Wednesday, June 27, 2007

June Journal Quilt

I'm still feeling a bit intimidated by my new machine, and guilty in general that I haven't done more in the studio lately and have been neglecting the blog as well. So I've cheated a bit in order to get my June journal quilt pictures up. I've magically finished the edges with a frame courtesy of a quick fix of the jpg in Corel Paint Shop Pro. I'm planning a satin stitched edge finish using my new machine and thought Paint Shop could help me audition thread color. I was leaning towards a green thread until I popped this frame on. We'll see what I really end up doing.

This month's calendar theme was "Patience" and the quotation from William Blake: "To create a little flower is the labor of ages." I was reminded of my year of working on Baltimore Album blocks which honed my hand applique skills and definitely taxed my patience at times. But doing a hand appliqued flower journal quilt would just be going over old ground and I wasn't sure I could finish in the allotted day's time frame. Yet fusing a flower didn't seem to require any patience and would again just be doing what I already know how to do. So I was in quite a quandary until I went digging through my marbled fabrics looking for inspiration for a different project. What I came up with isn’t exactly a little flower, and it is fused, but it did take more patience to make than I anticipated and employed an untried technique from Ann Fahl's book Coloring With Thread.

I started with these two marbled squares that were a not-too-successful attempt at creating a flower effect. Hopefully I could make them look more like flowers with Ann’s machine embroidery method. Following her directions, I backed these with WonderUnder, trimmed away excess fabric and tried them out on different background fabrics.

Here are the three backgrounds I considered. Although I really liked the darker busy purple one, it was barely wide enough for my needs and I was afraid it would overpower the flowers. And so the light lavender and white one won out.

Now that I'd chosen the background, I could see I needed to trim away a bit more of the yellow. Once that was done, I arranged and fused the flowers in place. Rather than use a hoop or the type of removable or cutaway stabilizers Ann suggested, I fused Decor Bond to the back since I've had such good luck with it in the past.

Ann covers all her applique with dense stitching, so the next step was to choose threads. I'd just added a dozen new colors of King Tut thread to my stash, so this was a good place to try some of them out. Here are some that I used.

And now the stitching begins - all free motion with a #100 Top-stitching needle as recommended in the book. I was afraid that would be way too big, but with the two layers of fusibles, the smaller needle I tried first just frayed the cotton thread. Ann tells you to run your stitches just over the edge to help secure the raw edge, even though it is fused. That works fine for flowers and leaves and such but I don't know how well it would work on other types of applique. I started with dark thread to outline "petals," then changed to paler threads to highlight.

Here I'm building up more stitching. I tried to add a little more depth in the spaces between petals on the larger flower with a more variegated dark thread from my Oliver Twist collection. I introduced a more aqua blue into the smaller flower which I'm not sure really worked all that well. After the stitching is completed, Ann suggests blocking the piece with steam before layering for quilting. There was no draw up or distortion with the Decor Bond on the back so I skipped the steam when I pressed.

The last step is to layer and quilt. I used Thermore polyester batting, and intended to use Pellon Shirt Tailor interfacing on the bottom as in the past, but apparently I’d run out. The batting wouldn’t slide easily on the machine bed so I spray-basted some Sulky EasyTear to it instead. This worked very well and I decided to leave it in place after quilting. Ann suggests outlining all the applique with invisible thread, and if the pieces are large, also using it to quilt dimension within each applique. This is a brilliant approach which eliminates a visible line of stitching outlining each applique piece, which in some cases would be a distraction. Once this stitching is done, go wild with decorative quilting around the applique. Here is the back after quilting so you can see not every embroidered line of stitching was duplicated.

I'm glad I worked through this process. I've always admired Ann's work and marveled at all the stitching on it, how wonderfully it enhances her flowers and leaves. I've never liked quilting through WonderUnder so I assumed I'd have trouble with this. But as I mentioned above, Ann's recommendation of using top-stitch needles in larger sizes solved any issues I might have had. And doing the majority of the stitching as embroidery instead of quilting reduces distortion and undue flattening of the appliqued areas. I see no reason why this type of embroidering couldn't be done over applique that wasn't fused - would just need to spray or glue baste applique in place and be sure the piece is well stabilized or hooped.

It was a treat to find a use for those imperfect marbled squares I just couldn't toss out. Don't ask me what kind of flowers these are - fantasy flowers I suppose, although the one reminds me of a peony. Do peonies come in purple? And now I'm off to do that satin stitching...

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