31 January 2014

Starch & Glue Appliqué

I am a huge fan of needle turn appliqué, however I have seen lots of great appliqué quilts made using the starch and glue method, so I decided to give it a try. I have spent this afternoon preparing the Orange Peel Blocks for the GT & SB quilt.  I think this method is brilliant for simple shapes such as these, but I am not sure how easy it would be for more intricate designs. I will also need to soak my finished blocks to get rid of the starch & glue before I trim them up. I decided to make a tutorial for you in case you also want to try it :)

You will need: Freezer Paper, Template Plastic, Laundry Starch, appliqué glue (I use Roxanne's Glue Baste It) a small paint brush, marker pen, fabric scissors and paper scissors.

 Iron two sheets of Freezer Paper together to make a double thickness sheet; make a template of your appliqué shape from Template Plastic and use it to draw the number of shapes you need onto your FP.  Carefully cut these out with your paper scissors on the drawn line. It is really important to cut as accurately as you can.

Iron the FP template to the wrong side of your chosen fabric, for curved shapes like these, place the template on the bias (45 degree angle) not the straight grain of your fabric as this will help you get a smoother curve.

 Cut out adding a scant 1/4" seam allowance all round.
 Spray a little starch into a container (or the lid of the can) and carefully paint it all around the seam allowance.

 Using the tip of your iron (I have a small travel iron which works well) press the seam allowance over the FP template - I also use a stiletto to help push the fabric over. Keep your fingers well out of the way!
Make sure the starch is dry and then remove the FP template, pull it out in one quick motion like pulling off a plaster :)

 Press the fabric shape again from the right side

 Cut your background square at least 1" larger than you need (you will trim and square it up after you have finished the stitching). Mark the centre of the square by folding on the diagonal in both directions

Apply a couple of small dots of appliqué glue on the seam allowance. You don't need a lot of glue - less is more!

 Carefully centre your shapes on the background, making sure the points are exactly in the centre, press with your iron to speed up the glue drying.

Applique in place, I like to use a long milliners/straw needle and YLI 100 silk thread
When you have finished all the stitching, soak and rinse the block to remove the glue and starch, iron dry and then trim to the correct size.

30 January 2014

Machine Piecing

I have a very nice Bernina sewing machine :) but we are not best friends :( this is something I want to rectify this year. I normally prefer to hand piece small intricate blocks and save machine work for long easy straight piecing, but as I am meant to be challenging myself this year! I decided to machine piece the first two blocks of Green Tea & Sweet Beans.
I started by making a template from the pattern in the book, using clear plastic so I could fussy cut if possible...
I then rotary cut the pieces using my small cutter and adding the 1/4" seam allowance as I cut...
I trimmed the dog ears from the triangles - this helps every thing line up nicely...
Laid out the pieces on my board...
And machine pieced them together  - one 6" Wedding Chain Block no problems :)
Flushed with success I decided to tackle the 3 1/4" Propeller Blocks next, Hmm not so good! I measured the finished units and they were 1/16" too big, so I had to trim them all, not a problem but I am glad I took the trouble to check, 1/16" seems trivial but if I had sewn all 16 together and then measured I would have been a whole 1" out - major headache when it comes to putting the quilt top together!
Once they were all trimmed, I had no problem piecing the block. I need to take extra care when making and cutting out templates, it is really easy to cut just outside your pen line resulting a piece that is only a hairs width too big, but that error gets compounded very quickly in these small blocks with lots of pieces.
I am still happily hand piecing the hexagon panel in the evenings, I am making 1" hexagons, but the pattern in the book calls for 1 1/4" - no real problem, I just need to make a few extra, the block has to be trimmed to size at the end, so fingers crossed all will be well!

29 January 2014

Green Tea and Sweet Beans

Embroidery seems to have taken over my life these last few months, and as much as I am enjoying learning, I miss quilting. The problem was what project to work on? I have been quilting for more than 15 years and I think I have got into a quilting rut, making the same kinds of quilts over and over, I had become bored. What I decided I needed was a challenge! I want to try different methods for things I know how to do, and in fabrics different from my usual antique/reproduction favourites. While browsing for inspiration I came across this quilt - Green Tea & Sweet Beans by Jen Kingwell
It is perfect! Lots of different blocks and hopefully lots of opportunity to try different techniques. I first saw this quilt a few years ago when it was offered as a BOM by some of the Australian quilt shops. I admired the versions that were springing up around blogland at the time, but ordering a BOM from Australia was one extravagance too many for me. It has now been published as a pattern booklet and even better is available here in the UK! I knew exactly which fabrics I wanted to use...
A friend gave me some 1930's fabrics for my birthday 18 months ago and I bought a few more at a quilt show, I have pulled them out of the drawer to look at several times but didn't really know what I wanted to do with them! Since this quilt is all about learning new things, working with fabrics outside my comfort zone is perfect! They are bright and cheerful and the perfect antidote to the constant rain!

