Saturday, July 31, 2010

Setting Sail to the New World (Please pardon the shameless self promotion)

Thank you everyone for the good wishes and congratulations on our new endeavor - New World Quilt Company (NWQC).   Please pardon me hijacking my blog for shameless self-promotion.  But, I have received so many inquiries that I felt it was important to share with everyone what NWQC is all about and what we will be offering in the near future.  
We are hoping to have several original quilt patterns published and posted for sale by the end of the year.  All patterns include detailed instructions for BOTH hand and machine applique.
Currently, we have the first of the Aloha Collection patterns, Enchantment Under the Sea, posted for sale.  Future Hawaiian-style patterns will be published as part of this collection.

The next set of patterns will introduce the Tropical Botanical Collection.  The Tropical Botanicals patterns are realistic applique designs that depict the details of plant specimens similar to botanical illustrations.  These are a bit more challenging and are better suited to needle artist looking to stretch to the next level.  Here's a sneak peak at what's in the works.  Can you tell which were stitched by hand and which were stitched by machine?
Yes, the Gardenia above is machine appliqued!   The bougainvillea, Angel's Trumpet, and Hibiscus are all hand appliqued. 

 All blocks are marked and prepped waiting for me add the embroidery details.

And, many more on the drawing board!

Stay tuned for details of the third collection coming this Fall, Tropical Folk Art Collection!

There are a few hard-to-find notions that I find indispensable for my favorite machine quilting, machine applique, and template-free needle-turn applique techniques.  I encourage all of you to please support your local brick and mortar quilt shops and look for these notions there first.  However, if they do not carry these notions, you will be able to find then on the NWQC Online Store.
Here are a few of my favorites!
The sharpest, thinest blade embroidery scissors I ever used are made by KAI.  I lost my KAI scissors shortly after 911 to airline security.  They are impossible to find so I just moved on to a more expensive brand.  A few years ago I purchased a pair of inexpensive Omnigrid scissor for cutting paper and fell in love with the quality.  They had all the great characteristics of my old pair of KAI scissors and they soon replaced the expensive embroidery scissor in my applique basket.  Then one day I noticed that KAI was stamped on the blade!  That's why I loved them so much!!  My favorite scissors came back home to me!!!

My preferred hand applique preparation technique is the Template Free method.  This technique hinges on  basting the applique fabric to the background fabric with a thick needle and a thick thread to score the turn line. Size 8 Sharp needles do the trick!

My favorite applique needle is a Roxanne Size 12 Sharp.  It's one of the few needles that I cannot bend.  Plus the eye is always burr free so I don't have issues with my thread shredding.

Not everyone is a thimble person.  But if you are, I really like this hybrid metal/rubber thimble.  It's got the strength of a metal thimble, but the gripping, no slip ability of a rubber thimble.  Plus dimples to really hold the needle in place!

Awesome machine applique requires a quality, invisible nylon thread that really disappears!  SewArt thread is my favorite because it's very pliable and non-reflective.   The fact that it's inexpensive is a bonus!

For all machine work, a pair of quality thread snips is essential. Snip-Eze has incredibly sharp, thin blades with just the right amount of curve.  I can get in and trim as closely as I need to while my work is still in the machine, with needle down, and then just keep right on sewing. 

There are a few other notions available online.  Plus we will soon be carrying the large spools (1000m) of YLI #100 Silk thread for machine quilting.
I hope I have answered all your questions.  Again, I apologize for the infomercial and I promise to go back to my tutorial-style blogs with my next entry.
Until then, 
Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's a New World

Wow!  It's been an few weeks and I have lots to share.  Where to start?  First, the workshop I am teaching for my guild next month.  Several readers and members of my guild have asked to see the Freeform Feather Workshop samples.  I have also received several questions regarding the differences between cotton, wool, and silk batting.  Here are the class samples using the various type of batting that I recommend.  The photo at the top of my blog is silk dupion fabric, quilted using Tuscany wool batting and 100 weight YLI silk thread.  Below are a few more class samples.  I added captions to describe the materials I used. Notice that the feathers stitched with wool batting are the fullest with the least amount of wrinkles.  That's why wool batting is my favorite. 

Commercial cotton fabric quilted using Tuscany silk batting and YLI 100 weight silk thread.

Commercial cotton fabric quilted using Tuscany wool batting and YLI 100 weight silk thread.

  Silk dupion fabric and YLI silk thread but using Tuscany silk batting.

Silk dupion fabric and YLI silk thread but using Tuscany wool batting.

Simplest feather - Silk dupion fabric and YLI silk thread but using Tuscany wool batting.

A few Pros and Cons based on my experience:

  • Wool batting is more expensive than cotton batting.  Silk batting is even more expensive. Definite CON for wool and silk.
  • Wool batting fluffs up to fill unquilted spaces to give a trapunto effect without all the extra work of trapunto.  My favorite PRO for wool.
  • Cotton batting lays nice and flat so it's easy to mark quilting designs even after the quilt is layered.  Both silk and wool batting are too fluffy to allow you to accurately mark a layered quilt. Definite cotton PRO.
  • Wool batting can be compressed very tightly so it's very easy to roll and maneuver a full size quilt in a domestic sewing machine.  Silk batting is even easier to compress.  Silk and wool PRO.
  • Silk batting drapes like fabric.  A definite PRO for clothing and wearable art projects.
  • Cotton batting can be heavy.  Wool batting is very lightweight.  Silk batting is light as a feather.  Can be PRO or CON depending on the application.

