I was just in Reno, Nevada for the Quilting, Stitches and Crafts Expo at the Grand Sierra Resort. As I was touring the show floor, I was drawn with a strong magnetic attraction to this gorgeous Princess Feather quilt.

princess-feather

It’s the 2011 Opportunity Quilt for the Foothill Quilters Guild of Auburn, California. They call it “Prince’s Plume.”

pf-1

pf-2

Many hands went into the making of this beautiful quilt.

foothill-postcard

For more information about the guild or this amazing opportunity quilt, contact the Foothill Quilters through their website, www.foothillquilters.org.

I made a new friend at the show! Knitting designer Lorna Miser, author of Faith, Love, Hope, Knitting was just across the aisle from me.

Lorna Miser

Lorna Miser

She had luscious loops, skeins, and twists of hand-dyed yarns, as well as cute knitted items like bags and footie socks.

Lorna has a new book coming out in November, The Knitter’s Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn.

lorna-postcard

My neighbor to the left was an old friend, Dee Lampson of Dee’s Designs. From her I purchased The Most Cute Jumper in the World.

jumper

jumper2

This one had me written all over it. Dee makes jumpers, overalls, separates, and two-piece outfits from her own original patterns, using beautiful high-quality fabrics like we see in our independent quilt shops. Look for Dee at fine art and gift shows, quilting and sewing expos. She specializes in custom sizing, no size is too small or too large. Contact her at “deesdesigns1 (at) sbcglocal.net” if you need one of her designs.

dees

I can’t tell you what a delight it is to see Dee’s creations after all the dreadful things that are offered to us at the mall.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

I’m delighted today to turn the blog over to appliqué author, designer, and teacher Cheryl Almgren Taylor.

Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Cheryl Almgren Taylor


Cheryl: I am excited to be a guest on Kay’s site today and want to thank her for the invitation to be a part of her blog.

I have loved quilts since I was a small child but never ventured into quilting until 2000. I had been sewing since I was 13 so I had some basic skills down. But I discovered, like many of us, that quilting is a whole new world.

I got into designing because of my grandson Michael and my love of storybooks. I spent 14 years teaching in the elementary grades and loved “read aloud” time with the kids. Several years ago I wanted to make Michael a quilt that would go with his favorite story Going On a Bear Hunt, and this led to the creation of a whole series of quilts that coordinate with childrens’ books. I was surprised and delighted when Martingale & Company (That Patchwork Place) chose to publish my designs in a pattern series entitled Storybook Snugglers.

There were six patterns in this original pattern series from 2007, with two quilt designs in each pattern–one easier version and one more detailed. There are still some patterns available from Martingale.

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

deck-halls

Last summer my first book Deck the Halls was published featuring a collection of Christmas quilts.

Editor’s note: If you haven’t seen it, check out the post from last November, when Deck the Halls was our featured appliqué book.



Cheryl:
Although I love pieced quilts, I am especially drawn to appliqué. Applique enables us to make shapes that are just not possible with piecing, and you don’t have to worry about your quarter inch or matching points! I especially love using batiks and fussy cutting shapes so that the design has shading provided by the fabric. I also like to use a variety of fabrics in the same tonal range when repeating a shape, rather than making everything match. I think it gives more interest to the design. When I’m designing I am almost always telling a story (at least in my head) and my favorite technique is fusible-web appliqué finished with machine blanket stitching.

Wrapped Up in Love from Deck the HallsWrapped Up in Love from Deck the Halls

I know that in certain quilting circles, admitting to a love of fusible web can be the equivalent of admitting you only shower once a week or you let your children eat cereal out of the box while watching Saturday morning cartoons so that you can sleep in late. But I really do love the technique. And although the jury is out on how long my quilts will last into eternity, I know that I can finish more quilts in my lifetime.