So now I have my fabrics and have ordered the pattern, the problem was I am not good at waiting! I really wanted to start this quilt now, straight away lol! Since I don't even know how big the quilt is, there was no way I could figure out any of the blocks was there? Luckily I found a photo of the hexagon panel with the finished size - yes! I could piece hexagons, but first I needed to work out how many I would need, lots of head scratching later I think I have a plan...
I decided to piece 1" hexagons since I had some pre cut papers in that size. I don't know how big the ones in the pattern are, but looking at the photo I think they must be slightly larger. I had bought a starter pack a few years ago by Sue Daley so that I could try English Paper Piecing using a glue stick, but of course I never got round to it! I like the accuracy of EPP but hate basting though the papers, this new method sounded really good.
You rotary cut your fabrics using the acrylic template in the pack, and then baste the fabrics onto the papers with a sew line glue pen. I couldn't believe how easy and fast it was! Sue has some videos explaining her technique on YouTube, they are well worth watching, you can find the first one HERE
It took me just over an hour to cut and baste all these :) I will definitely use this method again.  I put on an old episode of Miss Marple and spent a happy evening piecing...
Hopefully the pattern will arrive before I finish and I can find out if this is anywhere near the correct size lol! I don't mind if it's not, I have plenty of fabric (!) and I can always make this into something else. The important thing is that I am back quilting, learning new skills and loving every minute of it!

EDITED: My pattern just arrived :) I only ordered it yesterday afternoon! Brilliant customer service from The Running Chicken quilt shop, will definitely order from them again!

23 January 2014

Embroidered Box

I have finished the little embroidered bird. This was a fun, quick project to practice silk shading.
I bought this little wooden box...
and quickly transformed it with a couple of coats of acrylic paint...
The bird embroidery was destined to become a padded top...
I also lined the inside of the box with the same cotton fabric...
It is just the right size to hold my embroidery tools for class...
I am happy - it's another small finish!

21 January 2014

Silk Shading

Elizabeth over at Sew in Love has organised a Needlequest for 2014, each month will focus on a different embroidery technique or a theme. I have decided to join in and will try to keep up! The topic for January is Needlepainting/Silk Shading. I am still a beginner in this technique and could definitely use the practice, I have attended a couple of day classes at the RSN when we worked on floral designs...
I also did some silk shaded leaves on my recent swan piece...
and the crewelwork Robin...
One thing I have discovered is that silk shading is much easier when worked in crewel wool, the fibres naturally want to cling together and it is much easier to achieve a blend of the colours. I decided however that I really want to master the stitch with silks/cottons and so have started a little project just for Needlequest. I am embroidering over the pattern printed on some quilting cotton fabric; I have backed the piece with calico to take the weight of the embroidery and plan to use it as a padded box lid once I have finished. I have enough fabric leftover to line the box.
It is a very time consuming technique, but one I am determined to get the hang of!

19 January 2014

Storing Embroidery Floss

The problem...
Actually this is only a very small part of it! The rest of my stranded cottons are wound onto bobbins, and I have a growing collection of silk threads and some speciality threads. I am fed up with rummaging through lots of different boxes to find what I need, drastic action was called for! I spent a lot of time on the internet looking at different blogs and websites to see how everyone else sorts their threads. Some of the systems looked really good, but work out quite expensive when you have several skeins to store. During the great sewing room tidy last year, someone suggested I store my silk threads in floss away bags. I really like these bags, I can store full and partial skeins together and they are neat and tidy.
I decided to order some more bags and transfer all my stranded cottons over too. It took some time to organise as I took all the threads off that were on bobbins, I really dislike the way the thread kinks when on the bobbins so have stopped using them.
I also decided that I wanted everything sorted in colour groups and then by number, it makes it much easier for me to chose threads for a project if I have all the greens etc in one place. I have shade cards for DMC and AVAS so I can find a particular thread easily if I need to.  The next problem was where to put all these bags! I didn't want to spend a lot of money and I have no room for more storage in my small room. I decided to repurpose my WIP drawers. I have drastically reduced the number of projects I have on the go at any one time so these drawers were sadly underused.
I measured inside and was thrilled to find that they were the perfect depth for the bags to stand up and that I could fit three rows in each drawer. I cut some card mount board that I had lying around to make dividers.
I now have one unit for stranded cottons, with a drawer each for reds/pinks; greens; blue/purple; yellow/orange/neutrals.
The other side has a drawer for AVAS silks (with room for growth!) one drawer for over dyed and other silks, a drawer for perle cotton and a drawer for everything else - linen, cotton a border etc
I now have some empty storage boxes, so I will sort out my lace and ribbons etc into them. I have a small collection of goldwork threads which can tarnish, so I will use glassine envelopes for them, I really like these envelope, they are used by stamp collectors and are acid free and you can write on them!
I still have a bit of tidying to do as I seem to have made quite a mess getting this far :) I am happy to finally have a proper solution for all my fibres. The best bit is most of it was free and I can move things around easily as my needs change.

How do you store your threads?

11 January 2014

First finish of 2014, sort of!

I have finished the embroidery on my crewelwork Robin, but not the whole project. I am planning to turn this into a cushion, but I still need to buy the fabric I need to make it up.
I had great fun stitching this kit, I love the stripy satin stitched legs...
The split stitch and seed stitch filled tummy...
The silk shaded wing...
The trellis and satin stitch chest...
I had a bit of trouble with the chest, this is the first time I have stitched a trellis and I had trouble spacing the lines evenly, I think maybe its a stitch that will get better with practice. Overall I am really happy with the way he turned out. The kit is by Nicola Jarvis and came with full instructions, the design printed onto twill and full skeins of Appleton's crewel wool, so I have plenty of leftovers. Isn't he a fun design?