Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More Is Just More, Right?

As a general rule, I tend to avoid highly quilted projects. I think in part because sometimes more is just, well... more. I'm a fabric, color, and print girl, so I'm naturally inclined towards simplicity in quilting and letting those elements shine. But secondly because I've not reached the comfort level that I would like to "over-quilt" a project, at least not on big ones anyway. With each new small project that I've taken on recently, I've decided to push myself when it comes to free motion quilting... and with my latest "Lovebirds" bonus project, I really wanted the quilting to go beyond my usual "keep it simple" mantra.

Quilting designs are not always as obvious to me as I would like them to be. I have several quilty friends, that immediately see a quilting design when they get ready to sit down and start quilting. Actually it was my husband that encouraged me on a few of the designs, and voted for favorite motifs. Like the pebble filled pomegranates and simple feathered bird wings...

 ... I'm thinking that I might like to revisit these simple curves to embellish my favorite orange peel designs.

Hmmm... ask me if I'm brave enough to go this dense on the big one? I may just have to get back to you on that one.  Any stories of quilting bravery to share? 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Lovebirds Reveal: The Story

This spring, as a special treat for my birthday, my husband took me to one of the finest and best-kept secrets in the area... a monasterial grounds since the middle ages, that was later a private hunting spot to a 17th century duke. The Forsthaus Heiligenberg, delivers everything that one could wish for when it comes to historical charm and quaintness. Mixed with fine delicacies made from regional products and attention to every last detail, it might be easy to understand how a romantic like myself could get completely swept away with the whole atmosphere....

As I sat across from my husband, I found that I was absolutely fascinated with the embroidery piece on the wall behind him. My gaze shifted back and forth between the vintage piece and my date. Later, as I studied it more closely my eye started seeing quilting shapes... and then a whole quilt. Even though I was soaking in the all too rare one-on-one time, my fingers were itching to get the idea on paper.

My first design was with large feathers similar to the original embroidery, but I found that the shapes were too graphic and dominant for the soft and organic shapes of the focal lovebirds. As usual, the design grew and evolved as I starting getting it into fabric form, and a medallion quilt seemed to be the most natural progression of things. 

The applique borders were a later addition to my original design, and I was able to incorporate a softer applique feather into it as well as smaller birds that I also used in a second extra project that I will be included in the pattern.

There are certain projects, where it seems as if I cannot imagine it in any other colors but those specific colors. Even though blues and turquoises are not the usual color palette that I tend towards, these verigated Basic Grey's and Alison Glass blues were the direction that I knew I wanted to go. I've always love a blue and green combination, and the coral pomogranates, give it the contrast that I was looking for. 

I hope to get first draft to pattern testers by the end of the month, so if you are interested (or you know someone who might be interested) then let me know. This quilt pattern is for an intermediate to advanced quilter with experience in applique. I am requesting a finished top (with or without applique borders) by February, with a February or March release date.

Oh... and I'm still not settled on a name. Here's a few that have been thrown into the suggestion pot...

Spring Lovebirds, Nested Lovebirds, Birds Of A Feather, Fly Away Home, Lovebirds In A Perch, Birds Of A Feather, Bluebirds Of Happiness...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Center Of It All

Perhaps you've noticed already that Wednesdays are my posting days. It was actually something that I had started after I had re-joined the blogging world, and was linking up weekly with WIP Wednesdays. (ah, remember those days?) Having a set date actually keeps me motivated to keep up with posting, but it doesn't always match the current progress of projects that I might be working on. Right now, I'm literally just a day or two away from sharing my finished medallion quilt top, but that would mean you would have to wait... hmmm. But you certainly didn't think that I would leave you with the Wednesday high-and-dry's, did you?

So this week, I'm sharing the center medallion of the quilt pattern that I am currently writing. Next week is the flimsy finish with the applique borders, including the story behind the inspiration. After that, comes the fun part of continued writing and editing the pattern to get it into the hands of pattern testers - goal is end of September with a February release...

 ... but until then, I'll just let these two lovebirds take center stage.

Interested in pattern testing?... just let me know. Oh, and keep those name suggestions coming in.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Blind Stitching & Sneak Peeks... Again!

There comes a point where you have so many secret projects in the works, that something just has to give... you can't keep everything under wraps forever, right? Don't you think it's about time for yet another teaser from the medallion quilt I am currently writing the pattern for?

