Tag Archives: piecing

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.

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.

Blue Dogs, Green Birds, Pink Rabbits and a Game of I-Spy.

3 Aug

I have finished two more UFO’s this week. If I am not careful I might run out. I am getting the hang of the quilt frame now although I have decided that there is not really any scope for imaginative quilting. The space available is too small. I need to come into some money to buy a long-arm setup but as I have no rich relatives ready to leave me their worldly wealth I guess it won’t happen. That being the case I am getting to be a bit of an expert at meandering. I don’t have too many problem stitches these days but I have also discovered that washing the finished quilt evens up the stitching in the antiqueing effect. It also makes sure that all the years sitting in the UFO pile in various dusty locations are washed away leaving a clean fresh quilt. It has the added advantage that you know how it will look when it is washed.

The first was originally a BOM by Kookaburra Cottage. This link will take you to the BOM page on their site and lots of lovely examples of their particular style of design. I have loved them since the first one I saw. They are a bit pricey as a pattern which explains why I make more than one from each.

Little Macca’s Farm

Someone once told me I should label my quilts. Nothing looked right but then I got an embroidery machine and I have never looked back. Just give me an excuse and I will make a label.

The other quilt is an alphabet quilt. I wanted to use up all the charm squares of children’s fabric I had accumulated. Looking at it again after all these years I see that I made it into an I-Spy quilt of sorts too.

In case you are wondering how I achieved the ‘wonky’ effect, wonder no longer. Starting with the top of the centre square attach a strip of fabric to the edge. Attach another strip down the right side onto the new shape. Then the bottom, then the left side. You now have an ordinary upright  block bigger than you need. Make a template the size you want the finished block then place it onto your straight block at any angle desired and cut off the surplus with a rotary cutter. Easy Peasy.

Mustn’t forget the label.

The monkeys are from Oregon Patchworks on this link. There are lots of variations on the monkey embroidery. This one is an applique but there are some straight forward embroideries on the same theme.

Let me leave you with another set of views from where I live.

View Towards the Beach

The Beach

The Outer Harbour

Jeremy Fisher and Friends and Another Vanquished UFO.

21 Jul

This week I have been finishing a quilt based on frog fabric. I actually bought the fabric in  a shop in Trinidad. There’s a bit of name dropping for you. Before you go  green with envy, we went at Easter and it was closed. The only highlight was the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel. It was a good job we went as there were not too many other people there.

As I finished it I realised that it wasn’t the only frog related item I had made over the years. I once made a quilt and matching bag based on the Peter Rabbit stories. As it wasn’t needed after all I still have it so I took a picture of the Jeremy Fisher alphabet block in faux cross stitch.

Also on the matching bag in normal stitching.

I also, at some time made a couple of frog characters when my Daughters were small. I don’t think anybody actually used them for anything but I haven’t got as far as the charity shop with them yet.

With the quilt as background.

Relaxing on the day bed.

He looks a bit miserable.

This one looks startled.

 

 

I also did some embroideries for a ‘Rainforest’ quilt that  I never somehow got round to. He is particularly fine.

Now for the purpose of the blog – the quilt.

As you can see it is a very easy pattern. Each small square is 2″ (2.5″ before seams) making 10″ finished and each frog square is also 10″ . The border of each square is either 2″ (2.5″) strips or 2″ (2.5″) squares. Add  2″, 1″ and 4″ borders and bind. How much easier could it be. As long as you watch your seam widths and match the seams it cannot fail to look good.

I think I may be getting the hang of the quilting frame. The size  of quiltable quilt on the frame at any one time is still frustrating but at least I can do a good job as long as I plan it. There are times though when I would love to do a really big design. Not,I fear something that will happen in the absence of a win on some game of chance. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath blue in the face not being an attractive look.

See this tip on one of my other posts for the ‘how to’ on seams.

I had occasion to make a wedding  anniversary card this week. If you are interested the embroidery comes from Emblibrary.com. under ‘Tweets’. There are lots of different ones. You need to scroll down about 5 designs then you will find all the different tweets. There are patriotic ones, boy scout ones, golf ones, birthday ones etc etc etc. As usual the digitising is faultless.

