alex-anderson

I just discovered that Alex Anderson is offering a series of videos on hand and machine appliqué over at The Quilt Show website.

If you’re not already a member you do need to register but no $$ involved, the classes are free. Check it out at the appliqué classroom page and follow Alex through many hand and machine techniques. A great resource!

Cheers,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Today I’m writing about my favorite quilt as part of the Bloggers Quilt Festival put on by Amy of
Park City Girl.

My favorite quilt is usually the one I just started :) but if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say that it’s my Sixteen Baskets.

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Here are the reasons why:

In many ways I think this is my best work. It’s hand appliquéd, back during the time that I favored the freezer-paper-template-on-top method (before I learned back-basting). The tiniest motifs are machine appliquéd or hand embroidered.

Each of the blocks is my original design… they’re published in my book Baskets to Appliqué. It was an exciting, emotional, fulfilling process developing the concept for each basket, and I still remember that time…. the mischevious kitty, the fat quarters rolled up, the nod to Baltimore, the pastel eggs inspired by Janet’s chickens who gave us eggs exactly those colors.

This quilt is also hand quilted. I took a picture that’s unevenly lit on purpose to try to get the quilting to show up. I love hand quilting and don’t get the chance to do it as much as I used to.

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I love the soldier blue and the dogtooth border. (Also that it’s called a dogtooth border, because I love dogs.)

So that’s my favorite quilt. Thanks for visiting to see my entry in the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival! Visit Park City Girl every day through April 24 and get a ringside seat for other bloggers’ favorite quilts! It’s quite a show!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Sometimes I do a little hand embroidery on my appliqué blocks when some really fine details are needed, like whiskers or tendrils. It’s not truly a part of my skill set, and I just kinda sorta go for it.

birdbath.jpgI was so grateful when Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill put up Embroidery 101 Part One and Part Two on her Bunny Tales blog. I had had a block stuck up on my wall for awhile, waiting for some embroidery that I was putting off. Anne’s post inspired me to get to work on it… my stem stitch is now so much improved!

Appliqué patterns can often be used as embroidery patterns as well, so go read Anne’s fantastic primer and then you’ll have a whole new use for them!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

I subscribe to The Quilt Show on the internet with Ricky and Alex. I just got done watching an episode from Season 2 where Suzanne Marshall was the guest. She demonstrated some of her hand appliqué techniques, and I sat there amazed and agog as she showed some astounding things I had never seen before. I watched as she easily made bias tape without any kind of gadget or bar, then transitioned an appliqué pattern drawn on notebook paper into a beautifully hand-stitched block.

It just goes to show once again how many different ways there are to appliqué!

Ricky said that Suzanne’s first book, “Take-Away Appliqué,” is now out of print. However, her current book, “Adventure & Appliqué,” is going great guns, and contains the instructions for everything I mentioned above. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannequilts.com.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

My little dog Willie loves to go places, and loves to come back. He’s a good traveler, but I think he’s the very happiest when all of his pack are at home.

As you know, he helps me in the studio and is my boon companion while I’m working on all of my “stuff.” Here he is checking out my latest project, Home.

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Yes, that’s right, the ink was hardly dry on Teapots 2 to Appliqué when I was already hard at work on another quilt design. I’ve been in a phase of doing things I haven’t done before, and it’s great! Home is more primitive and folksy than what I’ve done before, and I love it.

I knew the word “Home” would be front and center, and didn’t worry about how I was going to get it on there until I was ready to do it. After all, I co-wrote an article about words in quilts, which appeared in American Quilter. I knew I had some tricks up my sleeve! But when it came to it, I ended up doing… guess what… something I hadn’t done before.

home-word.jpgOkay, so I’ve made plenty of bias tape in my life with my trusty green gadget (see the post on stems and skinny stems) but I’ve usually stitched both sides, either by hand or machine. This time I just zig-zagged down the center of each strip with black thread. Then I made a trip to the store to get some fresh Fray Chek (the bottle in my drawer was ancient, probably came with me from Ohio 11 years ago). I used a tiny bit of this seam sealant on the raw ends of the letters to prevent fraying. I ended up with the folksy look I was after for this project.

Home‘s going to be a booklet with full-size patterns printed in it. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

When it comes to stems or vines, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Just an expression, I’ve had three cats for seventeen years and haven’t skinned any of them yet :) .)

Here’s a photo tutorial on stems and skinny stems, two ways each. That’s four stems! In all cases this is hand appliqué, however, they can be adapted to be sewn on the machine.

Here’s how I was first taught to do stems.

Cut a bias strip 1″ wide or wider and press it in half, wrong sides together, lengthwise. Mark the stem or vine on the front of the background fabric.

Sorry if you can’t see the pencil mark too well… there’s a big storm in California today and there’s no good natural light.

Place the folded bias strip over the marked line, kind of averaging its position. Fold over the raw edges to where they fall short of the other side and crease to give yourself an idea of the stitching line.

Stitch the vine to the background fabric using a small running stitch (left side of picture). Then roll the folded edge over the stitching, covering the raw edges of the other side. Appliqué the fold down (right side of picture). Disregard the position of the needle in this picture; I laid it down in haste.

To make a skinny stem the same way, just stitch much closer to the fold.

