Sunday, October 23, 2011

Om Kleurvol te lewe

Here is my quilt "Om kleurvol te lewe" (To live colourful). For me it is important that everyday should be meaningful and that I never wish for the time to past- to live in the moment.

I love circle and square embroidery designs- if you are a long time reader of my blog, you would have notice this. I was just in love with these designs of "Addicted to Stitches" and I bought them from Oregon Patchworks.

This blocks from Janet Sansom went well with the Floral and Lace blocks. Originally I planned to make a type of Trip Around the World quilt. Then I saw a design in the Quilter's Newsletter magazine and I thought I could use a variation of this and incorporate this big blocks.

When I pieced the Star blocks I realized that I have a 10 cm (4 inch) square in the middle. So on this I embroidered a variety of designs, many from Molly Mine designs.

This quilt was completed in April 2011 and entered in the South African National Quilt Festival in July in Stellenbosch. Here is some more of the small blocks.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What will you do with it?

On Saturday I attended a workshop with Margaret le Roux. It was at a wonderful venue where we were surrounded by mountains. In our kit was 6 bags . In every bag was a black felt square. Some beads and embroidery threads in some bags, charms and ribbons, a silk flower and organza butterfly in another.

 We completed a square every hour to produce this lovely creations.

I enjoyed the day tremendously and show off my creations to everyone who want to look. The question they all ask was : "What will you do with it?" Margaret showed us how she display her "twinchies" in a type of "printers" tray/frame. She used them in a chatelaine and in special cards. So luckily I could tell them what one could do with it.

What will I do with it? I will look at it and enjoy it. I will be inspired by it. I will learn about the possibilities that are available in a few beads, charms, a piece of wool. I will dream about how I can apply what I have learned in my Quilts. I will look for opportunities to add some beads and other treasures to my quilts. I will investigate the possibilities to add to my quilts  more layers of interesting stuff. I will be able to mesmerize and intrigue the viewers of my quilts. I will be able to add complexity to my quilts.

I am charmed with my charms.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To steam or not to steam

My friend Antionette and I have very different opinions. I always  press with steam and she do not apply steam to her patched seams. Judy Martin only press her blocks once they are completed and just finger press her seams to prevent distortion.

Am I brave or stupid? I am very much aware that "ironing", pressing with an iron and steam pressing can all distort seams. I have seen how finger pressing can stretch the bias. The fact is if you have folds or creases in your seam you will not be able to combine seams accurately. On the back where you stitch it might look as if you are going through the intersection correctly, but if the seam of the bottom patches is not open and flat you will not get a perfect match. Steam and correct pressing is the solution to this problem.

Well Antionette's sewing is perfect and Judy Martin's sewing (on a small mechanical machine) is impressive. Both of them have solved the problem of getting pleats in the seam allowance in their own way. My solution to the problem is to steam press the seam into obedience. I am quite aware of the risks and therefore I am very careful when I press and apply steam.

One of the benefits of strip piecing and chain piecing is that the continuous seam lend stability to the patches. When I am going to use the whole piece of fabric I starch it before I cut it. Otherwise I spray raw starch mixed with water on the patches when I am ready to press the seams. I will lay the sewn strips or chain pieced units on the sewing board. (With the open sides towards me. )

I will not clip the chains before I press. The thread chain help to keep the sewn seam straight (This is very important if you sew triangles to prevent the bias seam to curl up at the corners. After I sprayed with starch I will first press the patches while they are on top of each other. Once it is dry I will lift the top patch up but still at a angle towards me. (I do not open it away from me- that is the iron's job.)

 Now with the side of the iron, I push the top patch over the seam allowance. If you have lift the top patch to far up, the seam allowance will flip on the bottom side, towards you. If you lift it just enough to slide the iron in, the seam allowance will stay away from you and you would not need to iron all the patches on the back as well.(To make sure that the seam allowance is in one direction only.) Now with the iron on the whole seam, I activate the steam. (I have a Battistella  where I control the steam) This secure the seam in this position, unlike just pressing that do not give this permanency.
Only now will I snip the thread chain.

I do not think that correct pressing enjoy enough prominency. It is very important to make it part of any piecing lessons. The direction that seams are pressed in is another aspect that should enjoy attention.
Myrna Giesbrecht taught a class on pressing of seams in a Quilt University class. Unfortunately she do not teach there any longer. She had pressing plans for every block. Although this is taking it a bit far- it is good to think about the directions of the seams as well.

(I press my seam allowances to one side. If I say that the seam must be open- I mean that there should not be a pleat in the seam.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Machine Embroidery Secrets

At Secrets of Embroidery they have a treasure hunt. If you have an embroidery module for your machine (even if you do not use it) you need to go over there and see the wonderful things the designers have come up with. For $1 one can buy beautiful design sets.

