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Slow Stitched Outsider Art Quilt

Updated August 4, 2017: finished project photo, more

Judy Gula stitched bird quiltlet in progress

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 to say that I have enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with hand stitching, inspired by my stitching gurus, Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, and renowned stitch/fiber artist Ruth Chandler. They both 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. I comb the used book stores looking for for European hand stitching books — especially the Scandinavian ones. It’s official…I am hooked!

At one of our monthly 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 commonly 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 samples from wooden printing blocks demonstrations, I embarked on my own slow stitch project. Here is what I did:

Despite giving literally scores of them away, I still have a huge number of shirting fabric samples, so I used those as my backings, which 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.

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.

Judy Gula small quilt: rolled and stitched edges

The next step is to roll the edges and stitch around them, as shown above. Once you have a small quilt put together, it’s time to break out your floss and stitch away, using as many embroidery stitches as you desire. Many people embellish with beads or charms too, but that 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).

Here are some samples of other blocks I have in process:

Block printed swatches ready to be embellished with hand stitching

Ultimately I want to join the blocks together to create something. I don’t know what that something is yet, maybe a wall hanging? Journal cover? But this is what I have going so far.

Judy Gula small quiltlets in progress

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

Project Update: Completed!

Since beginning this in 2015, I continued to enjoy adding to my project, enlarging it and embellishing further. Plus, Artistic Artifacts has since became a WonderFil Specialty Threads “Threaducation” Center… so now I have even more yummy threads and fibers to use! Variegated threads like those from Sue Spargo’s collection of Eleganza are beautiful:

Variegated thread accents this stitched block

Adding 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 Shie, and a YouTube tutorial for a fabric journal by Teesha Moore, who popularized it.

Completed block printed andhand stitched art quilt by Judy Gula

More About These Techniques

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 writes 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 technique in 2006, she documented her methods in writing and continues to keep that tutorial online. Learn from the originator! Visit the Lucky School of Quilting Techniques »

Stitched journal cover by Teesha Moore

With Susan’s permission, Teesha (and others) began teaching her own take 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 for her own methods on constructing sewn and embellished fiber art:

A Plethora of Pinked Hearts from Liz Kettle

Heart Projects by Liz Kettle

Tutorials by Liz Kettle, Textile Evolution

I never used to be a ‘heart’ person. When I was in my formative art years, hearts were passé, trite and so unsophisticated. I was forced into using hearts because it is a great shape for teaching techniques; simple, recognizable, everyone can draw one, perfect for appliqué with curves with both inside and outside points and most people like them.

Somewhere along the way I realized that even if they were trite in the ‘serious’ art world I had fallen in love with them! I make my art to please myself these days, so even if the sophisticated shock artists of the world roll their eyes and dismiss me as trite…I am contented with my hearts.

Just like we often dismiss simple shapes we dismiss utilitarian tools or stitches. Take the lowly pinking shear…designed to help prevent fraying at the edge of fabric, very utilitarian…of course, most seamstresses found the little zigzag edge appealing but didn’t often call upon that cuteness for decorative effects. I have always loved rickrack and pinked edges so when I wanted to make a woven fabric base with just a little more pizzazz than normal for my hearts I grabbed those pinking shears and well…I fell in love yet again! How could I resist that little zigzag edge?

Weaving fabric is another often overlooked technique that is simple and low tech but gives you a wonderful intricate look. Using the pinking shears for the woven fabric strips gave me the bonus texture I was looking for and also made it easier to weave my strips together. I thought for a moment that it might be going over the top but I went for it anyway and pinked the edges of my hearts for an easy finish that doubles the cuteness factor.

I got a little carried away with possibilities for this plethora of precious pinked hearts. For most of these projects you don’t even need a sewing machine, so they would make great group projects. I hope one or two of them inspire a little woven and pinked love in your creative life.

Supplies

  • Fabrics: 2-4 fabrics that blend or contrast. Fat quarters work well, or you could even use scraps.
  • Havel’s Pinking shears
  • Misty Fuse or other fusible web
  • A non-stick ironing and craft sheet, such as the Goddess Sheet
  • Craft felt — I used white, cut 12" x 17". Your piece can be smaller or larger depending on how many hearts you desire
  • Pearl Cotton or embroidery floss, and embroidery needles
  • Marking pencil and ruler
  • Ribbon for the heart banner
  • Poly fiberfill for stuffing puffy hearts

Making a Woven Fabric Base

Follow these steps for making your woven fabric base.

Woven fabric, Step 1

1. Use the ruler and marking pencil to draw parallel lines on your fabric ½" apart. I drew 12-15 lines on each of three different, but blending, fabrics. You can get a different look by using contrasting fabrics.

Woven fabric, Step 2

2. Use pinking shears to cut along each drawn line. With this project you don’t have to stress about getting perfectly even strips so don’t worry if you don’t cut exactly on the line every time.

Pile of strips

3. Make a big pile of pinked strips…isn’t it yummy???

Woven fabric, Step 3

4. Cut Misty Fuse to the same size as your felt base. Place on the felt and cover with a Teflon pressing sheet. Iron to fuse the web to the felt.

