Monday, February 19, 2018

Quantum Mechanics and Me

I have been reading a fascinating article about nano sized microtubules made of protein that live within our nerve cells.  They are being studied as the possible residence of quantum mechanics particles, which may be the basis of consciousness.  I know...that's a bit deep, but I am thinking that this week my quantum mechanics have taken a vacation.  I have not been sewing.  I have erased my way through pages of tracing paper trying to achieve a viable quilting design.

My sewing room, ironing board and sewing machine are under siege, covered with pencil, eraser, poster board patterns, used and unused tracing paper, a silk liner glove that needs repair and DH's dirty clothes hamper.  A card table fills the only free space in the room.  It is a mess, but when I sit at that table drawing, erasing and ultimately creating designs I am lost in contentment.  In spite of the frustrations, I can still find peace as I temporarily let the world take care of itself while I take care of me.  Those infinitely small particles in my brain are coming back into line as I scribble my way to a design that I think will complement the quilt.

180º view of my mess.  With the design complete I will once again
create order before I begin to sew.
The ideas I have lived with for over a year have not worked out to my satisfaction.  The center of the quilt has many small sections that I will quilt individually because I like their interactive shapes.  The outer reaches of the quilt leave vast spaces for quilting.  I have tried ideas for drawing desert scenes.  I have tried integrating several geometric borders.  Nada.  Now I am back to feathers.  I love feathers and so far they are looking the best to my mind as something I both like and am able to do nicely.

Design, which shows completed ideas as well as some of the trial ideas.
Taking a photo of this I see that I don't like the way the grids cut across the corner.  I have since draped the feathers over the grid so the almost straight line is broken.  I have plenty of time to review and revise as I stitch in the ditch.  This tracing paper will be pinned to my design wall.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time for contemplation to keep those quantum particles under control.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Designing Quilting Motifs

I finished the top!!!  When I got it all together I just slumped.  We have been without sewage disposal for three weeks now.  The septic field has failed.  The pipes have dislocated. As I write we are scheduled to hook into the city system, but the plumbers were supposed to hook us up last Wednesday - no show.  Then Friday - still couldn't do it.  Now it should happen Monday.  We finally let them set us up for three nights in a local hotel.  In some ways it is hard to be creative, but I find that it takes my mind off the presently unsettling vagaries of life.

Update:  As I am getting ready to post this they have just delivered the big digging machine so they must be planning the job today.  YEA!

I have been having fun designing the quilting for the finished top.  It does not lend itself to gorgeous, united quilting motifs like Margaret Solomon Gunn creates.  I am a great admirer of hers, if you haven't figured that out yet.  My quilt is an interlocking mosaic of color with lots of different inner designs to look at.  The more you look, the more you find.....almost an "I Spy" quilt.  I pondered the process of designing while I stitched, and have previewed lots of ideas.  No space for fluffy feathers nor would they complement the design.  I have looked at Pinterest, Google Images, books, and magazines.  These ideas get jumbled and have to be sorted out to maintain some sort of continuity throughout the quilt, and I am doing that with pencil and eraser.  I will quilt this to death.  

The quilt will be about 60 x 60 inches and I couldn't think of any way to manage designing on a full sized piece of paper so I finally printed one quarter of the quilt (all quarters are the same).  I had to break that quarter down into four pieces to print, and then taped them together.  This gave me a 15 inch square mock-up to mess around with.  I covered it with tracing paper and went to work with pencil and eraser.

Tracing paper makes the photo fuzzy.  General ideas in pencil.
(Since I took this photo I have made a lot of changes but you can get the idea of the process.)
TIP:   I love tracing paper.  You can see through it easily.  It is nice to draw on.  Pencil is easily erased when necessary.  You can turn it over to get the reverse pattern.  You can fold it to trace the mirror image of a motif.  You can retrace your lines with pen to show through fabric on a light box for marking said fabric.

Clearly the mock-up above does not deal with the actual sizes I will be quilting.  I am using some of my paper-piecing patterns to work out correct sizes of individual elements.

Actual size designs.  These don't all go together in the same block, but I
was able to determine the size of of the grids and other details.
TIP:  You can use paper clips to hold tracing paper to the pattern paper, but staples are more secure and don't catch on other things or fall off.

