Friday, December 28, 2012

New Tip for the New Year

In progress Rosebud Heart Wreath,  design by Elly Sienkiewicz
 I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and that it was the merriest Christmas ever!  We were very fortunate to spend a very quiet, low key holiday, surrounded by family and friends. 

As usual time has gotten away from me and I was not able to post in time for Christmas.  Instead, please accept this tip as a belated gift. 

I love to add folded, gathered, 3-dimensional flowers to my applique blocks.  I usually prepare them ahead of time so that they are ready to go when I sit to applique.  In the case of the Rosebud Heart Wreath pattern (designed by Elly Sienkiewicz) there are several folded rosebuds - 21 in all.  To complicate matters, I chose to do them in 2 colors out of mottled, hand-dyed silk.  I wanted a certain symmetry to the layout so I created a mini, portable design wall that I could keep in my sewing basket.
Double-sided tape in a manila envelope makes a mini design wall
 I learned to use double sided tape in a manila folder to keep templates organized in class from Mary Sorensen.  Even though I don't use templates in my applique preparation I always remembered this organizing tip and decided to try it out on my rosebuds.  It worked like a charm!  I played with the lighter colors on top and the darker colors on the bottom, making sure to match both sides of the wreath.  When I finally decided on the layout, I stuck the rosebud in place on the tape in the exact order I wanted them to be stitched on the block.  The tape held them in place securely until I was ready to applique. 

Folded Silk and Gathered Rosebuds waiting to be added to applique block
Closeup of Rosebud Heart Wreath, designed by Elly Sienkiewicz
This is the last block I will be working on this year (for a few days more).  Then beginning in January I will switch to embroidery to give myself a break from applique.  My goal for 2013 is to embroider the 9 blocks I have stitched thus far and stitch the remaining 4 to complete the 13 block set.  I do not have anything planned or ready for the setting triangles but that will be the project for 2014!

From my family to yours - I wish you a happy, healthy New Year with lots of time for family, friends, and stitching!

Best stitches,
Mercy in sunny, warm Miami

Happy New Year from the best fabric guard dog ever - Ricky!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Santa Maria Ready to Sail - Almost

Mercy at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
 October 2012

Santa Maria, original design my Mercy Savage 2012

Close up of the New World Rose on the Santa Maria Block
Greetings from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA!   It has always been my dream to see the Grand Canyon in person and a few weeks ago my dream came true  There are no words to describe the majesty, the colors, the view; so I'm not even going to try!

I finally finished the applique portion of my Santa Maria block!  Yeah!!  There is still quite a bit of embroidery work to do before the block is ready to sail.  My plan is to applique as much as I can between now and the New Year on my Baltimore Album-style blocks and then begin basic embroidery in January 2013!  I plan to attend the Applique Academy in February and I will bring what I have finished with me to Virginia.  There are so many talented participants and I'm hoping to find inspiration, suggestions, tips, etc to continue on this journey.

Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving to all!  I am always very grateful to my blog readers for you comments and encouragement!

Until next time...
Best stitches,
Mercy in sunny Miami (via a quick trip to the Grand Canyon)

Santa Maria sails minus the embroidered rigging

Close up of the Ship body and the waves

Santa Maria Flowers minus embroidery

Mercy at Hermit's Rest, Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA October 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

REALLY Skinny Stems via Template Free Basting

Mother Nature's Color Inspiration

 Happy Autumn from a very rainy Miami. 
I tried my absolute best to complete my Santa Maria block by Columbus Day (October 12th).  Alas, life always seems to get in the way of my applique projects.  Instead of making everyone wait even longer for a new blog entry, I decided to share what I have completed to date.
First layer of stitching on the flower wreath supporting the Santa Maria block
Stitching the mast's and body of the Santa Maria
Sneak peak of the Santa Maria block
 In addition, snapped a few photos of my method of creating VERY skinny stems. My definition of very skinny stems is between 1/8" to 1/16th of an inch wide.  Click HERE to view a Template Free Applique (also known as Back Basting) tutorial
Trace a very skinny stem as a single line
Pin the applique fabric to the front of the block
Baste to the inside curve side of the drawn line
Trim a scant 1/8" away from the basting and applique as usual
Stitch only the inside curve
Trim the seam allowance of the stitched side as close as possible to the applique.  Be very careful to not cut the stitching!
Baste down the outside curve leaving only a scant 1/16" between the applique edge and the basting

Trim a scant 1/8" away from the basting line

Applique the outside curve as usual.  Take your time!

