Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Civil War Bride and Clover Black Gold Applique Needles

Civil War Bride Block One

Hi gang!  As you read this entry I hope you and yours are all doing well and looking forward to a Happy Christmas and Chanukah!  Like you, I am happily swapped with holiday preparations but I wanted to take a minute and share my latest completed block - Cival War Bride - Block One.  The fabrics are a mix of BOM from Honeybee Fabrics and my stash.  It't taken me most of October, November and December to stitch this block - sometimes only stitching half a leaf an evening - but I never surrendered to work/life schedule and got my daily 15 minutes in every chance I could.

Clover Black Gold Applique Needles

There's been quite a buzz lately about new applique needles by Clover.  The buzz is because 1) they are fabulous and 2) they are EXPENSIVE.  The 6 pack pictured here run about $5.50 US; almost a $1 a needle.  Regardless of price, I had to try them because very accomplished, award-winning applique artist claimed that the needles improved their stitch.  To my amazement, they really did improve my stitch!  Oh great!  Just what I needed, more expensive toys!  So I went back to my stash of classics - Roxanne, John James, etc. and as soon as I picked up the needles I could see my stitch suffer.  CWB - Block 1 was stitched almost exclusively with this size 12 Black Gold needle. Click on the photo above to see the block in a bigger view.

Here's my theory as to why they seem to improve most appliquer's stiches.  They are coated in a black substance making the needle shaft matt and non-reflective.  When I work with the needle, the tip and shaft are very easy to see because there is NO reflection from my light source.  I can SEE exactly where the needle tip enters and exists the background.  One tip - wipe new needles with a soft piece of cotton to remove any residue before using on your project.  
Close up of Clover Black Gold Applique Needles
Now back to Christmas preparations and my Cottage Garden project!

Best stitches,
Mercy in sunny Miami - expected high temps today - 81 F

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speedy Handwork

Fused applique finished with hand embroidered stem stitch
Speedy Handwork? I know it sounds like a new oxymoron; such as Jumbo Shrimp or Genuine Imitation. Actually, its a method I use to give the handwork touch to fused applique projects.  I happened to mention during a yahoo group exchange that I finish the edge of fused applique with a hand stem stitch.  Since then I have received several email asking me to show how I do this.  You ask, I answer.

I prefer the stem stitch to the blanket stitch because 1) it's much faster and 2) you can vary the length to accommodate a tip or inner corner without it being noticeable. 

I begin with a fused applique project.  I then select embroidery thread; variegated colors are my favorite.  I tend to stick with DMC floss because it's good quality, inexpensive, and readily available.  Typically, I use two strands of floss.  Sometimes I use 3 strands if I want to make sure the edge is completely covered. 

Referring to the diagram in the link, stem stitch., stitch A comes up through the background and fused fabric.  Stitch B goes down into the background only and then comes up at point C through the background and fused fabric. 

I'm using this technique to finish one of my UFO's, Baltimore Row.  I could finish the project on the sewing machine using a blanket stitch or satin stitch, but with all these tiny pieces, I just can't imagine dealing with all the color changes and re-threading.

Until next time...

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pick 10 projects. Sounds easy? Believe me, it's not!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I send best wishes to each and every reader.  Even if you don't live in the US and do not celebrate the holiday, please take a moment along with us to give thanks for the joy and comfort quilting brings.  Quilters worldwide are very fortunate to be members of a generous, creative community.  For this, I am truly grateful.

American Album

Before you continue reading, if you did not read my previous blog We All Start Somewhere, please take a minute now to read it or else you will feel like you walked into the middle of a movie and the plot will not make any sense.
Civil War Bride
After I wrote to all of you about the Power of 10, I set out to apply it to my own endless stack of projects that range anywhere in progress from "sew on a binding" to "gleam in my eye".  Below is an excerpt of the conversation with myself as I set about putting the Power of 10 into practice.

Pick 10 projects!  No problem. Done.   Work only 3 hours on each and move on to the next one.  Hmm...okay.   I really wanted to stitch on my project some more.   Now the next one.   Uhhh...wait a minute.  I'm not sure I love this project enough to spend my precious 3 hours on it! Okay, leave it for last and go on to the next one.  But, I haven't been able to find a background fabric I love for this project yet.  Okay, next.  
Teal Baltimore
Very long story short, I ended up revising my list several times and my productivity did not increase.  Instead I spend my precious free time re-working my list.  However, I did learn a few important lessons that I would like to share so that hopefully you will not repeat my mistakes.

1.  If you are going to limit yourself to 10 projects, only pick projects you LOVE!  If you don't have 10 that fit the category then pick 3 or 7 or 17.  The key is LOVE.  Otherwise, you will not stitch on it or, if you do, you will resent it, and look for excuses to NOT sit and quilt.
Christmas Surprise
2.  It is very important to keep all your current projects (the ones you are actively working on) in a state such that you can sit and sew, baste, quilt, cut, embroider, etc. at all times.  This may be 1 project or 100 projects.  Always be ready to quilt when you have a few spare minutes or a free afternoon.
Baltimore Liberty
3.  If a project is waiting in the wings but it's still missing a critical piece, e.g. the perfect background or if already pieced/appliqued the perfect backing etc., and you want it on your Current Projects List, plan a shopping trip to you local quilt shop or you stash (yes, you can shop your stash; you will be surprised what you have and have forgotten!)  ONLY after you have all the pieces and parts assembled, do you add it to your list. Otherwise, you will waste precious sewing time holding the pattern in your hands and daydreaming.  Ask me how I know!

