Revisiting Portrait Quilting

Izzy on sax quiltIzzy saxIzzy on the Sax copy

My talented granddaughter recently experimented with the alto sax.  (This proud grandma can’t avoid mentioning the fact that she is proficient on the flute, but I’ll refrain from listing her other wonderful talents and attributes, so that we can get back to the quilting.)  I liked this photo so much that I wanted to try a wall hanging from it.  Here is the process used:

  1. The first step was using a photo editing program to posterize, change to gray scale, and enlarge the photo.  The enlarged photo was then printed in sections.  You may have to think through programs available to you, to accomplish this.  Once printed, the sections were overlapped and taped, to recreate the picture.
  2. Use a broad marker to outline the shapes you will use as patterns.
  3. I decided there were areas of background that could be pieced at random, and prepared these next.  (As the first photo shows, this included mainly areas to the upper right and upper left)  These were then attached to a light muslin base the size of the completed quilt.
  4. I now started building the images of granddaughter and sax from background pieces up, by tracing the desired area onto tracing paper and cutting them from my chosen fabric, already attached to a fusible backing.  These were pressed in place, sometimes directly onto the muslin, but at other times (such as in completing the face)  the pieces were first assembled by ironing them onto a non-stick surface.   An applique pressing sheet was used, but the release paper from a previous fusing process also works.  As pieces were added to the muslin they were machine stitched, using both straight and decorative stitches.  (Unfortunately the photos for this post are not clear enough to show detail, but this means you will freely use your own imagination.)
  5. When the image was complete, I chose to add borders, then a quilt sandwich was formed (quilt, light weight cotton batting and backing fabric) and was bonded together with basting adhesive.
  6. Now came the fun part.  Free-motion quilting was used to add dimension to everything.  If this is not joyful for you, however, a machine straight stitch would work just fine for all the quilting.
  7. A traditional binding was then attached.

While I enjoyed the process of this, my second portrait quilt, it has probably become just another chapter in my quilting education.  I am ever drawn onward to learning new techniques.  If another portrait quilt is attempted, I believe it will be more spontaneous and abstract.  But half the fun in this learning process is finding out what happens next!

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section, and I would love to hear about your quilting experiences.

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Design Your Own Wallet

finished wallet

Summer is drawing to an end and I must return from the long vacation I gave myself from blogging.  The quilting has continued throughout, of course, so there is plenty to talk about.

This post is largely intended to inspire you to create your own custom utilitarian items, using your quilting skills.  You will see the insight to be gained from such projects.  In attempting my first wallet, I considered what I want to have with me, so that I am free from a larger purse.  In my case, that is ID, space for credit and reward cards, cash and my smart phone.  I wished to have a handle so that my hands can be free when shopping.

As the phone was the largest item, I calculated the finished size based on it’s dimensions X 3, and made a quilt sandwich about an inch larger all around, to allow for fabric covered by binding and that taken up by the quilting.  After quilting, it looked like this:Wallet quilting

I used one fabric for my wallet, but this would also provide an opportunity to be creative.  Keep in mind that you will eventually have to sew many layers together, and avoid extra seams at the edges.  The batting provides some extra protection for my phone, but you could use something with less weight if your machine has trouble with many layers.

One end was then folded up, for the phone pocket, and fabric was accordion folded and sewn to the outside of the pocket in a way that fit the number and size of my cards.  (See below)

Wallet prep 4

(In designing your own wallet, it might make more sense to arrange the card pockets on the side opposite the phone pocket, to create fewer layers.)

The handle loop is added at this point.  I used a detachable fastener purchased at JoAnn Fabrics, I created the handle and loop at the same time by folding in raw edges on the long side and stitching.  I then cut off a piece long enough for the loop on the wallet itself and attached it now.  Here is a view taken after the binding is added (unfortunately).  It does show that I chose to put it on the inside so that it is concealed at times I am not using the handle.

