I’ve become more than a little obsessed with Folk Art quilts this year! Wendy Williams, Kim McLean and Sue Spargo are among my favourite quilt artists (see my Pinterest board for more) – I love their quirky, colourful designs and the way they combine different techniques, using combinations of patchwork, appliqué, embroidery, embellishment and quilting. A few months back I treated myself to books by Sue and Wendy, with the intention of Having a Go. However, as mentioned in previous Adventures, my first foray into the world of hand-sewn appliqué was less than brilliant!
Whilst browsing the recent Craftsy course sale however, I discovered there’s one with Sue Spargo herself! It’s all about hand stitching, using embroidery techniques to embellish and add texture to appliqué work. I’ve never done one of these online courses before, but this one is very well put together and presented in well-shot, quality videos (no they’re not paying me, I really did think it was good!). I’ll admit to having to pause and repeat LOTS of times for certain things, and I certainly needed plenty of practice, but the instructions were very clear and you could see exactly what was what.
Unlike some of the other Craftsy courses this one focuses on just one main project, a ‘sampler’ appliqué panel using Sue’s butterfly design. Having gathered myself some lovely threads and fabrics (I even had a go at making some of my own felt – see bottom left of the pic below), I launched straight into a smaller version of the butterflies!First mistake: I didn’t zig-zag around the edge of my wool base fabric and it soon began to fray horribly! As you can see from this bit of butterfly detail, there wasn’t much edge left by the time I got it under control… you’d have thought I’d learned my lesson last time, huh??Sue’s layering technique begins with a wool fabric background to which toning fabrics are added for texture; she then hand stitches wool felt appliqué shapes in contrasting colours on top. Further layers of fabrics, wool, embroidery, beads, etc are added onto the appliqué to give further dimension and texture. So this butterfly wing, for example, has a layer of (non-wool) felt in purple, a hand-turned greeny-yellow cotton on top of that, then circle of purple velvet on top of that; then I’ve used embroidery silks, perle cotton, and a sparkly purple heavy acrylic thread to do the various bits of embroidery. It was so brilliant, watching these little butterflies build up from plain shapes, taking on more and more character as I added the different elements! Here’s more of Mr PurpleThis pink & orange beauty was my first butterfly, and as you can see my stitches got neater as I went around the outside edge from right to left,and also as I worked my way up through the layers! By the time I came to do the last little details on the inner circle of this wing (a Palestrina knot edging and some Drizzle stitches) I felt like I was starting getting the hang of things!And here’s the rest of Miss YellowI’m particularly chuffed with the emboridery on the centre body of this one!It was a such a gorgeous project to work on, and I loved playing around with all the different fabrics, beads, and threads. I’ll admit that some of the stitches on the course I really couldn’t get the hang of, and a couple didn’t interest me that much so I didn’t bother with them. I also made myself a little ‘stitch reference’ guide to keep on my laptop – I did find it a bit of a pain having to go back to the video every time I needed to remind myself of any tiny thing. A couple of other people had commented about this too, so maybe Craftsy will include a stitch guide in future. I made mine into a mini-sampler, and it was a handy piece to use as practice for quilting through the wool fabric. To be honest, I didn’t think it added much to it and the fabric didn’t hold up that well. In fact I was umming and aahing about whether to quilt the finished butterfiles at all….
You see, by this time I had spent many, many MANY hours on this little sampler, and it had turned out so much lovelier than I had ever expected ……that I wished I had used a better quality fabric for the background, plus I was a bit scared that it would fall apart completely if I machine quilted it! But as it stood I thought the background looked a bit tatty. So after much pondering, I decided I would HAND QUILT it. Yes, my Hand Stitching Confidence really has improved thanks to this course! I also found this video tutorial by Sarah Fielke very helpful. Much better! I really think the quilting has ‘lifted’ the whole thing. So all that was left now, was to add a binding. And before you say anything, yes, I could do with a whole other course on that! But here it is, anyway, the result of several weeks’ worth of stitching…WHOO-HOO!! I LOVE it! It’s so colourful and sparkly and tactile! And apart from the Emergency Unravelling Prevention zig-zag round the edges, EVERY bit was sewn by hand! So I have definitely achieved my aim, of improving my hand-sewing skills. Yay! Plus I have a VERY groovy thing to hang in my living room!
So there we are, that concludes my recent Adventures in Appliqué – thanks for coming along! Now the nights have gotten all long and dark and cold, it’s back in front of the DVDs with some crochet in the evenings for me…
Wishing you all a funky folk-art kinda week 🙂