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Block Printed & Slow Stitched Quiltlets

Judy Gula flower quiltlet, block printed and stitched

We recently welcomed a customer in the store and discussed some of the modern stitching methods, such as the Stitch Meditations we wrote about last week. She fell in love with one of my projects, which is displayed with our wooden printing blocks, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to update you on the completed project, published in progress in June 2015.

The Slow Stitching Movement has become very hot over the last couple of years. Mark Lipinski modeled it after the international Slow Food movement, open to all fiber and needle artists to prepare them for a higher form of creativity and important work in the needle and fiber arts.

I have really enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with hand stitching! I was inspired by my stitching gurus, Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, and renowned stitch/fiber artist Ruth Chandler, both of whom were interviewed by Mark about the Slow Stitching movement — listen to their podcasts!

Cover of Modern Hand Stitching by Ruth Chandler

Another catalyst for my renewed interest was the publication of Ruth’s book Modern Hand Stitching, which gives you instructions for how to create basic stitches, and then shows the multiple ways you can use and alter it for a fresh new look. It is amazing! Now I comb through used book stores looking for European hand stitching books — especially the Scandinavian ones. It’s official…I am hooked!

At one of the monthly Judy’s Altered Minds (JAMs) meeting, a show & tell project by member Karen Scudder caused such a stir that she was asked to give the group a short demo at a future meeting. Karen had used a creative hand stitching and quilting technique often attributed to Teesha Moore (see the end of this post for more info and tutorial links). That demo has led to many little hand stitch quiltlets appearing at JAMS meetings, and a number of dedicated new fans of the process!

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich makings

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, and wanting to use the samples I have accumulated from many block printing demonstrations using our wooden printing blocks and Artistic Artifacts textile paints, I embarked on my own slow stitch project! Here’s my method:

I used shirting fabric samples as my backing — despite giving literally scores of them away over the years, I still have a huge number remaining! Using these samples also gave me a starting point as to the size of my blocks. I matched up the stamped fabric with backing of cotton shirting approximately the same size. For this technique, it’s often recommended that your backing fabric be a bit larger, so it can be turned over to the front to create the distinctive rolled edge.

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich -- edge stitched for stability

I used Nature-Fil™ Blend quilt batting (a blend of bamboo and rayon; stitches beautifully) and cut it slightly smaller than my front and back pieces of fabric. See the beginning of my quilt sandwich above.

Step 2 is to stitch around the block, by hand or machine (example right), to hold the pieces together. While it is possible to skip this step, I have found it does help stabilize it all for the subsequent steps.

The next step is to roll the edges and stitch around them, as shown in the photo below of quiltlet blocks ready to be embellished with hand stitching.

Block printed swatches ready to be embellished with hand stitching
Judy Gula small quilt: rolled and stitched edges

Once you have your small quilt or quiltlet put together, it’s time to break out your floss and stitch away, using as many embroidery stitches as you desire. For this project I kept it simple with variations of straight stitching using a variety of threads and floss.

Detail, Judy Gula quiltlets hand stitched together

You use the same hand stitching to join individual units together, as seen above. These quiltlets can be joined together in stages, so you can always add to a project if you want to.

I have seen examples that are done with more precision, and they are beautiful too… for mine, I didn’t worry about the units lining up accurately — in fact I welcomed the free form nature of it. Another in progress view:

Judy Gula small quiltlets in progress

Many people choose to add buttons, beads and charms too. Note that that kind of additional embellishing should take place after you have stitched the block completely — your stitches shrink the entire block somewhat; beads applied too early in the process could loosen or pucker.

This is a fun and portable project — as you can see in the bird block pictured above, I carried the needle with me everywhere!

And now, finished!

After beginning this in 2015, I continued to enjoy adding to my project. I knew I wanted to join the blocks together to create something, but when I began wasn’t sure what that something would be. I considered a journal cover as Teesha has done, but ultimately had so much fun I just kept going, enlarging and embellishing to end with a wall hanging.

Variegated thread accents this stitched block

Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that Artistic Artifacts is now a WonderFil Specialty Threads “Threaducation” Center… so I have even more yummy threads and fibers to use! Variegated threads like those from Sue Spargo’s collection of Eleganza are beautiful.

Pictured below, I added some beading for another pop of color and texture.

Once all the blocks have been attached together, you can add beads to embellish

My completed wall hanging, below. I encourage you to try this technique for yourself… it really is addicting! Scroll down for instructions by the originator of this method, Susan “Lucky” Shie, and a YouTube tutorial for a fabric journal by Teesha Moore, who popularized Susan’s technique.

