And Now There Are Ten

I finished the edge stitching, embroidery and leaves/stems on the last of the ten pieces this morning. I removed the excess stabilizer from the back and pressed each block.

Now each needs to be mounted on a 6×6 stretched canvas panel. I still have to decide whether to place batting beneath each before securing the silk to the back of the wooden frame. I’ll cut out a few pieces of batting and see how it looks. I also have to trim the silk panels to remove excess fabric so they’ll attach smoothly to the framing.

That’s for another day.

I survived Hurricane Fiona – the NE winds howled and pounded rain against my windows for a couple of hours. This storm was as severe as Hurricane Juan in 2003 – even though landfall was about 150kms from Halifax (Fiona came ashore at Canso) – in 2003 the city took a direct hit. Nevertheless winds here were strong enough to do significant damage. We were given ample warning – emergency measures folks were concerned about damage from falling trees because they still have all their leaves. They weren’t wrong.

I didn’t suffer a power outage, although a good portion of the city is still without electricity and for some it will take days before repair crews can get to them. A friend came over this morning to shower and do a bit of laundry! She’s hoping to have her power restored before Wednesday (which is her predicted date!).

6×6 – Six Finished

I’ve been procrastinating the past week – no idea why – but today I got back to the two 6×6 pieces I had 1/2 finished and completed them.

There are now six. [The outline is done with a Frixion heat-erasable pen. I’ll remove it when I’m ready to mount the individual pieces on the 6×6 stretched canvas frames.]

6×6 Six Finished

I have another couple of hours this afternoon – there are four 6×6 prepared – I’ll get a start on the edge stitching for a couple of them.

The Challenge – Part 2

Two more 6″ x 6″ blocks completed.

It’s taking about three hours to do each block what with the edge stitching on each piece of fabric, free motion stitching in the stems, stitching the leaves (which are decorative stitches) and embroidering the centres (which is taking way more time than I expected – for some reason my top thread is fraying when I’m embroidering so I get stops where I have to clean up the mess, backtrack the embroidery, then continue stitching.

So far, the signature is stitching out without breaking the thread! After I’ve pressed the block, I’ve redrawn the 6″ outline with a Frixion (heat-erasable) pen so I know where my edges are.

Three more left of the original six I prepared. When those are finished (in about a week or so) I’ll layout the remaining four.

Making Progress

Blue Socks Added To Stash

Finished this pair of socks on Friday and began a new pair that I think I might keep. The stash keeps growing – I will definitely have plenty of socks to share for Christmas. Last week I contacted the gal who wanted 4 pairs of socks from me two weeks before last Christmas – I told her this was the time to place her order. She said no socks this year. Do I really believe her? When she asked last year I just squeezed her order through – I had to take one pair, remove the toes, lengthen the foot by an inch, reknit the toes – she was lucky I had enough time to do that. I’ve already put aside a couple of pairs with someone’s name on them. I’ll just keep knitting as usual.

The Christmas Show Challenge

I finally made a decision regarding the 6″x6″ blocks – to use the textured raw silk for the background, to fuse batik circles of various sizes to the background to simulate “modern flowers”. I cut out ten 10″ blocks from the raw silk I have on hand, backed it with sewer’s dream to stabilize it, marked 6″ squares in the middle (using a heat erasable pen). Next, I added fusible web to a pile of batik scraps and cut out a lot of circles. I have started arranging and fusing circles to the raw silk.

Six Blocks Laid Out (but not yet fused)

Because all ten blocks will be shown next to one another, I’ve worked to vary placement, even cropping some of the flowers so the appearance of the blocks is different. I have to edge stitch the cropped edge so there are no raw edges at the edge of a piece.

I’ve completed one of the blocks

First finished 6″ Block

The slight wobble at the bottom of the block will be eased out when I mount the fabric over the stretched canvas.

Looks like each block will take me between 2 and 3 hours to embellish. It doesn’t look like a humungous amount of stitching but it takes more time than you think to edge stitch each bit of batik, then to add stems and leaves, and signature. The stems are free motion. The leaves are decorative stitches each requiring careful placement. The flower centres are embroideries which want precise positioning and often involve thread changes. It all takes time.

