Monday, October 5, 2009

Snowmen for All Seasons & Scissors Mishap

Along with the other projects I have going, I decided to start on some new machine embroideries. I recently finished embroidering all 56 of the Anita Goodesign leaves for my Autumn Leaf quilt. Now I needed a new project to start on so I can keep my machines running. Got to keep them working to make them worth keeping around. Can't just have them sitting there idle after investing so much into getting them in the first place. You've got to love the hum of a fine-tuned piece of machinery! LOL! So I started on the new project - Anita Goodesign's Snowmen for All Seasons. Here you see the October and November snowmen made up as the larger version appliques. The designs come in two applique sizes and one fully embroidered version. I thought, "Hey, let's go big this time!" I'm planning on putting them all together as a scrappy quilt once all the months are completed. It should be a cute quilt.

Just for kicks, here's a photo of the machine I stitched these up with. It's my Pfaff Creative Vision. It has been running well since I took it in to have some attention from the dealership - a little tweaking and the newest update. There's a slight squeak as the carriage moves the embroidery frame back and forth (somewhat annoying) but otherwise is running great. Nice to have the machines humming along while I sew on something else or am busy cutting fabric.

As I spin my chair around to the right I have my Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 set up to do a second embroidery or regular sewing depending upon my mood and needs at the time. Sometimes I get them both embroidering away and spend most of my time changing out threads when a color change comes up. Other times when I want a more relaxed pace I'll sit there piecing my quilt squares or sewing on another project. This has been one of my favorite machines to sew and embroider with for the past 8-9 years. I still am pretty attached to it even though I have the newer Pfaff. It's a good workhorse - very dependable over the years. I love that it can sew through anything and do a good job every time.

I had been visiting Susan's blog some time ago when she posed the question, "How do you use up left over yarns after knitting or crocheting?" I commented that they can be used to add texture and interest when couched down on an art quilt or other sewing project. Then I mentioned that I would do some playing around with some scraps to show what I meant. I went on to invite those who wanted to, to come check out my couching progress on my blog. Unfortunately I did not have time make time to get this done in the time-span I said I would. Today I took some time to dig out the samples and take photos of some couching I did once for a class I taught some years ago. These are photos of that sampler project we made for that class. This one is loosely based on a plaid effect with criss-crossing lines of stitches.

Here's a closer look at the couching of the yarns and ribbons. Couching just means stitching down the yarn and ribbon either with a stitch that is small in order to be hidden next to or underneath so the yarn or ribbon is the predominant feature. Or stitched with decorative stitches (by hand or machine - obviously I'm a machine type of gal) to showcase the stitches along with the yarn or ribbon. When you add on, or build up, the area next to or near the yarn/ribbon with decorative stitches we called that 'stitch stacking' or 'stitch building'. Stitch Stacking is a technique I learned while working at J&R Vacuum and Sewing. I'm not sure when of where it originated from, but the Pfaff Educators taught it and it was often used by Jenny Haskins who has utilized 'stitch stacking' for years in her machine stitched and embroidered quilts. Jenny spent years promoting Pfaff products for VSM and headed up their organization in Australia. I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny and her son, Simon, several times at Pfaff Conventions over the years. We also hosted her at seminars at the J&R Sewing dealership where I used to work several times before she quit making so many personal appearances. She's quite a lively gal. And she has so much experience to share in the sewing and embroidery field. Now she has trained representatives doing most of the traveling for her and teaching her techniques. One of these educators, Margaret Moorehead, is a former Pfaff Educator now doing Jenny Schools and Training Seminars. She is also a wonderful person with a tremendous amount of sewing and embroidery knowledge to share.

Here's another small sampler quiltlet I made for use in that couching techniques class. The stitches were from my Designer 1, but any stitches you might have on your machine can be used for stitch stacking. It's fun to have lots and lots of stitches to select from. But even if you don't have a machine with very many stitches you can still use the ones you have. You'll be able to get different looks from your stitches either building up several next to one another - touching or overlapping one another - or by embellishing with different colors of threads, yarns and ribbons.

Here again, is a closer look at the previous little art quilt. I like the flowing lines of the curved lines as they mirror each other on either side of the central axis line. I tend to go for the curving organic lines rather than straight, evenly spaced geometric lines.

