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String Pieced Aussie Quilt

Australian fabric string pieced quilt by Judy Gula

Click photo for a larger view of Judy Gula’s completed quilt above »

In conjunction with our big Australian fabric sale, I wanted to revisit this blog post, originally published in 2015. The above quilt is one of the most-asked about samples we have hanging in the shop and never fails to garner compliments.

Bonnie K. Hunter spoke at my local quilt guild, the Burke chapter of Quilter’s Unlimited of Northern Virginia years ago, and I loved her quilt samples, patterns and fabric choices. As you all know by now, I have a very eclectic task in fabrics, from vintage to contemporary to ethnic… and I have always done a lot of repurposing of items at Artistic Artifacts. Bonnie hit the upcycle/repurpose interest that I have by using fabric salvaged from old clothing in her quilts. After hearing Bonnie talk, the very next day I ordered her book: Scraps & Shirttails: Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle! The Art of “Quilting Green.” Bonnie’s book was so popular that she wrote a long-awaited sequel, Scraps & Shirttails II, which continues the art of quilting green with 13 new projects that help you reuse, re-purpose and recycle your scraps into beautiful quilts.

Paper template for my Australian fabric quilt; four of these blocks are joined to create the star

Fast forward several years after hearing her speak, and I had finally acquired enough scraps of Australian Aborigine designed fabric to try my hand at string/paper piecing. One of my aims for this project was to illustrate that many traditional quilt patterns are perfect for our ethnic fabrics, including batiks (like our own Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik) and Australian.

As for paper piecing, at the time I had no clue how to do it, only that needed I print out the template in Bonnie’s book. I chose her Virginia Strings block* for this quilt. Since I knew I wanted something smaller than a full size quilt, I printed the quarter block templates to create six blocks in total. To help me while sewing, I folded my template along the lines (pictured above). Others choose to trace over the lines with a Sharpie marker to make them bolder, if they don’t show through to the back of the paper.

Judy Gula beginning to string piece

I began with the smaller part of the kite shape, although I think that Bonnie advises that you begin at the wide end. You begin by sewing the right sides of fabric strips together covering the pattern shape. Then flip the last strip added back down, so that the right side of the fabric is facing up. Pictured above, you can see the wrong side of the fabric still facing up, not flipped down.

Completed string piece center of quarter block template

Below, reverse of the paper template, showing the stitch lines of the fabric strips.

Stitching lines show on the reverse of the paper template

Below, I am beginning to strip piece the sides of the quarter block, using lighter fabrics so that the final block design will show.

Judy Gula string piecing the sides of quarter block template

Below, The reverse of a completed string pieced quarter block.

The reverse of a completed quarter block string pieced by Judy Gula

My timing was such that after I pieced a couple of blocks, I brought them, my book, tools and scraps (along with a couple other projects) to my chapter’s annual quilt retreat in order to get “in-person” training. Lucky for me, a fellow Burke member at the retreat had already used this block and offered some advice, which I want to share with you:

  • Make your stitches short in order to make pulling the paper off easier.
    This step makes a big difference! Bonnie also offers this advice in her books and on her blog. Note that her Quiltville website has a number of free patterns available.
  • Create your block somewhat larger than you want it, and cut it down with a square template.
    I was creating 8" squares and used my 8½ in. square ruler, my rotating cutting matand jumbo Havel’s Rotary cutter to do the trimming.

Using a square ruler to trim the quarter block

Above, using my 8½ in. square ruler to trim the block from the back.

A trimmed quarter block string pieced by Judy Gula

Pictured above, one of the trimmed blocks. I loved the look and was getting a hang of the technique, so I made a few more. After all, with my stash, it wasn’t like I was going to run out of fabric!

Trimming the edges off the stitched fabric strips

Trim the ragged fabric edges, as pictured above, for neatness and ease when stitching your quarter units into blocks.

Below, four quarter blocks ready to be seamed. Simply rotate your blocks as needed so that the widest point will be in the center to get the four pointed star look.

Complete four blocks and align them to create the whole unit

Below, four completed units sewn together created my quilt top. Once I reached this stage, I let it sit for a bit, unsure whether I would create additional blocks, or simply finish it up with a border and stitching… which is what I did end up deciding to do, as per the image at the top of this post. See my post Quilting with a Walking Foot for additional details on completed this quilt.

