Applique

A closer look – Christmas Woodland Friends

by Helen on September 1, 2014

It’s September!  I can hardly believe it – where did the summer go?  And for me, like so many other stitchers I’m certain, September sees the beginning of my Christmas stitching.  In this month’s issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine you’ll find my first Christmas patterns for 2014.  One of these is the first part of my set of Woodland Friends …. little animals peeping out of 3″ hoops …..

The first three designs feature an owl in ear muffs, robin in a hat and a cute reindeer with Christmas baubles dangling from his antlers.  I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at the materials I’ve used to create these little friends – especially if you’re planning to make your own set for Christmas.

It was important to me that the friends would very clearly be a set so I used the same background fabric for them all (and will continue for the second three friends coming in October’s issue).  I like a medium weight fabric – rather like a Cath Kidston cotton duck for applique work as it’s nice and substantial to take all the stitching – and any loose ends won’t show through.  For these friends I chose Blue Dotty from Clarke & Clarke.  I thought it looked a bit like a snowy sky perhaps?  Above you can see the beginnings of the applique.  I’ve transferred my designs to the fabric and marked where the hoop will be with my temporary fabric marker pen.  I love these pens and personally haven’t experienced any problems with erased lines reappearing, though I know others have reported this on their blogs.

Here’s a closer look at the reindeer beginning to take shape.  I’ve used scraps of vintage linen for all the animal bodies – again this will help the feeling that they belong together – and some tiny pieces of Tilda fabric for the deer’s head marking, owl’s wings and the branch the robin is perching on.  Similarly the owl’s eyes and robin’s hat are the same green – only the robin’s red breast is a unique fabric to that particular hoop. I ALWAYS work with natural fibres – and must admit I’m even a bit sniffy about mixes such as poly-cottons.  I think natural fibres simply look and feel nicer and are much easier to work with too.  Just look at the texture of the linen in the deer’s head below.

Although natural fibres can be more expensive, you only need very small quantities for these designs, and may well find you have suitable scraps left over from other projects.  You can save a little too when mounting them as there’s no need to purchase the more expensive Elbessee hoops to mount your work – cheap craft hoops will work absolutely fine.  I painted my hoops with some leftover chalk paint as I thought this worked well for a light – possibly feeling a bit snowy, Christmassy feel.

I’ve used the same colours of embroidery floss for all three animals for a harmonious set of designs.  I simply can’t stress enough how important it is to choose a good quality floss for your work.  You just won’t achieve nice results with that awful cheap floss that gets sold in huge quantities on eBay or similar.  It tangles and breaks and is incredibly frustrating to work with.  I always use DMC or Anchor flosses, both of which are widely available internationally.   I hope you like my little animals and be sure to look out for the final three Woodland Friends in the October issue of the Magazine!

And finally … I nearly forgot to mention – the September issue is now available in paperback from Amazon.

CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.co.uk and CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.com

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I’ve just finished uploading the patterns from the August issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine to my store, including one of my favourite projects this month … a Jar for Buttons.

One of my favourite techniques that I’ve used in several designs this month, including this one, is raw edge applique.  I love it as it’s so easy to add pops of colour and pattern to mywork.  It’s also a great way to use up even the smallest fabric scraps as I hate throwing (nearly) anything away!   If you plan to make your own jar you’ll need to choose the fabrics you’re going to use.  I could tell you my exact choices, but as it’s unlikely you’ll have exactly the same fabrics in your stash, and because I use a lot of older, or even vintage fabrics that aren’t always readily available, I thought you might be interested in hearing how I select the fabrics I’m going to use for my applique projects.

Choose a medium weight non-stretchy fabric, cotton, linen or a cotton/linen blend is nicest.  I personally don’t like working with cotton-polyester mix fabric, to me it simply doesn’t feel right and I never achieve good results when trying to use it.  Natural fibres are, in my opinion, by far the nicest to work with and this shouldn’t limit your choice as there are so many lovely designs and collections around these days.   You’re going to do a lot of surface work on your fabric, so if it’s too lightweight then it will be difficult to keep it in shape, leading to possible puckering and distortion.     If you really absolutely have to use a lighter weight fabric, then consider interfacing to give it sufficient body to work with.

Your background fabric can either – obviously – be plain or patterned.  Whichever you choose remember that it is just that – a background.  It’s not the main feature, and you want it to showcase your applique work, not fight with it for attention or, perhaps even worse, blend too seamlessly with your applique fabrics so that they sink into the background and all your hard work goes unnoticed.  I find that as my applique designs are usually flowing, curved organic shapes, then geometric patterns in just a few colours often work well as the base fabric, providing a good contrast to the applique design.  The background pattern should as a general rule be on the same scale, or a little smaller as the applique – so don’t choose an enormous check pattern and position some tiny applique birds on top – it will just look silly.

You also need to take into account the colour of your background.  Look at it carefully and consider it together with the fabrics you’d like to use for your applique.  You may need to tweak your choices a little.  Consider if you’re going for a harmonious look – choosing colours and patterns of the same tonal strength as in my Jar for Buttons, or if you’d prefer more of a contrast – like Nelly the applique elephant (above) Either will work well, but each will give a totally different feeling to the finished piece of work.

