Another Mystery, Twisted Threads, AP # 39

First Anniversary

There is a local fabric store that is celebrating their first anniversary in business. To honor this anniversary they have offered a challenge. The challenge is to create a quilt measuring no larger than 20” x 20”. The deadline to submit entries is March 31, 2018. All projects must include this fabric.

Blue Bar Quilts Challenge Fabric.jpg

So How Come?

Sound familiar? Sure it does! It is almost identical to the challenge I am running on this blog.

So how did I let myself get involved in another Mystery Challenge? I have frequented this store many times to search out fabrics for my ongoing projects. Their inventory includes many unusual prints which makes them a great resource. I’ve often been able to find just the right item to fit my needs. I also receive their newsletters.

In one of their emails they shared information about their upcoming anniversary as well as the opportunity to participate in their Mystery Challenge. As incentive to encourage participation they are offering cash prizes. The thought of winning cash probably draws people in but there is a small catch…an entrance fee. It’s not incredibly expensive. Just makes the cost of a fat quarter a bit much if one doesn’t follow through with the challenge.

Attention Please!

The chance of winning money, surprisingly, is not my reason to join. The fabric wasn’t the draw either because I’m not particularly fond of the print or the colors. Gaining exposure through the judging process is what drew my attention. After tossing the idea around in my head, over and over again, I finally decided to take a leap. So here I am creating another project.

My Example

I’ve owned and read Sherri Lynn Wood‘s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously for a while now. I find her unusual techniques intriguing. She is an improvisational artist. Her definition of improv encompasses many traits. Some of them are:

  • it is about exploring, not explaining

  • finding your own way

  • making your own decisions

  • improvisation challenges you to rethink your common practices

Those were only a few of the words Sherri uses to describe improv. She also describes improv in this way:

Improv is…

Commitment on the Edge of the Unknown (page 97)

Where Should I Start?

The best place to start with a book is usually at the beginning. Like most books Sherri’s is divided into chapters, or scores, as she refers to them. I have read Sherri’s book from cover to cover many times. Many of the processes in her book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously are very familiar to me. The scores on curved piecing were the most intriguing though. Having already been exposed to the others I have decided to skip ahead and jump right into the fire. I’m going to begin with the “unknown.”

Score # 9

Using Sherri’s book as my inspiration I am going to follow her “Score # 9” to create my first “curved piece.” This will be a learning experience and a great opportunity to expand my horizons. So, let’s get started.

My first task was to harvest fabrics from my inventory to pair with the assigned fabric. I pulled some pinks, greens, oranges and blues. The focus fabric has hints of lime green incorporated in the pattern. Since lime green is one of my favorites I made sure that color was included.

The Analysis

I used my camera to take both color as well as mono photos of my fabrics to analyze them for their values. My hope was to achieve a well-rounded selection from the start.

Here’s how my color choices stacked up.

After choosing my fabrics it was time to get the construction process started.

Lets Cut Fabric

I didn’t exactly follow Sherri’s instructions to a tee. She suggests using a scissors rather than a rotary cutter. I tried doing that but wasn’t fond of how my strips turned out. It is possible that if I had my scissors sharpened I may have been more successful. Not wanting to be bothered with that now I chose to use my rotary cutter. Keeping that sharp is much easier. I also used a ruler. Sherri believes in cutting her fabrics free-hand but once again I wasn’t pleased with that outcome either. Aren’t I a rebel!

I created many sets of wedge strips; here’s one of them.

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Twisted Threads Wedge Strips

Below is a larger selection.

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Twisted Threads, Wedge Strips in the Making

Next I stitched groupings of wedge strips together.

Twisted-Threads-All-Pinned
Twisted Threads All Pinned

Notice all the pins. Sherri uses loads of pins to temporarily hold her wedge strips together. This makes it easier to keep the strips aligned while stitching. Of course each pin is removed just before the needle reaches it. The more pins the better.

Twisted-Threads-All-Stitched.jpg

This is what a strip looked like after it was stitched but before it was pressed open.

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Twisted Threads, Multiple Wedge Strip Sets

I made multiple sets of wedge strips using different arrangements of fabric. The photo above shows some of them.

Composing A Design

After building my inventory of wedge strips it was time to start composing a design. I placed all of the strip sets on my design wall and played around with different arrangements. As I found groupings that I liked I took them to my sewing machine to stitch them together. Many times the attaching of the strips meant there were sections that needed removing. Those were trimmed using my rotary cutter. The removed strips were saved and added in new areas.

The whole process of pinning, stitching and trimming went on for hours. Each adjustment or addition changed my piece in dramatic ways.

TaDa

Once I had a design that I was happy with I auditioned various fabrics to use for the background. I even enlisted the help of my hubby to narrow down the options. He had many great insights to share. I guess he’s been listening to me after all! 🙂 With a background chosen I was ready to proceed with the quilting.

I decided to fuse my design to the background fabric. Before doing so I turned under the raw edges 1/4” and pressed them in place. Next I hand stitched the outer edge to my background with a dark purple thread. Once my wedge design was securely fastened I used a variegated yellow thread to quilt it. On the background fabric I echoed around my center design with a matching, variegated purple thread.

After the quilting was complete I trimmed off the excess fabric; remember my piece couldn’t be larger than 20” x 20”. The raw edges were then protected by facings. A label and hanging sleeve were also added. This is how my piece looked when it was finished.

