Monday, October 20, 2008

Baltimore BOM – Block One - Split Leaves – Tips & Tricks

I finally finished the appliquéing the split leaves on the first block of our Baltimore Block of the Month. I did use the Template Free Method (also known as Back Basting) but did prepare the leaf fabric by machine. As instructed in class, I took 3-4 inch strips of the leaf fabric and sewed them by machine using a very short stitch length. I then pressed the quarter inch seams open. I trimmed the seam allowances to a scant eight inch and positioned the strip down on my background fabric. I then basted the leaves from the back and trimmed the appliqué shapes using the basting lines as a guide; all the usual steps.

BUT when I got to the points there was just way too much bulk. Just like trying to get into Levi’s between Christmas and New Year’s Day – 10 pounds of fat into a 5 pound sack. Arrghhhh!!!! Tip # 1 – I trimmed the seam allowance to almost ZERO where the two leaf fabrics join. It will never matter if the fabrics come apart in this area because it is all turned under and the leaf edge is securely appliquéd down. I angled the cut sharply so that the seam allowances right where the edge turns is only a scant eighth inch is but the very edge is zero. The leaf point turned like a dream with almost no extra bulk in the point. If only ALL extra bulk could be as easily discarded!!!

After the leaves were all appliquéd down it was time to do the embroidery. This was not as easy for me to master as the bulky points. We were instructed to try either the reverse buttonhole stitch or an elongated lazy daisy stitch. I quickly eliminated the reserve buttonhole stitch because it made the leaves look like cactus. I made a mental note that if I ever decide to make a Cowboy Album quilt this is the perfect stitch for desert plants! So now I’m left with lazy daisy stitches. I had several false starts where I ripped all the stitches out and had to start over. They just looked awful! I elongated them more and they looked odd. I shortened them and they look even odder. And to make it worse, even after all the effort to complete the embroidery, from 2 feet away you couldn’t even see it. I was just going to skip the embroidery altogether and call it a day when I had my Ah Ha moment! Tip # 2 – the color of the embroidery thread makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the world. At first I was using a dark blue green embroidery thread in the same color family as the background (my PERFECT background that is) and the leaf colors. It was dull, added nothing to the block, and because I was using only one strand, disappeared right into the background. The eye just blended everything! Of course I was using all my color tools and following all the RULES – the way only a kid who went to Catholic school for 16 years and only got 1 demerit could do – yes 16 if you count collage! Fortunately, my husband was a bold fresh kid that did not bend to the will of the nuns and he suggested - “try another color – ANY color – that looks so boring”. Trembling, sure I would be punished; I selected embroidery thread in a dull gold color that was in one of the leaf fabrics. WOW!!! The block just popped!

The photos don’t do it justice but in person you can really see how it adds just the right spark to the block. I just KNOW somehow, somewhere my punishment for breaking the rules is lurking. But my block is coming out to pretty I don’t care – la di da....
Once the color was right it was easy to figure out Tip #3 – proportion matters! Using only one strand of floss, the elongated lazy daisy stitches were definitely the way to go. But at first they looked a little odd and I thought it was because the slant of the stitch was off. Not so! It was the proportion between the length of the stitch and the width between the stitches. If I kept the width between the stitches about the same as the height of the stitch they started to really look nice. And then I discovered that I could gradually reduce the size and width between stitches so I could make smaller stitches at the point and even adjust the slant of the stitch. I’m sure the embroidery police would have a field day finding flaws in my stitches. I guess they can get in line behind the color police!

Until next time, happy stitching!
Mercy in Ft. Lauderdale
Aka The Savage Quilter

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