The Splendid Sampler — The Beauty of Sewing With Others

I am loving the Splendid Sampler.  If you’re not on board, jump in at any point, the water’s fine.  So are the people–from all over the world.  And everyone’s blocks are all so different!  I was afraid we’d all end up with the same quilt, but everyone’s personality is shining through.

Here’s your link to jump in.

Here’s the Splendid Sampler Facebook page.

Because of recent happenings in my life, I got started a little late, and many people haven’t started at all.  Some are just enjoying looking at others’ blocks.

I’ll share with you where I am so far.

splendidsampler2I am missing one of the blocks which I haven’t had time yet to go back to, but another block came in today that I think will be fun to add.  The fourth block, the vase and flowers (kudos to Jen Kingwell) probably inspired some of the most creativity so far.  The blocks have been stunning and all different.

splendidsampler5splendidsampler4I created mine in Bernina Embroidery Software, but many others stitched theirs out by hand or did machine applique.

splendidsampler6Like others, I am keeping a file of all the blocks and their instructions.

While I am in love with the color story of “Black Tie Affair” which I have been using, I am also adding some little touches from my own stash.  As Bonnie Hunter reminded folks, a quilt is always more interesting when all the fabric doesn’t come from one collection.  I agree.

In fact, I also did the little vase block in a whole other color story, just to see how I’d like it.  It’s a little more ‘folksy” as I free motioned it, and I think it has it’s own charm. So maybe I’ll run some parallel blocks with these brighter colors too!

splendidsampler1Truth is, anything can happen this year!  I intend to do as much as I can, when I can.

A few things I’ve learned:

  1.  Don’t try to keep up with everyone else.
  2.  6 inch blocks sound easy.  They’re not. They take more time than many 12 inch blocks.
  3. Slow down and enjoy the process.
  4. Enjoy everyone else’s blocks: get inspired, be challenged, but do your own thing.
  5. Try new techniques.
  6. Purchase the designer’s books. (Pat Sloan has 2 great books — one on applique and one on triangles)
  7. SHARE!  We really do want to see what you’re up to!  On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram #thesplendidsampler

Things that go bump in the night…

ornamentsI have always enjoyed Halloween more than Christmas, or whatever mid-winter holiday you celebrate.  Too much pressure, too many gifts, too much hype.

And when you work in retail, Halloween isn’t much better.  Most chain stores start putting their Halloween decorations out July 5.  But when that first crisp fall breeze rolls in, and those first few leaves begin to fall, I get inspired.  Many people do. Once the kids are all back in school and the “official” fall season starts, it’s amazing how many of us turn to our craft, our hobby or our passion once again.

So this year I am teaching some students to use the cross stitch program in Bernina Embroidery Software 7.  I am not a big fan of cross stitch..at least not actually DOING it.  However, I love the way it looks, and I love how easy it is to get some things done in software (which I DO love to use).

I stumbled across some lovely cross stitch designs in Just Cross Stitch Magazine.

They always include many  many patterns for people to use.  I scanned a few of their Halloween “ornaments”, and brought the jpegs into the cross stitch software.

Then you can use the software to create stitches following the image in the background.  I wanted to keep these very simple so I could make many, but not take a lot of time.  The cross stitch program within Software 7 saves the file as .arx extension.

pumpkimcrossstitchThe next step of course, is to bring the cross stitch design into the actual embroidery software.  I love this technique because it turns all those little x’s in the Cross Stitch program into machine-readable stitches.  And then it’s just an embroidery design.

pumpkinspngOnce one file is in the software, you can repeat it multiple times.  I also rearranged the color film, along the right, to stitch all of one color at once instead of all the colors in one pumpkin at a time.  This is a huge step and really cuts down on thread changes.

