A Near Relative called Appliqué

The owl I made for an artist friend, Lisa Hooper. It is a copy of her driftwood sculpture.

Appliqué comes from the French word ‘appliquer’ meaning to ‘put on’ or  ‘apply’ one piece of fabric to another, either by hand or machine. The raw edges of the pieces being applied can be turned under and sewn or simply covered with decorative stitching.

Appliqué has been around for thousands of years, all across the globe. It began as a useful  way of repairing small holes and tears in clothing that was passed down over generations until it became a useful way of decorating textiles for a myriad of uses, from wrapping infants to shrouding the dead.

This was a small experiment in Crazy Quilting. The heart can now be appliquéd onto something.

Traditional variations  include bonded appliqué, broderie perse, cut away or reverse appliqué, shadow appliqué, fabric collage and Mola work. It’s worth finding out more about each of these.

Very recently, appliqué has had a massive revival as the boundaries of these older techniques have been stretched to encompass experiments with colour and texture,  layering and overlaying  and incorporating a range of materials such as jewellery or metal, with new and exciting results. Contemporary appliqué has now come to be regarded as an art form in its own right and it  forms a huge part of surface decoration in modern textile design.

The swallow I made for another friend, who ran ‘The Swallow Theatre’ close to where `I live..

But what does that have to do with EPP?  Well, it’s this: There are some simple and easy appliqué techniques you can use to aid or enhance your EPP work. I think of appliqué as a near relative that it’s fun to visit from time to time, for a bit of fun.

1. A group of shapes that have been used to complete a  pattern in English Paper Piecing  can be appliquéd onto a larger fabric background,  rather than adding more pieces to form a quilt. For example you could appliqué this ring of  pieced hexagons onto a cotton carrier bag, or a row of smaller ones onto a pillow case . This technique works well when you want to try out individual blocks or designs and finish them quickly, and when you are not ready to try something larger.

A group of hexagons flowers in blue Laura Ashley fabric, made so long ago and now languishing in a box.

2. If you want to give your shapes a slightly raised look you could appliqué, say, a single hexagon flower in the centre of each patchwork square in a mini quilt. Appliquéing them on will allow the flowers to  pop forward because they sit a  little proud of their  background. If you like, you could even stuff the flowers with washable wadding. In this cot quilt ‘Pastel Bows’, I appliquéd on  the centre of each bow and   stuffed it.

‘Pastel Bows’ with stuffed centres.

3. Paper inserts inside shapes to be appliquéd  give the shapes body and keep corners sharp and neat.

The basket and the bunny were appliquéd on after the patchwork was completed.

After your  fabric shapes are completed and pressed, the papers can be removed and the shape easily stitched to a background fabric without losing its definition.

4. EPP shapes have edges that are already turned under, making  it easy to hand appliqué using invisible stitches.

A rectangle of fabric tacked/basted to a paper insert. I usually use white paper but any colour will do.

5. Appliqué is a way of adding complementary colours, fabrics and designs to embellish what could otherwise be rather plain. In this quilt pattern ‘Over the Orchard’ by Kajsa Wikman (from the book ‘Quilts Baby!’ by Linda Kopp), you can see that without the appliqué in the centre panels, it wouldn’t have nearly as much personality.

 

I am part way through making a version of this quilt which I have called, ‘Over the Hills’. The edges are done and I have hills, groups of conifers, a farm cottage and some birds ready to add to the various centre sections. Just the appliqués to sew down and it will be ready to assemble and be quilted.  Here it is in progress:

 

6. Appliqué can be used as a means of adding a border (or multiple borders) to your finished quilt top or if you want to enlarge a small quilt, to display inside a larger picture frame for example. When I put the binding on the ‘Dog Log’ below, I found that the folded edge sliced off a piece of each of the images at the sides. I have now unpicked the binding to appliqué  a narrow border onto all four sides. These will  butt up against the squares with the images without any overlapping and allow them to be seen clearly. Then I will re-attach the binding to the new border.

‘Dog Log’ mini quilt.

7. Appliqué is a perfect way to create a pictorial quilt.  Appliquéd shapes don’t have to be geometrical because you are not piecing them together. This means you can use any shape you like. This mini quilt ‘Down in the Glen’ shows how you can use appliqué on a patched background.

Appliquéd house and trees using squares, rectangles and conical shapes, on a patched background.

