Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month Part 3

Hello everyone,

I'm finally back with the start of the applique. Blogger has made many changes and I'm trying to get used to the new advantages--at least that is what they are supposed to be. I have some pics to post, but haven't been successful at posting them. I will include them as soon as I figure out what is going wrong.

All of the appliqué pieces are ready to stitch. I've gathered the tools I need, including an open toed appliqué foot, Mettler brown 0618, 60 weight thread (50 weight would also work) on the spool as well as in the bobbin, a seam ripper, and a brand spanking new Microtex Sharp size 80/12 needle. Two other items, not shown and optional, but very worthwhile are a self-threading needle and a Bendable Bright Light. I've also taken the time to clean and oil my machine.

I did some practicing on some fused scraps to determine my stitch length and width and that my tension was correct. I will be stitching with a blanket stitch. On my Bernina the settings I used are a little over 2 for the width and also for the length. This creates a stitch approximately 1/8" wide and 1/8" long. Engage your needle down position if available. I did shorten my stitch width and length when the pieces were especially small, for example the bangs on the girl in letter 'A'.

OK—we are ready to start the appliqué on the first four blocks. I have a few hints for you. Blanket stitched fusible appliqué does not usually need a stabilizer, because the fusible web basically becomes a stabilizer. But, if you are having trouble with the stitch puckering, try using spray-on starch to help stiffen the fabric. I learned this method from Sue Nickels, an incredible appliqué artist and author. Before you bond your shapes to the background, spray starch the background fabric and iron until dry. Apply several coats until the background is very stiff. Works great!!

I started stitching on the ‘A’ block. I began stitching around the letter ‘a’starting and stopping on either side of the brush handle and brush. I left a good amount of thread and kept it out of the way while stitching. I also left a good length of thread at the end. By pulling the bobbin thread on the back of the block, I can see the loop that is created by the top thread and I can pull the top thread to the back and pop the loose threads into a regular needle or a self-threading needle. Then I can slide the needle under several stitches and clip. The back looks much neater and there is no chance for renegade threads to be seen from the front.

Because of so many pieces to applique on these blocks and therefore so much stopping and starting, I am going to work on 2-4 blocks at a time. That way, I can applique a few pieces on each block keeping the beginning threads pulled away from the stitching and then take the time to hide all of the threads. I think that it will save a bunch of time. Also, the 'B' block will need to have some stabilizer added before the bubbles are stitched. I will address that issue soon.

The order in which I will appliqué the first four blocks is as follows (refer to the actual pages in the book):

Letter a (don't forget the inner oval as I did)
Paint brush handle
Paint brush tip
Paint brush middle
Hair and bangs
Right braid, left braid
Hair ties
Right face, left face
White collar
Bow ties
Bow Knot

Letter b
Hair right and left
Hat brim
Right face, left face
Outside edge of hand
Bubbles and bubble reflections

Letter c
Right face from bow to chin
Left face from camera to neck
Hair bow
Red camera lens
White lens center
Red camera button and flash support
White eye window
Purple flash bulb
Orange flash
Right hand fingers and arm
Left hand fingers and arm

Front of bus
Top lights
Bottom lights
Stop sign support
Stop sign
Mirror supports
Top of bus
Bottom of bus

Happy stitching!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month Part 2B

I know that I said the machine appliqué lesson was next, but my machine was acting up and I had to have it cleaned and checked--thanks Kurt! So, in the meantime, I've been working on getting more blocks ready. As you can see on Amy's directions that are listed at the bottom of the placement sheets, she starts at Step 5. You have already prepared your appliqué pieces and are ready to fuse them into place.

Amy has done a terrific job giving you the order of placement for the appliqué pieces. However, I found that in some cases it helps to pre-construct some units. Place the pieces on the Appliqué Presser Sheet or the release paper from the fusible web, press in place and they will release when cool. I also have found that I like to mark some of the detail lines before I fuse the pieces together.

So, with that said, here are my hints for pre-constructing and pre-marking the first eight blocks...................

