Do you ever look at a designer's quilt and wonder where the inspiration for the color choices come from? When I was a beginner, I often wondered myself. I would stick to the tried and true combinations of primary colors and what I thought went together. I was not ready to wander from my comfort zone.
Today, I am more willing to take a risk with color. Since I have a large stash of scraps, I can often experiment to make sure the colors I have chosen work for the block, even if it is not the actual fabric I will be using. Try doing this yourself. Make one block from a quilt you want to make. Choose the colors (correct shades even, like medium, light, dark) you are thinking of for the entire quilt from your scraps and make a block. This way you can "audition" the colors without buying large quantities of expensive yardage before knowing if the colors will even look good to you. Bonus ... you get an orphan block that you can use to make a pillow or a candle mat for a gift!
I also like to pile up fat quarters or fat eighths to get an idea of what color combinations I would like.
Then I take those to the store and get the amount I need for a quilt.
Some Sources of Color Inspiration:
There are many sources of inspirations other than the bolts of fabric on the quilt shop shelf, although those are definitely a good place to look. I have been known to use a box of crayons, random colors in a shirt I own or even a flowering plant. Below are photos of plants that I had outside this summer.
Other sources I have used are a pile of colored pencils even a box of threads.
I have often grouped colored pencils or crayons together to see how the colors play off each other. I bet you never thought your kids' box of Crayolas would come in handy like that!
To sum up, whether you get your color inspiration in the conventional way...the quilt shop or in unconventional ways, like I have described, have fun!
Now here's a oldie but goodie "quilting funny" to entertain you for the weekend! Happy Quilting!
Have you heard of that show on the DIY Network called Cool Tools? The host introduces new and improved construction tools to his audience in a humorous and informative way. Well ….. I have my own tools that I call my cool tools that I turn to often when I am creating a new projects.
I’m not talking about the usual like sewing machine, thread, needles, rotary cutter, etc. These are in additional to those tools that are considered normally needed. Some of the things I use are not necessarily exclusive to quilting. Some have been around a long time but some are newer. These are things I do not have to have, but they make life easier.
The tool that keeps me safe when cutting is my O’lipfa ruler guard. I found this at a quilt shop several years ago when I saw the store owner had one on her ruler as she cut fabric. You peel a paper backing off and stick the guard down on your ruler. Now, if your rotary cutter skips over the edge of your ruler, it will hit the guard …. not your hand!
One of my favorite tools is my pressing stick. I do scrappy quilts so I am often making blocks that contain many pieces. Instead of getting up to press every seam with the iron, I will press my seams with the pressing stick (yes, I press mine open …. but that’s another story!). This is one of my oldest tools. I think I bought it over 20 years ago.
A tool that is new to me and quickly becoming a favorite is the Quilt in a Day Triangle Square-up Ruler. A student in a class I was teaching introduced me to this tool and it have made life easier when making half-square triangle (HST) squares … and I make a lot of those!
I use the HST technique that uses two squares and yields two half-square triangle squares once they are placed right sides together and a seam is sewn on each side of a drawn line. Once I cut the unit apart and before pressing it open, I use the ruler to trim the unit to the correct size. So much easier that having to trim all four sides!
Believe it or not, one of my essential tools is a digital camera.
I use this to remember the placement of appliqué pieces when I am auditioning layouts. I will take photos of different options and then compare them. When I have decided, I will then refer back to the chosen photo while stitching my project to make sure I stitch the appliqués where I wanted them.
The final tool I’ll share today is my circle template. I believe this is actually made for scrapbooking, but it works for quilting too!
When I need to trace several circles for fabric or wool appliqué, instead of tracing around a paper template, I use this. I choose the size I need and trace as many circles as I want without ruining a paper template and ending up with circles that …. are not quite circles!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this review of “my cool tools”. Share with me some of the tools you can’t live without.
So, you've been following my applique series? Now I will share with you some of the extra tips that help make appliqué time fun!
- If you are doing an appliqué motif that is repeated in your project and it uses several colors, consider threading a needle for each color you will be using so you will not have to keep emptying and re-threading the same needle every time you change colors. Seems like a simple tip, but it saves time!
- If you don't mind using some extra paper, this is a good way to layout the full design on the block or quilt top. It gives you a good idea where to stitch the actual pieces. Most patterns have appliqué diagrams and photos, however, doing a layout with paper cutouts or the actual pieces (if you have them ready, will help you to see it in person. Take a photo of it and refer to it often.
- Some appliqué motifs consist of several pieces layered on top of one another. To make things easier for you, stitch smaller appliqué pieces to larger ones that they are layered on before stitching the entire motif to the quilt top. This is a big help if your appliqué has several layers and your project is large. It's easier to layer and stitch the unit and then stitch it in place onto the quilt top.
Comfort is a must!
