Sunday, 27 January 2013

BLOG 133

More on the Little Ted quilt this week.

The quilt itself will look like a big 9-patch, with 5 patchwork blocks and 4 Little Teds. I need to set up a production line now to make the Little Teds but first I need some more batting squares. Because it has been snowing on and off all week, I have been unable to get out of the lane onto the road to buy extra batting. So I have pulled out my off-cuts and decided to join small pieces together. (This is the joy of always using the same cotton batting (Warm and Natural) over the years; I have lots of off-cuts!)

Using batting off-cuts: I over-lap 2 edges of batting large enough for my needs and cut a straight edge along a ruler with a rotary cutter. Once I have removed the trimmings, I am left with 2 edges that are the same. I butt them together and use a swing stitch and a neutral thread on my machine to sew them together. This can also be done by hand with a close stitch for added security. (If you over-lap the edges you will get a ridge which will show through the fabric.)


                                            Joining the batting


                                   Production line

If you recall, I used a non-template method and invisible thread to applique the shapes, and the pattern was transferred onto the front using a piece of calico on the back. The edges now need to be secured in some way and the invisible thread needs to be camouflaged. Rather than do this with a satin stitch as I normally would, I decided to make the bear furry and scribble around the edges. I practiced on a sample first, liked it and just did it. And I love the effect!! The edges around the bow were sewn with a small satin stitch.


                                 Furry coat

From the back I have trimmed away the excess calico ready for adding a backing square.


                                           Trim the calico
And now for the quilting: I used a neutral thread and a free-motion stitch to fill in the areas around Little Ted. Here are the 4 patterns I used. I always practice them with pencil and paper first because I need to get the rhythm of the patterns into my head before they magically appear at the needle.

(If you don’t practice this skill, you can’t expect to get better at it. Leave your machine out and set up for free-machining. Sit at it for 10 minutes every day and it will click in the end … a glass of wine helps you to relax and makes it a very pleasurable experience too!!)


                                          Quilting patterns

The ready-quilted blocks were joined together using the method I have outlined in previous blogs, with a 1” strip on the front and a 1 ¼” strip on the back. It was bound with a double binding. All it needs now is a signature and a label before it is wrapped up for the lucky recipient, Elizabeth Grace, if she did but know it at 5 weeks!


                             Finished Little Ted quilt


Sunday, 20 January 2013

BLOG 132

This week I have been concentrating on making a ‘Tummy-time’ Quilt for a new Grand-niece, Grace Elizabeth, who was born just before Christmas. As she was a Christmas baby, I immediately sent off a Christmas nativity wall hanging. I thought that it could be brought out each year at the time of her birthday and, as it was relevant to the season, it could become part of the decorations too. I was duly thanked for it by her Mum, saying it would be great for tummy-time as the colours were so bright (eek!). So I deemed such a quilt was what was required and have set about making one for her for her christening next month.

I have been playing lately with fusible patchwork, using a light layer of Vilene to stick the squares onto, before sewing with a ¼”seam. It is a very accurate way of working and I started with checker board blocks in black and a colour (seen on the left). So, as it was current in my mind, the starting point for this quilt is the same block on point as seen on the right. As there is a Vilene layer, it is advisable to machine quilt the blocks.


                                    Checkerboard blocks

This smaller quilt block measures only 7 ¼” and I have quilted it already through a batting and a backing layer. I intend to join the blocks after the quilting is done.



                                               Quilted block
In between each such block, I want to add a little square of applique and this is what I am working on at present. Because it is such a small block, I am not going to fiddle with hand applique. I am going to do this by machine using a template-free method, one of several I described in detail in my book ‘At Play with Applique’ (published by C&T). But first I need to draw a pattern to fit the block; a teddy seems appropriate.


                            Pencil pattern

I then fine-tune the design and ink in the lines, erasing any irrelevant pencil lines


                                           Inked pattern

Next I am going to trace this onto layer of fine calico (muslin). This is an extra layer to the block (it will balance with the Vilene layer on the patchwork blocks), but it is a good way to transfer a pattern onto the back of a block for machining.



                                            Trace onto calico

The calico is placed onto the back of a square of batting, picture side up, and the background to the applique is placed RS up on the other side of the batting (ie three layers with the batting in the middle). I am going to use a multi-coloured fabric to make the teddy so I have put an invisible thread onto the spool and a 50 weight thread on the bobbin. (Using invisible thread means that it will blend with all the fabric colours and this thread works better on the spool on some machines.)


                                               Three layers

There are four easy steps: PLACE BASTE TRIM SEW

PLACE: I start with the ears and place the fabric RS up on the unmarked front of the block, matching the straight grains of both fabrics. I secure with pins.


                                     PLACE the fabric

 BASTE: From the back where I can see the pattern, I use a free-machine stitch to baste all-round both ears.


                                  BASTE the shapes
TRIM: On the RS, I trim away the excess fabric to leave the two ears.


