Monday, August 31, 2015

Coloring "Quilts" with my Boys

The other day I took my older son to school assessments so his younger brother and I sat around and colored while we waited.  The school provides coloring pages for siblings and crayons.  Knowing my little one, I took along a pack of markers which are his preferred coloring tool.  Of the five pictures available, my son picked the geometric one.  It was my choice too.

These top two pictures were colored by my four year old.  He had a great time coloring them piece by piece.  His favorite colors are pink and purple.  When he finished he wanted to do another in yellow and orange.  I was impressed with his desire to keep them symmetrical.

Here is my older sons's picture.  He had fun making the circles into 3 different colors.  I enjoyed his creativity.  He is seven.

Here is mine.  I remember one time Leah Day was coloring one of the pages in her son's coloring book with quilt patterns.  So I had to try it.  I colored all the shapes and then went back and filled them with background fill patterns in the same color.  I love the result.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to Choose Thread Color

How do I choose thread color?  Good Question.

There are a few things to consider.  First, what colors are in the fabric?  For the inner purple petals below there are two colors: blue and purple.  As you can see I took out a few spools and unwound a little bit on top of the fabric.  This gives me an idea what they will look like.  In the upper photo, the two purples I choose were too warm so I tried two cooler purples in the bottom photo.  I decided I didn't want to use the light blue thread because I wanted the purple to stand out instead of the blue on that piece.  I ended up using the bottom thread in the bottom picture which is an Art Studio Colors by Superior Threads.  

When looking at the final block you can tell that this purple is a shade lighter and a bit warmer than the actual fabric.  Finding a nice dark purple that is blue in tone is a challenge.  My current favorite for this purpose is Glide Thread by Fil-Tec in a color called "Raven."  It works well most of the time.  In fact, it is the exact thread I used for the little dot at the bottom.  However, I knew I didn't want to use the exact same thread for both fabrics.  I couldn't go darker for the purple and blue fabric, so I went a little lighter.  It definitely shows up more.  I have learned this golden rule of thread choice through applique AND machine quilting:

                    If you don't have an EXACT match, use something slightly DARKER.  It will hide 
                    better than something slightly LIGHTER....the LIGHTER will make it stand out. 

This is what I wanted for this blue and purple fabric.  I wanted it to pop and the lighter thread definitely does that well.

Threads I Used:
  • Outer Light Blue Petals - Mettler Silk Finish 50/3 Cotton - This thread is a 50 weight thread, but it is made of three plys (strands) of thread rather than 2.  It is surprisingly thick and a bit challenging to put through a size 80 microtex needle.
  • Inner Purple Petals - Art Studio Colors by Superior Threads -  This thread shines and works easily in my machine.
  • Inner Light Blue Petal - Sulky Metallic on top, Gutermann Poly in the bobbin -  I used a size 80 microtex needle and didn't put the top metallic thread through the last thread guide right above the needle.  I used a top tension of 1.5.  Usually I get a nasty mess when I try to use metallic thread, but was pleasantly surprised when it worked out beautifully.  I tested it first with a straight stitch and then with a blanket stitch. 
  • Inner Turqouise Petal - Deco-Bob by WonderFil Threads - shiny and great to use.
  • Dark Blue Dot - Fufu Thread - great texture and tons of shine.
  • Small Purple Dot - Glide Thread by Fil-Tec - great and easy to use.  Shiny.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inspired by Plates

We were at the local outlet mall the other day buying school clothes for the boys.  My mom wanted to go into the Corelle outlet and here's what I found while she was busy with her purchase:

I love the orange flower on this plate.  I can see it as an applique design or as a quilting pattern.

This plate is beautiful.  I love the color scheme with all the varying shades of blue: blue-green, aqua, royal blue.  I also find it interesting because the inside circle has 6-fold symmetry and the outer border has 8-fold symmetry,  This juxtaposition is interesting.  I can see this as an applique pattern or quilting design too.

You really never know where inspiration is going to strike.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Analogous Color Scheme

For this block I inadvertently ended up with an analogous color scheme.  Analogous color schemes are when you use colors right next to each other on the color wheel.  I started this block with the amazing orange and pink batik that is in the outermost petals.  It varies in the size of pink squares from big to small.  It was fun to play with that effect in the petals.  I then choose the inner central petal, an orange batik with bits of pink and purple.  It is a really versatile choice because it brings in many colors subtly.  I then added the purple and pinks to finish up the block.  I had a really hard time choosing the central dot.  I finally ended up with a dark blue because I couldn't get anything orange, pink, or purple to work.