An event early in my quilting career also solidified my feeling that there is a time and place for fast techniques. When my first grandchild Taylor was born, of course I wanted to make him a quilt. I envisioned this as an heirloom quilt that would be lovingly treasured, perhaps hung at the foot of the crib as part of the décor and eventually stored away for future generations. I spent nearly a year completing the quilt (it had two ruffles and piping, as well) and I was extremely proud that Taylor received it before starting Kindergarten.

A few short months later, I called my daughter and discovered that Taylor had been sick and thrown up on the quilt. I was horrified and wondered why he was anywhere near the quilt at the time. My daughter, who doesn’t quilt or sew, explained that she believed children should play with their quilts and enjoy them, not save them as heirlooms. Well, there’s certainly something to be said for that philosophy, but as a quilt maker it made me realize that recipients are not always aware of how much time goes into making a quilt and that fusible web fills a need in those circumstances. It’s quick(er), it’s user friendly, and it gives beautiful results.

Christmas Kisses from Deck the Halls

Christmas Kisses from Deck the Halls

For those of you who have never ventured into the world of fusing, here is some advice I think you might find helpful.

First off, purchasing fusible web can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is everything out there in fusible land, from fusible interfacing to fusible batting. If you have never ventured into this department before, you can become overwhelmed and confused. And depending upon where you are shopping, the store clerk may not know a piece of fusible web from a French fry. The item you want to purchase is paper-backed fusible web. Brands that may be familiar are Heat ‘n Bond, Wonder Under, and Steam a Seam (as well as many others) and I highly recommend a lightweight product.

When using fusible, remember that if your design is asymmetrical you must trace the pattern in reverse on the paper backing of the fusible product. Also remember to trace each piece separately. If you have a large pattern piece, cutting the center portion out of the fusible will create less stiffness in the finished design. My books and patterns all have a section that gives detailed information on this process.

Another important thing you should know about lightweight fusible web is, that it’s a temporary bond. It must be stitched down around the edges or it will eventually float away. This is not true for all fusible webs—only the lightweight type. However, using a heavier fusible makes a stiffer quilt and I don’t recommend using them.

And now we get to the fun part of fusing—finishing the edges! There is such a choice of fabulous threads out there in different weights, colors, and fibers. It’s awesome! So the first thing you have to decide is what element you want the threads to play in the finished product. Do you want them to recede into the background or pop out as a design element? Do you want them to add some pizzazz or blend in? This is an important design element in your quilt and you will be happier with the finished quilt if you decide how this element should look just the same as you select your color choices.

I have developed some personal choices that work for me, but please bear in mind that I don’t work for these companies, receive compensation from them, or guarantee their products. I’m just sharing my personal experiences with you. My “go-to” thread for finishing appliqué edges is Mettler 50 wt. Silk Finish cotton thread in a matching or coordinating color. The thread is thick enough to make it viewable, but it doesn’t distract from the design. If you want your thread to recede a little more, consider using a 60 wt. Mettler or a 50 wt. Aurifil, again in a matching color. Using YLI silk threads in a 50 wt. can give a beautiful, subtle sheen to edges but since the thread is a finer consistency, you may want to be selective in its usage. If you want your thread to pop out and become a design feature, try a slightly darker hue or be bold with a darker thread choice. Using a thicker 40 wt. thread will also make the stitching a dominant part of the design and some people even use a 25 wt. thread, which will be very thick. It will give you a primitive, country feel. Finally, when you want a little glitz, consider a Sulky rayon/polyester or metallic thread. These threads can bring glamour and pizzazz to your work.

I hope this advice is helpful and has inspired you to launch into a new appliqué project. I can only say that if you’ve been afraid to try fusible web before, give it a try. It’s a very user-friendly technique.

Happy quilting!
Cheryl

Kay: Thank you Cheryl! It was a treat learning more about you, and your appliqué wisdom is much appreciated. We’re “like this” in so many ways. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Remember those hunks of random patchwork I mentioned last time?

patch-hunks

I dug them out of the UFO pile and now I know what I’m going to do with them. Naturally it’ll be appliqué. Stay tuned!

