Wednesday, October 28, 2020

HOW-TO: Stitching Applique BEFORE or AFTER Quilting?

At various times, people have been taken aback that I don’t applique per hand… ever. If we are laying it all out on the table, then you should know that I don’t even hand bind any of my quilts. In spite of my lack of affection for hand sewing, I am glad to have seen a revival of the slow stitching movement. I will never cease to be awed with the amazing work needle turn appliquers and English paper-piecing enthusiasts create… but when it’s all said and done, it’s simply not for me.

No matter what applique technique you prefer, let me tell you why the starch applique technique (turned edge) has become my method of choice, and one that I am obviously super excited about: because it allows me to make quilts that have the look of hand applique, without sewing by hand.

For me the applique is the fun part, but with the next challenge and big hurdle looming just around the corner: Umm... How do I quilt it now?!?

There are different approaches to quilting an applique project, so I thought it might be helpful to make a comparison, and share the pros & cons of stitching applique BEFORE or AFTER quilting. Be sure to read to the end where I share the How-To for stitching applique to an already quilted piece.

 
So, let's start out with the more commonly used approach, and look at what are the advantages and considerations to:

Stitching applique BEFORE quilting:

  • It's much easier to stitch and turn smaller, individual blocks under the machine, or even for that matter an un-quilted quilt top.
  • Since shapes are appliqued before quilting, a walking foot, or free motion foot can be used for quilting
  • Quilting around shapes adds loft to applique shapes.
  • Custom quilting highlights and showcases applique. 
  • Stitches are hidden inside the quilt, and cannot be seen from the back of the quilt.

Considerations

  • It can be a challenge to mark a continuous quilting design around the applique shapes.
  • It can also be a challenge to quilt around the shapes, especially if you are using straight line quilting or a uniform design.
  • Quilting over applique may not be desirable, which would be the only option if working with an edge to edge design.
  • If you are using custom quilting services, it is more expensive to have custom work from a free motion longarm quilter.

So, how does this compare to:


Stitching applique AFTER quilting

  • Quilting designs can be more easily marked before adding applique shapes, thus the design is continuous, taking the challenge out of keeping the quilting design aligned.
  • Do not have to quilt around applique shapes, which would be similar to "whole cloth" quilting.
  • An edge to edge quilting design can be used WITHOUT quilting over the applique shapes.
  • If you are using a longarm quilting services, this saves on quilting costs.
  • Can be appliqued per hand (if desired).
 

Considerations 

  • When adding the applique shapes to a finished & quilted top, there is extra bulk when working under the machine since it is already quilted.
  • Depending on the size, it can be challenging to turn an already quilted quilt under the machine a lot when stitching applique.
  • Usually an open toe foot is used for stitching applique, which means that applique shapes are sewn on a quilted top without the aid of a walking foot. 
  • Tension issues have to be taken into consideration with additional layers, ie. batting, backing, quilt top.
  • Stitches can be seen from the back, which are usually hidden in the quilt.
  • A solid fabric instead of a pieced backing may be more desirable since stitches are seen.
  • You lose a little bit of loft behind the applique shape because the batting under the shapes has already been quilted.
  • It may not be feasible to machine stich small applique shapes after a quilt has been quilted.

 
But when deciding to applique before or after quilting, it is essentially an economizing question by asking… what are the most important elements for me for a finished quilt? That stitches are hidden? That there is loft behind the applique shapes? That the quilt is finished faster? That time and money are saved during quilting? What kind of quilting do I prefer – custom quilting that is artistic and highlights the shapes? or an all over design that is subtle and takes a backseat? I would even argue that all these things come down to a matter of taste.

I recently reached out to Rachel from Stitched in Color to ask her if it would be possible to quilt my most recent Fly High, Dragonfly quilt, and set the parameters so that the flying geese tail would be left unquilted. She uses a Gammill Statler, which is a computer-guided longarm machine. The designs that she uses are digital downloads, and Rachel is able to adjust the scale, change proportions or edit details on the computer monitor. She shared with me that the process of quilting is not actually hands-off.  She has to periodically give the machine fresh bobbins, reposition the quilt to expose new areas to the needle, make sure the pattern remains properly aligned and troubleshoot any issues with thread tension, etc.  


