Thursday Tutorial–magic made fabric part 2–making WITH it!

Not every textile experiment has an immediate use and that’s often the case with our “made fabric.” We play with strings, fusibles, organza, threads, scraps, water soluble stabilizers because we always ask “What if….?” Sometimes we even know in advance and experiment to make the type of fabric we need in a particular piece of art.

I’m going to show you how I used the fabrics I made in part 1 of this tutorial.

This first one relied on a layer of tulle to hold the pieces in place for the stitching.

Two layers of black tulle

The finished project had one more layer of trimmings added and stitched down to become a dark woods.

Fused organza with lots of color was used to make leaves. The organza barely frays when cut and it was a great base upon which to use fancy threads.

I also stenciled on top of the made fabric for another wall hanging.

For these next pieces I placed strings onto fusible interfacing, just like the landscapes, and stitched them down before cutting out the shapes I wanted to use. This could have been done with tulle, also, but I have a love/hate relationship with tulle and avoid it when I can. Many, many people love it!

And I loved that background fabric so much that I used it again. Only this time I made fancy flowers with the water soluble stabilizer to add on top.

And landscape backgrounds are perfect for a lovely little flower or tree.

Double sided sheers are excellent for free floating pieces.

That is what I am using this last bit of made fabric for……….and it’s not done! But here are a couple of the leaves I made from it.

Always ask yourself “What if…?” questions and make your vision happen, even if you have to create the fabric yourself!

Thursday Tutorial–magic made fabric–making it!

I’m not talking about weaving your own cotton or wool cloth, here! What I love to do is combine bits and pieces of fabrics and threads into a new and unique decorative fabric and then make something cool! (Part 2 will be making WITH it!)

There are sooooooo many fun ways to create your own special fabric but my favorite is using water soluble stabilizer and stitch. You can fuse bits and bobs, which needs additional stitching for sure! Tulle is a very useful tool–play on words intended!! Let’s take a quick look at how to use these techniques.

The very first time I tried this, I played with the effects of tulle. I had some curly trimmings and laid them on a background. I tried different colors and amounts of tulle and added more trimmings on top.

With one layer of white tulle

One layer of black tulle

Several, 4 I think, layers of white tulle

Two layers of black tulle

Pin or baste the tulle down and stitch. This needs the least amount of sewing because you have a sturdy base fabric and the tulle holds the small bits in place.

The next time I experimented, I used pieces of organza on an organza base. I used a lightweight fusible put on small rectangles or squares of organza. Be sure to test your organza for heat tolerance first–not all of it can be fused! The fused sections were cut randomly into smaller pieces and scattered over the organza base.

After fusing them all down, this ‘made fabric’ became the base from which I  stitched and cut some beautiful leaves.

The back side was a single color of an organza base.

Water soluble stabilizer is my favorite, however. It allows you to use ANYTHING that can be stitched! Even tiny bits of fabric or threads, but you need to do a lot of stitching to have it hold together after the washout.

Flowers……stabilizer base–fabric and maybe yarn and ribbons next–another piece of stabilizer on top–stitch!

More yarn added after the wash out

Fabric base–skinny strings–stabilizer on top–stitch and more stitch–presto! A landscape!

Those raw edges look great after wash out

It helps to have a plan in mind for using your fabric…I often do not! For that firm finished product, it works well to start with a base of lightweight fabric or interfacing. I have wanted to have a more sheer finish upon occasion and started with an organza or tulle base.

Love making fabric this way!

Basted instead of pins and this one had tulle on one side and stabilizer on the other for a looser effect.

This is NOT enough stitching! More, more, more!

The main thing to remember when you don’t use that base fabric is that you really need to have a lot of stitching, in all directions to secure those little pieces together when the stabilizer is washed away.

It’s quite simple to use any of these methods, or a combination of methods to create some beautiful ‘made fabrics.’ Next time we will look at what to make WITH that fabric.

FYI: This is what I use the most, though I know there are other brands!

Thursday Tutorial-curved flying geese

Note: this tutorial shows how to create a curved flying geese pathway. It is sewn in the paper-pieced style, but is NOT a paper-piecing tutorial. It’s also quite long!

