More “Parasol” decisions

Two days ago, I posted my initial thoughts about “The Parasol Dancers of Green Lake”, ending the day with the sample looking like this…..

Today I returned to the quilting and started playing with different ideas of how to complete the background. I added trees, shrubs, and simple line groupings with the final practice piece looking like this……

I am happy with this for the most part but here are the things that I learned in making this practice piece…..

  • Make sure that there are no strings under the white layer…..
  • Draw in some basic lines to use a guide when quilting…..
  • I will need to stitch down the edges of the parasols, probably with a matching thread. In this sample, they lifted up as I quilted close to them and the green one has already started to shred at the edges. Having said that, I kind of like the shadow that the fabrics leave so maybe I just need to use fray-check on the parasol edges!! Okay, so this decision is still in limbo!!!!!
  • I like adding trees to the background, but the one on the right (with the actual branches) looks much better than the ones that are more of a fountain. Naturally, the best one takes longer to quilt!!
  • I like the idea of having areas of background quilted with various designs. I can play with this more as I go.

My biggest concern is that this has basically become a “Whole-Cloth” quilt. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but it sure puts a lot of pressure on me to NOT make a mistake….particularly when I am working with the black threads.

The plan is to make a strip of each pose with 3 to 7 women in each strip. As I go along, I will figure out what types of sashing to put between these strips….probably something fairly low volume.

I have ordered more Wool batting and it will be here in about 10 days. So, between now and then, I need to decide which figures I want to use, get them enlarged and start laying out the design…..

Wish me luck!!

The Parasol Dancers of Green Lake

A few weeks back I posted a video from Kunming China showing women doing their morning exercises using highly colored parasols. Over these past weeks, this inspiration has slowly moved from the back of my mind to the front of my mind!!! After a lot of contemplation (AND procrastination), I have made a start!!!

The first thing that I did was to pull some screen grabs off of the video…

They are not high quality images but they served their purpose. I printed them out in black and white and used a sharpie to trace around several of the ladies in each of the poses…….

The good thing about using sharpie is that the ink soaks thru and you can see it from the back…..instant pattern!!…..

I picked out a couple of the pictures and enlarged them to the size that I was planning to work with.

Now it was decision time!!! How was I going to portray these wonderful women… fabric, in paint or in thread. At some point I had the idea to thread paint or quilt the women but add color for the parasols. This is the rabbit trail that I am currently heading down!!!!

For the first sample, I added a thin fusible interfacing to the back of the background fabric, traced the design, added the fabric parasol and machine stitched it…..

Then it was critique time…..

  • First of all, I had used a white thread in the bobbin and the white stitching came thru….NOT good!!
  • Second, I felt that the ribs on the parasol were too heavy
  • Finally, I wasn’t sure exactly how I could quilt it and make the ladies stand out.

Let’s try again!!!

This time I decided to layer the quilt sandwich and actually quilt the design in. And to take it one step further, I added two layers of batting (Warm & Natural on the bottom and Wool on the top) so that it would have a Trapunto look……

I put in a few pins to hold the layers in place……

….and it was back to the machine for stitching, using the normal 50 wt thread for the bodies and a bobbin weight thread for the parasol ribs…..

I REALLY like this a lot better!! Now to fill in the background!!

I had done the initial stitching/quilting on my normal machine (Juanita) because I had better control for the details and also because I could use a smaller needle. But, for the filler quilting, I turned to Julio (sit-down long-arm) to make the process fast and effortless!!

This is where it stands now…..

As I have written this post, I started thinking about the fact that the background could also contain some shrubbery, trees or other foliage and that would give it even more interest, both in visual effects but also for the quilter!!

There is definitely more to come with this project……..I will get back to you…………….

Don’t Throw That Away

As many of you know, I have recently expanded my studio and have been continuing to clean out “stuff” as I go. I pulled out yet another box full of “not remembered items” (aka UFO’s) and found this…..

This is not an actual rust dye but is a photo of one that has been printed on fabric. The quilting, however is real!! When I was making this quilt……

“Sunflowers in the Rust”

…..I wanted to practice before I took off on the real thing and decided that quilting on a copy would work just fine

I have no idea why I thought it was necessary to keep this practice piece but I am so glad that I did.

