Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Figuring Out the Best Appliqué Prep

Do what you feel in your heart to be right for you'll be criticized anyway.

~Eleanor Roosevelt


Whenever I appliqué it seems to need different methods. There are two older but excellent machine appliqué books in my personal library: Mastering Machine Appliqué by Harriet Hargrave and Traditional Quilts Today's Techniques by Debra Wagner. 

Two books on a green cutting board
Machine appliqué instruction books

I drafted my patterns on graph paper then looked for something to reinforce it. The plastic on hand is either too thin or too small. But... there's a whole bunch of file folders from my shredding summer. Woo hoo. Doubled up with some glue, these are quite strong and the supply is almost limitless. So I can trace lots of leaves without compromising the edges of the design. 

Next issue is appliqué. What to do?
  • I actually have {needle turn} appliquéd an entire bed-size quilt {top} but that was years ago. 
  • When appliqué was required for some early t-shirt quilts, the backs are stabilized with fusible interfacing and then they are stitched with a narrow zigzag. Quick and easy. The knit fabrics limit fraying unlike wovens. 
  • Quilty365 circles started as needle turn but quickly changed to the "gathering around a template method." 
I chose needle turn but quickly realized that wasn't great for machine work. And there's no way I'd get this finished if handwork is involved. 

I tried gathering around the template which doesn't work well unless it's a circle. 

hand basting gathers the seam of an applique leaf around the cardboard template
Gathering the seam around a template 

Next I glued the turned edges to the template which worked okay until trying to remove them. Result: A quick way to ruin paper or cardboard templates.

Applique seam is glue-basted to the template
Glue basted applique

Now I'm simply turning the seams under and basting in contrasting thread to help me identify the correct one when it's time for removal.

Applique seam is turned and hand basted with red thread for easy identification
Thread basted applique

Three down; 197 more leaves to go. 

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

No quilts completed in November. Not that I'm sad since I'm working on this massive project again.  
YTD = 159.5 yards.


Most evenings this month I've been reading Underland: A Deep Time Journey by British nature writer Robert Macfarlane and it's finally finished. Caves, mines, tunnels, and crevasses reveal geologic time, prehistoric art, funeral practices, and nuclear waste storage for millenia into the future. Robert spans the globe taking us to different sites and showing what they hide. At times claustrophobic but definitely mind-expanding. NPR has an excellent review here.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wherever you are, I hope you and your family are well and staying safe. We're all looking forward to better holidays in future when we've gotten ahead of this terrible disease.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cutting Leaves for the Shadow Stars Border

What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.
~Winston Churchill


With so many colors in the Shadow Stars already, more green vines and fewer flowers seems like a better idea. I drafted several versions of the vines, made many minor changes, and then cut some simple leaf templates.

Paper leaf templates

Now it's time to review the greens. The stack that looked so good on the border stripe is now set on the Shadow Stars and it's easy to see that some are too bright. The Stars are a cheerful collections of clear and toned prints that {possibly} evoke a bit of Depression-era nostalgia. But none of them are reproduction fabrics. While I like nodding to a bygone time, I don't want a reproduction quilt. Neither do I want the border prints to overpower the Stars. 

So the two more colorful prints on the left are discarded along with the bright green on top. I may not keep the two polka dots underneath either. The remaining fabrics are quieter and more monochromatic. We'll see if there's enough to complete all the leaves. Merely 200.

Several green prints are laid on the Shadow Stars that will form the center of the quilt
Green prints for leaves

Leaf templates on regular paper won't last long so they are reinforced with the heavy cardboard from the old hanging folders. Boy, I'm glad I didn't dump these yet. Each can be reused several times before the edges become soft and I can lay them out to maximize use of my fabrics.

Cardboard backed paper templates are laid on fabric for marking
Arranging leaf templates on fabric


Martin Walker spent his career as a reporter for The Guardian and UPI. He also wrote several non-fiction books about European, Russian, and American politics including The National Front, Waking Giant, and Clinton. After moving to France, he began the Bruno mystery series centered on a local policeman. 

I finally read the first one, Bruno, Chief of Police, and enjoyed the way Martin incorporates his previous work into a believable and unique story. Tony Hillerman wrote a fabulous mystery series that introduced his readers to the Navaho homelands and Martin's books develop from a similar love of the Périgord region. He weaves threads from French history with current events about wine-making and small town life to create a memorable story. I'm looking for the second one now.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Fiddling with Flowers on the Shadow Stars

The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.
~Jane Addams

The US election results are in with joy for many of us but also sorrow that the vote was anywhere close. Much work remains to help minority communities, to reestablish science and belief in its research, and to rebuild faith with our democratic partners internationally. Hopefully we can all commit to considering the words we use and the meanings and intentions behind every word and policy.