                                  TRIM away the excess

 Continue with these 3 steps until you have built up the complete design.

*Always put your fabric RS up on the front.

*Always baste all round each shape from the back where you can see the pattern.

*Where shapes over-lap, you will sew along shared lines twice.

When all the shapes have been added, the final step of sewing will be done.






                                        Little Ted 4 ½”

Sunday, 13 January 2013

BLOG 131

I have found time (I always can when it’s something I want to do!) to do more preparatory work on my horse pattern. I have fine-tuned the drawing which I think is better proportioned now and I have added shading with my granddaughter’s wax crayon. I think I have sufficient information now to start experimenting with fabric.


                                     Shaded pattern

 First I need a working pattern. At some stage, I am going to use freezer paper to prepare pattern shapes but it is not wide enough to cover the whole page. So I butt the edges together and add registration marks. All I have to do is make sure that these marks line up … or I can stick down the join with tape (by the Department of the bleeding obvious!!)


                                   Registration marks

 As I am not so sure how I want to create the picture at this stage, I have just traced the horse’s head so I can try different approaches with fabric.


                           Traced onto freezer paper

 I also trace the main shapes onto baking parchment. I am going to use fused fabrics so I can build up the design on the parchment and review it as I go along. When I am happy with the results, the fused horse’s head should just peel off the parchment in one go, ready to be dropped onto  whatever background I choose. I love these early days of design, the honing of technique, the fabric choices, problem solving… etc. 


                      Baking parchment pattern
As far as fabric is concerned, I have started to pull out ones I think might work. But do I construct it in painterly Batiks or do I do it in red/red with white/ white with red commercial fabrics? This is why I need to play.

As far as my collection of reds is concerned, they are mainly two-tone reds; none have much white on them at all. So I will try a sample with just what I have in stock first. Here goes!


                                        Pile of reds




Sunday, 6 January 2013

BLOG 130


It’s the first weekend of the New Year and here we go again with more of the same but different, if you see what I mean. Over my year there is bound to be repetition but that’s just life. I do try to be forward looking, original and inspirational so hang on in here and drop by often to see what’s going on. If you have questions or comments, I am happy to respond to them; it helps if I know there are people out there listening to what I say.
A new year can be interpreted as a new beginning so I have the excuse to start on a new project. I am anxious to get back into creative mode and for me the best way is to start on something I have committed myself to. There is no specific rush for this particular wall hanging as it is not needed until next year but I have an idea in my head and I thought it would be interesting to talk my way through the design process. I have no formal training in this respect but my ‘jump-in-and-make-it-work’ method seems to have served me well over the years. Trained and accomplished designers usually work things to death on paper first before experimenting with numerous fabric samples; I tend to draft a pattern and get going. Not that I haven’t given the idea a lot of thought. And that’s where my creative process takes place ‘in my mind’s eye’. An idea comes to mind, it gets mentally mulled about until I can virtually see what I want to achieve. Nothing has been done on paper at that stage.

The project I am working on is an invitational exhibition entitled ‘IN THE RED’. You may remember last year that I took part in ‘SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE’ with this little fellow, seen here in progress.

                                                Blue Tit

So here at the start of the next project is an empty sheet of paper 36” square. And there is nothing more terrifying to a creative person than a sheet of unmarked white paper!


                                                White paper

What I want to do is to draft a picture of a horse’s head which I want to create just using red fabrics, much in the same way as I had done the Blue Tit. So what I need to do first is get a flavour of my subject by surrounding myself with resource material from books, magazine cuttings, cards, internet pictures and so on.


                                          Resource material

And then comes the drawing and this is how it looked after 15 minutes. I can see straight away that it is out of proportion but at least I have made marks on the paper, the fear has been dispelled and the creative process has begun.


                                 First attempt

I continue to work on the drawing, fine-tuning the lines and then I start to add the shading detail. I can still see errors I want to correct but at least I have made a start. More of this next time.


                                    More detail
One thing I have completed this week is for a friend (Barbara Harrison) who spends time with people suffering from Alzheimer’s. She has come up with the clever idea of making an activity apron. This can be placed over the lap in order to calm them down when they become agitated.


                                            Alzheimer’s apron

The apron has lots of interest sewn onto it. There are conversational pieces in the form of pictures made as flaps that lift to reveal another picture underneath. It includes textures made by sewing tucks into a fabric and sounds can be produced by inserting crinkly wrapping paper under fabric strips. There are laces the tie, buttons to twiddle, strips to fasten and unfasten with Velcro and a zip to manipulate. Naturally these have to be well sewn, with everything totally secured as they need to be safe for the user and washable as well. Such a good idea!


And just out of interest, I have decided to sell some of my work on eBay. I will be starting with early quilts and projects and try to post something each week. You will be the first to see what is coming up. To start there will be a small Log Cabin throw which would look lovely over a settle or the back of a chair or across the end of a bed.

                                         Log cabin throw