Completed block printed andhand stitched art quilt by Judy Gula

More About This Method

Art quilt by Susan "Lucky" Shie

Susan “Lucky” Shie (pronounced “shy”) is an amazing artist, and created a number of heavily stitched and embellished art quilts featured in Quilting Arts and elsewhere. For years she taught her methods; in 1999 she taught a class in her techniques that included Teesha Moore (see Susan’s online diary, scroll approximately halfway down the page). Susan wrotes that Teesha,
         “…who had never made fabric art before, took to it really fast! She is primarily a stamp artist and journaler, who self publishes a wild stamp art quarterly. Her ability to translate her creativity over to fabric textures was wonderful!”

Although Susan ceased teaching this in 2006, she documented her methods in writing and continues to keep that tutorial online. Learn this fun technique from its originator by visiting the Lucky School of Quilting Techniques »

Fabric journal by Teesha Moore

With Susan’s permission, Teesha and others began teaching their own takes on this stitching technique, using it to make art dolls, fabric journals and more. Teesha offers a free set of tutorial videos to create one of her fabric journals, constructed from units she calls pillows. (Teesha stuffs her fabric with polyfil stuffing, rather than using batting.) Watch these videos for her own methods on constructing a sewn and embellished fiber art book:

P.S. As you may know, Teesha suffered a stroke in April. In June Tracy Moore, her husband, posted the following good news on Facebook, that she “keeps improving day after day. She is bright, funny, and beautiful. She continues to inspire me every second of every day. She is working hard on gaining her strength back in her right arm and hand so that she can whip up new wonderful art to share with the world soon.” Please send her positive vibes for her continued recovery!

Sharing Stitch Meditations

Stitch Meditations created by students in July's "How Do I..." session

We were going to take an August vacation from our monthly product/technique demonstrations and play-time, but due to demand we are repeating July’s popular program!

Participants in the July session of "How Do I... Create a Stitch Meditation?"

Above, the July session of How Do I…Create Stitch Meditations: we had a full house! At the top of this post are the amazing pieces created by students that night. Join us Thursday evening, August 10 to create your own: using WonderFil Specialty Threads (all supplies provided), participants learn the approach originated by my dear friend Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution. Previous sewing or embroidery experience isn’t necessary, so if you are local, please plan to join us.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Inspired by Liz, I have also become addicted to this practice. I have posted many on the Artistic Artifacts Facebook page, and wanted to share some of my recent creations in this post. Visit Liz’s website gallery to see her own beautiful examples. Liz has also put together a 17 minute video she hopes inspires others to begin their own stitch practice: learn more.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Above, I was inspired by a bit left over from a batik panel by the artist Rusli.

In our 2015 post Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Creativity, Liz shared that managing stress can be difficult for her, and that “The best medicine I have found is what I call Stitch Meditations. I tried for years to do ‘real’ meditation. It just never took and I always felt like I was doing it wrong. But, I knew I needed a stress reducer that was simple and didn’t take much time to do. I love both machine and hand stitching and I find both very relaxing. However the tactile nature of hand stitch won over and I started creating simple small collages using only hand stitch. These meditations are really important to my mental health not only because I slow down and enjoy the meditation, but they give me a sense of connection to my art on a daily basis…even when life has me otherwise occupied.”

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Liz creates her stitch meditations in the morning, but after experimenting, I have found that stitching in the evening after work is what best works for me. It’s a calming, restful way to end the day. I make a point of traveling with a small stash of supplies so I can create in my hotel room each evening.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

In addition to Liz, in terms of inspiration I also have to thank Ruth Chandler, author of Modern Hand Stitching … she has taught so many of us how to add a creative, freeform spin on hand-stitching! I can’t count how many times I have recommended her book to my customers: it is an invaluable addition to any stitcher’s library.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Above, this small corner of a hand-dyed handkerchief really spoke to me. Proof that you don’t have to work large! I’m thinking it might fill the blank corner of the long work pictured above it.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Now that Artistic Artifacts is a WonderFil Specialty Threads “Threaducation Center” I have relished learning about the different weights and properties of their threads… perfect for hand stitching as well as using in your sewing machine!

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

If you are one of those people find themselves saving scraps of fabric and lengths of thread because they’re just too pretty to throw away, you have the makings of the perfect stitch meditation stash!

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Part of the technique is not to fall into the trap of agonizing over your choices. Quickly choose a few pieces, whether color-coordinated or completely contrasting, and get to work.

