Since I talked about Liesl Gibson’s excellent photo tutorial on the ladder stitch in a previous post, I found out that Ami Simms‘ book Invisible Appliqué is all about the ladder stitch. If you’re interested in finding out even more on this method, here’s a link to the book on amazon.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, that’s what they taught us in 10th grade, but they were talking in terms of abstract geometry. In nature, we don’t see too many straight lines. They’re more of a man-made construct, like boxes, fences, and the sides of buildings.
Hand appliqué is not a fan of straight lines either. Gentle curves are the ticket, and nothing too perfect, like in nature. It’s when we appliqué houses, or baskets, or stems that are perfectly straight because we’ve simplified them or are interpreting them in a primitive or folk-art way, that we run into the straight line.
Straight lines are not so much an issue in machine appliqué (though you still have to mark them and cut them straight.) But in hand work, I actually find a straight line harder to get nice than a curve. Here are some strategies for dealing with stretches of the straightaway.
The bias tape maker
Except, don’t use bias!
Cut straight strips instead of bias strips.
They wiggle less.
Below is an example from Baskets to Appliqué, where I used the tape maker and straight-cut strips with just a thin strip of fusible on the back. It looks intricate, but it was pretty easy-peasy to weave the strips, fuse them in place, then hand-stitch them down.
Freezer paper on the back
The pot here, in this design from Growing Heart to Appliqué, is a good candidate.
Basting the margin over the template helps assure a crisp, identifiable sewing line and keeps things on the straight and narrow. For more information, see my previous photo tutorial about freezer paper on the back. Even if you’re using freezer paper on top or another method, you can mix a little of this in to deal with those pesky straight edges.
In the back-basting, aka no-template method, the pattern is drawn directly on the back of the background fabric. This means you have the sewing line marked and ever-present as a reference for your stitching. You can flip your work over to make sure you’re passing the sobriety test.
How’m I doing?
Pretty good so far.
I’ll write more about back-basting in the future.
How do you like to handle straight lines?
Until next time,
I sew mitered borders from the top, where I can see what I’m doing. For me it’s more of an intuitive approach, but maybe that’s just because I’m an appliqué girl!
This illustration shows an inner border and an outer border, sewn together and applied to the quilt top at the same time and mitered at a 45º angle at the corners. The border strip sets need to start out longer than the sides of the quilt.
Sew the borders to each side, leaving ¼” free at each end of the seams. Secure the starting and stopping points with backstitching.
Place the quilt on the ironing board. Fold one border under at a 45º angle so that it lines up exactly with its neighbor underneath. Use your ruler to check the angle of the miter and its 45º relationship to the square corner of the quilt top. When all is satisfactory, press and then carefully baste in place without shifting the fabric.
Hand appliqué the miter, using threads to match the fabrics. Remove the basting stitches.
Complete all four corners in this manner. After a final check that all four corners are square and correct, trim off the excess border ends, leaving a ¼” seam allowance. Press seams open.
And that’s how I do that!
Until next time,
I spent the weekend at one of my favorite places in the whole wide world… Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California.
Asilomar is right by the ocean and we always see deer, who are very used to the comings and goings of the visitors. Asilomar is often associated with the Empty Spools seminars, but lots of other quilting events happen there too. My friend Janet Locey organizes quilting retreats a couple times a year there (as well as at other locations). Her Quilters Getaways are the most fun thing ever. We bring our own projects and sew, sew sew, talk, talk, talk, and eat, eat, eat.
At one point during the weekend, I looked up and happened to see a fellow retreatant holding up a lovely Hawaiian appliqué quilt with what looked like some sort of skein of cording hanging off of it.
Intrigued, I made my way to that side of the room to investigate.
I made the acquaintance of Metha Schuler of Petaluma, California, who has been an avid Hawaiian appliquér for 12 years, ever since she became acquainted with the craft on a Maui vacation. I asked Metha what was up with the purple cording.
Metha related that when she was mostly finished with this quilt, she actually hated it. It was just “blah,” she said. It lacked contrast between the background and appliqué fabrics. Instead of pitching it (gasp), she decided to try to rescue it by putting something around the appliqué motifs to better define the edges.
She tried everything she could find at the craft store, and finally found something she thought would work… purple elastic bracelet cord. Metha is now in the process of couching the cord around all of the edges of the motifs, and when she gets done, she allows as how she thinks she will now like her quilt!
Here’s a closeup showing one of the interior areas that hasn’t been edged yet. You can see how much better the contrast show up with the purple cording.
Here’s Metha with her nearly rescued quilt, Seaweed.
Here’s another quilt, Raintree, that Metha held up during Show & Tell.
For more information on Janet’s Quilters Getaways, please visit her website at Hen Scratch Quilting.
I’ve noticed that quilters have been finding this site by searching for information about the history of appliqué. In 1993, esteemed author and quilt historian Barbara Brackman wrote an invaluable resource guide called Encyclopedia of Appliqué: An Illustrated, Numerical Index to Traditional and Modern Patterns.
The first chapter, “The Rise of the Conventional Appliqué Technique,” gives an overview of the history of American appliqué from its beginnings in the broderie perse method to what we know as appliqué today. Then, Barbara shares her years of extensive research into appliqué patterns with hundreds of hand-drawn thumbnails and information on the origins of the patterns.
You won’t find patterns ready to use in this book. It’s just what it says, an index. The compendium of patterns is indexed by class of design rather than by name, so that you can find a pattern without knowing its name. It’s all very organized and well thought out, and in my estimation an astounding achievement and contribution to the world of quilting.
Sadly, this book is now out of print, but you can still find copies here and there. So keep an eye out for it, or do some internet searching.
Until next time,
Yikes! I finished stitching the very last block of a loooong project, spritzed the back to remove the water-erasable pen that I had used to mark the pattern for the back-basting method, and left it to air-dry overnight. The next morning I wandered into the studio and was pretty aghast to see that the red fabric had bled onto the white background.
Here’s the back of the block, with the lovely embellishment that was completely underappreciated.
I always pre-wash my fabrics, but don’t generally test them for colorfastness. I’ve had no trouble to speak of with fabric bleeding in my quilting career… but there’s always a first time!
I drank my coffee and considered what to do. I knew there were products designed to pick up excess dye molecules, and I had heard of something called Color Catchers that you could get at the supermarket. I decided to give that a whirl. It would be a Grand Experiment.
I had to go to three places to find the product. I had no luck at the drug store or the supermarket, but found it at the hardware store.
Color Catchers are white sheets that you are supposed to throw in the washer with your loads of laundry so that excess dye from one garment doesn’t redeposit on another. I had no idea if it would help my situation or not but thought it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Starting with cold water, I soaked and swished the block in the sink with a Color Catcher and a little detergent. Nothing much happened that I could see. I repeated with lukewarm water, then on to hot tap water, soaking and swishing, soaking and swishing. After a good bit of soaking and swishing… yay!!! The excess red dye came out of the white background fabric and my block was rescued! And the Color Catcher was pink.
My Grand Experiment was a success, and now I don’t have to restitch the block!
Until next time,