Thursday, November 7, 2019

Still Crazy...


When pondering the title of this post, a number of familiar songs came to mind, and I (Teri) have a bit of Paul Simon, Heart, Van Morrison, Queen, and Patsy Cline bouncing in my head as I write. (I guess that dates me, doesn't it?!) Kara's Crazy Mittens post last week reminded me how much fun we have playing with stitch combinations when doing a crazy quilt-style project. A couple of months ago, Kara and I found a group of three "Victorian crazy quilts" in an online auction and thought we would bid on the lot. To our delight, we won the quilts! What better way to be inspired to play with embroidery stitches than to study the stitching on old crazy quilts? 

Even quilts benefit from some vitamin D!
Alas, when the quilts arrived at my house, I was deterred from admiring the stitching by the strong aroma of mustiness that permeated the room. I quickly packed them back in the plastic bag until we could figure out a solution to the smell. As the quilts were predominantly silks and velvets, washing them was out of the question. I purchased some bags of activated charcoal and put them in the plastic bag with the quilts for a few weeks and awaited a clear. sunny day for airing them. They need a bit more of both, but I am happy to declare that they are MUCH improved, and I was able to lay them on the bed to study them! Yay!!



The first of the quilts is a modified chevron pattern (I think), and has a wide variety of fabric samples. There is a mixture of prints and solids, with many silks, but also some brocades, velvets, a ribbon, and a painted piece. It is hand-pieced, but the backing and binding are machine sewn.

  
In the first picture, notice the ribbon from the Pontiac High School Alumni Association Reception. I found Pontiac High Schools located in a number of states in the U.S. but couldn't find anything relating to this piece. The flowers in the second photo are elaborately painted onto a piece of silk or satin, the only painted piece in the quilt. It is not uncommon to find event ribbons and painted motifs in Victorian era crazy quilts, so it was fun to find them in this quilt.

  
There is an eclectic collection of different fabrics here. The fuzzy black and white checked fabric was a surprise, stitched among the silks and velvet pieces. I have been unable to ascertain whether they were sample bits of fabrics, or perhaps pieces from ties or dresses. Or possibly, both.

  
The stitching combinations in this quilt are not overly elaborate, but they do add some interest to the patchwork of this quilt. This is not a typical crazy quilt, but it does combine some "crazy" characteristics to this pieced design.

A stitch combination with four colors 

The back: if you look carefully, you can see stitching in parallel curves,
almost like a clamshell design. It appears that the back is stitched to a piece
of thin batting or flannel, and then those are tacked to the front with small stitches.

  
The  combination stitches are all done with pearl cotton thread, but sewing thread is used to tack the quilt top to the other two layers of fabric, and those stitches are camouflaged amongst the decorative embroidery. Note the tacking stitches circled in yellow.


This second quilt is not crazy at all. It is a fun combination of a tumbling block and star design, full of secondary designs.

 
The star designs are showcased with a plush red center, surrounded by black velvet diamonds.

  
Each star is made with three tumbling blocks.

This star includes some fun fussy-cutting.

Some shattered silk reveals a cotton batting.

Evidence of fine hand-piecing

Braided cording is used to bind the quilt,

  
The plush star centers are repeated on the back to hide the tying of the three quilt layers.


To be continued...
The smallest of the three quilts is the winner when it comes to elaborate stitching. So much so that it deserves its own post, so you can enjoy the exquisite combinations and be as inspired as I am. So stay tuned!



We have not gotten these quilts appraised and are not experts in dating fabrics, but I feel pretty certain that these are not "Victorian crazy quilts" as described in the auction. My best guess is that they were made sometime in the mid-1900s, with either fabric scraps or samples. Unfortunately, we know none of the stories of these quilts, so we will just have to make up own. What I do know is that a lot of work was put into them, and I can certainly appreciate that!

P.S.—Do you have a crazy song stuck in your head?  đŸŽ”đŸ˜„đŸŽ”

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Going a Little Mitten Crazy With a New Pattern!

Shorter nights and cooler temperatures are sure signs that winter is just around the corner and winter coats, boots, and mittens are being dusted off in anticipation. Long winters can make me a little crazy, and I (Kara) would rather stitch mittens than wear them. For my upcoming USO class, I decided to create a mitten ornament with a few crazy quilt stitches as embellishment. Then I thought if one mitten was great, why not five, and a new pattern was born! I like having decorations that can stay up after Christmas is over, so this little panel can brighten a dreary day after the holidays have come and gone.

Five little mittens adorned with a few simple crazy quilt stitches




As an added bonus, we have included the instructions for the mitten ornament with the panel, so you get two projects for the price of one!

This can be used as an ornament or even a gift tag!


Two patterns for the price of one!

A mitered, wool border frames the mittens, with a bright red herringbone stitch in the seam to highlight them. Timtex™ stiffener inside allows it to be propped on a small plate rack, but a simple ribbon hanger would work for hanging it on a wall. All the threads used were Valdani #12 perle cotton. The mittens don't have to be red either—other color schemes would be lovely as well!

The pattern comes with templates, embroidery guide, placement pattern and detailed instructions to get you started. If you head over to our website www.needleseyestories.com, you can instantly download this pattern and whip a few up for gifts before the holidays begin.

Have fun making these winter woolens!


P.S. No kittens cried or were deprived for this pattern. 😁

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Butterfly Wings and Trilliums

Yesterday, on our social media pages (Instagram and Facebook), I (Teri) posted this flower center with the caption "Guess the flower!" We didn't get a lot of guesses, but that wasn't too surprising to me. When we decided to add this particular flower to our new Woodland Reverie quilt designs, I confess that I had to do some research, as it is a flower I don't know very well. But Google is a wonderful resource, and I was able to find some excellent photos to use as models for my flower. 

But first, let's look at some butterfly wings. 




One of my favorite parts of the entire process is choosing colors and materials. We love to try new fibers or learn a new technique to create a flower, or whatever design element we are stitching. One of the new blocks in our new design includes a butterfly. I thought it might be fun to create one with dimensional wings, but with fabric rather than using stumpwork to make the wings. Thus, my quest for a fun fabric to fussy-cut for wing designs.

This Jinny Beyer border print was my first try. I created window templates cut out of paper to audition fabrics. The hard part was to find prints with symmetry, so that the wings could be flipped to make mirror images.

I really liked this design, but it was a bit too dark for my overall block design.


 
This Jo Morton fabric was the one that I finally settled on using. Once I had the wings traced, my next task was to determine how to embroider them to enhance the print. I had a vision, but I wasn't loving the wings I was stitching. And I learned that some threads unstitch easier than others. So I started playing with similar areas on my fabric to experiment, as I hate reverse stitching!

 
My initial idea was to use a #4 metallic braid by Painters Threads to fill in the negative space with a feather stitch. After several attempts, I wasn't pleased with the look and decided to attempt to outline the paisley. I practiced with the backstitch and switched to an outline stitch, neither of which was giving me that "Ah-ha" moment I was seeking. Finally, I remembered that I had recently purchased some tiny beads that matched my fabric perfectly, so I used the seed beads—rather than a seed stitch—to fill in the negative space. 

 
I used a matching piece of fabric for the back of the wing and then used that metallic braid around the edge to give it the hint of shimmer that I wanted. 

For days, I just stared at these wings trying to figure out how to embellish them. Sometimes, it just takes time to let those creative ideas bubble around in my head before the right solution comes to me. 

        
My butterfly now has wings (shown above from the back and the front), but his body is still bouncing around in my head. Some possible threads for his body are being auditioned here, but I'm not sure how he will be stitched yet. Time will tell!  


As its name would suggest, a trillium has three petals, with three leaves behind those petals. Often, they are white, but I found this stunning red one, which I knew would be perfect for my color palette. This photo, found on the American Meadows garden website, served as my model. I knew I wanted to use wired ombrĂ© ribbon, but I had to play with the ribbon to get the right measurements and colors. 


My first attempt was close, but I had to overlap the petals in the center to size it correctly, which would have precluded embroidery in the center. And I wanted a warmer color for the petals.

I adjusted the size a bit and manipulated the ribbons and was more pleased with the results. I pondered the center for days before determining how to do the center. 

And here is my trillium. I may have to order some (real ones, not ribbon) and plant them in my garden—I think they are rather lovely!

Sometimes, I find that creativity comes easily, and then there are those times when I just have to puzzle and ponder awhile, until the right stitch or fiber jumps into my mind. But that it the fun of it, isn't it? The sense of satisfaction when you are happy with your butterfly wings and trillium—or whatever it is you are stitching!