At the end, I added a double run stitch around the outside of the ornament, leaving the bottom open, so the little critters could be turned inside out and stuffed.  Before that last double run thread stitches, I added the backing, with right sides together. Under the backing I taped down some ribbon, so that they could be hung.  As you can see, in the hoop, they look like little ravioli.

inthehoopWhen all is done stitching, I cut everything out, clipped corners, turned it inside out, stuffed them with polyfill, and used the machine to stitch along the bottom closure.

cat doneVoila!  Six or eight of them will fit into the jumbo hoop.  I managed to create a cat, a witch and a pumpkin.  I also made some larger ornaments with regular embroidery on them.

pumpkin hoopI bought a cheap Halloween tree for the house and one for the shop…these will be on display for awhile!  And if I have time, I’ll make more…it’s a little addictive.  And really pretty fast and easy when you make use of technology!  Gotta love it.

halloweentree2

More Bags

IMG_4216Now that I’ve made 8 or 9 more of these little bags, I think I have them out of my system. This batch was done with the new line from Bonnie and Camille, Hello Darling.

I was a skeptic, but these cheerful, cheerful colors really inspire me to keep going.  Mood-lifting, without a doubt.

May you find the thing that inspires you to keep going, and may it make your world more colorful.

Bag Obsession

bag3

I’ve been making these little cosmetic/chotchke/jewelry bags now for a couple of days.  So easy and fun to make.

They’ve become an obsession.

All the ones I’ve made (8 of them in total, so far) are made from Art Gallery Fabric, Sketchbook.  The look of the fabric is artsy and lends itself well to these small bags. They are approximately 6 x 8 in. finished.

These are all done in embroidery, by the way.  I digitized the lines for the bags, and all the work is basically in the cutting of fabric.

First stitch is a placement for the zipper, then you lay down the zipper, then folded fabric with batting in the middle across the top of the zipper, stitch a line, same thing with the bottom layer of fabric, stitch a line, then lay the lining/backing down (a quilt sandwich) and stitch around the outside.

bag4Voila! That’s it. You’re done. Trim and turn it inside out.

You use a sticky back stabilizer, so you end up picking that off the back at the end, but other than that, these bags go REALLY FAST.  Use batting in between every layer to give the bags a nice hand.

I’m thinking these would make great holiday gifts. I have gone through my stash and have come across some old home dec fabric that I think would be fun.  Denim would also be great.  Who doesn’t have an old pair of jeans that need to be repurposed into new life?  Add some embroidery or a little bling…anything is possible.

These in-the-hoop projects are great stash busters.  Gotta run, I need more zippers.

bag2

 

Quilting Using Machine Embroidery

machine embroidery quilting4I have wanted to try this technique for a long time now.  And I’m going to teach a class on it in the fall.

If you have a sewing machine that is capable of embroidery, you can do it too.

Many people love the look of a quilt that has long-arm quilting.  It gives a very polished, professional look to a finished quilt.  Most of my quilts I use free-motion and do them at home.  As you know this is awkward with larger quilts, twin size and up. But using your embroidery module to quilt is really worth trying, especially if you are someone who is comfortable with embroidery (hooping and hooping over and over…and if you’re not familiar, what a great way to get good at it).

embroidery quilting 1For this particular technique, I followed along with this book from Amelie Scott, “Edge to Edge Quilting on Your Embroidery Machine.” 

She provides special quilting embroidery designs that have an easy start and end point.  All the work is in the positioning and the time invested in the stitch-outs and hooping.

machine embroidery quilting2As you can see on my quilt, you will still be hefting around a a lot of fabric.  And by far, the trickiest part is calculating the number of hoopings and working out the positioning.  But that’s just a little bit of math and little bit of decision-making.

machine embroidery quiltingYou use 2 different files…an “A” and a “B” file.  You alternate them in rows so that the design looks randomly spaced. This really does work and the finished quilting technique is lovely.  While I can free-motion some great spirals or stippling or loops or hearts, I know I would never be able to get the perfect consistent quality of these daisies.

This 60 x 60 in. quilt took 32 hoopings, and my time invested was somewhere around 7-8 hours at the machine.  I love the way the quilting looks  — whimsical, yet professional.

machine embroidery quilting5 Would I want to do this for every quilt?  Of course not.  I like to be able to customize some of my quilts.  Is this great for gift-giving and finishing some of those UFO’s?  A resounding yes!  And a terrific way to get more use out of your embroidery module.  Your local quilt shop should be able to get you the book.

What are you waiting for?  Let’s get those quilt tops quilted!

 

Improv and More

I have started working on an improvisational quilt.

Basically , it means I start sewing before I have any idea what I’m creating. For anyone who knows me, this way of doing things is right up my alley.  I just purchased this book, “An Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” by Sheri Lynn Wood.

improv2

Naturally, I flipped through the book and then started without so much as reading a paragraph.  I promise I will go back and read. The book looks great.  I just was inspired by the word “improv” and began immediately.

improv1

 

Here’s a sneak peak and to be honest , I don’t know how I will complete it. Just know that it’s a gift, so I don’t want to divulge the whole quilt til it’s been given away.  At that point, it’s done and there can be no regrets or turning back.  For now, it’s simply a work in progress.

In machine embroidery, I am preparing to teach a Software Inspirations class based on a tutorial from Sylvain Bergeron, Bernina educator.  In it, we learn to create textile fabric using embroidery…like argyle.

argyle1This is done completely in software, then stitched out as machine embroidery.  It can now be cut up and used as a handbag piece, or in a quilt, or basically used as any other fabric.  Would be fun to do a small series of these in different shades and then put them together as a quilt or table runner.  Although I’m sure this image looks black and white, the thread used in the squares is actually a mauve with white lines, on Moda’s black grunge fabric.

That being said, like many sewists, I spend a lot of time in the garden in the spring, head back into the sewing room when it rains or as the weather gets too warm and buggy to be hanging around outside.  I leave you with a few lovely pics from around the area this past couple of weeks.  The earth is stunning.

peonies2

Peony tree

Wild  phlox

Wild phlox

Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

Adventures in Transfer Artist Paper

I love transfer artist paper.  I’ve used it a number of times with differing effects.

transfer artist paperYou can purchase this online or at craft stores, possibly your local quilt shop.

It works only with an ink jet printer, and your results will come easier to you if you have a little bit of experience in photo software, like Photoshop or Corel.

You print the image onto the paper and then iron the image onto your fabric.  The BIG difference between TAP and printing directly onto fabric paper is that the transfer actually becomes a part of your fabric…any fabric.  It never washes out.  It’s permanent.

botanical transferYou can see on this image that this botanical transfer prints right over the fabric and the underlying pattern shows through.  This particular print worked beautifully because it ended up looking like dew on the plant.  The instructions say you can print on wood, glass, stone, basically anything, as long as you can iron on it.  It takes a little practice but here are a few tips:

–Always use a hot DRY iron —  no steam.

–Remove the transfer while it’s still hot.

–Illustrations tend to look more interesting than photos, but worth trying both.

–Reverse anything with lettering before you print it on TAP or it will read backward.

–Cut as close to the image as possible before you iron it on your fabric.

–Try ripping the edges of your paper before ironing.  It gives a torn, aged effect.

–Experiment, experiment, experiment!  If you are a photography junkie like me, this is a great way to play with your images.

Here’s an example from the upcoming Software Inspirations program I’ll be teaching next week:

transfer artist paper 3I also added some embroidery to this project, which is actually a travel pillow.

cameraThe final image is from a Messenger Bag, the project I created from a previous Software Sampler lesson — a good text example of using Transfer Artist Paper to convey an emotion, a worn timelessness.

I’ll leave you with my all-time favorite quote from Macbeth:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

transfer artisp paper3

Photography and Stitching on Organza, with a Touch of Needle Felting

I worked on this piece several years ago, but I recently brought it out again because of my work with Transfer Artist Paper. (I’ll show you that in my next post.)

In this example, I transferred my photography onto printable organza.  You can buy sheets at an art supply store or even an office supply store…certainly online as well.  They are designed for ink jet printers only.

printable organza sheets

I played with black and white photography and used a (more or less) abstract photo and began a collage. stitch on organza  You can see from the photo that I added a number of different layers of texture — background fabric, organza photo, embroidery.