I used the following threads:

  • Orange and pink outer petals - Bottom Line by Superior Threads - I chose Bottom Line on purpose for these petals.  First, it is 60 weight polyester with little sheen.  I didn't want the thread choice on these petals to overwhelm the fabric.  If I had used a shiny pink thread it would've taken away from the print.
  • Purple inner petals - Glide by FilTec - I used this thread here because it is one of the few threads that is a true blue-purple.  The color name is Raven.  It is my go to thread for anythign "blurple."
  • Inner orange petal - Deco-Bob by WonderFil Threads - a great choice for ease of use and sheen. 
  • Inner pink petal - Deco-Bob by WonderFil Threads
  • Blue Dot - Fufu thread - I love the sheen and texture of this thread.  It comes off the spool and feels a little bumpy, but still smooth.  This adds to the sheen and texture of the thread.
  • Pink dot - Deco-Bob by WonderFil Threads
I want to use the orange and pink batik with the squares in petals again.  I have it in turquoise squares on lime and purple squares on yellow too.  Oh, the possibilities!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Opposites Attract and Shadowing

I love using opposites on the color wheel.  They really pop when you do.  This block prominently features blue and orange.  It all started with the light blue fabric with orange and yellow dots.  I then picked out fabrics to coordinate.  I love using the outer petal fabric, the yellow with orangy-pink lines making a grid.  It gives an interesting texture to the petal.

When making this block I had some trouble with shadowing.  Shadowing is when one fabric shows through another and creates two different colors.  If you look carefully at the block below, you can see a faint line about 1/8 inch away from the top edge of the orange petal.  The light yellow and the gray behind the orange petal show through differently.  It's faint, but I couldn't stand it so I had to fix it.

To do this, I cut a new orange piece to layer on top.  I took a second piece about 1/16 of an inch away from the original line to ensure the original piece was fully covered.

I then layered this over the original piece as shown below.  It will be a little thicker, but when using double blanket-stitch it isn't a problem because the thickness of thread hides the two layers.  This works with both Steam-a-Seam 2 regular and lite weight fusibles.  The line is gone.

If I know ahead of time that shadowing is going to happen another alternative is to line the piece in white fabric.  You use one piece of white that is 1/16 of an inch smaller than the original piece and then the original piece on top.  The white fabric helps to block other colors from showing through.  I have found it is equally effective to use two layers of the same color.

Now back to the stitching....

  • Outer Yellow Petals - Polyneon by Madeira - I love the sheen of this thread and it is really silky and easy to work with.
  • Inner Light Blue Petals - Deco-Bob by WonderFil - It turns out this thread is 80 weight, who knew?  I love it.  It behaves well and is easy to use.
  • Light Yellow Central Petal - Polyneon by Madeira
  • Orange Central Petal - Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread - I use this thread all the time for piecing quilts and machine quilting.  I admit I own 90% of the colors (few browns and grays as I prefer bright colors).  It has very little lint and it takes me a long time to use up a 1422 yards.  Since it is 100% cotton it has no sheen, but for this orange I really wanted a flat look.
  • Dark Blue Dot - Fufu thread - again, I love the texture and shine of this thread
  • Orange Dot - Aurifil 50 weight cotton
I am having so much fun trying out all my different threads.  When I start my next project I will definitely be thinking about what I want to use a flat thread on and what I want to really shine!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Many Shades of Green

When I am picking green for leaves when appliqueing I tend to have the same problem over and over:  I want to pick all my greens from the same color family.  If I start with blue greens, then they all need to be blue green or gray green or spring green.  I have trouble combining different shades.

Today while out and about we did "Drive Through Corn" at our local garden center.  You get your dozen ears and don't even have to get out of the car!  Well, my mom was driving and I did get out of the car because I needed to snap this picture:

As you can see there are MANY shades of green in these planters and I love it!  I need to remember this next time I pick out leaf fabrics.

As you can see in Harmony's Loop below, I used lots of different grassy green fabrics.  Time to break out of this box!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Steam-a-Seam 2: Lite or Regular?

