applique

September’s Projects …

by Helen on August 9, 2014

Just a quick peek ….

The first two projects for the September Magazine xx

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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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True Beauty …..

by Helen on July 21, 2014

Ben is a gentle, good-natured, friendly sort of dog who loves going out and about making new friends and catching up with old ones.  We are used to people who are perhaps nervous of dogs crossing the road to avoid him, but we’re equally used to friendly folk descending upon him and with many oohs and aahhhs making a great fuss of him.  But last week was a little different.

Once he was up on his paws again after his operations, I took him out with me for short walks around and about.  He still had stitches in his eyes, and his face was partly shaved so he was definitely not looking his handsome best.  But still .. I didn’t expect the totally audible comments of “Uurgh, how disgusting” and “Look at that dog it’s gross…” etc etc that he received from one or two people (not his local friends).    And whilst he didn’t understand the words, he certainly picked up on the tone of voice, and his tail lost its cheerful curl and began to droop sadly.  So I took him home again and he hasn’t been anywhere he might meet visitors for a while – though now his stitches are out and his eyes are nearly back to normal I think perhaps its time for him to venture a little further afield again.    And in the meantime I stitched this ….

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For no matter how odd Ben’s face looked after his operation, he was still the same loving, gentle dog inside, and as I’m sure we all know, the same is true for humans too.  I hope you like it and the pattern will be in the August issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.

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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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