Woven fabric, Step 4

5. Place pinked strips of pink fabric directly on top of the misty fuse/felt in parallel rows. Place them closely together, but a little bit of white space is ok.

Woven fabric, Step 5

6. Use the iron to fuse an approximately ½" edge of strips on one side only. Be careful not to fuse more than about a ½".

Woven fabric, Step 6

7. Peel back every other strip of pinked pink fabric to the right. We will call this the warp row.

Woven fabric, Step 7

8. Place a strip of pinked pink fabric vertically on top of the remaining rows. This is the weft row.

Woven fabric, warp and weft

9. Replace the strips of warp fabric that you moved to the right. Now peel back the other rows of warp strips.

Woven fabric, warp and weft

10. Place another weft strip vertically. Replace the warp strips. Alternate the warp strips that you peel to the right. Use a pin or your fingernail to scoot the fabric strips together snuggly if needed.

Woven fabric, Step 8

11. Use a hot iron to fuse the woven fabric to the felt.

Woven fabric,Step 9

12. Make a heart template out of paper or plastic. Draw the template shape on the back of the felt. I like my woven fabric to be off kilter a bit, so I drew my hearts at an angle. Cut out hearts with your pinking shears. This is where you will really appreciate Havels’ pinking shears! They are lighter weight than most and cut through layers so easily you would think it was only one layer.

Now you can use your hearts in a plethora of ways! Don’t you love the word plethora? I use it as often as possible…

Pinked Heart Garland

Follow these steps to create your Pinked Heart Garland:

Garland Step 1

1. Adhere Misty Fuse to the back of one of your plain fabrics using a Teflon sheet to protect your ironing surface. Draw the heart template on top and cut out as many hearts as you need for your banner. My banner has 5 hearts that are 4½" tall.

Garland Step 2

2. Place a heart on your ironing surface, fused side up. Place the ribbon across the heart leaving enough ribbon for tying in place.

Garland Step 3

3. Place the pinked woven heart on top of the heart/ribbon layer and fuse in place. Repeat for all your hearts. Stitch around the edge with a running stitch by hand, or you can machine stitch.

Hang in a prominent place and delight everyone who sees it…they are going to smile just because it is so happy.

Puffy Pinked Heart

Follow these steps to create your Puffy Pinked Heart:

Puffy Heart Step 1

1. Cut a scrap of fabric for the backing slightly larger than your pinked heart. Pin in place.

Puffy Heart Step 2

2. Stitch around the perimeter of the heart, leaving a gap at the very middle of the heart for stuffing. I use a shorter stitch length when I make something that will be stuffed.

Puffy Heart Step 3

3. Cut out with pinking shears. Stuff the heart with polyester fiberfill. Stitch the opening closed by hand or machine.

Stitched Pinked Heart Card

Final steps: add a hanging cord or give it to a stitch friend for a pincushion (some sand or plastic beads added at the stuffing phase will make a sturdier pincushion). I embellished mine with some beads at the bottom and hung it up with my vintage chandelier crystals in the studio window.

Stitched Pinked Heart Card

Follow these steps to create your Stitched Pinked Heart Card

  1. Cut or tear a piece of art paper slightly smaller than the card size. Stitch a running stitch around the edge with pearl cotton or embroidery floss.
  2. Stitch a curved running stitch on your pinked heart with pearl cotton or embroidery floss. You could also stitch flowers or other designs.
  3. Use Misty Fuse to adhere the paper to a card base (I used a premade card base for this special greeting), and then the heart to the paper.
  4. Add a decorative strip of fabric or other embellishments as desired.

Pinked Conversation Hearts

Follow these steps to create your Pinked Conversation Hearts:

  1. Fuse a backing fabric to the back of your woven heart fabric.
  2. Trace 2" hearts and cut out with pinking shears.
  3. Stitch around the outside edge.
  4. Print conversation heart sayings on ribbon or twill tape.
    Directions to print onto ribbon or twill tape are available in both of my books or you can search online for tips.
  5. Cut Misty Fuse in thin strips the width of your ribbon/twill tape and fuse the sayings to your hearts.

About Liz Kettle

Liz Kettle is a mixed media and textile artist living in Colorado. She is the author of First-Time Beading on Fabric: Learning to Bead in Nine Easy Lessons and Know Your Needles; and is the co-author of Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (with Ruth Chandler, Heather Thomas and Lauren Vlcek) and Threads: The Basics and Beyond (with Debbie Bates). Visit her website at www.TextileEvolution.com.

A Marvelous Memory Book by Liz Kettle

This posting is now a tutorial on the Artistic Artifacts website: http://www.artisticartifacts.com/memorybook.html

Fabric memory books are a merging of a quilt,  photo album and scrapbook. Because they are primarily made with fabric they are soft, tactile and ask to be handled and loved in a way that paper books do not. I have made these little books to commemorate a special trip, event or a special person in my life. Memory books can be made in any style and they can be embellished as much as you like. They make great gift and are always a hit with the recipient because each one is  unique and personal.  Best of all, they can be made in a day!…

Read/view all: http://www.artisticartifacts.com/memorybook.html

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