Sunday, May 14, 2017

Simple Quilting With Hand Embroidery

It's amazing what a difference a little hand embroidery can make, even if, like me, your embroidery skills are very basic. And if the embroidery also serves as quilting, the whole piece won't take that much longer than machine quilting. Especially if  you're making something small.

As I've blogged about many times, I've been going through a major squares obsession - dealing out tiny colorful squares like cards from a deck, then arranging them in ways that give them movement. It's soooo therapeutic. Although I machine quilted most of the resulting pieces, I also hand embroidered some. Here's one - a modified hashtag/tic-tac-toe board. The squares are 1" (finished). This is how it looked before finishing:
 Below - after using embroidery floss to add "rice" stitching in the central areas, running stitches around the outside, and in the ditches...
A closeup of the rice stitches. (Learn more about it here.)
Rice and running stitches:

Imperfect is fine! I did the quilting/embroidery after the whole piece had been put together and pillowcase-turned.

 For the next piece, I did the embroidery through just the top layer and the batting. I don't necessarily recommend this approach.
Here's the batting side. The problem was all those knots around the edges. They got in the way when I stitched the right sides together (leaving a turning gap.)
In hindsight, I should have waited until it was turned outward, with the backing in place, before the embroidery.
The last step was to stitch a bit of hand-dyed lace trim around the edges....
...and put a button in the middle (of course.).

Just for comparison's sake, here's a machine quilted piece from this series.
I won't say the machine quilting is worse than the hand quilting (it's okay if you say it), but it is a very different mood. (The glass eyeball bead in the middle also helps set a different mood.) 
Whether hand or machine quilted, these pieces have made good gifts from the heart and the hands! (And the eyeballs.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Memorial Quilt from Tee Shirts, Button-Down Shirts, and a Bedsheet (or two)

One of the many helpful things a quilter can do in this world is comfort mourners with a quilt made from their loved one's garments. Last year, after my friend Wendy lost her father, and was going through the agony of sorting his possessions. I told her I would be honored to make a quilt from his clothing, if she wanted one. Not everyone does, but Wendy liked the idea. Here's the quilt I wound up making.

The first step for a quilt like this is to collect the clothing. Sometimes. if they ask, I help people go through their loved ones' closets; in this case, Wendy did it herself. She brought me a relatively small number of items, about 20 shirts, mostly button down and tees. There was a pair of jeans, some neckties, and a couple of bed sheets.

Back in my work room, before I start cutting or arranging, I light a candle, say a prayer, and have a chat with the deceased.
My next steps are to rough cut the garment fronts, lay them on the floor and figure out a preliminary layout. Then I press fusible interfacing to the back of the knit pieces to stabilize them. Fusing is a looooooong process.
The button-down shirts made from woven fabrics aren't stretchy, so they don't need interfacing. My first cut of those kinds of shirts looked something like this.
I strove to cut as far away from the buttons as possible. Knit shirts with buttons, on the other hand, do need interfacing. Here's how they look rough-cut with interfacing:
I usually arrange my tee shirt quilts in columns. I make it up as I go along, rearranging  for balance, cutting some shirts way down. The columns don't have to be the exact same width, but they do need to be the same length.

When necessary, I appliqué things to other things. Here a section of a Gold's Gym tee was appliquéd to the back of a button-down burgundy woven shirt. (And the crosshatched fabric to the left and below was a necktie.)

(Wendy's dad was a fitness buff, and that's one of the reasons Wendy became a stellar dancer and fitness professional. And because Wendy is such an outstanding trainer, I'm physically fit. So thank you Carl, your focus on health changed my life for the better!)

 Along the bottom of the quilt, and across the top, I created piano key stripes from shirt scraps and  neckties. I saved all the labels from the garments and appliquéd them on top of some of the keys. The back and the binding are made from a bedsheet (more on that later.)
Working on this quilt gave me a profound sense of calm. That had something to do with the many blues; but also I think to do with Wendy's dad.
One of the joys of a project like this is looking at outdated fashions. Remember teeny pockets? 
Carl had a special connection to the Philippines. 

To maintain the calm grid lines, I mostly stitched in the ditch, and also did straight vertical quilting lines about an inch to either side of the button plackets.
 There was one flannel shirt.
When the quilt was finished, I still had plenty of bedsheet material left. So I made Wendy a gigantic carry bag for the quilt.
 It bundles up into the pocket (my tutorial for making a magic pocket tote like this here.)
And there was still MORE bedsheet left, so what the heck, I tore it into strips, watched some tv, and crocheted this:
...A cheerful and fun basket for Wendy's family.

I loved making this project, and being helpful to Wendy. I never met Carl, but by the time I was finished, I felt like I knew him a little bit, and that he was okay with me cutting up his clothing!