There have been occasions when I wanted to have a curving, wavy line of flying geese in a piece. I thought of a couple of ways to create them, but my criteria were very specific so making a bunch of wacky improv geese and throwing them together in a path simply would not work. I definitely wanted them to be asymmetrical, vary in size, and I wanted the points to be sharp and not cut off. Here is my solution.

To be very clear, I do not like paper piecing. I am not very good with all the angles and often misalign my fabrics. And after I conquer it, I still have to tear all that paper out. When I have to use that method, I prefer to use a lightweight interfacing rather than paper and then it can stay in place.

There are so many types and weights available…….I did not know that I had more than 9 kinds on my studio shelf! It does not matter what brand name you use, but lightweight and non-stretchy are the key factors. I have used fusible, but it’s a bit trickier and the non-fusible works fine.

Grab a piece as long as the pathway you want. Draw 2 nice curvy lines to define your pathway.

Then draw a light line down the center of the path and make marks that will become the tips of the geese.

Grab your ruler and draw straight lines across the path at each of those marks. Varying the distance is what gives you the perspective of small in the distance and larger close to you.

And now draw a line from each center dot tip to each side, making triangles.

See that eraser? It gets a lot of use before I am satisfied with my curves and line placement! But when I have a happy drawing, I want to be sure that I can see those lines when I’m doing the stitching and that they don’t bleed into my quilt at any time later on! That’s when the permanent markers come out and everything gets traced one last time.

And because this curved path will be pieced into a background (or appliqued, if that’s your preference!) I want to be sure that I have enough extra fabric along that edge for a seam allowance. I mark that line, too, but in a different color.

And now we’re ready to sew. If you don’t know anything about paper piecing, I can only suggest a little study and practice on a few blocks before you throw in a curve! On this one, we start with the largest triangle and add on each edge piece as we work our way to the smallest piece.

Make sure that your first piece of fabric covers both the triangle area and will go all the way out to that outer border.

To be super clear here, this piece of fabric was too small and a larger piece was actually used!

Things to remember and that are hard for me to do……….you will almost always need a bigger piece of fabric than you think. You will be working with odd angles so flip the fabric before you sew to make sure it covers the area. Don’t forget that you will be sewing directly on those lines from the back.

Trim the seam allowances as you go, either with scissors or you can fold the interfacing back on the line you just sewed and trim with a rotary cutter. Think twice and then cut………you don’t want to cut your interfacing or the pieces that you have sewn already!!!

When you have that nice straight seam allowance, it’s easy to line up the next piece of fabric and sew it down.

Continue sewing and flipping all along the pathway. Your outer edges will mostly be uneven and a little rag-tag looking, but as long as they cover that outer line, you are doing good! You will most likely have all kinds of little trimmed bits that might even be big enough to use, but don’t try to just barely cover an area…at least for me, it usually doesn’t work out. Plan on using a larger piece and trimming a lot!

Press every seam as you go along, so set up close to an ironing mat or plan on getting up and down a lot!

When I get to the end, I use large background pieces that extend beyond the pathway, for that bit of ‘improv insurance’ when it comes to adding this section to the next!

At this point, I stitch a line of basting where I drew that second line along the pathway. That gives me a very clear margin of fabric to use for my seam allowance as I cut and join that curvy line.

Place the path section on the top of the fabric you are joining. Make sure that you have fabric under all parts of the curve.

Cut along the curve somewhere within that basting line, remembering that you want at least 1/4 inch away from your points.

This is sewn the same way we sew any of our other curves. Match the fabric at one end and bring the fabric edges together as you sew. I prefer to sew with the pieced section on top. It’s easier to keep all those seam allowance pieces under control that way!

Repeat for the other side and you have a wonderful curved flying geese pathway, ready to enhance your quilt! Pressing usually works best if you press away from the part that has the most seams, and your pathway should be nice and smooth.

And  just because this was so challenging, I spent some time working on a piece using this pathway.