And believe it or not, the whitish fabrics floating a little ghost-like around the edges, are used-up bounce dryer sheets.  They are shredded and needle felted onto the surface, with embroidery on top.  (Incidentally, the photo is a detail of a wrought iron gate on the side of the road, which surrounded an old farm family tomb.  It is just down the street from my house. The gate has since collapsed and been replaced with something much less ornate.  But the tomb remains.)

In the detail below, you can get a good look at the needle felting used to attach the organza and the dryer sheets.  On the organza, the more felting I did, the more the organza began to sort of pull apart and shred, which gave it a wonderful, antique faded look.

detail machine embroidery

detail needle punch organza

The embroidery over the top added a whole new level of detail and interest. This is one of those experimental pieces that gets more interesting the closer you look.  I really enjoyed playing with textures other than simple quilt cotton.  Our sewing machines are designed to sew through many different types of fabric and materials.  While quilt cotton is easily accessible and stunningly designed these days, you just never know what fun things you can use in your “art quilting” travels.

Machine Quilting with Embroidery

I love doing my own quilting. But it’s not the easiest thing in the world, is it.

I’m actually OK at it, as long as the quilt is less than twin size.  Bigger than that, and well, let’s just say I am still in the process of hand-quilting a queen size quilt I started quilting over a year ago.  Still, I find it difficult to bring myself to hand over my quilt to someone else.  Maybe one day I will change my mind.  But for now, if I make a quilt, I want to be the one to quilt it.

So I have been experimenting with using my embroidery module to quilt.  The largest hoop I can fit on my machine only goes to 8 inches wide, so that limits the size block I can quilt.

Nevertheless, my first experiment is with a simple block and a couple of simple quilt designs.

machine quilting 2I know the hoop looks like it will go wider, but I am using a hoop that’s larger than my machine will go.  (For all you Bernina fans, I have a 780 machine and a jumbo hoop instead of the maxi hoop.)

Using King Tut variegated thread from Superior, I got a beautiful stitch that really added dimension to the quilt.

IMG_3625When doing this kind of quilting, the trick is to use a machine that has “perfect placement”.  This simply means that even after you have the block hooped, the machine gives you the option of moving the design in tiny increments to get your placement just right.

I still need to add the binding, and this was not a huge piece.  But I look forward to trying this with larger and larger quilts.

I also have another technique in mind that I will be trying soon, so I’m hoping to show you more options using your embroidery.  Lots and lots of quilting embroidery designs are available.  Let’s make the most of our embroidery and get those quilt tops quilted!

quilt in the hoop

 

Art and Art Only

“Art and art only can cause violence to be set aside.”  –Leo Tolstoy

For anyone with a child in the school system within the last 15 years, you know what STEM stands for:  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.

Experts (MANY experts)  tell us that’s what all our children must be trained in, in order to move the country forward, in order to get jobs, in order to be successful.

Do you agree?

As for me, I have mixed feelings.  No doubt, STEM provides key strengths for our kids to make a living in the future.  No doubt, we all need these skills to build infrastructure, cure diseases, and solve problems.  No doubt.

Where, then, in society, do we learn more subtle skills?  Things like anger management, empathy, caring for one another, caring for the planet and the rest of the world around us?  Or even less subtle skills like critical thinking, decision-making, morality, justice and local and global citizenship?

In the last election, only 12% of 18-30 year-olds even bothered to vote.  I wonder what percentage of them own a smart phone.  My guess is somewhat more than 12%.

“Art and art only can cause violence to be set aside.”

Tolstoy had a wide vision of art:  literature, paintings, music, poetry, drama.  Soft skills to say the least.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love doctors, scientists and engineers…(I’m married to one).  But STEM is only useful when it is accompanied and partnered with creative thinking, creative expression, beauty, appreciation, and acceptance of our common humanity.

IMG_2466My embroidered tablecloth and fabric tulip vase. I ‘ll teach it at a Software Inspirations class.

IMG_2468