Sunday, January 31, 2016

All Better Now

Both my health and my Phoenix are better now.  I missed five days of sewing, but was productive in other, less intense creative pursuits. See my coat of arms.  Somehow sitting at the computer working with Adobe Illustrator was more energy efficient than wrestling a quilt through the sewing machine, but I am back on track now.  I have 3/4 of the bird attached to the quilt now.

Wings sewn down with thread painting.
It takes a lot of thread to cover the rather thick edges.  Remember the bird has its own fabric, batting and backing and those thick edges have to be covered up with thread painting.  The total comes to 4-5 layers of fabric, 2 layers of stabilizer, and 2 layers of batting.  For definition and stabilization of the interior feathers I outlined with dark red thread and a straight, free-motion stitch.  Elsewhere I free motion with a zig-zag stitch.  It took a bit of practice to learn to aim it right, but it is a great way to do bird feathers.

The only problem that arose was frequent thread breaking.  I am using Isacord thread and figured a #12/80 needle should be good because needle size is determined by thread size.   However, since there are so many layers to go through I changed to a #14/90 needle and it works much better.  Needle holes are not an issue because there is so much thread being laid down.

TIP:  If one thing doesn't work, get creative and try something else.  My bird would be dead if I hadn't done that.  It has taken a long time to re-do, but so worth it.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Success is Good!

Today's post is a quick one to report on progress of the Phoenix bird.  I am thread painting it onto the quilted background, and it is a raging success.  I am so pleased.  It is tedious as I have to change thread color fairly often and must be careful to cover edges without stitching too far away.  I find that after two hours I tend to get careless so I usually stop.  If I don't quit I end up reverse sewing. Since the bird already has batting under it, he sits on top of the background, which also has batting, instead of blending into it.  I like that bit of realism even though his story is a myth.

 I am also fighting an insidious virus with the only symptom being lethargy and fatigue - grrrrrrr!  I think we don't appreciate the joys of high energy until we are laid out by a lowly microbe.  So not much sewing this week...or writing!

Sew a happy seam this week.

Lake Overlook


Monday, January 18, 2016

Slow Progress is still Progress

The title is what I feel about my Phoenix quilt.  I finished the quilt base.  The finished bird had been cut from the original quilt when I saw I would have to do it over so it has thread painting on top, white batting in the middle and black backing on the back.  The problem is that the white batting won't be completely hidden when I sew the bird down to the quilt base.  Completely unacceptable!  I pondered the problem for three months as I was quilting the base, aka background, and decided that I would color the edges with Inktense pencils.

Awful white batting shows at the edges

TIP:  Got a problem?  Ponder, think, lay awake at night, talk to others.  Give it time and you will figure out what to do.  Try out some ideas.  Sometimes you may decide to throw it out, but I find that happens very rarely in my sewing room.  I did cut the bird out of the first quilt, but I saved the background pieces and used them as testers along the way.

Oh, major tedium to paint all those edges.  I figured it would take the rest of my life...not literally.  I put up a card table and got out all the equipment, started an audio book, and set to work.  I took a reasonably sharp pencil of the appropriate color, dipped it into fabric medium and painted over the edges where the batting shows with the dampened pencil.  Fantastic!  It looks wonderful and I am soooooo happy.  There are some cut threads, which was unavoidable, and the black backing shows a bit of fraying, but all that will be covered as I thread paint the bird to the background.  As I went along I used a hair dryer to heat-set the pencil paint to make it permanent, and to prevent my rubbing color onto the top of the piece as I worked.  It took about 4.5 hours, which is a pretty short lifetime.  Next, I put the bird between two silicone sheets and ironed it from the front and from the back for more heat setting.

Edges painted

TIP:  Anything you do in life has its times of tedium.  What can I say?  Suck it up and dive in.  Pretty soon it will be done and you will wonder why you dreaded it.

I noticed some water soluble thread that I had used for basting months ago so I sprayed water on it to get rid of it.  Three days now I have done the water treatment, but bits of the thread still show.  It is getting better, but I know now that the bird does not bleed color so I will be able to give the finished quilt a good soak when it is all done and ready to block.  The wash-away thread should disappear, but if not a Micron pen will hide it.

I was not able to work on the quilt while the bird was wet, so I started drawing out some ideas for a whole cloth quilt.  This was very relaxing, and though I am not yet completely happy with it, I can let it sit and come back to it later with new eyes.

TIP:  I find that letting ideas percolate for awhile leads to a better finished product.  I rarely rush into a new project, and it is fun to know that something is ready when the current project is complete.

Now I have three projects ready to start and many more in my brain.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Quilting Friendlies and a Portrait

Quilting Friendlies can be found wherever quilts are being sewn, quilted or shown.  The ones I have met are so congenial and accepting.  I was in WI for Christmas where my daughter is a professional longarm quilter and quilt appraiser.  She took me to a couple of her sewing groups for sessions of sewing and socializing.  These ladies were all so friendly and accepting of me, a stranger.  Everyone is interested in others' projects and helpful when needed.  Of course we all have one common interest, which helps, and the variety of inspiring, creative artistry is endless within such a group.

I did not take my Phoenix bird with me, which was a mistake, but did take the portrait that I had designed and was ready to start.  It is a small project so was perfect to transport.  It started out great, but gradually devolved into a practice project.  Below is a small crop of what I did.

Black Belt
I am generally content with the overall technique and learned a lot about the sewing as I went, but discovered numerous problems, and am not happy with the end result.  My thread colors are really bad - way too red for Asian skin.  The ear is too defined, so it needs to be softened.  The shadow side of his face (not shown in this crop) turned out to be wayyyyyy too dark and wayyyyyy too red.  The eye is OK as the white part of it is really white, but doesn't show properly in the photo.  Some problems could have been solved, but the dark shadow on the other side of the face is awful.  The hair I love - it is perfect, but I will start over with new thread colors for the skin.

TIP:  Don't get too discouraged when a new technique doesn't work out right.  Sit down and figure out where you went wrong.  If you find you don't like working that technique, that is a positive too. It is OK to say, "forget it" like I did with landscape quilting!  If you enjoy doing it and are happy with some of it, keep plugging.  Each project will be better as you become more competent.

I had a great blog-cation, but it is nice to be home and set up to sew in my own space. My sewing room is now cleared of all the stuff that was transported back to WI and MN and feels almost spacious.

Sew a happy seam this week.