My head aches from all the ideas running around it. First, I thought I could sew the four main pieces of the flower together and appliqué the finished group as as single unit. You can see that wasn't such a clever idea. The three petals went together easily but then form a thick seam allowance against the green base. Lumpy and pleated result. This is NOT easier. 

Not only that but the double petal on the leaves is too difficult for me to machine appliqué. Something else to simplify. 

The flower seams are pleated as it rests in place atop the vase
Partially seamed flower

On to Plan B. Or is it C, D, or E? I forget. Each piece of the flower unit will be appliquéd separately. And I redrafted the base into more abstract shape. Much easier. 

Next it's time to remove the center of the vase rim so the stems will fit inside. I made a template with the center oval cut out and laid it over the rim. Then I marked the inner oval with chalk and carefully, with much trepidation, cut the vase fabric in the middle so it could be reverse appliquéd. 

Trimming for reverse applique

The back of the rim must be appliquéd before the stems will fit into the vase.  Finishing the front of the vase comes later. This is fussy but not too difficult. I just need to be careful when I restart the stitching. Ha ha ha. 

I adjusted the amount the rim is turned under until it looked even then blanket stitched from one inner curve to the other. Meanwhile the rim's front seam allowance was pinned down to retard fraying. Then each stem was inserted and blanket stitched just to the edge of the rim because leaves still need to be inserted under the long stems. Finally the front of the rim could be appliquéd. Not too bad.

Applique vase

And because I still wasn't sure how the flower would look, it was appliquéd in place, too. Four thread changes. This is not simple but still much easier for me than hand sewing. We already know it takes thirty years for me to complete a quilt by hand


The Return of the Thief, the sixth and final novel in the Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner was published last month and I just finished reading it. Twice through. The books are set in an alternate world reminiscent of ancient or medieval Greece. The tiny countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia occupy the Little Peninsula with larger empires and confederations on each side hoping to annex them. 

Pheris narrates this book. He appeared at the end of the previous one as the "youngest attendant" of the king. Here we find he is the disabled heir of Baron Erondites, the leader of the faction trying to depose the king. When the baron is forced to send his heir to be raised {and influenced} by the king, he sends Pheris, planning to kill the child later and name a new heir. 

If you've followed the series, you know the Medes are preparing to invade. The Little Peninsula must find a way to truly unite against them. There isn't much more I can write without spoiling the plot. And since it's the final book, reading them in order would really help.  

The series started over twenty years ago but remains one of my favorites and this final novel makes a fitting conclusion. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Vases on the Shadow Stars Border

Fairy tales are more than true: 
not because they tell us that dragons exist, 
but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.
~C. K. Chesterton

Today is finally Election Day in the U.S. unless you voted early. And I hope you did since the lines will be long today.

Even though the rabbit print seemed a bit light I wanted to try it. The vase is too short to include the whole image. I chose to put the face in rather than the ears. Then I asked QS and several friends whether it needed a foot. Of course, everyone said, "Yes." And I agree... even though it's more work.
Vase with and without a foot, before turning the edges

So I adjusted the template and started pinning them in place. Fortunately DH bought me this LED light board for my birthday. It really helps tracing and placing appliqué. 

Placing components with a light table

There was another fabric I considered for the rim of the vase but it doesn't work as well as it moves quickly into greens. 

Alternate vase rim

The vase is {possibly} straighter than it appears in the photo. My applique is not that accurate and these are hand drawn templates; hopefully, they will look organic when finished and not just weird. I left some basting stitches because the center of the rim needs to be cut when the stems are inserted. 

Vase mostly sewn

But that's next week's task.


Because I learned some people can't comment on my blog, I briefly tried the popup window and full page options for comments but neither allows me to reply directly to the comments. So I'm back to my original choice - embedded. Let's hope Google gets all these issues fixed soon. 


Watching a recent Textile Talk on Women's Suffrage introduced me to the Grimké sisters which led to Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Invention of Wings.  The story blends their history with the fictionalized Hetty, a slave gifted to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. When Sarah teaches Hetty to read, both girls are severely punished. As Hetty notes later, she is physically imprisoned but mentally free while Sarah is physically free but mentally imprisoned. 

Because Sarah and Angelina supported abolition as well as equality for women, they eventually moved from Charleston to Philadelphia where they began speaking and writing pamphlets. The South Carolina legislature threatened to arrest them if they ever returned home. 

Sue's book is meticulously researched. Most of the Grimke story is true although the timeline is slightly altered in places. While Hetty is fictional, all the cruelties of slavery are not. Nauseating to watch Whites justify their actions in ways we still hear today. 

The novel was published in 2014 so many of you have already read it. What can I say? Sometimes I'm slow.

Enjoy the day, Ann