Monday, March 31, 2014

Needleturn Applique: Fabrics Finalized (Mostly), First Stitching Attempts, and a Pointy Mystery

Applique Auditions
 Good Monday morning, everyone!  When I am hand stitching applique in public, it's common for people to say things like, "how long does that TAKE?" or "I would NEVER have the patience for that!"  If they only knew that it takes me at least as long to tweak the design and make all the fabric selections before I even pick up a needle!

Almost There...
Well, this is what my Learn Needleturn Applique project looks like at the moment.  I found a substitute for my original daffodil print dark brown fabric for the largest flower petals last week and the substitute fabric is so close to the original that I'm strongly considering using both fabrics in the quilt.  I went with a slightly lighter shade of brown Kona solid cotton for my stems and also for the larger of the two flower center circles (which you can't see right now because of the seam allowances I left on the rose buds).  I very carefully cut those rosebuds out of my Vervain drapery fabric, probably for nothing, because when I reread my Piece O'Cake directions for very small shapes, I see that I was supposed to leave at least 1" all the way around each shape and trim away the excess as I stitch it down.  [IMPORTANT: I would NOT recommend using most drapery fabrics in a quilting project, but this particular Vervain fabric is printed on a lightweight 100% cotton base with a very high thread count, similar to a batik that you would find in a quilt shop.  For my kitchen drapery panels, this fabric was lined with heavy sateen drapery lining and cotton flannel interlining to give it body.  ScalamandrĂ© and a few of the other high end fabric companies that sell through the design trade also have some gorgeous prints on fabrics suitable for quilting, but please don't try this with a drapery fabric from your local JoAnn's or Calico Corners.]  I'm not 100% decided on the rosebuds, though.  I love the idea of them, but I'm not sure I can execute them to look the way I'm envisioning.  For one thing, the rosebuds are not perfectly round, which means I won't be able to make them with my Perfect Circle templates and pre-stuff them with fused batting circles the way I did the berries on my Jingle project.  Also, the rosebuds were cut out of a fabric with an ivory background, and I'm planning to stitch them to a brown circle.  That means it's imperative that every single ivory thread around each rose bud is turned under and hidden, so if I try to stuff the rosebuds they will definitely shrink and distort.  Should I just stitch them flat?  Should I use my Perfect Circle templates with them anyway?  I may have to stitch a few test rosebuds onto scrap fabric and see how they come out.

 Then there are the stuffed berries that I added at the ends of my tulips.  I only made one sample stuffed berry to get an idea of how it would look, and I do think I like it.  I centered the tiny flower print on the berry so it sort of looks like the spot where the stem would have attached.  I'm pretty sure I like that, and I don't have to make all 12 berries for the block right now:

Test Berry, Fussy-Cut
Berry Fabric
If the rosebud idea doesn't pan out for the center of the large flower, I could always just put more of these little fussy-cut flower berries around the large flower centers as well. 

Of course, most of these fabric pieces that I traced and cut out for my "auditions" won't be used in the quilt at all.  I just cut snips of that coral and yellow polka dot fabric for the tulip centers for now, because those will be reverse appliqued from a much larger piece of fabric that will be trimmed away on the back side after stitching, and then I'm supposed to cut out the tulip afterwards, once I've already stitched the reverse applique window onto the brown fabric.  Those large stacked flower petals are going to be the same kind of situation -- I'll stitch the top piece to a square of the middle fabric, then cut out the petal shape from the middle fabric and stitch that to a square of the brown fabric, then cut the brown petal shape before I stitch the completed petal to my block background.  That way I can trim away the excess fabric from the back of each layer as I go, reducing a lot of the bulk I'll have to quilt through, but without having to trim away any of the backing fabric.

Does it sound like a waste of time and fabric to carefully cut out these shapes and then not use them?  It did to me, too, so I conducted a trial run of stitching one of the yellow petal layers to an already-cut-out coral fabric petal.  I figured that if it came out great, I'd use it in my first block, and if it DIDN'T come out great, I'd call it a Practice Petal.