Judy Gula string pieced Aussie fabric quilt top, before borders

I’d love to see your results of taking a favorite “traditional” quilt pattern and sewing it with non-traditional fabrics! Send us your photographs, whether a completed quilt, top, or pieced blocks, and we will share them on our Facebook page.

** This block is traditionally known as the Rocky Road to Kansas, but in her book, Bonnie Hunter notes that because she pieced her quilt while in Northern Virginia teaching, and backed it with a bargain purchase of University of Virginia fabric, she was inspired to name the finished quilt Virginia Bound.

Experimenting with iCraft Deco Foil

iCraft Deco Foil Transfer Gel applied through a stencil

On Thursday, September 14 we hosted our monthly How Do I…? demonstration. The topic was foiling fabric and paper, and we used iCraft Deco Foil Transfer Sheets Value Pack in Rainbow and iCraft Deco Foil Transfer Gel (jar pictured above), which is an acid-free, permanent foil transfer gel made for use with paper and cardstock. We also experimented with using the adhesive on fabric… because that’s just how we roll here at Artistic Artifacts!

Our first experiments (below) weren’t up to snuff. We wanted to experiment with using our wooden printing blocks to stamp the adhesive, but we learned we were not applying the transfer gel thickly enough. (Yes, we often learn as much as our students!) Because it requires a minimum of an hour to dry — you cannot apply the foil to wet adhesive — we were preparing some swatches for our attendees to use in advance.

Transfer gel applied too thinly, and heat/pressure not strong enough

The extremely faint print left above resulted from not just too little adhesive, but by running it through the laminating machine (our chosen method for the heat and pressure needed to transfer the foil from the carrier sheet to the prepared surface) sandwiched between two sheets of cardstock. The swatch on the right was put through the laminator sandwiched between two sheets of copier paper, which made a big difference even with the too-thin adhesive. Our instincts were to apply the transfer gel thinly and we were spreading it as we would paint. Once we realized we needed a thicker layer, our results were strong.

Applying iCraft Deco Foil Transfer Gel to a fabric swatch

Above, using a palette knife to apply the gel through a stencil onto a cotton fabric swatch.

iCraft Deco Foil Transfer Gel applied to fabric swatches

Above left, freshly applied transfer gel, which appears as a thick white paste. Right, the transfer gel properly dried — it is clear and shiny, with a slightly tacky feel/finish.

A foiled fabric swatch

Above and below, after the rainbow foil is applied.

A foiled flower on a cotton fabric swatch

The flower above did end up with two small patches of white where the foil didn’t apply, whether from it being too thin, or the surrounding gel being mounded higher preventing it from contact with the heat and pressure. We reapplied gel to the bare areas, and once dry ran it through the laminator again. We didn’t try matching the colors up in placement, giving us a cool effect of a bit of aqua on red, etc.

In fact, even if technically it would be deemed a mistake, we really loved the results of foiling swatches that had thinly applied adhesive through a stencil:

Fabric swatch with partially applied foil -- still very artful!

The foil will act as a resist, so we can apply paints or inks to this swatch to color it further. Gorgeous as is, and a fun starting point for further experimentation.

Our tree coral wooden printing block used to apply transfer gel to paper

You can see the adhesived dried on the paper swatch above, a print from our WB226 Tree Coral Wood Block. Below you can see the texture that resulted.

Our tree coral wooden printing block and a bubble stencil foil examples

We also used Mistyfuse Sheer Paperless Fusible. Below is a swatch example; we get so involved during the actual evening we forget to take photos. One of our attendees created a gorgeous abstract starburst cutting triangles of Mistyfuse and foiling it. Wish we could share that!

Using Mistyfuse sheer fusible web to apply foil to a fabric swatch

When you foil, make sure the color side is up/facing you, and the more matte silvery side is down against your surface. It can feel counter-intuitive… and FYI, even when you KNOW this rule, you can make the mistake!

Supplies and some results from our How Do I...Foil Paper and Fabric demo evening

You can see the silver/matte side of the foil in the photo above, in between our Tree Coral block on the left and the unused piece of foil on the right. Note that the flower image bottom right was intentionally foiled with a sheet that had already impressed a bubble print… again, we really like what others might see as a mistake!

A partially used sheet of iCraft Deco Foil

Above, a partially used sheet of foil… you can see the burgundy worksurface through the sheet where the foil has lifted off the clear plastic carrier sheet. Don’t throw partially used sheets out, as until the sheet is completely clear, there is usable foil there. These used sheets were the supply for another easy way to use the foil — creating our own metallic washi tape. We used ordinary masking tape and burnished (even finger pressure works for this) the used sheets of foil randomly across the sticky surface.

Creating custom foiled washi tape

Below, a completed length. We love breaking up the rainbow stripes into these random splashes of color!

A complete piece of foiled tape

You could also apply the foil more sparingly, and use mica powders, pigments, or embossing powder on the exposed areas of the masking tape to eliminate the stickiness and add even more color and texture. Below, the masking tape easily tears for a more organic edge if desired.

A complete piece of foiled tape torn in two for a different edge

There are plenty of tutorials out there for foiling, but as always, we encourage you to experiment and approach the process with a “what if?” attitude. Have fun!

WonderFil Fish & Fowl

Felt and fabric birds embellished with hand stitching using WonderFil Specialty Threads

My friend Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution recently shared her Birds on a Stick tutorial — created from felt and fabric scraps and hand-stitched using WonderFil Specialty Threads — on the Havel’s Sewing Sew Creative blog. Artistic Artifacts is one of only five WonderFil Threaducation Centers worldwide, and one of our responsibilities is to educate customers on the many types, and merits, of WonderFil Specialty Thread. Our version of this project was a fun way to do so, and I wanted to share some results here.

Our WonderFil Fish or Fowl event in early June was one of our periodic “Create Along” Friday evenings. Not quite a full-on class, these gatherings are more of a communal experience (with provided refreshments) of sewing or otherwise creating together, with some minimal guidance as needed by the leader. (Note: our next Sew Along session will be on Friday, October 20, creating an Infinity Scarf with Chris Vinh.)

Creating WonderFil Fish or Fowl during a fun Create Along at Artistic Artifacts

We used Liz’s bird pattern (with her permission; it’s also included in the blog posting) that evening, creating plastic templates for students to trace. To give our customers another option, Sharon McDonagh created a fish pattern that we’d like to share with you — download our Fish pattern (PDF, 707K). These simple patterns are easy to alter if you choose: make your bird’s tail shorter or longer, give it a crest to make a cardinal or jay, etc. Or create your own animal pattern!

Provided supplies to create WonderFil Fish or Fowl at Artistic Artifacts

Liz uses a stick, which we provided with the rest of the supplies (above), but you can also creating your animal without one, giving you the option to hang it as year-round (or holiday) ornament, use as a gift package topper and more.

A felt and fabric fused bird front ready to be stitched using WonderFil thread

Above, the felt bird front has had fabric shapes fused to it using Mistyfuse®. Mistyfuse is my favorite fusible because it’s so sheer and lightweight. The bond is strong but very easy to stitch through.

A felt and fabric fish being embellished with hand stitching

Fussy cutting your fabric can provide a lot of design and stitching inspiration, as seen in the fish above and the red bird below. The 8wt rayon/metallic Dazzle Thread was a popular choice to add sparkle and shine to our creatures.

Felt and fabric birds being embellished with hand stitching using WonderFil threads

A felt and fabric bird being embellished with hand stitching

I shared my Tulip needles with the group for their use and taught simple hand embroidery stitches. Liz has photo instructions of stitches on the blog post; I also provided reference materials so the students could experiment with new stitching patterns.

Fish embellished with stitching using 12 wt. Spagetti and Fruitti  from WonderFil

Above, some of the samples, provided courtesy of WonderFil, of 12 wt. Spagetti™ (solid colors) and Fruitti™ (variegated). If you purchase from us online, note that the thread is sold on larger spools!

Felt and fabric bird front embellished with hand stitching being whipstitched together with its back

Below, once you have stitched your creature’s front and back pieces together partially around, you can add a bit of “stuffing” to fill them out.