While stitching up my second Snowmen for All Seasons November block my little double curved embroidery scissors literally broke into two pieces while I was cutting with them. I was a bit taken aback - totally unexpected. I never had this happen to me before. It's not like I was abusing the scissors either! You can see what's left of the tiny little screw that was holding the two halves together. It was the screw that actually broke in half. The other half is still stuck inside the scissor. If I could find a way to get that to back out I might be able to find a tiny replacement screw. It's pretty little. I took it back to the dealership since I know they have some small screws, but it wasn't able to be fixed. I might try taking it to a jeweler. In the meantime I went ahead and bought another double curved scissors.

I like having this type of little scissors next to each of my sewing/embroidery machines to snip threads and get into those tiny little places. These are a nice, sharp scissors even cutting all the way to the tip. Not every scissor can actually do that. This afternoon I got to thinking that I must have some more little scissors tucked into my sewing accessory trays or in some drawers. I felt I just had to have more on hand somewhere. So I got to looking around my Sewing Studio and uncovered all these little scissors. I guess I wouldn't have had to buy a new pair of scissors the other day - I've got plenty. It helps to be organized. It alieviates the purchasing of duplicate tools and accessories. On the bright side though, now I know I'm prepared for every tiny scissor emergency need that arises. LOL!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More Dog Blocks Fused

Pugsley blockI did some work on my Dazzling Dogs quilt blocks last Monday when I went to sew with my friend. I've been slow to get them posted, but here they are. I only got to two of them what with selecting fabrics, fusing the fusible web, cutting and positioning the pieces to form the image - plus all the talking and visiting we had to do!

These blocks are all made from scrap fabrics from my stash. I particularly like the combinations in these two blocks. This one is named Pugsley. He's got a friendly little butterfly fluttering near his right ear.

Ted blockThis one is named Ted. His little propellor spins atop a multi-colored golden hat. What a bunch of characters these fun dogs make. It's going to be fun seeing them with more detail. I've got three more blocks to go with fusing, then it's on to the stitching to add details.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stitching Details

The name of this little guy i T.C.I spent the day sewing with a friend on Monday. I worked on some stitching and detail work for a couple of appliques. Here's a photo of T.C. one of the little Dazzling Dogs for a quilt I've been working on. I meant to do more than just plain satin stitching. I didn't add the extra detail on the collar until the very last when I realized I forgot to jazz it up with other decorative stitches. I guess we got to talking too much. I was a bit distracted since my friend's grand-daughter was there visiting. She was sewing with us, too. It made for a lively, albeit disjointed, kind of day with a youngster in on the activities.

T.C. gets some details stitched.Here is a close-up of the block. I finished up another applique project that I'm keeping mum about for now. Then I went on to finish only this one other block. Considering the extra activities and distractions taking place with an active third-grader participating in sewing (and bouncing around), I'd say it was a productive day.

I plan on adding some bling with heat-set crystals on the glasses of these dogs as well as adding buttons to the shirts and collars, plus any other extras I can think of to embellish these blocks for added interest and humor. I like the way it is coming together so far. I'll keep working away on the blocks a bit at a time until they are finished. The dogs are so cute with their funky glasses and quirky outfits.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lazy Sunday

I've been enjoying my lazy Sunday. All I can say is my internal clock must be messed up because I have been staying up late (with insomnia) and getting up late (what with the staying up late) the last few days. Don't know what's up with that. But it's okay since it's the weekend I'm just taking it easy and going with the flow of things. Tomorrow is different. I'm planning on setting my alarm clock to get up on time. I've got my regular Sew With a Friend Monday coming up tomorrow. That's always a fun day to get together, chat and sew in the morning. Then we do lunch. Then more sewing, chatting and fun in the afternoon. It makes for a great day.

I've got five more blocks to go with my Dazzling Dogs quilt. That's on the agenda for tomorrow. I might even work on a few more blocks tonight. I think I'll be doing some of the blanket stitching and detail top-stitching on the blocks tomorrow. I still need to decide on color choices for the sashing strips then get those cut and pieced.