I used my special tool, a piece of card stock (read the blog here), and tried out several different orientations …..

When I was happy with the plan, I moved to the garage to play with frames. MANY, many years ago, I ended up at a craft supply sale that had wood frames for $1 each and mats priced at 4 for a $1. I stocked up, not knowing if I would ever use them….

….but over the years I have used over half of them and I’m dead yet so I have hope that my kids won’t have to figure out what to do with them!!!

I played first with just using a single frame….

….and then decided to dress it up a bit and use a mat as well…..

It now decorates a shelf in my office….

…….and I LOVE to see it when I walk to my desk. It not only reminds me of my favorite Sunflowers but also of the fun quilt that I made so long ago!!

So the final moral of this story is to Never….Ever…. EVER…..throw anything away!!! But, if you are reading this blog, I think that I am preaching to the choir!!

Meet Julio the 2nd

As I posted here last week, I purchased a Sit-down Long-Arm machine (Juki 2200QVP) and named him Julio!! Well, it ended up that Julio had a few issues so I had to take him back and pick up Julio II…..

I am thrilled with how the machine handles and am finding it easy to do the “fine-motor-skill” techniques. I grabbed another charity quilt and started practicing…..

I used a ruler to stabilize the top with some straight lines and then just started playing with various free motion designs……

I am learning how to keep my stitches even and learned that I needed to set the machine at 100% speed when I am doing these designs. That surprised me because I thought it would be easier at a slower speed. I was WRONG!!

The last thing that I need to get set is the height that the foot floats above the quilt so that it clears any heavy seams easily. I am slowly, oh so slowly, moving it up a bit at a time. When it starts skipping stitches, I will know that I have hit my limit!!!

I can’t wait to keep working with Julio and will happily post my results so be prepared for a LOT of quilting designs in the future!!!

Basting Sunday

On Sunday afternoon, I decided that I wanted to accomplish one item on my To-do list…..get two quilts basted and ready for quilting.

The first one was another Charity quilt that I will use to practice Free motion quilting with a ruler. For this one, I was using batting that had been given to me so I used a spray baste. I previously talked about spray basting in this post, but I did noted one change that I would make the next time.

So, this time I used a sharpie and marked the outline of the quilt top on the batting so that I would know exactly where the spray needed to go……

With the first one accomplished, it was time to move on to my Brown Stripe quilt and was using Fusible batting for this one. My favorite batting is Hobbes Heirloom 80/20 Fusible……

I used to lay out all three layers of the quilt and iron them all at once, but I was never completely happy with how the backing looked. Several years ago I changed the process, starting out by slightly stretching the batting and taping it to the floor.

Then I spread the backing out over the batting and smooth it in place…..

Now I take the iron and slowly iron from the center of the quilt out to each edge, vertical first, then horizontal and finally diagonally…..

I normally accomplish this by kneeling on the quilt and ironing heavily…..

When it is ironed in place, I remove the masking tape and turn the quilt over so that the batting is facing up…..

One nice thing about this method is that you can easily see the back of the quilt and can ensure that the top is straight.

Now I place the top on the batting, smooth it out and start the ironing process again.

But, this time my knees (particularly the replacement) were NOT happy kneeling so I decided to keep standing and just bend from the waist to do the ironing……

This is where the “WOW” moment happened…… As I ironed, I realized that I had previously been pressing down HARD with the iron which meant that sometimes the seams were distorted. Ironing while standing meant that I was pressing lightly with the iron but letting the steam do all of the work!! The result was a better basted piece with very little distortion…..AND no sore knees!!!

Once the top was ironed, I trimmed the excess batting and backing fabric but got a LITTLE too close here…..


I let it sit until it had dried completely and then moved it to the guest bedroom to wait until I can start the quilting process…..

It fits really well in this room!!!!

I have not made all of the decisions about how to quilt this, but I am pretty sure that I am going to do the “square spiral” design in all of the white blocks. I will do one, see how it looks and then keep going with others…..or pick out the quilting and find another idea!!!