Stitch Meditation by Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts

Below, a larger completed piece created by Suzanne Langsdorf, who just gifted it to Sharon McDonagh of Artistic Artifacts. At last month’s session, Sharon kept picking out fabrics and fibers and walking around to participants to tempt them to start another piece. Suzanne took one of her handfuls and added to it, ultimately creating this gorgeous fiber art.

Stitch Meditation by Suzanne Langsdorf

Below, a detail photograph. Such amazing color and texture!

Detail view, Stitch Meditation by Suzanne Langsdorf

Hari Agung Floral Batik Panel Quilts

One of my favorite ways to put together a fast, but beautiful, art quilt is to start with a handcrafted batik panel and add one of more border strips log cabin style. This one just needs the binding.

Small red floral batik panel by Hari Agung bordered with Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik

To complement this gorgeous red floral panel by Hari Agung, I used two fabrics from our own Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik fabric line: top and left is Fruit Sours, Green Apple, and bottom/right is Fronds, Mocha.

Detail, Small red floral batik panel by Hari Agung bordered with Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik

I machine quilted the borders with simple angled straight lines, and the center panel with a free-form meander.

French knots accenting the flower centers of the Hari Agung batik panel

Above, I accented the flower centers with French knots. I love using a variegated thread like our beautiful Eleganza from the Sue Spargo Collection by WonderFil Specialty Threads for French knots: you end up with different colors without changing threads!

I used a medium size Hari Agung panel for this next quilt in progress.

Medium Hari Agung floral panel art quilt ready for quilting and then binding

This one is framed with simple log cabin-style nested borders, including Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik in Connections, Red and the Crosshatch Gold from the Marks by Valori Wells collection, a gorgeous modern cotton. The next step is to add quilting using the BERNINA Q20 sit down machine and then bind it.

Detail, medium Hari Agung floral panel art quilt ready for quilting and then binding

This simple construction technique — batik panel framed by log cabin strips —is easy enough for beginning quilters, but impressive: get started on your own version!

Know Your Needles

Visit the we all sew blog from BERNINA to learn all about machine sewing needles

We want to share the very informative “All About Sewing Machine Needles” from BERNINA’s we all sew blog. It begins by pointing out how impactful an object so small can be on a fiber project. “The right needle for your sewing project can create perfectly even and beautifully made stitches. The wrong needle (even a worn or damaged needle) can create all kinds of headaches — like skipped stitches, crooked stitches, frayed and broken threads, and holes or tears in your fabric.”

According to the history of sewing needles compiled by Schmetz Needles, the needle is one of the earliest tools developed by man. Hand needles have been in use for thousands of years, and with the advent of the industrial age, inventors worked to develop a machine. In 1755 a two-point needle was developed that in basic form is still used in modern industrial machines for certain uses. In 1790 the hook needle (or protruding) needle was invented, and again, hook needles are used in some embroidery and saddle-stitch machines. These developments led Balthasar Krems of Germany to move the needle’s close to the point in approximately 1800. Schmetz notes that this simple feature was a sensation at that time, and paved the way for the mechanization of sewing around the world.

Diagram from Know Your Needles by Liz Kettle

A sewing machine needle is manufactured with very distinct areas:

  • Shank (which seats into your sewing machine)
  • Shaft (tapers down from the shank)
  • Groove (runs in the front of the needle to the eye)
  • Eye (where the thread passes from the front to the back)
  • Scarf (located on the back of the needle, a smooth indentation behind the eye)
  • Point (the first part of the needle to penetrate the fabric; different points are engineered to work best with specific fabrics)

The diagram right is from Know Your Needles: A Carry-Along Guide for Choosing Hand and Machine Needles, authored by Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution (more about Liz below). This pocket/purse size guide, 4 in. x 6 in., is a complete reference tool to 30 of the most commonly used needles — both machine and hand needles — and the tasks they perform. This is an invaluable resource to any fiber artist, and handy to keep on hand as you shop for needles.

Know Your Needles: A Carry-Along Guide for Choosing Hand and Machine Needles by Liz Kettle

Remember that sewing machine needles do not last forever. Many consider that as a rule needles should be replaced after 4-8 hours of stitching, and/or at the beginning of each sewing project. BERNINA notes that if you experience skipped stitches, or hear “a pop, pop, pop sound (some people say it’s a whoop, whoop, whoop, or like a knocking sound) when the needle penetrates the fabric, it’s time to load a fresh needle.”