Stitch An Art Quilt banner update image.Hey how do you like the new banner? I thought it was time for a change. This one coincides with the quilt I'm working on now so it is much more appropriate. I like to keep updating those banners from time-to-time to keep things fresh. It's so much more fun to see something new once in awhile. This banner is from my Garcia block. I photoshopped the eyes in place since I don't have the stitching and buttons sewn on it yet. I'm still pretty new to using photoshop. This turned out good for use as a banner.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movin' Along Little Doggies . . . Yeehaw!

I found my pumpkin scented candle from last fall.While I was sewing today I re-discovered my pumpkin scented candle from last fall. Mmmmn! I have it lit right now. Yummy. This is just the thing to get me looking forward to fall . . . and also thinking about other fall things like: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappucino, Pumpkin pies, and going out to Papa's Pumpkin Patch for a nice fall ride on the motorcycle down by the river. Aaah! such pleasant memories to think about . . . and look forward to as well!

Obviously if I was in my Sewing Studio I must have been sewing, right? Well, yes and no. I was 'prepping to sew' this evening. I got two more of my Dazzling Dogs blocks fused and ready to applique, but I didn't actually do any sewing. I did get as far as booting up my Pfaff Creative Vision and look through some designs I've got stored on my USB memory stick. Then I thought I'd just relax and cut out the pieces for the appliques and not try to keep an embroidery going at the same time. Sometimes that's a way of getting two things done at the same time, but it means I do a little less kicking back to relax and enjoy it as much. Sometimes I even have more than one embroidery machine going at a time when I get the Designer 1 and the Pfaff 7570s going. That means I hardly get a chance to sit down - running from machine to machine changing threads and such to keep them all going at once. Yep, tonight was a mello night.

MajorHere's 'Major' as completed so far. You have to use your imagination quite a bit at this point since none of the detail work is done on these yet. Once the blanket stitching, satin stitching and detail stitches are in place it will look more like a cute little doggie face. Try to imagine button eyes and silly grins on these canines.

Need help visualizing them? Here's a link to Amy Bradley's website to peek at the finished blocks.

Dan the DaneThis one is 'Dan the Dane'. He had some teeny, tiny pieces to cut around the ears and hat. Being so small makes it more of a challenge to cut and get them fused without the pieces moving out of place. The tiny pieces might pose a challenge when it comes to the stitching of these blocks, too. Lots of little pieces to stitch around.

I'm planning on doing all the stitching with my sewing machine. I want to vary the stitches using a variety of the decorative stitches from the machine to embellish it a bit. Five more blocks left to fuse before I start with the stitching.

Mmmmn! that candle smells good. Maybe I'll mix in a little baking time tomorrow along with my plans for sewing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Doggie Quilt - Progess Goes Slowly

'T.C.'This is the applique quilt I have been working on with my friend, Deb, on our Monday Sewing Days ever since I injured my finger. So far I have all the dog block patterns drawn onto the fusible web in pencil. These five blocks are the ones I have coordinated fabric colors and fused into place so far.

I am limiting myself to a miscellaneous collection of fabric and an assorted pile of fabric scraps. This should help to limit color choices a bit. I want a scrappy, somewhat country/cabin look to the quilt, but I don't want it so scrappy that every piece on it is from a different line of fabric. My fabric stash is pretty large. Thus I felt it necessary to limit the color choices. It should help the overall quilt be more consistent and unified. This block, 'T.C.' is the first one I put together. Naturally it's because we have two chihuahuas and I think they are such cute little dogs.

FrankieHere is Frankie. Notice how all the dogs have glasses. I think that's a cute detail that Amy Bradley (the quilt designer) came up with as a design device. And each pair of glasses is unique to the dog. What a clever idea. I recently located her blog on the web as well as her website where some of her other patterns are shown. Once there at her site I was snooping around through some of the pages. There is a page showing other quilter's Dazzling Dog quilts from this same pattern. Perhaps when I finish mine I will email a photo and have mine displayed along side these others.