S-Curve Ruler for FMQ

I have been talking about the charity quilt that I quilted and used the time to practice free motion quilting using rulers. The first border that I quilted was using the S-Curve ruler from Angel Oak Stitchery…..

It took me a while to figure out how to use this ruler but it ended up being super simple to use and I love the design that it gives.

Here is a video showing how it works……

When I was exploring demonstration videos of using this shape, many of them used these lines as the spines for feather patterns. That would be interesting….something I need to try at some point.

So, one border is done…..three to go!!

Oh my…this is going to be fun!!

Yesterday I described my ARGHHHH day and ended the post by saying that I would try the machine quilting again….maybe…..or maybe I would start a new project. I am sure that it is no surprise that I STARTED SOMETHING NEW!!!!

When I had my “Inspiration Day” last weekend, I found one fiber art piece that looked like fun and would give me a chance to try some different surface techniques. During the week I gathered up my supplies and today I made a test piece to see how things would work and see if the paints that I owned were appropriate.

The first step was to cut little swatches of lots of the fabrics that I had pulled….

I moved to the machine and free-motion stitched them down, using the full-circle darning foot rather than the open toe. This keeps the foot from getting caught under loose edges…..

Then I mixed up a few of my Setacolor paints. Before I show the result, let me tell you about my paint collection. Many years ago (maybe 15 or more) I happened to be in a Michaels store when they were obviously dropping the line of Pebeo & Jacquard paints, and I bought them for 25 to 50 cents per bottle. Needless to say, I stocked up. This is what I still have left after all of these years…..

Most of them are in pretty bad shape, either very thick or almost empty, but I am always impressed with what a little bit of water or a mixer such as white or black can do to revitalize them. Someday I will need to replace them but today is NOT that day.

I mixed up a small pot of blue and another of green and started painting……

The middle stripes were applied with a stiff brush and I think that the paint is a little too thick. The two outside rows (green on right and blue on left) were applied with a makeup sponge and I am much happy with their appearance. I also know that using a sea sponge would change the texture.

I was pleased with the coverage that the paint brought to the 3-D “stuff”, and especially happy with the flannel, burlap and color catcher…..

I don’t see the point to using silk unless I spend some time to ravel the edges and I have just had the idea to maybe cut out some circles and ravel around them. (See…this is why I blog….I get ideas as I write)!!

As I just now looked back at the project that I am emulating, I think that the paints were too thick and I will water them down and try to make it more of a wash rather than heavy paint.

Now I patiently waited for it to dry…..NOT SO MUCH. I laid down paper towels on the paint and used a dry iron!!!

The next step was to try stitching on it and seeing if it would work over the paint and especially over the raised embroidery work. I started with some basic stitching with regular thread…..

Then I tried one of the “buttercups”, made with Tulle and thread……

Probably too much Tulle, but I can adjust that as I go. ALSO, I just realized that I was supposed to use Organza rather than Tulle so that will make a huge difference!!

Final step was to try one of the Daisies. I decided to test my machine out buy using two threads at one time…..

I also slowed Juanita down to the turtle position…..

…..and started making LONG stitches by moving the fabric quickly when the needle was up……

This is certainly not perfect but at least I have an idea that I can accomplish it!!

I enjoyed playing with some threads that I have collected from over the years but never used for quilting purposes……

Finally, I took some red paint and tried doing a little dry brushing on the raised embellishments. I think that I might use this, especially if I put a group of embroidery flowers in one area.

Bottom line….I cant wait to get started on this project!!!!

Ruler Machine Quilting – Day 3

Since I had such good luck working with the straight rulers, today I decided to try out one of the other rulers that I already own. This time it is a Westalee ruler in a flower petal design…..

The first thing that I tried was an all-over fill design that I saw Angela Walters demonstrate. You start by quilting around the design once……

And then, without moving the ruler, you backtrack around a little ways…..

Next you turn the ruler at an angle and repeat the process. After a few minutes, I had an entire section filled with these designs……

Looking at this I realize that I need to add more variety in the angles so that it doesn’t look as much like one long strip.

