Friday, December 9, 2011

My first block completed

When I saw the lovely designs of Erin Russek's My Tweets, I thought it would be a good project to "learn" to applique. I ordered the centre block- the other 12 blocks are free; more or less around the 15 th of every month- and used Erin's method of preparing each piece before the time.

I did not like this method. I think it is a good method for this design but it just not fit the way I like to work. First I did not like the long preparation. Then my iron is not suitable and when I used my small travelling iron it broke. I think I also had my starch mix to concentrated and when a point form around the edge it was very difficult to even it out. I also realised that if I want to carry on with more intricate applique that do not have the flowing lines, I should learn to do needle turn applique. Over the years I have collected many applique books. I first study them.

Jane Townswick make complicated layered applique and I learned a lot. I was still searching for the ultimate experience though.(I think I may be able to use her techniques after some more experience at applique)

After seeing The Thimble lady on the Quilt show I ordered her book and starter applique kit. This book was most helpful. Liuxin Newman taught me that once you have folded the seam allowance in- you do not need to keep it that way. By pulling a little bit on the seam allowance with the tip of your needle you can sculpt the edge to produce a nicely rounded shape. I still did not know how to fit the applique piece to the background though. From experience I know that one might be able to fit the applique in the lines drawn on the background where you begin to applique- but it shift as you go along. I wanted a mark on my applique piece so that I can see what must be folded in- I did not just want to eyeball it. Here is a lot of valuable info- perhaps if I am a bit more experienced I will be able to apply more of her suggestions.

I have admired Sandra Leichner's quilt Tea with Miss D and when I saw her book I wanted to get hold of it. At first I was a bit dissapointed. I think her editors took out a lot of vital information from the book. (She said no; they want the emphasis on the embroidery.) For instance she list thick table cloth type of plastic in her supplies- but do not explain how to use it. Then I found her blog. On her blog she describe many things in detail- even the make of the fabrics she is using, the needle she prefer and background fabrics. This was what I was looking for. I also realize how I could enhance and individualize my applique blocks.

I have only completed the first block. The flower at the bottom was my first attempt with her method and it does not look so good. I might remove and replace it later.

Some of the leaves also did not turn out so nice. The reason is the fullness of the seam allowance underneath and the difficulty to distribute the seam allowance evenly. With Sandra's help (I studied her blog till 2009) I have learned to use pins and section the seam. The first leaves was not so successful but I am getting better as I move along.

My center block still need some flowers. They have individual petals and I could not stand "preparing" them with starch over the template. I am working on block 2 now but will go back to the center block when I have completed this block as well. I think it will give me the practice I will need to get the dimpled petals right.

Two of the most useful tips I also read in Sandra's book. The one is to cut the seam allowance of the seam already worked away to make space for the seam allowance at the tip of a leave. The other good advice I got from her, but also from Jane Townswick is to cut petals and leaves (and any applique shape you can) so that most of the edges are on the bias. It is much easier to get a bias edge to behave than a straight or crosswise grain edge.

I found a new love in applique. At this stage I need to concentrate on every stitch but it creates a peacefulness and quietness in my soul. At the end of an applique session I feel whole and at peace with myself. As I gain more confidence and see that I am really in charge and the fabric is "listening" to me and behave on my instruction I know that this is something that I will keep on doing!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An 8 day Course

Since Monday I have been teaching 5 ladies of the Clover Mama Africa project. They are all experience sewers and have done several courses. Today the first 2 quilt tops (2 m X 2 m- about 6 ft square) was completed.

In this week they have practiced several techniques making basic units. We started with checkerboards. Then a strip pieced checkerboard border was made.

They also start hand piecing the basket blocks.

Piecing multiple Half Square Triangles and trimming them to siz, gave hassle free results for an outer border. In making 6 Ribbons star variations, the basic units of Square in a Square and Flying Geese was made to complete these blocks. The next day they made Ohio Star variation blocks, with Quarter Square triangles as main technique.

Antionette and Hettie came from Durbanville to show the interesting technique to apply circles- these blocks were used in the  corners of the quilt.

The center block was tackled last. All of them made a perfect 8 point star- applying the mantra of "keeping the  part that will be in the center"on your left hand when you press the two diamond units and also the 4 diamond units. They then made a "cross". The four corner units with their set in seams were constructed. These units were then set- in with the "cross" unit

Yesterday they start sewing on the borders and blocks. Today the basket blocks was completed and the handles appliqued by machine.

 At the end of the day we have basted one top in the basting frame. A second top was completed and we hang it on the wall to admire. Tomorrow the other three will be completed and basted.

Tomorrow they will also start with ditch quilting to anchor the seams, prevent shifting of the layers and stabilize the quilt. Once this is done we can quilt the borders and bind the quilt. They will practice some free motion quilting to be able to fill in some details in their quilts when they go home.

For a teacher it is a relieve when students have successfully completed their assignments and I am very proud of the high standard of their workmanship! Congratulations to all of you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pencil Rolls completed

I had a new plan for my pencil rolls. This time I cut the strips for the part that will keep the pencil at 1 and 1/2 inch (Actually 4 cm- I work in decimals- 25 units to an inch). For the bottom part I sewed the same 2,5 cm (1inch) strips but this time I worked on the Industrial Bernina and moved the needle all the way to the right(gives a 5 mm seam allowance- giving me 2 mm more on each of this.

Then I got the great idea to embroider the outside of the roll (which was a real waste of time- because one never see it) but I also embroidered the flap and that look nice. If I knew or realized that one will only see the embroidery on the flap, I would have taken more time to select the best looking designs for this. I used a coarsely woven thick fabric for the outside and unfortunately many of the embroidery stitches sink into the fabric and was not that visible. This is when one either select  another fabric or sew on a water soluble (the plastic like) stabilizer. I did neither so the embroidery only look so-so.

My plan was to sew the pieced part and the outside fabric together- right sides facing and then turn the right sides out giving a self faced result. Hereby I would eliminate sewing bindings on. Unfortunately the thick backing fabric was again my downfall. Also if you want to do that- you should not end your strip with a place for a pencil- the pencil pop out and do not look neat. You should add a strip of fabric first.

Well I thought with the thick fabric the best would just be to use bindings. So that was what I did. I gave quite a bit of thought on how to close this and decided on two pieces of elastic- one on the top and one at the bottom.

So I completed my 5 pencil cases and got and extra one plus the faulty one- I must still decide if I will unpick it and complete it with bindings, use it like it is and hate it, or throw it away.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Harvest time

We started harvesting on Monday. I was out yesterday to a fun class and forgot to take the photo of the ripe wheat- the view from my front porch. When I reach home I saw the camp was already harvested- well there is always next year- except next year that camp will be for grazing, so then it will be in 2013.

This is the little coloured window on the side walls of the porch- this is very typical of a Victorian era home.

I have completed my crazy patches that will go individually on the bags. I am a real novice on crazy piecing. I did it by machine and did the seam treatments with machine embroidery stitches. I have made a study of Crazy Patch blogs and have discovered another world! Check out Sharonb's website if you want tons of information.

Machine stitches fail to give the texture and the complexity that hand stitches can give. I can also see that this is a great way to be adventurous with beads and adding laces and trims. I got the beading video of Lyric Kinard- Bead it like you mean it and could apply a lot of what I learned in this DVD on my crazy patches.

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.
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