The first quilting will be in the ditch.  I will stitch every seam in the ditch before adding decorative elements.  That will take a long time, and I will get very good at it and very tired of it by the time I am done, but it makes the quilt look so nice.  I will then be able to work anywhere I want to without worrying about quilt distortion.  Time to get out to buy batting and backing.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you hours of fun designing and creating.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

It Is The Little Things

It is often the little things that catch the eye and spoil the view or enhance interest.  That happened to my quilt this week. The main focus is a complicated design in an on-point square.  In the middle of each side is a triangle that suggests a hidden square behind the on-point square.  You have seen lots of quilts like that...right?  At the last minute I was looking at the graphic of my design on Illustrator and realized that two lines were "off."  See below in the magenta circle how the turquoise border and the turquoise, pointy piece inside the red border look mismatched.  Intellectually they should be fine as they are unrelated design elements, but my eye was offended.  According to my brain the lines should line up, but they were about 1/2 inch off.

Graphic showing the disconnect!
My first attempt at righting the wrong, was to take the turquoise border off the side triangle.  Then I
inserted a 1/2 inch orange border and put the turquoise outside of it.  Now it is at least the right size.

Narrow orange border inserted.
Next I reapplied the triangle so the turquoise border to lined up the way I wanted it.  Now, that is better, but I am still not happy.  The line is OK, but it looks like an animal took a bite out of a presumed connection.  Hmmmmm!

Turquoise lined up.
How about putting a tiny, turquoise triangle in there?

Cut piece of turquoise set on top for testing my idea.
That little piece of turquoise fills up the barren territory and makes it look like the border (upper turquoise) travels under the red border to become part of the main design.  I don't know if anyone will ever notice it, but it is the kind of quirky idea that tickles my fancy.

TIP:  Take time to look at your work critically as you move along.  Fixing something in the early stages is much easier that having to go back later.

After a couple of  hours I have now carefully ripped a few stitches and inserted four little pieces to my satisfaction.  For the final two sides I will first insert those little triangles before stitching it all together.  Glad I caught it when I did.

Sew some happy seams this week. I wish you no mismatches to contemplate.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Multiple Projects

I am one of those apparently unusual people who does not accumulate UFOs.  I generally like to finish one project before starting another, but am not fanatical about it.  This week I began to tear out the paper from paper piecing.  Thirty-six intricate blocks takes a fair amount of time.  I chose to do it in the evening while watching Amazon Prime movies.  Some of those movies are pretty bad, but they prevent the paper tearing from getting so boring.  It is not fun, like sewing.  I also had to run out to get more black fabric.

This left me with a hole in my days when I usually sew, so I started the portrait of our long deceased collie.  Scroll down a couple of weeks to see my tutorials on the process.  I have been going back and forth between projects, applying borders on the big quilt and finding fault with the dog.  I did the dog with stash fabrics and could have benefitted from a couple of fat quarters from the quilt shop.  Some areas needed a slight value change so I pulled out my acrylic paints.  Most of the bottles are now defunct.

Note to self:  Clean out that box and get rid of dead paint.

I had enough viable bottles to mix a nice, soft blue-gray to darken up some areas as needed.  I love the result.  It softens the harsh line where black and white fabric meet.  It adds some shadow where needed.  I like it so much that I am going to do some more to soften edges (more obvious when you can stand back to look at it).  Thread painting would do the job, but I don't want to quilt this so heavily.  It doesn't need it.  I have read that others have used acrylic paint so why not.  I applied it in a very thin coat, and I don't plan to wash this little quilt.

See the gray on the white next to black?  Not much
but enough.
I am eager to get to quilting it, but will do the background first.  I took a picture of Lady lying in front of a big fan on a hot day.  She looks like she is flying and her fur is being blown around.  I will quilt the flying fur on top of the finished background so it will show up nicely.

TIP:  Be flexible with both time and process.  Take your time testing something new.  I have Tsukineko Inks.  I have Inktense pencils.  I have PaintStix.  Using scrap fabrics I tried them all, but like the result with the acrylic paints the best.  It is subtle.

