Well we bought a house! It is not a farm, so I’m tucking away that dream, for the moment. But it’s wonderful. It’s old. I feel so at home. The view. I don’t have my own land but open land is all around me. I’ve realized over the years that I have a constant, almost subconscious feeling of unease when I look out my window and can’t see out into the distance. Conversely, now that I can look out across the valley to where field meets mountain and mountain meets the sky, I feel peaceful.The studio. It needs some plaster work first, but the old summer kitchen, upstairs and down, will be for me and my business. More peace. And for now, there is a downstairs office where I can set up all my things. And the living spaces… I am so happy. It is cozy and comfortable and there’s enough room for all of us to spread out. It’s hard for 6 introverts to live together in a modern house with an open floor plan. We need a closed floor plan. Separate spaces where we can retreat and be ourselves, not feel assaulted by whatever noise the others are making, but still with gathering places where we can come together. It’s perfect.
- Snowflakes freezer paper shapes
- iron & pressing surface
- waste thread (for basting)
- Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread (for applique)
- fine, sharp needles such as John James #11 sharps
- wooden toothpick (optional)
- thimble (optional)
- Seam ripper
- small, sharp scissors
- Rotary cutter, 4″ square ruler or similar, and mat
- Wet-erase marker
In my previous post, I talked about preparing shapes and background squares for applique.
I almost always choose to applique with the paper template still inside the shape, so this tutorial uses that method. I find that this gives the smoothest curves, and the sharpest points, and if something was not basted quite right you still have the template there and can easily adjust as you go.
Place your prepared orange peel where you want to stitch it down. I have folded my background squares in half diagonally and pressed lightly to mark a crease. Use that line as a guide and center your shape on the square with the points touching the diagonal line. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect because you are trimming it down later, but do the best you can. There are many ways to temporarily attach the shape to the background while you applique, such as special pins or glue, but what I do is thread baste. I use any old waste thread and just make a few stitches around the shape, through all layers of fabric and paper. I like thread basting because it’s very secure, there’s no pins for your stitching thread to get caught on, and I already have all the supplies I need right here.
I use Aurifil 50wt cotton thread for applique. Here’s why: cotton thread is more flexible than synthetic and it sinks into the fabric better. 50wt is a very fine thread which also helps to make an invisible stitch. And I like Aurifil because it is strong for its thickness. There are other good threads I am sure, but Aurifil is what I always use. As far as color, it’s best to choose a thread that matches your applique, second best would be to match your background, but what I actually do is keep white, black, 3 shades of grey from light to dark, and one beige on hand and I choose which one of those neutrals blends best with the fabrics I am using. Only if, say, I was appliqueing an entire quilt of red flowers would I bother to go buy a spool of red thread.
I have formerly recommended Roxanne’s #10 sharps as my favorite needle and it is very good, but lately I’ve been using John James #11 sharps, which are just a bit finer and more flexible than Roxanne. I am in love with that extra flexibility. Either needle would be a good choice, and if you can’t find either of those, look for one that is thin, and sharp.
Thread a 15” length of thread on your needle, and tie a knot on the end that you just clipped off the spool. This helps to manage the twist of the thread for the sewing motion that you will be making.
Here’s a quick primer on my favorite knot:
And now, the applique stitch!
Pick up your prepared shape and hold the work so that you are looking straight down at the fold. From the back of the work, insert the point of your needle, about 1/8” inside the shape and go through the background, through the seam allowance, and then allow it to slide along the paper template until the needle exits on the underside of the fold, in between your prepared shape and your background.
Now holding your needle parallel to the edge of the shape, insert the needle into the background fabric, at almost the same point where you the last stitch came out of the fold but a few threads inside the shape. Travel 1/8” on the backside, then angle your needle so it comes back through the background,
through the seam allowance, slides along the paper, and exits again on the underside of the fold. That is the basic stitch you will repeat until the shape is done or you are out of thread.
Here’s what the thread path looks like:
When you get to a corner, stitch right up until 1/16” (or a few threads’ worth) before the corner.
Insert needle into the background and come back up about 1/16″ on the other side of the point (do not stitch through the extra flap) and start stitching again.
I don’t take a stitch right in the point because I find that stitch is almost impossible to hide, and the point is not going to go anywhere anyway if it’s well anchored on both sides.
Finish appliqueing the rest of the way around the shape. From the side you can barely see the tiny stitches:
End with a knot:
Once you have appliqued the shape down, you will need to remove the paper. I use a sharp seam ripper to slit the fabric. If I am worried about stability, I might not cut away any background fabric, just slit it to pull out the paper.
From the back, use the point of the seam ripper to dislodge the paper shape and remove from the work. No need to remove any basting threads that you can’t see on the front.
Now to trim the blocks:
We need to trim these down to the finished size plus .5″ for seam allowances. So for these 2.5″ orange peels, we need to trim down to 3″.
On the top of your square ruler, mark the 3″ lines with a wet-erase marker. Center a crisp paper template with the points lined up with the diagonal line. The shape should just skim all the .25″ lines. Trace around the template with your marker.
Now use this as a guide to trim:
Center your orange peel inside the marked lines, make sure you are at least filling out the entire 3″ square, and then trim the first two sides.
When it is time to sew these together, be sure to set your machine for a scant 1/4 ” seam, and your shapes will just barely kiss at the corners.
A final tip: don’t iron these blocks to death. Because there is a gathered seam allowance inside, you can get some ugly creases if you try to make it really flat. I put a thick white bath towel on my ironing board and press from the back, to preserve the lovely dimension of the applique.
I hope this tutorial is clear enough to get you started! Please comment or email me if you have any questions, either now or later as you go along!
Friday I’ll be posting some ideas for arranging your Orange Peel shapes!
See you then,
I said to myself that I wasn’t going to blog any more progress photos of Vivian’s quilt until it was in the quilting frame… so, finally, here it is 🙂 I pieced this quilt in the little, tiny amounts of time that I can fit in between all this kid-ness around me. One early morning at the end of summer, all the children were sleeping in and I got the quilt into the frame and this little corner quilted. And then it sat, for two months. Lately I’ve been quilting with thick, lustrous perle cotton, but I imagined this quilt was too delicate and sweet to stand up to those heavy threads, so I started out with standard hand quilting thread. After doing this little corner with standard thread and standard background quilting, it seemed so, well, standard. I wasn’t excited to work on it anymore, and that is a sad state to be in. So it sat, while I ruminated on it. I have a plan now to include some perle cotton and a pattern that’s fun to stitch so I will want to work on it again.
The motion of hand quilting is so satisfying. I said to my husband, I always think my quilt tops are pretty before they are quilted, but once I start hand quilting them, they seem to come to life. Can’t wait to get going on this one again!
So, I went to Seattle a couple of weeks ago. My first time anywhere on the west coast. I am in love. I simply adored the weather when we were there. 40s and misty/foggy most of the day, but somehow still bright and pleasant. It was just beautiful. So many shades of grey. The filtered light made all the flowers simply glow. Yup, flowers in February. But mild in the summer. What a lovely climate…
We went for a walk at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens one morning. We were still on east coast time, so we were up and ready hours before anything was open, which left us hours to leisurely stroll the gardens and snap photos. It was so serene. One of the first things to greet us was this spectacular witch hazel. Remember now, this was early February- so, it’s winter!
The crisp yellow against the foggy trees was almost too much- we could have gone back to the car at that point and I would have been satisfied.
What are those scraggly pine trees in the background? Larch? I think it’s the same one that is on the Oregon License plate. I love their irregular shape so much. Our boring old spruces with their perfectly triangular forms just can’t compare.
Anyway, the witch hazel. As if it wasn’t enough to find a sunny yellow flower against a foggy grey sky, each flower emerges from a base of deep rusty red. That little bit of rust does a lot of things here- it warms up what can be a very stark color combination, It adds a third color which can be useful when planning the design of a quilt, and I think it gives the composition a more organic feel.
Fabric images courtesy of Pink Chalk Fabrics
My quilt mock-up is obviously a pretty literal interpretation of the blooms. I think it would be fun to sew these free-form. Because machine paper piecing is just not my thing. It really wouldn’t take too long, right? Sew, press, trim, then add the little rust triangle, repeat. I have a quilty weekend coming up, so maybe… I think for this one, I would hand quilt some irregular wavy lines, sort of mimicking the branch structure, from the bottom right up to the top left.
I went back and recolored my Candy Hearts Quilt with these fabrics as well. Because that quilt was really bright 🙂 Love this.
I also want to share a quilt I have admired for years, Witch Hazel by Ruth B McDowell. This photo is from her book Fabric Journey. It’s one that I have probably stared at for hours, trying to absorb all the fabric information that is incorporated into the work. I adore all the pale greys she used for the background of this quilt, especially the one at the top with the branches.
Like just about everybody else out there, I’ve been ridiculously busy the past few weeks and it’s showing no signs of slowing up. But, I saw these on knitty.com (How did I get there? I don’t even know) and they just made me laugh. Think I’m gonna take some time off and knit a wig or three. What color should I make? I’m thinking orange.
Wacom has a new digital pen coming out that lets you sit anywhere you want and sketch on paper and as you draw, the pen saves your sketch as a digital file that exports directly to Photoshop and Illustrator! I have to try it!
My sweet darling husband found this for me on – what was it- Wired.com? Gizmodo? Anyway, one of those dorky news sites. After 13 years of marriage, he still makes my heart flutter- especially when he uses his computer nerdiness to make me happy 🙂