All that being said, here's my Current Project List, in no particular order:

1.       Baltimore Row

2.       A Christmas surprise for my husband so I cannot name it here

3.       Blue Moon

4.       Civil War Bride

5.       A Cottage Garden

6.       Baltimore Liberty

7.       Teal Baltimore

8.       American Album

9.       Spring Flowers

10.   Naturalist Notebook
Baltimore Row
A Cottage Garden
I also have several projects on my "I Should Be Working On or Finishing" List.  However, they do not meet my criteria so I removed them from my Current Project List.  I am much happier, I am making progress, and stitching is FUN again! 

Until next time ...   Happy Thanksgiving! 

Ricky's in training for the Thanksgiving feast!
Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Template Free (Back Basting) When the Fabric is Scarce...Plus Fabric Guard Dog in Action!

Hello blog-o-sphere friends! This blog is a direct result of several emails I received recently regarding the best way to make use of limited fabric to prepare applique the Template Free (Back Basting) way.  Sometimes this happens because no matter HOW BIG our stash, the PERFECT fabric is just a tiny scrap.  Most commonly, this happens because we sign up for a Block Of the Month (BOM) and the designer or person packaging the kits uses applique prep techniques that are more frugal with fabric.  Another reason is that with the price of cotton fabrics sky rocketing quilt shop owners are trying to keep kits affordable.  Following is a Pictorial Tutorial of how I tackle this situation.  In addition, if you would like to review various techniques, including Template Free (Back Basting) preparation, Applique Points, Inner Curves, Outer Curves, Fussy Placement, etc., please use the links on the right hand side of this page titled, Pictorial Tutorials. As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions. 

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

PS - Make sure you scroll to the bottom to see Ricky's latest adventure!

Trace design on back of background as usual.

Here is a small piece of fabric that will be the three flowers in the design.

Pin mark the seam allowance around the first flower.

This is what the pin marking looks like from the front of the background.

Use the pin marks on the front to guide placement of the applique fabric.  Get the edge of the fabric as close as you can to the pin marks.

Pin applique fabric in place. Baste and trim as usual.

Pin mark the next flower.

Repeat the process of using the pin marks on the front to guide placement of the applique fabric.  Again, get the fabric edge as close as possible to the pin marks.

Sometimes you can save fabric by pinning multiple shapes at the same time.  Just make sure there is room for a seam allowance between the shapes. Baste and trim as usual.


Here is Jim holding up a Superman pillowcase I made for him as a thank you for being my Superman and grilling for my Round Robin group this past weekend.

Of course it didn't take long for Ricky and Jim to discover the pillowcase scraps.  It seems that this is what all the Fabric Guard Dogs are wearing this year!

Good boy Ricky!  You nabbed your first fabric thief!

Please no cameras, I have a secret identity to protect!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 Round Robin Reveal...Plus This Year's Halloween Costume Parade

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Albert Camus French existentialist author & philosopher (1913 - 1960)
Happy Halloween and Harvest Festival!  Of course, in Miami all the beautiful maple leaves are made of silk and the smell of apple trees is supplied by Yankee Candle.  As children we always chose our costumes to be as skimpy as possible, not because we were exhibitionist, but because it was still so hot in October.  Regardless, I love Fall so I turn the air conditioning down low, light scented candles, and scatter silk Autumn colored leaves!

Here's a sneak peek at what the best dressed dogs will be wearing for Halloween this year!
Ethel the Good Witch of the West

Lucy claims The Devil Made Me Do It

Ricky is a Four-eyed Alien

This weekend, a small group from my local quilt guild got together at my home to reveal the Round Robin (RR) quilts we have been working on this year.  For those of you are are not familiar with RR, the premise is as follows:
  1. Select a block and collect coordinating fabrics.  Put everything into a bag large enough to hold everything.  Include a label, notepad, and a disposable camera (optional).
  2. All participants meet and present their blocks and fabrics to the group.
  3. Hand off your bag to the next person in line in the group.  That person then adds a border, or embellishment, or row (depending on rules the group sets).
  4. The group meets again, at established intervals, i.e. once a month, or every two months, etc.  You hand off the bag you just finished to the next person in line again.  The original owner is NOT allowed to see their block's progress at each exchange.
  5. After every one's block has been passed to everyone in the group, the block (by this time a quilt) is passed back to the owner.  This is called the Reveal. 
I have participated in several RR's and I have always loved the results.  They are always unexpected because they are rarely what I would have done so they open me up to new possibilities and push my creative boundaries.

Mercy's Brickmaker's House Closeup

Mercy's Brickmaker's House
My center is a block I stitched as a sample for Elly Sienkiewicz's book Baltimore Elegence, entitled Brickmaker's House.  I love this block because my paternal grandfather was a stone mason.  I wanted to turn it into a wall hanging but was totally stumped as to how to finish it so I submitted it for my RR.  I LOVE how it turned out!  Thank you Robinette's!!!

Here are the other Robinette's finished quilts.  Please keep in mind that each quilt top was worked on by several individuals.  I think the creativity really comes through.  Enjoy the mini quilt top show. 
Until then...

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Jen's Peacock

Jen's Peacock Closeup

Linda's Geisha

Linda's Geisha Closeup

Carol G.'s Cottage Quilt

Carol G.'s Cottage Quilt

That's me holding up Phyllis' Crazy Patch Christmas

Phyllis' Crazy Patch Christmas Closeup

Carol S.' Desert

Carol S.' Desert Closeup

Karen's Seashore

Gerry's I Love Card Tricks

Lois' Geisha

Lois' Geisha Closeup