In response to the Call for Topics, Vera wrote, “I cannot get nice smooth curves. I need to know how to eliminate those pointy pleats.”

I wrote a little bit about this in the Back Basting Redux post. I’ll repeat that bit here.

The culprit in chunky curves is the turning allowance and how it’s acting underneath the appliqué edge once it’s turned. First, make sure your turning allowance is not too wide. A quarter of an inch is actually too much. Trim to about 3/16″ of an inch, and distribute the bulk of the turning allowance smoothly underneath as you stitch. Make sure it’s not pleated up on itself under there.

In this illustration, I’ve made an appliquéd heart transparent so you can see what’s happening underneath the turned edge.

good-and-bad-curve

On the lefthand side, the bulk of the turning allowance in distributed evenly and the curve of the stitched edge is smooth.

On the righthand side, the turning allowance is pleated up on itself and is causing bumps and points in the stitched edge.

Just make sure your turning allowance is not too wide and that you work a little at a time, turning and distributing as you go. Don’t reach ahead and pull the turning allowance back towards you as you stitch. Hope that helps!!

In other news…

I just got word from my publisher that Inspired by Tradition is going into a second printing! It hasn’t even been five months! That’s gotta be good, right??

I heard from Kathy Delaney that she had a run on her needle packs after I posted about them last time! How cool cool is that! I’m sure that all the batik hand stitchers are now enjoying their Gold ‘n Glides!

I’ll be in Long Beach for the summer edition of International Quilt Festival once again this year. This is such a fun time, I’m really looking forward to it. Hope to see you there, July 29-31.

And, just received this from Ami Simms on one of my discussion groups:

If you have admired the work of Diane Gaudynski, Sue Nickels, and other celebrated quilters, here’s your chance to own one of their quilts. The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative is going to be auctioning 20 quilts from our first traveling exhibit, “Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece” in an online auction August 1-10. Details are here: www.AlzQuilts.org

Any help you can give us in spreading the word to quilters, quilt collectors, museums, and aficionados about the auction would be greatly appreciated. All profits fund Alzheimer’s research.

Thank you,
Ami Simms
AAQI Founder & Executive Director

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

During Spring Market, I stopped by the Colonial Needle booth and introduced myself to Pepper Cory. It was a great conversation starter to lead with the fact that I am a fellow native North Carolinian LOL!

Pepper was hanging out with Colonial Needle because she has really gotten into the Big Stitch way of hand quilting and has put together a special pack of needles just for this style.

When Pepper learned that I was an appliqué enthusiast, she asked me if I ever worked with batiks. I told her that I do have a small tub of batiks, but for hand work, not so much. She handed me a needle sampler pack that was put together by appliqué artist extraordinaire Kathy Delaney.

needle-sampler

needles-back

Since batiks have a very tight weave and a sort-of crispy finish, they’re a bit tougher to needle by hand than regular quilter’s cottons. On the back of the pack, Kathy says that for stitching batiks, she uses John James Gold ‘n Glide needles. They’re coated to slide through fabric even more easily than regular appliqué needles. I’ve heard of Gold ‘n Glide needles for years, but hadn’t ever tried one. I decided to give them a whirl.

I chose the Spring Basket block from my Inspired By Tradition. Here’s the one that’s in the book.

blog-spring-basket

I pulled out my rather sparse stash of batiks and batiky-likes and chose some fabrics for this new version. The light green and dark purple are hand dyes and the brown is a Moda Marble. The other fabrics are all batiks. I didn’t have anything to use for a batik background, so I decided to keep with the spirit of the challenge and use a creamy white-on-white. Sometimes stitching through these can feel like punching your needle through dried latex paint.

batik-fabrics

Look at these funky scraps! They’re left over from the Keri Duke workshop.

green-scraps

Here’s a photo of my usual hand appliqué needle, John James milliner’s No. 10 (below), and a John James Gold ‘n Glide No. 11 from the pack. When I first picked up the No. 11, it did feel a little strange in my hand since I usually work with the next size up.

2-needles

The sampler pack included both regular straw needles and Gold ‘n Glide straw needles, No. 11. (BTW, straw needles and milliner needles are the same thing.) I stitched the hand dyes and the printed marble elements first and got those out of the way. Then I started on the dark green batik leaves. I did the first one with the regular needle from the pack. The needle felt grabby and squeaky going through the fabric, kind of like eating undercooked green beans. For the second dark green leaf, I switched to the Gold ‘n Glide needle.

Did I feel a difference?

You betcha! The catchiness and squeakiness was gone! What a relief. I stitched away, glorying the in glidiness of this golden-eyed needle. I tell you what, if I ever embark on a whole hand-appliquéd batik project, I will go out and get myself a pack of Gold ‘n Glides. But probably in a Size 10… I did have significantly more trouble threading the needle, even with the gold eye.

Here’s my Batik Spring Basket.

batik-spring

If you’d like to try them, Kathy offers the sampler packs and regular packs of all of her favorite needles on her website.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Writer Dawn Goldsmith invited me to do a guest post on her blog, Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles.

sm-needlesOf course I wanted to do that! What a great name, and an admirable spirit! I’m not all that subversive actually, but I am totally armed with needles. I wrote a post about the three main sharp implements in my life, showing a few examples of what I’ve done with them.