I’ve got another block sitting on my machine waiting to worked on tomorrow.

Another Idea

Appliqué on Raw Silk

In my stash, I have several metres of raw silk – I bought it in Toronto in 2008 to do wall art. I cut a strip, backed it with sewer’s dream – light weight woven fusible interfacing – to stabilize the weave of the silk and to eliminate some fraying at the edges, then cut the strip into 7 1/2″ blocks. I also had some fabric with these roses which I thought might work as appliqués – I backed a piece of the fabric with Pellon 805 fusible web, fussy cut these two flowers, fused them to the silk, thread painted them, added a signature, trimmed the block to 6 1/4″, bordered it, finally I mounted it.

Again, those corners are driving me crazy! Adding the black silk border adds quite a bit of bulk at that critical location and makes it nearly impossible to get a tight, square fold at the corner so while the fold look OK when you look at it from the side you can see the “pointy” bit sticking out when you look at the block face on.

I’m not sure how I feel about the raw silk – I think it has a bit too much texture compared to the woven silk I used on the other flower piece:

Also, I think I prefer the whimsy of the “Modern Flowers”.

I can’t source anything close to this woven silk here in Halifax; I’ve ordered several different types of silk from two different suppliers. Until it arrives (10 days/2 weeks?) I’ll keep playing with the raw silk squares, making more Modern Flowers arrangements. I think that’s where I’ve landed. Because I’ve cut the raw silk at just 7 1/2″ (8 1/4″ is what I need for wrapping around the stretched canvas) I’m going to have to trim and border the blocks but I want to explore different leaf types and lots of different appliqué placement.

Still experimenting!

Stretched

Three 6″ x 6″ Stretched pieces

My order of a dozen 6″ square stretched canvases arrived day before yesterday. I tried stretching some of the panels I’d made to see how it went. I first tried the crazy quilt block – I had already added a white cotton border to it so I darkened that with a black permanent marker (just to see what it looked like) then folded the fabric over the stretched canvas. Very difficult to get the corners tidy!

I next tried the beans – I didn’t bother trimming and making borders I was primarily interested in folding the corners. Again, they didn’t turn out as smoothly as I wanted. So I took both apart. I removed the canvas from the frame with the crazy quilt block – I wanted to use the canvas piece as a template to shape the bordered block. I trimmed both the crazy quilt and the beans blocks. Then I used double sided tape on the back of the frame so when I brought the border fabric around the sides and to the back it would stay where I put it without having to use a gazillion staples. I centred the crazy quilt block (trimming the corner from the batting underneath to eliminate some of the bulk in the corners) then folded the edges in the same way the canvas had been folded (which gave a flatter corner) and stapled the corners. I redid the beans piece the same way – the edges looked better.

I decided I should try adding a black border to the flowers – I have a large piece of woven silk shantung which my sister had brought me from Thailand at least 15 years ago. I’d made a pair of silk dress pants from half of it but I still have at least 2 metres so I decided I’d give it a try. The silk provides a nice matte edge but in order to sew it without a lot of fraying I will have to back it with sewer’s dream interfacing to give it some stability. The second challenge is to mark the 6″ square as accurately as possible, then add a line 1/4″ from that, so I can align the border silk and stitch an accurate 1/4″ seam. I did an adequate job on the flower piece but I have to become more precise because the light/dark join is obvious and has to be well done!

Back to making more 6″ square blocks.

Crazy Quilt 6″x6″ Sample

Experiment – Crazy Quilt 6″ x 6″

A quick try at “crazy quilt”. I learned several things with this experiment:

  • Leave out the batting, it isn’t necessary
  • Use light tear-away stabilizer instead
  • Be sure to save modified stitches as I go along so I don’t have to recreate them
  • The centre element should have a more irregular pentagonal shape
  • Cover area with fewer fabrics
  • Use brighter/lighter fabrics
  • Decorative stitch each strip as I go (much easier to make starts and stops exact)

In fact, I need to do another experiment – this time creating the entire block in the embroidery hoop! I’ve never done that but I have several block possibilities that create crazy quilt blocks as embroideries.