I will also put a tiny, white dot in her eye, a catchlight.  It will brighten the eye and make it look alive.  In this case only on her right eye.  The left eye is almost hidden and the catchlight would be in the wrong place and look funny.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you many successful projects separately or all together whatever is your style.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January Therapy

We arrived home from the midwest the first week in January and went into some serious funk.  December handled us badly on several fronts:  holiday frenzy, traveling, sewer crisis, four new tires, viruses and extreme temperatures below zero.  I couldn't sew when the house wouldn't get above 66º, but on warmer days I experienced what is meant by "quilting is therapy."  I closed myself up in my sewing room with an audiobook and the sewing machine, and just sewed.  The quilt is going well, but it was to a point where the end of the centerpiece motif was almost done.  The stitching was monotonous.  The bugs had been worked out.  The end was in sight and the sewing machine sang its lovely chorus.  This was what I needed to get my mind off the bigger worries and discomforts for a couple of hours each day.  It is amazing what a little sewing can do to rest your brain and restore your spirit.

It also helps to finally make progress on the quilt.  I have now pulled out most of the paper and am ready for the first border.  It is exciting to start a new phase of any quilt, but especially this one.  I reached this point once before and that is when I decided to start all over again from the beginning.  Soooooo glad that I did!  Putting the blocks all together was challenging as there were many points to match up.  However, with the precision of paper piecing most of them went together easily.

Below is a sneak peak of the main part of the quilt.  Borders, appliqué and quilting still ahead of me.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you some productive therapy sessions.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

More Fusing

I promised to continue sharing my fusing process for creating a dog in fabric so I will get right to it.  All the prep was explained last week (scroll down) so now we start the phase 2 step-wise tutorial.

Step 1:  Iron one of the freezer paper drawings to the ironing board.  I use a portable ironing surface,  18 x 24 inches, for this.  Cover the freezer paper with a silicone ironing sheet that you can see through and secure it with pins or clamps.  You will fuse all fabric pieces to the ironing sheet.

Portable ironing surface, freezer paper drawing, silicone pressing sheet.
Step 2:  Now you will use the other freezer paper drawing as your pattern.  Cut out one piece carefully.  You don't want to cut away wantonly and destroy the other pieces you have so carefully outlined.  I start from the outside and work from there.

Freezer paper drawing
Step 3:  Cut a piece of fusible just a little bigger than your little pattern piece.  I usually cut a rectangle because it is easier to manage than odd shapes.  Iron that fusible to the back of the fabric and cut it out.

Fusible fused to back of fabric.  Placement was determined
by the shading that I wanted.
TIP:  When cutting the fabric be sure to cut it close to the edge of the fusible.  You will be cutting the pattern piece with the right side up and won't be able to see where there is fusible on the back...or not.  If your pattern piece misses some of the fusible it won't fuse.  On the other hand, if you leave any fusible on the back of your fabric you may end up with an unanticipated mess next time you use that fabric.

TIP:  If you are using fusible encased between two pieces of paper you should pull one paper off so it will fuse to the fabric.  Leave the other paper in place for now.

Fused fabric carefully cut away from the rest of the fabric - 
wrong side with fusible up.
Step 4:  Turn the fabric right side up with fusible down, leaving the paper on the back.  Iron the freezer paper piece you cut earlier onto the fabric shiny side down and press it to the fabric.  Cut out the piece leaving a scant 1/16 inch around the outside of the pattern.  This way all the pieces will overlap just enough to hold the whole thing together as you progress.  The joy of this process is that you don't have to worry about the pattern being in reverse.  That drove me crazy when I was taught to do it that way.

Freezer paper pattern piece pressed to right side of fabric that
has fusible on the back.
Step 5:  You will be able to see through the silicone sheet to find where your newly cut piece belongs.  Peel off the paper from the back and the freezer paper pattern, set the fabric in place and iron it down.  Continue until you have created the critter.

TIP:  What if you decide you don't like a piece that you have already fused?  You can heat up that piece and carefully pull it off.  If there is any residue it will be covered by the new piece.  It you want to replace a piece that is already buried by the edges of other pieces, just cut your new piece and fuse it over the old one.  I save all my cut paper pattern pieces in a plastic bag.  Although a nuisance to find, you will have the original paper pattern piece to use again if needed, or retrace from the mylar version of the drawing.

The start of the dog still missing her nose!

Yes, there is some waste, but how many of you consistently avoid waste in quilting?  Unfortunately, it is inherent in the craft.  If I have any sizable pieces of fused fabric I save them for smaller pattern pieces, but there aren't very many nor are they very big.  My method avoids preparing large amounts of fabric ahead of time so less waste.