Fasten detail

So there we have it.  Add binding all the way around and you are finished.  As you can see, there is nothing precision needed to design your own items, just a willingness to experiment and come up with an item that meets your needs and can be adapted for gifting.

A Landscape Quilt from a Photo

Dunes photo
Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com

Northwest Michigan is an area of great beauty, and this is one of my favorite photogenic spots.  When faced with designing something for a Michigan themed auction, this was the scene I chose to work from.  I drew the scene freehand, to the best of my meager artistic ability, onto freezer paper, (Chosen for having some body, but being easy to cut.)  It would have been great if I had taken a photo of this step, but because it is a simple photo, you can easily find logical places for fabric changes.

Once fabric was chosen, I attached fusible web to an appropriate amount of fabric.  The freezer paper drawing was cut into pieces, and I chose to immediately trace these onto the backing of my prepared fabric.  Care was taken to see that the pattern piece was face down on the backing.

My pieces were laid out as they were cut, and I added overlap when I cut the pieces on which others would be layered.  If you are a beginner and this does not quite make sense, watch for my next attempt at a landscape and I will take it step-by-step.  (Of course, comments requesting this will motivate me to get this done, as that is just the way I am.  Retirement is blissful.)

Once the pieces for the picture were assembled, by pressing to bond over parchment (to protect the ironing board) I did some free-motion embroidery to create the trees, grass, flip-flop detail and wood grain on the planks.  Next the borders were added and the quilt sandwich was created.  The free-motion quilting is always my favorite part.  I know by then that it can only look better with each stitch.

Once assembled I did some free-motion embroidery for the tree, grass, flip-flop detail and wood grain on the ends of the walkway planks.  When this was finished I made my quilt sandwich and proceeded to the fun part of free-motion quilting.

Discovering Portrait Quilting

gemma selfiegemma selfie
For some time now, portrait quilts have intrigued me.  After studying them, listening to You Tube tutorials, reading and imagining, I finally jumped in and gave it a try last week.  There are as many styles and techniques as there are quilters, as we all know, so I kept reminding myself that there is no wrong or right when it comes to quilting.

I started with a selfie,Selfie for grandma posted by my son, as selfies already  have a nice low number of megapixels, making it easily simplified, and because the distortion makes me smile.  This was to be a trial piece and I anticipated it would go in a scrap pile somewhere when finished.  It really surprised me, therefore, when I actually started to really like it.  Many authors have mentioned that, with art quilting, you need to feel free to just go where the quilt takes you, and that it will often take it’s own direction.  Initially it was to be just the isolated head of my granddaughter, but as that neared completion, the distortion of the selfie begged to be explained, so the cell phone border was added, complete with hand embroidered icons and a sparkly “screen”.  The title then went from “A Selfie for Grandma”, to “Facetime with Gemma”.

The simplified process was as follows:

1.  Using a photo editor, the head was isolated and simplified using a poster app.

2.  The result was printed in gray scale and I then traced around each piece I was seeing, using parchment.  By cutting the parchment pieces apart, you have a pattern.Selfie for grandma

3.  At this point you need to consider the process you plan to use.  If doing hand applique you need to add 1/4 inch all around each piece, but I planned to bond and machine applique,   Bonding is applied to each fabric you plan to use, then the pieces are cut out.  (I traced onto the bond paper, so had to place my pattern face down as well.)

4.  The face on mine was treated as a base, with the smaller pieces ironed on.  Then the whole face was bonded to the background fabric.  I stitched close to all the edges before making a quilt sandwich, and used hand and machine embroidery on the eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes.  The rest of the quilting and machine embroidery were done after layering the quilt sandwich.

If you wish more detail on any of the steps, feel free to contact me through the comments.  I am always ready to talk about quilting.

A “Simple” Quilted Wall-Hanging

SimpleThings quilt

The second project completed while passing the winter in South Carolina, is the above quilt, inspired by the shaker tune, “Simple Gifts”, as well as by the fabric seen below.

simple fabric

“Simple Gifts”

‘Tis a gift to be simple,

‘Tis a gift to be free,

‘Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be.