First Attempt at Needle Turn Applique!
I finger-pressed just inside the chalk line of the yellow petal, and pinned it to my coral petal with Bohin applique pins placed about 1/4" inside the line, so I could swipe the seam allowance under with my needle without having to remove the pins.  Then the actual stitching was very similar to prepared applique methods, until I got to the point.

I think this petal came out pretty good for a first try, but the left side curve is not perfectly smooth.  I'm overdue for a manicure and my fingernails are long enough at the moment to annoy me when I'm hand stitching.  Also, in my zeal to achieve a nice, sharp point, I ended up making my point much more acute than what the actual pattern shape was supposed to be, as you can see when I lay the vinyl pattern overlay onto my appliqued petal unit:
My Point is Too Pointy!

How did THAT happen?!  It doesn't look BAD that my point is extra pointy, not when there is only one petal to look at.  However, I'm going to want all of my petals to be as identical as possible.  Also, I'm concerned about how this happened, because I was wearing reading glasses and working under a bright Ott light and was very carefully turning under the entire chalk line as I went around the petal.  How did my point end up extending past the chalk line, and where did the chalk line go?  Two possibilities -- either some of the chalk rubbed away as I was handling the piece, or -- more likely, I suspect -- I stretched the yellow petal along the bias edge as I was pinning and/or stitching it to the coral petal.

More thoughts about cutting out all of the shapes ahead of time: The Piece O'Cake book says that trying to applique tiny pieces of fabric off the block makes it unnecessarily difficult, and that's why they tell you to cut at least a 5" x 5" square of whatever the base applique piece is and then cut it down to the correct size and shape when you're ready to sew it down onto the next piece.  I was hoping I could get away with appliqueing my precut shapes together because these petals are pretty big to begin with.  However, I'm seeing other advantages to the Piece O'Cake method after my initial attempt.  I noticed that my coral petal edges wanted to fray a bit from handling during the stitching of the yellow petal.  Also, I noticed that the applique stitching of the smaller piece has a tendency to want to shrink the fabric you're appliqueing it to, so that waiting to trace and cut the larger piece until after the smaller piece is stitched down could enable greater accuracy.  Finally, I suspect that the coral petal's bias edges might have a tendency to want to stretch and misbehave if I cut it out ahead of time, versus stitching the yellow petal to a more stable, oversized rectangular piece of coral fabric and THEN cutting out the coral petal.  I was very conscious of these potential issues as I was stitching my practice petal, but really, for the rest of the quilt, why make things harder than they have to be?

So, I can use my leaves, my stems, my yellow petals, and the top circle at the center of my flower, but everything else needs to be recut after something else is stitched to it.

Question for those of you who have more applique experience than I do: Do you starch your applique fabrics?  My Piece O'Cake book recommended prewashing them, which I did, and indicated that a soft, prewashed fabric edge would be easier to turn under.  But now that I had that stretching/distortion at my point, I am wondering whether I could have stabilized the fabric with a light starching and still been able to turn the fabric edge under easily?

I'm linking up with the March NewFO Challenge on Cat Patches as well as Judy's Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times, and then I'm going to check out what everyone else is creating today.


Cheryl in Friendsville said...

Oh My Goodness! I cannot imagine the patience it takes to make that design! It's gorgeous!

Christy said...

It's just beautiful! I love the colors you have used. And thanks for the little tutorial on the POC method. They are so thorough in their instructions. And I guess we should stop second-guessing what they've already learned through lots of experience. lol. You do beautiful work!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

love your applique and your stuffed berries!

Donna said...

Beautiful. I keep wanting to learn applique but I am unsure I have the patience. Your work is lovely.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

LOVE LOVE the stuffed fussy cut berry-things like that make a quilt so charming! I know nothing about applique so it all looks good to me and I do like your yellow petal. This is going to be fabulous!

Carrie P. said...

I really love your fabric choices. The round pieces with the flowers in the center are going to be great.
I will lightly spray some of my fabrics if they just seem to flimsy to turn under. It seems that when the fabric is too flimsy it will fray more. That is just my experience and I think it depends on the fabric too.

Barbara said...

You're doing a beautiful job on this. I really want to learn this technique.