TIP:  You can find a use for much of your waste.  I save unfused scraps in a trash bag to donate for dog or cat beds.

I have completed the dog and am working on the background by cutting pieces and slipping them under the edge of the dog.  Another way would be to pick up the fused, finished dog from the silicone in one piece (it will hang together if carefully fused) and iron it onto a background.

This project will be put aside for awhile as I return to the major quilt on which I have been working.  My paper piecing paper has arrived.  It is convenient to have the dog on a portable surface that I can set aside until I am ready to return to it.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a lot of sunshine from these winter skies.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Back to Fabric

I'm Home!!  We were in WI for a week and Christmas, and in MN for a week and New Year's Eve.  The family in MN were all virused up, daughter with pneumonia.  My husband brought his own personal virus from home and guess who avoided all of them.  How?  No clue, but I am not complaining about not getting sick!

I did not take my sewing machine because my quilt was in disarray with a nasty surprise.  I made a slight change in the pattern and somehow my block pattern on the computer grew bigger.  It took me a few tries to figure out why the new blocks didn't fit to the old blocks.  Probably pilot error, but the pilot has no idea how the error occurred.  That has now been remedied, but 12 blocks must be redone.   Now that I am home all is stitching up smoothly.  Then I ran out of paper to piece with, and am still waiting for it to arrive.

I did take a new project on our trip because I knew I would be spending a day with one daughter at her weekly Sew-In.  I am doing another dog and have to fuse all the fabric pieces before I need the sewing machine.  Those of you who have followed me for awhile read about creating a fabric rendition of a dog in the summer of 2016.  I had a lot of problems due to the materials used in the class I took.  Well, I am doing another dog, a different dog, and I have developed my own method.  Based on two classes I have taken I am combining techniques which I believe make it much easier and less confusing.  I will share and you can be the judge.

Lea McComas does beautiful, photorealistic paintings in fabric.  Her technique requires a lot of time drawing a pattern according to value and detailed labeling on each piece.  She avoids dark fabric under light fabric.  Her method is very precise and her fabric choices are the "real" colors of the photo from which she starts.  She does mostly people.  See her work here.  She fuses her pieces onto a background and thread paints heavily on her long-arm machine.

Barbara Yates Beasley specializes in animals.  Her animals look like the photo with which she starts, but her fabrics are abstract and fun.  A black dog may be done in blue or multiple colors.  Her method also requires a drawing based on value, but her labeling is less intense.  She teaches you to use double paper fusible, trace the pattern piece in reverse on the back paper.  This had me standing on my head and making many mistakes. She quilts moderately, not thread painting, on her domestic machine.  You can see her work here.

Now for my method. Here is how to prepare a photo to turn it into fabric art.

Step 1: Create a black and white photocopy of the animal photo.  This is to show the values from lightest to darkest.  You can do anything with color, but must have the values right or the creature won't look right.  In a photo editing program you can posterize it to separate 4-5 values.  I don't think I did that with this photo because the dog is pretty much black and white already and the values are clear.

Step 2:  Blow up the black and white photo to the finished size.  I taped together a magnified version, but you can take it to a professional printer to do the job too.  Print an 8 x 10 color version to remind you of color variations.  This dog has a little tan on her so I find the color version a big help.
Lady the Collie (we lost her in 2013)
Step 3:  Fasten the full-size black and white picture to a foam core board with masking tape or office clamps.  Overlay that with a piece of clear mylar.  Using a fine, black Sharpie pen draw around the different values and label each one with a number to define the value.  #1 = lightest to #5 = darkest.  If you make a mistake you can erase with rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or Q-tip.  Redo when dry (quick).  When the drawing is complete remove the photo.

Pattern for fabric pieces (12" x 16").
Step 4:  Secure the mylar drawing to the white side of the foam core board.  Cut two pieces of freezer paper a little larger than the drawing.  Dry iron it shiny side down, pull it up and iron again. This shrinks the paper.  Secure one piece of this freezer paper over the mylar drawing and trace it with the Sharpie.  You can easily see the lines and numbers through the paper.

Step 5:  Repeat with the other piece of freezer paper.  You can trace this one with either pen or pencil.  You will be cutting it apart.  I know this is a lot of tracing, but it goes pretty fast.