Front of bus
Mirror supports and mirrors
Inside and outside of all lights
Top of bus and windshield
Bottom of bus and grills
Detail lines for abc

Paintbrush and letter a
Face and hair
Collar and bow
Nose, mouth, eye position, detail lines of hair ties and bows

Hat and brim
Face and hair
Nose, eye position, bubbles, and bandage detail lines

Camera pieces
Mouth, eye, detail lines for fingers and bow

Top of hair, headband pieces, and reflector
Face and right and left hair
Nose, mouth, and eye position

Outside and inside of earphones and earphone wire
Nose, mouth, and eye position

Frog and frog eyes
Nose, frog mouth, frog chin, eye positions for girl and frog, and bows

Goggle, goggle lenses, goggles straps, and buckle
Nose, mouth, and eye position

Cut the fabric for the backgrounds
From your background fabric, cut seven strips 11 1/2". Cut each of these strips into four blocks 9 1/2" x 11 1/2". I like to treat my backgrounds with a couple layers of spray starch to make them extra crisp so that they naturally act like they have been stabilized.

Follow step 8 of Amy's directions
Read the instructions directly below the block placement sheet for any specific instructions for Step 8. On a light table, put a 9 1/2" x 11 1/2" fabric block background right side up over a block placement sheet. There should be approximately 1/2" of extra fabric around the block. Place applique pieces and/or pre-constructed units in place on fabric background aligning with placement sheet. Fuse into place.

There is lots of preparation for the applique to go smoothly, but well worh the effort. I will give you the order in which Iwill applique the pieces next as well as post photos of the actual applique process (as soon as I can find one of my 3 pairs of magnifier glasses).

Hunting for my glasses so that I can be back soon,

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month Part 2a

I'm sooooo excited for My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month!!!

Because there is so much to talk about this first month, I am going to break the information up into a few blogs. I have a few of My Alphabet Quilt pattern and book and two different kits to get you started. The first kit is a Skintones Kit--I have one available. It includes 4 different mottled fabrics for the faces and hands. These will be the exact fabrics that I will be using, in fact, I accidentally used the wrong side of the fleshtone fabric for my artist's face--ooops, but it turned out fine and it gave me another choice. The second kit is the background/border kit which includes the white-on-white for the block backgrounds and borders, as well as the turquoise and the red--I have a few of these available. The fabrics may change but I will try to stay true to the colors. If you would like the pattern or the kits, please email me--address below.

Getting organized:

Pre-washing your fabric is a personal choice. We hardly ever pre-wash because we start projects at work and don't take the time. I am not pre-washing my fabric and I realize that the fabrics could possibly run. I will use Shout Color Catchers when I wash the quilt and not allow the quilt to soak.

Cut placement sheets and pattern sheets apart. Set placement sheets aside for now. There are many fusible products on the market. This project requires that you have a least one side covered in paper that you can trace on. The two that I use are Wonder Under and Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite. I like them both, although SaS 2 Lite creates a better bond because there is more fusible that comes in contact with the fabric. Whatever fusible product you use, be sure to read and follow the directions on the package.

Tracing the pattern pieces:

Place your fusible product over your pattern sheet with the paper side up. Leave at least 1/4" between pattern pieces. Using a Sewline pencil in black, I trace all of the pieces from the pattern sheets onto my fusible web. I cut them out roughly--DO NOT CUT ON PENCIL LINE, but at least 1/8" away from it. I place them in a repurposed spiral notebook that I have marked with the alphabet letters, one set of pattern pieces per page.

If you want a softer feel for your appliqué blocks, trim out the inside of your fusible pattern pieces, about 1/8" inside of penciled line. I especially recommend this on any pieces that have many layers such as C is for Camera. Save these larger cutout pieces to trace smaller patterns, therefore saving on the amount of fusible that you will be needing. Be especially careful when trimming out the letters. Leave a bridge to connect the inner cutout pieces in letters such as "a and b" (see letter b below).

Some light fabrics placed over dark fabrics (such as the letter "m" where the dark fabric might show through the light skin) would benefit from lining the light fabric. To line the light fabric, iron a piece of fusible web to the wrong side of the light fabric, peel the paper off and iron to a separate piece of white fabric. Then treat this bonded fabric as one fabric. I will let you know which pieces I have lined.

Press fusible pattern pieces to fabric:

Place the pattern piece on the wrong side of your chosen fabric and press according to the fusible web instructions. Let cool. Now, cut out the pattern pieces on the pencil line. I find the Fiskar's Curved Scissors allows me to cut smoothly and accurately and can flip over to cut inside or outside curves.