Let me introduce you to the World of Machine embroidery. Sewing machines with embroidery modules or dedicated embroidery machines can sew out wonderful designs. There is a few limitations: The digitized file (a computer file where instructions is "wrote") must be in the language the machine understand to carry out the specific orders. One need to buy the design files in the correct format/language or have a program that convert it. Bernina use ART files. The other limitation is the size of the hoop the specific machine can handle. If you only have a small hoop you have to re-hoop a different area and have different files for each area.

Digitizers buy the Artwork from  places that specialize in providing suitable designs. Otherwise they draw designs themselves or source it from other places. Any designs that they use have the restrictions that the copyright holder require. If you buy the design from a digitizer they keep the copyright of the digitized file and you have certain rights depending on the digitizer. Some say it is only for your personal use, some give you the right to embroider their designs on things you want to sell- often with some restrictions.

Just like the longarm machine provide many stay-at-home mothers an income, to digitize designs can provide an income. I am not always so sure about it being a good income- it take  long to digitise a design well and unfortunately many people do not respect the right of the copyright holders and think it is all right to share the embroidered files with others. Unfortunately this has led to some digitizers giving this up as a source of income and a big loss in the embroidery world to be without their talents.

I love to buy sets of designs where one can use the different designs of the set in a quilt and you know that they will go well together. I use the embroidery like I would use large scale prints. There is some problems with using embroidery in a quilt. Embroidery show the best against a white background. A brightly coloured design will also look good an a black background. Any other colour background must be carefully considered as well as the combination of thread and thread colours.

If the embroidery take centre stage I do not want to put it on a white background- specially if the design is dainty.  All the white look like a Bull's eye. I also want the design to be in a specific place in the pieced design and spill over in specific areas to provide a integrated appaerance. To achieve this I have to digitize the piecing- then I can insert a embroidery file and place it on the "pieced" block where I want it.

It is always a good idea to test the design out to make sure your decisions are correct. When test sewing a design one also need to consider which stabilizer to use. Designs with a high stitch density will need more support and a thicker tear away stabilizer. Delicate fabrics  need  on going support and an iron on stabilizer or cut away stabilizer might be the types one consider. I do not like to have "paper" in my quilts. Sharon Schamber and Ricky Tims sell on their website a stabilizer they use in applique that become soft when washed. I cannot get it in South Africa and it is costly to import. I like to use a cotton batting to support my stitches specially when I will complete it in a Quilt-as-you-go fashion like my quilt Russian inspiration.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Essential things in my studio

I am sure we can all make a list of the most important things in our studio. Here is my list:

Design Wall
My quilts are planned but are then worked out and changed on the design wall. For me this is the most important thing in my studio. In fact I have more than one design wall. I have a smaller transportable design wall that can fold open and that I have next to a cupboard if I have more than one project going. I can also place it on my easel to have it at a better height. I have  black felt on some of my cupboards to display small projects in process.
Made in a class with Elise Nel- on my cupboard design wall

Cutting table
I have a lovely sturdy cutting table that I put on wheels at the beginning of the year to get it on a more comfortable height. My cutting table have been in different configurations during the years but the most ideal for me is when it stand as an island. The only drawback of the table is that it is to big. So part of it becomes a place to stack things. These stacks then sometimes spill over to my cutting surface.

Iron and Ironing board
I am a "pressing with steam" quilter. Therefore I have a powerful iron that can press any block to obedience. A normal ironing board is also to narrow for me. I have made a wider board that I first placed on my ironing board. In my old sewing room was a freezer cabinet. I had the ironing board on this and then saw how ideal this height is. I made an even wider ironing board for pressing my big quilts. (this is me- now it is to big and also become a stacking place so that only half of it is available for use.

Organisational system
My studio is in serious need of "Good Housekeeping". Fortunately I have the systems to make it possible to have a near ideal situation. I have deep shelves for storing my fabric. I had my cupboards custom built. I requested glass doors so that I can see and be inspired by my fabrics. I had to choose between protecting my fabrics against light and being available for me to enjoy. At least it is protected against dust. The cupboards with black felt are used to store quilt backing fabrics, batting and half finished projects.

My threads are organized in two drawer cabinets on wheels that I had custom made. I had a lot of thread for machine quilting but since I start machine embroidery this collection became very big. I have a drawer for each colour.

I have a lot of shelves on the walls not used for the cupboards or design wall. At the moment they are very unneat and disorganized so I will start there tomorrow to create more order. Half completed projects are stored in boxes on the very top shelf. They are well marked with a colour photo of what is inside.

Work surface
I have experience that one should not have more work space than you really need- otherwise it just became a place to stack things. I have several sewing machines and I do different things. I have an L shaped table for machine quilting. This will also change in future. I used my industrial Bernina for this. Now that I have a BSR I want to use that. I have to design and have a sturdy table built for the heavy Bernina 830 so that the machine can be lower than the table top- I need the sewing area on the same level as the surrounding tables. I also need to be able to lift the machine on the table top when I use it for machine embroidery.