And when you find yourself in a place just right,

’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

The quilt top was pieced very randomly, to demonstrate the concepts of freedom and joyfulness, using this fabric with coordinating solids.  I chose to call it “Simple Gifts from the Valley of Delight”.

After completing the top, some machine embroidery was added, to delineate fantasy flowers, and to add a different “gift” word to each of the print squares.  I wished the appearance of the words to be subtle, so that the viewer would have to seek them out, much as in life,  we need to be watching for the presence of these gifts in order to recognize them when they occur.  Below is a close-up of one of the squares, that shows the word “joy”.

IMG_201Simple Square close50130_112630

Finally, the quilt sandwich was built, and I had the pleasure of adding the free-motion quilting,  This was a fun quilt, Put together in recognition of the generosity of a brand new friend, who seems to always put the needs of others before her own, and who told me to use whatever colors inspired me, as there is no color which would not be welcome in her home.

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Creating a Donald Duck (or any other favorite character) Quilt

finished donald

Sometime before last Christmas, I set aside blogging, as my then current projects were all to be top secret gifts.  Now as a snowbird on Hilton Head Island, with nothing more pressing than to enjoy the sun and do some quilting, it’s time to return to sharing. My first project after settling in was this quilt, in order to fulfill a Christmas IOU.  Well before Christmas, I  made several false starts that ended with tabling the project until after the busy holidays.  This had shown me what didn’t work, and made it easier to find a process that produced what I had imagined.  Below is a simple version of the steps.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need more details.

first three steps

1.  The first step was searching out the images I wished to use and transferring them to my blocks.  I found mine in Google images which is acceptable when making an item for your own use.  I used a printshop type program to create like-sized images and to print them. .  At this point you could use whatever method you prefer.  (Print directly on your fabric, print a heat transfer or print a copy and trace)  I was forced to trace, as I had brought copies and have no printer with me.  Make extra paper copies with any method, to use as patterns for the applique.

Fused applique2.  In choosing fabric, I was guided by Donald’s original cartoon images, only darkening them a bit to suit my own taste.  I then chose to work the rest of the quilt in those colors, adding only a striped fabric to draw the design together.  Fuse your fabrics to Wonder Under or the bonding product of your choice.  Cut patterns from your Donald image and trace them right side down to the Wonder Under backing of the appropriate colors.  Cut out the pieces and bond them to your block using the transferred image for placement. I then stitched around each piece, very close to the edge.  Donald is always shown with black lines around each object so I tried using my machine satin stitch for this, but wasn’t happy with the look, so ended up using hand embroidery for his lines.  Your might, however, wish to experiment with your machine.  A blanket stitch might have sufficed.

3.  Once the blocks were complete, I cut an assortment of various width strips of each fabric and laid them out to decide on my design.  Some people complete their design on paper and then know exactly what to cut, but this is the method I chose for this project.

laying out the design

4.  Now you are ready to sew your pieces together and create a quilt sandwich of backing, batting and the top.  I have recently begun using a spray bonding product in place of pinning.  This works so much better than pinning if you plan to free-motion quilt, which is my preferred method.

That completes your quilt.   Next blog I’ll share another simple wall hanging created as a thank you for a special friend.

A Place to Practice

My modest sewing corner.
My modest sewing corner.

As I was leaving my last free-motion class, a fellow student commented to me that she found it hard to find 10 minutes a day to practice. Now, I’m so excited about the process that I could hardly relate, until I realized that it is much different if you have to drag all of your supplies out each time you work. It was just this year that I created a space in the corner of my basement. I had a craft spot there since moving in, but only used it for really messy projects because the basement is an unappealing storage space. Having a quilting and sewing spot is entirely different, however. Once facing a blank wall with the fabric surrounding me and my project before me, I am lost in my own world. And the big difference is that I can now work for short periods that I wouldn’t have considered if I had to set everything up.

Now I just need to work on that blank wall. I have some ideas perking.