Review of a new quilting book: Design, Make, Quilt Modern

Posted by Daisy Aschehoug on

[all photos from Heather Black's new book: Design, Make, Quilt Modern]

Someday, I'll do a blog post of all the different quilters that influence and inspire me. Heather Black will be all over that list - she's an amazing designer, and I've said for a long time that I want to quilt like her when I grow up. Each time I see one of her new quilts, it's the quilting stitches that really capture my attention. She seems to know just the right motif that will fill a space in a way that perfectly coordinates with the piecing of a quilt.

New quilting book called Design, Make, Quilt Modern by Heather Black

Her new book, Design, Make, Quilt Modern has some really interesting sections on design tools and design basics. I'd never heard of an S-curve, and I was fascinated by her explanation of the different ways that odd-versus-even can play out in a quilt. I skimmed through the sections on color because I was so eager to get to the QUILTING, but I'll probably head back to them at some point to see what I can integrate into my own design process.

But, oh the quilt stitches! 

I love Heather's tips and thoughts on protecting depth in a quilt design with certain quilt motifs. I also like her analysis of what kinds of quilting will draw attention. I went through her exercises, and I came up with two main goals specifically for my own quilts:

  • Straight lines organized in a variety of shapes and directions
  • Straight or curved lines that echo the piecing and main design

These aren't a big surprise to me, but I've not gotten gutsy and included them in my rotation for a variety of reasons. I'm often rushing towards a deadline when I get to the end of the piecing, and that's not the best time to experiment or make big changes. (Especially when you're doing free motion quilting on a domestic or hand guided on a long arm!)

One ah-ha moment that I've had is that I need to set these quilting goals as I'm designing a quilt. I do have general goals for a design when I'm in the planning stages, but I only imagine what can be accomplished with color and texture in piecing and fabric selection. I think in order to grow as a quilter, I need to put more emphasis on what the quilting will do for me, and not let the quilting be an afterthought.

As someone who has designed quilts for a few years now, it seemed a little odd for me to purchase a book on designing modern quilts. But, there are always new things to learn. I've gotten a lot out of Heather's approach. Her advice is applicable to every kind of quilting style, and the structure of the book encourages you to apply what you're learning in real time. The quilt patterns included at the end are a nice bonus!

Whether you want to make your own quilt design or are just searching for new ways to be creative with fabric choices, I highly recommend Design Make Quilt Modern by Heather Black of Quiltachusetts!

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Bojagi-Inspired Flat Felled Seam

Posted by Daisy Aschehoug on

When it comes to hand-pieced patchwork, I love the double-sided results I get from this bojagi-inspired flat-felled seam. You can see more of my bojagi work in this post from a few months ago.

This kind of patchwork is perfect for household linens like napkins, tablecloths, and curtains. I also love the idea of a wrapping cloth, which is a nice nod to the traditional Korean patchwork that inspired this style of stitching.

To start, I prewashed some linen. Because this seam is double sided, I recommend using solid linen or cotton fabrics. There are also some beautiful weaves or ikats that would bring in the element of pattern nicely because the pattern would be on both sides.

I've got chenille needles sized 24, but I've sewn these stitches with a variety of needles. I found my favorite needles in some old mystery packs - they're probably just plain sharps. Essentially, if your thread goes through the eye, it'll do just fine. I also like shorter needles better than longer ones.

Aurifil thread, john james needles, chenille needle, essex linen

For thread, I usually measure out twice the length of the seam that I'm about to sew. Any thread will do, but my favorite is Aurifil 12 weight. It's just thick enough to be visible, but no so think that there's a lot of resistance as you pull the needle through the fabric.

ironing, essex linen, aurifil thread, bojagi, flat-felled seam

Iron a fold in both of your fabrics. One fabric should have a fold that is 1/4". The other fabric should have a fold that is between 1/2" and 5/8". (Later steps are a bit easier if you have aa 5/8" fold).

Using pins or Clover Clips, align the folds together so that the short sides are facing away from each other.

Aligning linen fabrics and securing them with clover clips for hand sewing a flat-felled seam.

Place the short, 1/4", fold facing you, and the long, 5/8" fold  away from you.

Push the needle up through the long fold. 

The knot will be hidden in a later step.

Showing the width of whipstitches

Continue with a whipstich all along the fold. As you pull the thread for each stitch, pull just hard enough to get the thread to rest against the fabric (without making a loop in the air.) Don't pull the thread so tightly that the fabric is cinched in the stitch. 

At the end of the row, place a second stitch over the previous stitch, leave a loop, and bring the needle through the loop to make a small knot. Repeat the knot.

The knot at the end of the first round of stitches

Clip your thread. I clipped this a bit too short - I recommend that you leave a small tail which will help keep your knot secure over time. If you clip the tail too short, it can work its way back through the knot and unravel.

Clipped thread at the knot at the end of the first round of stitches

This knot will be hidden in the seam allowance of the next seam.

Don't adjust the short fold. Unfold the long fold just like you're opening the cover of a spiral bound notebook.

Opening up the long side after whipstitching the first round of stitches.

Bending the long side to get it to open correctly for the next row of stitches

Fold it back onto itself and finger press the fabric inside the stitches.

Folding over the long side to prepare for the second round of stitches

Fold the long fold over the edge of the short fold. It's helpful if you can use an iron for this step, but it isn't necessary. I'm often stitching when I travel, and I finger press and use clips to get this fold without an iron.

Next, fold the new fold (long blue fold around the short brown fold) onto the short fold fabric (brown).

Pinching up the back fabric to prep the fold for the second round of stitchesPinch the fabric to make a fold in the brown fabric.

Making the fold for the second round of stitchesPlace clips or pins to secure this brown fold to the blue fold that you either ironed or finger pressed.

The second fold is ready

Start the stitch underneath the raw edge. The knot will be contained in the finished seam.

Continue with the whipstitch along the two folds just as you did in the earlier step.

At the end make another knot. The knot will be visible until it's contained in the next seam allowance. Open the brown fabric, again like a spiral bound notebook.

Bojagi-inspired flat-felled hand-sewn seam

The double-sided seam is complete, and all the raw edges are contained.

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Hand Sewn Apron (no sewing machine used)

Posted by Daisy Aschehoug on

Have you heard of #memademay? Every year, clothes makers everywhere take over the internet to share pictures of themselves wearing clothing they made. Zoe Edwards says, "

Me-Made-May is a challenge designed to encourage people who make their own clothes to develop a better relationship with their handmade wardrobe. You set the specifics of your own challenge to make it suitable and useful for YOU."

As someone who sews in one dimension, the idea of making something that I would wear makes me break out in hives. But I'm also learning a lot about the the clothing industry's impact on the environment and the questionable working conditions for factory workers. I'm trying to shop more responsibly, as well as push myself into sewing something that I'd wear.  My first, and utterly unambitious, project is an apron.

(For the record, I've sewn one shirt and half a dress, but both of those projects were done in a class setting with someone holding my hand. I had a million questions, forgot everything, and ultimately decided "apron = success" here.)

Perhaps it wasn't completely unambitious. I felt like I could take a little bit of a challenge, so I decided I wouldn't use a sewing machine. I would make something from start to finish with just a needle and thread in my hands. 

I prewashed some Robert Kaufman Essex Linen, grabbed some spools of Aurifil thread, and got a chenille 24 needle. I traced the one apron I already own onto the linen and cut my new apron about a half inch larger. 

I debated an Aurifil lana wool and floss, but I ended up using a cotton 12wt. I really liked the wool but thought the color I had might have been too pink. I was a little worried that floss through the linen would be tiring after a while, and I've got a great track record with the 12 wt on wool.

I've been sewing some bojagi-inspired patchwork which you can see on this previous post. I simply took the whip stitch that I use there and applied it to the hem and the string ties. The string ties were cut at one inch from selvedge to selvedge (about 40"). I ironed the strip in half, then folded the edges into the middle and sewed shut with the whip stitch.

I attached the straps with stitches and common sense. I have no idea what the "right" way is here, but I did try to place the stitches so the pull would occur on the hem and not the single layer of fabric. The hem is reinforced and stronger.

I left the selvedge on the ends of the straps which created the world's tiniest pom poms.

I thought the fringe from the selvedge would be an interesting feature on the neck so I only hemmed one side before testing which side the fringe needed to point.

 

 In the end, I decided I wanted the fringe to point out.

The internet is full of 10-minute apron tutorials. This is clearly not the result of one of those. I'm not exactly sure how long this project took me (a few hours?), but I love seeing all those little stitches.

And even though I used a variety of tools (scissors, needle, clover clips, etc), there's definitely great satisfaction in knowing I made something useful - something wearable - and that I did it without a machine.

Now I just need to add a pocket or two...

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Favorite Aurifil Thread Weight

Posted by Daisy Aschehoug on

The truth is that I love any thread that gets the job done. So to pick a favorite means I need to pick my favorite job...

