  You really don’t want to do that after all the work you have put into the embroidery, especially if you have a single needle machine and have had to rethread the needle many times.It is worth investing in a pair of special applique scissors. They have one blade shaped like a pelican’s beak that keeps the  blades away from the stitching and makes life easier. I bought good ones which were expensive but definitely worth it. Quality shows in this sort of tool.

If you remove the hoop to add the pieces of fabric try not to move the base fabric as you need it to be in exactly the same place when returned to the machine.

The satin stitch then finishes the design off.

The stabiliser then has to be removed from the back of the embroidery if you have used tearaway stabiliser. You can use cutaway stabiliser that is trimmed and left in place after the embroidery has been done. I have never used this type but it is found on the back of embroideries done on polo shirts, presumably to stabilise the stretch fabric. The jump stitches need to be trimmed from the embroidery and if you are a perfectionist you should also trim all the loose threads from the back. Jump stitches are the threads left when the machine moves from one area to another without cutting the thread.

Here are some appliques I prepared earlier.

Another colourway.

Although it is a bit more work -and leads to very sticky fingers I like applique. With an embroidery you can vary the colour but little  else. With applique using different fabrics makes them your own. If you want to use the sock monkey fabric that I used I couldn’t find any in the UK so had to import it. I found it at Christa Quilts in Las Vegas.  The added advantage for UK residents is that she charges a flat fee for posting overseas. Watch out for the VAT though as that adds 20%  plus a contribution to the Post Office coffers and delays the parcel. Worth it for must have fabric that is unavailable here though especially if you get it on one of her 20% off sales as I did.

I can’t decide whether to make one large quilt or two small ones but on balance I think maybe small ones will be best with this baby theme. Watch this space.

Getting All Your Ducks In A Row.

26 Sep

I was trawling the internet mainly to see where links to my blog had come from when I came across yet more inspiration from a fellow crafter. Vicki’s Fabric Creations had a blog on a quilt made from embroideries by Embroidery Connection. They are called ‘Sweet Pea Duckies’ and are irresistible to anyone who likes ‘cute’.  As I believe in sharing here is a link to the page in case you would like to try them too. In this blog I will show you what I produced and how.

If you are not keen on the colours ignore them. The originals are digitised in Marathon threads and I use Madeira so they are largely my interpretation with a bit of help from a thread comparison program. I have never yet found one of those that is accurate.

I also did them on normal patchwork  fabric and they didn’t pucker – not always easy to achieve.

There are ten of them. Have a look at the links for the rest.

I had a bit of a problem in that I was supplied with the wrong colour charts but a quick email put that right, which is perhaps all you can ask. I only mention it in case you might have the same problem and need to know how to solve it.

I always use a piece of fabric bigger than the required block size as embroidering and pressing often distort the block from perfectly square. I then trim the block to size with my trusty cutter/ruler which is a bit easier than a pair of scissors and a lot safer than a separate ruler and rotary cutter. Being accident prone I was very pleased to find these on an Australian visit and I have found a source in the UK after much trawling of the internet and I now have some spares in case they disappear again. I looked for a couple of years and finally found them by accident. It  is amazing how difficult it is to find things on some websites even if you know they are there and I didn’t know where to start.

My first mistake was changing the style of quilt after I had already finished the embroideries. This meant that I had 11″ blocks when what I now needed was 12.5″ blocks. I  got over this by adding a frame,  taking the final size of each block to 12.5″.  I needed an extra 1.5″ total which equates to 3/4″ (0.75″) on each side plus seam allowances of an extra 1/2″ (0.5″) each making each strip  1.25″. Just don’t forget the seam allowances and don’t panic. There is usually a way and  If not you change the design yet again. It is rarely an unmitigated disaster.

Pin and sew them in place with the usual 1/4″ seam. The sides will be 11″ each and top and bottom 12.5″. However, do not assume this, always measure at each stage. Seams are not always accurate.

The ducks are sewn together in threes across giving two rows of three so we need something to join the rows together. I used 2″ squares.

To achieve this you need to cut 6 different strips each 2.5″ wide. I needed to cut two of each for the complete quilt.

Three of the coloured strips.

Join three together twice then cut into 2.5″ strips again. I chose some colours from the duck embroideries to draw together the borders and the embroideries.

Yes the colours are the same but I don’t exactly have studio conditions for my photographs.

Join together 18 of the strips, alternating the colours and using a pin to keep the seams aligned until sewn.

Make three sets.

The rows of ducks are then enclosed in the three sections of squares.

I decided that the next border should be the same blue and the same width as the sashing round the ducks, again to bring the bits of the quilt together. Makes it a bit easier on the eye.

I then did different sized borders using other colours from the squares.

Quilt.

Bind and finish.