Be sure to check out Subversive Stitchers, a blog about the abounding creativity of women who wield all sorts of needles.

Thank you, Dawn, one writer to another. What a treat for me.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

The winner for May among registered readers of the blog is Selena of Colona, Illinois. Congratulations Selena!

may-prize.jpgSelena has won a package of my favorite hand appliqué needles, a package of my favorite machine appliqué needles, and a blue water-erasable marking pen. Have fun with the notions!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Sometimes I do a little hand embroidery on my appliqué blocks when some really fine details are needed, like whiskers or tendrils. It’s not truly a part of my skill set, and I just kinda sorta go for it.

birdbath.jpgI was so grateful when Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill put up Embroidery 101 Part One and Part Two on her Bunny Tales blog. I had had a block stuck up on my wall for awhile, waiting for some embroidery that I was putting off. Anne’s post inspired me to get to work on it… my stem stitch is now so much improved!

Appliqué patterns can often be used as embroidery patterns as well, so go read Anne’s fantastic primer and then you’ll have a whole new use for them!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the fourteenth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

My tech editor Robin had suggested a few photos to go with the introductory material about fabrics, tools, and notions. Great! She asked me what I would include and I send her my preferred list. They didn’t have everything in-house so I promised to send some spools of my favorite thread and a pair of my favorite scissors.

Hmmm… my scissors have puppy teeth marks in them and the only unstarted spools of thread I had were in dull uninteresting colors. I ordered a few pretty colors of thread on-line and had them sent directly to Robin to organize for the photographer. And, whilst at the E.E. Schenck warehouse party during Spring Market in Portland, I had thrown a new pair of scissors into my cart ‘just in case,’ so I dispatched those to Robin as well.

Stay tuned!
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

P.S. My favorite tools and notions for hand and machine appliqué aren’t mentioned in the book, so I’ve created an information sheet.

toolsnotions.gif

Click to download a pdf copy.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

How about a method of appliqué that gives super-accurate results, yet uses no glue, no starch, no freezer paper, no fusible web, no fusible interfacing, no vinyl or tracing paper. Just fabric, needle and thread, scissors, and a marking implement. Pretty cool, huh?

I promised awhile ago that I would write more about the back-basting, aka no-template preparation for hand appliqué. It’s really quite ingenious and is now my favorite way to work by hand. As I was stitching a Heart in Hand block today I took some pictures along the way to show how it works.

Use a reversed pattern for this method. Start by marking the reversed pattern on the back of the background fabric. I use the blue water-erasable pen. You can also use a marking pencil.
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Rough-cut a hunk of the appliqué fabric that’s bigger than what you’ll need. Lay it in place on the front.
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Pin the fabrics together. On the back, baste the two fabrics together with a small running stitch, exactly on the drawn line. Use a thick or fuzzy thread for this and a big honking needle. I use a size 7 cotton darner.
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Baste all the way around the shape. This is what it looks like on the front.
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Now trim the fabric to the shape of the motif, leaving your preferred turn-under margin outside the basting.
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Clip and remove a section of basting stitches. In this freed-up area, start turning and stitching. Keep clipping and removing the basting a few stitches ahead of your appliqué. The thick needle and heavy basting thread leave behind temporary perforations that help the fabric turn along the stitching line. I use a size 10 milliner needle and DMC 50-weight cotton machine embroidery thread for appliqué,
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Continue all the way around. Don’t press the block yet.
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Hmm, not bad. A benefit of this method is that you can flip the block over to see how you’re doing. The marking serves as a built-in stitching guide!
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Repeat the same process for the heart.
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Once the block is completed, remove the markings from the back. I dip a Q-tip in water and stroke it along the lines. Let the block air-dry and check to make sure none of the blue has reappeared. (If so, just wet it again.)
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After all the marks are gone and the block has air-dried, give it a quick press. All done!
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I have really come to love this method, since it gets me on the sofa stitching a lot quicker instead of fiddling around with freezer paper templates at the ironing board. I hope you enjoy it too. Like anything new, it takes practice, so give it a whirl and then another. If you’re stalling because you don’t have the right needle or the perfect thread, well then there’s a kit available over at Quilt Puppy that has pattern, instructions, fabrics, both needles, and both threads all in it, to give you a jump start on becoming introduced to the method.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

A variety of needles work well for hand appliqué. For years I was content with my John James No. 11 sharps. Then I tried milliner/straw (same thing) and now that’s what I prefer. They’re longer and you can just get a good grip on ’em. I bent the No. 11’s quickly, so now I’ve settled on my abfave as Richard Hemming No. 10 milliner needles. I can use them until they wear out without bending them, and they feel right in my hand.

Whatever the brand or size, the important thing for hand appliqué is that it’s a skinny needle that slides through the fabric easily without resistance.

Here’s a photo comparison.

Top to bottom:

Richard Hemming No. 10 milliner
Richard Hemming No. 11 milliner
John James No. 11 sharp

What’s your favorite appliqué needle, and why?

Until next time,
Kay