Thursday, December 14, 2017

"In the Garden"—Violets

Roses are red, 
Violets are blue.
God can make violets,
But so can YOU! 

At least you can, if you use ribbon! This month's Block of the Month in our In the Garden series will have you creating lovely violets out of wired ribbon. Are you ready? Here we go! I (Teri) will give you a quick pictorial tour of the methods used to create these life-like blooms, and  then you will be ready to start "planting." In our class this past weekend, I heard several "I can't make that" comments become "Wow! I CAN make this flower!"
December BOM: Violets

The Leaves
I cut the leaves out as one unit and delineated them with embroidery.
You could, if you prefer, cut them and appliqué them as separate units.
I staple them in place, and then carefully remove the staples after appliquéing. 

I used a Bohin chalk pencil to mark the lines between the leaves,
The chalk shows up easily on the wool, and doesn't last.

A chain stitch with two strands of floss outlines the individual leaves. On the edges, I took the needle from the background a tiny bit into the edge of the leaf, so that the chain "hugged" the raw edge.

To make the two center leaves pop and appear closer, I used a lighter wool thread to do a chain stitch on top of the
darker green floss chain stitch. Because the wool thread was a bit thinner, it nestled inside the previous chain.
Veins are then added using a stem stitch; I used size 12 pearl cotton.

The Flowers
Cut a piece of wired ribbon 5 1/2 inches long. Starting 1/4 inch from the edge,
mark lines on the ribbon at 1-inch intervals.

Along the first line, start at the bottom and do a running stitch by the line, and
across the top, just under the wire. Use a thick or doubled thread for gathering. 
When you reach the next marked line, stitch down one side and up the other. Be sure that your thread overlaps the edge of the ribbon. Gather to create your first petal.

Continue to do a running stitch and gather after each petal.

After gathering all five petals, knot the thread but leave the needle and thread in place.

Manipulate the petals into a flower shape, using the wired to shape the petals.

Use your needle as a tool to pull the center of the petals together.
Take some large stitches to secure the flower center.

Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect; the center knots will be added later.

Use tack stitches to secure the blooms to the background, stitching in the gathers of the
flowers with matching thread. The buds are created with two "petals" rather than five.

The Stems

A pekinese stitch was used to create the stems. I used a size 5 pearl cotton
to make a nice thick stem. First, mark the stem lines and do a back stitch. 

The thread is then woven on top of the piece through the backstitches. For a great tutorial of the pekinese stitch, click here.

We are having such fun creating these designs, and we hope you will join us on our BOM gardening journey. All patterns are available in our website store (, and the ribbon is included with the pattern for those with ribbon blooms. Both digital and hard copy patterns are available, although to get the ribbon, you need to order a hard copy. (Like you couldn't guess that we wouldn't send you digital ribbon!) 😄

Happy stitching—let's make some violets!!

To read about the other blocks in our In the Garden series, click on the links below.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Aloha from Germany!

Since arriving in Germany this past June, I (Kara) have jumped into a number of quilt guilds and groups. One group that I have joined is called the Baltimore Beauties. Many of the ladies there were once a part of a group that made a Baltimore Album quilt based on Mimi Dietrich's patterns; thus the name. The group has stuck together and now meets monthly to quilt, knit, or just to help develop their skills in English or German. Most of the ladies are German, but the love of quilting overcomes any language barriers. Their English is hands-down, way better than my German, and they graciously correct my inept pronunciations. Their willingness to teach even extends to cooking, as one of the ladies is going to teach a few of us how to make spaetzle, the traditional Swabian way.

Spaetzle: A staple around here. Click here for the recipe

On my very first visit to this group, Daniela, the organizer, mentioned that one of the local museums in Stuttgart was going to be presenting an exhibit about Hawaii. Somehow the idea of a sew-in of Hawaiian quilts was brought up, and our group was asked to stitch Hawaiian quilt blocks at the museum. Many agreed to participate, so for the next few months, we prepped and started our blocks. I purchased a few books with patterns; Amazon had a great deal on three books which I rationalized gave me more blocks to choose from! I chose to back-baste my block instead of constructing it in the traditional, Hawaiian way and found that it was the perfect method for this style of appliqué.

Three for $20! How could I pass it up?

The front.
The back.

A quarter of the way finished

As you can see, I haven't finished my block yet, but I needed something to stitch on for the sew-in (that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it). I forgot how much I enjoyed needle-turning batik fabric. Unfortunately, that block has been relegated down on the priority list, but I will finish it.

At the exhibit entrance.

Our sew-in day was November 29, and before we sat down to stitch, we were able to get a private tour with the curator of the exhibit. The items in the exhibit were gathered from all parts of the world, and surprisingly, most of the collections came from other European countries. 

The curator explaining how this particular textile was made.

The focus of the exhibit was about the tumultuous history of Hawaii and its colonization, so there was only one quilt in the exhibit; not in the traditional style, but made to share a political opinion. Of course, I was most interested in the textiles, so that is primarily what I will show you here.

A quilt made about the British rule.

A traditional kapa cloth made  of bark fibers
Kapa cloth detail

Most kapa cloth was used for clothing; the plain for the common man
and the patterned for the high-ranking families.

Kapa was also used for blankets.

Kapa was traditionally made by women using the fibres
of the wauke or Paper Mulberry. 
Since the 1980s, the forgotten tradition of making kapa
has been revived as a part of Hawaiian, textile. artistry.

Other textiles in this exhibit involved feathers—and a lot of them! The feathered cloaks and headdresses were considered sacred and worn as symbols of power.

All made of feathers attached to a web-like structure.

A close up of the feathers.

More feathered detail

This feathered cloak and helmet were designed to protect the head and spine,
which were thought to be sacred.

Helmet detail

"My! What big teeth you have!"

After our tour of these amazing artifacts, it was our turn to sit and stitch.  We had quite a few visitors stop by to watch us as we needle-turned our blocks. A couple of our ladies had already finished their blocks and were beginning to quilt them.

German and American quilters stitching Hawaiian appliqué!
You can't make this stuff up!

Beautiful, bright, tropical, colors!

We all had such a lovely time, and it was a wonderful opportunity on so many levels. It was so kind of the museum to invite us to share our appliqué passion with the museum goers. Have you tried Hawaiian appliqué? If so, we'd love to hear about your experience. 

Until next time, Aloha!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Free Block of the Month: Goldenrod

It's hard to believe that we are already up to block 4 of our Flora and Fauna of Germany, Stitch Along. While most of the flowers around here are gone, I still have fond memories of seeing the large bushes of goldenrod along our walking paths. They were almost as tall as me and loaded with golden spikes of flowers.

As I was planning this block, my initial instinct was to use French knots for the flowers because that is what goldenrod looks like from afar. The goldenrod was a common flower to stitch in Victorian crazy quilts and most of the ones I have seen were made with French knots. I fell in love with and bought this antique, embroidered, goldenrod piece a couple of years ago—talk about lots of French knots!

I love the texture the stitcher created with the silk thread and all those knots.

So many knots!

However, when you look at the flowers up close, they are made up of a fluffy center with some petals around it. This changed my thinking as to how to do the embroidery on this block.

A collection of flower clusters.

A couple of months ago, I was in my friend Birgit's quilt shop and I noticed a basket of embroidery threads in all different shapes and sizes. A couple of them caught my eye, but one in particular screamed "goldenrod". It was more of a tape than a thread, but I knew it would provide just the right texture. Now I had the thread but I needed to scour my stash for just the right golden, appliqué fabric and I found it in the Van Gogh inspired piece. A little scrap of green and I was set to start the cotton block.

Cotton Block

I began this block by transferring the design onto the back of the fabric, and then proceeded to back-baste all my goldenrod pieces. The fabric I used was perfect in color but tended to fray, so I had to pull out my trusty glue stick. A swipe with my needle over the top of the glue allowed me to tame the pesky threads as I turned them under.

Leaves basted and ready to stitch.

I was happy with the way the appliqué looked without embroidery but I knew it would be even better with the goldenrod thread/tape I bought. I stitched a French knot and then 4-5 straight stitches around it, starting at the top and working my way down the appliqué.

The stitches added another layer of texture.
I loved this tape!

The finished block  with a stem-stitched stem out of #5 pearl cotton from Oliver Twist Fibres.

I was happy with the finished result and Teri said it made her sneeze just looking at it!

Stitches and Threads Used (cotton block)

Gold hand-dyed tape for French knots and straight stitches on flower (I got mine from an unknown source but you can purchase something similar from Threadnuts in the Klimt palette.
Variegated blue/green #5 pearl cotton from Oliver Twist Fibres for stem stitch.

Wool Block

I gathered my two colors of wool and matching threads; the green wool came from a source here in Germany, DK Wright Construction.. Kelly, the owner has been fantastic to work with and I was thrilled to be able to find a source here.

I stitched down my flower pieces with matching thread using an appliqué stitch and for the leaves I used a blanket stitch with a silk and wool blend from Thread Gatherers.

For the wool block, I wanted to pay homage to the antique goldenrod piece above, so I decided to do French knots for the flowers. The knots don't have to be orderly and perfect, so I varied the size with 2 and 3 wraps and I also varied the tension of my wraps to give some a looser look. The hand-dyed #12 pearl was perfect for creating variation in the color of the knots.

Varying the size of the knots helps to add texture.

A stem stitch with #12 pearl cotton for the leaf vein.

The finished wool block.

Stitches and Threads Used (wool block)
Gold #12 pearl cotton, Painters Threads from Threadnuts in Klimt, for French knots
Green wool/silk blend in Dark Forest by Thread Gatherer for stem stitched stem and blanket stitch around leaves
Light green variegated #12 pearl cotton Valdani #O575 for stem stitched vein on leaf

And then there were four!

All the cotton blocks, August-November.

All the wool blocks, August through November.

Have you joined in the fun yet? If so, we'd love to see your blocks! These blocks go together very quickly, even with the embroidery and there are more to come, so if you haven't joined us yet, jump right in.

Download the Goldenrod HERE

To see the other blocks in our stitch along:
Fly Agaric