I always use paper shapes inside my appliqué in true EPP style because I find the paper acts as a stabiliser but you can make shapes without papers. If you do use papers, don’t forget to remove them before you sew your shapes down! Otherwise you end up with a crackly project that you can’t wash (yes, I have done that on more than one occasion!). You can use a fine stabiliser like Pellon and leave it in if you don’t plan to wash your work, or you can use wash-away appliqué sheets in place of papers but they are thicker and I find them harder to work with.

8. Here,  a ” A Song of Eggs and Feathers’,  shows the focus is entirely on the appliqué rather than part of an overall design. Pictorial elements have been applied to square of printed cotton rather than a patched background.Each separate piece of the birds has been made using a paper shape wrapped with cloth before stitching it down and embroidering over it. This is more exacting than patchwork but also more fun.

‘A Song of Eggs and Feathers’, made for a poet friend, Ann Gray. Multiple shapes appliquéd to a printed cotton background.

‘Murmuration’ (below) is a  mini quilt that I am working on at the moment, where I have taken a fabric print that I love and added a little appliqué to suggest dusk in Scotland with a sky full of birds.

The border is pieced but I have appliquéd on the cottage, the smoke from the chimney, the hill  and the fence using paper inserts that were removed after pressing. I have starting adding some embroidery but there will be more to come and of course the hand quilting and binding.

If you are a patchworker or  English Paper Piecer, have you given appliqué a try?

till next time…

(PS  – apologies for using photos from earlier blog posts but I don’t make things fast enough to be able to show you new things as examples.)

Gifts in Spring

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Bluebells carpet the floor in the wood behind our house

Spring came early this year and I wasn’t ready for it. Most surprising were the bluebells arriving two weeks ahead of time and a hydrangea in flower in May rather than in mid to late summer. The Rhododendrons look amazing this year, better than ever:

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We have a whole range of colours in bloom from vibrant reds and oranges, to soft creams and luminous whites:

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I haven’t shown up here for a while and I have missed writing my posts. Not only do I enjoy chatting to you all but it feels good to see my thoughts on paper. Often they’re not clear until I see them in black and white.

I’ve been busy gardening, trying to transform new areas of the garden, buying a few new plants, replanting things in bigger pots which I neglected to do last year, and having my grown up children to stay for a while. It’s been lovely to catch up and feel close in ways that aren’t possible by email.

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My favourite perennial, bought this Spring, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

I have done SOME sewing,  for a friend’s birthday. I found an embroidery pattern that said just what I wanted it to say . It suited her perfectly, in that she tries to live her life to the full every day.

For Kriss

It’s not my own design but I find that when you sew something different for the first time, someone else’s design is often hugely helpful. It’s a bit like a children tracing letters with their fingers before they write them. I have not made any embroidered messages like this before, but now that I have done it by following in someones else’s footsteps, I feel more confident about creating my own design and I have a clear idea of what I would do differently.

Embroideries like this are not quilted, so there is the issue of them not being fastened to the background fabric in the same way. The embroidery is only on the surface. It doesn’t go all the way through to the back because the reverse of the stitches are not tidy in the way that quilting stitches are. You wouldn’t want them to show. I did use an iron-on fusible interfacing between the front and back fabric but some ‘puffing’ is still visible in the centre area, as you can see in the photo. Anyone know how to avoid that??  I think next time I will try a double sided fusible interfacing and see if that works better.

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I made it in the colours of her living room and popped it in a frame. I hope it will remind her to keep doing what she does already. I think that these simple embroidered appliquéd or quilted messages are a great idea for a personal gift and are not too time consuming or difficult to complete.

Now we come to the real reason no sewing has been done. It’s the arrival of two, three-day-old, Runner ducklings, a birthday present from my husband They are such a delight (and a constant distraction).  Here they are, my two little girls, Flossie on the left and Phoebe on the right. I am smitten. They will be fawn and white when they are fully grown.

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I did ‘complete’ the Third Plus project I was working in the last couple of posts and ended up calling it ‘All at Sea’. I found that once I washed away the appliqué sheet behind the face, and quilted the design onto a backing, the initial puckering that had worried me seemed to disappear. I say ‘complete’ because I still intend to remove the paper boat, change the stitching on it and sew it back on with waves enveloping the sides. At the moment it sits on top of the sea and I don’t like that. Whether all this is possible at such a late stage, I’m not sure but I’m going to give it a try.