This is actually the bonus project that will be included with my medallion quilt pattern, and I decided to finish the applique shapes with a blind stitch. I love applique, but I don't love a zig-zag finish. I love a smooth, finished edge, but find that a straight stitch gets me to my end goal quicker, BUT... there are those times that I want the finished stitches to be seen as little as possible, and a blind stitch is the best way to get there. In case you've never sewn with a blind stitch, here's how it looks:


Most modern sewing machines have a blind stitch, or at least one that is quite similar. There are few important things to remember when sewing with a blind sticth.

Use an invisible thread. I've tried several brands, but I prefer the Aurfil thread for this. If you've never used an invisible thread or a blind stitch, there a couple things to think about. Firstly, only use an invisible thread for your top thread, and a normal thread for the bobbin thread. Another major plus point is that when you use an invisible thread, you don't have to change thread colors with each new applique shape.

Adjust stitch length and width. This part is determined somewhat by preference, but it is important to adjust both. In the picture below,  you can see the normal setting for the blind stitch on my machine. 

By shortening the stitch length, I am assured that there is no puckering on my applique shape once it's sewn. I also shorten the stitch width so the "grab/bite stitch" isn't so wide, which makes it not as visible.

When stitching the straight stitch part of the blind stitch, if you sew as close to the shape as possible, then there is only a small, little "bite" on the top of the applique that shows. If you would prefer, then you can shorten the stitch length even more so that there is an even smaller bite that catches the shape.

Keep the tension low. It's important to lower the thread tension, otherwise you end with with puckering and pulling since an invisible thread does not act the same as a normal thread.

Even though I'm already on the pattern writing part of this quilt, I'm still stuck on it's name. My first thought was "Birds of a Feather", but a few of my quilting friends thought it was a little predictable. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Applique Sampler Teaser

Are you ready for yet ANOTHER secret sewing project? Well, it would appear that I am. It all starts with that one little spark... you know, that spark that lights the first big idea, that leads to another, and then spreads like a wildfire until it is all consuming and cannot be stopped?

I've had it in my head for quite a while now to work on my own ALL applique pattern. I usually keep a few cluttered folders around with sketches and such when I work on a pattern. I don't always have an end result in mind at first, but the general direction is always clear. So, one little sketch turned to two, which turned into four, and by the time they had made it to six, they had made into EQ7 and you know what comes next... a few test blocks.

I suppose, I've been on such a roll with my Chuck Nohara blocks, that I'm starting to think in terms of "everything must be appliqued"... especially with starch. But one thing that I have to say about applique is that it generally tends towards traditional designs and is often pretty labor intensive. I realize that not everyone is a slow stitcher, or even a hand stitcher at all... including myself. I suppose that's what's been guiding this now third pattern in the works... a fresh and updated applique project with simple shapes that is still interesting enough for a seasoned hand stitcher without overwhelming the beginner appliquer by what feels like 1,000 tiny leaves in a single 8 inch block!

Sneaky peeks for now... geez, I've got two more patterns in the works that have to be knocked out soon... what are you working on?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August Design Wall

Do you have a specific and defineable quilting style? Can people look at your work and identify a follow-the-thread color scheme? a design style? perhaps that certain something that makes it obvious who you are?... like a Tula Pink, Red Pepper Quilts, Bonnie and Camille, or a Carolyn Friedlander? I would say that each of these designers have a very distinct and easily identifiable style, and there's no questioning whose work it is.

Despite the fact that some of what I do could be picked out in a line up, it does feel like I am not particularly married to one specific style. My heart beats for color, which I assume is more than painfully obvious, but there is something about the traditional that beckons me to also put it on the center stage. My quilting wall this month pretty much sums up what I mean.

My Eads quilt and Summer Garden blocks could not be any more different than day and night, black and white, potato and potahto... well, you get my drift. I started the Eads quilt as my attempt to distance myself from the direction that I normally tend towards. I wanted to do a quilt without a light or low volume background. Somehow this modern and graphic quilt appeals to one side of me.

... the other side of me craves a solid never-let-your-fingers-be-idle project, but my Summer Garden is the slow growing kind. No hurries, and no worries. I've always been attracted to and fascinated by traditional applique quilts, so this seems to somehow fit me too.

I was able to add these three sweet blocks recently and it was the perfectly packed project for our quilting group this past Saturday.

Block #481

Block #487

Block #575

What you don't see on my design wall right now are the pattern writing and other secret sewing projects that I have in the works... all in good time, right?

Linking up this week to Let's Bee Social.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#30daysoffabricstacks Take IV

So, I realized that I was more than a little behind on sharing my fabric stacks here on the blog, but hey, better late than never, right?