So, now that my piece is quilted, let's get down to The HOW-TO of stitching applique AFTER quilting. Here's what you'll need:

Supplies/Tools

  • Finished quilted top
  • Applique glue
  • Pins
  • 70 weight needle
  • Monofilament /Invisible Thread (Aurifil)
  • Open Toe foot
  • Knee lift


Before Starting: Stitch Options


Straight stitch:  I would actually suggest to use a straight stitch for applique that is stiched beforehand, rather than applique that is stitched to an already quilted top. The reason is that when using a straight stitch to stitch applique shapes to an already quilted top, then the quilting affect is on the shape instead of shadowing it. Usually one would quilt around the shape instead of on it. It can be done, and again, it depends on what things are important to you with a finished quilt.
 

Blind stitch: For me, the biggest advantage of using a blind stitch is that it gives the appearance of a hand-quilted look. The stitches are not as visible as with straight stitches. When using a high-quality monofilament (invisible) thread, it is barely noticeable when transitioning from one color to the next. Hands down, my favorite invisible thread, and the one I use for all my projects is from Aurifil. It is fine, yet does not easily break, and I have never had any issues with ironing, which some cheaper versions can be notorious for.

Machine Settings for Blind Stitch:


If you have never used a blind stitch before, then let me give you a short introduction: A blind stitch is usually used for hemming garments when it is more desirable that the stitches are not seen. It sews several straight stiches, which are beside the fold or applique shape, and one “zig-zag” stitch that comes over and takes a “bite” to hold the fabric in place.

 

Before getting started, if you are using a larger machine like I am, it’s important to change out your stitch plate. Usually I am using an open toe foot for a blind stitch, and the stitch plate needs to accommodate the zig-zig movement.


When using a blind stitch, it is important to change a few settings. With every machine, the settings will be different, so it is a little bit of trial and error when deciding on length, width, and tension settings. With this in mind, I would suggest to practice on a few samples before moving to your project. Here are a few things that you will need to adjust on your machine:
 

  • Stitch Length: By shortening the stitch length, the zig-zag “bites” come closer together. Since it is the “bites” that hold the applique in place, when they are closer together, there are more to hold the shape in place.

  • Stitch Width: Your stitch width will determine how wide your “bite” zig-zag is. This will determine how narrow or wide the “V” that secures your applique shape. I prefer a narrow width so the stitch is barely seen.  

  • Thread tension: This setting is a pretty important setting to change, as you are sewing on an already quilted quilt. I lower the thread tension even more when stitching on an already quilted piece than I would if I were only stitching applique on a block or a quilt top. Usually for blocks, I will lower the tension to 1.0, and for stitching applique on an already quilted piece, I will lower it to 1.5. If your applique shape looks a little "pulled", then you may need to lower the tension even more.


Once you have your machine settings in place, let's move on to thread: When using a monofilament thread, remember that it is for the top thread ONLY. While there are some quilters that use an invisible thread for the top and bobbin threads, I prefer to keep it only on the top.
 
 
For the bobbin thread, a standard thread is sufficient. Because you are working with two different types of thread, AND sewing on an already quilted piece with additional layers, that's why it is important to stress again, to adjust the thread tension to accommodate for this.


Adding the applique shapes:

When I am working with extra large applique, I will work with the quilt top (or quilt in this case) on my design wall. I am able to check placement much easier when the surface is flat, and I can look at it from a distance. This way I am also able to pin the shapes in place before gluing them. I started by gluing the bottom wings in place, and then moved to the sewing machine. When I glue extra large shapes, I will glue it in sections, and then pin the glued section so it stays in place before moving to the next section.

If you have never worked with a knee lift, this is the point where I always suggest to try it out. With the smaller shapes like the circles, I end up turning the quilt a lot under the machine, and it's a huge advantage to be able to be able to turn the quilt so often - hands free!

When using a blind stitch, I will change to my open toe foot so I can sew along the side of the applique shape, and see where the blind stitch will come over and catch. The stitches beside the shape are your straight stitches, and the zig-zag that comes over are your securing stitches. Be careful that the straight stitches are beside the applique and not on it. Only the zig-zig bite should be coming over on the applique shape.

For this quilt, I actually stitched the stems, leaves, and flowers on the lower wing unit before I stitched the entire wing to the quilted piece. After the wings were stitched in place, I then went back and shadow quilted around the applique shapes to add additional quilting and secure the large shape in place without shifting later. Here is a short video, where I talk about the process for stitching applique BEFORE quilting. When stitching applique after quilting, the concept is essentially the same, with the biggest adjustment being in the tension settings.


 
When using a thread color that matches the quilt back fabric, the stiches are barely noticeable. This could possibly be considered a "con" to stitching the applique after quilting, but since you really have to look to find the stitches, I'm not ready to fully put it in that category.
 
 
So what's your take... stitching applique before or after quilting? Ready to give it a try? Since I love the idea of combining more complex quilting designs with my applique, I will definitely explore this option again.


Be sure to stop by Rachel's blog as she is comparing the two approaches from a longarm quilters aspect. She always has such insightful input on quilting projects.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Cool or Warm color palette?

My grandmother loved blue. She had piercing blue eyes and found beauty in surrounding herself with that cool and calm shade... every room, and even a large percentage of her wardrobe. Because my mother grew up with so much blue around her, she attributes that as one of the reasons why there was an extreme absence of blue in the house. Like my mother, blue is also noticeably missing in my home, but in spite of all of that... somehow blue seems to follows me.

If you were to look at my most recent projects, you might get the impression that an ocean-inspired palette is what make my heart sing. Hmmm... there's Purdy Bird, then my second Fly High Dragonfly, my reverse applique quilt, and now my most recent project, a second Circle Around pillow.

When I am working on a project, I usually have a pretty specific color palette in my head. Even though finding blue in my house would be a little like a "where's Waldo" search, I very much enjoy working with a cool palette in my quilting projects.

And, as I've discovered about myself... I can sometimes get stuck on a color combo, camp out on it for a while before moving on. There are actually several examples to mention: my purple phase, my jewel-tone phase, a green phase (which is totally to be expected since it is my favorite color), a warm color phase...

Sometimes a specific purpose for the project influences my color decisions... why am I making the project? Is is for me to use? Is it a sample for a teaching class? Am I making it for a pattern? Will it be gifted to someone special? 

 .. and this particular project, I did have someone special in mind - a confirmation present for our goddaughter, who just happens to loves shades of blues and turquoises. I have to admit, that I love the way this warm and cool color palette work together, that I might just have to make this again.

What about you... are you are you drawn to a cool and calm color palette? or does a warm and fiery color palette hold your affections?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

NEW YouTube Video - Sewing Drunkard's Path Blocks

I find that there a few quilting techniques that newbie, and sometimes even experienced quilters shy away from... and one of those is sewing curves. Sure it's a little nerve wracking to cut into your much beloved fabric and try a technique that looks really hard... but what is the point of doing something unless you are always pushing yourself towards the next thing?

There are a couple different approaches to sewing curves. One way is to pin them, and then sew, but I much prefer the no-pin, or ease method and trim later. In my latest YouTube videos, I demonstrate both of these techniques, so if you've never sewn curves before, what are you waiting for?

I recently shared a few Purdy Bird color inspiration mock-ups, and if you know me very well, you might have already guessed that the next one I make would be using Anna Maria Horner fabrics. Right now, I have several kill-two-birds-with-one-stone projects going on, and I am essentially preparing another Purdy Bird quilt top to demo for a class that I am teaching in October. 

Even though doing a computer mock up gives me the general direction that I would like to go, I always find that things change a good bit when working with the actual fabrics, which has me cutting into a few of my favorite and most treasured fabrics.



If you are following with the Quilt-A-Long, we are in Week 2, and whether you are joing the QAL or just wanting to learn a new technique, jump on in and sew a few curve blocks with me!


Monday, August 31, 2020

Purdy Bird QAL Prep Week: Color Inspiration!

It's the first day of the Purdy Bird QAL, and I'm thrilled to finally get started quilting with you! This week is prep week, and it's simply about getting started, gathering needed supplies, and fabric selection planning. So, perhaps the best place for us to start out is talking about one of my favorite topics - COLOR! Since choosing fabrics might be an area where some quilters struggle, I thought that it might be useful to have a little inspiration to help you with fabric selection for the QAL.