(Stay tuned for the next steps next week)

Now you are ready to gather some fabric.  By all means check your stash.  All your pieces are going to be smallish so you can use up odds and ends.  It works nicely to add some extra color with prints.  For my black dog I threw in a few blue pieces and some black and brown prints.  They add sparkle.  A couple of inches of shiny, dark gold was more than enough to add a glow to brown eyes.  White-on-whites are great for white fur.  For a white dog, light blue can be used for shadow.

You also need fusible material.  My choice is Soft Fuse (I buy it by the roll), which has paper on only one side.  Beasley uses Steam-a-Seam II, paper on both sides, but that gummed up my machine and made a mess when I went to do the quilting.  That may be a function of my own machine, but I will not use it again.  Maybe your machine will handle it.  No clue.

Work on the prep this week and I will lead you through the rest of the process next week.

Sew or fuse some happy seams this week.  I wish you fun time preparing to quilt an animal.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Resize a Sweatshirt

I will not be blogging until January.  We all need a break!  I will be enjoying the Christmas festivities with two of my daughters and their families...and their dogs.

I have only one sewing project that I hope to get done.  I got a really pretty sweatshirt for Christmas last year.  As soon as I tried it on I knew it was a little too small.  I like my sweatshirts roomy enough to wear a long sleeved T-shirt underneath on cold winter days.  After one round with the washing machine I knew I could not wear it.  What to do?  I really like the sweatshsirt.  My daughter had the answer because she solved the same problem with a fleece jacket she had purchased.

First stop:  Joanne's where I picked up a yard of heavy, cotton knit in a suitable color.

TIP:  Be sure to check which way has the most stretch so it works with the sweatshirt.  One direction is more stretchy than the other.  Same with fleece.  Make your cuts thoughtfully.

My plan is as follows:

1.  Cut away the underarm seam through the waist ribbing to 2 inches above the sleeve cuff leaving the cuff ribbing intact.

2.  Two to three inches above the cuff cut the sleeve all the way across its width and insert 1 inch of the new fabric, thus lengthening the sleeve by that inch.

3.  Insert a 2 inch strip of new fabric into the long underarm seam, tapering above the cuff.  This will increase the width around the sweatshirt to accommodate Christmas dinner and holiday baking.  There will be an interruption in the ribbing at the hipline, but for me that will be a plus.  If I don't like that part I may be able to find some ribbing that will work or taper the seam and restitch the ribbing seam.  Not that great an issue.  I'll wait to see how it works before making a final decision.

Sweatshirt and my canine supervisor, Dixie.
 Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to get your mending done.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reading or Sewing?

I love my sewing magazines.  They are a source of information, ideas and colorful pictures of other peoples' art.  I get three that lean mostly toward art quilting where I get to see what the supremely talented sewers are creating.  They are my creative stimulation.  I also get some other magazines that provide intellectual stimulation. "Archeology" has many designs from ancient cultures as will as great articles about them.  Mosaics are just quilts in stone.   Love them all.

Unfortunately I don't have room to store them and I have found that when I keep the whole magazine I never know where to find the article for which I am looking.  Sometimes I read a magazine and keep it for two or three months, then go through it again.  Ultimately they are all destined for the recycling bin, but not before I cannibalize them, pulling out articles that I believe I will at least look at again.  I staple an article together in one corner and slip it into a plastic sleeve that goes into a three ring binder.  They are readily available when I am in need of instruction or inspiration.

I also keep a library of books, but rarely buy a new one.  I try to read through a potentially helpful or interesting-sounding book from the library before I buy it.  I have been very glad I did on several occasions when the title was tempting, but the contents did not live up its promise.  Actually, I have donated quite a few of mine to the local library for their book sale.  Some techniques no longer interest me or have gone out of date with the arrival of new methods and tools.

TIP:  There is no point cluttering up your space with things you never use anymore, especially when you work in limited space.

What did we do without the Internet?  There is so much out there to admire and learn.  I have paid for a few Craftsy classes and am not averse to viewing some of the many YouTube productions.  I have learned a lot, incorporated some and discarded others.

A favorite, which I have watched often without cluttering up my sewing room.
So, which do you prefer:  sewing or reading?  For me it is no contest.  I love to read for pleasure and education.  I love to sew just about anything.  I learned to do both in first grade.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the opportunity to read about something new to you.