I decided to change all 15 needles on my embroidery machine yesterday. They didn’t appear to be a problem but some of them had been in rather a long time so I didn’t think it could harm. I was quite impressed with myself. They are usually a pain but once I had loosened the screws I managed to get them all in without a hassle. The reason they are a pain is that the shanks are round so could go in any way except that they can’t or they don’t work. The difference between front and back is obvious if you can see the thing but bionic sight would be an advantage. The screws were the problem. I had been working on the basis ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ but the tightness of some of the screws made it obvious they should have been changed before. Still, hopefully they should be fine for a while now. After all who needs a working wrist.

Been There, Got Several Teeshirts.

7 Jul

I don’t know whether anyone else has noticed but the variety in fabric design seems to have declined over the last few years. You may have noticed that my fabric of choice is bright and cheerful and if the colours clash a bit well it wakes me up in the mornings.

Take these fabrics I used in a Sunbonnet Sue quilt I blogged about some time ago.

Now whilst you might not want an outfit made from them, these fabrics work really well in applique. I did wonder if fabric companies are afraid to be too adventurous in case they can’t sell it, the price of cotton being what it is these days. It could be fashion, although the fabric companies by definition set  trends. It could just be the recession and general air of depression of course.  On the other hand a jazzy bit of fabric cheers me up no end.

Anyway, when fabric with a zing was available I bought it and here is one of the quilts I made with it.

This is a very good way to use up some of the smaller measures of fabric sold by retailers. There is also no reason why the sleeves could not be a different fabric. Another way of doing it would be to sew strips of fabric together or crazy patch some pieces from odd scraps. You could even use the logos from old tee-shirts or design your own and use printable fabric to make lots of miniature shirts. Only your imagination can hold you back once you start down that road.

See how it’s done? A rectangle of fabric with a neckline cut out and two more smaller rectangles for sleeves. This allows different fabric for sleeves or the same fabric in a different direction as on the striped shirt below.I used embroidery stitches to sew them on but satin stitch would be less likely to fray. It depends whether you like the ‘country’ look. As a rule I don’t but tee-shirts are allowed to fray. In fact walking down the high street I see a few holes might make them more authentic. If you are using the same fabric on the whole shirt you could just draft a full tee-shirt shape and cut it out in one piece. I would suggest you use either the three piece or the whole shirt method as a mixture might look strange. Not that I have ever tried, just making sure you think about it before committing all that fabric.

A few more.

To finish it off and draw it all together, matching corner squares.

Now tell me that didn’t cheer you up on a dismal day.

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

15 Jun

I have finished the pirate quilt. I wasn’t sure I liked it until I quilted it. It is amazing the difference it makes.

Here it is loaded on the frame. Thread colour chosen, bobbin colour chosen – and off we go

I am still at the meandering stage. I have lots of fabulous ideas about what I would like to do in the way of quilting. Unfortunately they mostly require the full sized area provided by a long arm machine and frame. The main problem is that unless you draw everything out in advance you could get to the bottom border and find you can’t repeat the same pattern as you stitched in the top border. Not only frustrating but also the ruination of the quilt. The reason for this is that as you progress and roll up the quilt under the machine arm the space left on which to work reduces. The only cure is a long-arm setup.  Still it beats stitch-in-the-ditch – much more fun.

View of the front and back of the quilt.

The finished Quilt.
Top Left.

Top Right.

Bottom Left.

Bottom Right.

Pilchards.

Walking the Plank.

Ship.

Compass.

The compass is an embroidery from Emblibrary.com

If you are thinking of using a piano key border and loading it onto a frame for quilting it might pay to consider that it may stretch as you roll  and quilt so stabilising first will help, otherwise you get a slightly twisted border. Just a heads up so it doesn’t creep up on you and ruin your quilt.

Now I just have to write up the pattern to go to the designer and then onto my web site. nsaaquilting.co.uk

The Captain,the Cabin Boy and a Fishy Tale.

10 Jun

The next stage has been reached. The thing to remember when appliquéing onto a pieced top like this is that there are lots of seams adding thickness. If you find yourself appliquéing onto a pieced top, in order not to give yourself more problems than necessary make sure the stabiliser does not fold over on the back as you are working and so make the thickness even more. My machine  gets upset if I give it too much to swallow and starts breaking needles. Some machines will need one layer of stabiliser to produce an easy running satin stitch, some need two. The thickness of stabiliser also has a bearing. Experiment before letting yourself loose on your precious quilt top and you won’t go far wrong.

I have now stitched  the individual appliqués onto the centre section of the quilt top before adding borders.

Remember –

Template

Baking paper.

Applique.

Sure scared you HAHA.

The Captain and his friend. (Eye eye) Captain.

I don’t think he’s having a good day.

YoHoHo and a bottle of rum.

I can’t see no ships.

Just to make the whole thing interesting the bulb decided to go on the machine so I had to swap to a different model. Trust me to buy a machine with a non standard light bulb. I digress.

Next I will be deciding on a border. I will keep you posted.

The Wind in My Sails and a Parrot on My Shoulder

2 Jun

The next quilt is going to feature pirates. I am looking forward to getting my teeth into something new as I have been revamping some of my existing patterns for various reasons.

The first decision was what to use as a background. The one I wanted to use, although fantastic for a one-off was not going to go down too well as a pattern. It would have been too complicated and therefore probably not too popular. There are a limited number of people out there prepared to attempt the more complicated designs. If you make Mckenna Ryan patterns you may disagree but I don’t design art quilts, mine are for using therefore the method of construction used for them has to be more robust and therefore incorporated into the design. If you don’t know her work click on the link. Her designs are beautiful.

I decide to use a method of construction I have not put into any of my patterns so far. I am including a tutorial for those that would like to copy it. I used combinations of blues to represent sea and sky. I could equally have used greens for an island, browns for sand and blue for sea/sky to make it more detailed. I am going to be using it as a backdrop for several appliques so I decided to keep the background simple. I may experiment with alternatives when I have finished the prototype and am testing the pattern.

I am aiming at 8″ blocks and therefore each block needs to finish at 8.5″ to include the seam allowances before attaching each block to the next. The bigger your starting square the better but a normal width of fabric allows 10.5″ – 11″ squares to be cut without wasting fabric so this is what I did.

10.5″ – 11″ squares of two fabrics

The size doesn’t have to be exact as long as they are at least the required size.

Stack the two fabrics one on top of the other and slicing through both layers cut the shapes shown. They can be as random as you like as long as they are cut together and therefore identical.

Identical shapes cut from two squares.

This will give you two sets of identical shapes.

Swap the second and fourth shapes with each other.

Second and fourth shapes swapped.

This gives the same two squares but in two different colours. It is important to keep the layout the same as they are going to be sewn back into two identical squares. I can tell you from experience that if you get it wrong the best thing to do is throw it in the scrap bag and go onto the next one. Working out the correct sequence when you have lost it is not easy. This is especially true if it is the second one you are sewing as there is nothing to compare it to.

Stitch them back together as shown with a 1/4″ seam. Make sure it is not bigger than that or your square will be too small. There are a lot of seams in each square.

Pieces joined together into two shapes.

These will not now be squares as you have removed fabric from the width but not the length with the seams.

The next stage is to measure the pieces and decide what size you can make the finished blocks. they must all be the same so they need to be trimmed to match the smallest. If you have cut and sewn correctly you should be able to trim them to 8.5″. If this is not possible don’t get out the quick unpick. Life is too short to rip a seam. Just trim them all to the nearest measurement you can manage. Whatever this is they must all be the same.

Trimming the blocks.

I use a ruler and integrated cutter. Much safer than the usual ruler and separate cutter. It also keeps the blade at the right angle. they are not easy to come by but after much searching I found a new one a couple of weeks ago.

Once you have decided on the layout of your blocks sew them together in alternate directions. This way you only have to worry about matching the main seam, not all the ones on each triangle.

Sew blocks together in alternate directions.

The best way is to sew a row of blocks together then sew rows to each other. When you come to do this you want to make sure that the seams stay aligned so that your finished quilt does not have badly matched seams. T o make sure put a pin at right-angles to the cross seam through the upward seam making sure they are perfectly aligned. Do not remove this until the seam is sewn. As the pin is at right-angles the needle should skim over it. If you are nervous about that use a tacking thread to hold the seams in place before sewing. If your are using an overlocker this will obviously not work, it will damage the blade. The tacking method is a good one when using an overlocker. I often do use an overlocker to construct my quilts but as I will be applying appliques to this background I don’t want the seams to impede the sewing of the satin stitch so I am using the tried and tested method instead.

Pin at right-angles to cross seam and through vertical seams

This will give you a perfect matching seam.

Perfect Seam join.

When the rows are sewn together they look like this.

Finished background.