Not finished yet, but fun playing with the curves, the geese and the silks. Hope you have fun with it also!

What to do, what to do…

Working on tutorials has me reviewing everything I’ve ever made. I have been analyzing what I do that is unique, repeatable, teachable or if I just wing it every time. Granted, I want each piece that I create to be unique and what I teach is an effort to make that individuality possible for everyone. Most of the info and pictures were in files already and I didn’t have to make anything new for illustrating.

A couple of things needed a new start, so in the interest of clearing the decks for whatever comes next, I finished them up.

Simply quilting on this one. A really pleasant time on the sewing machine and bingo! a new placemat is born!

An upcoming tutorial will be all about a curved flying geese pathway and I needed to start from scratch on that one.

I used the silks I had been playing with and then continued on to work them into a larger piece. Another first for me–I fused the entire top to a piece of wool and then quilted it.


Finished and getting all those silks put away for awhile.

I believe I am ready for another long term project but I have several possibilities in mind and can’t quite decide.

Contemplation time again and I think I have some home maintenance to handle, so I may miss posting for a bit. I really want to get my bedroom painted, so I think I’ll concentrate on that. No indecision there, and lots of thinking time while I work. AND it’s still staying in the air conditioning while we wait out this unusually hot heat wave!

Happy scrappy

I moved this pile of scraps–again!

And decided that 527 times was just about enough! It was definitely time to use them or get them out of my house. I was so in love with this fabric when I first got it and still love it, so I can’t let it go. It will become a scrap quilt TODAY!

I stacked the largest pieces to see what the biggest piece I could get out of them would be…….and so my block size became 10 1/2″. I had a few leftover blocks from the quilt I originally made with these fabrics, though they were smaller. There were some chunks that looked as though I had started to make this scrappy quilt once before. I decided to work from the largest to smallest all the way through and started filling up the design wall as I worked.

You really don’t know how many scraps you have or how much area they will fill until you start laying them out! I thought I would aim for a 6 x7 layout. That would make a good size cuddle quilt.

Keep sewing……….almost there!

I had to really struggle to make that last block……only because I didn’t want to use tiny pieces! I made it and only have this small handful of fabric left.

Will that make it to the trash? No–I think I can make postcards or a place mat and truly, truly use it ALL!

I had the time, so I went for the whole thing! Started putting the blocks and rows together and came upon a big ooopsy! Evidently when I was cutting out the large plain blocks, one of my pieces wasn’t quite large enough and I have a missing corner.

Problem? Not much of one. This is improv! I grabbed a small triangle piece and stitched it to the short corner.

It happened to be the same fabric, but any of the fabrics would have worked.
Stitch and trim and it’s totally fixed.

So that’s the story of my happy, scrappy day. I used up that big pile of scraps and now I have a completed quilt top.

Of course, I don’t have one bit of that fabric for binding, but when the time comes, I’ll bet I can find something that will work!

Thursday Tutorial-quick start quilting

Quick Start Quilting was a popular class when I was teaching and I absolutely loved teaching it. It’s a fun way to learn and practice free form quilting.

You will need to make a quilt sandwich. I use 2 fat quarters and a piece of whatever batting I have. Select an interesting scrap of fabric from your scrap bin—c’mon, I know you have one! Somewhere in the 6-8″ size, and cut it into an irregular shape.

I always used to fuse these scraps onto the quilt sandwich, but you can use a glue stick just as easily. It’s learning and practice. I don’t bother with any kind of basting on these small quilt sandwiches either. They are small enough to stay together quite well.

You need to have a quilting foot for your machine and be able to drop the feed dogs. You can engage your stitch regulator if you have one, but I think you do better and learn more without that feature. Ready–set–go!

The idea here is to practice moving your quilt under the needle, to get confident with ‘drawing’ with your needle and thread. You can certainly draw a line or circle to help you, but tracing a line is not the goal here. I like to use quilting gloves; they grip the fabric a bit better, but I started out using cheap garden gloves with the little rubber dots, ’cause I had some in the drawer!!!

It’s easiest to start somewhere on your little scrap and stitch on part of the pattern.

