Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ghost of Christmas Past

I have a filing system for ideas & patterns pulled from magazines, but the system sometimes breaks down. Such was the case when I went to find the pattern for making the folded ornament in the previous post. I have a three ring binder devoted to Christmas patterns and cross-stitch ideas. The cross-stitch is in the same notebook because so many of the Christmas ideas are actually cross stitch. Before being totally turned to quilting, I did a lot of cross-stitch and enjoyed doing the little Aida cloth card inserts at Christmas time. At some point when I realized I was doing more quilting than anything, I went through my manila folders and envelops (which was my idea of organization back then), and started separating "craft ideas" and "quilting" into separate binders. (The knitting & crochet stuff was few enough to remain in a manila envelop with the box of yarns). Since I had so much devoted to Christmas, I decided to group it together, regardless of the method to make it. So I was pretty surprised to get through the entire binder without running across the ornament pattern. (I tracked it down two binders later.)

Talk about a walk down memory lane! I still like so many of those cross stitch patterns that I can't bear to toss them, even though I doubt I'll use them (but you never know). A few of the ideas, like the yo yo garlands though, were easy to pull and toss - never going to do THAT one.

Tucked away in the front cover sleeve were some envelops, one of which held a freebie I'd sent away for in 1994! This was during that first year in Wisconsin when I turned my back on all other needlework and became serious about learning the craft of quilting. I'm sure I was scouring every magazine and sending away for anything free, yet I'd never done anything with this. What was in there?

This is what was in there - A Stitch-Thru tear-away stencil, two pieces of star fabric and directions for making a quilted ornament, compliments of EZ International. Gosh, I wondered if the company was even in business anymore. A google search sent me to a Wisconsin company NOT dealing in quilting supplies, but I did track them down, now going under the name of EZ Quilting and still offering free patterns on their website. It doesn't appear they offer these tearaway stencils anymore though. I chuckled that the fabric was my signature teal color; I'm sure it came prior to my obsession with teal. I decided against tucking the contents back in the envelop and back in the binder and worked on the ornament today.

The instructions tell you to layer the two fabrics with a bit of batting. I used a scrap of dense polyester that when I took a suit tailoring class many years ago I was told was called "fleece." Then place the see-through stencil on top and secure with pins in each corner through all layers. I couldn't resist centering the stencil over a star.

Then it says to freemotion quilt the design following instructions on "the last page." Those instructions consists of:

"Free motion quilting is the stitching technique used with the Stitch-Thru Stencils. By lowering or covering the feed-dogs on your machine and attaching a darning foot, you can hand guide the stitching around the design without turning the whole quilt. Stitch-Thru Stencils have continuous line designs and directional arrows which lead the way."

Well, this WAS the early 90's when free motion quilting was a bit in its infancy. If you look closely, you can see there are hearts where the stitching is to start and stop. Continuous, eh? Hardly!

I decided to use monofilament thread in the bobbin and Sulky Sliver silver metallic thread in the needle. I've used stitch-through stencils of my own making before, and while they seem like a good idea, I find it a little hard to see what I've already stitched, tricky to adjust tension I difficult to remove. Still, this is pretty nifty with an uncomplicated design.

The stencil material is stiff and a bit plasticky. It reminds me a bit of a paper piecing product marketed by Zippy Designs, Easy Piece. (Mmm - a google shows Zippy's web address no longer good and although I found Easy Piece in an on-line store, there's a note there that the paper mill that manufactures this paper is no longer making it. I'm beginning to feel very old and out of touch...) It has the translucent look but not the feel of wax paper and does break away from the stitching lines cleanly, especially when the tip of a seam ripper is run underneath it.

Once quilted, it's time to trim away the excess about 1/4" from the outer quilting, using either pinking or regular shears. Then they get fancy will ideas for finishing techniques, which include zigzagging the outside edges (which is what I did), gluing or hand-sewing lace and beads around the edge, doing a hand-sewn buttonhole stitch, and, if you used cotton batting, brushing the edges with a stiff brush to create a "soft antique country look." Finally, thread cord through a point to make a hanger or glue it onto a paper towel tube that's been painted or covered with matching fabric. I did some backstitching at the end of my zigzag edge finish, then left the thread ends long enough to knot to form a loop. Ho, ho, ho!

No comments: