Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fairy Tales in Redwork

Once upon a time, there were two friends who loved fairy tales and quilts, so they created an album quilt comprised of fairy tale blocks of some of their favorite stories. Those designs became the impetus for a wool quilt, ornaments, a crazy quilt, and a flannel baby blanket. I (Teri) thought it might be fun to create a small quilt combining patchwork and redwork embroidery, just to round out our fairy tale stitching.

I did all the embroidery about four years ago, and gathered my fabrics—reproductions—to make the patchwork blocks and even made a sample churn dash block. It all got placed in a bag and put on hold, because we were in the process of moving. And then I forgot about them for a couple of years. This past winter, I pulled them out and decided it was time to complete the quilt. With a little help from my friend, Barb, we knocked out those half-square triangles. Since each block needed four, I found this method to be the easiest way to get eight at once.

With right sides together, layer the two fabrics.
Mark diagonals on the lighter fabric.

Stitch a 1/4-inch seam on either side of the drawn lines.

Cut vertical and horizontal cuts through the center point to make four squares.

Place your ruler directly on the drawn line and cut the squares into two triangles. Press toward the darker side. This yields 8 squares, enough for two of my churn dash blocks. There are lots of sites available online to help you determine how big a square to start with to end up with the desired sized squares. If you love math, the typical formula is to take the size of the finished square, add 7/8", and double that number to get the size of your initial squares of fabric. I usually make mine a hair larger to I can trim down for better accuracy, so I tend to round up a bit.

When all my squares were made, I auditioned several large print fabrics to add interest, and of course, I had to choose my border. I don't like to do things the easy way, and I selected a stripe that had the colors I wanted to highlight from the quilt—it took me as long to carefully cut these border pieces as it did to make a whole churn dash block! But it was worth the effort. 

Usually when I miter a corner, I add a good four inches on either end. Because I had just a yard of the fabric, I only had enough to miter with about a half-inch to spare on either end. I used LOTS of pins, sewed very slowly, . . . 
. . . pressed my miter into place, pinned again, and hand appliquéd my mitered corner seams. That way I could better control matching my stripes. 
After appliquéing the corner miter seams, I trimmed the back to a 1/4-inch seam allowance and snipped the corners straight.
Using the 45-degree angle marking on my ruler, I lined it up with my mitered seams to verify that I had maintained my square corners. Yay—it had worked! Now it was ready to be quilted. 

I took the top to the Academy of Appliqué in March, where we met Beth Filko, who is a longarm quilter. The top went home with her so that she could work her magic. She did a spectacular job of capturing the personality of each block, enhancing the simple pictures to bring them to life. 

Here are close-ups of each block.

How else would you start a fairy tale?

One of Snow White's dwarves—with the poisoned apple

The Nightingale singing for the emperor

The Little Mermaid amidst the ocean bubbles (or sea spray)

Cinderella's carriage

Thumbelina in a walnut shell boat pulled by a butterfly

The Ugly Duckling on the pond

Jack's cow traded for a few magic beans

Little Red Riding Hood in the forest

Most fairy tales include royalty, so I included a castle and a crown.

And of course, a typical fairy tale ending

There were five variations of the churn dash block. The center cross fabrics were identical throughout, and the half-square triangles were all blues and golds. The large scale print incorporated all the colors in those pieces blocks.  

The large print blocks were fussy cut and rotated around the center churn dash block.

The binding pulled the double pink fabric out from the pieced blocks.

Fairy Tales in Redwork

What a fun little quilt to make, even if it did take me years to finish it. I'm blaming the move to a new house. (I have to have some excuse, and that works as well as any.) I absolutely LOVE the work that Beth did in quilting it. Isn't it fun to study the blocks and see how she added to the symbol of the story in the quilting she chose? Thanks, Beth, for your fabulous work!

Someday, we will have all these fairy tales patterned! For now, we hope you enjoy remembering those classic tales of old.

NOTE: If you would like to see some of our fairy tale adventures, check out these posts:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Revisiting Little Red

When Teri and I (Kara) first started this stitching adventure, we did a fair bit of crazy quilt teaching. We fell in love with the stitches and the embellishments. As we are currently in the throes of getting ready for our block launch in the Woolen Oak Mystery Stitch-A-Long, we thought it might be fun to re-share some of our past posts. 

This project was a great blend of our favorite things—fairy tales and embellishment. We hope you enjoy our Little Red the second time around!

Making Little Red Crazy

Little Red Riding Hood is one of our favorite fairy tales so when I (Kara) saw this vintage postcard cloth reproduction on Ebay, I knew that it would be a perfect centerpiece for our next crazy quilting class.

Our first class went through the basics of embroidering seam stitches and motifs. After the class was finished, we began to get requests for a class that would teach some more advanced embellishment using ribbon, beads, and trims.

This Victorian Little Red Riding Hood 
became the centerpiece of a very simple block

I wanted to keep the block simple so that the project would not be overwhelming but would have enough space to fit all the different techniques we wanted to teach. This particular colorway has to be one of my favorites, so picking fabrics for it was easy.

The first step was highlighting different elements of the postcard with a bit of silk ribbon and wool thread. I just did a few gathered silk roses where there were roses on the print and added some chain, stem, and straight stitches on the birdcage and basket.

After the postcard elements were done, I began to plan the seam stitches for the piece. Those needed to be done next since the embellishments would overlap them a bit.  

Chain stitches and lazy daisies

After the seam stitches were finished, I started on the different embellishment techniques we wanted to teach. The butterfly was created from a piece of scavenged lace and was attached with a crested chain stitch done close together with a Valdani #8 pearl cotton. The little wood beads used for the butterfly's body were the perfect color.

A lacy butterfly

The blue silk ombré ribbon that frames the corners was gathered first and then attached with glass beads.

The next place to be embellished was the lower right corner where I did some more gathered roses, as well as two spiderweb roses. The center flower is made up of silk ribbon using the ribbon stitch, some straight stitches, and more glass beads for the center.

Last but not least were a couple of motifs to balance things out and pull from the imagery in the center. The flowers from the picture were re-created with french knots and silk ribbon. The basket was made with the same wool used on the postcard, but I added a tiny piece of linen for the cover.

None of the techniques used in this block were difficult, but when used in conjunction with the charming vintage postcard, they created a lovely sample for our class.

The Little Red Riding Hood postcard has so many options for embellishment and so do the postcards pictured below. I can see a wreath of French knots surrounding the hands and maybe some ribbon roses for the one on the right.

Crazy quilting lends itself to all tastes, and there are no rules as to what can be used for embellishment. Hopefully you have enjoyed looking at our crazy Little Red and have been able to get some ideas for your crazy quilt blocks. Happy Stitching!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Taming Appliqué Points

Whether it is cotton or wool, we love appliqué, though cotton appliqué is our first love. Through the years we have learned many tips and techniques to help us hone our craft, and today I (Kara) would like to share some "pointers" on points.

There are three things that can help make your points practically perfect. I like to call them my point-turning-trifecta—a sturdy needle, a toothpick, and a glue-stick.

Sajou appliqué needles, a toothpick, and
an acid-free glue-stick 

The French Sajou appliqué needles have a nice large eye, a sharp point, and are quite sturdy, but we also like the Bohin size 11 appliqué needles for the same reasons, since the Sajou needles might be hard to source in the states. An acid-free glue-stick, a run-of-the-mill toothpick, and the trifecta is complete. 

Here is a little picture tutorial of making a pointy point on a leaf, but the process will certainly work for any appliqué points. Both Teri and I are big fans of the back-basting method of needle-turn appliqué, so the pictures below will show that method. (For lefties, just reverse the process.)

Back-basted leaf ready to stitch
Remove a couple basting stitches and begin 
turning under the seam allowance up to about
an 1/8th of an inch from the corner.

Trim off the top of the point just above the 
drawn line. Make sure to leave some fabric
at the top.

With your toothpick or needle, turn under the 
right side seam allowance and secure with two
anchor stitches in the same spot at the top.

With your toothpick or your needle,
sweep the left side seam allowance under, and
then roll the toothpick away from the point.
Try not to jam the seam allowance into the point.
Give a gentle tug on your thread to pull
out the point and finger press in place. 
Continue turning the seam allowance under,
while rolling the toothpick away from the point.

Where does the glue-stick come in, you might ask? If your point gives you troubles or frays, run your needle or the toothpick over the top of the glue-stick and then sweep your left seam allowance under. The little bit of glue will hold things down for you to stitch the fabric in place. 

For a visually more pronounced point, take a tiny stitch at the point and into the background just a hair. A sturdy needle helps with this tip as you are stitching through a lot of layers.

A little broderie perse leaf with a decent point. The little stitch on the end helps give 
the illusion of a sharper point.

Another leaf where the stitch at the top will help make your point look sharper,

The leaves above may look great, but we all have those days and/or fabric that just doesn't let us make beautiful points. One solution is to camouflage them with a little embroidery! 

A fly stitch around these leaves adds dimension but also hides 
any point imperfections.

Another fly stitch camouflaged leaf.

Not all points are leaves. A stem stitch does the hiding here.

Why not use a chain stitch to "accentuate" the points?

And truthfully, sometimes we have appliqué pieces that are so small you really don't want to mess with them—that is what ultra suede is for.

After making all the little stones around the doorway,
I chose to use ultra-suede for the topiary pot.

I like to look at every point as a challenge and try to make it my best one yet. Practice makes perfect—or at least better—and remember, there are no point police! Occasionally, I will talk to the point and say, "You're not the boss of me," and then stitch it into submission (those are nicer words than some of the other words I might say to my appliqué). 

Hopefully, you can add a few more tricks to your appliqué bag, and you will be able to tackle your points with confidence!