Lastly, my professional life is getting very busy so I may not be able to stitch and blog as much as I like. So even if you do not hear from me, please know that I am happy well.

Until next time....
Best Stitches,


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Basket of Roses...To Layer or Not To Layer, That is the Question

Closeup of my block Basket of Roses, pattern by Elly Sienkiewicz.  Each petal is appliqued from a separate piece of fabric.  Top, large petal is padded with thin, cotton batting.

I finished the applique portion of another block in my Aqua Album quilt last night.  I call this block Basket of Roses.  Again, the pattern is by Elly Sienkiewicz and can be found in her books.  There were a few lessons learned and a few more grey hairs earned stitching this block that I think you may find interesting. 

Basket of Roses
First, there were a few opportunities for reverse applique in the flower centers.  Notice the yellow centers in the purple trumpet shaped flowers, the polka dot rose centers, and the rosebuds.   None of these shapes are needle turned so this is a wonderful spot for me to you specialty fabrics that are gorgeous but impossible to needle turn.   The hand dyed silks were a breeze to use.  If did pad the underneath of the silk with a very thin cotton batting just to give the fabric a little heft. 


Hand-dyed Velvet Rosebuds
The hand-dyed velvet was another matter all together.  It pinkish red velvet buds had so much bulk from the nap of the velvet under the green batik that it was impossible for me to keep flat.   The result was very interesting but I doubt I will use velvet again in this fashion any time soon.  

 The large roses for this block are drawn on the pattern the same way as the large roses on another of Elly's patterns (Urn of Roses block). I worked on the Urn of Roses block in a class and the instructor had us cut the rose shapes from a single piece of fabric (Not Layered).

The petals were defined with embroidery.  The result is nice. I think once I add a little embroidery to the centers I will like the overall block more. 

Roses cut from a single piece of fabric

The look is not my favorite so in the Basket of Roses block I appliqued each petal separately (Layered).  I padded the top petal to give the block a little dimension.  I love the look so much more and time-wise it did not take significantly longer to stitch.  But at least now I know how the two looks stitch up and I can pick and choose from my arsenal of techniques!

My Urn of Roses block, pattern by Elly Sienkiewicz

I will try to finish the drawing of my Santa Maria ship block tonight so that I can begin stitching SOON.  I would love to finish the block by October 12th, the same day Columbus discovered America (or as he thought, found Japan!)  

Until next time...

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami

Friday, August 24, 2012

Applique Hurricane Preparations!

View from my sewing room.  I am very blessed!
As I write to you dear blog reader, we are waiting for Tropical Storm Issac to decide on its path.  I have my battery powered light box and Ott light dusted off so that I can continue to stitch if the storm does come our way and happens to knock out power in our area.  My husband mentioned something about the list of emergency supplies extending beyond fresh hand sewing needles and battery powered lighting but I suspect they are not as essential as my stitching supplies !
Grape Wreath Close-up
I did want to share the latest block I finished appliqueing this week.  It's the Grape Wreath designed by Elly Sienkiewicz.  What did I learn while working on this block?  I learned that when working on a project that requires repetition, make sure you select a technique that you ENJOY.  I started this project using the Perfect Circle method and I was miserable because I was painting with starch and ironing and all this stuff that felt like crafting and not sewing.  Yes, my circles looked very round but my spirit was very flat.  I switched to needle turning the circles and not only did I actually finish the block, I enjoyed stitching every single grape!  I don't even care that they are not perfectly round.