 

First, let's look at a couple options with the original Basic Grey grunge color as listed in the pattern, but with changes to the background color. When I am making quilts, I often tend towards bold and highly saturated fabrics. What really makes those colors pop, are when they are combined with white.

Recently, I made a second version of my Fly High, Dragonfly quilt, using similar colors. I decided on a soft grey for the background, and it was amazing to me how much it changed the overall feel of the quilt - the colors were reigned in and more subtle. Remember, the further two colors are away from each other, the higher the conrast you will have when you combine them.

A pale aqua background gives the quilt a friendly and cheery feel, while still remaining soft. Compared with navy, the quilt has a more dramatic and moodier feel. Pay attention that you don't "loose" fabrics because there is not enough difference in contrast.


If you would like to stick with the original color palette, remember there are two shops carrying fabric kits for the Purdy Bird QAL:

In the US: Pink Door Fabrics is offering a Basic Grey grunge + background fabric kit.

In Germany: Grit's Life is offering a Basic Grey grunge fabric kit, and offers my Purdy Bird pattern in print.

 

I've already shared a second version of the Purdy Bird quilt in greys, aquas, and chartreuse. This quilt top has a totally different look to the original, and I will reference both of these quilts during the QAL. In the this week's newsletter, I reference the fabrics that I used for this colorway. Again, I played around with different backgrounds to achieve different looks. All of these fabrics are in cool colors, yet are different than the cool colors I used in the original quilt.


Even though I love working with cool and warm color palette, I find that most people usually tend to gravitate towards one in particular. You might like both, one might make your heart beat a little faster than the other. Interestingly enough, even though I find myself working more with cool colors in my quiltig projects, my living room is a pure warm palette... and these Alison Glass batiks are a scrumptous array of warm colors.

As much as I love bold colors and high contrasts, I am quite smitten with a color combination that is soft, subdued, and subtle. Simply by using colors that are a little more decent and controlled, Purdy Bird takes on a whole other look. These muddy colors from Art Gallery fabrics new Terra Kotta line, give a more delicate and romantic feel.

The last color palette is one that has been brewing in my head for a while, and will most likely be the next Purdy Bird quilt that I make. I couldn't very well move on without sharing a color palette using one of my favorite designer's fabrics, now could I?  Playing around with colors on the computer can give me an idea if the general direction that I am going is right, but ultimately, I find that I end up adjusting a lot once I have the actual fabrics in my hands. Should I keep you in suspense which background fabric I will use?

Let's wrap things up now with color, shift gears and address the issue of SIZE... it does matter, you know? Depending on where or how you choose to use your quilt, making a larger quilt might be floating around in your head. So, here are a few ideas for adding to the Purdy Bird quilt:

A simple addition of a few flying geese from the right and left sides could help add length to the quilt.

 
Alternatively, the flying geese could be running from top to bottom on the sides as well.


By repeating the diamond blocks already included in the pattern, an alternating pattern could add extra length to the quilt.

... and if you are really keen on applique, one of my favorite things to do, is adding applique circle accents.

So, are ready to get started? Then link up your Purdy Bird QAL "Prep Week" progress on Instagram and be sure to use the #purdybirdqal hashtag to qualify for the giveaway.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Quilt-A-Long Forum!

The beauty of the online world today is that easier than ever to get in touch with like-minded people who share the same interests as you do, and let's be honest, we are all here with one thing in mind, right? – quilting!

So, I decided that a Purdy Bird Quilt-A-Long Forum on my website might be helpful as a way for quilters to support each other and to have a productive place to learn through positive discussions, exchange of ideas, sharing of techniques & relevant quilting knowledge, in a way that is also respectful to other members.
By the way, the QAL starts August 31st - have you signed up for the newsletter yet?


Currently, there are two QAL categories – one in ENGLISH and one in GERMAN, and I hope that you will put them to good use! They are only successful and helpful when YOU participate!

... AND you don't have to be a part of the QAL to join in the conversation, offer your advice, and share your quilting knowledge. The more people that participate, the more everyone benefits.

Since I live in Germany, I know exactly the challenges of operating in foreign language. So, especially with my German quilters in mind, who are fluent in English, but perhaps not familiar or comfortable with specialized sewing and quilting terms / vocabulary, I hope that this is a valuable resource for the QAL!

Who should join the forum?

  • If you are a beginner quilter and have questions about quilting & quilting techniques?
  • If you have experience with quilting, but are perhaps uncertain about quilting terms, vocabulary, or explanations.
  • If you are an experienced quilter, and are able to add value to the discussion by passing on what you know, or about techniques.
  • If you are a quilter wanting to have contact with other quilters

Are you brave enough to be the first and get the conversation started? Jump on in and help me get the forum up and running!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Gifting Quilts + Washing Instructions Free Download

I've been sewing for what feels like my whole life, but only seriously quilting for the last five. In spite of the fact that I've added quite a number of finished quilts to my stacks since then, I've not added as much experience with gifting them. Not because I'm stingy with my quilts, but because giving a quilt is something that is very special for me.


Recently we were able to celebrate my oldest niece's confirmation. In Germany, it is a common tradition that once a young adult reaches a certain age, they go through a year-long training to study their religious beliefs and are "confirmed" as a profession of their faith before joining a local congregation. It's a very big family celebration here.

Since things are a little different here than in the US, and I had never attended a confirmation before, I had to ask my mother-in-law what kind of present was appropriate for such an event? She shared that she would be gifting the very necklace that her grandmother had given her, and that gifts should be keepsakes or things that can be used or valued well into adult years... well, in my mind that could only be one thing - a quilt!


After doing a little research, I found several suggestions of things to include when gifting a quilt:

My family here in Germany only learned about quilts and quilting through me, so it was important that I included a little background information. The quilt that I gifted was a bee quilt (see info below), so I decided to do a little research about quilting bees to include with it. Since quilting bees started in the US during colonial times, it was fun for me to share a little of my cultural heritage with my German family.


I also created a washing instructions sheet so she would know how to care for the quilt. (Find the free download here - English OR German.) Unfortunately, I have heard far too many stories of friends who have gifted quilts, and their loved ones never used them - perhaps because they were not really aware how easy it is to care for them.



Since I personally use color catchers when washing quilts, I decided to add a little package with the quilt. It's kind of like sticking a pre-paid postage stamp on a letter - it just makes it easier for the person on the receiving end to follow through.


And I added my first quilt label! Especially since this was such an important date, the quilt label was the perfect way to document it, and one of the very few times that you will see me hand sewing! (ever!) Since teenagers are all about technology, I thought it was a fun little gesture to add the hashtag #thistookforever... which it kinda did.


So, now the cycle continues, and I am passing on the tradition that my aunt passed on to me... over a decade ago, she gave us the most beautiful quilt that has adorned our living room since - it is one of my most treasured pieces! ... and my hope is that the quilt I made for my niece will be treasured, loved, and snuggled in just as much.


Quilt Pattern: Summer Smoothie Quilt from Allison Richter for Campbell Soup Diary, free tutorial
Started: April 2017 Bee Quilt, Quilty Circle of Bees
Fabrics: Alison Glass, Carolyn Friedlander, Zen Chic, Carrie Bloomston, Cotton & Steel, various scraps, and low volume backgrounds.
Finished quilt size: ca. 56" x 70" in. (ca. 142 x 178 cm)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Purdy Bird Quilt-A-Long!

I'm really excited to announce my very first Quilt-A-Long starting August 31st - October 24th, with my most recent quilt pattern, Purdy Bird! I've had it in the back of my head for a long time to do a QAL with this pattern, but with the release date falling shortly before summer, I decided an early fall date would be the best fit for the QAL... but it's not too early to mark your calendar!




The QAL will run over Instagram, and will go out as a weekly newsletter. You can still recieve the QAL newsletters even if you are not on Instagram, but to qualify for prizes and join in the link-ups, you do need to have an Instagram account. Also, if you are planning to join in, then you will need to sign up for the Purdy Bird QAL newsletter emails. (subscribe below) I decided to keep the regular newsletter seperate for those who would like to still recieve the newsletter, but are not joining in on the QAL.

Each week, we will work on a different section of the pattern, and I get to share all my tips, tricks, and extras that just don't fit into a pattern. During the applique week, I go especially deep into the starch applique method, but I suppose it's to be expected, right? ... and now for the QAL line up:


If you've not gotten yours already, then you can find my Purdy Bird pattern in my new online shop! Hope to see you in August!