BERNINA’s blog points that the high speed of sewing, with the needle point moving rapidly up and down, means it’s important to “choose the right needle/thread ratio. The thread should pass smoothly and snugly through the eye of the needle. If the thread is too tight in the needle, or very loose, it can create problems when stitching.” BERNINA offers the following tip, pictured below, to help you determine if you have the correct needle to thread ratio:

BERNINA offers an easy test to determine if you have the  correct needle to thread ratioBefore you insert a sewing machine needle into your machine, “pass it through a length of thread you have selected to sew your project. Hold the thread tightly at a 45° angle with the needle at the top, and let the needle slide down the thread. It should slide steadily down the thread. If the needle hops, skips, or gets stuck on the thread, the needle is too small for the thread you have selected. Move up one needle size and try the test again.”

Visit the “All About Sewing Machine Needles” posting to learn more about:

  • Needle Sizing (describing the European and American size sizing system and basic needle sizes)
  • Sewing Machine Needle Types
  • Worn and Damaged Needles (with another handy test for you to determine if your needle is damaged)

The below video tutorial by BERNINA will educate you on the many BERNINA sewing and embroidery needles, and how and when to use them correctly for perfect results.

Learn from Liz at Artistic Artifacts this June!

Liz Kettle from Monument, CO is a fabric and mixed media artist with a passion for teaching others the joy of making art and the creative process. Liz will be visiting Artistic Artifacts June 15-18 for a wonderful 4-Day Creative Retreat: Stitch Journeys — Your Guide to Amazing Stitching. Don’t miss this rare East Coast opportunity to learn from Liz… this retreat is suitable even for beginners, and a high-end sewing machine isn’t a requirement. Liz will teach you the tricks of using all of the unusual/specialty threads out there (such as the beautiful metallics from WonderFil Specialty Threads). Gain mastery of your machine, adjust tension settings, sew from the bobbin and much more as you develop the confidence to sew with any thread. Register now — this retreat is limited to just 20 students!

Kay Kapps Cross and WonderFil Threaducation

Kay Kapps Cross conducting her WonderFil Specialty Threads Show & Tell at Artistic Artifacts
Spools of WonderFil thread, quilts and other projects awaiting the beginning of Show and Tell

Sometimes posting on your blog gets away from you…the last entry was about attending the WonderFil Education Summit in California to learn more about these magical threads, and finally posting again, we are STILL talking about WonderFil™ Specialty Threads!

Kay Kapps Cross (pictured above) is a certified WonderFil Threaducator, and we were delighted to welcome her to Artistic Artifacts on March 24-25 for our WonderFil Boutique official opening celebration. On Saturday, March 25, Kay held two show and tell sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to show off beautiful quilts and projects that featured all of the many WonderFilSpecialty Threads. Pictured right are Kay’s samples as she set up.

Nancy Karst is delighted to be one of the randomly drawn raffle winners!

These show and tell sessions were sponsored by WonderFil, who also provided us with product samples for our random raffle drawings. We had many excited winners, such as Nancy Karst pictured above, thanks to their generosity!

One of the most helpful aspects of her presentations was passing out an opened spool of each specialty thread. To be able to see and feel the weight and finish of the threads added immeasurably to everyone’s understanding.

Kay Kapps Cross demonstrates WonderFil Specialty Threads in the Artistic Artifacts BERNINA sewing machine studio

Kay also demonstrated many of the threads in use in our BERNINA showroom, including bobbin work!

Finding Your Voice Lecture/Class with Kay Capps Cross

Kay began her weekend with us on Friday, March 24 for Finding Your Voice, a lecture by WonderFil Threaducator Kay Capps Cross. She promised that “We will relax and learn ways to release our inner creativity and express ourselves through our quilts. Art quilts, experiments, free associations, or whatever we call our pieces, they are a window to what is inside of us. With a little confidence, our voice will be heard.”

Finding Your Voice Lecture/Class with Kay Capps Cross

Kay taught attendees to sort fabric scraps by color values, and then issued a variety of challenges. A wide array of art supplies were on hand to explore.

Cutting paper and fabric and using a variety of color tools during the Finding Your Voice lecture/class with Kay Capps Cross

Cutting paper and fabric and using a variety of color tools during the Finding Your Voice lecture/class with Kay Capps Cross

The last activity, which built upon all that came before, was to generate three possible sketched ideas for a quilt block (which could use any material or supply and didn’t have to be fabric) that illustrated your artistic voice.

Student sketches during Finding Your Voice with Kay Kapps Cross

Below, some finished quilt block as students found their voice.

Student blocks from  Finding Your Voice with Kay Kapps Cross

Visit the Artistic Artifacts website to view the wide variety of fiber and mixed media classes available and join us in finding your own voice! BERNINA mastery classes are on the way too!

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