Grape Wreath Block designed by Elly Sienkiewicz
Another lesson learned had to do with color.  Every pink, purple, red that I auditioned for this block looked OK but did not excite me.  Then as I was enjoying a plate of fruit salad that included different varieties of grapes I got the idea to mix and match the grapes as they appeared in my yummy salad.  Once I added the yellow and green grapes the whole block came to life. The contrast in color and value gave the block the ZING that I was striving to achieve.  True, the block does not follow the Baltimore Album style tradition based on color choice.  However, I am honoring the spirit of the early stitchers by applying artistic principles of color and composition.  I hope the many wonderful and talented traditionalist forgive.  I have no self control when it comes to color!

Santa Maria Block sketch designed by Mercy Savage
Every Baltimore Album style quilt needs a ship block.  Born and raised in Miami, and as a second generation Cuban American, I thought it would be nice to honor my heritage by stitching Columbus's ship, the Santa Maria.  Of course I couldn't find a pattern for it so I drafted one.  I'm still contemplating it on my design wall but here is a sneak peek at what I have so far.

Just for fun I wanted to share what's growing in my garden these days.  This is one place where I draw lots of my color inspiration.  Enjoy!



Until next time...
Best stitches!
Mercy in Miami

Monday, August 13, 2012

Four Years in the Life of a Baltimore Style Album Quilt

Close-up of Ruched Rose Wreath.  Design and inking by Elly Sienkiewicz

First eight blocks in progress

As I was preparing my registration materials for the Elly Sienkiewizc Applique Academy over the weekend, I was inspired to put my in-progress Aqua Album blocks up on my design.  This project has been four years in the making and each block is a design from one of Elly's books.  Life has interrupted this quilt top's progress many times in those four years.  Fortunately, I was been able to overcame each challenge in turn and I never gave up on my favorite form of quilt making, needle turn applique.   When I as finally able to reacquaint myself with my Album-style blocks, the first thing I did was review each block and see what still needed to be done.  I was shocked to realize that of the eight blocks started, NONE are finished.  Plus I still have another 5 blocks to make to complete a 13-block setting.  I was struck as to how little I had accomplished in four years and how much still needed to be done.  And then I realized, I am in the middle of one of my all time favorite projects.   I am completely happy in the process and grateful each time I pick up my project and can stitch.  Some people are about the destination, but I, dear blog reader, am all about the journey.   I hope my photos motivate you to enjoy your journey and not give up on your passion, no matter what life throws at you.

I recommend the following sites to those of you that would like to learn more about Baltimore-style Album quilts (BAQs).

And of course, Elly's site

Pastoral Peacock (Design by Elly Sienkiewicz)


The Peacock's eye is embroidered.  Now I need to do the same to the leaves and the rose buds.  Definitely, need some rose moss here and there.


Grape Wreath is the block I am currently stitching (Design by Elly Sienkiewicz)

You can see I am Back Basting each grape with a little bit of batting in each one!

Ruched Rose Wreath is my most finished block.  Elly did all the ink work on the block for me in a class in 2010.  I still have to go over it to darken a few areas and then heat set it.

Bottom rose is ruched velvet ribbon.

Victorian Vase  (Design by Elly Sienkiewicz).  Missing all the flowers and the leaves.

Victorian Vase Rosebud.  I just love the polka dot batik fabric!

Urn with Stuffed Roses  (Design by Elly Sienkiewicz)
Center, where pin is, is waiting for a vignette!

Rosebuds are crying for some moss.  This is a great spot to use fancy fabrics that you don't have to needle turn.

Woven Basket with Roses (Design by Elly Sienkiewicz)  that is missing the weaving on the basket front and the roses.  The rose buds are the bottom layer of reverse applique.  Notice I used hand-dyed velvet. 

Roses and Acorns

This block is not finished because I cannot decide how to make the flowers.  The pieces of ribbon are informally pinned on the block so that I can decide on color, texture, etc.

Until next time,

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami