Monday, March 10, 2014

No Hearts for Rebecca: A New Applique Project!

Frankensteined Applique Pattern from Back Issues of QNM
Good Monday Morning!  I've been suffering from HSWS lately (Hand Stitching Withdrawal Syndrome) ever since I finished the applique blocks for my Jingle BOM project.  I learned a lot with that first applique project (no, it's not finished yet -- still needs some pieced borders, top assembled, and quilted) and by the end, I felt pretty comfortable with the starch and press prepared applique method.  However, it took eons to prepare all those little applique shapes that way, and several times I had to go out in the world with no applique project to work on because I didn't have the next pieces prepared and ready to stitch down. 

I've been reading several books on different hand applique methods (reviews to come later, possibly, if I get around to it).  My hope was that I could learn to do "old school" applique like they did in the 19th century, no irons or prep work required, just trace around the templates onto fabric and turn the raw fabric edges under with your needle as you go.  The best books I found on this needle turn applique method were the Piece O'Cake Designs sampler books by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins.  Their instructions are very clear and straightforward, and they even have some great video tutorials on their web site here.  The only problem is that the cutesy off-kilter style of the projects in the book don't resonate with me.  I don't hate them, I just don't love them enough to want to make them, you know what I mean?

So I turned to my Giant Binder of Magazine Clippings, compiled over the last decade or so, looking for a pattern with similar shapes but more formal symmetry.  I found this Village Gardens quilt, made by Joyce Stewart, that I had torn out of the September 2006 issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine.  These are large, 16" blocks, with larger applique pieces than the ones in my Jingle project, so I think they should work for a beginner's foray into needle turn applique, don't you? 

The only problem was the cutesy little hearts.  I HATE cutesy little hearts.  So I went back to my binder full of clippings and found a pointy flower element in a different pattern for an historic reproduction quilt, very similar size and scale to the heart motif that I can't live with, and I swapped it out, creating my own little Frankensteined applique block pattern:
Swapping the Heart on the Right for the Flower on the Left
Remember that children's book, No Roses for Harry?  Well, No Hearts for Rebecca! 
So far, all I have done is create this full-size master pattern from my photocopied magazine pages, marked the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal centering lines, and pieced one block background together:
Pieced Applique Background, Ready to Go
I am proceeding with no plan except that I am going to make one block using the Piece O'Cake needle turn instructions and see if I can achieve the smooth curves and accuracy that I want that way.  Of course I bought WAY more fabric than I could ever use in just one block...
New Fabric Goodies, Prewashed and Ready to Play
I was experimenting with a new method when I shopped for this project.  I brought a scrap of my kitchen drapery fabric with me, which I really love, and then selected fabrics in shades pulled directly from the drapery fabric as well as brighter and muddier shades of those colors.  I ended up with a VERY different assortment than the bright, in-your-face fabrics that normally insist on coming home with me. 
Inspiration Print Fabric with Coordinates: Monado in Havana, Vervain

(And no, the fabrics are not made in the U.S.A.  I didn't notice that the ruler was in the picture until I posted it just now, and I'm too lazy to go back and crop it out).

So if this trial block goes well, and I make more of them, then whatever those blocks turn into should look great in my kitchen or in my adjoining keeping/family room, which has the same drapery fabric.  And if the block comes out terrible and I wad it up into a ball or torture it as a free-motion quilting sample, then I'll just have to use all that fabric for something else!

Hope Chest Prints, Laundry Basket Quilts Layer Cake for Moda
By the way, I bought one of those precut "layer cake" fabric packs (precut 10" x 10" squares all from the same fabric collection) for this project because there were a couple of prints in the layer cake pack that I really liked and my quilt shop didn't have yardage in stock from this collection yet.  I've never bought precut fabric before, and I prewashed the squares with my yardage and then ironed and attempted to straighten them.  How annoying to discover that several of the fabrics were cut severely off grain!  It's not a big deal for my purposes, since I'm planning to cut the squares up into Swiss cheese for applique shapes, but the whole point of precuts is supposed to be that you can sew them together right out of the package or cross-cut them into triangles, etc. without fabric waste.  But I found that when I prewashed my layer cake squares, even though they were all Moda fabrics from the same Hope Chest Prints collection, they shrank at different rates and shrank more in one direction than the other.  If I was using these fabrics for piecing, I'd lose even more fabric from the original 10" square because I would have to straighten the grain and true up the sides.  So I won't rule out layer cakes as a way to buy fabric for applique, but I won't be purchasing fabric this way for a pieced quilt project.

I showed you what I'm designing on my work table today instead of on my design wall, but I'm still going to link up with Design Wall Monday at Judy's blog.  I always love to see what all those other creative quilters are up to!


Lane said...

Hey, Rebecca. I think I use the piece o' cake method. I trace my shapes onto freezer paper, press them to the front of the fabric, cut the shape about an eighth inch larger and trace around the paper shape with a white pencil, then pull off the paper. Pin to the background and needle turn to the drawn lines. It works very well, even if that's not the way Becky and Linda do it. It's adapted from their method anyway. Take care. Love the fabrics. Lane

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

I think I always have an applique project going on - thanks for stopping by my blog - I just put you on my feedly reader to keep up with you.

Jackie's Stitches said...

Check out the books by Jan Vaine - she is an amazing resource for hand applique. She teaches the back basting method that I believe she calls perfect placement. I'm interested in watching your project unfold!

Carrie P. said...

Piece O' cake does have some great videos. I love their patterns and just bought the newest one with birds on it.
I watched a layer cake because it had red fabric in it. None of it ran while being washed but like you some shrank really bad and unraveled. It was frustrating because I needed them to be 10" for a certain pattern. Since they were not I had to make the blocks smaller. I won't do that again unless they I am just using the 10" squares for applique.