Expand on that first line with a few extra loops and start moving around the piece, trying to add to the picture your scrap started.

Use a contrasting thread so you can see what you are doing…..and what you can improve upon.

White on white can hide mistakes but makes it harder to find what to improve upon!

You don’t have to draw a picture, as I tried to do with these flowers. Simple lines and loops make great practice shapes, too.

These little samples are also a great way to try out different threads and battings, to make tension adjustments, and of course to practice a new shape or design that you wish to try. It can take a while to get your hands and fabrics and machine all moving in coordination and these pieces are super for that practice, practice, practice!

If you like what you make, they are easily finished off into wall hangings for small spaces.

Or…………place mats! You may even get carried away and stitch and stitch and stitch until you create an entire little village from a scrap!

Here’s a little slide show from one of my classes. Just look at what the ladies produced…and most of them had not EVER free motion quilted before!

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After you play with this for a while, you will always be able to come up with a quilting design!

Thursday Tutorial-no pin machine binding

How many hours have you spent hand-sewing the binding onto a quilt? Is that something you enjoy or would you prefer to have it DONE? [Warning: my tutorials are not super-detailed and assume some level of familiarity with quilting and quilt terms.]

Begin by making your binding strips as usual and whatever width you choose. I like a narrower finish, so I cut my binding 2″ and sew it on with a 1/4″ seam. Be sure that your quilt is trimmed and squared and I like to loosely zig-zag my edge for a bit of extra firmness. I also use the walking/even feed foot on my machine…it really helps keep things smooth and even.

Now the first difference is that you sew the binding to the BACK of your quilt, not the front. Start somewhere on a side, NOT at a corner and leave a fairly long tail- 8″ to 9″- for the finishing part when you get back around to the start.

What part of the binding has to look the best? The front. Not expecting perfection, I want any mistakes or wobbles to be on the back and not noticeable. By sewing the binding on the back first, as we fold it over the edge to the front, that front will be lovely!

Miter your corners—sew to the corners. I stop 1/4″ from the edge rather than going all the way to the edge. It makes it easier to turn. Then flip the binding up to form a 45° angle.

And fold it down to align with the edges of the quilt.

Continue sewing. I also start 1/4″ from this edge for ease in turning later. Continue in this manner until you get close to where you started……….probably 8″ to 12″ away.

There are many methods for finishing the ends of the binding so I am only going to add a link to the one that has worked the best for me…no special tools, pins or extra measuring needed! Connecting binding ends …I had to watch this video several times before I fully understood it, but now it’s a total breeze, almost automatic!

Nothing really different here so far except that you have sewn the binding to the back instead of the front. Now head to the ironing board. I press the binding flat, away from the back, but I don’t turn it over the edge and press to the front. That is certainly an option but I have found it unnecessary…except for the corners!

I clip the corners to reduce bulk.

Then I turn the edges to the front and fold them into a nice miter.

They practically want to fold themselves, but they behave much better if you press them down, along with 4 or 5″ on each edge. Now hurry back to the sewing machine because you are soooooo close to done!!

I usually start close to one of those pressed corners and fold the binding over to the front as I sew. No pins, just a gentle foldover. I topstitch close to the edge of the binding strip, making sure to “fill” the strip with the edge of the quilt. If you have sewn accurately up ’till now, it should be no problem. If your seam allowance has wobbled a bit, remember that it’s making the top look good that you care about now.

Mostly I use a straight stitch, but this is a good spot to use a decorative stitch also.

Ideally, your beautiful front should be matched by a perfect back.

But I rarely attain the ideal–and don’t stress about it for any quilt that is going to see any use. That little wobbly line on the back will never bother me.

If I wanted to enter a judged quilt show, I’d do a lot of things differently! For quilts that I want on my beds and on my couch and to snuggle under, I want them as good as I can make them, but most importantly, I want them DONE!

Because I know you are wondering, just how much time does this save? Most of my full size quilts with machine sewn binding take an hour or hour and a half to do. So, if you are a procrastinator because of the hand sewing, try binding by machine. Go for it!




