Saturday, April 13, 2013

That Unproductive Feeling

I wanted to show my progress on the African quilt this week, but there was nothing to show. I was mostly working dimensions and arrangements out on graph paper, staring at the design wall, auditioning fabrics, thinking. Hard to take meaningful pictures of that and hard to believe I was making any real progress when fabric wasn't getting cut or seams sewn. Then I ran across an article about creativity where I least expected it, in April's Good Housekeeping Magazine, with this highlighted and writ large on the page:

Creating doesn't always feel productive. It means pausing, playing, and sometimes failing. *

Exactly what I'd been doing for two days. Funny how seeing this in print made me feel so much better about those days, even though it is something I already know and understand.

Yesterday felt much more productive and photogenic. It was time to tackle some applique. Judi had one pattern drawn out to size, the other a simple heart I could manage myself. I'd already done the dithering over background fabric so it was time to trace, fuse, cut and fuse.

Two hitches though. Although there were several pieces of black fabric in Judi's stash, there were only some small scraps left of the deep dark black in the other applique in her quilt. If you've ever compared black fabric, you know that when put side by side, some look positively grey. Her other blacks were too different for me to be comfortable using them. I found one black in my own stash that was closer although still not that blackest of blacks. Would have to be close enough.

Judi is too far gone to answer questions anymore, so I had to guess what fusible she had used on the others. I know that she uses a lot of Misty Fuse, but her finished blocks felt too stiff for that. If not Misty Fuse, then she uses Wonder Under. I made some samples and decided Wonder Under must be it, and I had a 2 yd length - more than enough. I laid the fusible over the patterns and trace on the paper side, then fused them to the black fabric and carefully cut them out.

If you've used Wonder Under, you know that sometimes it's tricky to lift up an edge of the release paper to start the removal. Scoring with a pin usually gives you a place to work without chancing messing up the raw edge. However, I could not get the paper to come away from the fusible, but instead the fusible clung to the paper and pulled off the fabric. I've never had this happen before. Working with the heart, I tried reheating and letting it cool several times before finally throwing caution to the wind and pealing the paper back while still hot. I had some frayed edges and knew I had to figure out a better way for those other shapes.

I put out a plea for help on Facebook and got some good advice. My Wonder Under is probably a bad batch, not enough slick stuff on the paper. Paint it or pitch it! As for what I'd already used, one suggestion was to leave it until the morning, when the paper might more easily give way. Putting it in the freezer was another option. It turned out that giving it some time did help. Now after scoring, I could work my needle under the paper and it started to pop off.

However, there were still places where the web stuck to the paper. But this was good enough to salvage these pieces I'd already cut. I still needed to do the heat and quick peel on one of the skinny spokes of the ship's wheel-like motif.

An easy way to arrange applique on your background is to place the background fabric over your pattern. If you are lucky, you can see the pattern through the fabric (if not, using a lightbox usually works). This worked well for the larger applique block. For the heart I could use a ruler to help center it on its background.

Once fused, it was time to satin stitch around all those raw edges, which turned out to be a blessing. If Wonder Under is working properly, the edges stay pretty clean as on this applique that Judi had done. With my struggle there were lots of places with thread frays and the satin stitching cleaned things up. I used a titanium needle which does not pick up the goo from the fusible like a regular needle does. Judi had given me 50 wt Gutermann cotton to use for the satin stitching.

I spent nearly 5 hours slowly and carefully maneuvering around all those edges, much longer than I thought it would take. But it is done and the blocks look great. Now I can move on to cutting filler pieces and joining it all together.

*The Happiness Project: Create a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin


Lucia Sasaki said...

Marvelous, Sharon!
And your more than right: creativity demands quiet times and we need to control our anxieties.
Thanks a lot for share your creative and produtive process.

Chris said...

This is really looking good. It is amazing how much blacks can differ. I found that out when I worked on making Amish quilts. I have done a lot of satin stitching and it is very time consuming. It is wonderful that you are making this quilt...what a lovely thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy you are my friend too. I only wish we had 40 years.