December 4th, 2016
It’s been pretty quiet here on my blog because I have been indisposed for awhile.  We have a beloved family member who is dying and we have been caring for him at home with the help of our local hospice.  This means that I have not done any sewing or quilting for weeks, so that’s why you haven’t heard from me.  In the meantime, I’m going to post some photos of some free motion quilting designs that might help get you inspired to play around with your sewing machines.  This is the only way I know to “stay in touch” while we go through this family journey.
People often ask me how I choose quilting threads for a given project.  Sometimes, the most striking thread combination is a subtle one.  The photo below is a quilted pillow cover and the quilting is a white polyester thread on a 100% white cotton background:
The swirls that you see in green thread are actually not quilted. Those were free motion embroidered when this was just a top.  Once the pillow case was placed in the final quilt sandwich, I stitched around the green thread swirls with invisible thread, and this makes them a little bit protuberant, which makes them a bit more noticeable.  All the other thread work that you see along the edges of the applique shapes was also done as free motion embroidery, not as quilting.  That is why those applique shapes seems to “pop out” just a bit.  The slight 3-D effect is a bit more noticeable in this shot of the front of the pillow cover before I inserted it over the pillow:
This next shot is of a small wall hanging that also has a white background:
The quilting on this quilt is similar to the earlier one, although the quilting seems a bit more noticeable, doesn’t it?  That’s because the background white fabric is a white cotton sateen.  Cotton sateens all have a slight luster to them, so once they are quilted, they throw off more shadows.  That’s a fancy way of saying that fabrics with a luster or sheen will always make your quilting appear more dramatic.  Here’s a close up:
See what I mean?  This makes me think of royal icing and someone has taken a toothpick and drawn a fine line design.  When the goal of the quilting is solely to create a luscious texture and not to draw attention to the stitched line itself, think of matching the thread color to the background fabric or coming pretty close to a match.   Here’s some more white polyester thread on a white cotton sateen background:
and another:
One more:
 So nice to touch base with other quilters here; I feel a bit “cut-off” from my quilting life.  Hope to be in touch again soon.

Day 2 of the Machine Embroidery Blog Hop and a Quickie Gift project

November 11th, 2014
Today’s stop on the blog hop is Gene Black’s blog!  Gene has done a great tutorial that shows you how to get the most out of a digitized file by selectively eliminating certain stitching sequences.  He has taken the feathered star digitized quilting motif and created multiple offshoot designs from it by choosing which sequences to stitch and which to leave out.  He is working with the feathered star shown below:
…but he’s taking it to a whole new place!  Check out his post by clicking here and don’t forget to enter his give away for a free downloadable digitized design from our store! 
I have a weakness for pin cushions, partly because they are small and cute and partly because they are so fast to make.  I have been meaning to do some machine embroidery applique using hand dyed wool and bamboo felts and finally got around to it last Sunday.  Is this not the most adorable pin cushion you’ve ever seen:
The thing that I love about it is all the 3-D texture created by the felted portions.  It’s really hard to capture that in a  photo:
The flower/petal pair unit is stitched in a single hooping and I merely substituted the hand dyed felts for fabric.  I began with  a 6 in x 6 in piece of green fabric for my background and once it had been appliqued/embroidered, I quilted it using a scrap of batting.  I cut the shapes using Appli-K-Kutz dies on my Sizzix machine so that part went very fast.  Here’s a shot of it once it had been quilted:
I attached it to another piece of 6 in x 6 in quilted fabric and then stuffed it with poly pellet beads and voila!  These make wonderful gifts for fellow quilters and sewists!  Who doesn’t love a pincushion?

Beginning a New Wall Hanging

May 29th, 2014
First comes the auditioning of fabrics…I settled on these:
…and then I had to audition the fabrics for the applique shapes that would lay on top of the background fabrics:
Once the appliques had been cut and fused into place, the decorative free motion embroidery took place on each block:
Do you see those pins near the base of that leaf?  They’re holding a pice of temporary stabilizer in place to stabilize the fabric where the stem is being stitched.  There’s no need for any stabilizer under the leaf itself since the fusible web acts as a stabilizer.  Here’s a shot of the large oak leaf after I’d cut out the stylized veining.  It takes awhile to get this piece laid out just right:
…and here you can see how nice the negative space looks once it’s been fused into place:
The nice part of creating this negative space is you are left with a wonderful set of veins that can also be used as a separate applique.  Here’s the piece I just cut away lying ona  towel for later use:
See what I mean…the beginnings of another quilt!  Here’s a shot of the large fern as it was just being decorated with free motion machine embroidery (remember, this is still in the stage of working on 3 blocks):
Again, because that fern is appliqued using fusible web, no stabilizer is needed as it’s being embroidered here.  if you don’t believe me, here’s  a
shot of the backside of the block:
And here’s a shot of that large oak leaf as it is being decorated:
and here’s a shot of the backside of this block:
Once all 3 blocks have been pieced together, it’s ready to be quilted:
I love working with rich, saturated colors like this…makes my heart flutter!

Questions Answered!

November 20th, 2011

I have fallen way behind in answering questions, so I thought I’d use a blog post to answer a number of them.  Most recently,  Susan asked:

Patsy, On top picture how did u affix the fine fern leaves onto the backrground after u fused them on ? Satin stitch? They are sooo intricate…………

I’ve never used a satin stitch to finish the edges of something this delicate; I’m thinking that the satin stitch would likely overpower (and maybe even shred) the most delicate portions of the stem lines.  Instead, I free motion embroider the fern, usually using a combination of the irregular swirl design in the leaf sections and just “in-lining” in the very narrow stem lines.  The project I showed in that recent post is now in NC and I’m in OH, so here’s a shot of another fern from another project finished in this way:

…and here’s a closeup shot of another fern that will probably give you a better sense of that stitching:

In an earlier post about using heavy size 12 pearl cotton embroidery thread in the top needle, Lisa wrote:

Very nice. I wouldn’t think that the pearl cotton would go through your tension so easily or that it would fray. Is that what the silicone does for the thread?

Yes, that’s exactly why I would use the Silicone.  It will lubricate the thread and the thread will flow through the tension discs more easily, minimizing the risks of thread shredding or breaking.  In this case, it’s because the thread is so big and heavy.  In the case of metallic threads, I use it because the threads are so fragile and delicate.  Again, you don’t have to use this liquid silicone in either of the above mentioned scenarios.  And one more thing about these big, heavy threads.  Someone had written to me about how “furry” that Caron Collection thread looked.  That thread is relatively furry; you can see that a bit better in this photo that shows the Caron Collection thread next to DMC size 12 pearl cotton thread:

The furriness would not stop me from using it, though.  Sometimes, you want threads that have varying textures on your quilt, and that furriness is sometimes a sought-after attribute.  The Caron Collection also makes a very plump embroidery thread that is a blend of wool and silk (talk about furry!) and the whole reason I use that thread is for that wonderful texture!  Think of these threads as over-sized versions of the commercial quilting threads on the market.  Look at some King Tut thread next to a Sulky Blendable thread.  They are both 100% cotton threads, yet they are completely different.  One is ultra-smooth and will flow through your machine like butter, and the other is not so smooth and is fairly furry.

And many, many people wrote to me asking to explain the EKG stitching.  That really made me chuckle, because I feel like I’m always posting about it, so I’m thinking that everyone is bored to death reading about it!  Here’s a re-print of a post from a couple of years ago that explains it:

The Mysteries of The EKG Edge Finishing Design Are Revealed!

I frequently receive emails inquiring about the EKG stitching that I often use to finish off the edge of applique shapes, like the edging on the tulip above. I received this sweet email just the other day:

I received regularely your news letters.
Your work is beautyful and I learn many things from you, I am a beguiner in the
quilting thing.
Please, I want to now what is this beautyful stich you do around your flower or
leave, is it a free hand stich or a machine stich and if so which one
Thank you for your help

Your note is so touching to me that I thought I would do a post on this finishing design because although it looks like it would be tough to do, it is as easy as pie! On top of that, it is very fun!

First, know that this is a design you will create-it is not a programmed embroidery stitch on your sewing machine. I call it the EKG design because it makes me think of an EKG pattern, kind of like a run of V-fib. Here is how to do it:
1. set up your machine for free motion work using the straight stitch (the way you set it uo for FMQ).
2. you begin your stitching at the inside edge of any applique shape. The design is created by gently moving the quilt slightly back and forth as you travel along that inside edge, all the while creating “V” shapes. Notice that the “V’s” vary in length and also in how wide they are:

3. As you travel along that outer applique edge, your goal is to keep the “V’s” perpendicular to the edge. If you need to pivot your piece as you work to keep yourself oriented, that’s ok! See how I was trying to stay perpendicular as I moved around the heart below:

4. The more “irregular” the lengths/widths of the “V’s,” the more interesting your work will be. Never let the length of a “V” exceed more than 1/2 the width of the applique piece you’re working in. Most of the time, you won’t come anywhere near that. When you are working inside a “skinny” applique shape (like a long stem), NEVER let a “V” from one side intersect a “V” from the other side as this will look messy.

You can use this finishing design on just about any shape. In general, I try to use a thread color that is related to the fabric color, but I try NOT to match it. In mean, gosh, I’m going to all this extra trouble to do this stitching, so I want to make sure people SEE it! Because of that, I usually pick a color that’s just a bit different. I wish I could say that I had invented this technique, but I did not. I learned it many years ago in a class by a wonderful quilter named Laura Heine. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her, do it!

One more thing about this…you can do this as a QUILTING technique, but I mainly us it as a FREE MOTION EMBROIDERY technique. In other words, I do all this stitching when the piece is just a quilt top…there is no bulk because there is no batting and because no portion of the stitch falls outside the fusible applique, I do not need to use a stabilizer. Once it’s in the final quilt sandwich, I stitch just outside the edge of the applique shapes with invisible thread and it creates a very cool texture. This technique really is worth trying if you haven’t yet.
And one more thing…there are just about 12 hours left to enter the Beam ‘n Read Give-Away!  To enter, just leave a comment by 11:59 pm (eastern time) tonight on the Beam ‘n Read Give-Away post from last Monday!  (scroll down 2 posts to find it!)


November 18th, 2011

One of the things about teaching is that you end up with lots of pieces of “remnata,” or samples that you threw together to demonstrate a technique but that don’t really have a use beyond that demo.  If I’m on the ball and have some time, I usually make samples up in a way that I can use them later for some other project.  The piece above was fused together so I’d have some fern samples that I could free motion embroider as a demo.  It seems like when I teach that leaf class, everyone gets to this part at a different time, so I wanted to have lots of ferns to demo on.  As it turns out, I didn’t get to demo on even half of them!  But, I really like this so it will eventually get finished into something special.  Here’s another block that I fused up for that class:

These leaves are the fusible version of reverse applique.  What makes them special is that negative space that’s created by cutting away the vein line section.  You don’t have to finish the edges, but if you do, it adds an interesting “kick” to the leaf:

I have mixed feelings about satin stitching.  A part of me is bored by it; it’s used so much that it makes me yearn for something more novel as an edge finishing design.  BUT, the wonderful thing about satin stitching is that it provides a definitive line and that line can be powerful and used in different ways.  If you vary the width and taper the line at points like above, it helps to accentuate the delicacy of the leaf and its vein lines.  The first time I used a satin stitch to finish the edges of one of these leaves, I used it to save the design.  I’d made a poor choice in colors and the leaf color didn’t have enough contrast with the background fabric, but once I threw in a satin stitch in a really high contrast color, that fine line of satin stitching made everything pop!  There’s plenty of contrast between the orange leaf and the background fabric below:

but you can see that the thread work is really adding a nice zing to this leaf, even though it’s just barely been embroidered. Here’s a shot of it finished, and I love how adding the red satin stitching makes this fall leaf look almost like it’s on fire:

And here’s the block with both of them finished:

(That white stuff you see beyond the edges of the block is a tear away stabilizer. Because part of the satin stitch falls outside the area of fusible web, it’s important to have a stabilizer to avoid fabric puckering. It will be torn off before tlock is used for anything.) Here’s what the backside looks like; I even like how this came out:

Both of these pieces of remnata will someday make their way into a finished product. For now, though, they’ll be staying in the closet!