Thursday Tutorial-simple curves 2

There are oh so many ways to play with curves. I’ve been concentrating on improv curves for years, but I also love the precision of pattern made curves like Drunkard’s Path and Double Wedding Ring. I’m not including any actual patterns here, but I want to show you that even the precision curves are easily sewn.

An accurate pattern is a must and I have several rulers that work wonderfully and give me lots of size variations. They make life much simpler!

My biggest ‘issue’ is with those who insist that you must pin curves to death to get them sewn accurately. And those that say you must have one curve or the other on the top. If you have an accurate template with seam allowances, a couple of pins will do just fine and it truly won’t matter which curved piece is on the top.

Match the mid-point and the ends of your pieces and pin there. Sew by matching the edges. Done!

But let’s talk about those same shapes done improvisationally. There are no accurate templates and seam allowances to match.

Four light squares, four dark squares, about 8″ or so.

Four separate stacks and four separate cuts, simply to have them all different. Certainly I could have stacked them all up, but…

Now remember that the pieces and curves fit together perfectly before they are sewn.

But when you are sewing without added seam allowances, the edges SHOULD NOT line up after sewing.

I don’t use pins on these and simply match the edges as I sew. Sharp curves and smaller pieces may require some starts and stops to adjust your fabric as you go.

Let’s take another look.

Begin with one edge pretty even and move the edges together as you sew. It really helps if you have a 1/4″ foot on your machine and use a needle down feature.

You may need to stop and adjust your fabric as you go, but keep those edges together and you will be fine.

Remember that your edges will not be even after sewing together with no seam allowances and you will need to trim blocks to the size you desire.

Try it with several cuts in your block.

Sometimes you need to add a chunk to make your blocks all the same size!

Play, play, play! That’s the joy of improv!



Lines and more lines

I’m still working on my little piece with the inserts. I left you last time with this picture and my decision to keep the project small.

I twisted and turned and moved and played but this is basically what I ended with. I changed the black and white fabric to something with a little crisper design, stitched the pieces together and got it ready for quilting.

I even pieced a back for it and you know that I hate to make a pieced back! However, I’m not going to be using these fabrics for anything else…they sat around for several years before I used any for this project!!

I’m still planning on adding beads and I’m not sure what else, but it’s often easier to do the quilting first. Especially since I don’t really intend to do any embroidery or hand stitching on this one.

My best treat of the week was getting an ironing table! I found a piece of plywood in the shed that was a good size, called my son and challenged him to make it work. Hooray! He came through for me.

33 x 46 so it’s plenty big and now all I have to do is get my quilting junk…I mean my essential quilting supplies back on those shelves.

As I was moving things around, I found this painting that I had done hundreds of years ago! It was challenging ME to translate it to a textile piece.

I haven’t started it yet, but it should be fun. Probably the next project, though there are always so many distractions for me!

Little lines in my brain

Working on inserts has been my sewing life this week. I even made my Thursday Tutorial a quick lesson on inserts. The fabric hanging on my design wall turned into this.

That’s when the over-thinking kicked in. Did I want these large, simple blocks? Would I rather do the surprise re-cut or stick with inserted strips? Or should I grab a few more fabrics, make some little odd shaped centers and border with strips cut from these blocks? How about double bordered squares?

I grabbed fabric and searched for something great to make double borders and/or interesting centers and ended up with enough fabric on the table for about 3 full sized quilts. Whoa! Step back and ask yourself what you really want to make here! And the answer was easy…an interesting small wall quilt, maybe with a lot of embellishment and maybe with simple stitching.

Boy–that got rid of a lot of fabric from the table top in a hurry! I added a couple of different blocks, eliminated a couple I didn’t like, adjusted some and trimmed them up.  I’m thinking about an asymmetrical sash insert.

I’m happy with it but it still feels incomplete. I don’t want to plunge ahead and continue sewing because that has caused a lot of UN-sewing in recent projects. I believe I’ll step back and let it marinate a bit again.

I’m pretty sure I can work on something else while that’s happening. I am never short of projects, thank goodness!