GarciaI have chosen a batik fabric for the backgrounds of most of my blocks. There are a couple that are prints that coordinate. I'm going for the country/cabin look and trying to stay with more nature inspired prints and colors on my blocks. I usually stay away from the brights as I think of them more for children's quilts. I guess I'm not that much into brights. That theme wouldn't fit so much into my house at this point. Who knows, that could change over time if I ever had any grand kids some day. The theme on this doggie quilt should go well with my vintage travel trailer once I get one. I'll do a sewing/cabin theme to my trailer when I get it.

PrissyAll right! Here's Prissy, a cute, blinged out poodle. The pattern shows bling from crystals on her glasses. I'm definitely doing bling on these dogs when called for. I've got heat-set crystals here at the house ready and waiting to be used on a project. Hopefully I'll be able to spread the love around with the crystals and work them into most of the blocks. I was just thinking that might not perpetuate the country/cabin look, but nah . . . older style, traditional country music singers were always blinged out with crystals and rhinestone. It should fit right in!

SkipperThe last dog (for now) is Skipper. This canine was shown on the pattern with a lighter color, white fur coat. I happened to pick up the tan colors and decided to go with it. I'm not sure just yet what I think about that since it isn't very true to this breed of dog, but it's not really a realistic quilt so doesn't really need to be that true to life. I'm exercising my artistic license to change dog coat color when I chose. Oh, and about that license . . . I once read in a book that every artist should actually make up their own copy of an 'artistic license' for those moments of doubt when we wonder if we are making the right choices. It seems kind of strange, but that kind of "permission" to work with that kind of freedom of expression is a good thing. Maybe that is something I should actually do . . . make up an 'artistic license'. I could be an authentic, card-carrying artist!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Accidents Happen

Ouch! I have a boo-boo.I got bit by my Rattlesnake quilt. More precisely, by the rotary cutter as I was trimming my paper-piecing on my Rattlesnake quilt. I cut off half the fingernail and a bit of the tip of my right middle finger. Thankfully I was with a friend at the time rather than sewing by myself. She was able to help me drop everything and get to the walk-in clinic. Man, something like that really shakes a person up. At the clinic I was told I shouldn't have too much of a scar visible once the nail grows back over that area. There certainly are a lot of nerves that run through your fingers. I was prescribed some pain medication. Thankfully that takes the edge off, but I've managed to ding it a few times already. I don't like taking too much of the pain killer because it makes me loopy, nauseous and sleepy. However, I've been taking it enough to ease some of the sting so it's not so bad. I get the heebee jeebees just thinking about it. (Whoa, Shudder!)

So the quilt making is being put on hold for a bit. I'll have to find something else I can do while waiting for this to heal up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quilting Progress

21 paper-pieced football shapes completed so far.I'm continuing my work on the Rattlesnake Quilt. So far I'm a bit more than half way through with sewing the football shaped paper-piecing. I've been giving some thought to how I'll be finishing this quilt. It would be better for me to complete it as a larger quilt than the original calls for. I've got some ideas for adding borders and extra squares to make it larger. It's looking good so far. I can't wait to get it finished.

Testing the layout of the block shapes.One thing I've found that makes it easier when paper piecing is to use an open toe foot on my sewing machine. I can see the printed pattern line for stitching much better with the open toe foot. This is a definite asset. Some of my blocks are not precisely sewn on the lines, but close enough for me.

Here's a photo of a sample layout. Just testing . . . of course I plan on adding some bright colors to form the rest. Then it should 'pop' instead of the dull, flat look here. I really like the blacks and whites. Adding bright colors should look wonderful.

Okay, enough chatter for now, back to work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Black & White Rattlesnake Quilt

My black and white Rattlesnake quilt progress so far.Well I took some time to snap a few photos from my sewing studio last night. Here's a picture to show the progress on my Rattlesnake quilt so far. These football shaped paper pieced segments are all various prints from my stash of black and white fabrics. It's kind of relaxing to sit and sew as it is a fairly simple paper piecing pattern. I haven't hardly made a dent into the stack of B&W fabric. While further sorting some stuff a couple days ago I ran across some more to add to the pile.