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I have ordered some tools for printing some my own designs onto solids as I want to give that a try before dying my own cloth. I hope to do a post on that in due course, if it’s not a complete disaster (or even if it is).

I find myself wanting to move away from the traditional patchwork designs to explore other things but I need to use up quite a bit of my stash of fabrics first.  And I have been wanting to open an Etsy shop for so long, as I really don’t want to hold on to everything I make, especially if some of it can bring some pleasure to someone else, but find it is not only complicated and time consuming (I can cope with that) but expensive. You really need your own website and some set up to allow card payments, you need to pay for listing your items even if they don’t sell, for labels, for inner and outer packaging and so on. I’ve come to realise that I can’t afford to do it right now, though next year is a possibility. On the plus side, I’ll have a whole lot more variety of stock available by then.

In a few weeks my ducklings will need a little less care and attention and it will be too hot to garden. That is the time I will get back into almost full time sewing but for now I will just look at my patterns in waiting and see what grabs me and make a start.

Enjoy the rest of Spring…

Bye for now….

New Year, New Work in Progress

Happy 2019,  Everyone!

January 2019

We are already steaming through January, snowdrops are out all over the garden, and it seems pleasantly warm for this time of year. Spring is not far away but no doubt we will be in for some nasty cold spells before it arrives.

Lily’s first egg.

Since the arrival of my three ducks last summer, my sewing has suffered mainly as a result of a massive change in routine. It’s much harder to get a good run at anything without some kind of interruption. It’s clear that I have to change the old routine and work differently. I had my first duck egg appear four days ago which was quite exciting and have been collecting one each day since.  I hope she will sit on some in Spring and give me some chicks.

I haven’t been able to settle on exactly what to do this year. I had wanted to dye and paint my own fabric and do something more ‘arty’ but looking at my stash tells me that I really need to use that up first. I am unlikely to go back to it.  That said, I am sure I am going to be tempted to buy a few bits now and then. And there is no reason why I can’t be a bit more ‘arty’ with scraps. At some point.

I have begun January with some experiments and some UFO’s that needed to be completed. That said, all of them are still in progress and need a good press, which was not my ideal for this post. My first experiment was with Liberty fabric. I have usually used just small pieces of it against a neutral background and that has worked well. The prints are so bright and busy, I wondered if they could ever work if you put them all together, so I thought I would try something and see. This is ‘House with Love in It’ using reds, greens and navy blues. It still needs some surface embroidery on the house and some binding. I went for a mix of sizes of print and one that reads as a solid to see if you could mix prints in this way. Does it work? I’m not sure.

‘House with Love in It’

Liberty fabric is quite hard to work with as it’s so fine, pins and needles make holes unless they are very skinny ones and its floppiness makes it hard to keep square. An online friend suggested spraying it with starch first and I think that’s a great tip to try.

The second little quilt is one I started a while back but have now managed to finish the top. I took an old traditional American block called ‘Farm Friendliness’

‘Farm Friendliness’ bock, borrowed with thanks from quilterscache.com via Pinterest

and altered the pattern slightly to give me me more large triangles to suggest hills. On reflection I think I should have make the squares at the corners into half square triangles but it’s too late now. At the time I thought half a hill would look odd.

‘Farm in the Hills’

I’ve also added tossed cows and a farmhouse. I’ve photographed the quilt top against a piece of black and white striped fabric because I think that might make a fun binding. I still have to quilt it to suggest fields, which may make the squares look more appropriate, and add some doors and windows to the farmhouse.

Another experiment is this house in a frosty wood:

My idea is to extend the trees, or a single tree, beyond the image, out into the frame. I want to cut between the branches and sew it on a bit like this:

‘Frosty Morning’

I’m not sure how I will manage it. Perhaps use some wash away interfacing, I don’t know. We’ll see.

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’

I am working on some appliqué to complete the top of this, larger quilt, ‘Over the Hills & Far Away’ which was mentioned when I started it, in a post long ago (See ‘Over the Orchard and 5 Lessons Learned’, October 2017 ). I still can’t decide whether to place the house on the bottom row where the trees are (they will all have trunks), or in the next row up, as in this photo. I have kept away from true greens as there are none in the border.

There is more appliqué to sew down to put the finishing touches to this fabric picture ‘Down in the Glen’,  which also featured in an earlier post (‘Tartan or Plaid, What’s the Difference?’, September 2018). It has been sitting around waiting for me to decide what to do with the trees. I have finally decided to unpick them all, as well as the roof of the house, and insert some batting. I am hoping the slight puffiness will give more depth to the picture.  Then I just need to bind it and put it in a box frame.

I am also in the working on several mini ‘house’ quilts and fabric pictures  to use up scraps, like this one, still in progress:

‘House Under a Wishing Star’

All of them need to be squared up and given a good press. Finishing touches need to be added, then they need backing batting and binding.  So, not even half way through, really (sigh). I never like showing my work like this, half finished, but maybe it’s helpful to see things in progress, to see that they can look pretty awful until they are finished.

So that’s it for now. I have the binding to finish on two Unicorn quilts for a Unicorn post shortly, as well as some more Scottish themed pictures and a couple of ‘House Angel ‘ and ‘Garden Angel’ pictures.

All of these are 8 inches square but I am planning a move to 12 inches square. ‘Down in the Glen’ above, is 12 inches square and I like it better. I used to think this was too big but have had a change of heart. I think very small removes some oomph from the picture. What is your favourite size of wall quilt? Do you you like small squares, long and thin, poster size? And why?

Till next time…..

 

 

 

Taking Stock and Opening Shops

 

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It’s only a matter of days now until Christmas but there is just enough time to squeeze in my last blog post of the year. The picture at the top shows most of my new banner which complements my new logo, both done by my talented daughter. These are for me to (finally!) open a ‘Forest Moor Designs’ Etsy shop in January  (I have been talking about doing it for years) and to re-open my folksy shop featuring new fabric pictures with Scottish themes as well as mini quilts, runners and fabric decorations.

As people who follow my ‘Forest Moor Designs’ page on Facebook will already know, I haven’t been doing much sewing lately. It’s partly because I’ve busy preparing for Christmas but we have had some really bad weather lately, lots of rain and wild winds, and the days have been so dark that it has made sewing difficult. We’ve had a huge beech tree come down into our garden from the wood behind and that has damaged several plants and a section of wall.IMG_2093

The duck pen has had an new extension but that nice new grassy area on the right is now a sea of mud with all the rain we’ve had. The ducks have a makeshift shelter for now but a new one is in progress and will be installed by Christmas day.

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It’s been mild at times but very cold at others so I’ve been putting food out for the birds. I have some just expired duck food that the pheasants seem to love. I counted 19 of them in the back garden yesterday, mostly females but there a couple of males, one of which has a beautiful silver back.

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However, the main reason I stop sewing at this time of year is to take stock of the year, to see where I’ve got to and where I want to go next. I’ve been making pencil sketches for new, more ‘arty’ and ‘housey’, ideas to try in the New Year, in addition to my ubiquitous Scottish themes.

I have a design idea that makes use of my new House Ruler from Creative Grids so I have also been making another series of sketches on house-shaped pieces of paper. I can’t be sure that any of these ideas will work out in practice but I will try one or two.  I don’t know exactly what result I’m after. I’m just following a feeling. It’s one of those things that I’ll know when I get there but I’m not sure of the route.

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I’ve bought some new fabric, despite trying hard to resist doing this; some red, blue and black florals for houses, some frosty winter trees and a number of ‘sky’ fabrics, featuring seagulls, flying geese and these two shades of ‘Murmuration’ from Lewis and Irene. Aren’t they wonderful? I can’t wait to put a house on those!

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Today I re-opened my ‘Forest Moor Designs’ shop on Folksy, a UK market place for hand made goods. I added my new banner and logo and listed just one item, the hand painted and stitched portrait shown below, so that everything is ready for me to addd new stock in January. I have broadened my stock now to include fabric pictures and wall quilts as well as mini quilts and table toppers.

Rajastani Woman

‘India Daydream’

I may add some more Indian designs because I have several sketches that might translate well to fabric and paint. I can’t decide whether it will seem odd to have them side by side with Scottish themes, though. What do you think?

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That’s about it, but, before I go, I want to thank my followers for joining and sticking with me through the year.  I really appreciate you being there and love it when you make comments and ask questions. I don’t publish posts as often as received wisdom says I should but hand sewing is slow, so I’m grateful that you hang in there, knowing something will appear eventually.

Happy Christmas and a bright new year to you all. See you again, soon. xx