Right now, that's hand sewing with Aurifil's 12 weight cotton.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

I've fallen in love with this closed-seam patchwork technique that's based on the traditional Korean patchwork called bojagi. Each seam is finished without leaving the fabric's raw edge exposed. The result is a double sided piece of patchwork.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

A few years ago, I worked on bojagi curved patchwork blocks for the #100dayproject. I made over 100 quarter circle squares for the project. It was such a portable activity, that I now find random quilt blocks in the oddest places. Eventually I'll gather them all for a big quilt.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

I've made little boro collages using off cuts from my magazine design projects. I love the idea of little bits of artwork that grow from a zero-waste mindset.

Boro patchwork collages with Aurifil 12 weight thread

I'm trying to use offcuts that with the bojagi stitching as well, but I'm not always finding that the results are usable. The ones below are leftovers from making 6" quarter circle square template pieces (the concave pieces).

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

Even if I'm not sure what I'm going to do with those pieces, I do find that the process is worth it. The stitches are meditative for me. And the Aurifil 12 wt is just thick enough to be noticeable while also gliding through the fabric easily. Perfect for any potential stressful plane flights (not that any of us are taking any of those during this pandemic!)

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

I feel lucky that I got to travel a lot this spring. I think I snapped the photo below on my way to QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, in February. I was finishing up some class samples for my Bojagi-inspired Stitching workshop.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

I made a set of napkins for class, and I love the effect of the color block patchwork accented by gorgeous little Aurifil stitches.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

They're just even enough to look classy with the tiniest bit of organic wonder woven in...

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

And of course, when you put them to use in everyday life, the world feels a bit happier and you can nestle further into the cozy comfort of a handmade home.

Bojagi patchwork with Aurifil 12 weight thread

So there it is. It's perfect for piecing and embroidery and hand quilting... Definitely worthy of being a favorite thread!

Aurifil 12 weight cotton thread

 Aurifil thread is manufactured in Italy. Their manufacturing operations are paused at the moment, but the team at Aurifl is dedicated to connecting you with the thread you love. They've created a thread concierge service to help you find what you need, so take a look if there's something you want for your current shelter-at-home project!

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Kantha or Hand Quilting?

Posted by Daisy Aschehoug on

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The Aurifil Artisan Challenge this month was to try kantha quilting. Kantha (wiki link) is a style of embroidery from the eastern regions of India. When I think of kantha, I think of stacked saris recycled into medium sized, lightweight blankets, and I think of the layers being secured with long lines of running stitches, tightly spaced.

I had high hopes of getting more rows of stitching in on this quilt, but it's about 50" square. The picture below if from March 15, two days after schools closed here in Norway in an attempt to limit the spread of the corona virus. I've got Aurifil 12 wt in Fairy Floss (6723) on a chenille needle size 24. 

Fairy Floss has the tiniest bit of pink to it, but it's not really noticeable once stitched into the quilt - if you look closely enough, there's a bit of fun contrast that comes from the tiny bit of pink, but I think it mostly served to cheer me up a bit when I grabbed the spool to pull off a piecer for the next row of stitches.

I tried using chalk to mark the lines, but the white chalk I had didn't show up well enough on the gray Essex Linen. I considered a hera marker, but instead I opted for blue painter's tape. 

I use painter's tape for a variety of tasks in the studio. If I want to pin baste a quilt, I use painter's tape to secure the edges to the floor as I layer the sections and place the safety pins. When I need a visual reference for something, I use a bit of painter's tape to put a sketch or printout on the wall where I'm working. I take a bit of tape to secure the end of a giant roll of sketch paper after I've torn some off, and I tack up quilt blocks that may not fit on my design wall with tape, too.

Painter's tape is meant to be temporary, and it comes up easily, without leaving residue behind. That part is super handy when using it on textiles.

I've decided to give up on the dense stitching. These rows are spaced one inch apart, and they still conjur the rhythmic, orderly feel of dense kantha stitches.

I basted the quilt on my long arm so at the end, I snipped and pulled all the longer stitches that ran perpendicular to my straight line quilting.

I'm still auditioning ideas for binding: all black? a mixture of fabrics already used in the quilt? something bright that picks up one of the color pops between the blocks?

We've already gotten word that preschools will reopen in two weeks, and the younger grade school kids will go back in three weeks. I know the threat hasn't passed entirely, and I do worry about my friends and family in the US. But I am grateful that there seems to be an end in the future to the immediate tragedy, and that processing and healing can begin to deal with the aftermath.

 

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