- Pick a comfortable chair where you can set up your sewing light. Take several breaks. I know you want to get that project done, but it's a good thing to take a break after 20-30 minutes of stitching and do some light stretching. I found this blog that has a great mid-day stretch routine that would work good at a break.
It's Stitching Time!
So now we are ready to stitch the appliqué pieces to the block or quilt top. The first step is to prepare the appliqué piece for easier stitching by clipping the fabric in the seam allowance. This makes turning under the seam allowance easier as you are stitching.
As you can see, the clipping in the seam allowance goes up to but not over the drawn line on the appliqué piece. This clipping also helps shape the the piece as you are stitching. Fewer clips are needed on straight areas and more clips, closer together are needed in curved areas to help shape that curve.
Here is a handy clipping diagram to help:
The next step is to position the appliqué piece on the block or quilt top. To do this, rulers come in very handy! Many patterns have appliqué diagram and good photos to help in position the pieces also. If you need to find the center of a block, use rulers to measure from the top and from the side and mark the center with a quilting pencil.
Once you have positioned the piece, use the fabric glue to secure it in place for stitching. As I mentioned in my first post, I use Roxanne's Glue Baste-it. There are other fabric glues also available. I like this one because of the long, thin nozzle that deposits small dots of glue on the back of the piece. Use these small dots so there is not too much glue on the back, just enough to hold the piece secure.
Now it's time to stitch! Thread your needle with thread that matches (as closely as possible) the color of your appliqué piece. This aids in "hiding" your stitches. The thread I like to use is 100% cotton with a silk finish made by Mettler.
You begin by sweeping the seam allowance under, where you are going to begin stitching, with the needle. Then start to stitch the piece down using a blind stitch and sweeping the seam allowance under as you go. Here a are some photos of appliqué stitching:
The first photo is the initial stitch. Start by pushing your needle up from underneath just catching the edge of the appliqué piece's turned under seam. Pull through until the knotted end of the thread catches underneath. The second photo shows the needle going back down close to where you you initially came up but just in the background fabric. Then pull the needle and thread through. You can see by photo three, how small the stitch is. It is barely noticeable. Especially since the thread is very close to the color of the piece. You then start the next stitch by coming up from underneath about 1/16 to 1/8 inch from the first stitch as shown in the photo below:
You stitch in this fashion until the entire appliqué piece is secured to the background fabric. Once you have finished, turn the piece over and cut out the excess background fabric behind the appliqué piece to remove bulkiness. This is good to do especially if you have an appliqué motif that has several layers.
So there you go! Start stitching! Join me next week for the wrap-up to this series of posts.
So now that you have gathered things together to appliqué (they'll be a few other things I mention, but most of those are optional), let's move on to the next step in starting a project.
Patterns and books come with templates that are used to make the appliqué motif for the project. Here is how I like to prepare my templates for use. I will copy the template pattern page or the template page from the book onto cardstock. If I do not have cardstock available, I copy the page onto regular paper, then find some light weight cardboard to glue the page to. Once this is done, cut out the templates on the line. The reason I like to do this is to keep the template sturdy, especially if I have to trace a lot of pieces or I want to use the pattern over several times.
Here is a leaf template glued to cardstock and then cut out:
Creating the Pattern Pieces
Now use the template created above to trace out the amount of each shape needed from the designated fabric. Trace the shapes onto the RIGHT side of the fabric. Once the shapes are traced, cut them out adding a scant 1/4 seam allowance for turn under fabric while stitching,
Stabilizing the Block or Quilt Top
This step is optional but I like to do this to prevent the block or quilt top from fraying in the seam allowance. Quilting cottons fray easily and you could lose precious seam allowance while handling the project often while stitching. Just add some Fray Check™ to the edges and protect that seam allowance!
Making Stems from Strips
Stems are made using bias strips (strips cut on the bias) if you want your stems to be easy to stitch into curves or from straight strips if they do not have to curve.
Whether using bias strips or straight strips to make stems, an easy way to prepare them into stems is by using a bias maker tool. This is also optional as you can just fold the sides of the strips in and iron, however, the bias tool makes this job easier and keeps your fingers further from the iron! If you want 1/2" stems, you start with a 1" strips and use a 1/2" tool. If you want 1/4" stems, you start with a 3/4" strips and use a 1/4" tool. I like Clover bias tools. Using the iron and this tool, you make stems!
There you go! Now get your motifs cut out and your stems made and we will meet up on Part 3 (next week). I will demonstrate preparing the cut out motifs and stitching.
Until then .... Happy Quilting!
Happy New Year and here's to a great 2015!
I'll be posting the next post in the applique series next week. Come back and see me in the new Year!
So you want to hand appliqué? This blog post is the first thing you need to read! I cover the supplies I use (and can’t live without!) when I am working on a new appliqué project. I have always done my appliqué by hand since taking a class almost 20 years ago. Believe it or not, it's my form of relaxation!
