Thursday, 27 June 2013

I can make mistakes.

And I often do.
The block at the bottom of the photo is finished. Thank heavens I noticed when I only have one leaf to unpick that two of the stems coming out of the basket in the top of the photo disappear into nothingness. It could have been so much worse. Imagine if I found it when it was finished? Gulp.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

How I stitch the applique in place.

This is an extreme close up of the blocks I am working on. I use invisible thread. I use any of the extra fine ones on little cones, I find the ones on the spools are too tightly spun onto the spools and come off the spool under tension. This makes them spring out of the route down to the needle on my machine. Some machines are less sensitive. I use a heavy cotton thread in the bobbin and a Size 60/8 Schmetz Microtex needle. You can get away with a 70//10 if your bobbin thread is thick enough. The idea is for the hole made by the needle to be so small that none of the bobbin thread is pulled through to the top of the work. For the same reason I loosen the top tension as much as I can and tighten the bobbin tension as well.  Contrary to what you  would expect this very fine thread does not slide easily through the tension disks so the top tension normally needs to be lowered quite a long way down whatever stitch you are using.

This shape has been prepared with glue folding over the edges like I demonstrated in an earlier post. You can see where the snips into the convex curves have left that edge in those places quite vulnerable.

I am showing the method using a coloured cotton thread so you can see it clearly. You need to use an open toed foot so you can fully see where you stitch. Take your work under the foot and bring the needle down and up just where you wish to start stitching.

Hold onto the top thread and gently pull the bobbin thread through the work. Drop your foot. You are now ready to start stitching but you need to hold onto those threads for the first few stitches. Lower your foot and do 3 or 4 stitches in the same place by reducing your stitch length down to zero. Then put it back to the length you want to work with.

The stitch I use is the blanket or buttonhole stitch. That is one stitch forward, one to the left, one stitch forward and so on. You might not have an identical stitch on your machine but you probably have something similar. At the very least, all machines made in the last 30 years or so have a blind hem stitch, which is 3 or 4 stitches forward, one to the left, then 3 or 4 stitches forward and so on. One my machine for the blanket/buttonhole stitch I have the stitch width just below 1 and the length just below two. If you are using the blind hem stitch you will have to reduce your stitch down very very low (the downside of this stitch is the very tiny stitches are a little more visible than one larger one).  So that is the setting MOST of the time.

Because I am stitching in cotton so you can see the stitch I have doubled the width in these samples. It takes a little bit of practice to get down to a very low width, so start with a wider one and reduce it little by little as you get more confident.

Turn the fabric gently as you go round curves but that will not get you right the way round and edge like this. If you have the 'needle down' option on your machine, now is the time to use it. If you don't have the 'needle down' option, try tapping the bit of the foot controller closest to you. Some machines enable you to 'tap' the needle down like this. If neither is an option, then use your left hand to hold the fabric in place whilst you turn the needle down with your right hand on the wheel. Then lift your foot and turn the fabric a little. Lower it, do a few more stitches, steering with your left hand, then needle down, lift the foot again and turn the fabric. You need to do this often. This isn't fast stitching. Faster than by hand but not a lot.
This is my first and middle finger helping with the steering.

When you do the concave bits, increase the width and shorten the length of stitching just for the area where you have snipped the fabric on the other side.

The tighter the curve, the more you have to stop and lift the foot to turn the fabric. On very very sharp bends it might even mean doing it every stitch until you are past the tight curve.
From the back you can see when I move from one area of stitching to the next, I don't cut the threads unless the distance is more than 4" or 5". When I get to the new stitching, I still do the few stitches in the same place to hold the start and then when I have stitched away from the start I cut the top thread very close to the top with curved nail scissors flat against the surface.
Practice on some heart shapes whilst you get the 'feel' for the stitch.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Esther Aliu is starting a new Block of the Month

Go to her blog here to find out more about it.
Firstly be aware this is almost all applique and it is a seriously big quilt and it is an 18 month project. If you are still up for it, you will end up with an heirloom to be proud of. It will be a challenge to say the least.
That's it folks.