As you can imagine, there are several fabric stacks that come quite easily, and some of them I had to work, re-work, and even re-re-work multiple times. #Grey is what I consider a non-color... and arguments in agreement or disagreement be what they may, this almost non-existent "color" in my stash, made this fabric stack one of the hardest. But ahhh... that little pop of citrus saved this stack for me, and was actually a weekly winner! (thanks @stitchedincolor and @bobbieloufabrics)

We all have 'em... those fabrics we hoard. Because I came to the quilting scene after the Carolyn Friedlander Architextures reign, let's just say that it's been a major search for some of those hard to find, out of print beauties. If you were to ask me what fabric collection I would like to see re-released? Without a question, it would be this one, but until then, these will stay in the #Fabric I Hoard section.

As much as I love #Purple, this stack was harder than I would have estimated. Tshades of purple are so varied, it was a little difficult to keep the story consistent. After I got the purples right, all this stack needed was a fun pop of orange.

The #Analogous Colors palette, is one that I keep coming back to time and time again, although it's never taken center stage in a quilt, it's got my beloved green - check! Several EQ7 mock ups have been in this color story, so I suppose I should get it off the computer screen and into a quilt.

It was fun for me to think about what kinds of fabric a  #Teen might actually find "cool"... they really are their own group, aren't they? I know, I know, perhaps I should have done a "boy" teen pull considering the fact that my two littles will one day be teens, but I couldn't resist this fun and bright more for a girl color combination.

The #Almost Primary might be another least- likely-to-become-a-quilt stack. To make other colors, primary are a must, but even a tweaked version of them leaves me thinking that it just needs something else.

... there's only one more week to share. Too curious to wait? Hop on over to Instagram to see the rest.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

10 BEST Starch Applique Tips

It's great to have another quilter in the family that you can simply "talk shop"... favorite fabrics, projects in the works, proud finishes, and a variety of techniques, tips, and tools. On my recent visit to the States, I was able to catch up with my aunt, and let's just say that there was a flurry of conversation that would put any non-quilter to sleep. Of course the topic of applique came up because I had taken my Summer Garden blocks with me to work on. When I asked her about starch applique, knowing that she is a master appliquer, I was puzzled by her hum-ho response... in my opinion, starch applique is THE best thing since sliced bread... how could she not love it and not want to applique everything with it?!?

So I've come up with my 10 BEST starch applique tips to pass along:

1. Let's talk STARCH - make sure it's PURE (starch tips for Germany, see below)

Let's just start with NOT ALL STARCH IS CREATED EQUAL, and I found out first hand why my aunt had been so indifferent to the starch applique method. With that being said, here's what I found when testing different starch brands.
  • Faultless Heavy Starch was the first starch that I tried and I was not at all impressed. It really felt like work without the result of a nice, clean, crisp edge. This might work beautifully for ironing shirts that are not stiff, but you can leave it on the shelf if you want to applique.
  • Niagara is the brand that was the most well-known to me. It was a small tick better than the Faultless brand, but it still felt like too much work to get too little results.
  • Sta-Flo from Purex (found at Wal-Mart) is a concentrated liquid starch, and is my top pick for starch applique. Despite the fact that you might be tempted, DO NOT dilute the starch with water... not even a little smidge, you must use it PURE. One advantage is that this already comes in liquid form and you don't have to wait for the spray foam to liquefy. Sometimes there are some light, flaky "scales" left on the back side, but those can be lightly scratched of with the fingernail. They are definitely not bothersome enough to avoid this product.
  • Additional Notes: Faultless also offers a concentrated liquid, but I have no comparisons since I've not tested it. The label suggests that it is also for crafts.

STARCH IN GERMANY (skip over this part if you're in the US)
  • Sprüh Stärke von Edeka is my favorite and top pick of the German brands that I've tried. It gives a really crisp and clean finish, there are no flakes, and it has a nice hold. A+ for this brand that does starch applique the right way.
  • Denk Mit von DM seems to be the starch that is closest to my favorite Edeka brand. It is even similar in smell, but it is listed to also include "Hilfsstoffe" which is missing from the Edeka brand.
  • Domol von Rossmann gets a good rating, but it is not as good as Denk Mit or my favorite Edeka brand. It is very foamy when you spray and evaporates to a thinner liquid than the above two. You do have to work more to get the shapes to lay flat with this brand.
  • Dalli Duo (I think I found this by REWE) I actually bought this by mistake not noticing that it has an extra "Bügelhilfe" in addition to the Sprühstäke, which explains why I had the same poor results that I had with the two US brands, Faultless and Niagara above. These extra additives give this brand a poor rating from me.

