Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Adventure With Atarashii

At a recent Black Forest Quilt Guild meeting, I (Kara) was fascinated with one of the show and tell quilts. It was made using Atarashii, or Japanese folded patchwork. (You can see pictures of the quilt here.) The method creates a block or part of the block, complete with patchwork, if desired, and batting; similar to a quilt-as-you-go process. I had a hard time finding information about it when I initially looked into it, but I have found some resources that I will share later in the post. 

Since I was so intrigued by this method, I thought I'd give it a try. Then I realized I didn't have any fabric or batting handy (my stash is apparently still on the boat). Luckily, my friend Birgit's shop is only a block away, and she had a book I could borrow on Atarashii. Off I went to pick up the book and a few fat quarters.

Birgit's Book about Atarashii.

As this was an experiment to see if I liked this method, this post isn't necessarily a tutorial. For a detailed tutorial, you can check here. This is a great tutorial from Jill at the Quilt Rat, and I liked the way she offered many different variations of a classic cathedral window, which is closely related to Atarashii. One of the variations reminded me of a flower, so that was what I chose to do. I used the book to trace my patterns, as I wanted to make sure I had the proportions correct. The book is written in Japanese, but the patterns were easy to trace and there were quite a few pictures to help with the process. I had to be a bit resourceful, making do with what I had—notebook paper to trace with and an Ikea box for the cardboard—but I was determined to make it work. I assembled all my parts and got started. 

All my parts ready to go

I started by piecing my circle.

Drawing my 1/4" seam allowance helped me stitch accurately

My finished 3 1/4" circle

Once I was finished with the circle, it was time to put gathering stitches, near the edge. 

Ready to gather.

I had cut a cardboard circle, 2 5/8" to use as a gathering template and then proceeded to pull on my gathering stitches so that the edges wrapped around the cardboard. Once it was gathered to my liking, I pressed it to hold the edge and then removed the cardboard.

My pressed circle before removing the cardboard.

In order for my "leaves" to align correctly, I folded the circle in half, matching the green edges. I then finger pressed the fold.

Matching the green.
Finger pressing the center fold.

I then opened up the fold and marked, with a small mark on the top and bottom.

Note the small marks at the top and bottom of the circle.

The marks allowed me to align my 1 3/4-inch square cardboard template.

Aligned and ready to press

I then pressed the edges of the circle over the cardboard.

Pressed edges with cardboard removed.

I prepared my center insert by stitching a 1 3/4" square, consisting of one 1" x 1 1/4" rectangle and one 1" x 1 3/4" rectangle of white, and one 1 1/4" square of coral. I put a few French knots on the coral and stitched a green stem using a chain stitch from the coral to the point.

Adding details.

Now the fun part as the flower appears! I put a 1 1/4" square of batting, and then my patchwork square in the center of my folded circle.

Please just pretend that patchwork square has the embroidery on it.

Then I folded my edges over and pinned them.

Ready to stitch!

I worked my way around the edges with a small appliqué stitch, starting at one corner.

A finished block

Just one in this size would be a cute little ornament, but I wanted to see what patterns I could create if I had four of them. So I made 3 more.

One version

A different placement

And one more

I settled on the first version and proceeded to attach the four parts in the same way I would if I were English paper piecing.

Stitching them together

My finished piece!

This is just one variation of many that can be done with this basic method. The variety comes from varying the pieced colors of the circle and the square. You can see a lot of different variations here. I will say that I think this method would be easier using larger pieces—I will admit to having to press a couple of pieces into square submission! However, I do think this would be a fun method to pre-prep and take on the go. Let us know if you've tried Atarashii or Japanese folded patchwork and how you liked it. As always, we'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Local Inspiration

When Teri and I found out we would be going global, we knew that running our business would be faced with some new challenges, but we also knew that we would now have a whole new field of inspiration from which to draw. 

I now live in southwestern Germany, and the area is stunningly beautiful! Exploring the local region and all the many things it has to offer has been our primary focus over the last month and a half. We have been to a couple of fests, one castle, and a waterfall. Everywhere we go, I have found some form of inspiration for either embroidery, appliqué or both. In this post, I would like to take you on photo journey of my travels and show you some of the things that have inspired me.

The urn on this armoire would make a stunning appliqué pattern.
Too bad this piece didn't go home with me.

This amazing view is from Castle Hohenzollern

I see appliqué!

The detail on this door is striking.

A painted wall in the castle.

An amazing ceiling in the chapel.

A beautiful stained glass window that would be fun to recreate in fabric.

This reminds me of a papercut pattern.

More lovely stained glass.

I fell in love with this awesome verdigris door.

Even the architecture can be inspiring!

I would love to stitch the pattern on the little sewing box,
but the gnome creeped me out a little.

Since we arrived at the beginning of June, I have been on the GWTD diet. That stands for Gotta Walk the Dogs! It's working pretty well since the beasts below went from a fenced acre to run in to depending on us for their exercise.

Thankfully, just a block from our house are paved trails that meander through orchards, horse farms, and gardens. If that wasn't enough, just a little beyond that is a network of wide trails through the forest. The dogs and I go there just about every morning, and I have been inspired by all the natural beauty I see.

Most of the poppies have bloomed, but I was able to capture this straggler.

These remind me of the Canterbury Bells we have in the states
and would be a lovely wool appliqué project.

A hand-dyed silk ribbon would be great to use to stitch these.

Lots and lots and lots of French knots!

Wildflowers are not the only things we see on our walks—critters of varying kinds can be seen as well. 