Monday, 17 June 2013

How I do applique tutorial

I start by drawing out the complete design onto freezer paper. Freezer paper is nice and fine so if your design is in black ink you should be able to trace right through. If you want to make the freezer paper larger than it comes off the roll then lay two pieces side by side, both face down on your ironing board and overlap them about 3/4". Iron that overlap down, let it cool and peel it off your ironing board.  I then iron the complete design to another piece of freezer paper (if there is a join, then stagger it). This way with two thicknesses it is nice and stiff to work against the edge.
Then cut out your shapes and put little marks on the edges which will go under another piece as you don't want these folded under. Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper to the wrong side of your fabric. I tend to do this whilst my fabric is in one piece then cut it out roughly as in the photo above.

Then cut neatly arround the outside using about a 1/4" but this might be wider or narrower depending on the fabric. Snip two or three times into the concave curves just a thread or two away from the paper (if you have trouble remembering which is concave and which is convex, then just think a cave is something you can go in to).

Run glue stick over the edge. Some people like to run it on the freezer paper edge, I prefer it to go onto the fabric, do whichever suits you after you have tried both ways. I use the blunt end of a bodkin, a wooden stirring stick from Starbucks or the pointy end of embroidery scissors to smooth out the  convex curves. Try sticking down in the middle of the convex curve first, then halfway along, then halfway between again until you have a nice smooth edge. Be very gentle when pulling over those snipped bits on the concave edges.

Use a glue stick to position the piece onto the background fabric. If there is an area where another piece will have to go under, I leave that part glue free until the next piece is ready.

If I have too much fabric left on the edge which has not been glued under, now is the time to snip off the excess.

Now I can glue the stem in position and cover up those raw edges.

 Then you can build up the layers. Once the whole block is prepared stitch by machine or hand whichever you prefer.

Soak the completed block in warm water for about five minutes, them squish and squeeze it a few times to loosen the freezer paper and rinse out the glue. Cut out carefully behind each block and remove the freezer paper. It should very satisfyingly come out in one piece. Some times it doesn't.... The reasons for this can be your iron was too hot, in which case you have a problem! Or because you have stitched over it where another piece goes over or under. In this case use a pair of tweezers to pull it out. Don't fret too much over a tiny piece which will not play nicely. Only you will know there is a sliver of freezer paper there I promise you. If the fabric dries whilst you are doing this, damp it down again. It is much easier whilst the paper is wet. Once the paper has been removed,  iron the block upside down on a towel until it is dry. Get the background fabric where it has been cut to lie flat whilst you are ironing it dry.

The block on the left is the one in my last blog post completely stitched down, the one on the right is waiting to be stitched down, it is just glued in place.

I go to Quilts UK most years. It is held at the Three Counties Showground. Yesterday we went to the Three Counties Show. I thought I knew my way round the showground but I lost my bearings over and over again. This is a huge show covering the entire place and the fields the other side of the road become the car parks. Luckily I had a traders pass to a much closer carpark. I fell in love with the Alpacas. I don't know if it is there lovely soft large eyes, their furry legs, their long fringes, or the way they move their ears and necks in unison with each other, but they seem to be the most fabulous creature on the planet.

Monday, 10 June 2013

One block done, three to go

They are not fast but I am happy how it is turning out.
Here's a close up.
It is done with invisible thread with a buttonhole stitch, one stitch forward, one to the side. I increase the stitch length slightly except on tight corners when I reduce it considerably, I set the stitch width at 1 or below.

The blue lines will wash out. If you want to know which marking pen I use, go to this post.
It has taken quite some time from this drawing I made in July last year....

We've had some wonderful weather and have flowers and sun. I stopped the car on my way to the supermarket to take these photos for you.  I stood on the bridge to take all three photos. Can you see the castle on the hill in the last one? It is magical round here.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

I know I haven't posted for ages.

It's June, summer is here.
My sister died in April. I haven't been able to even type those words here until now. She had been ill for so long and nearly died so many times that I think I had got it into my head she would outlive me even though she was 15 years older.
I'll fill this post with photos.