My Artista 160 is in a cabinet and I use this for piecing. I also have an over locker and smaller Bernina's that I sometimes use on a separate table. I use it seldom and it is now buried under fabric- so major organization will be needed.

What have I left out.
I did not name my machines under a separate heading- my machines are an extension of me. If you wish, I will add it in the number one position. My studio is in a separate building 15 yard from my back door. I love the fact that it is a "sanctuary" like Cindy said. I can be there concentrating 100 % without disturbances.

Two years ago I asked my husband if I can have the whole room. (His half was just a storing space.) It is about 6 yard by 6 yard. Originally I planned to have my Bernina frame in the room as well- but luckily it was to big to fit in. The room is even to small for me without it! There was a brown, good quality carpet in the room. It was only clean right after it was vacuumed and it always looked terrible. I have replaced it with a underfloor heated, tile floor. The building is old and had a wooden ceiling. A lot of dust came through the ceiling in the room. So I added a second white ceiling to solve this problem and to reflect the light better. I have three windows in the room that provide natural light. I also have good fluorescent lighting. For the summer I have a air conditioner. It get so hot with us- I should actually have added this to my list of essential things.

I know I am very fortunate to have a room of my own. I do appreciate it every day. Although I am almost daily in my sewing room my quilting activities isn't limited to this room. The Bernina frame is in part of my very big sitting/dining room behind a cupboard.

I have found many years ago that computers and sewing do not go well together. The papers are either in the way of my sewing or the fabric cover the computer. I have a bookcase in my bedroom with many quilt books. I also have four more bookcases in various parts of the house. My chair in the sitting room is next to a good "spotlight" lamp for my hand sewing.

I have found with my applique that I need to work on a table. I have now cleared a table in our "office " part near the computer and in front of a window. I hope I will enjoy working here and not get the papers and fabric mixed up.

So give me your list?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I could have saved myself a lot of trouble

I have been working all day- to achieve nothing! I wanted to make a coloured pencil roll to keep 12 coloured pencil and 12 coloured Koki pens. I saw a wonderful tutorial about a year ago where  the blogger used coloured strips. I thought this a wonderful idea to correctly place the pencil back and to easily see what colour is missing.

I remembered that the strips was either an inch with seam allowances included or excluded. I thought I saw this tutorial on Wanda's site and went through all her blogs of the last two years (That was very interesting) but I could not find it. I made a small test- if I made a more accurate test I would have know to added the seam allowance to the inch. But unfortunately!!! I need 5 of this rolls for 5 ladies that will take a 8 day long class with me. I had to iron the 24 fabrics and then stacked them so that I could cut 8 layers at a time. Rather than to cut only one strip and test my plan- I cut 4 strips.
Isn't the colours wonderful?
Luckily I only sewed one set of 24 strips. To sew such small strips together was quite a challenge- there is little to hold onto. I cut this piece out and proceed to make a roll. I can get the pencil in if  I put the sharp side in first- but it is very stiff and the Coki- pen refused to go in.

Well I now did what I should have done-google pencil roll! not only did I found the correct answer, but in this blog I found a solution to my problem. Thanks Cassie!

I once again have respect for people who can make many of these things. I hate the imperfections one get when the final trimming is not neat. To get good results one must take your time and work carefully. I can do it once- but will now make sure I do it 5 times. I am so glad I found a solution and do not have to dump all the strips.

At least I have quilted my blue piece- so the day was not completely wasted.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This is a challenge

Can I blog everyday and still have something meaningful to say? The blogtoberfestival hosted by Tinnie girl   for the month of October put this challenge to all bloggers. Well the saying is: If you have done something for 30 days it become a habit. I do not think I plan to make it a habit- it take to long for me to formulate a meaningful blog post in English, my second language. My reason for blogging is not to keep a day to day diary of what I have done for the day. My aim is basically to record my quilts- those that I make and those that is in the process of being made.

I also like to express some of my ideas on my blog. In blogland for me, everyone is equal- if we show or "teach" something it does not mean that we think we are the only authority on the subject? For me it is about sharing how I do things. If some one can learn something from it or just be inspired to try another method- that is what it is about. I have learned and have been inspired by many blogs the last two years.

My intention was to take a photograph of the view from my front porch every week. I wanted to document the changing of the seasons. Unfortunately when I thought of taking the photograph it was windy or raining outside. Now the wheat are turning colour already. We are praying for another bit of rain. Some rain now will make a huge difference to harvest. The price of wheat is very low and just cover production cost. A higher yield will make all the difference to our farming operation. Many workers are dependant on us so it is very important to have the best harvest possible.

This was while reorganizing
I plan to blog about my studio this month- yes I have said studio. I have accept the fact that I am an Artist. It does not make me "better" or an authority- it just explain why I take my quilting so seriously. (A writer may write, even though he does not get published and as quilt artist I may make quilts even though I do not try to sell them.)

I will also give a hand piecing tutorial and hand piecers who want to work along with me can also read this blog and this blog.

The fact that I did not blog about my hand applique project- the My Tweet blocks from Erin Russek, does not mean that I quit the project. I was studying all my applique books and ordered some more. I am now an expert on all the different methods.(Not to do them- but to describe them.) I will blog about this and would like some views on your preferred methods.

I will not neglect showing my progress on my projects. I would also like to add more blocks that I have pieced and embroidered in the hoop. This block is a Castle Keep variation with an embroidery design by Ina Stoltz.
The piecing was digitised by me-I inserted Ina's embroidery to fit the "Patchwork
I am looking forward to a month of blogging. I have also start an early morning walk. Actually my husband and I planned to walk every morning- and hopefully in 30 days this will become a habit. (I have walked everyday about 3 years ago but had to stop due to a problem with my foot. It is solved and I need to get into this daily routine.) Hope you will follow my blog and share your thoughts by commenting as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I hate Squiggles

I hate squiggles when it is used as an allover design on a pieced quilt. They do nothing for me! I do not like the big irregular puffiness that destroy the straight piecing lines and let them all look crooked. The irregular texture do not invite me to touch the quilt and my eye isn't invited to explore the design of the quilt any further. I have stood in front of quilts at shows swearing at the long arm quilter who have destroyed another beautiful quilt.

I feel squiggles should be small and used to flatten the background so that the design can really stand out. Squiggles with loops stitched  in different directions, reflect the light in different directions to give a dull appearance, that do not distract the viewers attention from the actual show pieces. When used in this way squiggles is still a favorite pattern for me. I do not need 365 different background patterns. I am satisfied to have a few background patterns that I can choose from. A background pattern should never take center stage. It should play the supportive role that accentuate the beautiful and elegant quilt designs or the striking pieced design. It should not destroy the story the applique motifs are telling, but help them to do it better.

Quilting embroidery designs present some difficulties. Embroidery can stand on it's own when it is used in a tablecloth, as table runner or doilies. When incorporated in a quilt, unquilted areas can look very "disturbing". Quilting lines distorted unquilted areas and distract attention from their beauty. One must either not quilt embroidery designs at all, or very carefully quilt it so that the quilting do not distract from the embroidered design. When the embroidery is a small square, ditch quilting in the sewing lines around it might be the safer option. Once you start to quilt the embroidery-as in blocks that is bigger than 5-6 inches one must consider the options.

In this Redwork block I only follow the red outlines trying to create texture without drawing the attention away from the embroidery. I quilted it from the outside and was reminded why one should quilt from the middle out. A lot of the fullness was pushed into the middle and I saw it just in time to rescue the situation by quilting around the middle circle. This was not enough and I had to follow the curvy red lines to flatten this section a bit more. I echoed the outside and was wondering afterwards if I should not have left that part unquilted.

The problem is that an amount of puffiness was created between the outside edge of the embroidery and the ditch quilting line. Some distortion was forming there that made the further quilting necessary. This problem could be avoided if I had cut the embroidery block smaller with less "white" around the design. This might have looked as if the embroidery was squashed into the "patchwork". For me the extra white was necessary to make sure that the focus was on the embroidery.

I skipped the ditch quilting in this heart embroidery, because I placed the embroidery on the batting before I add the corner triangles, adding them in a quilt-as-you-piece fashion. I only added the backing once the block was sewn and thought that ditch stitching was unnecessary. I just outline quilted the block. This outline was sewn with the walking foot and I did not move the needle position. The outline was about 9 mm (3/8 inch) from the piecing line. This width and the feather design I quilted in the triangles distorted this area.

This was corrected by adding a ditch quilting line in the seam.

Incorrect quilting is distracting and can spoil the stunning aspects of a quilt to the extend that it is not appreciated. It is necessary to pay attention to everything one do, to provide you the beautiful results you try to achieve.

Some one was asking me what do I do with all the things I embroidered. My quilts I do finish one or another time (I have already completed more than 200 quilts- so I know I can do this even though it might take a number of years before it is finished.) When I have a specific project for my embroidery I also work towards "completion". I do have to admit though that I have a lot of embroidered blocks with no plan. Although I enjoy just looking at them I thought maybe I should do something about it so that others can also enjoy it. The two Redwork embroideries was pieced to form a pillow top. I planned from the start that the heart embroidery will be used as a pillow, so I just quilted it as well.

My birds, appliqued with a blanket stitch by machine, was also quilted and a cover for the box for my hand piecing project was made. I just stapled the green fabric to the sides of the box.
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