Now that you you've learned more than you'll ever need to know about starch, there are a few other tools/notions/tips that you will need:

2. Make yourself a PRESSING BOARD I find that it's nice to have a portable surface that you can use to finish your applique shapes. Because of the small size of a pressing board, you can use it outside, in the car, on the couch, or even by the pool (trust me, I did it). Another benefit is that you save your regular ironing board cover. Between the really hot iron and the starch, It's actually quite easy to get your board a little messy. Check out YouTube for tutorials.

3. Use a STIFF BRUSH for "painting" the starch on
At first I had tried a softer bristle brush because it's desirable for painting, and I assumed that it would be the same for applique. What I found was that when the brush was more stiff I could apply in a more controlled way without drenching my freezer paper shape.

4. That iron is REALLY HOT! - Pay Close Attention When reading reviews about mini irons, there are two major complaints that I've noticed... firstly, that the iron is hot, and I mean REALLY hot. This is where I think to myself, well, duh, but it has to be hot for the most desired results. I think if one is aware how hot the irons are, it's easier to pay attention. The second major complaint is that the stand is not that stable. Somehow manufacturers just have not come up with a good solution for this, but it's a flaw I'm willing to live with considering the end results. I was able to compare two different mini irons because I was not able to take my German mini iron with me to the States (different cable/voltage)
  • In the US I tried the Clover Mini Iron. With Clover being a brand that I am already familiar with, I had high expectations. Even though the iron has a high and a low setting, I found that it wasn't quite hot enough, another complaint that other reviewers had given. It was sufficient, and I would still give it a good rating, but it didn't completely meet my expectations. On that note, it IS very important to get a mini iron with a high and low setting.
  •  The iron that I use in Germany is a Komerci Mini Iron. This was a gamble for me that paid off. I was unfamiliar with the brand, but found it to be my favorite of the two. The tip is slender and I assume it holds the heat better since the head is thicker. 
  • Additional notes: You can also use a regular or small travel iron, but just remember to keep the steam OFF.

5. FREEZER PAPER is a quilters best friend. Freezer paper is an appliquers best friend (and quilters too). For starch applique it's best to layer your freezer paper for stability. You can double up, triple up, or more if you want. Just place the freezer papers on top of each other shiny sides down. The beauty of it is that the shapes can be reused. TIP: If you are tracing shapes from a template, I find that it's best to draw the shapes on a single sheet of freezer paper before ironing on the second layer. TIP: Even though you might have 20 leaves in one applique block,  I usually make at least two leaves despite the fact that they can be re-used, so I can work on several shapes at a time. (If you are in Germany, don't worry, you can find Freezer Paper on Amazon... and the Reynold's brand is the way to go)

6. Remember to THINK BACKWARDS. If your flower template is pointing to the left, and you simply trace it, when you have your finished applique shape, it will be pointing to the right... so you have to think backwards. Just to keep it real, you can see how I made a mistake and traced this stem on the wrong side...ooops.

7. Take a NUMBER, please As I trace the applique shapes, I put a number on the paper side of the freezer paper shape that matches the block number because you may want to use them again OR just in case they get separated from the group you can find where they belong. If there are, for example, a lot of leaves in a block, I might also label them R, L (right, left) T, B, M (top, bottom, middle), etc.

8. STAY ORGANIZED My mother would be quite shocked that this statement actually came from my mouth, but she's right. Find a way to sort and store your applique shapes so you can pick up and leave off as you need to. I found a nicely bound, clear pages folder/organizer, which means that the applique shapes that I have started can stay filed with the block template. I can easily flip though the book when planning the next block.

9. Keep your bags packed - Do a SCRAP PULL When working on an applique project, it really helps to have all your scraps sorted in advance and  in one place. Store them in a box, bag, a basket, or whatever you like so that you always have a project packed up and ready to go.

10. Pick the STITCH that fits YOU best Everyone has their favorite method for applique. While many prefer hand stitching blocks, there are those of us who prefer the machine stitching for either patience or health reasons. For a straight or blind stitch on the machine, I like to use an invisible thread. The beauty of an invisible thread is that you don't have to change the top thread with each color change. It's not necessary to use invisible thread in the bobbin, but it is very important to remember to adjust your thread tension.

Never tried the starch applique method, but you'd like to? Check out this video from The Fat Quarter shop and get started.
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