Pattern Placement and Details:

This is where the Applique Presser Sheet (APS) pays for itself! Place the Letter Placement Sheet on an ironing board. Place the APS over it. Read the instructions directly below the block placement sheet for specific instructions from step 5 (refer back to the main Instruction Sheet for any steps not listed). Remove the paper backing from the fused pattern pieces. Place them in numerical oder on the APS using the placement sheet as your guide. Press as you go and the pieces will stick to the APS. When all pieces are placed, press again. Let cool. (Hmmm-I just noticed that I lost a bow for her braid-back to the ironing board).

Mark the detail lines and eye dots with a Sewline Pencil in a color that contrasts with the fabric. Peel the applique away from the APS. Place the entire piece on your background rectangle and press into place.

If you don't have an APS, lay your background fabric over the placement sheet and center it. Place your applique pieces in order on the background and press into place. A light box might be helpful for placement, but do not press your pieces on it. Mark the detail lines and eye dots as described above.

Next up, Part 2b, Applique

If you have any questions as we go along please add a comment to the end of the blog entry or email me at

Back at you soon,

My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month part 1

It's time to gather some notions to help you with this project. Here are some of my favorites!

Sewline Fabric Pencils--the best marking pencils I've ever used. The specially formulated ceramic lead gives a clear, easily marked fine line on fabrics. If needed, lines are easily removed from most fabrics with the special Sewline Eraser or by dabbing with a damp cloth or washing. Pencils are available with five different colors of lead--black, white, yellow, green, and pink. Lead refills are also available. For this project I am using the black and the yellow pencils.

The Applique Pressing Sheet--I have at least 3 of these sheets. It is a transparent reusable Non-stick Pressing Sheet, Craft Sheet, or Pressing Cloth. For this project it will allow you to fuse your designs together as one unit using your placement pattern as a guide! I love them and can't do without them!

Fiskars Curved Blade Scissor--these scissors help to keep your threads clipped as close to your work as possible without cutting your fabric. They also make cutting curves on your appliqué pieces a snap! Flip them over in your hand for inside and outside curves.

Clover Soft Touch Steel Crochet Hook or Soft Touch Thread Pick--this amazing little tiny hook will pull your threads to the back of your work as easy as pie so that you can tie your threads off! Self-Threading Needles will also work but sometimes I forget to leave a long enough thread to pop into the needle.

Clover Seam Ripper--my favorite seam ripper. Now don't tell but I, too, have to rip seams out now and again. Seam rippers do get dull--just like any blades. Treat yourself to a fresh, sharp blade with an easy to hold handle.

4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool--this is a tool from Alex Anderson and C&T publishing. The tool includes a Bernina Seam Ripper, a Flat-ended presser, a Pointed End Cap, and an extra-long Stiletto.

Bendable Bright Light--I don't think that I could get along without this, anymore. Attach it to your sewing machine, adjust it so the bright light centers on your presser foot area to stitch and adjust it to center on your project to pull your threads to the back. I love it!

Mary Ellen's Best Press--the Clear Starch Alternative with Soil Guard and Wrinkle Remover--leaves no residue, acid-free, makes ironing easier, gives crisp seams to patchwork.

Mettler Thread--size 50, color 0618 Dark Brown--all of the applique is stitched with this thread.

Find all of these notions at your local quilt store or online, let me know if I can be of any help. Well, I'm off to gather my fabrics.

I have some Block and border fabric kits and one Skin tone kit available and the My Alphabet Quilt patterns if anyone is interested--just email me. Fat quarters and scraps will work for the appliques.


My Alphabet Quilt Blog of the Month

One of my favorite patterns is Amy Bradley's My Alphabet Quilt.

Amy's daughter Ashley Heryer, wrote the story for her daughter, and Amy illustrated it with quilt blocks. I am going to present it as a Blog of the Month like I did with Amy's Happy Halloween pattern. (I started the Blog earlier, but I let if fall off. After receiving several requests, I am reviving it. I am reposting the first two months and for those who have already started, I will be posting the third month shortly.)

It will be an 8 month program. Each month, for seven months I will present 4 blocks and give you hints, techniques, and notions that will help you complete the alphabet blocks and then month 8 will be set aside for borders, quilting, and binding. To get a general idea of how it works, click on the Happy Halloween icon on the sidebar.

Here is a close-up of block B.

I'd love for you to join me!

Happy Stitching,