Secondly, I would like to share that I have officially published my first applique pattern.
"Enchantment Under the Sea" is a Hawaiian-style pattern that finishes 40 inches square and features Seahorses, Dolphins, Starfish, Seaweed, and Coral.  The packet includes a full size pattern, a 6 page traditional Hawaiian hand applique instruction booklet, and a 4 page bonus booklet that explains how to convert ANY Hawaiian style applique pattern from hand applique to machine applique without using any fusible or adhesive products.

I'm also making available copies of my "Freeform Feather Workbook" that I wrote as a companion for next month's workshop.  The booklet includes basic instructions on how to draw a feather and 20 plus feather designs to fill several different shapes (circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, etc.).

The pattern and workbook are available on the shopping cart page of my new, still in progress, website;  Because I have many original designs that I hope to also make available in the near future, my husband and I decided to start this small company dedicated to publishing my quilt patterns.  Our website is still under construction.  However, at your request we rushed the shopping cart page so that it is now available to take your online order for either Enchantment Under the Sea or the Freeform Feather Workbook.

To all of you that requested these items - I hope you are not disappointed and enjoy your pattern and workbook!

Until next time...

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fanciful, Free Motion, Freeform Feather Fun

The second Saturday in August I will be teaching a Freeform Feather Workshop for my guild, Ocean Waves.  I began preparing for the class by pulling examples of quilted feather designs that I stitched freeform (or freehand).  As I studied these quilts I began to write my notes.  The notes expanded into a handout.  The next thing I know the handout became a 50 page workbook.  I am a huge fan of quilted feathers.  They are so beautiful, and once you get the hang of if, so easy to stitch it's impossible to not fall in love with them.

Feathers are made up of three parts, the Base of the Spine, the Spine, and the Individual Feathers.

There are endless variations of Spines.

The Individual Feathers set the tone for the design.

Practice drawing feathers.  It's an easy way to try out design ideas and it teaches your muscles the "feather motion".  Eventually, all you will need to mark is a guide for the Spine, and maybe the outer boundaries. 
When you are ready to commit thread to fabric, your choice of materials is critical to your success.  Machine quilting is unlike other quilt making techniques in that skill cannot overcome inferior materials.  Select the best quality thread, fabric, and batting that you can afford.  For example, investing in Tuscany Wool batting gives feathers a stuffed (trapunto) effect that cannot be achieved with another, less expensive batting.  Stitching in a fine, silk or cotton thread, or a high quality invisible nylon thread hides a multitude of sins.  These threads are so forgiving that you don't even need to stick to the same color as the background for the stitches to look lovely.

I stitched my first free motion, freehand feathers  several years ago right after I took my first class with Diane Gaudynski.  If you ever get the opportunity to take a class with Diane, run, don't walk to sign up.  I never would have had the confidence to try freehand feathers without Diane's instruction.   My feather shapes are little jerky and the thread choice is not ideal but for my first effort I was quite pleased.  The little quilt, Pretty in Pink, (25 inches square) was stitched using commercial Moda cottons, Cherrywood hand-dyes, Tuscany Wool batting, and YLI #100 silk thread on my Bernina 440QE using the BSR.
A few years later I was fortunate enough to take a machine quilting class with Sharon Schamber.   I showed up to class with my 440QE and the BSR.  Sharon immediately zeroed in on the BSR and asked me to try putting it way for the class.  She approach is more along the lines of "Zen and the Art of Quilting".  She was absolutely right.  I found I actually had more control and more freedom to maneuver without the BSR than with it.  It was like taking the training wheels off of your bicycle.  Since then I have never used the BSR again.  However, like the training wheels and learning to ride a bike, without the BSR, I never would have learned to free motion quilt.  The Iris quilt on the left is my first freehand, free motion, none BRS, effort.  The pattern is by Alice Wilhoit.  The Iris is stitched using commercial fabrics, Tuscany Wool batting, DMC #50 cotton machine embroidery thread.  Again, it's far from perfect, but the owner, my good friend LaVerne, loves it as if it were.  And, it shows improvement.
Since then, I have taken more classes with Diane and I have forced myself to machine quilt as many pieces as possible with as little marking as possible.  The exception is Diane-shiko that requires a marked grid. Here is a close-up of my last free motion, mostly free hand quilted piece.  It is a whole cloth design on RJR Sateen, quilted on my Bernina 830 using Tuscany Wool batting and YLI #100 silk thread.  For those of you that own a Bernina 830 and like to use (our would like to experiment with) fine threads for free motion quilting, check with your dealer to make sure that the latest software update is installed on your machine.  Bernina recently adjusted the software to specifically address the challenges of stitching with extra fine threads.  

I hope this blog entry inspires you to try freehand feathers, or at least free motion quilting.  If you are a true beginner, it may be a little overwhelming to to do it on your own so sign up for a class at your local shop or guild. Once you get the hang of free motion quilting you will never look back!  

Until next time....

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami