Machine Appliqué

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Last June I had the privilege to attend Quilt Canada in Mississauga.  Two classes were taken with Jane Sasseman. The first was on machine appliqué and the second on simplifying nature, ie. flowers in particular.   Jane Sasseman’s strong graphic images and bold designs using bright colour are particular favourites of mine. As I am fond of art deco and art  nouveau I believe that this is why I particularly respond to Jane’s creations.
The classes were enjoyable and challenging. I felt that I would have benefitted by working with Jane for 4 or 5 days instead of just two separated by a day in between. The learning and getting into a creative mode would have flowed better and been more sustained. However this was not to be as Quilt Canada organizers seem to feel that half day and one day classes are the way to go. I hope they will reconsider and offer some more in-depth class experiences for those of us who wish to invest creative energy and explore a subject in greater depth and benefit from working with an artist on a more sustained basis.
I focused quite intently the first day in learning Jane’s machine appliqué technique. It was a variation on the freezer paper underneath seams prepared method that I have taught for many years. Jane uses a non-woven fusible applique that remains in the piece. It provides greater firmness during the construction of the individual applique elements and the extra is cut away so that the final quilt is not bulkier. A bonus is that there are extra pieces that remain providing some inspiration for further pieces. Another benefit of this method of seams prepared applique is the opportunity to create long smooth curves.
Fortunately I have  a copy of Jane’s book : “The Quilted Garden”. It was purchased it when it first came out in 2000. I confess that I had never explored it in the depth that has now happened.   Instructions for the applique technique are very clear and easy to follow. The quilts themselves are beautiful and close study of the photos provide inspiration to fuel creativity. I heartily recommend working with Jane if you have an opportunity.
Over the years I have worked in my own way to reproduce flowers from my garden.  I learned a great deal from Jane’s expertise with graphics in making the simplification process more successful. Practice and more practice is necessary for me to arrive at something that I like.  Jane was most helpful in guiding  where she could see me struggling. She gave help with the type of photos that would be most successful.
I chose to begin working in a collage style. Jane recommended starting with three elements. My initial choices were a long leaf from a day lily, a pieced take on an oak leaf and a bee balm flower. Next three large and three smaller articulated leaves were created giving  lots of practice in working with the appliqué technique.  Three of the day lily leaves allowed practice with long smooth curves and finally two bee balm flowers consisting of two sections were created.
When I had these elements ready I started to organize them n different ways. The more   moved them around the more disjointed the piece looked. Finally I realized that I needed to take away some of the elements. The piece that emerged contained the three smaller leaves and the three day lily leaves. Next it seemed to ask for just the circles of the bee balm flower. Tracings of different sizes circles were created and auditioned.  I had dyed a series of pink fabric when I attended Art Quilt Campus last summer in Muenster Sask and these were perfect for the circles. An extra layer of batting helped to raise the “flowers” from the background and give the piece more dimension. Finally I tried a small quilting pattern called granite that is a continuous series of little circles to completely fill the background and complete the design.
Now I have a second piece on the design board. That is a story for another day.




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Happy Valentines Day


It has been a very long time since I have had time to write a blog.
Today really isn’t the day either as I am just putting the final touches on a presentation for the Edmonton District Quilters Guild for Wed. evening, Feb 15, 2017
There will be much to tell about what I have been doing once the presentation is done.
However I want to wish everyone a Happy Valentines Day. It is always a bright spot to look forward to in days that are often gray.


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Wool Appliqué


The dimension, texture and colour that develops in wool appliqué make it a pleasure to work with. This month a new book “Wool Applique” the Piece O”Cake Way by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins arrived in my hands.
This book features 12 projects that mix wool with cotton and linen.  Becky and Linda are known for their appliqué designs. Their designs feature clean lines and often appear folk like.  Many of their designs  work well in wool. This book focuses on wool.
The first half of the book is a primer on the how-to’s: basic supplies, properties of felted wool, cotton and linen, preparing to stitch, general appliqué instructions, stitches for appliquéing with felted wool, special techhniques for appliquéing with felted wool, appliqué on cotton and finishing techniques.
The second half provides details for 12 folk art projects. There are  pages in an insert at the end of the book that provide full size patterns for the motifs.  A beginning appliqué artist could undertake any of these with confidence and one with experience will be be equaly drawn in by the colourful compositions.
A reading of the first half of the book will prepare a stitcher of any skill level to undertake a project.  I have been appliquéing for a long time and taught appliqué as well over the years. I feel that if I didn’t know how that I could read the book and be able to begin withtheir techniques.  The steps to follow to get started confidently are provided.
One proviso – if you are looking for the steps of needleturn applique then you will need to look further afield.
I picked up a number of tips that broadened my knowledge, for example a thread I didn’t know about, some tips for sewing with vinyl.  There is a good definition of felted wool in contrast to wool felt.  They are quite different.  Felted wool is woven and then subjected to a washing process that helps the barbed ends of the fibers  enmesh closely and present a dense fabric.  There is a good tip about always using a fusible for wool felting. I personally use a fusible interfacing but Becky and Linda’s method works equally well. Another tip is to cut appliqué on the bias where ever possible to minimize fraying.  There is a very good section on preparing templates for either needleturn or fusible appliqué.
So I would give this book a two thumbs up.  To get a look at all the range of Piece ‘O Cake designs by Linda Jenkins and Becky Goldsmith check out their website.


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Glorious Autumn Day

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Today was a surfeit of delights.  Cool crisp morning walk with my sister along the top of the river valley.  Day bloomed into a bright blue and yellow. Leaves to crunch as I walked   to my friend’s home for a  Wooly B’s meeting this afternoon.  Stacks of silk and wool samples to be shared.  So luscious you could put them in a bowl and eat them, bright coloured patterned and solid textures silks, subtle fine wool suiting samples.  Also lots of  goodies you really could eat: veggies, fruit, cheese and new kinds of crackers topped off by slivers of mango chocolate.
We sorted wool samples outside that disappeared into our project bags.  The silk samples were held up and everyone democratically chose only a few each.  The munchies disappeared as we snacked and learned about a trip that one of our number had taken to Amsterdam Hamburg, Paris and points in between.  She came back with so many good books (among other things) that a new suitcase was acquired and still required assistance in heaving her carry-on up into the overhead bin.  The quilts at Patchwork Europe 2016 were reported to be spectatular and the show was said to be well worth attending.  She was there two days and the time really wasn’t enough.   Photographs will come at a later date but today was devoted to looking through some of the books.  The hostess also had some new books and there was the Maiwa catalogue to enjoy as well.  Mostly everyone gravitated to the Slow Stitching books and photographs.  Likely the others in the group like me left with heads dancing with new ideas.  We will likely focus on simple stitches this winter. Our variations will mostly be applied to wool.  I shared that my friend Anna Hergert has a book on Kantha coming out in the next while, a new Kantha class and is hopefully coming to Edmonton to teach it in the Spring at my invitation.  So now I have some folk on my list.
Enjoy every second of warm sunny weather as there will be lots of time this winter to develop those ideas.

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Many Hands

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This is a  story of a quilt. It begins once upon a time long long ago. In the early 1990’s there was a group of women, probably eight or more who met each month going home with  a project.   One month they decided to each make 9-patch blocks out of 2″ strips.  So it came to pass that the 9-patches were completed and exchanged at the next meeting with each person going home with a varied stack of 9-patches.  The hope was that each recipient would create something out of their new acquisitions.  Indeed I know of one person who did.  I also know for sure of two people who did not.  I know that I was one who did not and I also know that my 9-patches have been mislaid.
Erika did make something of her 9-patches creating a wall hanging top that used the jewel colours of an Amish palette.  Then at some time likely in the mid to late 2000 – 2010 Erika was cleaning out her quilt storage cupboard and decided that she wasn’t going to go any further with this quilt top. One day I was at her home an she tossed the quilt top in my direction saying you can do something with this.  I dutifully took it home and put it in a pile of unfinished tops.
Fast forward to August of 2016.  My cousin had a special birthday coming and I had an sudden thought that the appropriate gift would be a quilt.  (The birthday was August 30th and those who know me well will know that I would have had no pressing plans for my time in August (NOT).  I wanted the quilt to be a bed quilt. It seemed to me that a good place to begin would be with my  unfinished tops.  The top described above was the one chosen to complete.
The next step was to determine the size of the bed so I could see what needed to be added to the quilt top.  I agreed to meet my cousin’s daughter at my cousin’s home while she was at work so that I could watch the children in the car while my cousin’s daughter measured the bed size.  I was told that the three children were asleep in their car seats and I would just stand outside the vehicle to watch them.  When I arrived at the back seat I found that two of the sleeping children had become tigers.  The oldest woke.  I was told about tigers including the noise (roaring) that they made which promptly woke the other two children.  Luckily no one started to cry and I had the fun of enjoying a conversation the two tigers.
The bed size was unusual and clearly a wall hanging was too short for a bed.  I decided to make the quilt so that it could serve as a bedspread. Next challenge was how to do this with the least amount of work as time was of the essence.  I took the top to a friend’s when I went for a coffee and together we decided that some more 9-patch blocks would be part of the plan. However as I said my 9-patches were missing, i.e. somewhere in my studio stash not to be unearthed at this time.  My friend Bev jumped up from her seat and rushed into her studio, returning with her stack of 9-patches and handed them over.  Next step to find some solids that would work with the existing solid’s.  Goal was to have the additional blocks look colourwise as if they had been a part of the original quilt. I believe that this was accomplished. Next design challenge was to determine where to add the additional blocks.
The top, 9-patches and fabric was bundled up and went with me to Art Quilt Campus in Muenster Sask.  It went up on my design wall and I awaited inspiration.  I thought out loud  in conversation with Anna about how to do this while maintaining proportion and integrity of the design.  The light came on and I unpicked the existing border.  A row of 9-patch blocks were created to be added to each side of the centre portion of the top and two rows on the bottom.   The quilt was packed up again and made its return journey home.
Now I had two days to complete the top. The 4 rows were added on Sunday. Monday saw 4 new 9-patch blocks created for the cornerstones and a pink inner and a blue outer border added to complete the enhanced top.  Backing was found and prepared.
Next day the top went with me to a gathering of a small bee group where I cleaned the top with the help of Wanda and with the loan on her awesome new iron the top was readied for quilting.
I should say that when I decided to do the quilt for the birthday gift I immediately called Cheryl, a member of one of my bee groups to ask if she could squeeze me into her long arm schedule.  She said that she would be able to do it for me if I had it to her by the 15th.  It would be the last quilt that she could do before preparing for her son’s wedding on the 27th.  So I arrived at Cheryl’s home on the afternoon of the 15th and we spend a couple of hours choosing appropriate motifs of feathers for the outer border, circles for the inner border and some curving floral designs that complemented the feathers for the inner top.
Home I went to prepare the binding as Cheryl got to the long arm machine.  Cheryl was as good as her word and I had the quilt back the following Sunday.  Binding was sewn on and the next few evenings were spent hand stitching the binding.  Suddenly I remembered that hand stitching binding takes quite a bit of time.  The quilt was completed by the next Sunday morning, a label was added explaining the many hands that contributed.   There was just time to ice the carrot cake, pack the car and get to the surprise party before the birthday girl.
The older  “tiger” helped Grandma open the parcels as quickly as possible. He was  particularly interested in the large box.  It revealed the quilt. The two children knew just what to do and quickly rolled themselves into the quilt.
This quilt constituted another first in our family.  It was completely finished when opened and did not require taking back for finishing touched which is usual so I am especially delighted.