This little guy was loving this thistle-like plant!

How kind of this butterfly to pose for me. 

I guess he wasn't finished with his photoshoot! What stitches would you use to make
this "social butterfly"?

Straight stitches for the thistle and appliqué with some French knots for this butterfly.

The snails are pretty big around here!

These sheep remind me of a friend's wool felting project.

A tranquil stitching spot, perhaps?

I have been diligently working on the sample for the Academy of Appliqué, (the catalog will be available August 5th,) so that hasn't left much time to act/stitch on the inspiration I see on a daily basis. Soon my collection of threads and fabric will come into port and make their way to our new, humble abode—maybe then,  I can try to recreate some of the beautiful things I have seen. 

I hope you have enjoyed a little trip to my corner of Germany, and may these pictures inspire you in some way. Have you traveled somewhere that inspired a stitching project? We'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crazy Quilting by Numbers

As I (Kara) mentioned in last week's post, Welcome to Germany: Quilter's Style, buying fabric to pad my stash before leaving for Germany made up most of the purchases I made in Houston. But as Teri and I were wandering through the booths, we came upon Sew Cherished. What caught our eyes, were not just the beautiful wool and wool projects, but the crazy quilting stitches that were incorporated into many of the patterns. We explored the booth and came across what looked like crazy quilting stitch guides. I was intrigued and asked the shop owner, Dawn, for more information.

The complete set of Crazy Stitches (petite size)

The guides were sheets of sticky, water-soluble paper with about 7-10 different crazy quilt combination stitches printed on each page. You choose which stitch you would like, cut it from the paper, trim it to size, stick it on your seam, and then stitch. I thought they would be interesting to try and bought the petite set. I love crazy quilting and the fun of coming up with all sorts of combination stitches, but I thought these sheets had some potential for a variety of reasons. 

A couple of months ago, I pulled the Crazy Stitch sheets out and put a project together to see if I would like them. I had a bunch of wool suiting samples that someone had given me, so I put together a patchwork wool piece to test the papers out.

A rough layout

The squared-up piece serged and ready for stitching. (On a side note, I am going to really miss my serger!)

Once I had my practice piece together, I needed to pick out my floss colors. I have worked on a crazy quilt project using limited colors, and I have worked on another crazy quilt project with no limits on colors. Surprisingly enough, the project with unlimited colors was much more difficult—too many colors to choose from. Teri and I had just received the full spectrum of Weeks Dye Works, 6-stranded floss, so I knew that I would be choosing my limited color selection from their collection.

All the Weeks Dye Works colors.

My final color selection.

The papers look like this out of the package:

This particular sheet would be great for practicing the basic stitches.

One of the combination stitches.

I counted the number of seams I had in my piece and then went through the sheets and cut out all the stitches and combination stitches that I wanted to use.

The 16 stitches and combinations I picked out

After I had selected my stitches, I decided where I wanted to put my first line of stitching, cut the paper to the right size, peeled the backing paper off and aligned it on my seam. The papers are sticky and if my fabric had been anything other than wool, I think the paper would have stuck better. I used pins to hold the stitch paper in place for the stitch below. For some of the other seam stitches, I lightly dampened the ends once I had the paper in the right place, and the paper stuck to my fabric removing the need for pins. WARNING: don't dampen it so much so that it dissolves!

All ready to stitch!

I started out with a simple stitch and progressed to some of the combination stitches. My needle went through the paper and fabric easily, and I was able to create a neat and consistent stitch.

Sweet little flowers using a blanket stitch, lazy daisies, and French knots

My third and final pass for this combination stitch.

I think the Murphy's law of crazy quilt stitching is that you will always run out of thread right before you finish the seam stitch.

I just couldn't get two more French knots out of this piece of thread.

This product lived up to what I had envisioned as its potential. I still had to decide what stitch to put where and what colors to use, but I didn't have to look through books to pick a combination stitch I liked. I also didn't have to put the brain power into coming up with my own combination stitch, because sometimes I just don't wan't to think too hard. Dawn has done all the thinking for us with these stitch sheets. The paper washed out well, but make sure you soak it long enough to get all the residue out. Also, wait until your piece is completely dry before ironing. I got a little impatient and the ironing didn't do any favors to my stitching

Definitely one of my favorite combinations!

These arrows got a little wonky from my ironing.

I love how the red pops against the tonal wool!

Here are some pros and cons that I discovered with this product:

  • These would be great for crazy quilters just starting out.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed with combination stitch possibilities, these sheets figure the stitches out for you.
  • If you struggle with consistency in your stitch size and spacing, this will help your muscle memory.
  • Having these to use when you just don't want to think too hard about what stitch to use would be great.
  • You have to get your project wet to wash out the paper, so your fabric, threads, and/or ribbon need to be colorfast.

You can purchase the Crazy Stitches sheets directly from Dawn's site, Sew Cherished, here. Type "Crazy Stitches" in the search bar at the top, and I'm sure if you have any questions about the product, Dawn would be able to answer them. 

This sampler probably won't be finished for a little while, because the Williamsburg Academy of Appliqué sample due date is coming soon. (We can't wait to show you our international flair blocks!) My plan will be to finish the rest of the seam stitches, and then possibly put a few wool appliqué designs from our upcoming wool block of the month on a few of the larger squares. Have you tried any new stitching products lately? If so, please share what they are and why you did or didn't like them. Happy Stitching!

(Through the Needle's Eye received no compensation for this post)