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Twisted Threads, AP # 39 All Finished
Twisted-Threads-Back
Twisted Threads, AP # 39 View from the Back
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Twisted Threads, AP # 39 Closeup

The Title

I’m sure you have probably noticed, from the labels on the photos above, that I have given this piece the name Twisted Threads. As I was creating my piece the process of cutting and turning the various groupings every direction brought to mind a vision of twisted threads. Twisted Threads then seemed like the natural choice for a name so that’s where the name came from.

My Evaluation

Part of creating art is the evaluation process that comes at the end. On page 20 Sherri says:

Never judge a work as good or bad.

Instead she recommends that you

evaluate your work in a non-judgmental way.

She uses these questions to evaluate her pieces:

  1. What surprised me?

  2. What did I discover or learn?

  3. What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

  4. What was dissatisfying?

  5. If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

  6. Where do I want to go from here?

I found the process of creating my curved art piece challenging and interesting all at the same time. The steps taken to make the wedged strips was fun to follow. I enjoyed seeing how the different color combinations changed with the addition of new strips. Stitching the curved pieces together was the area that stretched me the most. Merging the concave edges with those that were convex is what tried my patience. This was a much slower process than I was used to but its results were far more rewarding.

If you had asked me right after I had finished my curved piece if I would be making another I probably would have said, “No!” Now that I have had some time to evaluate my experience and think about what I would do differently, my answer would be, “You Bet!”

As I stated earlier, merging the curved edges together into one was the most challenging. To help make the process easier in the future I would strive to create gentler curves. The curves with the more pronounced angles were the hardest to manage. If those were eliminated the experience would be much less stressful.

I also would resist the temptation to use up all of the trimmed-off segments. My piece, as it turned out, has so many different angles merging into one another. Each one of those sections is screaming for attention. If I had added breathing-room via the use of solid colors I believe my piece would have been much more relaxing to look at.

Moving forward I would like to improve my skills for the techniques that I have learned. I’d also like to explore the addition of bias strips as a means of adding negative space. My next attempt at creating a curved piece will most likely be on a larger scale. There will be no need to stay within the 20” x 20” dimensions.

There’s my evaluation. Time now to enter my project in the contest.

Thank YOU!

I am always so thankful for your visits and the wonderful comments you share. Your participation is very much appreciated!

Talk with you soon!

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Applique on a Long Arm Quilt Machine

What is Applique

Applique is the term used to identify the process of affixing or adding pieces of fabric to the surface of a quilt, wall hanging, pillow, etc. The fabric pieces can be stitched by hand or with a sewing machine. I prefer to use my machine.

The process of appliqueing or attaching fabric designs is a laborious task no matter which method you choose. Machine applique yields a more uniform appearance. Typically a blanket or zig-zag stitch is used when stitching around the outside edges of the applique fabric.

IMG_1619Blanket Stitch

Long Arm Applique

While recently browsing the website for the dealer of my long arm quilt machine I noticed they were offering a class in long arm applique. It never dawned on me that I could use my long arm quilt machine to applique. My machine doesn’t have the programmed stitches used to produce a uniformly stitched edge. Being very curious about the possibility of using my long arm machine I registered for the class.

Begin Here

The instructor presented a brief discussion with samples of the items she had made. Through her illustrations I learned that she utilizes a variety of thread types to free-motion stitch around the raw edges of her fabric. The possible combinations for thread and stitches were limited only by your imagination. After finishing her brief introduction we were set loose to begin our exploration.

The Supplies

Provided for our creative adventure were fabric scraps, iron-on adhesive, a die-cutting machine to cut out uniformly shaped pattern pieces and oodles and oodles of thread cones. Here’s a photo of the die-cutting machine.

IMG_1622How Large Should I Make It?

I decided to limit the size of my project. I figured I would much rather practice on something small and have the opportunity to try out the fancy threads and stitching techniques than spend my time designing and adhering an elaborate design. This is the template I chose.

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My decision paid-off quickly. In no time I was progressing through the preparation steps and moving on to sewing. Reaching this point as quickly as I did proved to be a blessing. Many of my class participants barely had time to pin their projects to the machine, let alone practice the stitches.

What Thread Should I Use?

For thread I chose a few variegated colors along with a gold metallic. All of the colors were selected to coordinate with my fabrics. I wanted to work with this thread first because it was the one I had the least amount of experience with.

Let’s Adjust the Tension

Before adding even one stitch to my actual project the instructor helped me adjust the machine’s thread tension. Metallic thread behaves differently than a typical cotton thread. We did several test runs before we were satisfied with the stitch appearance. Once we were pleased with the test stitches I, without hesitation, set my machine in motion.

Ready, Set, Go!

I directed the machine’s needle around the outer edges of my pattern in a squiggly circular pattern. Also used were an eyelash stitch, a bubble pattern and, for the very first time, a filler stitch. I had the most fun experimenting with the filler stitch.

IMG_1620Filler or Satin Stitch

Time To Quit

I reached a stopping point thirty minutes before the end of class. Satisfied that I would be able to finish the project at home, on my own, I removed my fabric from the quilt machine and packed up my belongings. I used some of the leftover time to purchase a few decorative threads.

Take A Look

This is how my item looked at the end of class.

Long Arm Applique

Once I am finished I will share an update on my blog.

Thanks for visiting.

Cindy Anderson