I have been a fan of Steam-a-Seam 2 for a long time.  I usually use the regular weight instead of lite.  However, I just finished a quilt using regular weight Steam-a-Seam 2 and I realized how thick it is in some places.  So I ordered some Steam-a-Seam 2 lite and did some test blocks.

These two blocks were done with Steam-a-Seam 2 lite.  I was delighted with the new paper it's between.  It has a grid on the side where you need to mark your pieces.  This is definitely a great new feature.  It is also printable on a ink-jet printer making it a great time saver.  If only I had an ink-jet!  I liked how thin it was.  It came off the paper nicely without shredding.  However, when I got to the tips I found that when my needle punctured really close to the edge of the fabric, the fabric popped up off the background.  This rarely happens to mean with regular Steam-a-Seam 2.

Will I use Steam-a-Seam 2 lite again?  Yes, I will, but I still like Steam-a-Seam regular weight better.  The overall block was definitely more flexible with the lite Steam-a-Seam 2.  However, I know with the regular weight that nothing is going to move.  It's a trade-off.

My mother uses fusible a lot.  She doesn't agree with me at all and greatly dislikes Steam-a-Seam 2.  She says it gums up her needle.  This does happen to me, but I find I can simply wipe it off or if it gets really bad swab it with rubbing alcohol (I've not had to do this since starting this project, but have had to in the past a few times).  I have found in talking to many of my quilting friends that everyone likes a different stabilizer for a different reason.  The best thing to do is to try them out and see which you prefer.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wonderous WonderFil Weights

I have used a lot of WonderFil InvisaFil 100 weight polyester lately.  I enjoyed it.  But it got me to wondering what would happen if I tried using thicker thread instead.  I have two sampler packs of Wonderfil Spagetti 12 weight cotton thread that I bought once upon a time in Houston.  I decided it was time to take off their wrappers too!

My question I wanted to know for this block was this:  what do the thinnest and thickest threads (that will go through the needle and don't have to be bobbin drawn) that I own look like in the same block?

I started with adjusting my machine for Spagetti thread.  I put in a size 100 topstitch needle (it was the largest I had and the thread wouldn't go through a size 90 microtex needle).  I grabbed my spare bobbin case that I used for making adjustments and set it for Spagetti thread.  I keep a spare that I adjust tension on so that my master bobbin case never gets messed up and I always know it will work on most of my threads.  This really comes in hand when I want to bobbin draw or work with thin/thick thread.  You can see from the picture below that I put some pale pink nail polish on the outside of the bobbin case so I will always know which case is which.

Next, I set my top tension lower to 1.0 and tried sewing a single blanket-stitch.  The machine gobbled the thread up into the throat plate...not good.  So I tried straight stitch.  Here are my results:

After many attempts I decided it was time to switch my bobbin thread to something thinner.  I put in lime green so I could see what was happening better.

The bottom was first, then the middle, then the top stitching example.  To achieve the top I set my upper tension to 0.5.  Now I was ready to try it with one layer of stabilizer (rinsaway) and one layer of fabric:

I was happy with this result, so I went for it.  Since the thread was so thick, I used a single blanket-stitch instead of a double blanket-stitch.

Here is the final block:

The turquoises are stitched in WonderFil Spagetti 12 weight cotton thread.  The purple petals with blue dots are stitched with WonderFil Deco-Bob thread.  The two dots and central purple petal are all stitched with WonderFil InvisaFil 100 weight polyester thread.  You can really see in this example how thread weight affects the outcome.  The Deco-Bob and InvisaFil stitching were done with a double-blanket stitch and they are still not as thick as the Spagetti thread.

After working with Deco-Bob I went and read about it on WonderFil's website.  It turns out that it is an 80 weight polyester thread.  That's thin!  It surprised me because I expected it to be more like a 40 weight.

Overall, I decided that I like the Spagetti thread, but it was too thick for this purpose.  It was easier to do a double blanket-stitch with a thinner thread to get a thicker line.

I need to order some more colors of Deco-Bob!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I enjoyed working with WonderFil InvisaFil 100 weight polyester thread, so I decided to try it in a new way.  I used light thread on the dark colors and dark thread on the light colors making a inverse gradation.