The Bee, The Snail, The Ladybird and the Dragonfly.

7 May

I am remaking one of my own quilt designs and it occurred to me that it is rather a long time since I did the last tutorial on machine applique and someone might benefit from a rerun.

The first was on dragons if you want to recap.

I always do satin stitch applique as that is what works for me. The following tips reflect that fact.

First you need a pattern. Some come just as a template and you have to trace the pieces off yourself. They also need to be reversed which is a pain as this involves tracing the pattern through the pattern sheet onto the back before being able to trace each individual piece. The reason for the reversed pieces will become apparent as we progress. The patterns I design and Daughter Number One drafts are designed to remove that hassle. They include both a template and reversed pattern pieces. Who said ‘no pain, no gain’? A bit of extra work on the part of the designer can save much heartache and stress and many UFOs.

Template to the left, reversed pattern pieces to the right. 'Simples'!

Template left. pattern right.

The reversed pattern pieces are now traced onto fusible webbing. Trace onto the smooth, paper side. I use a light box but I have done it without. The printed pattern is dark enough to see through the webbing. All my patterns are only printed on one side so that a light box can be used without  the other side of the sheet showing through. A window can also be used as a light box.

Pattern and fusible web. Pattern clearly visible through the web.

Pattern and fusible web.

For the next bit unless you want all future ironing to end up fused to your ironing board use an old cloth or pillow case to protect it as fusible webbing contains glue that is designed to melt when heated.

The squared fabric is a pillow case I no longer need.

The next stage is to cut out each piece roughly leaving a small margin around the piece and iron onto the WRONG side of the fabric to be used.

Now cut these out acurately with a small sharp pair of scissors.

As you can see the pieces are now the right way round with the glue on the back.

I peeled off the paper on the back of the black stripes leaving the paper on the yellow body and then pressed with the iron to attach the stripes. If you also took the paper off the yellow the whole thing would now be fused to the ironing board as the heat melts the glue and fixes it to whatever surface it rests on.

You now need a piece of baking (greaseproof) paper or an applique sheet. I find the paper much easier to use. Place the paper over the template of the design you want to create.

Very Important stage.

Whatever you do DO NOT try the next bit without the baking paper covering the template. I have been there and I had the advantage of being able to print a replacement pattern. You may have paid a lot of money for yours and attempting to remove bits of fabric from your template makes life harder than it needs to be.

Remove the paper from each piece and lay the numbered pieces on their corresponding piece on the template. ‘Tack’ each piece with the point of the iron to keep it in place but still moveable if necessary. When you are happy with the arrangement quickly pass the iron over the design. It is now fused together. When cool remove from the baking paper and lay in place on your background. This method makes it easier to place the appliques as they are fully formed.

When you have placed the applique where you want it press with a steam iron. This fuses it to the background and stops it moving when you stitch it. I have done it without until I learned otherwise. Believe me you do not need the aggravation.

Ladybird

Bee

Snail

A couple of bees on the body of the quilt to carry on the theme.

A dragonfly.

The next stage is to attach the pieces to the quilt with satin stitch.

First place some stabiliser on the back. You can do it without but it is much easier with.

Next you need to choose your threads. I use machine embroidery threads as I can match the colours perfectly. You can use any threads but you need to try them out before attempting to work on your actual quilt. Whatever you use make sure it does not let down the quality of your applique. You will help your sanity greatly if you  use a proper bobbin thread. Bobbin thread is  used in the bobbin and is finer than ordinary sewing thread and makes it so much easier to do perfect satin stitch.   Reduce the tension to 3 or less and practise and adjust until the bottom thread does not show on top but the threads underneath are not loose. I use Superior Threads ‘Bottom Line’ bobbin thread as it is available in many colours and just makes sure the blending is perfect. It isn’t essential but it makes life a bit easier. Also practise on curved and pointed shapes until you are happy with your control.

This is where the picture begins to take shape. It is also the fun bit.

Try to complete sections underneath first and then any pieces that go over the top. This makes it easier to hide the start and finish points and blend the whole.

Metallic thread emphasises the delicate wings.

The ladybird is a good example of a design with several different layers. the temptation is to do all the black then red etc. The best way was to do the black body, red wings, green stalk  then black spots and arm.

At this point you should be very pleased with yourself and ready to complete your project. Applique looks daunting but as long as you know what to do it is just a matter of practice. Have a go and surprise yourself.