But while I was looking for them I found another batch. Hmm…

patch-hunks-2

Until next time,
Kay

By Kay Mackenzie

Sarah answered the call! Recently, when I put out a call for contributions to the blog, regular reader Sarah Vee of Ontario, Canada, got in touch right away. I’d delighted to turn the blog over to her today for a terrific guest post about blanket-stitch appliqué. Go Sarah!

sarah-veeSarah Vee of Sew Joy, whose motto is “I have found happiness in making quilts – and joy in sharing my quilt making.”

Sarah: I have been a patchworker for most of the time I have been quilting. Almost 14 years now! I shied away from the “A” word for many years, even though some of the first quilts I fell in love with were in the Baltimore Album style.

Eventually I started to try it a block at a time. I made a wedding wallhanging with one large appliqué block –- no one could really tell if I had left anything out — and I did, almost half of the leaves!

When Kay’s book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes came out, I was lucky enough to win a copy. Who could resist the possibilities! Around the same time, my sister sent my daughter a container that held all of her embroidery floss from doing cross stitch for many years. She was putting it aside to focus on quilting.

embroidery floss

My daughter never had a chance! I claimed the box of thread like it was my first box of 64 crayons! I was no longer daunted by the delicacy of appliqué – I had colour on my side.

I put my first blocks from Kay’s appliqué book into a larger pieced quilt for one of my nieces. Instead of having my stitches blend in with my fabrics, I outlined them in black like a colouring book.

picnic quilt

I use the blanket stitch because it’s easy (once you get the hang of it). You can change the size of the stitch to work on any piece, and you can work it by hand or machine. You can use it to secure pieces that are fused and also ones that are not.

I’m by no means an technical expert on supplies or technique. I use what I have, look at lots of pictures – and try stuff. Just take a quick look at these photos I took while working on my latest quilt. You’ll see how I made the colours and blanket stitch work for me to create my Bunny Lady quilt.

closeup of carrot top

The basics: I’m using DMC embroidery thread. I use two strands because that seems to give the thickness I need to cover the edge of the fabric. I use a needle that works for me — not sure if it’s the ‘right’ one. The eye isn’t so small I can’t see to thread it, but not so big that it leaves a hole when going through my quilt top. It’s a medium-length needle so that the thread doesn’t glide out of it too easily.

Tip: Use a fairly long strand of thread. You don’t want to re-thread the needle any more times than you need to – just don’t make it so long that it tangles after every stitch (this isn’t quicker – trust me).

To start: Bring your thread up from the back right at the edge of your piece to appliqué. The length of the next stitch determines the length of your blanket stitch – how far it goes into your appliqué. Put your thread into the fabric and bring it back up almost right on top of where you started.

On the leaves I used smaller stitches closer together because I had to turn a lot of corners, and the leaves are fairly small. On the carrots, I took larger stitches because there was more open space in the middle of the appliqué pieces.

You work this stitch counterclockwise (at least I do because I’m right handed). Hold your thread across the edge of the piece working to the left.

carrot closeup

From where your needle just came up, take a stitch down and to the right that lines up with your first stitch into the appliqué. Bring your needle up at the edge of your appliqué and go over the thread you are holding in place. Pull the stitch snug (but don’t make the piece pucker).

This space defines how close together your stitches will be. On smaller pieces, or going around a corner, you probably want them closer together.

green-tail

Keep going until you’re done, or almost out of thread! Make sure you leave a long enough tail so you can make a knot on the back.

two-carrots

You can see how I had fun with colour. I used different shades of orange on my carrots. Changing the colours made it more fun to go around so many carrots –- and also gives the up-close viewer a visual treat. The carrots in the border were not fused down, just pinned in place until I secured them with the blanket stitch.

bunny-lady

The bunnies and carrots in the quilt top were fused, then stitched. I used bright, fun colours on them too. I used a fairly large stitch on the bunnies so it would be more visible.

