Saturday, August 1, 2015

Project Recap: Do Something To Crow About

This is a very small project that's very long on process so be forewarned! 

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To start, some background on this project:  back in 2013 I saw this little wall hanging offered on Ebay:


I loved the sentiment on it and the little bit of applique on it.  While I liked the format of it and homespun backing/binding, I wasn't sure where I'd hang it and wasn't jazzed about it as an addition to my décor.  Looking around, I realized that I had on hand all the materials it would take to make it myself and I had an empty frame that hangs at the entrance of my living room that I had long wanted to make a little mini project to fill.  I figured that a variation of this little piece would be the perfect thing to fill that frame.  Initially, I folded up my printout of the auction so that only the picture showed and put it in the frame as a reminder/nudge.  However, it was  long time before I came up with any definite ideas about how to translate the design.

Over time I came across a few pieced or applique heart block designs that I thought might work but it wasn't until I saw a quilt with pieced Double Heart blocks that I got inspired.  I liked the block because the hearts are made with my favorite block unit:  flying geese!  At that point I searched through my stash to find fabrics that would bring the simple block to life.  I found some in an coincidental place:  earlier in the same year I saw the auction, I had won a big stash of fabrics from blogger Vicky of the LA Quilter blog who was trying to downsize her stash.  I've been keeping that stash separate with plans to do a series of quilts from it.  I found the perfect pieces for the hearts in that stash as well as a great fabric for the crow.  That same week, I was also looking through magazine back issues and found the perfect crow applique in a pattern by Lynda Hall of Primitive Pieces by Lynda in BHG's Sew Scrappy Vol 2.  Her project in that issue is called, fittingly enough, "Lots To Crow About".  With that name it was obviously destined to be added to this piece!  So I made my hearts (the extra flying geese will be added to the "Orphan Blocks" stash) and copied the crow template, figuring out how much to reduce it to fit the size of the piece to be made for the frame:


and then cut out and added the crow applique:


Now I needed to add the embroidery.  I typed out the phrase in a word processing program and then played with fonts until I found one I thought I could render in embroidery.  I quickly realized that transferring the words to the piecing was difficult because you can't use the "light box" method to transfer your design due to bulk from seams and the applique.  I found a few tips (like this one at Barbara's Cat Patches blog) that suggested using Sulky's Fabri-Solvy, a printable water soluble stabilizer for projects like this.  The problem was that at the time I wanted to work on this, I couldn't get to the Joann's near me to purchase the stabilizer and knowing I could get it locally didn't want to mail order it.  So I came up with another solution:  why not take the example of  Golden Threads Quilting Paper and transfer the design to a light weight paper that I can print out the words on and then stitch over and tear away.  

Golden Threads pictures courtesy ConnectingThreads.com
I didn't have any Golden Threads paper either but I did have the next best thing:  tissue paper that you use for wrapping gifts!  I pulled some out and ironed it onto freezer paper (the quilter's multi-tool!) so I could send it through the printer. 

Sorry for the fuzzy picture but you get the idea!
This gave me my embroidery template and stitch guide which I pinned to the piece with applique pins.


I should note that this took more than a few tries to get right: as you can see from the previous picture, the first time I printed it out I printed it in black -- not at all helpful when you're stitching with black thread!  After switching to the more visible red print, I had to work on how to render the stitches.  Originally I tried replicating the thickness of the font with Satin Stitch and then an Outline stitch -- neither worked well with the Perle cotton thread I was using (I tried it with both size 8 and size 12).  In the end, I defaulted to working with the Perle 8 and using a simple backstitch and just did a simple outline of the font letters to get the job done.  This is only the second embroidery project I've done this year so I'm still getting my "sea legs" on this craft which I haven't tried since I was a teenager!  I also added an embroidered flower and stem as was done on the inspiration piece, using the Perle 12 threads I've been using for my wool ornaments. 

With the embroidery all done, I layered the finished top with a remnant of wool batting and this piece of backing:


I had this in my stash with a note attached to it that said "For Quilt Label".  The original yardage this comes from is cotton fabric that I got back in eighties!  My best friend from high school and I worked at garment district accounting firms back then.  We also sewed then so did not turn down offers of free fabric (hmmm, sounds like some things haven't changed!).  She had gotten the fabric from one of the companies her firm did work for and split the haul with me.  When I started quilting, anything cotton that was in my sewing stash was fair game for quilting so this cotton print was handy for a number of projects.  It started off as the stash for a Stack 'N Whack project (that is still a UFO I'm afraid):


....was used to make a pieced fish in this project (from 2007 and recently posted about here):

Used here to make the white fishes with the rainbow stripes.
..... but found its real usefulness as label fabric:



After the layering, I quilted the piece with simple diagonal quilted lines.  As I had hoped, the wool batting combined with the tight background quilting made the hearts and crow "pouf up" just a bit to add more texture to the whole thing.  My last plan for this was to add small prairie points to fill in the areas around the applique and the block.   Have I mentioned that I'm into gadgets?  For a while I had wanted to try Susan Cleveland's Prairie Pointer tool (be sure to check out her videos) and figured that the very small (1/2" high) points I needed for this would be a good test for it.  So I chose fabric from my stash of 1-1/2" scrap squares and made the points:


The tool worked fine (although I look forward to trying some of her more decorative styles).  We're almost there!  Here is the finished piece before framing (finished size 4-1/4" x 6"):


...and here it is in the frame:


I realize that I should have more carefully measured what the finished measurements of the inside of the frame was.  The finished piece was a little too tall and had to be squeezed into the frame which means the top and bottom points got a little shortchanged in terms of visibility. 

Just before I did the embroidery on this little piece, I read this great post by Bonnie Hunter.  She viewed an antique quilt exhibit at the Vermont Quilt Festival and it inspired her to do a post on "Lessons Learned From Antique Quilts".  It's a good read the gist of which is that quilters of the past made gorgeous quilts with a lot less tools and materials than we have now and a close look at their quilts show them to often be far from perfect.  So there's no reason for us to get all bent out of shape about our projects.  Just finish it already and love it when it's done!  In fact, 100 years from now, some one may marvel at what YOU made and how you did it!  Considering the issues I had completing the embroidery, that advice could not have come at a better time!

Note:  Also on Bonnie's post is a great sideshow of the quilts from the exhibit (click here for the thumbnail shots if the slideshow doesn't view).  Do also read the post itself for Bonnie's insightful comments about the details of many of the quilts.

So I'm glad to get this little one done and glad to get a chance to flex so many creative muscles while doing it!  Hanging this little piece near my quilt space will be a reminder that (as I commented on Bonnie's post) just finishing something is an accomplishment in and of itself! 

1 comment:

Julierose said...

Hi Vivian--wonderful post about how you executed this wonderful "dream piece" you thought about for so long. "fageda'bout it"--life is just too short.
If it makes you happy that is what counts. thanks for the link to those antique quilts...neat stuff. Hugs, Julierose