In any case, this is another possibility for the set of 6″x 6″ blocks!

With this block, I trimmed it to 6.5″ square, then added 2.5″ muslin strips to the sides to frame it. That will work. As soon as the 6″ mounted canvas arrives, I will try trimming and adding border strips in some colour or other so the sides of the pieces are uniform – that might be where the black comes in – the sides of the pieces could be finished in black fabric.

Afternoon

Crazy Quilt – Created In-The-Hoop

This block I created in the embroidery hoop using an embroidery design I had in my collection of embroideries. I like the shape of the central pentagon better – as I carry on – if I carry on – to create a series of these, I need to begin with an irregular central shape.

However, doing this in the hoop isn’t straightforward – the embroidery is set up to work with raw edges – the built in basting secures each piece but doesn’t take into account that the first basting seam needs to stop, the fabric turned, then the tacking to continue. In addition, I had to enlarge the embroidery in order to get a 6″ finished block – this resulted in the embroideries being larger than they want to be. Finally, the decorative stitching wasn’t done as the block developed but after all the fabric had been basted.

So, I don’t intend to carry on in the hoop – but this exercise was useful since I learned about

  • working in a clockwise order
  • trimming my fabric after each addition
  • leaving out the batting, using tear away interfacing instead, works well for the neatness of the stitches
  • and I still want to do decorative stitching as each fabric piece is added

Experiment – Flowers

Flowers on Silk

This is an adaptation of my Modern Flowers idea, an outgrowth of the Blue Flowers banner piece. Difficult, however, to decide what to do in a 6″ x 6″ space!

I started with a 10.5″ square of woven silk habotai fabric. Next I opened a baggie filled with circles left over from the Blue Flowers banner and began laying some out. Always the same decisions – centre the circles, offset them, relative size of adjacent flowers….

Once I had an acceptable layout, I fused the circles to the silk, added a 6.5″ x 6.5″ layer of batting beneath. What I didn’t do, and should have done, was add a backing of light tear-away stabilizer – that would have eliminate the bubbling in the silk as I embroidered the edges, stems and leaves. I will definitely add stabilizer to the next experiment.

The tricky element is positioning the embroideries for the centres and the decorative stitches for the leaves. I needed to rebuild the leaf stitch to start and finish at the stem end in order to be able to position each leaf on the stem in a realistic way. And then always the question – how many leaves do I want?

I’m happy with this experiment. I’ll do another couple of these – using the raw silk fabric I have rather than the silk habotai I used here.

There’s still time this morning to move on to another experiment – a crazy quilt block using batik. The question here is whether to cut and fuse it to a background at 6″ x 6″ or to take the quilting to the edges of the base 10.5″ square – that would allow the block to be wrapped around a mounting frame.

In the end I think I’m planning 10 pieces based on a single experiment, rather than 10 unrelated pieces.

Experimenting

Improvisation #2

This is the second “beans” experiment finished. I used a different stitch to edge stitch each swatch which worked better than the blanket stitch (the small fraying threads are contained). This time, the revised signature is a bit larger and actually readable! There are still one or two edits I want to make on the signature but it’s working better now.

On to another idea – a “flower” collage on raw silk – just to see what that turns out like in a 6″ x 6″ piece. I also want to create couple of crazy-quilt blocks to see what they turn out like.

Back to work.

The View – Completed

I still have to stitch the hidden binding on the back but other than that, this project is finished. Yesterday I’d finished applying the piping and border only to realize I’d forgotten the light inner “matte”! Having cut the piece to size I wasn’t going to take it apart and rework it. Besides, the contrast between piping/border makes the image itself pop quite nicely.

I’m definitely happy with how the gals worked out on the bench and that I was able to show their bums on the seat. Not obvious in the photo is the shadow under and behind the bench which grounds the gals – it’s much more obvious in the piece itself.

I’ll work on the hand stitching later this afternoon. That’s it for “portrait” wall art pieces for now. Time to move on to more garment sewing.