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My efforts at creating an annotated bibliography from my library of textile books has stampeded along to the second book I think.
Red by Jan  Beaney and Jean Littlejohn is the book I have been reading most recently.  It is Book 19 by these two British Textile Artists. These women have created a series of thin books on a variety of topics.  I have enjoyed everyone I have read to date.
Many books in my collection are chosen for the colour and apparent texture and “Red” is certainly one of these.  The authors  begin with the symbolism of the colour red. Text talks about various red items and how they  might be viewed and the text is supported by wonderful illustrations of pieces and ideas that can be used to stimulate creativity.
“Red” includes exercises in still life and continuous line drawing along with thoughts to help an artist focus on bringing the colour red into their field of perception.  The book also includes a bibliography of other resources.
I often think of red both in the morning and the evening with the sunrise and the sunset.  When I was a child I learned “Red sky at night sailors delight, Red sky at morning sailors take warning”.  That thought reoccurs as I see the sunrise and the sunset each day.
Research into cognition indicates that rereading something between 5 and 8 times allows our mind to take it into long term memory.  I think that also works for photographs.  So I have viewed the illustrations in this book at least that many times over the past several weeks.  I don’t know how that will influence my work in the future but I feel confident that at some time something idea will come from this book into my work.

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Art Quilt Campus 2016

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My summer vacation was spending the last week at St. Peter’s Abbey in Munster Saskatchewan.  It is my third year at Art Quilt Campus.  It is a week that I enjoy thoroughly.  It is spending time with other women who are interested in stretching their textile art muscles, increasing their knowledge and sharing their expertise.  The week is organized, led and facilitated by Anna Hergert.  Anna is generous is sharing her knowledge  and helps creative problem solving with each person individually.  We explore questions of interest to each of.  Interesting discussions are held in the evening.  We share our play results from the past year with each other and join in constructive critiques. This year people expressed the interest in doing some handwork and Anna provided lots of inspiring examples.
I’m hoping I can persuade Anna to come to Edmonton next Spring to share how to make her unique fabric boxes and her new Kantha designs.  She has created some wonderful innovative pieces for her book on Kantha which is now with her editors.
So what did I do this week?  Well I produced 4 colour runs of 9 graduations: cerulean blue, raspberry, violet and golden yellow.  These will be used to create four flower drawings I created for my new one day course on colour.
One morning I sat on the steps above the fountain in the Abbey to listen to Vespers and drew inspiration from the stained glass window.  Now I have a small improvisationally pieced top based on the colours in the stained glass window.
On the way home I stopped in Saskatoon at Periwinkle Quilting and acquired some white wool and some cream linen and a new book.  I return home with lots of ideas to explore.


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A Day’s Work

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…but worth it.  I spent an enjoyable making a birthday cake today.  It was “The Duke” from the Duchess Cookbook.  The Duchess is a bakery/restaurant in Edmonton.  Since the day it opened there are line-ups at the door.  The restaurant part was small, has expanded and still the demand is huge.  Everything is delicious.  I only ate one thing there for years, the Rhubarb Galette as I was trying to figure out how to recreate it, especially the topping.  I would buy them for dessert when I had guests and ask them what they thought the topping was.  We never figured it out.  Then the cookbook came out and my daughter gave me one for Christmas.  Now I could make the Galette’s and try something else when I went to the bakery.
I had not had the “Duke” cake and I am a chocoaholic.  However any dessert has to be delicious in order to meet the expenditure of calories I believe. So  the recipe looked like it met my requirements as carmel and chocolate are really my favourite combination.  So I began.  First the cake.  Great ingredients, with a moist rich tasteful crumb.
Then the salted carmel.  The cookbook directions were and my carmel with the ground almonds was so tempting it almost didn’t make it to the cake.
The ganache that became the basis of the icing imparted a carmel taste to the chocolate icing.  When assembled the cake looked great and when eaten the combination of flavours were great.  It was definitely a “morish cake.  Definitely worth the calories.

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Colour Confidence


For many years I taught beginning and advanced piecing. One of the questions I encountered most was about choosing fabric.   When cutting off selvedges on some fabric today I noticed the colour circles and thought about the answer I gave most often.
I suggest to students that they start by choosing a  piece of complex print that they really like.  A complex print provides many options for choosing a group of other coloured fabrics that work well together.  Since the quilts were often bed quilts I also suggest  choosing a print that they would like to use for the specific bedroom they have in mind.  I am also aware that often a quilt is being made for a gift and that someone has indicated their colour preferences.  That ups the stakes however the process suggested below still works.
The next step is to look at the selvedge of the fabric you have chosen and start pulling fabrics in colours that you find in the colour circles. A variety of sizes of print, some solids, a background that goes with all the colours.

If you have the option always choose to go to a local store where the experienced staff will know their stock and be able to help you pull a selection that will work together.  I can not emphasize the last statement enough.  Remember time is the most precious resource that you will spend.  It is a waste of your precious time to work with fabric that you do not love.  Also choose the best quality you can as a quilt is a labour of love and it will last for a very long time.
Do not choose all the fabrics from one line.  The result will be too homogenous, may not have scale variation or enough value variation.  If it is a bed quilt think about someone lying underneath it and what they will see on both sides.  Calm, peaceful are words that come to mind.  That doesn’t mean that a bright print can’t be used, it may just be an accent colour.
A word on backgrounds if applicable.  Almost never choose white is one of my basic rules.  White is often to stark, it can deaden the overall effect of the fabrics chosen. f necessary perhaps choose a white on white print.  I usually try and find a very soft pastel, in a tint on tint or tone on tone.  My experience is that I end up with a more pleasing composition.
Let’s dissect the quilt in the photograph using the thoughts above.  First I chose the Kaffe Fassett Lotus fabric.  It forms the border, the backing and the pillowcases.  It was rolled out on the cutting table and using the colour dots other bolts were chosen and placed on top. Scale and value were part of the consideration.  It took a while and in the end I believe that there were 30 colours chosen.  I am very happy with the result  and enjoy it as a summer quilt.
Clearly I don’t rush into things but I am pleased to cross the pillowcases off my list.

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Rain, Hail, Mosquitos

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Today it rained, followed by hail with me looking out the window and praying.  Fortunately the hail was not too damaging.  As soon as it was over I went out to plant some hostas that were rescued from a home in the neighbourhood about to be torn down.  So yes if you look carefully in a couple of the photos you will see some large hosta leaves looking rather scraggly.  My gloves were discarded, the mosquitos simply ignored the natural bug repellent. The fresh soil, wet hosta roots and compost all combined to create one of the grandest messes I have created in some time.  This post follows my second shower of the day and I am covered in bumps which will no doubt come itchy in good time.

It is good to go away and good to come home.  My time at Quilt Canada was a learning experience.  I chose well in selecting the classes to take.  They stretched me well out of my comfort zone.  In each class I hit the wall of discouragement and felt that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew.  However I stuck with it and have had some time to digest the learnings and will soon put scissors to fabric and fabric to needle. I will never be close to anything that Jane Sasseman could produce but I will take the process and work with it.  I certainly learned a new way of analayzing some of my favourite Arts & Crafts designers and a new way of looking at individual flowers in my garden.
I had an opportunity to visit a wonderful garden in Toronto and spend a day at Casa Loma.  These were great experiences and beautifully designed gardens with interesting plants presented a theme of flowers and plants.
What is a garden but a collection of earthly delights.  Working in my garden supports both my love of colour and texture. It brings me time to process my learnings and to let ideas come and be evaluated.  So my summer begins in earnest.  Working in the garden and working in my studio.


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