Thursday, September 17, 2015

Making It Up As I Go Along: The FrankenWhiggish Rose Saga Continues

After finally finishing all 32 of the stacked petals for my FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned applique project, I thought to myself, "Now I just need to piece eight more block backgrounds, make 32 stems, glue baste them in place, and then I can get back to hand stitching again."  The hand stitching is the fun part.  :-)

Finishing the Last Petal!
As usual, what I thought I could quickly knock out in an hour or so has stretched out over an entire week.  I didn't have enough of some of my background fabrics (surprise, surprise!) so I had to scour the Internet to find and order more yardage.  Then when it arrived I had to prewash, iron, and cut my 9 1/2" squares before I could sew blocks together.  I love the green handwriting print so much and definitely want it in all the blocks, and the green dots balances it out perfectly, so that's the one I ordered more of.  I had enough of that brownish larger floral spray fabric and enough of the handwriting print, but the smaller scale brownish fabric square in my initial block came from one of last year (or the year before)'s Moda French General layer cakes and I only had two squares of that particular fabric including the one I already used in my first block. 

Only enough of this fabric for two blocks
I decided to mix in some of the other small-scale brownish prints from the layer cake as well as a typographical print in roughly the same color, slightly darker value from my stash.  I think this will look fine as long as I mix the blocks up in the final layout.

All 9 Blocks on the Wall
It did occur to me that it might look weird to have three of the same fabrics in every block, and different fabrics only in the fourth quadrant.  Seeing it on the wall, though, I like it.  It's just random enough to be interesting, but not enough variation to be distracting or to make it too difficult to get a nice layout for the finished blocks.  I didn't want my background fabrics to upstage the applique, after all.  (Just ignore that other quilt top on the right, partially covered by my pieced applique block backgrounds.  I'm ignoring it for now...)

Once I had pieced together all of the block backgrounds, it was time to turn my attention to the stems.

Stem Factory with the Clover 1/4" Bias Tape Maker

I made all 32 of my stems with that little Clover tool a few days ago, cutting half inch strips of fabric on the straight of grain and then feeding them through the big end of the little green gizmo with the iron riding along next to the skinny end to press the stems flat as the folded fabric came out.  The long strips of fabric came out nice and flat and smooth, like magic, and I cut them into 6" stems for my blocks.  I put all of my stems into a Ziplock baggy in case humidity in the air might soften the creases overnight, but in the morning I found that they had all started opening up anyway and needed to be pressed again before I could use them.  Grrr!  I wonder if starching the fabric ahead of time would have helped with that, or if you just really need to use the stems immediately after making them?  I don't recall having this issue when I made the stems for my first block, but that was a year ago and I was only making the four little stems at that time, not a whole batch of them.  I probably took them straight from the ironing board and glued them to the block immediately.   Having to fiddle with the turned edges and press each stem again before using it is really slowing me down. 

So anyway, I made myself a bunch of little stems, and now I'm trying to glue baste them to the blocks with my handy dandy vinyl placement overlay as per the Piece O'Cake method.  Except that once I have my stems positioned just right, I have to lift the overlay and lift the stems themselves in order to glue them in place and they keep MOVING!  This is SO not working.  There has to be an easier way.  I considered using my my light box with the vinyl drawing UNDER my block, but my light box is too small to fit the entire block and I can't see through the brown fabrics well enough, anyway.  I did press diagonal crease lines in my blocks but they aren't helping much because I can't see the creases under the bright light at my work table and I can't feel the creases through the vinyl overlay.  So I'm just plodding along this way, getting the stems glued down as accurately as I can, and hoping for the best!

There MUST be an Easier Way...
So far I have only TWO of these blocks with all four stems glue basted in place, and that's it.

-- Ooh, I just this minute had an epiphany!  Maybe it would be easier and better in the long run if I waited to add the stems until AFTER I had stitched my stacked petals to the block backgrounds?  Then the stems won't be in the way when I'm needle turning the petal edges adjacent to them, and I can use the edges of the petals and the diagonal crease lines to position the stems instead of trying to fiddle around with the overlay?  See, that's why I blog about this stuff even if no one else is reading it.  Sometimes I can stare at a problem and think about it all day long, and the answer doesn't come to me until I wrestle with it in writing.

New plan!  I'm going to stitch the stems down on the two blocks that I have already glue basted.  Then I'm going to starch the rest of the stems, press them super flat, and store them in a Ziplock bag with all of the air squeezed out of it so that hopefully they stay flat.  And then I'm going to:
  1. Pin and needle turn all of my stacked petals to all of my blocks
  2. Glue baste and stitch all of my stems to all of my blocks
  3. Make all of my stacked circle centers off block (starch and press prepared applique with circle templates)
  4. Glue baste and stitch all of my centers to all of my blocks
  5. Make the reverse appliqued tulips off block
  6. Needle turn all of the tulips to all of my blocks
  7. Needle turn all of my leaves to all of my blocks
  8. Make all of my broderie perse rose buds off block using glue stick and Jeanne Sullivan's Patch Back product (thank you, Jeanne!)
  9. Glue baste and stitch all of my rose buds to all of my blocks
  10. Make all of my fussy-cut stuffed berries off block using circle templates
  11. Glue baste and stitch all of my stuffed berries to all of my blocks
Now in reality there will probably be a Step 8 1/2, where I realize that I don't have enough of the Vervain drapery fabric left over to cut out enough rose buds for all of my blocks and I have to cannibalize one of my kitchen drapery panels or something (no one can see the bottom of the drapery panel behind the chair anyway, right?).  But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Gene Kelly in Singin' In the Rain (1952)
Meanwhile, we're headed to the Charlotte Symphony with the kids tomorrow night to see Singin' In the Rain on the big screen with live orchestral accompaniment.  I can't wait!  Then Saturday is my oldest son's confirmation, and on Sunday afternoon we have a big area Reformation service at church involving multiple Lutheran congregations from the Carolinas.  It is shaping up to be a busy September. 

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog, and Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.  Happy Thursday, happy stitching, and have a great weekend, everyone!


Cathy said...

I love your handwork! I simply don't have the patience for it but yours is gorgeous. I love the mix of fabric you've chosen.

Jo Ferguson said...

The block is gorgeous and your colour choices are perfect, to me. I wouldn't change a thing. It might help to put your stems in, or under, a heavy book until you're ready to use them. Kind of like pressing a flower. It works for me. Can't wait to see more of this quilt. I'm also curious about the other quilt on your design wall. I'll just have to wait. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Lorna McMahon said...

This is just beautiful! Yes... A LOT of work and time. But so worth it!

ES said...

I just came on to say I'd put the stems under a heavy book, but I was beaten to it!

Lakegaldonna said...

I used that nifty Clover tool too. Somewhere I had read that right after you press it to tightly wind it around a tube. I had one about the width of a paper towel tube but much sturdier. I live in a super humid area and things do unpress themselves, sometimes in a matter of hours. I also used sizing. Anyway, it worked and those edges at stayed under. Good luck!
Love your project.

pjpquilts said...

When you make the stems with the Clover tool, immediately wrap the long stems around an empty paper towel roll and put a pin through the end, straight into the cardboard to secure them. Don't wrap the stem in a spiral, wrap it on top of itself. The pressed edges will stay creased that way. Then cut off what you need as you make each block. Also, you might run into trouble if you put leaves on first without the stems in place. As you applique, the fabric moves a bit and you might not have enough room to place the stems in between the leaves. I would not want you to have to remove some leaves to get the stems placed correctly - although, reading what you would write about that would be fun! I enjoy reading your posts and your block is lovely.

Karen said...

A lady with a plan! I like how you fussy cut those circles. Well thought out.

Kate said...

Sometimes it seems you just have to let things stir around in your head before you come up with a plan. Hope it works just as you hope.

pjpquilts said...

Bossy applique girl here again ;). You can skip a number of steps in your list above by using a bit different method for doing your applique. I mark the background fabric with a water erasable blue marker. I make only one paper template of each shape, cut the fabric around the shape (no glue, or basting each piece to a paper template) place it on the background fabric and needle turn it to the marks on the background. Placing your stems onto the background would be really easy doing it this way. I have never liked the vinyl overlay method - it take too much time to keep going back to that and trying to place each piece. This method really saves a lot of prep time. This is Nancy Lee Chong's method and she has a great DVD that shows her needle turn method. I have taken classes from her - she is the best around. Once I started using her methods, I saved a ton of time and have beautiful results. I will stop talking now . . . . . .

Rebecca Grace said...

So many great ideas! I have seen others online using a similar method to the one you describe, pjpquilts, but I'm not sure I fully understand that process. First of all, what about background fabrics that don't show the blue marker very well? I'm in a humid climate as well and sometimes that blue marker will fade out on me from humidity before I'm ready for them to disappear. When you mark the design lines on the block background, do you still mark the turning line on the applique fabric as well? If so, how do you perfectly align the lines on the unturned applique shapes with the lines on the block background? If no turning lines are marked on the applique shapes, how do you finger crease along the turning line to get smooth curves? Or is the marked background method only for prepared applique? I tried another quilt using the prepared starch and press method and I see how I could mark the design on the background with that method, but the whole point of my FrankenWhiggish Rose project is to learn needle turned applique. But I may have one of Nancy Lee Chong's books in my library -- I'm going to look for it now. Thanks for all of the great suggestions, everyone, and thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

I'm like you, Rebecca: when I write about a problem I seem to be able to see it differently or see another solution to a problem.

Your quilt is looking great. You're having a lot of challenges with it but you're learning so much, too! I've read the other comments and I think wrapping the bias tape around a tube might be the trick to keeping it creased. When I buy bias tape at the store it's always on a card, held tightly in place. That may be the trick.

Thinking about your stems and the clear overlay.... I don't know the glue you're using and how forgiving it is but could you put glue on a stem, then lift a corner of the overlay and use it to guide the stem in place as you lower the overlay? Another idea (that may not work) is to place tiny pinhead size holes in two places on the overlay. If you work on an ironing board or corkboard you would be able to place the stems under the overlay, then stick pins in the holes to hold it in place.

I hope you enjoyed "Singin' in the Rain." It's not often we get to see old/classic movies on a big screen these days. Fun!

pjpquilts said...

Hi Rebecca,
I do not mark anything on the applique pieces themselves, I just cut the applique piece using the template, adding the seam allowance - no further preparation of the applique piece is needed. I do not finger press beforehand - I do all the turning under with the needle. If the background is dark, I use the white iron away marker by Clover. Nancy Lee Chong uses a chalk marker to draw the pattern on the background. I live just outside of Seattle and have never had a problem with the blue lines going away, but I don't have the high summer humidity of other parts of the country. Did you find one of her books on your shelf? I would order her DVD - This one shows her two fabric applique patterns along with complete instructions for her hand applique technique. Or better yet, take an applique class if she comes to a guild close to you. I enjoy my applique so much more now that I do it this way - saves me a ton of time and I get beautiful results. You could start with a piece of muslin, draw some simple leaf shapes and applique some fabric onto it. Good Luck.

Donna Driver said...

I really feel I should do more sewing and less reading about it! I get so wrapped up in your "journey" with the block, it seems pointless to actually do it. Not really, but I love your style of writing. I was also going to say to weight your Baggie down with a book, but as an older person, I would add - be sure to remember what book you put it under! Thanks for the chuckles. Donna Driver in beautiful Fall City, Washington - the state.