Trim away the excess, very close to the stitches. Roll and sew the same as before.

A pretty good skinny stem.

Now, on to the method I use most of the time now, with my trusty green gadget, the Clover® ¼” bias tape maker. Cut a bias strip that is 5/8″ wide. Yes, just 5/8″! Cut the top so that it angles upwards to the left — it seems to feed through better this way.

Poke the strip right-side-up into the wider end of the gadget until you can see the fabric in the slot at the top. Use the tip of a pin to pull the strip through the slot until it sticks out the narrow end. Pin the strip to the ironing board. Use a glass-head pin, so you don’t have to worry about melting a plastic pin.


Using a hot iron and plenty of steam, pull the gadget along the strip in one smooth, fairly rapid motion, following it closely with the iron. Don’t stop part-way through, or try to back up. Smoothness is key.

Important: Hold your iron so that the steam vents are not directed at your fingers.


You can make bias strips fusible by applying thin strips of paper-backed fusible web. I do this as a second step. I actually cut the strip of fusible in half lengthwise to make a very thin strip, which I find is enough. The product comes on a roll and is found alongside the bias tape makers.

Using a dry iron, press the fusible strip to the back of the bias strip. Remove the paper backing and steam-press the stem over the marked line. Then it’ll be ready to stitch.

To make a skinny stem this way, make another bias strip with the gadget, and press one side out flat again. Trim along the crease.

Get out your glue stick and run it along the wrong side of the strip. Pick up the strip and pinch the raw edge back over to the center. It should stick with cheerful obedience. It if doesn’t, use a little more glue or make sure the glue stick is fresh.

If you prefer to skip the gluing, you can use a hybrid method! Appliqué the folded edge first, then tuck under the raw edge on the other side as you stitch.

All four, placed improvisationally on the background and, for some strange reason, from bottom to top!

I hope this has helped you if you were looking for information on how to make stems or skinny stems. There are other methods too… remember those cats I mentioned?

Over at the Quilter’s Newsletter website, I did a quick search and came up with several tutorials on how to make skinny stems. Check them out as well!

Until next time,
Kay

My new favorite way of embroidering tendril-thin stems is to couch a full six-strand length of embroidery thread in place. I use one strand of a lighter shade for the couching stitches to add a little interest.

Here’s a twisty vine that I did this way.

This is about the extent of my skill as an embroiderer!

Until next time,
Kay

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, that’s what they taught us in 10th grade, but they were talking in terms of abstract geometry. In nature, we don’t see too many straight lines. They’re more of a man-made construct, like boxes, fences, and the sides of buildings.

Hand appliqué is not a fan of straight lines either. Gentle curves are the ticket, and nothing too perfect, like in nature. It’s when we appliqué houses, or baskets, or stems that are perfectly straight because we’ve simplified them or are interpreting them in a primitive or folk-art way, that we run into the straight line.

Straight lines are not so much an issue in machine appliqué (though you still have to mark them and cut them straight.) But in hand work, I actually find a straight line harder to get nice than a curve. Here are some strategies for dealing with stretches of the straightaway.

• The bias tape maker

Except, don’t use bias!

Cut straight strips instead of bias strips.
They wiggle less.

Below is an example from Baskets to Appliqué, where I used the tape maker and straight-cut strips with just a thin strip of fusible on the back. It looks intricate, but it was pretty easy-peasy to weave the strips, fuse them in place, then hand-stitch them down.


• Freezer paper on the back


The pot here, in this design from Growing Heart to Appliqué, is a good candidate.

Basting the margin over the template helps assure a crisp, identifiable sewing line and keeps things on the straight and narrow. For more information, see my previous photo tutorial about freezer paper on the back. Even if you’re using freezer paper on top or another method, you can mix a little of this in to deal with those pesky straight edges.

• Back-Basting

In the back-basting, aka no-template method, the pattern is drawn directly on the back of the background fabric. This means you have the sewing line marked and ever-present as a reference for your stitching. You can flip your work over to make sure you’re passing the sobriety test.

How’m I doing?

Pretty good so far.

I’ll write more about back-basting in the future.

How do you like to handle straight lines?

Until next time,
Kay

One more quilt from “the article” (see previous two posts). This one had its own sidebar!

I made this quilted sign to hang in my sewing room, thereby elevating its status to a “studio.” If you make a sign for your sewing room it can be a studio too!


To form the letters, I made bias tape with my trusty green gadget, the original Clover® ¼” bias tape maker.

Then I used the fusible strip that comes on a roll, except I cut it in half lengthwise to make a very thin strip applied to the center of the bias tape only. That keeps things more flexible.

A fat eighth of fabric formed the backdrop as I played with the arrangement of the letters, sticking pins straight down into them to hold them until I was happy with how they looked. Then I fused them in place. I put tearaway stabilizer behind, and topstitched the letters on both sides. After removing the stabilizer, I added the strippy borders and machine-quilted the sign. Then I got into my button box and tied buttons through the quilt over all of the raw edges of the letters, and now it looks like a quirky typeface!

Bias tape letters are informal, folksy, and fun. Save this technique for a project where the letters are meant to be tall and skinny, because the wider the strips the less flexible they are.

Until next time,
Kay

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