I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I stared at many magazine diagrams and pictures of beautiful quilts before I finally tried my hand at appliqué and the blanket stitch. You’ll never know the possibilities until you try. Thanks Kay for providing so many possibilities with your designs and inspiration-packed blog. I’m looking forward to including appliqué on many more quilts.

With Joy,
Sarah Vee
www.sewjoy.blogspot.com

Kay: Thanks a million, Sarah, for your article sharing the joy of appliqué! You’ve gone from “A” word avoider to appliqué enthusiast, because you found your method! I love those patched bunnies… reminds me that I have some randomly pieced hunks of patchwork sitting in the UFO pile awaiting their final destiny! Hmm…

FYI, Sarah is hosting a Placemat Party Blog Hop from Monday, June 28, to Friday, July 2. Visit her blog to find a new hostess each day celebrating the release of Sarah’s first pattern, “Eat with JOY! Placemats”. There will be prizes, fun, refreshments, and hostess-gift ideas for summer parties. Sounds like summer fun!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

The winner of Melinda Bula’s Cutting-Garden Quilts is… drum roll… Betsy! Congratulations!

Thank you so much to everyone who left comments and said nice things about this blog and the information it provides. Makes me feel like all my efforts are worth it so I appreciate that.

Miscellaneous other notes:

I’ll be at the Monterey Peninsula Quilt Guild show this weekend, June 12-13. Check out all the info about the show at mpqg.org.

I just posted a gorgeous teapot quilt over at the Show & Tell Center. Go see this South African beauty.

I still have a few Scratch & Dent copies of Teapots 2 to Appliqué. If you’re interested, please read my earlier post about how to get one.

Detail from Teapots 2 sampler quilt

Detail from Teapots 2 sampler quilt

The blog recently reached 500 subscribers… Yippee!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Melinda Bula, author of Candy Cane Lane (our featured appliqué book from last August) is a master of fusing realism into her fabulous floral art quilts.

cutting-garden

In this visually rich book, the author shares her process for creating colorful, shaded, detailed, realistic flowers in fabric and thread, and encourages us to start with our own photos of the flowers we’d like to render. “I want you to experience the same thrill I get when I create,” she says. “Everything you need to know about making Cutting-Garden quilts is in this book, and even if you don’t feel like you have an ounce of creativity in you, I assure you that anyone can make these quilts with amazing results.”

For those who’d rather start with some training wheels, Melinda includes five patterns to get you going, with easy-to-follow steps and a fabric key to help with color selection.

The book starts out with a gorgeous gallery for your inspiration. The gallery also serves to show the author’s progression through the development of her techniques and understanding of color and depth.

afternoon-glory

Then Melinda writes about the creative process (stop stomping on your own creativity!) and emphasizes the need for a place to work. Then, on to fabulous fusible appliqué, going through supplies, subject matter, making an outline drawing, enlarging it, creating a color palette, finding just the right fabrics, using the fusible web, making the appliqués, and putting it all together!

shasta-daisies

Look at all those different subtle colors that went into making white flowers!

Another thing that Melinda is fantastic at is threadwork as part of developing the fabric art. She tells you everything about it, from batting to presser feet (foots?) to thread choices to tension. There’s information on tacking down the edges of the appliqués, then moving on to adding shadows, highlights, and other thread details. (I can testify that this is a gorgeous part of the process, as I was lucky enough to be a quilt holder when Melinda came to speak at my guild, and oooh.)

social-climber

Visit the author’s blog, Melinda’s Cutting Garden.

I have a copy of Cutting Garden Quilts to give away, courtesy of That Patchwork Place. Leave a comment by 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, to enter the drawing. U.S. and Canada only please (unless you’d be willing to pay the shipping).

To those of you who are subscribed by email, click over to the blog itself and scroll to the bottom of the post to leave your comment there.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

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