It's interesting to see the effect of the inverse gradation.  I like the dark thread on the lighter pieces, but I'm not so sure about the light thread on the darker pieces.  I'm not sure I would do that again.  I only had a few pinks to choose from (see below), so perhaps with a larger gradation it would work better.  I also think the light pink thread looks almost white.  Perhaps starting with a more medium tone would be better.

Here are my InvisaFil choices:

I made sure to leave an equal space between the dark pink petals and the center this time.  It looks so much better when the space is even.

Now that I've used really thin thread, I think it's time to try really thick thread....


Sunday, August 9, 2015

WonderFil Threads - InvisiFil 100 Weight Polyester

I love WonderFil threads.  They are a Canadian company and I have been buying their products since I first saw them at International Quilt Festival in Houston.  I love to do a lot of micro quilting and often use their InvisiFil 100 weight polyester thread for this.  I have all the original 6-pack colors.  Clearly, it's a thread addiction!

Since this thread is REALLY thin, I wondered what it would look like for blanket-stitch applique.  I found that I needed to make a few adjustments to work with InvisiFil.  First, I switched from my regular needle, a size 80 microtex needle, to a size 70 microtex needle since the thread is so fine.  Second, I adjusted my top tension from the usual 2.0 to 1.5.  Last, I found that if I didn't put the thread through the very last guide above the needle it worked better.  You can see this in the picture below:

I stitched this entire flower with different colors of InvisiFil.  I really enjoyed working with it.  When using it for blanket-stitch applique it is definitely a thin line created (remember I do double blanket-stitch), single blanket stitch would be even thinner.

The other thing I learned with this block is that I have to be careful when placing pieces.  I was using my lightbox to put the pieces down, but if you look at the two green petals you can see the amount of gray fabric showing between them and the light blue fabric is different.  This bothers my eyes.  I replaced one piece (the gap was even bigger before), but next time I really have to make sure to check that before I fuse them down!

I can't wait to try out some of my other WonderFil threads!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Turning Inspiration into a Pattern

I've been home from Europe for a few days and have yet to sit down at my sewing machine.  That will come once the house is in shape again.  However, I did decide to design an applique pattern from some European inspiration.

This is a picture I posted in my last blog post.  It is from the Jewish Quarter in Prague.

Here is the progression of drawings to final pattern.  I decided to create some kind of interesting flower.  Here is the design I started with based on the circles from above.  I didn't think I wanted four curls on the outside because once I added the third one it looked funny.  I did the circle work in Adobe Illustrator because it makes drawing circles so much easier.  I don't like drawing irregular curves in Illustrator however because I'm not proficient enough at it.  Someday I would love to take a class on Illustrator, but it probably won't be any day soon.

Then I started playing around with turning this into a flower.  I tried many ways to make a curl to connect the circle, but this is the one I finally liked.

Next I used the window (you could use a light box) to trace the other side.

Then I tried adding a third curl again.  It looks okay, but I wasn't sold on it.  I decided to try something else.  I wore out a whole pencil eraser in this process!

Next I decided that maybe I needed to add a curl going to the bottom of the circle to make it look like the base of the flower.

Then I decided to try adding another layer to the upper curl.  I didn't like this one at all.  It seemed to skinny and didn't really work.

Next I got frustrated with adding a line to the upper curl so I decided to try playing with the space between the upper two curls.  I added a peak which is common on applique flowers.  I tried a curved shape, but this pointed one worked better.

Then I decided that the upper curl really did need another piece.  I went with a thicker piece to match the line I added to the bottom curl.  I redrew this line half a dozen times until I was satisfied with it's thickness.

Finally, I used the window again to trace the right side so the flower was symmetrical.  I am very happy with the final result.  It was definitely inspired by original ironwork picture, but has been manipulated a ton and I feel like it's now my own design.

That was fun!  I love design work.  This probably took me 30 minutes total to create.  Sometimes designs come fast like this and other times it takes me days.  Now that I have a flower it would need a stem and some leaves and a block arrangement.  Someday soon I'll get to that, but this enough for today!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ironwork Inspiration

Many European cities have amazing ironwork.  Some if it is balcony railings and some of it gates, fences, and window protection.   I have been snapping pictures of some of my favorite ironwork in Prague.   I wonder how many people create ironwork in Europe and if it still done by hand. Most of these pictures were taken in the Jewish Quarter of Prague.