Ruler Work and Feathers

January 29th, 2016
I spent some time playing around today and never got to finish what I was making, but the photo above shows where I left off.  I learn a lot when I just get some play time with a quilt sandwich and have the goal of just playing, not really trying to make anything in particular.  I always begin by making soap lines from each corner to the opposite corner and from the center of each side to the center of the opposite side:
These soap lines will guide me in keeping my design “clean” and symmetric as I come up with new layers of design.  This afternoon, I started by creating 3 concentric circles and the outline of a large “daisy:”
In this case, the largest circle does not quite meet up with the bases of those petals.  I find I can get away with this in situations where I want  to enlarge a space I want to fill with a featherette.  I then added a small featherette inside the “petals.”  You can make these fairly symmetric by:
-always stitching the center plume first; and
-using the bumpback feather stitching method as you add on the plumes to each side.  In this shot you can see what I mean:
…and in this shot, all those original petal shapes have been filled with featherettes and the design is already beginning to look interesting.  This is the power of featherwork:
In the photo above, do you notice that the outermost circle is darker and more “definitive” appearing than the others?  This is because I used that circle as my “travel line” as I moved from the base of one featherette to the next.  This way, I could do all that work in one thread line.  Next, I swapped to a different thread color, (this isn’t necessary but is part of my “thread-lusting affliction”), and I stitched 4 featherettes inside the next zone:
In this case, I used a heart shape for the center position, and I oriented my outermost plumes so they leaned in for a kiss with the neighboring plume.  I did this so the overall design would be a bit more interesting than just having similar featherettes in all the zones.  I wanted to finish up the center section of this design, so I  used an arc ruler and my soap lines to make a small  indented “box,” and then threw a featherette inside that box:
At this point, the design is just shy of 9 inches in diameter, so it would work in blocks from about 9 1/2 in square up to blocks that were 12 inches square.  Not bad for a little playing around in the afternoon!  My next moves won’t look too good yet, because I ran out of time, but I’ll show you the next 2 steps I took.  I used an arc ruler to create indented triangles that sprang from this center design (note that there is a solitary line for the triangles in the first photo but in the 2nd photo, there are 2 lines with a channel between them for  these triangles.  I point this out because taking the time to add that second channel really makes the design so much more interesting):
and now with 2 lines and one channel:
In my final move, I used the basic freeform feather method to stitch a straight feather inside each indented triangle:
I have some ideas about how to finish this up, so hopefully I will get to it in the next few days!

Hello From the Sewing Room!

January 26th, 2016
I have not posted in ages because I got so tied up with the stuff of life that I have not had any time to sew or quilt.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!  I’m happy to say that I am now making up for lost time and plan to fully immerse myself in all things fabric and thread for the foreseeable future.  This picture below is of my main cutting/marking table in NC:
I posted this picture because it has literally been EONS since the last time it was clear enough to have this much exposed (aka “use-able”) space!  I look at that space and think “all systems are go, go, GO” in my sewing world now!  My first project is to finish piecing the top I’m making from several test stitch-outs of an embroidered wreath that has a few variations in edge stitching and in interior designs.  Here’s a shot of one so you know what I mean:
In this next shot, they have all been joined together and I used a reddish/purple mottled fabric for the corner and side-setting triangles:
I used a large square ruler to trim off the excess fabric (I always make my triangles too large and then cut them down after piecing):
I then added a mottled gold fabric border around the whole thing to set off the colors better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it at that stage.  I’ve been working on creating 4 MEA cornerstone blocks that will be the “join” for 4 wide outer borders.  Here is one as it is being appliqued/embroidered on my Babylock Ellisimo:
I decided to add an alternate tulip colorway in 2 of the 4 blocks.  Here are the first 2 finished:
…and now I have finished all 4:
I am deliberately making this outer border really wide.  I like to challenge myself with my free motion quilting and in my world right now, that means coming up with free motion work that couples ruler work with fun freehand free motion quilting.  For this design, I am creating a 9 1/2 inch wide border and because I really want the quilting to show, I need to use a fabric that is not busy at all or the quilting won’t show.  I’m using a mottled “blurple” fabric (that’s what I call a purple that has more blue than red):
and here is what the final quilt top looks like:
 (Sorry, my designs walls have quilts-in-progress so my only choice is to lay it out on the floor)  I’ll give you a sneak peak at some of my preliminary ideas about that outer border quilting:
Can’t wait, but that is likely months away…on to the next project!

Birds of Paradise Quilt-Part II

January 8th, 2016
This is my second post about quilting this quilt and the focus will be on the next 2 sections.  (These photos were taken in a different room with different lighting than my last post’s photos.  The center block is a purple, not the blue that it looks like here.)  The first section is this narrow medium blue border.  It holds an elongated featherette that springs from the center:
If you create this using the bump-back feather technique, you’ll end up with plumes that are fairly symmetric.  This type of border is easy to do as long as you begin in the center with either a teardrop or heart shape.  (The key is to start with a central shape that has a narrow top and wider bottom.  This is because it’s easy to reflect plume after plume off a center shape with those features.)  Another great feature of this border is that it has an easy way to “handle” the corners.  As you can see in this next photo, you just draw a temporary miter line along the diagonal of the corner and this is where your last plumes from each side “kiss:”
(You can see that in the tiny gold square in the corner.) 
This narrow blue border is only about 1 1/4 in wide, so that means the plumes are too small to hyperquilt. But, if you have a little wider border, you can hyperquilt those plumes just like you would on other types of feathers.  You can kind of see that in this next photo from the “My Thistle Garden” quilt.  The baseline design was a featherette exactly like the one in the blue border above, but it was wide enough for hyperquilting of the plumes, and I stitched heart inlining inside each plume:
The next section is formed by the 4 corner setting triangles.  After all the applique shapes had been outlined with invisible thread, I did the background quilting.  In this case, I used a  rayon thread with variegations of green in the igloos design:
At the base of the birds is a small flower.  I like how the embroidered details add some dimension to it:
The birds have a cool edge finishing design.  This is an example of a dual-edge finishing design.  If you look closely along the edge of the birds, the outermost edge is a one-sided scallop and the inner edge has outlines of small half circles in one thread and then a tiny “bead” of thread in another color:
In “real life,” those thread beads really look 3D and you want to reach out and touch them.
My favorite part of this section are the headdresses on the birds.  Normally, I free motion quilt the headdress, but by doing it as an embroidered feature when it’s just in the “block stage,” the headdress detail is really magnified and it also takes on a 3-D effect since the thread is not pulled down into the batting:
Can you see why I’ve had so much fun working on this quilt?  In Part III, I’ll tell you how to do the next 2 sections.  Until then, happy quilting!

Quilted Leftovers

January 2nd, 2016
I have amassed quite a stack of “test blocks” that were generated by testing out embroidery and machine embroidery applique patterns as they were being developed.  When I was developing our feathered wreath embroidery designs, I had to test each design in at least 4 sizes, so I ended up with around 60-80 blocks of varying sizes.  This quilt was thrown together with a few of the larger wreaths and I used it to experiment with ruler work:
The wreaths are all trapuntoed and they “pop” very nicely but I don’t know that the trapunto effect is as noticeable in these photos as it is in person:
Once all the ruler work had been done in the “main body” of the quilt, I filled the space around the wreaths with the “fingertips design.”  That design is a pretty quick and easy filler design around circular structures.
That border you see in the above shot was easier to do than it looks.  I started by creating “turret swags” using a turret ruler.  (I’ll post more about turret rulers in the weeks to come.  I need to make a video about how to use them first.)  Turret swags can be filled with all kinds of designs.  In this quilt, I just stitched mirror image feathers.  In this next shot, you can see that I’ve added some channels to create a variation of a piano key border that fills the area above the turret swags:
And in this next shot, I’ve added straight feathers in the super-wide channels that frame the intersections of the turret swag bases:
…and in this one, I’ve added a loose “figure of 8′s” design inside the 1/2 inch channels:
I did something on this quilt that I’ve never done before…I made 2 opposing borders with the turret swags/modified piano key border and I did something completely different in the other pair of borders:
This was easy straight line ruler work to create a series of channels of varying widths and then I went back in and added filler designs inside about half the channels.  Isn’t it interesting how this makes the quilting appear complex?  You can get a bit of a sense of the difference in the 2 border designs in this next shot:
Notice the tiny wreath in the corner?…I got to use up 4 of my small test blocks there!  This has been a fun way to learn some new design strategies and it has had the added plus of eliminating a few of my mountain of test blocks.  The quilt itself is nothing to write home about but I like the way the quilting came out.
Until next time…