This is the latest quilt I have started. I bought this pattern many, many years ago, and am just now getting around to making it! There is a lot of embroidery on this quilt, and I need to have a hand-sewing project to work on. Sometimes I go over to someone else's house for a quilting group, and sometimes MisterStitches and I take road trips on fairly straight roads where I can sew without getting carsick!
This is the first block I made, to test out the pattern and see if I liked it before I prepared all fourteen squares. I think it turned out quite well with the dainty little flowers and leaves.
My optimistic thought is that by the time I get done with all this embroidery, I'll be fairly good at it! I learned to embroider when I was fairly young, doing mostly cross stitch and stem stitch. And I would say I'm fairly competent at it. But I didn't even know that back stitch existed until a couple years ago, thanks mostly to Jenny of Elefantz, who does amazing embroidery. So, I would like to improve on my skills.
The preparation took me quite a while to do, as there is a lot of cutting small pieces and strips, and sewing them together. The pattern said to tea-dye my muslin, which I did, but it turned out too dark. At that point, I didn't want to try to lighten it, or to dye another piece of muslin. So I made the executive decision to just use the unbleached muslin as it was. It had some nice slubs and irregularities in it, so I was happy with that. Each block consists of a muslin center square (or rectangle), a narrow print border, then a narrow muslin border, then a slightly wider print border for the outside. And they are not very big squares; the smallest one is 7" square finished, and the largest is 7" by 14" finished. I'll walk you through it here.
First I cut many, many 1 1/4" strips of muslin, because I knew I was going to need a lot. And of course, cut out the center blocks from the muslin, too.
For each individual block I cut out the print borders that I had chosen.
Here is the first 1 1/4" print border sewn around the muslin center.
Then I sewed on the final border, which is a tiny bit wider than the others, but only by 1/4 inch! I made these outside borders wider than they were supposed to be. My thinking was that this would provide a little bit more fabric for the embroidery hoop to grab. That left my outside edges a little uneven, but it will be all trimmed up after it is embroidered.
Both of the muslin pieces will have embroidery on them. The only small difficulty in piecing these blocks was that I needed to press toward the colored fabric always, in order to have that small (3/4"!) muslin border free of seam allowances. That was not the way the seams wanted to lie, however, so I had to do a bit of coaxing with the iron.
After the block was finished I ironed on a piece of lightweight fusible to the back. This made it easier to trace the pattern onto the fabric (less slippage) and also makes for a nice base for embroidery.
Then, to the light box to do some tracing!
Or a window works well, too. I used a new pen that I found called "Frixion" by Pilot. I found out about this pen on my friend Gail's blog. It is a nice little 'felt tip-type pen,' with the unusual quality in that the marks can be erased. On paper, you simply rub away the marks with the special end of the pen. It is not a traditional eraser, but a rubber piece that uses friction (hence the name of the pen) to make the marks disappear.
However, on fabric the ink disappears when you iron it. And it's just a small touch of the iron that does it. How cool is that!!!??? (Thanks, Gail.) The first one I bought was a mistake, though, as it was a .7 pen. Way too heavy on the inky side. The .5 pen is a much better choice. (The .7 was the only pen the store happened to have when I was there.) I found the first one in a Walgreens, and the second one at a quilt shop. The line is so nice and small that I think I'll be covering most of it up with my thread, but I can always get rid of any stray marks with a light sweep of the iron.
Here is a shot of a different block after it was all traced. I really like this pen for tracing on fabric.
The pattern instructions said to add some batting to the back of the block before embroidering it. They said it would make for a more "quilty" look to the embroidery. I've never worked that way before, and thought it would be impossible to embroider through all that. But I tried it and it actually worked! So I cut a small piece of batting for each block. I used a polyester batting here, as I have a hunch that will be easier to sew through than cotton batting.
The last step was to put each little completed block into its own (recycled) plastic bag. I labeled each with the block number that is inside. Now I can just grab one (or a few) of my blocks to take with me to work on.
After I completed all these steps, I laid all the separate blocks out on my
bed--in the correct pattern order placement--to see how they would look together. I had kind of done this with just the print border fabrics before I started cutting, but now that they're all sewn up, it gave me a much better image. I found that the quilt didn't look quite balanced, color-wise. Too many dark borders in one corner, for example. So I just switched some of the blocks around. As long as I traded the same size blocks, I don't think it will matter. I ended up with a more pleasing color scheme.
I'm very excited to get started on this project. As I said, it has been languishing in my pattern file for a long time now. Each time I saw it I would think, "That is so cute--I really want to make up that pattern."