Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Solstice Surprise

Two days ago, on the winter solstice of 2014, the stars aligned, and our beautiful new granddaughter surprised everyone and made her entrance into the world and into our lives a tad prior to scheduled time of arrival. We are thankful for a safe, healthy arrival and completely thrilled, delighted and seriously in love. With ten tiny fingers, ten teeny toes, and a perfectly cute little nose, I'm sure that she joins me in wishing everyone a very special Christmas and holiday season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Bundles" of Fabric!

Although I have been silent on the blogisphere lately, I have not been idle. With first grandbaby scheduled for arrival very soon, my stitching schedule has been preoccupied with all things "SeamsBaby". I seem to be a master of aspiring to overly "confident" (cough!), self-inflicted goals and certainly, for this particular occasion, my penchant to reach those lofty heights has not disappointed me. (For someone who doesn't even like heights, perhaps I should rethink this philosophy!)

This was the situation about a week ago. In the forefront, you can see several finished and almost finished projects. But do you notice the stacks of fabric holding  down the table in the back? In those bundles of fabric are an unlimited number of warm and cuddly baby "accoutrements"; inside blankies, outside blankies, change pads, burp pads, wet cloths, dry cloths, etc., etc. . All are biding their time, waiting to be noticed and transformed into a useful existence. (I hate to admit this, but this is not even the full extent of fabrics. Another bag of flannels is stashed behind the table!)

Bundles of fabric anticipating the "Bundle of Joy".

Of course, aside from requiring the whole new stash of fabrics (see above), delving into a new line of stitchery also requires a whole new library of resource books. Below are a few of the books I am currently using for ideas and references. For my current purposes, "Sew Modern Baby" by Angela Yosten and "Baby Times" by Alden Lane Quilts have been the most relevant. The other books below will be more useful in the future.

Notice the "Boutis for Children" book in the bottom row.  At the moment, having time to make those very cute little shoes on the cover of Christine Vignals book is very tempting but a tad over ambitious, even for me!

In the meantime, the star quilt has not been abandoned. Progress is being made, but I will not post too many photos until after it is finished.

The stars have been revised, and I am much happier with the outcome. In the end, I resorted to machine applique and foundation paper piecing (next photo) to get the desired results.

The colour choices have also been revamped.

Machine appliqued stars and fabrics for the backing.

The yellow fabrics used in the stars shown with the foundation paper pieced stars.

So, although absent from the blog scene, not absent from the stitching scene. Once I catch my breath, (possibly sometime in the new year) I'll post some photos of the actual cuddly, cozy things being stitched.

But for now, direct me to my Bernina.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Oh My Stars!

Project #1: "The Quilt"

Over the last few years, long before there was that certain "twinkle" in anyone's eye, this quilt has been twinkling in and out of my own private little galaxy. It has gone through a vast number of design evolutions without ever anything being committed to paper. Now, with the arrival of that new little star (my grand baby) being a mere few months away, it's time for this granE to get her universe of stars in order and committed to fabric.

As you may have guessed, stars are to be the theme for this special little quilt. How hard can they be to construct? Right? I have done my fair share of quilting and piecing over the years. Maybe not a whole lot of stars, but still.... .

So with great enthusiasm, but without consulting the wisdom of those who have gone before dedicating countless hours to the technicalities of star construction, it was off to EQ7 (Electric Quilt Program) to construct the stars for my little universe.

I made the rough designs in EQ7, after which the stars were refined and defined in AutoCad thanks to the AutoCad pro in my life. (Who conveniently lives with me.)

The hand drawn lines show the pattern sectioned into the various piecing assemblies I wanted to try. (The center design was never used.)

Below is the short list of fabrics for this first round.

I added the deeper yellow/oranges hoping it would add brightness and contrast.

Before I actually started stitching the sections, remembering that Alex Anderson from "The Quilt Show" has done a number of teaching segments on star construction, I watched a few of these segments, made a few notes, and forged ahead to my machine. Alex uses a fairly traditional piecing technique, which involves accurate cutting, accurate piecing and careful pressing. (A common sense approach.) Other then choosing to press more of the seams open then Alex recommends, this first star attempts to follow her technique. It wasn't too bad for the first star, but it wasn't good enough.

Even though I pressed the center seams open, there is too much bulk in the center, where the points meet.

And the points don't meet very accurately.

Hmmm...! This wasn't going to be quite as easy (or as fast) as I had fooled myself into believing. So, it was time to consult the experts. Out came other references:"Mastering Precision Piecing" by Sally Collins, "Piece by Piece, Machine Applique" by Sharon Schamber & Cristy Fincher, "Star Quilts" by Mary Knapp, Edyta Sitar You Tube videos, and countless other resource books and videos. All of the above mentioned, very talented quilters, are somehow perfectly capable constructing beautiful stars with perfect points and precisely matched centers using their specific technique. I was not that fortunate.

After trying about 5 or 6 of these different techniques, my results were still disappointing.  Regardless of how severely I trimmed the center meeting point, the split star points made the bulk in the center too thick to use in a baby quilt.

Pressed and trimmed and no where to go!

One of the numerous piecing methods that I attempted.

So, after spending a week (or more) working my way through the construction of this galaxy, the verdict is that this first round of stars are just not right, Regardless of the construction frustrations, these stars just don't do it for me. They are too heavy. There's no sparkle. They don't twinkle!

I pieced 9 stars using these various methods. The Alex Anderson method, (bottom row, middle star), was the most successful, but it's not right for this quilt.

So, it's "Yoiks and Away"! Time to check out other construction options. I must find those twinkling little stars!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Break for Boutis

You may recall my post on July 31, 2014, (which I just republished because I somehow returned it to draft mode?!?), in which I showed a few of the boutis projects that I am currently working on. In that post I show one rose window, completed in white batiste, which will become a wall hanging, (stay tuned!), and another rose window that I had just started in the saffron batitse.

Progress in July.

This saffron boutis rose window will become a pin cushion and be partnered with the "cigale" needle fold shown in the post from August 12th.

In this little project, the two basic stitches that I have used  are the back-stitch and the running stitch, as well as variations to the pattern of each stitch. The back-stitch completes the tiny round petals in the center of the design. It is also used in the background, where a variation of the design creates the "point de vauvert" stitch. Everything else is stitched in just a plain running stitch.

In the photo directly below, using a variation to the pattern, the running stitch acts as a filler stitch inside each of the petals. Called "point rapproche", (which means to bring closer together/to create a connection), it is used the way we use a stipple stitch in free motion quilting. I have seen this stitch filling in the entire background of a lap quilt. Now that's a lot of tiny, little stitches!!!

"Point rapproche", filling the inside of the petals with tiny, closely spaced running stitches.

"Point de vauvert", shown in the background pattern below, is a series of short lines, each line made with 3-5 back stitches, and each row off-set from the previous row. When filled with the cording, it makes for an interesting background to frame the central design.

Here the stitching is completed.

The back of the completed work is shown below.

In a perfectly executed piece of, boutis, the back should be stitched as well as the front. It should be completely reversible. Hmm.....!  Let's just say that this one will make a nice pin cushion, with only the top visible.

Cording is the last step in the procedure and is always done from the back, only when all of the stitching is completed.

The cording process has begun.

This little project is currently almost completed and just waiting for the finishing touches. Coming soon.

I will link this post up to the WIP Wednesdays on the Needle and Thread Network.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gloria Loughman Landscape Workshop: Part 2

Student WIP

Participants of this workshop came with varying levels of "preparedness" and expectations. The course outline required that each student bring a photo or a sketch of a sunset scene or a simple landscape. From this photo we would derive the basic design of our class piece, as well as use it as a colour guide.

At the end of the two day workshop, students were at various levels of progress. Below are a few samples of some of the participant's work after completion of the course.

Giselle, (below) who seemed to have a clear understanding of the direction she would take her piece, came to the workshop with a tree that she had fused and thread painted separately in advance of the class. The tree was later placed on top of the fused tiles and became the focal point of her piece.

Here Giselle's tree is loosely placed over top of the tiles. It will be fused into place permanently once all of the background tile work is completed.

In her moonscape, (below), Carol has used a tiny scrap of dyed and shredded batting and has floated it in front of a full moon to successfully represent a wispy cloud..

A paper pattern of the foreground lies over top of Carol's completed night sky.

Faye and Eryl (next 2 photos) came prepared with their own hand dyed fabrics ready to create a sunset (or sunrise) scene. These two ladies were extremely efficient and focused and therefore, made great progress in class. Both had their tiles fused and stitched into place before the workshop ended.

With tiles fused and stitched into place, Faye has started working on the silhouette of a tree, which will become the focal point of her piece.

The reflection in the water that Eryl has created in the foreground mirrors for the sky perfectly.

In her own work, Gloria Loughman uses diamonds and triangles as well as squares and rectangles. However, to keep things a little more straightforward and simplified, the majority of students chose to work with either square or rectangular tiles.

Quita placed her rectangular tiles on the diagonal. This creates a very different effect from tiles that are placed in straight rows.

Deanna has chosen to use her square tiles on the diagonal as well.

The next two photos are of my LIP (Landscape in Progress).  I took this photograph at the "Bambouserie", a bamboo forest in the south of France many years ago. At the time, I had hopes of creating a quilted landscape, but because I had no experience with this type of design and no real idea of the direction that I wanted my quilt to take, I left it alone, but never quite forgot about it. Since then, there have been several textile artists whose work I have admired, Gloria Loughman being one of them. After having bought her book "Radiant Landscapes" in 2010, I was inspired to work up several design layouts, with the one pictured below becoming the basis of this workshop piece. It is designed as a triptych and I am currently working on the center portion of the photograph.

Because I chose to work with monochromatic colours,  working with a black and white print of my bamboo forest gave me a better guide for choosing values.

My work so far, with my colour palette of pre-fused fabric tiles on either side.

Working on this landscape is a great creative learning experience for me and I am having lots of fun playing with it. I do hope to finish this piece some day, but right now there is more pressing and (quite frankly) more exciting stitching in my immediate future, like baby quilts and other baby "accoutrements". Granniehood is on the horizon for me and this Gran E is seriously inspired and prepared to fulfill all stitching requirements. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Landscape Workshop with Gloria Loughman

Several weekends ago, I headed over to Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands between the British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island, where I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 day workshop given by Gloria Loughman (http://www.glorialoughman.com/).  Gloria, an Australian textile artist whose work focuses on landscape quilts, has written 3 books to date, and travels the world teaching the various techniques she uses to create her quilting art. The first time I saw Gloria's work on "The Quilt Show", Episode 612,  June 7, 2010,
(http://www.thequiltshow.com/os/shows.php/episode/612), was the first time that I had any inclination to dabble in landscapes. She made the process seem manageable; there is a certain element of structure in her technique, while still leaving ample room for interpretation and creativity. When to my delight I noticed that "Stitches" (http://www.stitchesfibreartsupplies.ca/) on Salt Spring Island would be hosting several workshops taught by Gloria, I jumped at the opportunity.

The workshop I participated in, called "Light Up Your Landscape", focused on mosaic tiling, a technique she has highlighted in her latest book "Radiant Landscapes" published by C & T Publishing Inc., 2013.

Gloria Loughman has written 3 books to date.
(See the list at the bottom of this page).

Along with discussing basic design and colour principles, Gloria introduced us to her method of mosaic tiling with fabric. Hundreds of tiny fabric tiles, in an assortment of shades and colours, carefully chosen to create the desired background effect, are all cut to the identical size and shape, and fused onto a solid fabric background. This creates the mosaic canvas on which to build the rest of the landscape.

"Fern Pool", (below), gracing the cover of her latest book "Radiant Landscapes", is a perfect example of this technique, where the graduated rectangular colour tiles create the intended backdrop for the trees and foliage of this forest setting. As you can see, these tiles are not randomly placed; there has been much fore thought and skill.

The cover quilt, "Fern Pool", was hanging center stage n the classroom.

Close-up of "Fern Pool", showing the detailed free motion machine embroidery Gloria used to add variation and texture to the surface of trunk.

Below are 3 more examples of  her work in which she has used the mosaic tiling technique.

"Cypress Trees of Florida", by Gloria Loughman.

"Early Morning at Mission Beach", by Gloria Loughman.

"The Baobob Trees of Madagascar" by Gloria Loughman.
Rectangular tiles placed on the diagonal develop the mood for this piece.

The next piece shows a variation of the mosaic process, where instead of the defined geometric shapes, Gloria has used fluid, linear lines to create her mosaic.

In this piece she has used linear mosaic piecing.

Although the "Light up your Landscape" workshop focused mainly on mosaic tiling, it is only one of a number of techniques Gloria uses in her work. In some of her work, hand painted fabrics provide the background canvas, as in the forest scene below.

A forest scene by Gloria on a hand painted background.

Gloria demonstrating the finishing of a wall hanging.

Because the gradation of colour is subtle, hand-dyed or hand painted fabrics, can also be used effectively as tiles in the development of the mosaic background to a landscape.

A sample made for class illustrating a richly painted sunset (or sunrise?) canvas.

Although this type of work takes me seriously out of my comfort zone, I appreciate the opportunity to expand my horizons and broaden my knowledge by participating in a workshop taught by one of the best in the field.  In my next blog entry, I will post a sampling of the work created by some of the students during the 2 day workshop.

The 3 books written by Gloria Loughman to date are:
"Luminous Landscapes", C & T Publishing, Inc., 2007
"Quilted Symphony", C & T Publishing, Inc., 2010
"Radiant Landscapes", C & T Publishing, Inc., 2013

All photographs of Gloria Loughman's work were taken by Elizabeth Janzen, and are posted to this blog with the permission of Gloria Loughman.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Les Cigales" and Boutis Celebrate Summer

During our time in the south of France, one of the quintessential signs and sounds of summer that I waited for every year, was the return of "les cigales". Their steady, yearning lovesong (or chirring) announced the arrival of the long, hot sultry days and nights ahead. So here, in tribute to those little fellows that are right now singing their hearts out to some little lady cicada under the next leaf in our old neighbourhood in Montpellier, is my completed "les cigales" boutis needle fold.

Completed needle fold.

The needle fold opens to hold all of the needles required for my next boutis project. I was fortunate to find a piece of wool felt in the appropriate colour for my needle case. To secure it firmly, I machine stitched it into place while at the same time, giving the boutis piece a better crease for the fold.

A collection of needles ready for all stages of boutis.

I'm linking up to W.I.P Wednesday

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Still In Stitches!

Honestly, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but sometimes, days and weeks just disappear! Vanish! Into thin air! How does that keep happening? Aside from enjoying the first summer in Canada for more then 8 years, I have been busy working on a number of new projects.

High up on my priority list has been designing and stitching up a number of new boutis patterns that are simple to stitch and quite manageable in size. Easy to pick up anytime and take along just about anywhere.

Below are two of the new boutis projects.

This first one, stitched on an amber coloured batiste, will be a needle envelope. Although I have used a variety of stitches around the cicada motif to add interest and give it a bit of emphasis, it can all easily be worked with the basic running stitch.

The first photo shows the needlefold being blocked after the stitching had been completed. I had to wet it and block it for a second time. The first time, I had not used nearly enough thumbtacks to keep it square as it dried. Here it is for the second blocking, with a second row of  thumbtacks added where seriously necessary. A whole second row would have been preferable, but I ran out thumbtacks. (I have since acquired 2 more boxes and am thinking that I may get more).

Once the boutis had dried. I removed it from the styrofoam, on which it had been tacked, and trimmed the edges. I will finish the edges with a narrow rolled hem, and then attach a piece of felt, stitching it to the centre of the design, on the inside of the needlefold, where it will be a place to keep needles and pins handy for future hand stitching projects.

Another recent boutis project is this rose window design. This one was designed as a pin cushion, but in retrospect, I decided that I would prefer to use it in something else, like a a throw cushion or another table topper. Still deciding on it's ultimate destiny.

On the blocking board. Additional thumbtacks were necessary again.

Auditioning some fabrics that will frame the rose window. It's very likely that I will frame it with FMQ again as in my previous tabletopper.  (see my previous post).
 Note that there is no linen!

Below is the same rose window design, this time being stitched on amber batiste. This one will become a pin cushion and be a mate for the needlefold. I'll post progress reports.

Since I seem to have a "thing" for hummingbirds, one of the delights of the summer so far was watching the hummingbirds frequent this feeder while I was stitching on my boutis, visiting my sister at her summer cottage on Lake Winnipeg. New hummingbird design ideas are already in the works. More on that another time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Boutis Tabletopper Reaches the Finish Line

Central to this tabletopper is the floral boutis pattern designed by Mme. Francine Born of "Boutis Provence" (www.boutis.fr) that I stitched in a class on boutis with Mme. Born several summers ago in Montpellier, France. The linen/cotton surround is there to provide a framework to the boutis.

Completed tabletopper, with Mme. Born's boutis design central to the whole piece.

After the initial FMQ was completed, the tabletopper lacked energy and life. The particular linen I chose for this project presented a greater challenge then I had anticipated (see my post of May 23/14 http://seamsfrench.blogspot.ca/2014/05/traditional-boutis-meets-fmq.html). Other then removing the boutis from the background and starting again, (which was a less then thrilling prospect), I have tried to give warmth to the piece by embellishing it with contrasting embroidery threads, and, to add some relief, I have filled in the background with a small stipple stitch.

After the initial round of quilting, the stitches completed disappeared into the linen with the very fine tone on tone thread that I had used.  (This would be great at another time, but not for this particular linen). So for this round of remedial stitching, I switched to a heavier embroidery thread with a little contrast and sheen and over stitched parts of the design, hoping that it would highlight some of the areas and add a little life.

The circles were over stitched with a Gutermann Viscose Dekor colour, warmer and more golden then the linen itself.  On either side of the small circles, I used a slightly more subtle colour in the Viscose Dekor thread to enclose the circles with rows of a narrow zig zag.

Between each scalloped petal, I used the warmer shade of thread to overstitch the cross hatch as well as  the circles around the perimeter. The narrow zig zag enclosing the cross hatch, as well as the narrower row around the perimeter, were restitched with the more subtle shade of thread.

To enhance the relief, I used a small stipple stitch around the design motif in each separate petal.

For the binding, I attached a piping very similar in colour to the warmer shade of the Viscose thread, and then completed the border by stitching a wider row of zig zag in that shade of thread.

Close-up view of the finished edging.

The completed back.

With the addition of the stipple stitch to the background and with the embroidery threads highlighting parts of the design, there is now a little more life and relief to the quilt. However, lesson learned; next time I use linen in a quilted project, I will use only the very finest of linens with a much loftier batting. Slightly contrasting thread is also preferable when quilting linen.

Cording additional stuffing through each feather and channel of the motifs would achieve the desired effect, but for now, she will be what she is. Maybe someday?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Colourful Interlude

These lush, rich fuchsias and roses on our balcony patio have inspired me to dig deep into the stash and hunt up some of the most colourful and lively fabrics and trims that I could find.

Hummingbirds often visit us, even on the 17th floor. So, to extend a hearty "bienvenue", we  are luring  them with a ready supply of succulent fuchsias, fragrant jasmine, and the ever loyal, sweet rose. Recently,  as my red "Lady and the Unicorn" umbrella (seen here behind the fuchsias) was drying on the balcony,  we noticed it seemed to be an added attraction for the hummingbirds. Since then, we have purchased a more dispensable red umbrella that we can leave out on the balcony as big "Welcome" sign.

This rose transforms from a deep reddish/orange bud, into this bright pinkish/yellow, to a pale yellow tinged with pink and finally into a soft white. Amazing to see the progression.

Since most of my stitching time has focused on boutis recently, which is worked mostly on whites and neutrals, a therapy session using the brightest and most vibrant colours from the stash is most welcome.

These fun fabrics are a lightly laminated cotton that I found in my favourite kitchen shop in Montpellier. I had mailed them (as well as the coordinating bindings)  home several years ago, but because we have never spent a summer in Vancouver, there was never an urgency to dig them out before now.  They will help add a little southern French sunshine to our Vancouver summer.

Better then a candy shop!

First tablecloth done. The table, now dressed in chartreuse, is ready for outdoor dining. The trailing vines on the back lattice are the jasmine, not quite in full bloom yet.

To accommodate the umbrella, I cut a 1 1/2" circle in the centre of the tablecloth with a slit extending to the outside edge, and finished the edge by continuing the binding into the slit and around the centre cutout.

This rectangular tablecloth is destined for my daughter and son-in-laws long wooden kitchen table. I do love these colours on my balcony as well. Hmmmm. Dilemma! Fortunately, we don't have a long rectangular table, so this tablecloth will find it's rightful owner.

And now ... the leftovers. My favourite! From what was left over after cutting the two tablecloths, I managed to get 16 place mats cut. The yellow scraps were still a leftover from Montpellier. Thank goodness these leftovers don't go bad!

More summer fun coming soon! I did have to hit a fabric shop again to replenish the binding supply and fortunately, Fabricland had a great deal - buy 1 metre, get 3 free. Could anyone resist that?