I love the graphic quality black and white fabrics present. It reminds me of my younger days when I first went to university in Illinois taking Graphic Art and Fine Art classes. In one of my classes we had a series of assignments dealing with black and white pen and ink drawings. The assignment was to look around in nature and find elements that could be used as inspiration, then translate that into a visual piece using black ink on white drawing board. I loved that assignment as there is so much in nature to visually inspire the work. Talk about reminiscing, it makes me want to go take a look through the few things I saved from that time period to see if I still have anything from that assignment. It would be fun to see them again. I wonder if they would actually look like anything I'm 'remembering' now. Memories can be so fluid and changing at times; it probably looks nothing like what I'm imagining in my head.

Some of the fabrics in the photo come off looking more 'gray' than black or white. This is an illusion with some of the fabrics as they are really a mix of the two separate colors. However I did include a few pieces that do have some gray tones in them. I've also got a few fat quarters and half yard cuts of fabric that have cream color with black rather than white. I'm good with adding the gray at this time, but undecided about including the cream and black fabric. I was thinking about making up a few football shapes using them and throw them in with the mix, but have not decided if it's worth it yet. Even the gray has a tendancy to mute the overall look rather than have that graphic pop of the two distinct and opposite colors.

I think another reason I like the black and white prints is because I have always liked comic strips since I was a kid. They were often done up in just black and white. The drawing styles and graphic elements are what gave them character and charm. I have always been fascinated seeing the drawing styles of comic book and graphic novel artists. Speaking of that I was browsing through some blogs and ran across a talented comic artist's work on Loobylu. There is currently a link to Lucy Knisley's work that shows her charming cartoon characters and a bit about her life. You will need to scroll down a bit to find the entry. It's in Loobylu's post dated May 23rd. Here's another link to Lucy Knisley's website.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Paper Piecing Black & White

Lilac bush blooming in front yard.I love the smell of lilacs when they start to bloom. This photo was taken about a week and a half ago. Sadly, most all of the blossoms have fallen to the ground following a couple days of rain and wind going through the area. There are a few blossoms left on our lilac bushes and also some bushes around the neighborhood that happened to bloom after the rain. It's fun to take the dogs walking and catch a whiff of lilacs on the breeze. That's one of the perks of summer for me - the scent of lilacs on the breeze.

I've started work on another quilt. This one is a paper pieced quilt pattern I am making up with black and white fabrics. I plan on adding bright, vivid pops of color in the corners when it finally goes together. It will take a while to do the paper piecing so I have time to go through my fabric stash to review what I have on hand. I hadn't planned on purchasing more fabric since I have so much on hand at this time. But this black and white quilt seems to call for some pops of color. At the very least I'll throw in a variety of reds. I know I have plenty of them on hand. But what I had in mind was a collection of other colors like blue and greens. I'll wait till the piecing is nearly done before I make the final decision.

Karen Stone's Rattlesnake Quilt pattern.The pattern is called 'Rattlesnake' by Karen Stone. It consists of a football shape made up of triangles. I have collected a variety of black and white fabrics. I decided it was finally time to do something with them. This will be a great use for these prints.

The pattern was written for use with flannel fabrics, but I chose not to go that way. I think the cottons will be so much nicer to work with, less bulky at the corners. Besides, I've got way more selection of cottons than I do flannels.

I'll work on getting some photos taken and posted this week to share my progress. This is the quilt I've been taking along to do some sewing at a friend's house. We sit and chat as we sew. Once you get into the swing of matching the shape to fit the paper piecing areas it starts to become a 'no-brainer' sewing project. It takes a little thinking at first with paper piecing since you are sewing from the back side to follow the stitching lines on the paper, but after a few pieces are sewn into place your brain gets adjusted to working from the back side of the piece. That fact alone is usually what throws newbies on paper piecing. If you catch onto the working from the back technique you'll do great and love to paper piece. If not, you'll hate it when flipping the fabric proves you sewed wrong. It's one of those love it or hate it kind of projects. I like the fact you can make intricate designs very accurately by just sewing on the lines.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Talk About Losing Focus!

Wow! It's been the whole first quarter of this year that's whizzed on by. And I have yet to contribute anything to this new blog I created. That's about to change. I will be refocusing my efforts to work on my art more. Art Quilts is one area I'd like to direct some of that attention.

So . . . I'm going to pick up right where I left off. This first month back in the swing of things will be a look at Redwork Quilts Revisited -- definitely revisited!