Felt and fabric bird front embellished with hand stitching being whipstitched together with its back

Below, a beautiful bird almost finished! In her post Liz writes that she likes to prepare materials for the birds for a travel stitch project, which is a fun idea. She feels that with small projects, she’s free to experiment with stitches and colors … good advice! As she says, “go wild and play!”

Felt and fabric bird front embellished with hand stitching being whipstitched together with its back

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!

Paper Solvy Image Transfer

This blog post was originally published in 2011, but in the ensuing years and web/blog redesigns, it accidentally went missing. Our most recent enewsletter discussed stabilizers, and so we wanted to offer this to readers again. This many years later, still a great transfer technique! Watch Liz Kettle demonstrate her technique on YouTube: Image Transfers with Water Soluble Paper »

Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

Thumbnail version of finished fiber art by Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution

by Liz Kettle, Textile Evolution

One of the frustrations of image transfer techniques is the propensity of manufacturers to ‘improve’ their products to retain the ink, making it difficult for those of us who want to transfer the ink to another surface. If you share this frustration, you can imagine my excitement when Laura Cater-Woods and I were discussing some of her innovative surface techniques using water soluble paper stabilizer meant for foundation piecing and embroidery.

Laura wasn’t using the paper with imagery, but the gears in my brain started turning… and in a true light bulb moment I found a new way to transfer inkjet printed images to fabric or paper. Best of all, this product probably won’t be ‘improved.’

Supplies to create an image transfer with water soluble paper

Supplies:

Steps:

Before you begin, print your image onto a sheet of the Paper Solvy or other water soluble stabilizer. This process works with both pigment and dye inkjet printers. [Ed. note: one of the uses of Paper Solvy is to reproduce multiple foundation and paper piecing designs; it is manufactured to go though a printer or copy machine without jamming or sticking. Remember that if necessary, reverse your image so that your final transfer will be oriented as you wish (necessary if your image contains text.]

Step 1, Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

1.) Use a foam brush to apply a layer of matte medium to the fabric. You need enough medium to cover the fabric evenly without excess.

Step 2, Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

2.) Apply a thin coat of matte medium to the Paper Solvy printed image.

Step 3, Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

3.) Lay the printed image down on the fabric and brayer firmly. Hold the paper firmly to keep it from wrapping up on the brayer or shifting as you roll the brayer over the Paper Solvy.

Step 4, Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

4.) Wait for a count of 5-7 seconds, and check to see if the image is transferring by pulling up one corner of the paper. If you don’t see the transfer happening, lay the paper back down, brayer again or wait a few moments longer.

Step 5, Image Transfer with Water Soluble Paper

5.) Peel up the paper to reveal your image. Some times the paper will come up in one piece. The longer you wait, the more the paper will begin to break down and come off in multiple pieces. In this example, the paper came off in three strips.

Fiber art by Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, featuring a Paper Solvy image transfer

Above, another version of a finished transfer (note that for this piece my starting image was reversed so that the finished art had the girl facing left) has been layered and stitched with embellishment fabrics on top of a piece of painted Roc-lon Multi-Purpose Cloth, block printed with wooden printing blocks and textile paints.

Helpful Tips:

  • If you wait too long to pull up the paper or have too much medium, the paper will start to dissolve. If this happens, lay the paper back down and let dry completely in place. Use water to dissolve the paper and rub it off with your fingers.
  • If there is paper residue on the image after removing the paper, simply wait for the transfer to dry. Dampen your finger with water and rub the area to remove the paper fuzzies. Or, the image can be soaked in water while you rub off the excess paper. Do not rub too hard, or you will remove the image.

About the Author

Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution is a fabric and mixed media artist with a passion for teaching others the joy of making art and the creative process. After acquiring the skills for success in the traditional quilting arena she began to delve into art quilting and discovered a world of freedom and fun in mixed media. Liz is the co-author of Fabric Embellishing: The Basics & Beyond and Threads: The Basics & Beyond, and the author of First-Time Beading on Fabric and Know Your Needles: A Carry-Along Guide for Choosing Hand and Machine Needles.

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