I always begin with the background fabric as I find it’s more difficult to get right if I’ve decided not to use a light coloured neutral.  The fabrics for the actual applique shapes themselves are much easier as I have two large boxes of scraps in my workroom, dating back many years – and almost never throw any fabric away – even the smallest pieces can be useful, for example the baby owl’s chest is only ½” wide! Choose light or medium weight fabrics for the applique shapes for this project as you don’t want to add excess bulk or weight to the jar lid.    In general it’s best to avoid large scale bold prints, choose smaller scale prints that won’t draw the eye away from the shapes themselves.   For this project a quilting weight cotton is perfect as it is light enough to mount in the hoop without excess bulk, and is also strong enough to hold your applique work.

I like to use small stitches worked at right angles to the applique shapes to secure them to the background fabric and may choose either a contrasting or complementary colour floss.  In my True Beauty Peacock I used a complementary colour that worked well with all the different fabric scraps I used for the peacock’s feathers and kept to the same colour for the whole tail to bring the different fabrics together in a harmonious whole.  Using diferent colours would have given a “bitty” effect.  I also (unusually for me) used feather stitch to add an additional decorative element to the design.  There are a lot of vintage feedsack scraps in my peacock applique that I chose from a limited colour palette and small repetitive patterns that I feel work well together.

And finally … you don’t have to restrict raw edge applique to purely decorative items.  Most recently I’ve used the technique for my Woodland Alphabet Quilt.  A combination of securing the shapes with Bondaweb and then covering the edges with a closely-spaced zig-zag stitch worked in invisible thread means that although this quilt has already been washed several times it’s standing up well to the wear and tear imposed by an active baby boy!

 

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A summer’s afternoon …..

by Helen on July 19, 2014

The weather has turned hot and sultry – there was thunder again last night which nearly drowned out the sound of Daisy’s snoring.  She is not at all afraid of thunder, no – her worst fear is being left alone – quite alone that is, with neither her Big Bro nor I close at hand to cater to her every whim!  She had to be brave yesterday however.  I simply had to leave her home by herself for an hour while I took Ben to the vet  to have his stitches out as it was far too hot for her to wait safely in the car during his appointment.  Everything went well for Ben at the vet’s since as well as being highly skilled, our vet is very kind and patient, understanding that on such a hot afternoon a heavily-coated and slightly stressed large dog needed quite a few breaks during the lengthy procedure.

Today has been much more the sort of day the Newfies love as, after their early morning walk, we’ve spent most of our time in the summerhouse ….

Here’s a very relaxed and cheerful Ben!  His eyes are still rather sore and swollen, but our vet assures me they will improve a lot over the next week or so.  And notice the untidy muddle on the table behind him!  This is what happens when somebody (me) with the attention span of a butterfly decides to spend a hot summer’s afternoon working outside.

On the table you mght spot no fewer than three projects for the August issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  There’s the lid for my button jar, together with the DMC colour chart to help me write up the pattern.  Then there’s my Poppies applique (more about that in a minute) and my current handstitching, as well as a half-drunk cup of tea, several magazines, the house phone, and more.  But back to the poppies applique ……

It is of course the centenary of the beginning of the First World War next month and, as all my grandparents’ lives were affected by this conflict, I wanted to create a design to remember that generation.  I wanted this design to be simple, but light and airy – reflecting my grandparents’ hope for the future rather than brooding on the horrors of war.  To achieve this I chose bright colours and have combined sewing techniques that my grandmothers might have used as well as modern ideas.  The poppies’ stems are all chain stitch, and the centres French knots whilst the petals are felt and freestyle machine applique.  I think it has all come together  well, and I’m planning make the finished panel into a cushion cover that will have pride of place on my living room sofa – well out of that naughty Miss Daisy’s reach.

And thinking of that furry whirlwind – I began this post with Daisy so it seems nice and tidy (unlike my summerhouse table!) to finish with her too……

 

“MUUUUMMMMMMM!!! I’m sooooooo bored with all this sewing!  When can we GO TO THE BEACH???”

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Publication day for the February issue of the Bustle & Sew e-Magazine is drawing closer and I’m busy working on the last project to be included.  It’s not a traditional sort of pattern …. I’ve started a new series of articles for the magazine “Making Money Making” and I wanted to show how simple shapes can be used in a variety of ways to give great results that are sure to be popular at craft fairs and online.  (I don’t at all mind people selling items they personally have made using my patterns, providing they credit Bustle & Sew with the design).  I’ve chosen a basic sitting bunny shape and so far have worked it into four easy (and saleable) projects.  There’s a set of three bunnies that would make a great Easter decoration ….

Perhaps a larger bunny with gusset for a novelty cushion? Or why not applique the bunny template to a patchwork base for a more traditional look….

And of course it’s always useful to have a little help when you’re trying to take photos ….

Especially when you don’t want dog hair everywhere!  Thanks for your help Daisy, I don’t know how I’d manage without you – a little of your help goes a very long way indeed!

I’m just working on the final bunny idea for this month’s issue – I’m all out of time – but I may include another couple of ideas in the March issue.  Here’s the final work in progress …..

Exactly the same template, but much much smaller with a border of spring flowers.  The bunny project and the first article in my new series about making to sell will be in the February issue of the Bustle & Sew e-Magazine – it’s out next week, so not too long to wait!

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