Speaking of long strips, I tried doing a border design and ended up with this…..

By keeping the ruler completely still, it is so easy to backtrack… can see that I messed up once!!

Next I wanted to try making a “leaf wreath”. When I was watching another video about using one of these rulers, she talked about the hole for the tack…..there’s a hole for a tack???? Oh that is why the ruler set came with 2 tacks!!!

Well look at that!!! By centering this hole over the tack it means that the ruler freely turns in a 360 degree circle!!!

Now for the hilarious part…… in November of last year I was practicing ruler quilting using a charity quilt and I talked about using a tack when working with a circle ruler and showed this photo…..

Notice that the tack is facing down which really worried me because I was afraid that I would scratch my machine. Today I learned that the tack is supposed to be inserted at the back with only the point on the quilt surface!!!! Well that makes a LOT more sense!!!

I started playing with the design with this being my first attempt…..

Not too bad for a first try….just a few sections that I needed to work on.

On about the 4th or 5th attempt, I made a video of the process…..

This has been another fun experiment and I am looking forward to using these new-found skills in a future quilting project!!!

Ruler Quilting Practice

For the last few years I have kept saying that I needed to learn more about using rulers for Free Motion Quilting. When I have done this practice time in the past, I have simply pulled out my rulers and played with them a little and said….well that was fun!!! But I never really LEARNED anything.

I have now purchased a series of rulers from Angela Walters and am watching many of her videos as I excitedly await their arrival. At the gym I watched the video where she talks about using a straight ruler to quilt a spiral pattern in a square. Since I already own a straight ruler, I decided to give this a try today.

I started out by making 6 practice pieces using some low quality cotton fabrics and batting. Then I drew an 8 inch square on one of them……

…..sat down at the machine and started playing!!! The first step was to quilt around the outside of the square and then quilt from the corner to 1/2 inch past the next corner…..

With the first few rounds, I chose to mark where the ruler would fall along the line. In this case the ruler was placed 3/4 of an inch away from the corner. Because of how the ruler foot is built, this means that the needle will fall at the 1/2 inch mark.

I kept working my way around the block and was able to finally stop marking each corner which saved a LOT of time.

This design is really good for practicing because it makes you use the ruler in all of the four orientations…… in front of the needle, behind the needle, to the right of the needle and to the left of the needle……

I was relatively happy with how this first practice block turned out…..

What did I learn from this first block…..

– there are a LOT of lines in an 8 inch square when you space them 1/2 inch apart!!!!

– GO SLOW…. and don’t worry about having to stop and reposition your hands.

– CONCENTRATE!!!! ….or you end up crooked lines, lines at the wrong angles and stitching that goes beyond the line.

Okay….that was fun. Let’s do it again with 1 inch between the lines…..

I went really well until I got well into the center and then I lost concentration and sewed one line wrong……

So here are my errors on the second try……

I am still happy with this first practice piece and I have already learned a lot. AND, I am thinking that I might use this design on one of the next quilts that I have in the queue to quilt.

I think that I will try this a few more times tomorrow and see if I get better with it!!!

Quilting for Charity (and practice)

A little ways back I posted a video about how to spray baste a quilt. As I mention there, it was a charity quilt top that was given to me so that I could practice some quilting.

I normally quilt with a 50 weight thread and have been happy with the results, but when I was at the Houston show last year, I started thinking about trying some heavier threads. I bought three, two 30 wt Aurifil threads……

…..and one 12 wt Superior thread…..

I did a little bit with the rulers but didn’t have much luck with making it look okay (sometimes it is just that way) so I ended up doing most of it freehand. These were both done with the Aurifil……

I did a very SMALL amount of quilting using the 12 wt thread but it kept breaking so I quickly put it aside.

For the border, I turned to an old favorite thread….a 30 wt Variegated Sulky…..

I did not end up spending as much time on this quilt as I had planned but am okay with how it turned out……

I have learned that I REALLY like working with the 30 wt threads but am not sure that I will ever use a 12 wt thread again… least not without a LOT of practice!!!