One of the best tips I can give you is good lighting! It is important to have good lighting to see your stitching and to make sure you are keeping your stitches small. I have this great light that has a built in magnifier that is probably the best purchase I’ve made!
Supplies you will need other than the lighting are:
1. Scissors for both fabric and paper. The scissors for paper are to cut out the templates traced from patterns. The scissors for fabric are to cut out the appliqué piece and also clip into the seam allowances.
2. Tracing pencil. I recommend the Sewline brand of mechanical pencils sold in most quilt shops. They come with many lead colors such as white and green. The lines erase easily!
3. Thread the color of your appliqué piece. I use Mettler silk-finished 100% cotton. These threads come in hundreds of colors. You need to match the color of your appliqué piece as close as possible because it helps hide your stitches.
4. Appliqué needles. I use size 9. The larger the number the smaller the needle. You need to find the size needle you are comfortable with.
5. Fabric glue. I love this product! When I started appliquéing many years ago, we had to secure our appliqué pieces with pins. What a headache! The pins could shift while you were sewing and that would lead to a piece being appliquéd in the wrong place. Also, I can't remember how many times I was stabbed by a pin holding an appliqué piece in place. Now we have the temporary basting glues. I use Roxanne Glue-Baste-It.
You put a few dots of glue on the wrong side of the fabric, place your appliqué where you want it and lightly press it down with your fingers. In 30 seconds, the glue dries and your appliqué is firmly in place ready for you to sew it on.
So there you go! Gather these supplies and pick out a project to start on. If you are a beginner, be sure to pick an appliqué project with larger, less challenging pieces for practice.
My next blog post (after Christmas) will cover the first steps in beginning an appliqué project.
Happy Holidays and Happy Quilting!
Why I Love Scraps!
I love scraps because ….. I always have a lot of them! I don’t think any quilter is without scraps. When cutting out a project, I usually end up with the side of my cutting table looking like this ….
Yeah that’s quite a mess! But I can put these to work. Here’s some ways I can use scraps and not have to throw out any fabric (it’s too expensive for that!).
When I am left with a chunk of fabric that is less than 1/8 yard the first thing I do is cut it into strips. 1 1/2” and 2 1/2” strips. I then store them in bags, usually separated by color family. Here’s some of my bags.
So what can you do with these strips? You can make Log Cabin blocks .....
..... you can add pieced strippy borders to quilt tops to make them bigger ......
or you can use various color strips to make a pieced scrappy binding!
These are just a few of the uses. Can you think of others?
If a piece of fabric is not able to be cut into strips, those pieces get separated into color stacks and go into my bins for appliqué. Instead of having to cut into larger pieces of fabric just for one small appliqué, I dig into my appliqué bin!
Finally, another way I use scraps is to make test blocks when I am starting a new project. I pull out scraps in the colors needed for the quilt I plan to make and I construct one block to see how it comes out. That way I am not committed to a certain color scheme until I like how it looks in a test block. Once I get the color scheme I like, I can then buy the fabric needed (or search through my stash) and not be afraid to cut it up and make the quilt. I already know it will look good!
So, do you “love scraps”? Share your thoughts with me!
Now that you have everything prepared (see my previous blog post titled Sewing Checklist), let's take care of one last thing. Make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4 seam!
This is the best quilting tip I think I can share, using an accurate 1/4" seam allowance when piecing a quilt block and assembling a quilt. Unless otherwise mentioned, most patterns require a 1/4" seam allowance when piecing. If your seams are off even by a fraction of that, the error will become magnified by the time you complete your block and it will not measure the size it should be. It's always good to check even if you sew a lot. If you change threads (go from a thinner one to a thicker one), that can even throw off the seam size.
To make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4" seam, get some scrap fabric and do a test seam. Measure the seam.
If it measure 1/4", good job! If not, you can create a guideline on your machine throat plate (if it doesn't have one already) by placing a fabric tape measure on the bed of the machine with the "0" line at the point where your needle comes down. As you can see by the arrow in the photo, I already have a line on my machine.
If you don't have a line etched on your throat plate, stick a piece of masking tape to the throat plate under the tape measure at the 1/4" mark.
When piecing, you will line up the raw edges of your fabric with the tape line. Measure the resulting test seam to make sure it is 1/4".
Many machines come with a 1/4" sewing foot (or you can purchase one) and other machines have adjustable needle positions. Check your owners manual to see if you have this option for your machine.
Here's my 1/4" foot:
So, the moral to this blog post is ...... check your seam allowance when starting a new project. Especially if you have changed threads. You don't want to start piecing blocks together and find out nothing is fitting!
Okay...now that you have that accurate seam allowance down...Let's get sewing!
My new book is now available! You can purchase it here at my website!
My book explores the history of appliqué and celebrates it with nine unique and colorful projects.